Reviews Column

Whether it’s latest book, high yield bank account, stock brokerage, or financial service or product, I try to review as many products as I can so that you don’t have to waste your money buying stuff that isn’t worth it. In general I’m a very forgiving reviewer, I’m just a laid back kinda guy, but I’m also a very frugal one, so I won’t recommend that you buy something unless it’s really worth the price.


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Debt Free for Life by David Bach

Debt Free for Life by David BachDebt Free for Life is David Bach’s latest personal finance book and the first, as far as I know, that focuses entirely on the subject of debt.

David Bach’s most well known book is The Automatic Millionaire, which pushed the idea that the easiest way to “get rich” was to put it on autopilot. Automatic savings, whether to a bank account or a retirement account, is the key to a prosperous retirement. It’s one of the powerful pieces of personal finance out there. Since then, he’s written Start Over, Finish Rich which has spawned a whole “FinishRich” line of books, live events, and coaching.

In previous books, it was always about putting together a system that sets you up for the rest of your financial life. Set an automatic monthly contribution to your 401(k), check in each year to rebalance, and retire comfortably (that’s the skeleton, you have to put the meat on it by researching investments, etc.). This is one that focuses entirely on debt, how to pay it down faster, how to get out of it (from legally walking away to working with debt settlement companies), and how to stay away from accumulating more debt in the future.

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The Power of Passive Investing by Richard Ferri

The Power of Passive Investing by Richard FerriThe Power of Passive Investing by Richard Ferri explains why investing is so much easier when you do it passively through index investing. If this sounds like John C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard, then you won’t be surprised to learn that he wrote the foreword to this book! (or that Ferri was a co-author of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning)

There’s one quote in the book that I think sums up why passive investing is a good idea: “Investment greats such as Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, and David Swensen are all outspoken advocates for passive investing. In addition, the U.S. government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for federal employees has only passive investment options available for participants.” When you couple that with the statistics and research that Ferri has put into the book, it’s a combination of facts that become very difficult to refute if you want to advocate active investing.
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Review: Psych Yourself Rich

Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial LifeIn the last ten years, I’ve read a lot of personal finance content. Whether it’s in books, magazine articles, or just chatting with friends, I’ve come into contact with a lot of good, and bad, personal finance advice. One thing stands out, the vast majority of the advice focuses on tactics. It focuses it on what you should be doing, rather than how you should be thinking. The strategy seems to be “fake it until you make it,” that is, do the right things until they become habit.

Farnoosh Torabi takes a slightly different approach, as you can guess based on the title, and advocates changing your mindset first and letting these behavioral changes direct you in the right direction. The book helps you develop those good habits by starting with your mindset, rather than starting with the habits and hoping they change your mindset.

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Review: The Weekend That Changed Wall Street: An Eyewitness Account

The Weekend That Changed Wall Street: An Eyewitness AccountI’ve read a lot of books about the credit crisis from Hank Paulson’s On The Brink to Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, so I’m pretty familiar with the behind the scenes weekend activity that precipitated the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008. In both books, the weekend itself was a tent pole in the larger story but not the sole focus of the book. Paulson’s book focused on the government’s activity, specifically the Treasury, while the Big Short focused on the market players who saw the crash coming and were able to benefit from it.

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Review: Generation Earn by Kimberly Palmer

Generation Earn by Kimberly PalmerOne of the big complaints in the world of personal finance is the lack of personal finance education in school. We teach our young people the basic concepts of math in high school but we fail to show how it applies in real life. We have a fundamental disconnect in formal education between the skills we need to excel at work (which is what we learn in high school and college) and the skills we need to excel at life.

Just think about the brainy engineer who lacks social skills because he or she has focused solely on studying and education. They will likely excel at work but experience difficulty in life, we need to find a better balance.

When it comes to personal finance, it takes real life people writing about real life personal finance issues. That’s why it’s important for young professionals to read Kimberly Palmer’s new book Generation Earn. It takes many of the money situations young professionals are like to have, hopefully before they tackle them, from the perspective of someone who has been there. Kim is currently senior editor and personal finance columnist for US News & World Report and between her job and her life, she’s seen a lot of the concerns many young professionals face.
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Review: Questions and Answers on Life Insurance by Tony Steuer

Questions and Answers on Life Insurance by Tony SteuerAfter writing about personal finance for the better part of six years, I feel like I have a decent handle on many of the major subjects. When it comes to investing, I can hold my own. Banking and credit cards? I understand them enough to write about them confidently. The one subject I know I’m weak in is life insurance. Other than knowing the four different types of life insurance (there are more when you consider permutations), I’m really clueless about how it works.

While I’ve never looked at any life insurance books, I can’t imagine there’s one out there better than Questions and Answers on Life Insurance by Tony Steuer. Steuer is a twenty-year veteran of the life insurance business. He’s one of only about thirty licensed “Individual Life and Disability Insurance Analysts” in California and has his own practice, started in 1995. In terms of credentials, I don’t think you can get much better than Steuer.
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Review: How Rich People Think by Steve Siebold

How Rich People Think by Steve SieboldI didn’t know much about Steve Siebold before I received his book, How Rich People Think, but he’s a “mental toughness” couch who has written books about mental toughness, weight loss, and other “mind over body” type of subjects. After doing some research on him, he did have a bit of that “information product” salesman type of look, the ones you see on late night infomercials telling you that your inability to succeed was entirely mental (some of it is, but all of it?). He has a “no holds barred” type of approach in his directness and I can see why some people would be turned off by him. However, other than the lack of mainstream recognition and pedigree, he’s really not much different than Larry Winget.

That being said, how was the book? It contained a hundred ways that the thinking of the “middle class” differed from the “world class.” The basic premise is that the approach of most Americans, the non-world class category, is fundamentally different than that of the world class category. Siebold illustrates a hundred different ways this is so and then discusses how you might want to change your thinking. He follows each brief “chapter” up with a book you should read, an enlightening quote, a critical thinking question followed by an action item.

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Shoo, Jimmy Choo! by Catey Hill

Shoo, Jimmy Choo!Shoo, Jimmy Choo! is a complete personal finance guide focused on guiding women towards making sound financial choices. While the language speaks to women, my feeling is that this book speaks to a lot of people who have just graduated and are considered part of the “young professional” group. While a guy might have trouble reading a pink book at the local coffeeshop, the lessons in that book are the same – be smart with your money.

Author Catey Hill has a pretty extensive resume when it comes to personal finance. She’s been the financial marketing manager for Forbes, appeared as an expert source for “The Early Show” on CBS, Access HOllywood, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, and many others. She’s currently the money editor fo the New York Daily News online (among, I’m sure, a million other things). More importantly, she lives in New York City, arguably one of the most expensive places to live.

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