If you visit this website regularly, you probably aren’t a novice to the basics of personal finance. You’re already familiar with what you need to do to retire, how to protect yourself through insurance, and what constitutes good debt versus bad debt.
There’s probably at least one person in your life, however, who hasn’t started doing their own financial planning yet, and that’s where this book comes in handy. If you know folks in their twenties or early thirties who are clueless about money but might be ready to change that, Getting Started: The Financial Guide For A Younger Generation would make a great gift.
This book’s main strength is that it is easy to understand and a fast read. Its 178 pages are divided into ten chapters covering subjects like debt, real estate, and retirement planning. Each chapter has sidebars that give real life examples of both how to manage your money well and how to completely mismanage it (it’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes instead of making them yourself). The book doesn’t overwhelm the reader with information, but it doesn’t leave any subject out, either — even subjects that young folks don’t think they need to know about yet, like estate planning. It also addresses topics that I don’t always see addressed in personal finance books or on blogs, like the effects of marriage, kids, or divorce on your finances. These events certainly have a major effect on your money and it makes a lot of sense to cover them in a book targeted towards young twenty and thirty-somethings.
The book does have a few weaknesses. Since it is really just a quick introduction to the subject of personal finance, anyone who is sparked into action by reading it will probably need to pick up another personal finance primer or two to get more detailed information on the steps they’ll need to take (I always recommend The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias and The Secrets of Wealth by Fabio Marciano). Also, there were a couple of points in the book where I thought, “if I were a novice, I would have no idea what he was talking about right now.” Those moments were brief though and didn’t interfere with the overall simplicity of the book. At a couple of points, the book oversimplifies an issue. For example, in the first chapter, the author lists six ways to increase cash flow. Most of them make a lot of sense: don’t start spending more every time you start making more, learn to cook instead of eating out all the time, and set limits on your annual vacation costs. But second on his list is to use coupons. Those of us who are in the know realize the coupons are often a waste of money because the store brand is cheaper or the coupons are for something we wouldn’t normally buy. I suppose this is a minor quibble, but I point it out because I think there are a couple of areas where the book has good intentions but doesn’t give the best advice (not that the advice is really bad, just that it could be better).
Despite a couple of imperfections, I would still highly recommend this book. It should be required reading for any college senior or other young person who is about to enter the world of supporting oneself. I think it offers something that other personal finance primers out there do not offer by being short and sweet. It doesn’t talk down to the reader and it isn’t boring. Getting Started offers just enough information to get a newbie to begin making the right decisions about money and taking those first steps to getting everything in order.