Book ReviewsOpinion

Your Money or Your Life


Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century

By Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez

The big idea: The common reason it’s difficult for people to make ends meet is that we live in a consumer culture that just can’t have enough. The key, aside from old-fashioned frugality, is to understand your relationship with money in order to achieve what the authors call FI. Once you develop Financial Intelligence and Financial Integrity, Financial Independence will follow.

What’s good: The original idea you can take from this classic personal finance book is the concept of life energy, which is what we trade in terms of our time for money. That’s how much we really make per hour when we consider the cost of making money (commuting, work clothes, office lunch, etc.). It also calculates the hours we spend at work, preparing for work, and recovering from work, which is an eye-opening way of figuring out if it’s worth the hundreds of hours (or life energy) we give up to buy a new gadget. There’s also solid advice about contentment, frugality, and generating passive income.

What’s bad: It can be long-winded and a little New Age-y, plus the original recommendation (when the book was first released in the mid-90’s) of investing in just Treasury bonds is old. This updated version does introduce index funds but it remains a very conservative approach to investing.

Web site:

Recommendation: Buy it

Fight For Your Money: How to Stop Getting Ripped Off and Save a Fortune

By David Bach

The big idea: Corporations are out to rip us off with hidden charges, late fees, deceptive advertising, and sneaky tactics. The way to fight back and keep our money is to be an informed consumer.

What’s good: Unlike his Finish Rich and Automatic Millionaire book series, this one is totally different, so it wouldn’t read like yet another David Bach book. In terms of scope, it covers a wide range of topics including automobiles, telecommunications, travel, healthcare, and other daily expenses and transactions we face.

What’s bad: It’s very long and there’s no one big original idea (although there are a lot of practical tips, which you can also find online). If you like the breezy style of his previous books, you won’t be able to finish this in one seating.

Web site:

Recommendation: Browse it

The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube

By Michelle Goodman

The big idea: If you’re tired working full-time as an employee, the solo life of an entrepreneur, part-timer worker, or freelancer is a fulfilling albeit sometimes challenging alternative. To make it work, you have to take it slow, consider all the factors, and be flexible when necessary.

What’s good: It’s an easy read and it’s written in a way that shows the author really understands the ups and downs of self-employment. She’s frank about the problems you’ll face but also cheers you on. The career advice, which ranges from being productive to handling paperwork, applies to men as well.

What’s bad: Not much, except perhaps it gives the impression that if you want to be self-employed, give up the idea of becoming rich, and just expect to make a decent living.

Web site:

Recommendation: Buy it
The Ten Roads to Riches: The Ways the Wealthy Got There (And How You Can Too!)

By Ken Fisher

The big idea: There are only ten legally ways to get mega-rich, according to billionaire investment manager and author Ken Fisher. The best way is to start your own business, but there are other ways, like becoming a CEO, riding along a CEO, becoming a celebrity, marrying money, becoming a plaintiff lawyer, using other people’s money, becoming an inventor, investing in real estate, and the slow-but-sure saving and living frugally.

What’s good: It’s fun to read and Fisher can be pretty nasty. You’ll find some pretty good advice. For instance, being a celebrity is a good way to get rich, but it’s the producer and media mogul that are super-rich. And some chapters like “Marry Well, Really Well” are simply a riot.

What’s bad: He (and his co-writer) can’t possibly be an authority on all ten ways, so take some advice with a grain of salt.

Web site:

Recommendation: Buy it

[Best Sellers logo] All these titles are available at NBS BestSellers Robinson’s Galleria branch at Level 4, Main Mall Robinson Galleria, Edsa corner Ortigas Avenue, Quezon City with tel. no. 638-2046.

The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times

By Jean Chatzky

The big idea: There are 20 main traits that separate the wealthy and financially comfortable from those living paycheck-to-paycheck and going further in debt. The Difference has to do with these particular attitudes (such as confidence, competitiveness, and optimism) and goals (such as knowing what you want to do, aiming to accumulate a million dollars, wanting to own a home) as well as financial (like saving for emergencies, investing for retirement, and reducing debt) and non-financial behaviors (like socializing once a week, exercising two to three times a week, being married), which in combination increase the chances of finding prosperity.

What’s good: With her financial journalist background, the extensive survey of 5,000 respondents, and interviews with the well-to-do and academics specializing in behavioral finance, Jean Chatzky presents 20 factors that contribute to wealth, not based on opinion but on solid research. Some of the findings are nothing new, but the study at least reinforced conventional wisdom. A few – such as being happy and exercising three times a week – are a little surprising.

What’s bad: The research recalls the work of Thomas Stanley but the book does not have the same ground-breaking impact of “The Millionaire Next Door” perhaps because many of the findings are nothing new. The prescription offered by Chatzky, while sensible, is also nothing new.

Web site:

Recommendation: Browse it

Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life

By John C. Bogle

The big idea: America (and by extension developed nations) has increasingly become dominated by the financial sector. Unfortunately, it has been marked by greed in terms of excesses in fees, salaries, complexity, speculation, etc. Society, driven by a consumer culture and a desire for material success, has not learned when enough is enough.

What’s good: When John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group and creator of index funds, speaks, people listen. For decades, he has been the conscience of American finance, extolling the virtues of low fees and simple investing (admittedly a little self-serving) and reprimanding mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds about the dangers of complex financial instruments and the disadvantage of investors paying too much in fees. So this small book, expressed in righteous indignation balanced by thoughtful insights, is relevant and needed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

What’s bad: There’s a lot of self-patting on the back on the part of Bogle, although he does balances it out with healthy self-deprecation. And it’s his way of leading and teaching by his own example.

Web site:

Recommendation: Buy it

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

By Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

The big idea: People are bombarded with too many choices and succumb to all sorts of biases almost automatically that they tend to make mistakes. To get people to make better choices about their health, money, and well-being, it may be necessary to nudge them, i.e. subtly influence, to the right direction using certain principles of behavioral economics and group psychology.

What’s good: If the inventor of behavioral economics writes a book, you better grab a copy. If you’re new to this fascinating area of human study, you will find Nudge an eye-opener, because you are as guilty as the many examples offered in the book. Better yet, if you’re in any way responsible for influencing others (as the authors call it, a choice architect), the book will give you a treasure trove of tricks to do a better job at making people make better choices.

What’s bad: The examples can be quite lengthy, but if not for the need to rest from all the reading, you won’t put the book down.

Web site:

Recommendation: Buy it

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

By Niall Ferguson

The big idea: History repeats itself, and if we want to avoid another financial meltdown, it is wise to look back not just decades but centuries to understand how bubbles form and greed creates wreckage.

What’s good: If you like history and finance, this is a must-read book, which explains the origin and growth of money and credit and the financial markets throughout history. It’s an easy and entertaining read, and offers a fresh perspective of the world’s history with money as a backdrop.

What’s bad: Don’t expect a complete and detailed finance history lesson because you won’t get it – just sample selections of colorful tales from the past to make a point across. Sometimes it reads a little disjointed and rushed.

Web site:

Recommendation: Browse it

[Best Sellers logo] All these titles are available at NBS BestSellers Robinson’s Galleria branch at Level 4, Main Mall Robinson Galleria, Edsa corner Ortigas Avenue, Quezon City with tel. no. 638-2046.

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