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Getting Out of Debt by Ken Clark

It looks like the Complete Idiot’s Guide franchise has expanded into the personal finance world with their latest offering, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Out of Debt by Ken Clark [3]. I normally associate their books with specific products, like how to use Quicken or how to get the most out of TurboTax, but this one talks about the steps you need to take to put your personal finances back on track and get yourself out of debt.

The book has a good approach towards what you should do to get yourself out of debt, fortify your personal finances along the way, and then prepare yourself to live a debt-free life afterwards. The book focuses on a lot of strategies you can use to pay off or renegotiate your debt, including bankruptcy. It’s a good survey book that will give you an solid overview of every possible strategy. More importantly, it gives you the good and the bad about those strategies (Chapter 17 is a chapter entirely devoted to strategies that can backfire on you). He arms you with enough information to make an educated decision on what you should do next.

I do have one bone to pick with the author and it has to do with his initial characterization of debt. Here’s the first paragraph from the Introduction:

Managing your finances is like driving a car down a winding mountain road. Take your eyes off the road for just a second and you can end up upside down in a ditch. In personal finance, that ditch is a thing we call debt.

I don’t like characterizing debt as an accident or something that happens very quickly, as if it were to sneak up on you when you’re not paying attention. Ask anyone who has been in debt and paid it off and you’ll hear a story about how they recognized they were making bad decisions. They didn’t take their eyes off the road and hit a ditch, they drove into the ditch. They willingly charged that television or those jeans or that new iPod on their credit card. They knew they were going into debt.

If you’re in debt and not sure what to do next, find this book in the library or read it at Barnes and Noble. Don’t buy any books when you’re in debt, you’re already paying for the library with your taxes, take advantage of it. Take the ten bucks that this book costs and put it towards your debt!