Book Review - Your Money: The Missing Manual by J. D. Roth
I first got interested in J. D. Roth's personal finance writings through his Get Rich Slowly blog. There, he talks about what he's discovered when it comes to getting (and staying!) out of debt, saving money, and other various topics related to your hard-earned dollars. When I heard he was writing Your Money: The Missing Manual, I was excited to get a copy to read and review. I wasn't disappointed, either. This is the perfect book to give someone who is trying to dig out from a mountain of debt, or more ideally, to someone who hasn't yet fallen into that trap. Either way, the value of the information here is priceless if read and followed.
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.