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4.6 out of 5 stars
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The facts of good money management don’t change for different groups of people; sound principles for one are sound principles for all. Further, we all succumb in one way or another to poor financial habits and decisions - and as unique as we each believe ourselves to be, there’s a burgeoning field of academic study called ‘behavioural finance’ that shows we really have a lot more in common than we think. The earlier we identify our foibles and manage our finances effectively, the better our chances of realizing our goals. It’s no wonder that whole sections of bookstores are filled with financial self-help books, with many aimed at a particular audience (retirees, soon-to-be retired, parents, grandparents, divorced, married, kids...), or focussed on a particular niche subject (RRSPs, RESPs, TFSAs, the Smith Manoeuvre, mutual funds, tax planning....)

While noted Canadian financial journalist, TV host, and author Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s previous efforts have been more narrowly focussed, her latest, Money Rules: Rule Your Money, Or Your Money Will Rule You, is aimed at a general audience. In fact, so well does it hit its mark that most of the niche-targeted books listed above could be removed from the shelves and replaced by this outstanding work.

Like the best coaches in sport, Vaz-Oxlade communicates the information clearly, gives an action plan, and then prods and cajoles readers to execute. If you are high school age or older, this book is for you. In fact, if you are within a couple of years either side of high school graduation, this is definitely the book for you.

Vaz-Oxlade covers the gamut: student loans; budgeting, renting versus buying, mortgage payments, mortgage insurance, holding your mortgage inside your RRSP, credit ratings, credit card charges, credit insurance, good debt and bad debt, giving your adult children money (don’t), pooled RESPs (again, don’t), RRSPs, RRSP beneficiaries, how to find a financial advisor, how to invest on your own, term versus permanent insurance, and even how to shop in a supermarket so you stay on budget.

The paperback edition is over 500 pages, but each topic is seldom more than a few pages. Further, the topics are not organised in a linear fashion so the book can be read for just a few minutes from any starting point - an excellent way to ensure that readers with short attention spans stay engaged.

In addition to being comprehensive and delivered in bite-sized pieces, Vaz-Oxlade writes in a very straightforward and casual manner. She avoids industry jargon, explains complex issues in simple terms, and most importantly comes across as unbiased. Nothing detracts more from advice than self-serving perspectives or comments; financial advisors dismissing DIY investors; former bankers praising the beneficence of banks; or insurance agents promoting insurance products at the expense of other investment options.

Vaz-Oxlade is the direct opposite of these shills. She is merciless in exposing the financial industry’s duplicity. Four examples highlight her tell-it-like-it-is approach:
1. consumer credit ratings are not calculated how you think (borrowers get a higher score by maximizing credit and paying the minimum balance, rather than by limiting credit and paying it in full each month);
2. bank mortgage insurance is a rip-off (a high fixed charge on a declining debt (the mortgage balance gets smaller each month));
3. teaser rates on credit cards, and buy-now-pay-later store offers, are lousy bets (card company/store gets you hooked and hopes you forget to pay, thereby incurring a huge penalty);
4. high and inflexible merchant charges are embedded in the credit card system (cardholders get 1% back in rewards but pay 2% more at the till).

Readers beware, she will be merciless on you, too, if you have bad financial habits and refuse to acknowledge and change them. Her advice in Rule #2 - if you are married to an irresponsible spendthrift - is as follows. “If the person you love isn’t prepared to change from money moron to something more acceptable, then they don’t love you as much as they say they do. Cut your losses and move on. If you’re already married to a money moron, see Rule #138: Protect Yourself from a Money Moron.” Tough Love, indeed.

Vaz-Oxlade misses the mark on a few of her 261 Rules (for example, she omits any mention of government guarantees for credit union GICs, listing only the banking system’s guarantees), but aside from this minor quibble, she has delivered an impressive work. Poor financial decisions early in life compound, making it harder for belated corrective actions to have an impact. The earlier in life this book is read, the better. A comprehensive, easily readable call to action.
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on January 23, 2013
I received this book as a gift. I am a big Gail fan, and have found useful material in all of her books. This latest book presents a lot of topics which most people (especially Canadians) can relate to, no matter their income or personal situation in life.

Long-time fans will feel a sense of déjà vu because some of the book's material has already been introduced on her blog and pod casts, however it's information that is worth preserving and makes for a good book. She has put effort into refining certain topics and writing them in a way that make them easier to digest. The chapter arrangement is random so if you take turns reading aloud with a friend, you can take time to stop and discuss ideas, then pick up the book later, without feeling like the flow of the book got interrupted.

What I enjoy about Gail's writing is that she does not shy away from plain truths, her topics range from basic steps to the more advanced, and she has a gift for explaining more complicated ideas (see umbrella analogy).

PS: the paper back edition has a nice embossed cover if you care about that sort of thing.
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on January 8, 2013
First purchased this book on my iPhone but after reading it I realized I wanted a copy of it as well! Awesome easy read with tons of info. Gail is on top with this one!
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on December 27, 2012
Who doesn't love Gail? The brevity of each chapter is fantastic for the modern era of blogs and internet attention spans, while Gail's sharp no nonsense writing/wit fit this style very well. I found the tips to be very well done.

My only complaint would be that in a few instances I found her removing the personal from personal finance, and saying that some rules apply to "everyone" when they clearly don't (eg Not "everyone" needs a 6 month emergency fund sitting in a 100% liquid high interest savings account earning 1% interest after tax when inflation is at 2%+; most people do, but many do not). This over generalizing is a common problem in the personal finance world, and she's less guilty of it than most of them, so still 4 stars.

A great read for anyone interested in improving their finances.
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on April 18, 2013
This book is a wonderful compilation of easy-to-understand, no-nonsense tips for managing your money. It's like having a money-savvy best friend holding your hand to walk you through all areas of personal finance, with a generous helping of I-know-you-can-do-it / stop-lying-to-yourself / what-do-you-really-want-from-your-life.
The 'rules' are arranged in a perfect order that never leaves you feeling overwhelmed. With only one or two pages per rule, it's very easy to pick up where you left off (if, like me, you have to read it in small spurts).

I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to figure life out, wanting to live the best life possible and unsure where to start, or trying to get their personal finances just a little better organized.
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on March 24, 2015
At any stage of your life, carrying debt or debt free, this guide delivers strategies for thinking about and handling your money in the most efficient and effective ways. It is written accessibly and clearly explains areas that may be complex or that you never had a grip of.

A bonus is that it is written for Canadians and from that perspective is even more valuable as a resource and guide. In addition to well researched material, Gail Vaz Oxlade anchors her advice within a framework that easily relates to our daily lives and present and future financial health.
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on May 25, 2013
Gail sets out her rules in an easy to read format. I learned so much from this book, and I am excited to try some of her strategies. I would suggest this book to anyone who would like to better their finances.
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on November 7, 2013
Easy to read, and comprehend! For those people whose parents didn't teach them about money management: BUY THIS BOOK.... Then cut up your credit card and use a piece of it for a bookmark.
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on September 29, 2013
Lots of good advice so I like it. Did not give it 5 stars because I find her a little rude at times and there just isn't a need to be like that when giving advice to readers, after all if you are reading this book you are already trying to improve your money smarts.
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on April 1, 2013
I would recommend this book to those people out there who are clueless about personal finance. I was glad to realize that I am already following a lot of those rules. I'll admit that I am learning a few things ( not done reading it). Great Job Gail!!
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