Top positive review
23 people found this helpful
GOOD SENSE ABOUT MONEY - TOLD THROUGH CONVERSATIONS
on August 15, 2009
I don't usually read books about money, since I find the subject boring and the advice usually doesn't work or fit my philosophy of life. I was attracted to this book by its exceptionally good reviews (and because the author sent me a free copy). I can honestly say it is the best information and advice I have ever seen in a book about money. It was written exactly for people like me, who don't make money the purpose of living but who don't want to die poor either.
Miller clearly had young people in mind when he wrote this book but, even though I am in my 60s, I still found it helpful. I also found that I had been practicing many of the principles he advocates... like living below your means, never paying full price, shopping for bargains, and not spending money on things you can do without. When your income goes up, you don't have to ramp up your expenses to match it. You can keep on living on a smaller budget and save the extra income. Some critics will say that's no fun and it takes away what for many is the incentive to increase their income. But when you see how your savings can add up, and the additional benefit of not having credit card bills to pay, you will also see that this plan DOES let you eventually get many of the things that really matter to you (while not wasting money on things that don't matter). Miller is saying that you should arrange your life and finances so you can actually afford those things when you buy them. That's good advice!
The book covers a wide range of topics, from buying clothes, cars and houses to investing the savings you will have if you follow these guidelines. The book teaches these principles through conversations of a group of young people, meeting with a teacher, for discussions over breakfast. This method means each lesson is told through the stories of the participants as they talk about themselves and their situation. This is not a bunch of well-heeled high earners, but rather ordinary young folks with tiny incomes wondering how they'll ever get ahead in life. It is rare that anyone writes a book for people such as them. Just like it's rare to be told to stop spending so much money on fast food lunches and buy a used car.
Interstingly, I have followed this advice myself. On my last job, for lunch I usually brought a salad I made the night before, but, if I went out (and I always ordered off the value menu), I filled my own bottle of water instead of paying for a soda pop (just expensive sugar water). I retired this summer, with a tdiy sum in my IRA from living below my means and putting away the maximum. My all-time favorite car was a '87 Pontiac staion wagon that my husband and I bought when it was 10 years old for $2000. We drove it for almost another 10 years and took numerous trips in it and our daughter learned to drive in it. It was a wonderful car and I felt sad when it developed a bad fuel leak and we finally had to consign it to the junk heap.
Investing is a topic that scares a lot of people, including me. I once tried to make some short-term investments in hopes of increasing my savings, but mainly this did not work out well and I gave it up. I just keep my money in conservative funds now and hope to leave it there and live off current income. Miller really likes Warren Buffett and uses his principles about investing, which concentrate on long-term thinking. Once you have a nest egg, there is an almost irresistible impulse to take some of the money (or, if you're really reckless, all of the money) and put it on some "sure thing" or turn it over to an investment advisor who claims he can get you a big return (Bernie Madoff, anyone?). Miller tells you not to do this, and I agree. Research shows trying to make it big with buy-and-sell investments rarely works out.
There is only one area where I disagree with Miller. In the United States, if you have a serious illness, you are probably screwed financially. No one can save enough money to pay for medical treatment for anything serious, and health insurance companies can discriminate against those who need care the most. Anyone with a condition dating from childhood will not be able to get insurance as an adult, or it will cost so much as to provide little left to live on. Miller glosses over this, probably because there is no advice (other than advocating for real health care reform in this country) that can help. If you doubt this, consider that Donna Smith (who now works with the California Nurses Association) had both good health insurance and AFLAC supplemental insurance when she and her husband developed serious health problems. They ended up in bankruptcy and lost their home. Americans have no health security and all you can really do is live a healthy lifestyle and hope you never need expensive care. Any one of us is just one injury away from financial ruin.
This is a great book with sensible advice, which you can read and pass on to other family members. Young people come out of high school knowing almost nothing about money and how to manage it. This book can be a real help.