This guest post is from Suzanne S.

Jane Bryant Quinn has been a personal finance writer for decades. She currently writes for Newsweek and Good Housekeeping. She also wrote a doorstopper of a personal finance tome called Making the Most of Your Money. That book was just too intimidating for me. I dipped into some chapters but really didn’t do it justice. Plus, it is now a little outdated in some areas since it was last updated in 1997.

With her most recent book, Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People, Quinn has realized that many people feel like they aren’t doing a good job with their finances, but are too busy to spend much (if any) time figuring out what needs to be done.

The result is a book that is perfect for people who have been procrastinating, or who are just waking up to the fact that they should be paying attention to their money. Thanks to her crisp, easy-to-understand writing style, it’s a quick read. Even better, it gives you precise recommendations, saving readers the hassle of doing their own research. Too many people are convinced that they need an expert to help them manage and invest their money. In a no-nonsense, informative style, this book demystifies personal finance.

The ultimate test, though, is whether this book will get you to do something. It passes. As a result of reading Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People, you’ll come out organized, educated and motivated. My husband and I have incorporated many of her recommendations into our money management, and have relied on her guidance as we’ve made decisions about financial products.

What it’s about
For many readers of Get Rich Slowly, the advice in Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People will be familiar territory: Figure out where your money is going, get out debt, and create a safety net through insurance products. Quinn also gives advice on buying a house, paying for college, and investing.

What’s different about this book is that Quinn provides the details to jump-start the process. Take life insurance, for example. David Bach in Smart Couples Finish Rich (a book similarly targeting people starting to get serious about their money) recommends you take out a policy with a death benefit “that totals somewhere between 6 and 20 times your annual spending needs.” Quinn shows you how to do the math yourself, and also helps you determine whether you’re a one-income or two-income family. Yes, anyone can find calculators online to do the same thing (and Quinn gives recommendations), but that involves extra work. Quinn has it all right there. Fill in the blanks and keep moving forward.

Highlights from the book include:

Take notes
Every time you make a decision about a safety-net product, Quinn advises readers to write it down.

Why did you buy that much life insurance, what do you expect it to cover, and for how long? [...] Maybe you changed your coverage based on something you read here. Maybe you decided that what you already own is right. Either way, summarize your thinking…

Now, whenever I am researching anything to do with our financial life, I take notes in one notepad dedicated to finances (another option is to file the notes with the documents they refer to). I have notes about insurance, mutual funds, spending goals and debt reduction. As Quinn says:

These notes have a very practical purpose. They help you keep track of your thinking process which will be important when you forget (again!) why you made a particular choice…

At some point in the future, you’ll have a new question about your personal finances. When you check back, this list will put you in the picture right away. It keeps you in control of your money and your plan. If something needs changing, you can pick up from where you left off without starting the “why” process all over again, from scratch.

Take inventory
Another tip is to make an inventory of everything you own as a resource for your homeowners insurance. Quinn recommends using a video camera to record what’s in every drawer, closet and room. “Talk out loud about everything that’s special — furniture, art, china, rugs, furs, jewelry. Keep the disk (or tape) somewhere out of the house — ideally in a safe-deposit box.”

Take charge
My favorite chapter was on Better Investing, probably because that was an area I hadn’t focused on yet. It was a great primer and gave me the confidence to make some changes on this front.

Quinn recommends mutual funds and explains the pros and cons of her three favorites: target retirement funds, lifecycle funds, and index funds. Again, she relieves the reader from having to do research and gives specific recommendations. Before she does that, she educates readers on why it’s important to choose the one with the lower costs.

For obvious reasons, she’s a big fan of Vanguard. For people whose 401(k) doesn’t offer target retirement funds and lifecycle funds, she gives helpful advice on how to create a well-balanced portfolio.

Conclusion
Quinn achieves the goal she sets in her title. These really are smart and simple financial strategies. She inspires and equips busy people to make the changes necessary to better manage their money and then get on with their life.

Bottom line: for long-term readers of Get Rich Slowly, this book is worth reading if you haven’t yet focused on a particular area of your financial life (e.g. disability insurance, college savings, rolling over your 401(k) to a individual retirement account, etc). Otherwise, it’s a great title to recommend for friends and family who are just starting to get serious about finances.

If you’d like to preview Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People, check out the excerpts on Google Book Search.

This article is about Basics, Books