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The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money Paperback – December 28, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Carmen Wong Ulrich is an expert contributor to The Dr. Oz Show and Glamour's personal finance columnist. She is the former host of CNBC's daily personal finance show On the Money and can be seen regularly on Today, MSNBC, and Extra. She has appeared on The View, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, CNN, HLN, Rachael Ray, and the CBS Early Show. She is the author of Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money-A How-To Guide; has a master's degree in psychology from Columbia University, Teachers College, and a B.A. from Fairfield University; and lives with her family in Brooklyn. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Perigee Books (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399536442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399536441
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alain B. Burrese TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Each decision we make has consequences, both costs and benefits. And costs are not always financial, but can be personal. "The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money" by Carmen Wong Ulrich is a book that can help you make better decisions that involve money, but are not all about money. I like that the book looks at other costs associated with the topics in this book, and not just at the price tag or how much money is involved. Across the top of the back cover there is a line that says, "Life Isn't Always About Money." That is so true, and this book will help people recognize some of the other ingredients, costs, and benefits from the decisions one makes.

The book opens with an introduction that illustrates that even small choices we make can cost more than we realize, and encourages readers to look at pros and cons to make the best choices. The first chapter is one the real cost of home. Sure, when you buy a home you have to pay the negotiated price, and depending on what rate of interest you receive if you finance the purchase, that accounts for a monetary figure of what a house costs to most people. This chapter makes you look at some of the other costs.

Chapter two looks at the real cost of marriage and divorce. This includes looking at weddings and actual divorces, but also the aftermath of these and other surprises. The third chapter addresses the cost of family. As a father, I know the cost to the hospital when your child is born is minor compared to other costs of raising kids. I'm sure all parents will agree. This chapter provides some things to think about.

Chapter four focuses on college and various considerations when thinking about higher education.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Swanson on January 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Real Cost of Living" was an absolutely outstanding read. I first learned of it though the Daily Worth newsletter, and instantly bought it for my Kindle (and yes, for $1.00 extra than the actual book itself, for which I'm sure the author would scold me).

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a finance person. I hate numbers. I still use my fingers to count (I'm not an idiot, I promise). That being said, this book is written by a social science graduate about finance -- i.e. something I could understand, relate to, and wasn't just about numbers. As such, as a self-proclaimed idiot with numbers, if I can understand the entirety of this book and LOVE it, you can, too. Seriously.

Ulrich is funny and gives it to you straight. The book covers everything from homeownership (and when it makes sense to rent), mortgages, college, marriage / divorce, babies, saving / spending, owning your own business, bad habits (smoking, being overweight, etc.), and the stock market. Yes, all of that. She acknowledges the emotional side of home ownership, getting that advanced degree, etc., and ensures you're aware she understands it's sometimes not only about numbers. There are numbers contained in the book (charts too), of course, it's a book on finance, but all examples are easily understood.

Ulrich includes a significant amount of resources / links to check into for further reading, which was great. I got to around 70% complete on my Kindle and realized I was done with the book -- so 30% is resources and citing her sources for statistics. With 70% reading (and charts) and 30% additional resources and backing up statistics, you have more than enough to satisfy the number lovers as well as those who love numbers a little less.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book!!
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Roland L. Halpern on January 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I so hoped this book would provide some good solid advice but it turned out to be little more than anecdotal stories without much empirical data to back it up. Instead of hard facts it proved more personal opinion along with what most people intuitively already know. For example in talking about stocks, she states "We tend to sell winners too early and losers too late. We're human." Not exactly Nobel Prize material for economics. I wanted something more solid. Save your money - the real cost of this book was $14.95 and several hours of wasted time reading it. This book was not a good investment.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Wagner on January 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ulrich states that your home is part of a market which is not under your control
(p. 8). There follows thoughtful advice about debt, home ownership, renting, and even walking away. In today's economy, the choices are more difficult and each fraught with snares.
The average numbers tossed around for weddings, including a 5K ring and the $27,000 wedding, are indeed absurd scenarios and the author's advice to go cash on a much cheaper event and put the monthly money that would have been debt into an investment account makes sense, except most folks usually fail to make the monthly savings. After all, real people are not idiots on the bridezilla shows.
The boxed quote from page 84 says "Economists say that today's generation of young adults is the first ever in this country that will be worse off financially than their parents." College graduates will be worse off than their parents also, which segues into the chapter discussing the cost of higher education.
While college costs have been rising dramatically, the actual income of college graduates adjusted for inflation has not. While more employers are capable of demanding a higher degree, the salaries are going south. There are other benefits in addition to a monstrous school loan, the maturation process being one of them.
I do, however, object to the term "solid education, when what the applicant really needs is the appropriate paperwork which might include membership in the HR's civic organization, personal appearance or that pizzazz that will make the person the "perfect fit." Okay, that was hogwash, but you still may wish to make your high school sophomore read this chapter again and again until he/she gets it. There are few things worse than post graduate unemployment coupled with student loan repayment.
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