It seems like there are a million books about personal finance out there and almost every single one of the doesn’t speak to the demographic I’m currently in (and soon leaving in a few years). The reason for this is because there doesn’t seem to be much personal finance advice to give to someone who doesn’t have any personal finances. When you’re in college, the only piece of advice you really need is avoid credit card debt like the Black Plague and you’ll be okay. Study hard, don’t burn up too many brain cells, and avoid that credit card debt. So, when I was offered the chance to read Getting Started: The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation , I looked forward to it because it’s a book targeting that demographic or those within spitting distance. The author, Brian T. Jones, is a thirty-something Certified Financial Planner, sought to write a book that would be entertaining enough and engaging enough to capture the short attention span of the Gen X’er and Gen Y’er and I think he made an admirable attempt.
The book hits all of the salient, albeit basic, personal finance points that a book of its type must but it employs the use of examples and analogies that are very relevant to my generation. Here’s an example from his second chapter, focusing on Debt, where illustrates a trick that car salesmen use to entice you to sign up for more car than you need. While his example might be a little bit of a reach for his target audience, it’s a 2005 BMW 750Li, I think he did that for Wow factor. Saying it’s a Ford Focus just doesn’t have the same panache. So, the $74,500 sticker price car, after a $14,9000 downpayment, comes out to be a monthly payment of $1,332.42 on 3.5% financing for four years. That’s when the dealer says, push it to six years and up the interest rate a little (since it’s riskier), your payment is only $973.74. The monthly cost looks lower but ultimately that car will cost you over ten grand more. In this example, he goes on even more to explain why, in addition to the higher total cost, a longer loan is worse. For example, you could get into an accident in which your car is totaled and you could potentially not get the value of your loan back since the car depreciated faster than your payments. This leaves you upside-down on a loan, which clearly is bad. See how this is a basic personal finance point? The thing is, when you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s very nice to have something laid out so clearly with concrete examples you can (almost) relate to.
Jones also uses real life anecdotes from actual people (I don’t know how to verify this but I don’t know why he’d lie, there’s not really much of a point to doing that) to drive his points home. The Debt chapter has a few anecdotes of folks who pulled themselves out of debt, the marriage one has a few doozies (some involving kids), and almost every other chapter uses “Case Studies” to drive their points home and put a face to the points he’s trying to make.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and I think it would make a good stocking stuffer for a near or recent college graduate and it’s almost the holidays!