Book Review: More Than Just Making It

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated

By: Erin Odom

Reader Problem: You are struggling financially and there is nothing left in your budget to cut.

Author Solution: More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated

Why you should read this book: It's like a friend coming alongside you, holding your hand, and letting you know that you are not alone. Financial difficulties can happen to anyone.

Book Review: More Than Just Making It || One Book Blog

More Than Just Making It is the first financial book I’ve ever read that has really addressed the idea that maybe, just maybe, your financial difficulties are not caused by a spending problem. 

So many money books suggest that you need to cut back on the lattes and the designer shoes and your budget will be just fine. But for some people, it isn’t so simple.

Odom shares her personal story. She and her husband thought they must be doing something wrong with their money because there was barely enough to cover the basic necessities. Only after sitting down with a mentor from their church did they understand that they weren’t able to cover their bills, not because they were careless with their money, but because there wasn’t enough money coming in to pay for the basics in life, like food, housing, and medical treatment. They were part of the “working poor” defined by the Center for Poverty Research as “people who spend 27 weeks or more in a year in the labor force either working or looking for work but whose incomes fall below the poverty level.”

Odom also talks about applying for government aid, the shame she felt at needing help, and the lengths she went to to avoid having anyone she knew find out her secret.

There are also chapters covering how to create a budget, tips on meal prep and food shopping, sales, and thrift shopping, the church’s role in helping the poor, and changing how we think about those who need financial help. There are also suggestions as to how you might be able to increase your income.

While there is no magic bullet that will ease your financial difficulties, More Than Just Making It may provide some encouragement.

You can purchase More Than Just Making It at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.

You can find out more about Erin at her site, The Humbled Homemaker.

*I received a digital review copy via NetGalley in exchange for feedback. There was no requirement to review this book for my blog.

Book Review-Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

Book Review-Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.png

Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

By: Helaine Olen

The Personal Finance Industry spends a lot of time telling us that our financial troubles of our own making. Fortunately, they tell us, they have the answers to our difficulties.

Helaine Olen strongly disagrees. In Pound Foolish, she calls out the inconsistencies and flaws in the works of gurus like Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Jim Cramer, and others. One example would be The Latte Factor, popularized by David Bach. Olen shows how the math in the latte factor simply doesn’t add up. And quotes researcher Jeff Lundy, “People don’t lose money in the United States because they literally spend themselves into oblivion. Spending $2 for a latte may, over the long term, add up. But it is not the direct cause. It has to be in combination with high medical expenses or losing your job or something like that.”

Which is another point Olen discusses. Those in the industry like to tell us that if only we’d cut out the streaming services or give up our Starbucks habit, we’d be much better off financially. But more likely, anything we save by not buying coffee will be eaten up by rising medical, housing, or food costs—areas where it is near impossible to cut spending. 

Olen gives a small-scale example of canceling their family subscription to a newspaper only to have those savings swallowed by the rise in their medical insurance premiums. I experienced almost the same scenario last fall. I canceled our newspaper subscription, thinking we’d save $40 a month, only to have our internet service increase by $40. That. Same. Month. We can’t win. And if your family is in the midst of a medical crisis and you don’t have health insurance, cutting out Netflix at $10/month, $120/yr isn’t going to make a dent in your medical bills.

Olen also covers financial planners who deal in annuities, stocks, day trading, and the like. I’ll admit to skipping over much of that section as it was going over my head. I can’t tell you the difference between an annuity and a mutual market fund. I hope to learn. Someday.

There are also sections about retirement, financial literacy, real estate, and more.

I think one of the most compelling sections is the wrap-up of the book. Americans have been “sold on the idea that good financial habits and a well-balanced investment portfolio could compensate for stagnant and falling salaries.” Uh, yes, indeed, I do believe that is what I’ve been led to believe. It’s only been within the last two or three years that I’ve begun to understand it’s not that simple.

“In fact, there was never a golden age of personal finance…What we considered the financially responsible Americans in the 1950s and 1960s was, in reality, a golden era of corporate and government support, ranging from pensions to the G.I. Bill, which allowed veterans to go to college and buy low-cost housing at fixed and minimal interest rates. As these supports dried up, replaced by more complicated and less effective vehicles like the 401(k), no-money-down mortgages, student loans, and high-interest credit cards, our finances dried up as well. When combined with increasing income equality, the financial result was catastrophic for more and more people.”

“The vast majority of us are not messing up deliberately. Life has a way of happening.” Divorce, death, college, unemployment, health emergencies. These things “do not announce themselves in advance, and thus, are next to impossible to plan for. Even it we could somehow see our future, there would be no way to reliably invest and save up for it.”

So what does Olen believe is the answer? Well, she doesn’t have one. But she wrote Pound Foolish in the hope that we would begin an honest conversation about what is really the cause of our financial difficulties. Spoiler: it’s not the latte.

What is your favorite financial book? Let me know in the comments as I’m always looking for more good books.

Book Review-The Index Card

The Index Card-Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated

The premise of this book is that all most people need to know about personal finance will fit on an index card. I'm all about simplicity so the idea is very appealing. Especially since financial matters can be intimidating.

According to the authors there are 10 rules, one of which is "Remember the Index Card." Most of the rules are common sense. That's not to say we follow them but it is likely that we are familiar with the ideas. Save Your Income, Pay Your Credit Cards in full, that kind of thing.

What was new to me was:

     Rule 4-Never Buy or Sell Individual Stocks

     Rule 5-Buy Inexpensive, Well-Diversified Index Mutual Funds & Exchange Traded Funds

     Rule 6-Make Your Financial Advisor Commit to the Fiduciary Standard

I'm not a financial guru so I can't say if the 3 rules above are solid but based on the wisdom of the rules with which I am familiar, I'm reasonably confident they are good ideas. At the least, they are new terms and ideas I didn't have before. Now I can research them and increase my knowledge.

The other 6 rules are not new. But it's always good to be reminded. You know the idea that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with? Well, I apply that concept to books. Frequently reading financial books helps me to stay on track with my finances.

The Index Card is not the only book we'll ever need to read about personal finance but it's a good place to start. It would be a great book for someone who is overwhelmed with the topic of financial matters, or someone who is new to the idea of money management. 

What are your favorite money books? Let me know in the comments as I'm always looking to add to my TBR list.