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158 of 182 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that needed to be written--extremely valuable, January 3, 2013
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This review is from: Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry (Kindle Edition)
I read a lot about personal finance because, like most everyone else, I am not in the kind of tip-top financial shape that received wisdom says I should be at this point in my life. What did I do wrong, I keep wondering? What can I do now?

I've read and admired the works of Barbara Ehrenreich, particularly "Bait and Switch", which demonstrates that the current high rate of unemployment--especially for older, experienced workers--is not in fact due to inferior resume-writing skills or failure to compose a zippy enough "elevator speech." In other words, it's not our fault, but rather a much larger, societal problem. The deck is stacked against us as corporations continue to outsource, shed experienced workers, and make clever use of temp workers to reduce payroll costs.

I see Helaine Olen's "Pound Foolish" as an extremely valuable companion to Ehrenreich's work, one that puts the focus on the financial industry and the ways in which it is designed to profit from our financial misery while making us believe it is all our fault. I recall one financial advisor telling my husband and me that the problem with our finances amounted to "lifestyle" issues. He cited the fact that we own smartphones as an example. As if that could be viewed as a shocking indulgence, comparable to, say, frequent weekends at the Four Seasons. There is little mention of the fact that expenses for basics like healthcare and education have ballooned as wages have stagnated or even fallen and employment has become frighteningly tenuous and sporadic, which is our real problem.

Olen makes an enormous contribution here. I was surprised to read in this book, for example, that financial companies have backed academic research that is used to help sell complicated investment approaches like variable annuities. This just hadn't occurred to me. There were many things revealed in this book that surprised me. I found myself wondering why a book like this had not been written before. Olen doesn't have any magical solutions for the problems she exposes, but she does a terrific job of showing us the truth behind the illusions we have been fed. Every newspaper article on personal finance advises us to "consult a financial advisor," as if that were a simple matter, as if competent, helpful, and impartial financial advisors are easy to find. This book shows us just how false--and even dangerous--this assumption can be. I recommend this book read as an eye-opening form of preventive medicine that may help you protect your financial health.
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Location: New York, NY

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