Book review: ‘The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke’
There are many personal finance books out there, useful to people in all stages of personal finance. I have a lot to learn before reaching financial independence, and the editorial elves thought it would be useful if I shared some of what I learn with you.
My recent reviews include “Change Your Life in 7 Days” and “More Money, Please: The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School.” This week, I'm reviewing “The Money Book for the Young Fabulous and Broke” by Suze Orman.
If you're at all into personal finance and haven't been living under a rock, you've heard of Suze Orman. She hosts TV shows. She writes books. She endorses prepaid debit cards. And boy is she outspoken! Her brand is based on a “let me give it to you straight” attitude that people either love or hate. There's not a whole lot of middle ground when it comes to opinions of Suze.
Philosophy Behind the Book
“The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke” is aimed at recent college graduates. She assumes that her readers have student loan debt (and maybe credit card debt, too), and either have not found a job yet or are currently underpaid. She provides a comprehensive overview of how money should fit into your life, divided into ten chapters:
Know the Score (your FICO score)
Give Yourself Credit (credit cards)
Making the Grade on Student Debt
Investing Made Easy
Big-Ticket Purchase: Car
Big-Ticket Purchase: Home
Love & Money
Each chapter contains a “Lowdown” section that explains the basics, “Strategy Sessions,” where she gives specific advice on the topic, and a “Quick Playback” that reviews the most important concepts of the chapter. In this book at least, Suze's advice that is based on the assumption that if you're truly broke, the ideal option is probably not available to you and you shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As a result, many of her recommendations fly in the face of “traditional” personal finance advice.
What I Didn't Like
Honestly, when it comes to things that I didn't like about this book, the layout was first on my list. There are a lot of things in a green font that I found very hard to read. There is an icon that appears whenever Suze is referring you to additional resources that are available on her website. While I appreciate that she's providing more information than can be included in the book, it was a rather large icon that was visually disrupting. There are also lots of pages with hardly any text on them that seemed kind of pointless and randomly placed to me.
I also found the tone a little off-putting. Clearly she was trying to be hip, but I think her use of slang just highlighted the age difference between her and her audience (about 30 years). Imagine your parents saying something like “photobombing is totes cray-cray” and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about. However, I'm also about ten years older than her target audience. Maybe it rings true to younger readers?
As far as the content itself, as I mentioned there is quite a bit of non-standard personal finance advice. Examples include:
If you are in an entry-level job that does not pay enough for you to live off of, use credit cards to supplement your income.
Don't make extra payments on low-interest student debt.
If your student debt has a high interest rate, pay it off with a low-interest credit card or a HELOC.
If you have high-interest credit card debt, don't bother with an emergency fund until you pay it off.
Contributions to a Roth IRA can double as an emergency fund.
Roll closing costs and PMI into your mortgage to save money (nitpick: I think she meant “improve your cash flow,” not “save money.”).
See what I mean?! Now, in each case, there's more to it than that. To take the first bullet as an example, she says you should be putting no more than 1 percent of your gross income on a credit card each month for a maximum of two years. But I think most personal finance websites would suggest starting a side business, selling Stuff, or getting a part-time job instead, don't you?
What I Loved
For every bit of cray-cray, Suze does offer up a nugget of genuine wisdom. Her suggestion to “do what you love and the money will follow” is pretty standard, though I think it's debatable whether or not that's actually the case. I did love her recommendation that if you want a raise you need to make yourself indispensable to your employer so that you can bargain from a position of strength. Other fairly “normal” explanations and advice include:
Her FICO overview, which is pretty solid.
Play the balance transfer game when you're trying to pay off high-interest credit card debt.
Invest in your company's 401(k) up to the match.
Diversify your investments to hedge against risk.
Buy a used car and drive it into the ground.
Exciting? Not especially. But all fairly consistent with what you would encounter elsewhere in the personal finance community.
Who Should Read ‘The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke'
I do appreciate the reasoning behind some of Suze's advice even when I don't agree with it. Many personal finance writers have been financially established for so long that they've forgotten what it's really like to be just starting out in your career. And people who say you shouldn't take out student loans under any circumstances just aren't living in the real world. Where I work, for example, full-time resident tuition is over $10,000 per year, and that's at an “affordable” state institution.
Suze's target audience are individuals who know little or nothing about personal finance. As a result, they may not realize that much of the advice in this book is non-standard at best. Yet I can see how some of the more unorthodox recommendations might be attractive to someone who is struggling financially. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who was a complete novice when it came to personal finance, because I'd be afraid they would treat all her suggestions as equally valid when I don't think that's the case.
A note about swag: I bought this copy of Suze Orman's book at least five years ago, fair and square. I am not affiliated in any way with Suze Orman or her publisher, and my opinions are entirely my own.
Have you read any of Suze Orman's books or watched her TV shows? What's your take?