11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2006
First and foremost, i loved the first and second chapters about the author's perception of her neighbors and what the reality turned out to be. This book is hilarious, a page turner and also pretty scary at times as I can relate to the slippery slope of charging more than i need to.
It's not your typical 9-steps to riches book, it's much deeper than that. I've read many personal finance books, but never came across one that really deals with the pyschological aspects of things. And that's actually where most of us need help and the book offers a very philosophical approach in the last chapter.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2006
This was a surprising page turner for me, because I NEVER read books like this....I don't even slow down by the personal finance section of Barnes & Noble. I decided to read it because I felt like I was seeing mention of it everywhere - CNN, NPR and USA Today. Figured if it was getting this much press, it was probably worth a try....and I was right.
I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for my parents, my in-laws and several accountant friends. And they have all enjoyed it....and for different reasons, my parents and in-laws liked the personal stories (the confessions of other people's dirty financial secrets) and my accountant friends liked Boss' mental approach to other people's money in the conclusion.
I plan on continuing to give copies as gifts - great for recent college graduates, newlyweds, etc.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2006
While it's true that there is not a great deal of "new" information in this book-that's largely true of most books on money. There is only so much money information to dispense and there are many, many books on money out there. Green with Envy gives a new and interesting spin on that information. It is also fun and--I'll admit it--a little gossipy. It was particularly interesting to read about the money woes of our members of congress. Many people, myself included, read books on money not so much for information, but for incentive to keep saving, and the encouragement of knowing that we're doing pretty well compared to, well, the Joneses.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2006
From mini-vans to 500-foot yachts, Americans are obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses.
Starting with her next-door neighbor and traveling all the way to the nation's capital, author Shira Boss explores why Americans are no longer saving, how credit cards have become the replacement for the "emergency fund," and where we are headed from here.
Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Joneses is Keeping Us in Debt is not your typical book on personal finance. Boss's perfect mix of real-life stories and statistical facts offers a shocking, entirely new and life-altering perspective on how and why we are consistently living beyond our means--a book too fascinating to put down.
For anyone who has ever wondered how their sister/neighbor/friend could afford that house/car/vacation, this book is a MUST READ.
Armchair Interviews says: You'll never look at Paris Hilton the same way again.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2006
By interviewing some folks about their intimate monetary foibles / decisions, and sharing some of her feelings on the subject, Shira offers some insight into how many Americans are digging themselves ever-deeper into debt.
On the positive side, I think her observation that many folks are likely completely deluding themselves about the enormity of their debt problem, by only focusing on the minimum payments is likely correct. Her observation that such self-delusion leads to economic disaster if carried to extremes is unsurprising.
Positive also, was her input from various sources that it is so "taboo" to discuss money matters in this country, that folks all too often fail to seek help (i.e. advice), even when the problem is clearly reaching crisis proportions. Apparently this fits with the commonly cited feeling people have of being "alone" in their financial mess.
On the negative side, there's not much new here. The idea that psychology is a key part of modern economic thought is certainly not new, and several books detail such findings with the type of empirical measurements that give such subjects meaningful context. Also the litany of negative psychological impacts that such thinking is clearly having on the folks Shira interviews (but aren't actually named), such as the hedonic treadmill, are well known and documented.
She tends to use words like "we all" have such tendencies or traits more than I'm comfortable with. Stating that many or most or nearly all would be far more credible.
As stated in one of the editorial reviews, the solutions seem to be little more than new-age platitudes, at best.
Given how much focus was given to envy as being a major contributor to this problem, and how much the peddlers of goods from electronic toys to homes to debt of many forms keep such envy ever-present in peoples' minds -- it seems like platitudes will be meaningless until something can bring about enough pain or outrage to raise peoples' awareness to the true cost of such behavior.
Shira does correctly observe that this country hasn't known significant overall financial hardship requiring actual sacrifice since the forced rationing of WWII. Sadly enough, it may take a financial awakening of that scale (the source could be debt overload instead of war) to bring about meaningful change.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2007
I REALLY liked this non-fiction book - one of the best "how to's" I've read in a looooong time. I found myself laughing and also compelled to keep reading. I felt a bit like a voyeur learning about other REAL people and their difficulties keeping within a budget. I'm buying another copy for my kids in the east - even want my 14 year old granddaughter to read it, getting her off on the right foot. And I'm insisting that my California kids read it too. With the right mindset about "wants" and "needs" people can be a lot happier with what they have. It's all about seeing the cup half full or half empty... and unfortunately too many young families see the cup as completely empty. What children need today from their parents is TIME, not things.
This book is a must for all young couples BEFORE they get married.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2007
An amazing book. Not your typical financial advice/wisdom book, but that's what makes it so unique and amazing. This book addresses the psychological aspects of how we relate to money, success, status and our perceptions of it. If you've ever felt jealous of another person's job or wonder how a friend or neighbor can afford luxurious vacations, or wonder who's buying those fancy condominium lofts or driving those flashy BMWs and how they did it, this is the book for you. A total page turner.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2007
I heard about this book on the radio and recently purchased it. It was a really fun book to read with lots of insight about how our spending habits are largely affected by those around us.
A particularly interesting section of the book discusses how our spending habits often get us into situations where we could use some counseling (psychological and financial). Unfortunately, at the current time, the majority of psychologists/psychiatrists don't feel qualified to give advice on financial issues (what is appropriate income/expense ratio, etc.) so they often avoid delving into this topic. At the same time, our financial planners often don't feel qualified to delve into some of the issues with anxiety and depression that are associated with financial issues. It seems to me that our psychologists could probably use some continuing education from financial planners about managing finances, recommended income/expense ratios for the average household, paths to financial soundness, etc.
Overall, this is a great book and I would recommend to people in all walks of life.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2006
This is an interesting and well-written book that really does probe the issue of why we feel the need to "keep up with the Joneses." Unlike a lot of authors, Boss delves into the psychology behind the drive, focusing on the fact that without the need to keep up with the Joneses, the American economy would collapse - that essentially as there is always one step up, just out of reach, that will someday make us "happy" (or so the advertisers would like us to believe) that we will always, no matter how much money we have, want for more. It's not a new idea, but Boss explores it well, through interviews from people who are middle class to an actual billionaire.
My only difficulty with the book is the somewhat clunky conclusion section. While Boss certainly does probe some ideas as to how we can recognize the problem of keeping up with the Joneses and get around it - for example, recognizing that there are people on steps below us, focusing on what we have, recognizing that there's never a point where people are "happy" no matter how much they have, etc. - there's a surprising amount of very false-sounding conclusions, such as her statement that no matter what, "the universe will provide." This doesn't fit well with her previous interview with a nice couple who went totally bankrupt, nor does it state how this could possibly help with debt management - what, just ramp up the credit cards, why not, "the universe will provide?"
But other than that, this is a very interesting book, and you come away with a sudden realization that, you know, maybe it doesn't make sense to have the new, best car or digital camera or whatever, just to "impress the neighbors," because that will never happen. The only person you need to impress is yourself, and to stay out of debt traps, which she describes. That alone is quite helpful and earns this book at least four stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2008
First I would like to say what this book is not going to do. It is not going to help you develop a budget, and it is not going to give you advice about different ways of getting out of debt. There are a plenty of books out there that will help you with those questions (Ramsey, Orman, etc). What it does do is tell stories about regular people who have found their financial situation in shambles, and there are a lot of roads that lead to the same cliff. I didn't find the stories voyeuristic as another reviewer stated. I was able to see bits of myself and saw that some of the decisions they had made were also some that I had made. The book talks about how the discussion of money is one of the last taboos among friends, as well as delving into some of the psychology of why we make bad decisions in our dealings with money. Like many people I'm on my own journey to developing a healthy relationship with money, and I found this book to be a helpful addition to my library of financial books.