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When it comes to money, do you play it by ear or plan ahead? Jean Chatzky, author of "Money Rules--The Simple Path to Lifelong Security," cites a startling statistic: "50 percent of people will run out of money in retirement." Chatzky, a financial editor and author, would like to insure that senior citizens who have worked all their lives will be comfortable during retirement. In this slender book, the author presents 94 succinct and straightforward rules about making and saving money, avoiding unnecessary debt, spending and investing wisely, and protecting your assets.

This is not a comprehensive manual about IRAs, estate planning, credit card regulations, stocks and bonds, and student loans. Many other works of non-fiction cover these topics. Chatzky's goal is to grab her readers by their lapels and startle them into making wise decisions in order to avoid unnecessary grief down the road. For instance, she urges us: Don't buy things you don't need; stay on top of bills; look for hidden expenses; save as much as possible for the future; shred documents that contain personal information; don't incur unnecessary debt.

"Money Rules" would be useful for individuals (especially the young and naïve) who know little about monetary matters, tend to make rash purchases, and are reluctant to put aside funds for the proverbial rainy day. Chatzky, in a jargon-free, conversational style, warns us to avoid common pitfalls. For example, do not buy life insurance as an investment; "free" can be expensive; rebalance your portfolio periodically; don't lend money to friends and relatives. This handbook would be a good gift for a recent college graduate who is trying to land a job and taste financial independence for the first time. On the other hand, those who have their fiscal houses in order will find Chatzky's advice too elementary to be useful.
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I'm retired and living on a fixed pension, so at least one section ("Part 1 - Make Money") of this nifty little book doesn't apply to me unless I win the lottery, but I would dearly love to have read it forty years ago when I was out of school and beginning a career. The title is a bit of a double entendre, referring both to rules for making, saving, and keeping money; and how much influence the money we make and save will have on our lives, especially in retirement.

It's a short book, with 94 little nuggets of wisdom that will help most anyone make basic financial decisions. The book has seven sections:

Part 1 - Make Money
Part 2 - Save Money
Part 3 - Avoid (Most) Debt
Part 4 - Spend Wisely
Part 5 - Invest for Tomorrow
Part 6 - Cover Your Assets
Part 7 - Do's and Don'ts

A few of my favorite rules:

#11 - "If you can't see it and you can't touch it, you won't spend it." (On the importance of keeping most of your retirement savings where it's out of sight and not easy to withdraw, like a 401(k).)

#18 - "You will spend more with credit than with debit and more with debit than with cash."

#46 - "The salesperson is not your friend."

#84 - "Banking online makes you smarter and safer."

Most rules have a few words of explanation, although some rules are so self-explanatory that they need no clarification. Some of the rules should be obvious to most people, but I learned a lot of practical "tricks of the trade" for building and retaining wealth, such as when to do work around the house myself and when it makes sense to hire it out; why carrying larger-denomination currency saves money; how much debt parents or their kids should take on in student loans, and why parents' obligation to pay for their kids' college is limited; mood affects the amount people spend while shopping; and why it's harder to live within a budget while dieting.

I wouldn't say that "Money Rules" breaks any new ground, but it's one of the best and most readable books I've seen with so much down-to-earth practical advice about earning and managing your money in such a way as to ensure a comfortable retirement without any nasty surprises along the way.

And of course, never, ever, ever co-sign a loan with anyone, or loan money to friends or relatives. I had to learn those the hard way.
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One of the hardest parts about recommending books is actually finding people interested in reading them. Money books are especially hard . . . while needed, they are often long, boring, and filled with advice that is impossible to follow. This book is an exception and is one that anyone can read in less than an hour. It might not help your non-reading friend become a millionaire, but it will give them easy to follow advice that can save and earn them money.

The author really succeeds at giving great psychological tips and tricks to help you save money without thinking about. Almost all of my favorite "rules" deal with these tips, some are listed below:

* Rule 19: Carry $100's instead of $20's.

* Rule 21: Save for something. Write down a specific goal, it will be easier.

* Rule 8: The more time you spend looking, the less happy you'll be.

* Rule 66: Ask "What's the worst that could happen?"

If you are looking for a solid financial book that will give you clear instructions on what to do next, then pick up I Will Teach You To Be Rich. It is the best I have ever read. If you are recommending a book to a friend who rarely reads, this is a great option. It will take them less than an hour and they will actually save money. A great investment for a ten spot.
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This small format book is written by Jean Chatzky, who is a TV journalist. The book's goal is to talk about finances in a very simple way. And she achieves this goal well. The book's level is what you would hear during a morning broadcast TV finance segment: small easily digestible bits of information. Each page is dedicate to one advice, each advice is about one paragraph. I liked most of the advice given in the book, however some of the suggestions did not apply to all situations.

Here are a few of examples of advice I enjoyed, these are representative of what you will find in a book.

1. How to calculate what your time is worse. Take you annual salary, remove 3 zeros from the end (if your annual salary is $30,000 then you get $30) and divide by 1/2 (then you get $15). Consider that to be a value of one hour of your time. When you decide if you want to do some chore that takes you an hour think of it this way: If you don't enjoy the chore and can find someone to do this chore for less than your hourly number hire someone. If you enjoy it or if you can't find anyone to do it for less than your hourly number then you do it.

2. Do not follow "Live on what you make" rule, as if you spend everything you make you will never save anything. You need to live on less, trying to save at least 10%.

3. Do not spend your raise. Save it.

4. Your home is not a cash cow it is a piggy bank. Think of its value down the road, not something you want to take loans against.

Here are a couple of examples of advice that I did not think was generally applicable

1. Don't use credit cards even if you pay them off each month.

If this was addressed to people who were not in habit regularly paying off their monthly balance I would agree with it. However, giving up a convinced of not carrying cash is too high a price for a principle of not using plastic.

2. Don't be afraid to ask your boss for a raise.

This is not always feasible or advisable in a corporate environment where raises are on a schedule by a set percentage based on a scale of your performance relative to your peers. Big companies take much of the give and take out of individual's hands with their bell curves. This might work in a small company, but not in large corporations.

Overall, this book was a fast read (30 minutes cover to cover for me) and a pleasant read as long as your set your expectations correctly for small bite advice.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book.

Ali Julie review
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on April 2, 2012
Jean's down-to-earth, no nonsense approach to explaining things has always worked for me. Maybe it's because she is a journalist and doesn't have a background in finances. Maybe it's that she talks like she could be my girlfriend. I don't know what it is but it works!

I was really excited to see that this book was very thin, just over 100 pages. Perfect for me since my mind is a jumble of educational data from grad school. Even more perfect for someone who is just starting out with learning about finances, like a young adult or high school graduate, a college student or someone who feels intimidated by finances.

Each page has a simple rule related to all things money. They are easy to read and easy to understand.

Rule # 18. You will spend more with credit than you will with debit and more with debit than with cash. So very true too!

Rule # 25. Doing nothing can be very expensive. I have learned this the hard way. I have ignored my debt for years. I did nothing about it and it's going to cost so much more now that it would have if I had addressed it years ago.

Rule # 26. Just because someone will lend it to you doesn't mean you should borrow it. OHMYGOD, can we put that up in big neon lights on every corner in every city in the world? So many people would benefit from this lesson. Just watch any episode of House Hunters on HGtv to see that.

There are so many great lessons in this book, so many that I wish I had learned earlier on in my life. I really wish someone had provided me a book like this when I was just starting out on my own.

Obviously, I highly recommend this book. In fact my recommendation is that each and every one of you should purchase Money Rules. With graduation season coming up, you should purchase this for every single graduate you know. At just over $10 for each book, it's a FABULOUS accompaniment to any gift you give.

Think of it, you aren't just giving them a book, you are giving them a future!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 5, 2012
Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security (2012) is a book designed to emphasize a few basic points, to hopefully provide the reader with some fundamental guidance regarding personal finance. Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC's Today Show, has written a book that consists mainly of bullet points, broadly related to savings, spending, and some of the psychology behind both. The goal is not to provide a detailed road map to financial security, but primarily to get you mentally pointed in the proper direction as soon as possible, and then with a conservative approach, encourage you to take some prudent steps.

With a 7"x5" format, the 114 page book features 94 of Chatzky's "money rules", with one page typically devoted to each rule, with an occasional second page featuring an illustration. Chatzky keeps things concise, as each tip is usually not more than a few sentences. As the number of words decreases, the height of the text typically increases. The oversized text results in a look that is in some ways similar to a book intended for young children.

Although most anyone can find something of value among the tips, it might be fair to say that those in their prime earning years, and not currently well prepared financially, might benefit the most from the fundamental advice presented. If you are already retired or nearing retirement, then much less in the book may be helpful.

Both for retirement and for addressing emergencies, Chatzky puts major emphasis on saving money, and beginning as soon as possible. In these troubling financial times, many retirees are finding their retirement savings inadequate. If one runs the numbers, being diligent about savings, can pay off significantly in the long run, so getting an early start makes a lot of sense.

While many of the "rules" are often easier said than done, the point is to understand the principles behind them, and attempt to incorporate them when possible and appropriate. Chatzky's Rule #10, "Live Below Your Means. Period." stresses another key point, staying out a debt. She also believes in paying with cash rather than credit cards, and devotes attention to your psychological state of mind, and how it can factor into your decision making process.

While the book has some good tips and prudent ideas, when you look at the actual content, the word count is extremely low. Statements are made, and in some cases, besides common sense, there is not too much to back them up, as often the discussion is a bit too general and unspecific. There's nothing wrong with Chatzky's approach, as there can certainly be beauty in simplicity, however there is a limit on how far you can go relying on just these basic principles, and she does not really get into how one obtains more specific information.

A famous saying not mentioned in this book is "It takes money, to make money". It's simple, and often quite true. If you are broke, unemployed, drowning in debt, or perhaps doing time in prison, you may have trouble applying these rules, no matter how well you may understand them.

Part 6, entitled Cover Your Assets, is described by the author as perhaps the most important of her sets of rules. And there are some serious subjects here, such as health insurance, life insurance, estate planning, and taking care of your health. While still a rather superficial treatment, it's mostly good sound advice.

Chatzky has written several other books which include some of these same points, and probably wanted to take a very streamlined approach for this one. Teens just entering the work force, or anyone who may be totally lost regarding personal finance, might find Money Rules quite helpful, as it is a quick and easy read. The book probably rates four stars for that type of person, but those seeking any specificity regarding investing, will be disappointed. The limited audience, lack of depth, along with what seems to be a rather high retail price, drop the book's rating down to three stars.
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on April 30, 2012
This was a very simple and basic book. If that is what you are after this might be a good choice. If you are after anything beyond "simple rules" I'd look further. An entry level investment and money management book that is still excellent after multiple editions is Andrew Tobias's The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need. I think it is far better than Chatzky's book.
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Jean Chatzky may not be a CPA but she has impressive credentials: she is the financial editor for the Today Show on NBC, and a personal finance contributor for Prevention and Newsweek magazines. AND she has written two very popular books that address the masses (that is us, fellow readers) with clipped, considered, wise, informed and very useful rule for making money. While there are many similar themed books on the market at this tenuous economic time, this book instead of lecturing the reader to offer background for the development of financial advice simply gives a major rule on every page - graphically designed with varying fonts and style and some illustrations that make the book a very fast read. BUT, there is so much fine advice here that this book should remain on everyone's desk as we plow through changing the way we think about, make, save, and keep our money.

Chatzky opens her book with an introduction that includes two important principles: #1 Personal finance is more personal than it is finance and #2 Money is simple -people make it complicated. She then divides her book into seven parts: Make Money; Save Money; Avoid (Most) Debt; Spend Wisely; Invest for tomorrow; Cover Your Assets; and the final Do's and Don'ts. Sprinkled through these sing page admonishments are some eye-opening thoughts - what makes us spend, why (and why we shouldn't) live beyond our means, how truly simple it is to save a bit of money each month, use cash and not credit or debit cards, do online banking so that you know where you stand every day with the click of a mouse, panning for retirement (and not touching that money saved!), how to think about investments...on and on.

One of the reasons this book is so immediately accessible and helpful is that Jean Chatzky hits the nail on the head for all the little bloops we each commit. She spells it out very succinctly then moves on to more advice. She closes this exceptionally helpful little book with the following: 'Finally, try to remember that in most cases, money doesn't cause your problems. You may have a work problem, an idea problem. or a relationship problem. You don't have a money problem. But lack of money is the result. Focus on understanding and then unwinding the underlying issue - even if you didn't do anything wrong to cause it....Then use the rules - and the guiding principles - to help you find your way.' She wastes no time, but makes things very clear. Grady Harp, March 12
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on April 30, 2012
Common sense principles about money are listed all in one place that can serve as a good reference for those who already practice these or a good discussion starter for those just embarking on their own with fincances. Jean's style is no nonsense, which perhaps is why Simple is in the title of the book. There is about one page per rule with a few graphics for entertainment. My main use for this is to enhance the money talks we have with our kids.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon March 24, 2012
I'm a big fan of Jean Chatsky. I've been reading her columns for years, and find her approach to money management to be refreshingly clear and down-to-earth.

This book scores well on both those metrics. It consists of 94 rules for money management, broken out into seven major sections:

Make Money
Save Money
Avoid (Most) Debt
Spend Wisely
Invest for Tomorrow
Cover Your Assets
Do's and Don'ts.

Each contains a collection of rules, such as "Saving is more important than investing" and "Your home is a piggy bank, not a cash cow." Simple, direct and on the mark.

This is a great book for recent grads and those who have recently entered the job market and are dealing with money management for the first time. I'm getting a copy for my nephew (he's 26) and highlighting the rules about spending, especially "The salesperson is not your friend" and "Just because you have a coupon doesn't mean you should go shopping." Maybe if he hears it from someone other than me he'll pay more attention.

The downside is that it's a very quick read - there's not much detail behind each rule (usually no more than a paragraph or two, and for some rules, no supporting text at all). While I appreciate the simplicity and clarity, I was hoping for more details.

Despite the pithy nature, there's a lot of good advice in this slim volume. Well worth a read.

[Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher]
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