Customer Reviews: Your Money: The Missing Manual
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on July 14, 2010
I liked the blog (not quite so much anymore, though, with all the new writers). The blog is why I picked up this book. But while it's fun to go when you're at work to read a short personal finance thing for a brief diversion, a bunch of blog posts strung together makes a bad personal finance book.

Unlike other reviewers, I think this book was poorly organized. This book is written for those with a basic level of personal finance knowledge and Roth occasionally patronizes (with examples like "Karen Kashout" and "Joe Spendsalot"). And I don't know I'm the only one, but I thought the font was annoying.

It's written at the level of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover (Roth used Ramsey's system to get out of debt), but it's JD Roth's Total Money Life, covering everything from salary negotiations to buying a new car to getting out of debt to budgeting to investing to charity to quitting your job in a book that is simply too short for that. To compensate, he gives lots of references, including using annoying tiny urls for websites. When I want to go to vanguard, I don't want to put in tinyurl.@$#$^. I'll put in It's easier. I can remember I was reading the book and kept thinking, if I want information on how to negotiate my salary, I'll google it. Or I'll read Jack Chapman. If I want advice to get out of debt, I'll read Dave Ramsey. Roth's little blurbs might be fun to read on his blog, but I don't think they serve the people who need his book.

Roth isn't a money guy. He's a writer. He doesn't have a real system for personal finance; he's just a guy who successfully got out of debt. Using Dave Ramsey's plan.

This book seems to be all over the place and feels disjointed. For people who need the basics and are just starting out, I would recommended "I will teach you to be rich" instead. It feels similar but it has a plan. For people in deeply in debt, I'd recommend Dave Ramsey. For people who want a general personal finance book that isn't overwhelming, I'd chose David Bach's "Smart Women Finish Rich." (This is my go-to recommendation for friends.) Suze Orman is pretty good too, and Elizabeth Warren's book has a nice budgeting plan.

Roth's book seems like a bunch of blog posts strung together rather unhelpfully, and while that's fun to read occasionally, it's not the substance most people who should read this book would need. For the rest of us-those who read personal finance for fun and know the difference between an IRA and a 401(k), it's just not a fun read.
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I first got interested in J. D. Roth's personal finance writings through his Get Rich Slowly blog. There, he talks about what he's discovered when it comes to getting (and staying!) out of debt, saving money, and other various topics related to your hard-earned dollars. When I heard he was writing Your Money: The Missing Manual, I was excited to get a copy to read and review. I wasn't disappointed, either. This is the perfect book to give someone who is trying to dig out from a mountain of debt, or more ideally, to someone who hasn't yet fallen into that trap. Either way, the value of the information here is priceless if read and followed.

Part 1 - Blueprint for Financial Prosperity: It's More Important to Be Happy Than to Be Rich; The Road to Wealth Is Paved with Goals; "Budget" Is not a Four-Letter Word; Defeating Debt
Part 2 - Laying the Foundation: The Magic of Thinking Small; How to Make More Money; Banking for Fun and Profit; Using Credit Wisely; Sweating the Big Stuff; House and Home; Death and Taxes
Part 3 - Building a Rich Life: An Intro to Personal Investing; Retirement - The Final Frontier; Friends and Family

To understand where Roth comes from, it helps to know a bit of his story. He found himself $35,000 in debt a decade after college, with no real knowledge of how to manage the money that was going out faster than it was coming in. Add the purchase of a 100 year old house on an already-stretched budget, and he was desperate for change. He started devouring all the books and magazines he could find on money matters, breaking down the jargon and information into understandable chunks. He began to share this information on his Get Rich Slowly website, in hopes that he could help others in the same situation. Fast forward about five years, and he now has a high-traffic website that has become a go-to place for those looking for realistic help in dealing with their financial issues. So instead of Roth being a slick "professional" out to get you to buy something, he's just an ordinary person like you and me who has "been there, done that" and decided to share his struggles with others.

His book is a great consolidation of financial wisdom in one easy-to-read volume. There are no risky schemes or shaky advice to be found here. It's all solid information, designed to help you get a handle on things. For instance, he covers the "debt snowball" technique that is often recommended for paying off loans and credit cards as quickly as possible. But instead of saying it *always* has to be done a certain way, he offers up a few variations that may work better for different people (pay off high interest first, pay off smallest debt first, etc.) I appreciate that he's not dogmatic on "one way or else." Another example is budgeting. He realizes that most people have problems with budgets, so he recommends a number of ways to go about it (high detail, record everything, only use a few broad categories, etc.) He even acknowledges that if you're really doing well financially and have no cash flow issues, you may not even *need* to have a budget. But again, the acknowledgement that different styles work for different people is refreshing.

A few years back I attended a Financial Peace University program taught by Dave Ramsey, and I was able to get my financial house in order. I see many similar elements of FPU here in Your Money: The Missing Manual, and that's probably not a coincidence. Getting and staying out of debt requires fundamental changes in the way we think about money and credit, and is something that far too few people are able or willing to do these days. J. D. Roth's book is a much-needed dose of reality in the world of personal finance, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking to "clean house" when it comes to their financial affairs.
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on March 20, 2010
I am a longtime reader of J.D.'s blog so I've been waiting for this book for awhile. It came in the mail today and already I can tell you, it is sooo good. I was worried that many of the topics covered would be a review from his blog writing. This is not a rehash/review of the blog. This book provides seriously enhanced and deeper knowledge in a structured, useful way. I like the way J.D. points out what he thinks and how tools and tips are useful and he also points out drawbacks or situations in which you may want to consider other paths. For example, as he cites in the book, his path for getting out of debt is closely aligned with Dave Ramsey's plan, which worked for him (and me) but he also provides slightly different options that might fit your needs or priorities better but will still achieve results.

As always, J.D. is readable and relateable. His book is well-organized and provides step by step suggestions and instructions on getting out of debt, focusing on what is important, learning to curb your spending and doing what makes sense for you.

The tips, notes, and website suggestions are excellent. I'll be using this as the text for the financial literacy class my husband and I teach at our church. I've already been quoting J.D. to our current class and we've all truly latched onto "The perfect is the enemy of the good" --too many people don't get started in tackling their finances because they are looking for the perfect first step... "Action beats inaction" I know personally, and from others in my class, these are big hurdles we create ourselves that prevent us from moving forward. J.D. named them and in doing so, helped us remove them and do something. I think these are J.D.'s words, but if not, they are a great example of the exhaustive reading and research he does to compile an excellent book full of resources so that you don't have to go out and read all of the other books and research.

Highly recommended!
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on March 21, 2010
I really enjoyed reading J.D.'s book. As for content, I will leave it to other reviewers to list the content pages, but suffice it to know that this is not a rehash of J.D.'s blog; it is much richer, yet written in the same approachable format--so you never feel judged as to whatever position life currently finds you. The financial advice on budgeting, spending, saving, planning, etc. is well thought out, and is the type of advice you wish your family gave you years ago. J.D. also knows when to point you to other resources, for further, more depth information. As for the book's presentation, the material is well organized and clearly presented--with lots of asides from real life experiences to inspire and encourage you--and flows from topic to topic. It is also well cross-referenced, so when you are presented with a topic that is related to a later discussion, that later discussion is noted with a page number, so you can jump right to it if you like. I really enjoyed this book, and will be giving it to family and friends as gifts.
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on March 26, 2010
This book is fantastic.

If you're a fan of Get Rich Slowly, or just want some help with your personal finance, then this book is for you. It reads as a best of Get Rich Slowly -- which is a very good thing, indeed.

The only real downside I've found: I don't know who the target audience is. This isn't a book for those who are in dire economic straights, but it might be for those who are barely above water.

It might also be a good college graduation present, for those just entering the harder world of finance.
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on April 13, 2010
In these days of financial meltdowns and insecurity about the nation's financial system, this book brings a refreshing common sense approach to financial stability. It is measured, practical, and big on establishing priorities. The author also has a personal story to tell, and has his own blog for further reading and information.

Here are the priorities:

Happiness in Life, the Ultimate Priority
Make Goals
Get out of Debt

Note that there is nothing here so far about making money, it is all about understanding the purpose of and use of money

Think Small, which might otherwise be titled, Pay Attention to the Small Stuff

Now we get to the money part.

Working, for self or others
Banking, a Primer
Using Credit
and finally, The Big Stuff (life's major decisions re house, car, vacation, etc)
Home (Rent of Buy)
Death and Taxes (insurance, taxes, estate planning)


Dealing with Friends and Family

What makes this an excellent book is its emphasis on life choices to achieve happiness. It views money (properly in my view) as just a tool, important for sure, but a tool, and not an end in itself. It is a reasoned and principled discussion of financial values, but emphasizes personal values and relationships as the key to a happy life. There is no discussion of how to make a mint trading options, or the importance of having gold available for trade if the apocalypse occurs, so people looking for such discussions will be disappointed. But this book's approach would put any young person on the road to financial independence, and might be a wake up call for some others who have made the pursuit of wealth their primary goal in life. Recommended.
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on June 14, 2010
If you are just beginning to study up on personal finance, this is an excellent place to start. It has a number of virtues:

First, it's thorough. The book covers virtually all the major topics of personal finance, including budgeting, paying off debt, cutting spending, maximizing your earnings, buying cars and homes, saving for retirement, and investing wisely.

Second, it's accessible. J.D. Roth's personal writing style keeps the tone warm and not-too-technical. The book is filled with oodles of tips and tidbits, and if you're just looking for a bunch of great ideas, it is easy to find them.

Third, it's loaded with references to additional information. Some of the references are to other books, but most are to on-line resources, so you can immediately access the information he cites. This rounds out the information in the book, and makes it seem like he's crammed 1000 pages worth of information into 300 pages.

Even if you have read dozens of personal finance books (as I have), you will find this book has new information and original perspectives.
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on September 19, 2013
I've purchased several money books during the past 3-4 years because I enjoy reading them and this one is my favorite. It's the first book I've read two times in a row simply because I liked it. JD Roth covers alot of topics in a well organized and well written book on money and happiness. He relates it to his own life experience and the book is full of recommended web sites on dozens of money topics. He covers alot of areas not necessarily found in other money books and talks about the emotional effects that money has on people. It's worth every cent.
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on April 6, 2016
This is a birthday gift to my ex boyfriend. We are both college students and need to learn how to manage our money. Of course I had to read it, although it is my ex boyfriend's. I learned about credit cards, annual and monthly budgeting. Because of this book, I have embarked on an experiment called "Track My Finance." This experiment will lasts a month and every time and everyday I spend money or gain money I write it down in a little mini book. At the end of the month I will see if there's any unhealthy habits in my spending. Then I will go back to the budgeting part of the book. That's another thing, you can skip around in the book based on what you want to learn about.
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on June 15, 2010
Your Money: The Missing Manual joins others in the 'Missing Manual' references and should be a part of any business or personal finance consumer's library. It covers all the basics, discussing the best ways to get and reach financial goals, how to use credit wisely, how to get the most from investments, and more. The result is a top all-around financial guide any consumer or student will relish.
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