I did it!

I finally finished the manuscript for Your Money: The Missing Manual; I e-mailed the last chapter to my editor at 9:10 this morning.

This book was a lot of work. I started writing it on 23 September 2009 at 12:27 p.m. Over the next 115 days, I gained fifteen pounds. (I actually gained eighteen, but I’ve lost three since the start of the year.) The final manuscript contains 125,244 words and 269 pages in Microsoft Word, which would be about 400 printed pages. That’s too long, so we’ll spend the next month whittling it down to something more manageable.

During the past few months, I’ve been a virtual hermit, cloistered in my office (“deep in the word mines”, as I like to say), working 8-10 hours every day — and sometimes many more. Now that the book is nearly finished (aside from editing and printing), I calculate that my hourly wage for this project is…drumroll please…less than minimum wage!

Still, I’m not doing this for the money. I’m doing it because I want to help people turn their financial lives around. I’m doing it because I wish I’d had a book like this twenty years ago. If Your Money: The Missing Manual sells enough copies to earn back its advance, that’s great. But if it helps even a handful of people get out of debt and start saving for the future, I’ve done my job.

Chock full of goodness
What’s in the book? Plenty of the stuff you see at Get Rich Slowly — but also lots of new topics, too. Here’s a chapter-by-chapter breakdown:

  • Introduction — I give a brief summary of my background and share the fourteen tenets of Get Rich Slowly. (2304 words, 5 pages, completed 09 January 2010)
  • Chapter 1: Happiness — I survey current happiness research. I explain how money is important but it isn’t everything. I also discuss the notion of lifestyle inflation (though we’re calling it “the hedonic treadmill” for the book). (6800 words, 15 pages, completed 05 October 2009)
  • Chapter 2: Goals — I discuss the importance of setting goals. Without goals, you have no reason to save. (6090 words, 13 pages, completed 12 October 2009)
  • Chapter 3: Budgeting — If goals are your destination, then a budget’s your map. But as most of you know, I’m not a fan of detailed budgets. Instead, I focus on looking at the Big Picture (including my favorite, the balanced money formula), suggesting readers can add detail as needed. (6975 words, 15 pages, completed 19 October 2009)
  • Chapter 4: Debt — I lived with debt for fifteen years. This chapter shares a bit about how I overcame my own debt, and then shares some of my favorite resources. My goal is to give readers the tools they need to kick debt to the curb. (7163 words, 16 pages, completed 16 October 2009)
  • Chapter 5: Frugality — This chapter got out of control! How can you compress this topic into just 25 pages? You can’t. I know some folks think frugality is pointless, but I’m not one of them. I sing its praises here. (11676 words, 26 pages, completed 04 November 2009)
  • Chapter 6: Income — The most overlooked topic in personal finance: how to make more money. You guys know I’m a passionate believer in boosting your income in whatever way you can. This chapter suggests some ways to do it. (11081 words, 24 pages, 10 November 2009)
  • Chapter 7: Banking — Banking’s not a very sexy topic, but there’s still some important stuff to cover, like how to find the best checking and savings accounts. (7836 words, 18 pages, completed 17 November 2009)
  • Chapter 8: Credit — Credit can be dangerous…but it doesn’t have to be. Here I go over credit scores and credit reports and offer some tips for using credit cards responsibly. (6350 words, 14 pages, completed 25 November 2009)
  • Chapter 9: Big Stuff — As great as it is to save money through frugality, it’s even more important to save on big things, such as cars, furniture, and vacations. This chapter tells you how. (13085 words, 26 pages, completed 03 December 2009)
  • Chapter 10: Housing — Yikes, this chapter was tough to write. I’m not sure why, but it got away from me. I had so much I wanted to say! In the end, I had to cut the info on “cost of living”, and I may have even had to cut the stuff on selling a house. There’s still plenty of meat here, though. (9906 words, 20 pages, completed 22 December 2009)
  • Chapter 11: Death and Taxes — When I started writing, I told my editor this chapter would suck. I didn’t feel confident about the subject. In the end, it was fun to write — and it turned out well. It’s tough to make taxes, insurance, and estate planning interesting, but I did my best. (10000 words, 21 pages, completed 16 December 2009)
  • Chapter 12: Investing — I outline the basics of investing, including some of the psychological pitfalls investors face. I encourage readers to look at index funds, but point them to good resources for other strategies if they simply must try to beat the market. (10684 words, 24 pages, 05 January 2010)
  • Chapter 13: Retirement — The chapter I completed this morning! I talk about the power of compounding and the importance of saving early. I also go on a rant about how much I hate retirement planning based around “replacement income”. (It’s so stupid!) (7872 words, 17 pages, completed 15 January 2010)
  • Chapter 14: Relationships — I close the book with a look at how money affects our relationships with family and friends. (The book is dedicated to my friend Sparky, who died a year ago today.) I also spend a little time exploring the notion of social capital, which is something I haven’t written about much here, but that I think is very very important. (7422 words, 15 pages, completed 11 January 2010)
Note: Word counts are based on my what I turned into my editor; they’re sure to drop in the published book.

Whew! Just typing that outline makes me tired. There’s a lot of info here. I’ve tried to find a balance between being too general and being too specific. I want folks to be able to come to the book when they have a question, get the basics, and then point them to places they can get more details, if needed. (That’s my goal, anyhow.)

Behind the scenes
There’s a lot of GRS in Your Money: The Missing Manual. That doesn’t mean I just dumped blog posts to the book. I’ve read some other books that have done this, and I don’t care for them. While I did use some material from the archives, I tried to steer clear of wholesale reproduction. (That’s not in anyone’s best interest, right?) What I mean is that I used the GRS philosophy to guide my writing, and I used some of my favorite themes throughout the book. And from time-to-time, I used info I’ve shared before. (About Roth IRAs, for example.)

Plus, the book profiles about a dozen GRS readers, who tell how they handle their finances in various ways. Two long-time GRS readers (Dylan and Charlie) are acting as technical reviewers. As I’ve written the book, I’ve frequently polled those of you who follow me on Twitter for suggestions and recommendations about topics and tools.

Simply put, this book is the sum of everything I’ve learned about personal finance so far, and it draws a lot on the collective brains of Get Rich Slowly readers. In a very real way, all of us wrote this as a team. It may not be perfect, but I’m pleased with how it’s come together.

Ready to rest
Still, I’m not sure I’m built for writing books. I have no problem producing short pieces on a daily basis. That’s fun and (pardon the immodesty) think I do a good job at it. But writing a book is an entirely different beast. It’s like asking a good sprinter to run a marathon. The sprinter can probably do it, and he’ll use some of the same muscles and skills, but he won’t enjoy it, and he won’t do it as well as those who have trained distance running.

That’s not to say I’m not proud of Your Money: The Missing Manual. I’m very proud of it. I put my heart and soul into this book, and I think it has the potential to help a lot of people. (I sure hope it will, anyhow.) I’m just saying I prefer to write for the blog format.

Anyhow, I appreciate your support over the past few months. It means a lot to me. There’s still a lot of work to be done, though. Starting Saturday afternoon, I have a ten-day author review period during which I’ll make revisions to the manuscript. I get a short break after that before we start the final round of editing. Assuming there are no problems, Your Money: The Missing Manual should hit bookstores two months from today.

Note: As hard as I’ve tried to fill this book with useful info and good advice, I’m sure there are mistakes. If you read it, please please please let me know when you come across errors or find something especially confusing. You won’t offend me; in fact, I’ll be deeply grateful.

I’d also like to note that I made the next step in my Year of Fitness this morning. I’ve spent the past couple weeks counting calories and changing my eating habits, but today I finally hit the gym, spending 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer. From this point on, fitness is job one around here.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’ll be be back on Monday.

p.s. If anyone has tips for book marketing, please let me know. So much of a book’s success depends on marketing, but I’m not a very salesman-y type of guy, so this is going to be tough for me. I’m looking for ways to spread the word in a productive non-slimy way.

p.p.s. Just for kicks, I uploaded the book’s outline to my personal site. (It’s a 1.4mb PDF.) I wish you could see the physical outline; it’s dirty and torn from four months of constant use.

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