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Book review

Book Review: Financial Advice for Blue Collar America

Kathryn B. Hauer has written a wonderful book on the unique financial advice needs of blue collar American workers – this is a review of that book.

Book Review: Making Social Security Work For You

This book, by my friend and colleague Emily Guy Birken, is a great book for gaining a better understanding of Social Security benefits. I recommend Making Social Security Work for You to anyone looking for answers about Social Security benefits. Birken is also the author of The Five Years Before You Retire, another excellent retirement planning tome. Birken’s style of writing is easy-to-follow. She has a subtle sense of humor that comes out in her writing. This makes the material enjoyable to read, even for a dry subject like Social Security. Making Social Security Work for You I especially like the way author Birken presents the material. Having written a book on the subject, I know full well the challenge she faced when putting this information together. It is difficult to make such a technical subject understandable and engaging. Birken presents the material in a cohesive manner, with a review (Takeaways) at the […]

Book Review – Choose Your Retirement

The latest book by Emily Guy Birken – Choose Your Retirement – is unlike any other book I’ve read on the subject. Birken takes the time to walk the reader through all of the decision-points that likely will confront you. She spends time acknowledging all of the factors that often face future retirees, including all of the emotional factors that plague us. Author Birken, who you may recognize from her many writing gigs with well-known personal finance outlets including Wisebread, PT Money, Money Crashers and Yahoo! Finance, has really done well with this book, in my opinion. The book provides practical step-by-step guidance and counsel for navigating the internal mental scripts that different personality types face when saving – Money Avoidance, Money Worship, Money Status, and Money Vigilance. Most everyone fits into one of these categories – and each category has it’s own pitfalls and benefits. This book takes you […]

Book Review: The Opposite of Spoiled

Last week I had the opportunity to read Ron Lieber’s book, The Opposite of Spoiled. The book centers on raising kids that are well-rounded and responsible when it comes to money. As a father of two kids myself (and supposedly a financial planner), the book offered many insights to me as a father and as a planner. After all, even I have questions about how to get my kids to think about the way money works and the family finances. Mr. Lieber’s book does an excellent job of how to answer the money questions kids ask. Naturally, kids see the world through different lenses and it’s in their nature to ask question. Such questions about money Mr. Lieber covers range from the “Are we rich?” to handling what kids see their friends have that they do not. Taken right from the cover is Mr. Lieber’s take on how to teach […]

Book Review – Stumbling On Happiness

Daniel Gilbert does a fine job educating the reader on how to think about happiness. A great example is when he gives some rather positive and happy quotes like the ones you’d read from a satisfied customer’s testimonial. When you turn the page, you find out the quotes come from people you’d least expect. In other words, one of our perceptions of happiness is derived from looking at a person from our perspective, not theirs. A few examples of this are given throughout the book. One in particular is the example of being a conjoined twin. Most of us would think that particular situation would be a horrible outcome in our lives. But we are looking at it from the perspective of not being a conjoined twin. In fact, conjoined twins would have it no other way. They are happy. We would argue that they’re really not happy because they […]

Book Review: Get What’s Yours

This book, subtitled “The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security” is written by Laurence J Kotlikoff (Professor of Economics at Boston University), Philip Moeller (of PBS NewsHour) and Paul Solman (also of PBS NewsHour). With this lineup of heavyweights in the Social Security commentary space, you are right to expect a very comprehensive, easy-to-understand, explanation of the subject – and that’s just what you get. This book covers every component of the Social Security retirement and disability benefit landscape with the aim toward taking action on those components that you have a degree of control over, in order to maximize your lifetime benefits. The authors are extremely well-versed in the ins and outs of the system, providing insights not found in many other texts. In addition to the authors’ own lifetimes of experience in covering the subject, every fact in the book has been reviewed by former Social Security […]

Book Review: Finance for Nonfinancial Managers

This recently-released Second Edition is a wonderful book for folks who find themselves in the position of needing to understand financial reports, when the last time you looked at a balance sheet was in your first year of high school accounting. Author Gene Siciliano has produced an excellent guide to the primary concepts of finance, written from the point of view that you have no background at all in finance or accounting. Managers of all levels in today’s business organizations need to have at minimum a basic understanding of financial systems in order to be effective. Day-to-day decisions are influenced by information found in financial reports, and without being able to interpret these financial reports, you’re flying blind. Maybe you’ve been thrust into a management position without any training – and you need to have an understanding of financial reports to do your job. Gaining a better understanding (after you’ve got the […]

Making Every Month Count – Excerpt from A Social Security Owner’s Manual, 3rd Edition

You can listen to this article by using the podcast player below if you’re on the blog; if you’re reading this via RSS, there should be a “Play Now” link just below the title to access the audio. Did you realize that even delaying a few months can have a significant impact on your Social Security benefit? This is the case for all Social Security benefits, including your own, a Spousal Benefit, or a Survivor Benefit. This applies whether you are taking the benefit before FRA or after, since your age is always calculated by the month. Increase or reduction factors are applied for each month of delay or early application, respectively.

Book Review – All In Startup

If you’ve ever had a million dollar idea and perhaps even pondered taking that idea to the next level and turning it into a business, then reading this book will help you correctly identify the right direction you need to take. Set in the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas the book takes us into the life of a struggling entrepreneur contemplating whether to remove his business from life support while finding himself moving closer and closer to the final table at the World Series of Poker. Author Diana Kander does a remarkable job of tying together the similarities to a successful poker strategy and a budding entrepreneurial startup. What I really enjoyed about the book was not only its quick to-the-point chapters, but Mrs. Kander’s amazing ability to tell the risks and pitfalls of starting a business though story – a story that follows the whirlwind plight […]

Book Review – Entrepreneurial Finance

This book is a fantastic introduction to any would-be or current entrepreneur looking to understand the numbers and money behind what it takes to succeed. Steven Rogers approaches the subject of entrepreneurial finance in a way that makes sense to the reader and allows then to understand how the finance concepts work for and potentially against the entrepreneur. Mr. Rogers has taught at the Northwestern Kellogg School and is currently a senior lecturer at Harvard University. Pulling from an extraordinary amount of personal experience Mr. Rogers guides the reader through reading and interpreting different financial statements as well as gives real life examples of companies, personal experience and the experience of a former student considering changing jobs and what the cost analysis of the change would be. Not surprisingly, Mr. Rogers’ concepts can be applied to personal finance – a plus for anyone who reads the book. As some of […]

Book Review: Facing the Finish–A Roadmap for Aging Parents and Adult Children

One of life’s only sureties, we all will eventually come face-to-face with the end of our life.  Sometimes it comes quickly with no warning, and sometimes end of life comes more slowly, over the course of many months or years.  In either case, after life there are many things to deal with (for those that remain) – and in the cases where the final chapter of our life is a lengthy one, there are many more decisions to make and situations to deal with. Regardless of how swiftly or drawn out the event is, we can all benefit from planning out many of the inevitable decisions in advance. This book is an excellent guide for folks who are either nearing that final transition in life (referred to by the author as Older Adults), or who are helping our parents or grandparents with this transition (referred to as Adult Children).  Most […]

Book Review: The $1,000 Challenge

I picked up this book at FinCon 2013, the Financial Blogger’s Conference held last year in St. Louis.  The author, Brian J. O’Connor, is the Personal Finance Editor and syndicated “Funny Money” columnist at The Detroit News.  The book is the compilation of a 10-part series O’Connor wrote in 2010, wherein he opened up his personal financial situation to his readers and attempted to come up with ways to save an on-going $1,000 per month on regular, everyday expenses. The result is a surprisingly interesting (not to mention humorous!) journey with the author into the depths of personal financial dealings – everything from babysitting expenses to transportation costs to groceries.  The author takes each section of his personal finances in turn, laying out what the current costs are, and the steps he took to make reductions in his monthly outlay.  He the takes the series a step further to recommend […]

Book Review: How Much Money Do I Need to Retire?

This book, by Todd Tresidder, cuts through much of the extra “stuff” that you find about retirement planning, to help you do some really useful, back-of-a-napkin retirement planning for yourself. Tresidder, who has a practice coaching folks with financial planning based on his concepts, developed his planning methods in real practice for himself.  Tresidder “retired” from his regular job at the age of 35 using these tactics, and has been helping other folks to use these methods in planning for retirement ever since. In this book, Todd goes through the conventional methods of planning for retirement savings, which includes gathering some information that is impossible to calculate: How much money will you need every year for the rest of your life? What will be the rate of inflation? When will you die? Your spouse? What rate of growth will your investments experience over your lifetime? What will be the sequence […]

Book Review: The Other Talk

A Guide to Talking with Your Adult Children About the Rest of Your Life This book, a relatively short read at 176 pp before appendices, is a nice guide for folks facing (or in) retirement and dealing with those end of life issues that we all must face at some point in our lives.  As the subtitle implies, this book guides the reader through the process of having the “other talk” with our children.  The first talk is about the birds and the bees, and the analogy between that talk and the “other talk” is apt.  The subject matter is profoundly difficult and emotional for both parties, but avoiding the talk (either one) can have serious impacts for both parties as well – because avoiding either talk will not keep the “event” from occurring. The author Tim Prosch relies on many personal experiences as well as a great deal of […]

Book Review: How to Give Financial Advice to Couples

Subtitle: Essential Skills for Balancing High-Net-Worth Clients’ Needs This book, by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, is a very good book for all financial advisors to read – even if your clientele isn’t “high-net-worth” clients.  I’ve had my share of client-couples who had difficulty in reconciling financial concerns with one another, and (as you probably know) the number of digits on the couple’s bottom line net worth has nothing to do with it. Author Kingsbury, a wealth psychology expert, has a great deal of experience and knowledge on the subject to share.  She covers the issues that couples face when dealing with monetary subjects, which can range from having opposite but complementary skills and mindsets regarding money to having basic problems in dealing with conflict with one another.  Every couple has areas where they’re not completely in concert with one another – it would be really unusual if everything about a couple […]

Book Review: Winning the Loser’s Game

Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing Charles D. Ellis, the author of this book (in it’s Sixth Edition), has definitely hit the nail on the head with his subtitle.  The strategies outlined in this book are good for any investor in any economic/investing climate. Time and again throughout the book, Mr. Ellis points out that the real key to investment success has nothing to do with finding the right stock, bond, mutual fund or ETF – and everything to do with developing a sound strategy for investing and sticking to it. The strategy requires you to develop an understanding of your own personal tolerance for risk and your need for returns.  This can be a difficult undertaking, as it requires the investor to answer difficult questions about what kinds of losses he can stomach with his investments, as well as what sort of return you require for your investments over the […]

Book Review: The M Word

Subtitle: The MONEY TALK Every Family Needs to Have About Wealth and Their Financial Future This book, by Lori R. Sackler, presents to us a very insightful overview of the types of conversations that families need to have with one another – beginning with spouse to spouse, following with intergenerational conversations – about money topics.  These conversations are critical to the success of most all financial plans that require some interaction between two or more people. Mrs. Sackler has a great deal of experience with the topic, having for several years hosted a radio program dealing specifically with this subject.  It is this wealth of experiences, coupled with her own clients’ experiences, that really delivers a wonderful array of knowledge about the process. Throughout the book are excellent examples, which provide the reader with a portrait of each concept, in the flesh as it were.  The book walks you through […]

Book Review: Asset Allocation-Balancing Financial Risk

This was a re-read for me, with the recent publishing of the fifth edition of this very important book.  Roger Gibson has updated his excellent work with the results of his strategies during the Great Recession, up to date as of late 2012. Advisors have much to learn from Mr. Gibson’s tome regarding the optimal methods for allocating your investment assets. Throughout the first portion of the book, the concepts of market-timing and superior asset selection are summarily debunked, and the benefits of market index investment and diversification are shown to be optimal.  The author uses real-world data to underpin his findings.  The result is the explanation that, with known investment time horizons, an optimal mix of investments can be determined that will produce superior long-term risk-adjusted results. Much is written in the book, which is directed primarily to investment advisors, about the mind-set of the investor himself or herself.  […]

Book Review: The 7Twelve Portfolio

The 7Twelve Portfolio is an excellent concept for financial planners and novice investors alike. The book is very well written and easy to comprehend as Dr. Israelsen keeps the concepts simple and analogies easy to follow. The crux of the book is regarding diversification and Dr. Israelsen uses the analogy for making salsa as a reference. For example, you don’t have salsa of you just have diced tomatoes and it really doesn’t improve if you simply add some onions and salt. It improves a little bit, but still isn’t salsa. The same is true for diversification. You’re not diversified if you own one stock or bond in your portfolio and have all of your holdings in that one asset. The benefits of diversification begin when you start adding additional ingredients to the mix. This starts to lower risk and help maximize return. This is a concept us nerdy planners call correlation. The […]

Book Review: A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Right from the start this book will be an excellent read for both financial advisors as well as their clients. Dr. Malkiel provides academic insight on the reasons why passive management works and some great commentary on the use of index funds as part of someone’s overall portfolio. This was the second time I read this book and certainly not the last. It’s great reinforcement on why we invest our clients’ money the way we do and provides solid academic evidence that doing anything to the contrary is counterproductive, more expensive and simply playing a loser’s game. Some of the bigger takeaways from the book are Dr. Malkiel’s thoughts and research on the different part of the Efficient Market Hypothesis or EMH. The EMH consists of three parts – the strong form, the semi-strong form and the weak form. The EMH essential admits that markets are efficient – meaning that current […]

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