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No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Letters to My Grandchildren [Review]

Read enough book reviews on Bargaineering and you’ll realize that I’m not one for deeply analytical books. It’s easy to point to personal finance, see the numbers, and think that charts and equations are the solution. They’re not. People aren’t in debt because they’re bad at math, people are in debt for a variety of other reasons and most of them don’t involve numbers at all. It’s why I love books that teach lessons about life and money but do so without relying on obfuscating the message with tables of numbers.

So when I heard that there was a “book of life lessons” structured as a series of letters, I wanted to read it. The book is titled No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Letters to My Grandchildren [3] and is written by John D. Spooner [4], an investment adviser/writer, whose resume is scary impressive.

What I love the most about this book is its conversational nature, which makes it a fast read, and how nurturing it is. It’s billed as “the book that every grandparent (or parent) has always meant to write for their children…. but has never found the time to do so.” and it delivers on that promise, like few do. It’s an encapsulation of every “what would you tell a younger version of yourself?” and it’s structured in a way that makes sense in these times. The origins of the book start with its author – John Spooner. He set out to write a series of letters to his grandchildren and each letter focuses on a single subject, delivered in a very caring and nurturing way (as you’d expect in a letter written by a grandfather for his grandchildren). In this case, the grandchildren are in or entering college, and so the lessons focus on a variety of issues we all face.

The first letter is about getting a job, which is a big subject these days, and covers a lot of the things you don’t read in career books. I loved his advice about not contacting someone on Monday morning, when they are catching up from the weekend and the busiest. Instead, wait until Tuesday afternoon after lunch when the week’s initial assault has subsided. He also suggests to include things on your resume that make you stand out, like sports, clubs, and outside hobbies. The key is to find something special about you. To make that piece of paper come alive and to give it personality. Most importantly, “never lie about these hobbies or interests, but trumpet them vigorously.” It will make you interesting.

What’s great about the letter is as much about what’s included as is excluded. There isn’t talk of how to format your resume, how to negotiate a raise, or any of the other topics that are not long boring, they’ve been beaten to death. He’s truly sharing what no one else talks about (contacting on Tuesday afternoon, putting your interests on a resume) and he does so with very personal stories.

Despite Spooner’s extensive background as a investment adviser and writer, not all the letters are about money or business or investing. They’re about life lessons and really stick to the “no one every told us that” type of lessons like tackling problems early (so they don’t keep you up at night), asking unusual questions (to get calls back, to stick out in people’s minds, and to get to know people), and the like. It really does cover life, not just money.

Finally, and probably what made this book stand out, is that it’s very sweet and loving. You won’t regret reading it.