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Your Money: The Missing Manual Paperback – Mar 21 2010
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If you need a book on personal finance, Your Money: The Missing Manual is a solid choice. It gets all the important stuff right, and does a great job of distinguishing between that stuff (that you have to get right) and the peripheral stuff (that you can do any of several different ways, as long as you do it). -- Philip Brewer, --Philip Brewer
About the Author
J.D. Roth is an accidental personal-finance expert--a regular guy who found himself deep in debt. After deciding to turn his life around, he read everything he could about money and finance. In 2006, he started the award-winning website Get Rich Slowly, which Money Magazine named the Web's most inspiring personal-finance blog. Over the past four years, Get Rich Slowly has grown into an active community where thousands of readers a month share ideas on how to improve their financial lives. J.D. lives with his wife and four cats in a hundred-year-old house in Portland, Oregon.
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Unlike other reviewers, I think this book was poorly organized. This book is written for those with a basic level of personal finance knowledge and Roth occasionally patronizes (with examples like "Karen Kashout" and "Joe Spendsalot"). And I don't know I'm the only one, but I thought the font was annoying.
It's written at the level of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover (Roth used Ramsey's system to get out of debt), but it's JD Roth's Total Money Life, covering everything from salary negotiations to buying a new car to getting out of debt to budgeting to investing to charity to quitting your job in a book that is simply too short for that. To compensate, he gives lots of references, including using annoying tiny urls for websites. When I want to go to vanguard, I don't want to put in tinyurl.@$#$^. I'll put in vanguard.com. It's easier. I can remember vanguard.com. I was reading the book and kept thinking, if I want information on how to negotiate my salary, I'll google it. Or I'll read Jack Chapman. If I want advice to get out of debt, I'll read Dave Ramsey. Roth's little blurbs might be fun to read on his blog, but I don't think they serve the people who need his book.
Roth isn't a money guy. He's a writer. He doesn't have a real system for personal finance; he's just a guy who successfully got out of debt. Using Dave Ramsey's plan.
This book seems to be all over the place and feels disjointed. For people who need the basics and are just starting out, I would recommended "I will teach you to be rich" instead. It feels similar but it has a plan. For people in deeply in debt, I'd recommend Dave Ramsey. For people who want a general personal finance book that isn't overwhelming, I'd chose David Bach's "Smart Women Finish Rich." (This is my go-to recommendation for friends.) Suze Orman is pretty good too, and Elizabeth Warren's book has a nice budgeting plan.
Roth's book seems like a bunch of blog posts strung together rather unhelpfully, and while that's fun to read occasionally, it's not the substance most people who should read this book would need. For the rest of us-those who read personal finance for fun and know the difference between an IRA and a 401(k), it's just not a fun read.
Part 1 - Blueprint for Financial Prosperity: It's More Important to Be Happy Than to Be Rich; The Road to Wealth Is Paved with Goals; "Budget" Is not a Four-Letter Word; Defeating Debt
Part 2 - Laying the Foundation: The Magic of Thinking Small; How to Make More Money; Banking for Fun and Profit; Using Credit Wisely; Sweating the Big Stuff; House and Home; Death and Taxes
Part 3 - Building a Rich Life: An Intro to Personal Investing; Retirement - The Final Frontier; Friends and Family
To understand where Roth comes from, it helps to know a bit of his story. He found himself $35,000 in debt a decade after college, with no real knowledge of how to manage the money that was going out faster than it was coming in. Add the purchase of a 100 year old house on an already-stretched budget, and he was desperate for change. He started devouring all the books and magazines he could find on money matters, breaking down the jargon and information into understandable chunks. He began to share this information on his Get Rich Slowly website, in hopes that he could help others in the same situation. Fast forward about five years, and he now has a high-traffic website that has become a go-to place for those looking for realistic help in dealing with their financial issues. So instead of Roth being a slick "professional" out to get you to buy something, he's just an ordinary person like you and me who has "been there, done that" and decided to share his struggles with others.
His book is a great consolidation of financial wisdom in one easy-to-read volume. There are no risky schemes or shaky advice to be found here. It's all solid information, designed to help you get a handle on things. For instance, he covers the "debt snowball" technique that is often recommended for paying off loans and credit cards as quickly as possible. But instead of saying it *always* has to be done a certain way, he offers up a few variations that may work better for different people (pay off high interest first, pay off smallest debt first, etc.) I appreciate that he's not dogmatic on "one way or else." Another example is budgeting. He realizes that most people have problems with budgets, so he recommends a number of ways to go about it (high detail, record everything, only use a few broad categories, etc.) He even acknowledges that if you're really doing well financially and have no cash flow issues, you may not even *need* to have a budget. But again, the acknowledgement that different styles work for different people is refreshing.
A few years back I attended a Financial Peace University program taught by Dave Ramsey, and I was able to get my financial house in order. I see many similar elements of FPU here in Your Money: The Missing Manual, and that's probably not a coincidence. Getting and staying out of debt requires fundamental changes in the way we think about money and credit, and is something that far too few people are able or willing to do these days. J. D. Roth's book is a much-needed dose of reality in the world of personal finance, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking to "clean house" when it comes to their financial affairs.
As always, J.D. is readable and relateable. His book is well-organized and provides step by step suggestions and instructions on getting out of debt, focusing on what is important, learning to curb your spending and doing what makes sense for you.
The tips, notes, and website suggestions are excellent. I'll be using this as the text for the financial literacy class my husband and I teach at our church. I've already been quoting J.D. to our current class and we've all truly latched onto "The perfect is the enemy of the good" --too many people don't get started in tackling their finances because they are looking for the perfect first step... "Action beats inaction" I know personally, and from others in my class, these are big hurdles we create ourselves that prevent us from moving forward. J.D. named them and in doing so, helped us remove them and do something. I think these are J.D.'s words, but if not, they are a great example of the exhaustive reading and research he does to compile an excellent book full of resources so that you don't have to go out and read all of the other books and research.
Here are the priorities:
Happiness in Life, the Ultimate Priority
Get out of Debt
Note that there is nothing here so far about making money, it is all about understanding the purpose of and use of money
Think Small, which might otherwise be titled, Pay Attention to the Small Stuff
Now we get to the money part.
Working, for self or others
Banking, a Primer
and finally, The Big Stuff (life's major decisions re house, car, vacation, etc)
Home (Rent of Buy)
Death and Taxes (insurance, taxes, estate planning)
Dealing with Friends and Family
What makes this an excellent book is its emphasis on life choices to achieve happiness. It views money (properly in my view) as just a tool, important for sure, but a tool, and not an end in itself. It is a reasoned and principled discussion of financial values, but emphasizes personal values and relationships as the key to a happy life. There is no discussion of how to make a mint trading options, or the importance of having gold available for trade if the apocalypse occurs, so people looking for such discussions will be disappointed. But this book's approach would put any young person on the road to financial independence, and might be a wake up call for some others who have made the pursuit of wealth their primary goal in life. Recommended.
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