One of the things I am constantly astounded by is the sheer number of personal finance books in the marketplace today. It can be overwhelming to even know where to start as you try to research financial topics and become more informed. So, in keeping the conversation going about money, from time to time I am going to review personal finance books I have read or am currently reading. In doing so I hope to give you a resource for which books to pick up, which to ignore, and what you can hope to get from each.
Financially Fearless: The Learnvest Program for Taking Control of Your Money by Alexa
von Tobel was published in December of 2013. This book is sort of the companion to the company, Learnvest, founded by von Tobel with the goal of bringing financial planning to everyone. I picked this book up on Amazon for my Kindle when it was on sale, but it had been on my to-read list for over a year when I finally grabbed my copy. I read it fairly quickly and was definitely glad that I gave it a try.
Financially Fearless starts out discussing why financial planning is important and why everyone (not just those with lots of money) should care about and create financial plans. This is in fact the entire premise for the book, as can be seen in this quote from the first page “If you think financial planning isn’t for you, think again. Financial planning is not just for the 1 percent. Everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes with having a good financial plan.” This idea is expanded on as the book progresses and the fundamentals for creating a financial plan are explained.
What I really liked in this book was before the actual financial planning began, von Tobel discussed the emotional element of money. How we as individuals view money, feel about it, and were raised in regard to it affects the relationship we have with it throughout our entire lives. But I feel in personal finance books, this element is often overlooked. So, getting the reader to engage and think about their personal relationship with money before they actually start planning is so important. Alexa also shares her own experiences and the experiences of others, which I think helps break down barriers to talking about money. Once clarity has been established regarding feelings surrounding money the reader is guided through goal setting.
The book then moves through the different aspects of financial planning like knowing your debts (and understanding credit), assets and net worth. The relationship between assets and debts is used to discuss budgeting, but not in a sense that is as limiting as other personal finance books. Retirement planning, paying down debt (including a great section on student loans), owning vs. renting, the cost of children, investing, and spending for personal enjoyment are all discussed in terms on how they fit into the 50/20/30 budget. What I like about this is that von Tobel keeps the strategy of budgeting in focus by first introducing the budget and its key concepts, then showing how expenses fall into each category. This method, as opposed to simply building a budget straight away, made the whole process stick with me long after I’d read the book. It is important for readers to remember however, that this budget information is set to serve as a guide and individual judgement and situations will need to be considered.
Overall, I feel that this book does a fantastic job introducing personal money management and financial planning topics in a tangible way. All of the key topics of a financial plan are presented and discussed. And the tone was informative but never condescending. This book, in my opinion, is successful at starting the conversation about money and making financial planning more accessible to everyone.
- The discussion surrounding how the reader feels about money is eye opening.
- Introduction of the 50/20/30 Budget system is well explained
- The topic of insurance is well covered and explained to a demographic that probably hasn’t had much contact with it in their lives
- Reading the electronic edition didn’t allow me to do the writing exercises in the book as guided
- Might be a bit basic for those with some personal finance knowledge
This Book is Ideal for:
I think this book is a wonderful first read in the personal finance genre. It defines the different topics well and helps someone with no prior knowledge gain a basic understanding and format a personal financial plan. Those who already engage in some financial planning may find parts useful but will want to skim other parts where they feel more qualified.
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5