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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 – 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 […]

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: 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: Control Your Retirement Destiny

This new book is the first book from my colleague Dana Anspach.  Dana has been writing and blogging for quite some time now, primarily as the voice behind Money Over 55 for (  Dana also is a practicing financial advisor and respected speaker. If you’re looking for a nuts-and-bolts, do-it-yourself primer on all things related to retirement, this is your book.  Ms. Anspach has put together a very complete overview of all of the areas that you need to consider in order to “Control Your Retirement Destiny”.  By following the advice in this book, you can figure out how much money you need to have to retire, where to put it (meaning, what types of accounts to use), how to invest it, and all of the other important topics that you need to know about. Along the way, you’ll learn what’s important to know about Social Security, taxes, investment […]

Book Review: How to Retire Happy

“The 12 most important decisions you must make before you retire” Author Stan Hinden, who is the former syndicated Washington Post “Retirement Journal” columnist, has just released his Fourth Edition of this book.  The book is Hinden’s commentary and advice, as well as a sort of journal, as he and his wife Sara entered into and have been living in retirement over the past 17 years.  Hinden retired in 1996 at the age of 69, at which time he began writing the “Retirement Journal” column.  He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Commentary in 1998 for his work. This book is an excellent read for folks who are planning toward retirement or have recently retired.  Hinden has organized the process into 12 decisions, some of which include: “Am I Ready to Retire?”, “What Should I Do with the Money in My Company Savings Plan?”, and “Where Do I Want […]

Book Review: Born to Blog

Taking a departure from my regular topics of taxes, retirement accounts, and Social Security, today I’m reviewing a book dedicated to the topic of blogging.  This is another of the books that McGraw-Hill has provided for me to review (see note below).  This book, by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith, provides a quick-read overview of the activity of writing a blog successfully.  As with any venture, it’s important at the start to have a goal for the activity, and for many folks it’s simply to get a message out there about a product or service.  For others, the goal is to be a source of information; others yet look to showcase collections of graphics, photos, audio and/or video.  And many hope to gain an audience that will somehow pay off for them – either from sales of products, services or subscriptions, or from ad revenue from third-parties who […]

Book Review: Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett

This book, by Larry Swedroe, is a must read for individual investors that are looking for the answer to the age-old question – How should I invest? Warren Buffett certainly makes any list of “best investment minds” of our era, no matter who you are.  Author Larry Swedroe would likely make any such list as well, given his many books that he has written on the subject, such as “The Only Guide to a Winning Investment Strategy You’ll Ever Need”, “Investment Mistakes Even Smart Investors Make”, and just as well, the subject of this review. Mr. Swedroe starts out with the basics of Mr. Buffett’s advice, with the sage’s commentary backed by the facts behind them.  For example, regarding market timing: “Our favorite holding period is forever.”  Swedroe follows this advice with evidence of why it pays off for the individual investor in the long run, due to the fact […]

Book Review: Strategic Capitalism – The New Economic Strategy for Winning the Capitalist Cold War

Author Richard A. D’Aveni has written a very compelling book with Strategic Capitalism, a book that provides some very important information for Americans to review and consider due to the coming economic cold war between the United States and China.  Mr. D’Aveni asserts that the United States’ traditional version of capitalism must be adapted in order to compete with China’s conglomeration of various types of capitalism. The beginning of the book details the many different pure types of capitalism – Laissez-Faire, social-market, managed, and philanthropic – and how these have been used over the years in many different economies.  Mr. D’Aveni points out that rarely is a single pure type of capitalism ever the only type of capitalism in use in an economic system, but rather that many different forms of capitalism are blended together to work in the economic and political interests of the country or union in question. […]

Book Review: Currencies After the Crash

This book is a series of nine essays about the state of currency in our global economy after the 2008-2009 economic crisis.  The contributor list is impressive: global currency luminaries such as Anoop Singh of the IMF, Robert Johnson of the Global Finance Project, Jörg Asmussen of the European Central Bank, and many others of similar pedigree.  The book is edited by Sara Eisen of Bloomberg. This book doesn’t lend itself well to description, other than that each of the contributors provides a snippet of insight into the global currency situation as it stands today, from his or her professional perspective. Most of the essays point out that the US dollar is not in the crisis situation that the popular press would have us believe.  Yes, the dominance of the dollar has diminished in recent years, but a replacement as dominant currency worldwide is not eminent from either the euro […]

Book Review: The Chinese Way to Wealth and Prosperity

You’d have to be living under a rock to have not noticed how the Chinese people have pretty much taken over all the top spots in most all pursuits – athletic, artistic, educational, financial, and most other areas of life. This book, by Michael Justin Lee, a Chartered Financial Analyst and formerly the nation’s first Financial Markets Expert-in-Residence in the US Department of Labor, seeks to explain the reasons behind the success of the Chinese in so many areas of life.  Mr. Lee delivers concrete examples of how this likely has come to be. Admittedly, the success that the Chinese people are experiencing is not limited solely to the Chinese, and the author points this out – it appears that much of the basis behind this success comes from Confucian teaching, which influences many other Asian countries.  It’s not surprising that Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Eastern countries are […]