Law School
Personal Finance

Why Personal Finance Books Suck

The first half of my summer I had absolutely nothing to do while I waited for my background check to clear at the US Trustees office. I filled the time by going to my local library and reading every single personal finance book they had. Seriously.  When I finished the ones at my local branch, I started doing inter-library loans to get more. After reading so many personal finance books, I’ve come to the conclusion that personal finance books suck.

Why personal finance books suck

Personal finance books suck because all personal finance books are pretty much the same. OK, my use of the universal quantifier “all” is an overstatement, but after reading over 60 personal finance books in the past two months, it sure does seem like they’re all the same.

The biggest problem with writing for the personal finance genre is that there isn’t much to say about personal finance. The principles of personal finance are actually quite simple. How much more can be written about saving or being frugal or earning more money? Not much. Personal finance authors could try to present this information in a unique and different way, but most don’t. Why should they when it’s just easier to reproduce what others have said and slap a new catchy title on the cover?

Kumbiya my David Ramsey, Kumbiya

Another thing that irritates me about many personal finance books is the new agey, schmaltzy, touchy feely stuff about money. I hate it when an author devotes a majority of a book talking about overcoming your emotional issues with money and why people spend more than they have and then only devoting a chapter about practical things one can do to fix their finances. I think what most people need is someone to explain how they can solve their problem. Most people who read personal finance books probably have enough self awareness to understand why they have a financial problem. If they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t be reading the book in the first place. What they’re looking for are answers to solve those problems.

Authors assume all readers are in their 40’s, married, have 2.5 children, and mortgaged

Most of the personal finance books weren’t relevant to me, a young married student. I’m not at a stage in my life where I’m worrying about mortgages or paying for children’s college. I also don’t have a job, so I can’t contribute to a 401(k). Unfortunately, most personal finance books devote a large portion to these types of subjects. What can I do to save money while in school full time? How can I get the best deals on rent? Their really aren’t many personal finance books geared towards young people.  The best I’ve read was Suze Orman’s The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke.

How you can avoid sucky personal finance books and still get the info you need

So, personal finance books suck. But how are we supposed to get the info we need to make good financial decisions. Here’s two things that I suggest:

  1. Read personal finance blogs. Blogs have been my number one source for personal finance info. What I like about blogs is the variety of them that are out there with a personal finance theme. I’ve been able to find blogs with financial information relevant to my life stage, so I’m not wasting my time reading books that aren’t relevant to me at all. Personal finance blogs also seem to offer more practical advice. I love being able to read a quick top 10 money savings list or a how to on personal finances. I get the info I need quickly and efficiently.
  2. Read The Simple Dollar’s book reviews. If you must read personal finance books, make sure to head by The Simple Dollar. Trent has done extensive reviews for tons of personal finance books. Read through them and if a book looks like something you’d like, go and read it.

What do you all think? Do you like personal finance books? If you do, what do you like about them? If you don’t, what’s your beef against them?