The Book Buzz


It's All Too Much:
An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff
By Peter Walsh
Free Press
2007

ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-9264-1

Author's website:
http://www.peterwalshdesign.com/

De-cluttering is not a new phenomenon, but just how clutter became a societal problem in the U.S, and not just a personal one, is unclear. However, if the proliferation of television shows about cleaning and de-cluttering the homes of hapless people is any evidence, it certainly has become popular. If you enjoy this type of program, (I do!) then you'll probably like this book written by a professional organizer and host of TLC's Clean Sweep; but even if you're not a fan, this book will still prove very useful and illuminating.

Walsh examines the nature of the problem: the rapidly escalating accumulation of superfluous stuff and the outbreak of self-storage facilities everywhere. From a frugal point of view, paying money just to store extra stuff is just WRONG. But according to Walsh, clutter can do major psychological and emotional damage if you let it remain in your home.

"This book is for the people who are overwhelmed, trapped, suffocating beneath their stuff. This book is for people who think cleaning is a waste of time, but spend whole weeks of their lives looking for their keys. This book is for people who aren't happy with their lives, but don't know why" the author states.

Walsh begins by exploring the problem, examining the causes and blowing away all possible excuses for living in clutter. He then outlines a room-by-room plan of attacking the clutter which begins with visualizing how you want to utilize the space and what you want your home to look like in the end. "Imagine the life you want to live" is how he begins all his home de-cluttering projects.

Walsh's plan of attack is FAST—Fix a time, then concentrate on three types of clutter: Anything not used for twelve months, Someone else's stuff (give it back or give it away), and Trash. I particularly liked the Trash Bag Tango—ann exercise Walsh swears will make a significant difference in your house's appearance after a week (to yourself), month (to others,) and lead to the total conquest of clutter in three months.

At the end he provides a month-by-month plan for an organized home. Once your home is conquered, Walsh provides further suggestions on how to de-clutter other aspects of your life: relationships, health, work, weight, and parenting. I found this book very inspiring and motivating; I felt like immediately putting into action some of his suggestions!

Passion Saving:
The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work
by Rob Bennett
The Freedom Store
2005

Author's website:
passionsaving.com

Bennett questions the popular notions and rules of personal finance and introduces a new way of thinking about money management. He asserts that the conventional advice of spend less, pay yourself first, save 10% of your salary for retirement, etc. hasn't been working for most people, and hasn't led many to wealth. It all depends, he says, on the Money Allocation Moment-the moment when you decide how whether to spend your money on an item of transitory value or invest it in advancing your Life Project. This comparison of the benefits of spending and saving is the key to building true wealth.

As is the case with many personal finance writers, Bennett's personal story begins with a traumatic event (job loss), followed by an epiphany which led to his developing a different approach to money management. Bennett began his career using conventional means of savings and at age 35 had $5000 in checking and $35,000 in equity in his home. After losing a well-paid job, he ended up 12 years later with a $700,000 net worth and able to quit his day job. Bennett's contention is that if we change the way we think about saving, it ceases to become a difficult sacrifice and becomes an effortless way to buy ourselves financial freedom. He certainly is unconventional-who quits aa high-paying job and then has two children? But Bennett believes in 'the power of a dream to serve as the energizing force of a saving effort: however, this dream must be of great personal significance to the individual saver, (this is where the 'passion' comes in,) not just a boring adoption of someone else's advice.

Bennett also espouses the idea of partial financial independence, a goal that can be achieved earlier in life than complete financial independence. In fact, Bennett proposes that complete FI is not really the point because that goal may be elusive, and that we should think of FI as 'a tool used to move closer to realization of the good life.' Instead of thinking we must accumulate a certain amount in order to retire, Bennett urges us to retire in stages: 'You should be saving today not to provide for your old age, but to overcome obstacles that block you from living the life you want to live today and in the near future.'

"Passion Saving" ends with Bennett's 'Little Black Book of Saving Secrets,' ten secrets that will make you think differently about how you spend and save. All in all, I found Bennett's style very enjoyable to read and his ideas intriguing. I even experienced my own 'aha!' moment while reading this book! You could say that "Passion Saving" is the "Your Money or Your Life" book for a new generation!






Get Your Assets in Gear!
Smart Money Strategies
By Jan Dahlin Geiger, CFP, MBA
Outskirts Press
2007

ISBN-13: 978-1-5980-0935-4
www.outskirtspress.com
www.getyourassetsingear.com

This may be the perfect book to jumpstart your financial planning this New Year! Get Your Assets in Gear focuses on young people just starting out but she doesn't neglect those of us who are catching up; her advice is equally suited to any person of any age who just wants to increase their wealth and their quality of life. Geiger provides a questionnaire in Chapter One to determine whether this is the book for you and to help your chart your progress.

Geiger's approach is very positive and upbeat; she never couches anything in negative terms because she's a great believer in a positive outlook affecting your finances directly. She makes great use of others' wisdom as well as her own experience as a financial professional; for example, she provides some affirmations from author Chellie Campbell in the form of a daily exercise that is a lot of fun. Geiger believes in marrying thought to action; throughout the book she provides information and advice and then provides you with directions on the exact step to take at the end of each chapter.

Geiger's strength is in simplifying financial subjects in a way that is enjoyable to read and which really emphasizes the most important points. Every aspect of financial planning is covered: budgeting, dealing with debt, tithing, investing, credit score building, house and car ownership, retirement accounts, partner finances, taxes, saving money for college and teaching kids about finances. She manages to cover all these subject in less 200 pages, without glossing over anything and without overwhelming the reader.

If you are a beginner trying to get educated and organized, you will appreciate her direct coaching approach; if you are more experienced, you will probably appreciate her encouragement and positive wisdom as you reach financial plateaus in life. Even if you already have a lot of knowledge of personal financial planning, Geiger's enlightened educational technique will help you learn how to spread the word and coach your children, family members and friends.






How to Win a Sports Scholarship
by Penny Hastings and Todd Caven
Redwood Creek Publishing
2007

ISBN: 978-0-9787132-2-5
Price: $24.95
www.winasportscholarship.com

$1.2 billion dollars, 180,000 athletic scholarships, 34 sports. Each year! If you want your part of this incredible pot of money, start by reading this book!

This step-by-step guide to obtaining sports scholarships just brims over with useful information. A result of a mother and son collaboration and based on 15 years of experience and the advice of thousands of coaches, student-athletes, parents and guidance counselors they interviewed, this third and improved edition includes a special chapter on women's athletics.

The book emphasizes that even if your child is not the most talented athlete at his/her school, they can improve their chances of obtaining a scholarship by being more proactive in marketing themselves. Many excellent athletes get left on the shelf, waiting for a letter from a college or university not realizing that a little action on their part would help gain a coach's attention. Many smaller schools don't have a big budget for recruitment, so creating a "sports resume" and contacting the school themselves may pay off big time. Following this book's advice may make an even more crucial difference in their future!

The authors guide you through the whole recruitment process, from identifying the best colleges to negotiating with coaches. They devote a whole chapter to building a sports resume kit and another on how to follow up. They provide specific and concrete advice on what role the parents should play throughout the process and what steps the student-athlete must take him/herself.

Among the many useful samples included are: an initial contact letter, cover letters, resume, letter of recommendation, letter of intent, a college rating form, planning checklist, sports resume and college information worksheets, and candid advice from college athletes and coaches. A glossary of terms and list of resources are also provided.

This book is so easy to read and organized that a student-athlete could readily follow the steps on his/her own or it could serve as a support and guide for interested parents who perhaps are not familiar with the world of college sports. Either way, it's an invaluable resource!






Cash, Cars & College:
A Young Person's Guide to Money
by Janine Bolon
Smart Cents Inc.
2006

Orders: www.smartcentsinc.com

If you are looking for one thing that could possibly change a young person's life for the better forever, look no further. This, Janine's Bolon fourth book about personal finance, is the first specifically written for young people ages 12-19. Based on months of data and financially coaching young adults, Bolon revised her system first written up in Money, It's Not Just for Rich People, (reviewed earlier in this blog) for a younger audience with great success.

The book is an easy-to-read, easy-to-apply, 92-page guide to beginning a life of financial independence by cultivating freedom from debt, responsibility towards others, and peace of mind. Using real-life examples from her experience coaching young people, Bolon humorously and sympathetically guides the reader without condescension. At the end of each chapter, she provides a simple exercise that will facilitate the reader's next step toward managing their money. Bolon emphasizes financial principles, but also touches upon other important concerns such as purpose, direction, persistence, and acquiring skills necessary for a balanced and fulfilled life.

At the end of the book she provides a checklist of actions to take toward the goal of financial maturity. She promises that "if you complete all the exercises in this book, you will see a positive change in your financial situation within three months." Bolon also provides two appendices: one for young adults who are already on their own, and a list of additional books, magazines, ezines, websites.

Frankly, I can't imagine anyone resisting Bolon's trademark enthusiasm; it comes through in every word of this book, which reads like a dream. If you can get that young person in your life to read it, I think the chances are it will make a big impact






Money, A Memoir:
Women, Emotions, and Cash
By Liz Perle
Henry Holt and Company
2006

Price: $23.00 (hardcover)
ISBN 13: 978-0-8050-7712-4
www.henryholt.com

and

The Feminine Mistake:
Are We Giving Up Too Much?
By Leslie Bennetts
Hyperion
2007
www.TheFeminineMistake.com

Price: $24.95 (hardcover)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4013-0306-8

I read these two books within a few weeks of each other, and I decided to review them together because of their common theme: the price women pay for not working while they raise children. The Feminine Mistake engendered (no pun intended) a lot of controversy and basically got many women very defensive about their choices to be stay-at-home-moms. I read it to see what all the fuss was about. I can definitely see why the doom-and-gloom picture Bennett paints would not be welcomed with open arms by those already committed to the very lifestyle she's examining. But I think Bennett means well; I think she is sincere in her intentions of warning the next generations of mothers to think very carefully before becoming SAHMs. Her book is not a condemnation of this life choice, simply a cautionary tale, with some evidence. But evidence can be found for both sides of any question. If Bennett had been on the lookout for contrary evidence to her argument, I'm sure she would have found many sources that contradict her assertions. But she was making an argument that it is prejudicial to women's financial bottom line to stop working for years and therefore forgo the salary and retirement benefits they would have gained during those years. I think no one can deny that if you stop working, you make less money over your lifetime than someone who doesn't. But there are other benefits besides income and each one of us must individually decide whether one is worth more to us than the other. What Bennett wants is for us to make that decision knowing all the facts and not simply fall into place with our peers' or families' expectations and do what is commonly acceptable.

Most mothers are willing to sacrifice much for their children. Bennett want them to know exactly how much they are sacrificing and why, and to understand the inherent risks.

Well, if you're still not buying this and you still hate The Feminine Mistake (that was a poor choice of title, because no one likes admitting they were mistaken, do they? But then again, would it have been so controversial with a different title?) then perhaps you should turn to Money, a Memoir. Liz Perle's book presents the same issue in a more palatable and sensitive way, I think. Her book still addresses financial dependency, but with more emphasis on women's emotional and psychological relationship with money and how, in their ambivalence, they don't maintain control over it and don't fully understand the nature of the relationship. Beginning with her own horrible experience, which makes you feel sympathetic for her right from the start, she goes on to illustrate how women don't separate emotions from money issues and how this undermines their power over their lives and their independence. Her book has some flaws also, but all in all it presents a way to freedom and peace of mind for those beset with "emotional money hunger." We all have to make peace with our money demons, according to Perle, and she argues in favor of a simpler, more frugal life whether you choose to work or not.

Both authors are holding up a mirror and saying "look, this is you!" (Or "this could be you!") We may not like the image, we may deny the similarity, we may want to destroy the mirror, but we have to at least admit the possibility that there is a lesson to be learned here. I agree with some detractors of The Feminine Mistake that the last thing women need is another condemning, this-is-what-you're-doing-wrong lecture, but what I like about both books is that the authors are urging women to look beyond social mores and to choose a lifestyle that is right for them and their families, not what society is pressuring them to accept or what the media is telling them to buy.

To take back power over our lives by taking control of our financial issues is pretty sound advice, and one reiterated by many authors.






Two for the Money:
the Sensible Plan for Making It All Work
by Jonathan and David Murray
(with Max Alexander)

Carroll & Graf Publishers
2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-78671-787-3
Authors' website: themurraytwins.com

I didn't expect to like this book and I always like to write about books that surprise me in some way. After you read so many personal finance books, (I read a dozen a month, at least) they all start sounding alike (like twins!) but Two for the Money did make a favorable impression on me. To start with, I like the twins' tone and their different takes on advice, which both makes the point that financial advice must be individualized and shouldn't be a list of cookie-cutter solutions and that there are always more ways than one of interpreting what is a "good" for one person's financial situation.

Secondly, I liked their explanations of financial terms and concepts; these were among the most lucid I've come across. Chapter Five, "How to Get Rich the Prudent Way," had an excellent overview of the basics of investing with good explanations of each type of investment vehicle. Nothing new here, (except that they do explain about commodities investment, and its role in the individual investor's portfolio, which not everyone does) but it's just very well-done, with emphases in the right places which make their salient points stick in your mind. Chapter Six, the "Twins' Tips for Successful Investing" is their best; very succinct and very on-target.

The twins cover everything from budgeting, getting organized, saving, investing, and retiring to finance for couples, married or not, children, and aging parents. Their chapter on "Taking Care of Your Aging Parents," a big concern for boomers, was very informative and helpful.

At the end of the book comes another surprise, this one not a good one: no index! What gives? Why write a nice, informative book and then provide NO INDEX? And, unfortunately, their not-so-detailed table of contents does not make up for its lack!

Hey guys, next time pay for the indexing! I think there are even computer programs that can do it for you now, though not as well as a professional human indexer. When I've read a book, I don't want to have to page through the whole thing again just to find a section on commodity funds, for example. I don't think I'm the only one who encounters this problem!

But apart from that librarian-rant, I do recommend this book for its clarity, good humor, flexibility and emphasis on the right points.

It really IS a sensible plan for making it all work!






How a Second Home Can Be Your Best Investment: New Tax-Free Methods for Using a Vacation Home for Recreation, Retirement…AND Investment!
By Tom Kelly and John Tuccillo

McGraw-Hill
2004

ISBN: 0-07-142970-0

I must admit that what first drew me to this book was the picture on the cover: a little cottage by a lake in dappled sunlight, surrounded by stately trees, with a slate rock path leading up to it and a covered terrace on one side leading to a deck in the back…ahhhh! It was a stroke of genius to choose that photo for the cover because it epitomizes what so many of us envision when we think of an ideal vacation home.

But I was not disappointed with what lay between the covers of this book, either.

The authors' combined knowledge is evident in this book: according to the credits, Kelly is a former real estate editor for the Seattle Times and a nationally syndicated radio host and columnist, and Tuccillo is a former chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. As promised, they come up with every method one could imagine to choosing, acquiring, improving and generating income from your second home. They emphasize the necessity of separating heart from brain in choosing and evaluating the investment potential of a second home if you expect it to provide you with income.

In Part One, they explain very clearly how the Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997 affects your purchase and different aspects of the requirements of the tax-deferred exchange (IRS Section 1031 Exchange) and how they can benefit you. Another chapter is devoted to eleven overlooked financing options, including self-directed IRAs, flexible reverse mortgages, equity sharing and seller financing.

Part Two discusses choosing a community and recounts other second home buyers' experiences. How to rent your second home is covered in Part Three, which gives hints on marketing and advertising and on avoiding hassles. The last several chapters of the book address property appreciation, improvements, subdividing your property and trends of future renters or buyers.

The appendix includes websites for second-home buyers and samples of useful forms.

This book is definitely a keeper!






Online Shopper's Survival Guide
By Jacquelyn Lynn
Entrepreneur Press
2006

ISBN: 1-59918-024-3
www.entrepreneurpress.com

I'm not much of a shopper; in fact, I hate most aspects of brick-and-mortar shopping, which you would think would make me an enthusiastic online shopper, but no, I dislike that, too! While this attitude is a great boon for my frugal lifestyle, it really doesn't help when it comes to Christmas gift-giving. Now, faced with the inevitable shopping extravaganza of the year, I'm forced to shop whether I like it or not. I thought reading about shopping would probably be just as painful as the performance, but this book has changed my mind.

After reading Lynn's book, I'm actually feeling reassured about the security aspects which kept me from enjoying the online shopping and feeling empowered about making economic and wise choices in my forays into e-shopping. I always played it safe, limiting myself to mostly click-and-mortar stores and some trusty online stores but never feeling really comfortable with the whole process.

Part One of this excellent book starts with a very interesting account of the evolution of e-commerce, how to evaluate an online seller and safety issues for kids and seniors shopping online. Part Two discusses online auctions, search engines, buying from foreign countries and most importantly, in Chapters 9 and 10, consumer protection issues, frauds and scams. These two chapters were the ones I found particularly empowering and helpful. Part Three addresses buying high-priced items such as cars, real estate, travel packages, medications, gourmet items, gift cards, etc. The final chapter of this section, "More than Things" tells you how to find friends, dates and jobs online as well!

Lynn finishes with a look ahead to the future of internet shopping and a list of all the websites she covered in the book, organized in both alphabetical order and by category, a glossary of terms (very useful to those new to online shopping) and an index.

Throughout the book are scattered many useful inserts, such as a list of abbreviations used in online dating and discussion boards, (which can make the messages seem like gibberish if you're not familiar with them,) a method to thwart keylogger programs, and examples of hoax emails.

This book accomplishes exactly what the author set out to do: it provides a overview of what shopping opportunities are available on the Internet and gives encouragement and useful advice to both the new and experienced online shopper, with a heavy emphasis on the necessary consumer protection issues. Don't go online shopping without it!






How to Retire Early and Live Well With Less Than a Million Dollars
By Gillette Edmunds
Adams Media Corp.
2000
ISBN: 1-58062-201-1

How to Retire Early is a good example of how good advice never becomes outdated. Although written six years ago, this book is still a valuable resource in the current economic milieu because the author's advice is so balanced and tailored to the individual. His emphasis is on helping the reader to make decisions for him or herself, based on the guidelines he provides. Edmunds pretty much thinks of every possible variation of the personal financial situation the reader can end up facing and gives advice for each, with helpful provisos.

Edmunds retired in 1981 at age 29 and committed to living off of his investment income. (He sacrificed a marriage in order to stay in this lifestyle, so his commitment was total.) He doesn't emphasize his personal life very much in the book but he does a great job of allowing us to think things through with him and therefore learn how to approach financial decisions. He also tells us what worked for him and what didn't and why. Most writers tell us only of their successes, not their failures, and valuable lessons are lost by that process.

The first part of the book is devoted to deciding whether you are ready for retirement; Edmunds provides many different scenarios that you can apply to your own situation.

Part Two is the retirement investing section; he helps you design your own retirement portfolio. Even if you don't plan to retire early this part of the book applies to anyone saving for retirement. Edmunds examines all existing asset classes and even gives advice on how to analyze asset classes that may pop up in the future! He has extensive discussions of stocks, bonds, foreign stocks, emerging market stocks, real estate, fixed-income instruments, and he touches upon others such as hedge funds, venture capital, annuities, etc., as well as what kinds of assets to own in tax-deferred account as opposed to a taxable account.

The final section of the book is devoted to investing for growth, for the serious early-retirement devotees. He discusses managed mutual funds, REITs, and leveraged real estate. The final chapter entitled "Living through a Crash without Putting a Bullet through Your Head" describes how Edmunds survived his worst years and found some balance in his life beyond finances. It's a nice way to end this very clearly written, very engrossing book.

Edmunds is still writing books, and I may be reviewing his latest, Retire on the House, Using Real Estate to Secure your Retirement, (written with James Keene) here soon!






Five-Star Living on a Two-Star Budget:
Living Big on Only a Little
by Margaret Feinberg and Natalie Nichols Gillespie
Harvest House Publishers
2006

ISBN: 978-0-7369-1677-6
Authors' websites: www.margaretfeinberg.com
www.natalienicholsgillespie.com

This book is a nice blend of general advice, practical suggestions and specific frugal tips. There's something for everyone here, even if you think you're an expert on saving money! The authors are based in two very disparate states, Alaska and Florida, and their advice reflects a correspondingly wide range of interests.

For example, I'm not particularly interested in saving money on beauty products but the tip on saving on science center entrance tickets was nothing short of brilliant, and very useful to my husband (an astronomer) and me. This same advice could be applied to other venues such as zoos, museums, botanical gardens, etc., as the authors point out.

As the title states, the book addresses lifestyle, not just managing your finances, except for one chapter that specifically addresses "managing your methods." This book is best for a family who already is committed to frugality, but doesn't want to forego all the luxuries and entertainments of their former life, or wants to go beyond frugality to reach a higher standard of living.

Chapters are devoted to saving on beauty and fashion, kids' items, gourmet foods, dining out, entertainment, travel, electronics and big ticket items. Much emphasis is placed throughout the book on giving back to the community and to charity. The authors include an appendix with an annotated list of the resources they mentioned in the book, listed by chapter. This will prevent you from marking the book, (if you're one of those people who consider it a sin to bend a corner; I'm a librarian and I think it's fine!) though I did it anyway, out of habit. You can always tell a useful book by how many times you bend the page to mark something you have to get back to, and I count at least ten bent pages in this book!

Did I mention that it is also an enjoyable read? The authors' style is intelligent and smooth, friendly without being too chummy. They recount their personal experiences without being intrusive.

Now I'm off to follow up on some of those leads!






Got Sun? Go Solar
Get Free Renewable Energy to Power Your Grid-Tied Home
by Rex A. Ewing and Doug Pratt
PixyJack Press 2005
ISBN: 0-9658098-7-0
johnsonbboks.com

Facing another year of possible power interruptions in South Florida's hurricane season, I went looking for alternatives to smelly, noisy gas-powered generators and found out that there are none readily available. All Home Depot and co. and other hardware stores had to offer were gigantic, impossible-to-store-unless-you-have-a-garage gas and propane-fueled generators. They even sell them at supermarkets in South Florida now. I couldn't believe that in the Sunshine State, solar-powered emergency generators weren't being marketed and sold locally, but apparently, this is the case. You do see houses with solar panels on the roof, but those are mostly used for hot water heating.

I found out that you can cobble together your own solar-powered emergency back-up system using instructions from the internet, but without fully understanding what you are doing, that could become an expensive project. I became mired in bits and pieces of information that didn't quite fit together until I looked up some books on the subject; that's how I came upon the book in question, Got Sun? Go Solar. Of all the books I found in the local public library system, this was one of the most clear, concise and useful for the typical homeowner.

This book is not a do-it-yourself guide, but an educate-yourself-so-you-save-money (and don't get ripped off) in what is, essentially, a new industry with many confusing concepts and choices. The authors don't recommend that you install a solar or wind-powered system yourself, but they do provide reviews and information on products and parts that you can purchase yourself in order to save money. The authors discuss all types of systems of all sizes for all purposes. The illustrations and diagrams are very effective, the details are sufficient without becoming tedious, the resource list and glossary are excellent. Every little corner of this book is used to convey useful information. In the final chapter, they provide advice on finding a qualified contractor in your state to install whatever system you decide upon, now that you well-informed.

Once you start reading about alternative energies, you will find it a fascinating subject and you'll be anxious to put some of your knowledge to good use and save energy and money. Ewing and Pratt's book will help provide you with the background information you need and the motivation to take the first steps in the right direction.






Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot
How to Plan a Church Wedding for Less than $5000
by Cara Davis
Relevant Books
2006

Orders: www.relevantbooks.com
Author: www.cheapwaysto.com

This very timely, revealing and fun to read book is just what you need as you face your impending wedding or plan your future one. Even at the last minute, some of Cara Davis's tips might come in handy.

Each chapter covers a different aspect of the wedding beginning with the engagement and initial planning stages to the honeymoon and beyond to life as newlyweds. Saving tips are provided for each type of expense with three different options: bargain, budget and "bling." Davis's approach is that whatever money you can save on one aspect of your wedding budget you can transfer and spend more lavishly on another, perhaps more important to you, area.

Keeping an eye on the total expense is important, but so is making good decisions and avoiding rip-offs. She emphasizes not letting the wedding industry take advantage of your vulnerable emotional state at this time and provides you with tools such as the meaning of terminology that printers use, for example, to avoid paying more than you really want or need.

Davis's well-researched book delivers on all counts; in addition to solving common problems and offering some wonderfully ingenious ways to have an original and memorable wedding, she points out some emerging trends which really deserve to be considered, such as using charitable gift registries through the I Do Foundation at www.idofoundation.com, where four percent of you gift proceeds will be donated to a nonprofit organization of the bride and groom's choice. The book concludes financial tips that will help couples save money every day and begin their married lives with a solid foundation of shared financial responsibility. I can't think of any newly engaged couple who couldn't appreciate and make great use of this book!






The Smart Spending Guide:
How to Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half, Save on Your Everyday Expenses and Live Within Your Means
By Faye Prosser
Magnolia Way Publishing
2005

Price: $12.99 (pbk.)
ISBN: 0-97734436-4-2
smartspendingresources.com

This book's subtitle is so descriptive, it's almost redundant to write a review! Prosser's book is geared toward beginning to intermediate frugal spenders. (Is that an oxymoron?) She states, very humorously, "This is not a radical frugal living book full of highly unusual and bizarre ways to live on $10 a week. For the record, I do not forage for edible plants along the highway or recycle dryer lint."

The first chapter is an overview of financial organization and each subsequent chapter covers a different area of potential savings. Smart grocery shopping and frugal food preparation are dissected and analyzed with expertise. Prosser offer suggestions on how to save money on gifts. travel, entertainment, health, and utilities. The section on online shopping has some great strategies. The chapter on how to find freebies and earn extra money filling out surveys or mystery shopping will be very helpful to the uninitiated.

The final chapter closes with words of encouragement, a glossary of terms, a basic budget worksheet, a grocery price book template and a directory of resources consisting of additional reading and internet sites, some of which were mentioned in the book, including the Dollar Stretcher! (Always a good sign!) There's also a detailed index.

The author's bio states that Prosser uses her own Smart Spending Grocery System to save over 50% off her family's weekly grocery bills. She uses her expertise to educate others through courses and workshops at community colleges, parks and recreation departments and other non-profit organizations. Her motto is "It's your money, spend it wisely!" It's amazing how few of us do! If you're one of those people, Prosser's book would be a very helpful guide for you. Reading her book is like having a frugal friend at your elbow giving you sage advice!






You CAN Retire Young!:
How to Retire in Your 40s or 50s Without Being Rich
by Larry A. Ferstenou
American Book Business Press
2002

ISBN: 1-58982-008-8
Price: $19.95 (pbk.)
or 1-801-486-8639

Out of the maelstrom of strident voices giving retirement advice, investment advice, advising you to die broke or to become a millionaire, and urging the boomers to catch up, comes the sane voice of Larry Ferstenou to remind us that even though most of us may never become millionaires, we can still enjoy our youth and retire sooner rather than later, as long as we start to plan early and set realistic goals.

Ferstenou's approach to retirement is holistic; he examines every aspect of our lives, not just our financial data, and helps us determine whether we are ready to retire emotionally, mentally, and financially. His concern is that we have a successful and happy retirement, not just a financially sound one. His approach, with its built-in flexibility and allowances for individual choices, fits almost every budget. In any case, his three keys to retiring young would improve anyone's life, even if they don't want to retire. His advice is backed by his own experience; he retired when he was 42 and is still enjoying the benefits of his decision.

For those who tread toward early retirement with trepidation, Ferstenou advises them not to consider the decision irrevocable; they can always return to work part-time if necessary, and yet they still will have had the benefit of the intervening work-free years. The chapter on "Social Security Pension Myths" was very revealing and the following chapter, "Retire Young and Still Get Paid" points out the financial futility of working any longer than necessary as far as Social Security benefits are concerned.

Realistic and reassuring, Ferstenou leads you through all the steps, from the initial planning stages of determining what you want, how much you have, how much you need and how much you spend, to the moment of truth when you leave your job and need to find a place to live and figure out how to invest your retirement funds, to the later stages when perhaps you decide to get a part-time job or volunteer. Ferstenou even covers how to cope with the varied reactions of family, friends and colleagues to this most unconventional decision!

Unconventional ideas sometimes lead to the best decisions of your life. Picking up Larry Ferstenou's book might just be one of them!






Home Therapy:
Fast, Easy, Affordable Makeovers
By Lauri Ward
G.P.Putnam's Sons
2005
Price: $34.95 (hardcover)
ISBN: 0-399-15296-2
redecorate.com or InteriorRefiners.com

Earlier in this blog I reviewed Lauri Ward's first two books, Use What You Have Decorating and Trade Secrets From Use What You Have Decorating. At that time, I complained about some aspects of her books, such as the dated and scarce black and white photographs and the lack of usefulness to the do-it-yourselfer, while praising her ideas and philosophy as a frugal alternative to traditional decorating.

I also liked the Interior Refiners Network Ward founded, which consists of decorators dedicated to educating the consumer and allowing them to be a full participant in the decorating process.

Well, Ward must have been reading my mind because her new book, Home Therapy, keeps all the good features of her previous books while adding much-needed new features. The book is organized like a case handbook of decorating dilemmas and possible solutions, with floor plans and wonderful color photographs illustrating every aspect.

Some of the 25 scenarios that are discussed are common ones: "moving from a house to an apartment", "childproofing with style," "getting resale-ready," "merging households," and some are more unusual, such as "living with a very grand piano" or "completing an art collector's home." Ward presents and analyzes each case in detail, explaining each step of how she arrived at a solution which suited each client's aesthetic taste, personal style and practical needs. All this is done by rearranging the client's present furniture and possessions, with not a dime spent! Ward also makes long-term recommendations that may require some expense or take more time to arrange.

I credit Ward with solving one of my pet problems, namely, my husband's guitars underfoot everywhere. Her picture of six beautiful guitars displayed on a wall hanging system in the "clearing the clutter" scenario inspired him to hang his guitars on a wall in the bedroom where they look fabulous and are safe from the cats and me. (Cost: $12 for hardware.)

Ward's new book will definitely prove very useful to frugal DIYers who want to tackle your own decorating problems and her emphasis on a clean, natural look is perfect for those of us seeking a simpler lifestyle.






Master Your Money Type:
Using Your Financial Personality to Create a Life of Wealth and Freedom
by Jordan E. Goodman
Warner Business Books,
2006

ISBN: 0-445-57801-0
Price: $24.95 (hardcover)
Orders: twbookmark.com
Author's website: moneyanswers.com

Here's an interesting new twist in the field of financial psychology! The psychological aspects of personal finance management are often overlooked or mentioned only in passing, but Goodman goes beyond the "spenders" and "savers" monikers to further explore the emotional roots of our relationship with money and finances. During the course of two decades as a financial commentator on radio and TV, lecturer, author and former Wall Street correspondent for Money magazine, Goodman came to the conclusion that "everyone's money behavior falls into definable patterns." He realized that his financial advice would be more effective if it was geared toward the particular person's attitude toward money.

Goodman reveals six dominant money types: the Strivers, Ostriches, Debt Desperadoes, Coasters, High Rollers and Squirrels. He then goes on to examine each type in depth: how they originated, their strengths, their weaknesses, their obsessions and preoccupations. Goodman provides advice tailored to each type; he makes recommendations on specific vehicles they might be amenable to investing in and provides a list of related resources they can consult.

Goodman makes very effective use of the case history as an instructional device: for each type he provides several examples of persons fitting that type and their situations with possible solutions. The visuals Goodman uses, worksheets, tables, checklists and charts, are particularly useful, and they don't overwhelm the text. He also emphasizes marital money management and provides examples of couples of different types facing financial decisions and problems.

The book concludes with an excellent appendix entitled "Taking Action: Where to Find Further Help," a nicely annotated list of books, organizations, and websites that can be explored and enjoyed.






The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing:
A Book for Procrastinators, the Financially Challenged and Everyone Who Worries About Dealing with Their Money
by Paul B. Farrell
reviewed 1/5/06
Warner Business Books
2004
ISBN: 0-446-53168-5
twbookmark.com

This book's title says it all; it may be just the reassurance some people need to get their investments under control. Frugal readers will love Farrell's style and advice, which is geared toward those who are interested in saving money but who don't want to spend a lot of time actively learning about and pursuing different investment strategies.

Farrell reveals that, from his experience as a CBS Marketwatch personal finance and investment columnist, he learned that no one, not even the experts, really knew any big secrets to investing that would help them time the market or predict what it would do. The only true predictor of future performance was the expense ratio; "all other predictors turned out to be unreliable." Therefore, any of us is perfectly capable of putting together an investment portfolio with results that will match any expert's as long as we choose cheap funds.

Farrell emphasizes never having to pay brokerage commissions for investments and that the more active buying and selling you do, the less you are bound to make in the end. He recommends putting together what he calls a "lazy" portfolio which will cause you less headaches and anxiety and will only takes minutes each year to adjust. Finally, an area of life where the lazy person wins! (But perhaps not the procrastinator, Farrell still emphasizes the need to take action, the earlier the better!)

Farrell reviews all the leading theories about investing and critiques all the leading advisors while giving concrete advice on how to create a portfolio. If you think this sounds boring, believe me, it's not; Farrell's writing style is fun and his explanations are crystal clear. Especially important is his chapter on investing on behalf of children, which hopefully will spur some people into action.

However, the author understands that in those rare moments when we lazy people suddenly decide to make a move, trying to make up for lost time, we often end up making bad decisions, so he devotes part of the book to that problem. His background in psychology and knowledge of the psychology of money give him insight into what makes some investors go astray; he understands the allure of the "hot stock pick" and gives us a method of handling our wayward impulses in that area.

I especially like his list of recommended reading at the end: "The Complete Library of America's Laziest Investors," there are some unusual choices there, along with the classics.






Money…It's Not Just for Rich People!
A Ridiculously Simple Path to Wealth Accumulation
by Janine Bolon
SmartCents, Inc. 2005
reviewed 12/28/05

Orders: smartcentsinc.com

Just when I thought I couldn't be surprised by anything new in the personal finance/frugality field, along comes a fresh new approach such as Janine Bolon's in her book Money…it's not just for rich people. I was blown away by this book, and I can't say enough good things about it!

Based on experience gained from her personal life and her research in financial education, Bolon's approach is scientific yet her tone is warm and personal. Her advice is neither too prescriptive nor annoyingly vague. She is persuasive and convincing without being overbearing. In other words, this book is a perfect balance of financial advice, instruction, coaching and direction: everything you need to get started (or continue) to achieve your personal financial goals!

Bolon's book does not offer advice on investing your money in specific vehicles; she teaches you how to apply the basic principles of money management so you too can become a conserver of money and life-energy, and achieve both financial independence and peace of mind.

Inspired by Amy Dacyczyn's methods, Bolon and her husband managed to achieve financial freedom (despite having four children and medical expenses) less than ten years after starting from scratch. While we may not all have the steely determination and drive she has, we can all benefit from her example and her methods.

Bolon's approach is not just about wealth accumulation; as she says, "money is the means to reaching your goals, and should not be the goal itself." Bolon emphasizes the importance of concrete goal-setting, actually writing things down, and continuing to do so every three months as you are on the road to success. She also emphasizes the emotional side of money which is something many authors neglect to address. "Unhappiness and fear are the keys to our spending habits," Bolon states.

She tells us how to take action to "initiate the flow of money" into our lives. One way she advises is to start giving money away; Bolon has a very interesting chapter about philanthropy that discusses tithing, the difference between charity and philanthropy and the universal laws which govern the movement of money. This is where she really excels, in capturing an elusive principle and convincing you it works! There is something irresistible about the enthusiastic way Bolon presents her case.

All in all, this book is a great read that fulfills a great need!

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