by Suze Orman
Random House, Inc., December 2000
While I was feeling sick and depressed last week, I decided thinking about finances probably wouldn't make things any worse, so I picked up this book. Suze Orman has been recommended to me before, though I think the book I was actually supposed to read was The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke. However, that one was not available at the Goodwill for $1.99, and this one was, so this is the one I picked up.
And, freakish pictures of the author aside, I'm not sorry I picked it up. As far as financial books go, this is about the best one I've read. The first 3/4 of it are basic financial advice: investing, wills and trusts, credit cards, etc. A lot of it was review, some of it was new, and all of it is useful. It gave me a much needed butt kicking as far as putting steps in place to work towards my 2006 financial goals, and it wasn't nearly so preachy and holier-than-thou as it could have been. I felt like the audience Orman was speaking to was a bit older and a bit wealthier than I am, but it was still helpful.
The really interesting part of the book, though, is the last quarter. Here, Orman talks less about the nuts and bolts of good financial planning and more about her philosophies of money. The part that really got me was the chapter where she advocates for generous charitable giving. She doesn't argue for it on the basis of your tax refund, or any sort of PR, but says that in her view, being generous gives you a kind of good money karma, and the more generous you are, the better money will come back to you. I was reminded of the Girl Scout song about love being like a magic penny, hold it close and you won't have any, spend it, lend it, you'll have so many, they'll roll all over the floor. Anyway, this is a philosophy I can get behind. Orman goes on to say that the best way she's found to get herself out of a financial slump or depression is to give. I don't know how typical that is in the realm of financial advice, but I'm guessing not very, and I admire that. And agree with it.
My biggest criticism of the book is Orman's anti-tax rhetoric. I know it's par for the course, but it still irritates me. We pay taxes for a reason, it's not just some evil system to part you from your money, and while I agree that there is no need to pay more than your fair share, I'm irked by the idea of trying to manipulate what that fair share is, particularly when it is major wealth you're protecting. Still, given the genre, this is a fairly minor component of Orman's overall philosophy, so it wasn't that hard to stomach.
All in all, I found this book fairly compelling and not near so bad to read as it could have been, given that reading financial instruction is not my idea of a good time. Orman advocates an involved, hands-on approach to financial planning, which makes good sense to me. I'll take much of her advice, and I didn't find the rest of it, or the parts that just don't apply to me at this point, to be too self-aggrandizing. Good stuff.