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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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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The Little Book of Big Dividends Review

The Little Book of Big Dividends by Charles B. CarlsonIf you’ve been interested in dividend investing and unsure where to begin, I recommend reading The Little Book of Big Dividends by Charles B. Carlson. I’ve had a healthy interest in the subject for the last six months, ever since the credit crisis offered a great opportunity to start picking up fantastic companies on the cheap, and this book covers just about every major topic in dividend investing.

One of the most important lessons in the book was the importance of establishing your investing goals. All too often we do things without really considering our goals and that’s dangerous in dividend investing. When it comes to dividend investing, there are two camps of investors – those looking for income today, such as retirees, and those looking for longer term returns, like myself.

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Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edin Lefevre

Reminiscences of a Stock OperatorReminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edin Lefevre was first published many many years ago and tells the first person fictional tale of Larry Livingston, a stock speculator in the early 1900s. It was widely believed that the character was based on Jesse Lauriston Livermore and in this version of the book, the connection is made concrete through annotations by Jon Markman.

Despite being considered an investment classic, I had never heard of it in part because it’s a classic in the sense that it gives a fantastic account of the financial system in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It’s more history than investing education though it has a healthy dose of both, especially with Markman’s annotations. You can preview it at Google Books and even the few pages of the preview give you a very good feel for how the book is.

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Sallie Mae Bank Review

Sallie MaeSallie Mae, normally known for their federal and private student loans, is entering the savings account area with a high yield savings account currently offering 1.35% APY with no monthly fees and no minimums. It’s your standard online bank offering with a pretty standard savings account rates. In scanning their list of offerings, the only thing that stands out is their 10% bonus for Upromise earnings, which can be substantial if you’re a big user of Upromise.

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