Customer Review

397 of 537 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better..., January 10, 2013
This review is from: Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry (Hardcover)
I wanted to like this book; I really did. I felt it was long overdue that someone write an expose' on the personal finances sector. Lord knows there are plenty of abuses out there, and anyone who alerts us to unscrupulous shysters who relieve us of our hard-earned money should be applauded.

I feel that Ms. Olen is a gifted writer. At times, I found myself laughing out loud at her clever expressions and way of crafting her words. Often, she hit the nail right on the head with her biting criticisms of particular individuals and shady financial practices. At other times, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry to see how so many people get themselves into so much trouble over money (all of us do to some extent, I suppose, but some much worse than others). Throughout the book, the author writes smoothly and uses some great words and witty expressions which made turning the pages easy and pleasurable.

So, why only one star? Here is my list:

1. The author picks on the easiest of targets. It is almost as if she builds a house of cards, blows it down, and then acts like she has really accomplished something. For example, she finds contradictions in the practices of Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, David, Bach, Robert Kiyosaki, Jim Cramer, and Carlton Sheets, to name a few. She warns of late-night infomercials. Most intelligent people do not really need to be told that fantastic claims made by these kinds of people need to be taken with a grain of salt and carefully scrutinized; they already have assumed as much.

2. Ms. Olen is a huge believer in playing the "victim" card. There is absolutely zero room in her universe for any kind of personal responsibility. If you are bankrupt, it is not your fault. A shopaholic? Not your fault. Lousy job? Not your fault. Bad investments? Not your fault. Steeped in debt? Not your fault. A recent divorce? Not your fault. Well, you get the idea. I think we can all agree that bad things can happen to good people but can we always blame everything on others? In Ms. Olen's view, everything that goes wrong is the fault of bad government policy and only government can fix your problems.

3. The book has virtually no balance in its reporting. She criticizes Dave Ramsey, for example, but never mentions that getting out of debt just might be a good idea for a lot of people. She also hammers Suze Orman but fails to mention that Suze might have a good point every now and then. She even picks on the book "The Millionaire Next Door" but remains stunningly silent on the central theme of the book -- to live within your means and practice self-restraint. And never does she mention that seeing a financial advisor might be a good thing to do for some people with no self-discipline or investing knowledge. I am not necessarily a fan of financial advisors but for some people they can actually be a good beginning.

4. The author is apparently a big feminist. She wastes a whole chapter explaining why women are better money managers than men. She posits that women are less emotional, better savers, less impulsive, more grounded, ad nauseum. She even claims that there would be much fewer problems if the world was run by women. I found that particular chapter highly annoying and distracting from the central issue.

5. Each chapter oozes with Ms. Olen's ill-conceived, delusional politics. One readily concludes that she has no managerial or executive experience. She should have kept her political views out of this book -- it would have been so much more enjoyable (and accurate).

6. Although she identifies numerous shortcomings of the financial services sector, she offers no meaningful solutions. Granted, the answers involve a lot more analytical thinking than the questions, which is something the author isn't terribly adroit at. However, Ms. Olen states openly that she is an "Occupy Wall Street" sympathizer and she encourages us to all band together to bring about change.

As I stated before, the subject matter of financial service abuse was long overdue. But the author botched it badly. The highly contemporary topic of personal finance was deserving of a far better analysis than what was delivered.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 13, 2013 3:48:23 AM PST
Chloe says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 13, 2013 10:11:07 AM PST
G. Jensen says:
I read the book and gave it 3 stars in my review. While this reviewer may be more critical than I am (I actually found the book enjoyable and thought provoking), many of this reviewers points are valid in the area of left of center political and sociological bias - even which the author acknowledges at times. In my opinion, she raises some extremely valid points but fails to temper her criticisms with objective instances or data that may contradict her preconceptions. I think this reviewer makes some excellent observations that should be considered by anyone interested in this book.

Posted on Jan 14, 2013 2:14:46 PM PST
Good review. This seems to hold with Ms. Olen's attitude in interviews as well. It is all arrogant criticism, drivel and no answers. While I am no fan of Suz Orman, this book too easily overlooks the most sound advice that is the fundamantal that SO advocates for all, regardless of current income level: Stop spending money that you don't have. That basic advice could cure much more of the US's debt, credit and bankruptcy problems than this entire book.

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 10:07:35 PM PST
Another 1 star based on the reviewer's politics and higher academic caste.

Posted on Feb 1, 2013 2:52:33 PM PST
I heard a radio interview with the author and at first was looking forward to sampling and possibly reading this book, then about ten minutes into the interview I sensed the "victim card" being played, exactly as this reviewer describes in point #2. No matter what its good points, no book on personal finance can make any sense if it doesn't actively promote the principle of personal responsibility.

Posted on Feb 3, 2013 3:38:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 3, 2013 4:15:59 AM PST
I wanted to add a perspective as somebody who's probably close to the middle politically. I voted for Obama, but then voted Republican for every other candidate on the ballot. I am a dues-paying member of my state's Republican Party, but vote for Democrats whenever they field candidates I believe are superior.

I read the book thoroughly, cover to cover. I did not perceive Ms. Olen to be "picking on" anybody. Some of her comments regarding Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman were favorable. For example, she said that Ramsey despises the payday lenders for exploiting the working poor. She says that Suze Orman is at least capable of changing her mind when investing trends change and that Suze criticizes those investment charletons who are entirely self-serving.

She simply points out that Mr. Ramsey had to declare bankrtupcy as a young fellow starting out as a real estate speculator and that Ms. Orman is a college dropout who doesn't have any formal education in investments and apparently keeps her own money mainly in low-risk, low-yield money market funds, not the "wealth building" stock market funds that she advises for others. And she points out that Ms. Orman is an extravagant conspicuous consumption spender, not at all aligned with the frugal lifestyle she advocates for her followers.

I also disagree with the reviewer's point of view that most "intelligent" people take these people's advice with a grain of salt. If that were true, these people would not have huge followings. There are thousands and thousands of people who subscribe to Jim Cramer's newsletter and presumably buy and sell his stock picks, which are often (usually?) bogus. There are millions of people who buy into Dave Ramsey's advice to "work three jobs delivering pizza" to pay off unpayable debt and who work themselves into early graves for piddling, non-meaningful amounts of money instead of doing the sensible thing of declaring bankrupcty and starting over again, which is exactly what Mr. Ramsey himself did when he was in that situation. So, no, people are NOT intelligent enough to give these people's advice the critical scrutiny that is necessary to make optimal financial decisions.

In regard to politics Ms. Olen is careful to IMPLY her judgments without trying to beat the reader over the head with partisan viewpoints. She makes very plain her opinion that the "do-it-yourself ownership society" pushed by economic and political conservatives has failed to live up to its billing. Of course she is right about that. People got shoved into "ownership" of houses and stocks whose value collapsed. They got shoved OUT of gainful employment, which is the foundation of all wealth building.

Ms. Olen merely pointed out these economic facts of life. She did not attack any conservative politician or praise any liberal one.

Also, I did not at all perceive her to be a "big feminist who believes that women are better money managers than men." She merely pointed out that many women BELIEVE that they are inferior money managers and so may be overly prone to taking advice from financial counselors who don't have their best interests at heart.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2013 11:31:41 AM PST
David Sims says:
I read your responses to the previous response about Pound Foolish. I just finished watching the C-Span interview of Ms Olen, and reacted in line with your comments about the book. As an elementary school principal and a woman, I find that 401K managers parade their advise in front of teachers, who if taken, would lead teachers to change the number of tax dependents and hit them with huge IRS bills at the end of the year. Outside the educational world, I have seen financial advisors change 30-year Vanguard annuities almost matured into indexed annuities. So, I admire Ms. Olen's inclusion of an independent survey's results indicating that there may be inescapable financial realities that result in retiring with a less than optimal 401 savings. Thank you for your articulate summary. I hope you are planning on more of them. Sincerely, Dee

Posted on Feb 6, 2013 3:37:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 6, 2013 3:46:48 PM PST
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Posted on Feb 7, 2013 7:10:05 AM PST
David W says:
Ms. Olen was on the radio this morning as I drove in to work, and at first I was thinking she sounded pretty good. Then she says "Dave Ramsey says to avoid bankruptcy at all costs, but guess what... He filed for bankruptcy at one point." So if Dave Ramsey also fell off a bike and broke his leg, is he now no longer qualified to tell people not to do the same? If anything having filed for bankruptcy himself improves his credibility in the matter. Many of her other points gave me the idea that she blames everyone else for the poor state of people's finances.

I still plan on reading this book, but it has moved from my "buy" list to my "check out from the library" list.

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 6:20:02 AM PST
Joe Kellock says:
She did say one very interesting thing about having to view the debt as a collective. This is something that really needs to be taken into account when a government creates laws detailing what a financial sector can and cannot do. While you do not want to removing personal responsibility from the system you need to make sure laws are not in place which promote a exploitative industry. We are all tied to the financial system and its regulation is of extreme important.
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