Every Sunday, The New York Times profiles a celebrity and reveals remarkably personal information about their income, investments and spending habits. Most of these people are only too happy to admit their financial fiascoes. From bad stock picks to saving too little, wealthy people do the same dumb things with money that plague us mere mortals. Refreshing, isn't it?The point: You are not alone. We all make silly and egregious financial mistakes on the road to wise money management. Whether you want to make 2002 the "Year of Saving" or be debt free by December, these five books promote good spending and investing habits at every stage of our lives.
When the honeymoon's over
Probably the most difficult time in anyone's financial life is right about the time you get married. Still dewy-eyed with love, there is no bigger shock than to be in the presence of your life mate, your one true love, when he opens the credit card bill after the honeymoon. You thought it was going to be hard to merge your taste in furniture and friends? Try merging your various approaches to paying bills and handling the checking account!
Fortunately, The Newlywed's Guide to Investing and Personal Finance by Carrie Coghill is the perfect solution to the financial hurdles facing any newly married couple. From checking accounts, savings and investments to planning for the inevitable taxes and kids, Coghill manages to compile all the relevant information any young couple will need to start their marriage on the road to financial success and well-being. Coghill tells how to make a budget, how to figure out "husband-fixed expenses" and "wife-discretionary expenses" and make the whole process look like a walk down the aisle. This is a basic, practical financial book, exactly what many young couples need to get their money and their lives off to a great start.
When you're entering the Real World
Every one of our books this month will tell you: save your money, pay off debt and invest in solid stocks for the long term. That's sound financial advice and guess what? It works every time. But does that sound appealing to your typical Gen X/Gen Y hipster? No way. In fact, those words sound like the death knell to financial fun. In Money Rules—Everything You Need to Know About Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s Juliette Fairley bucks the money-is-boring trend and creates a fun format for the "lost" generation.
She hits the basics in a chapter on "Not Your Father's Personal Finance," tells how to spot potential roommates who could be "financial flakes" and gives great advice on how to choose a bank. It may sound silly, but choosing a good bank can save money and establish much-needed credit down the line. Some banks don't cater to younger account holders and don't try to educate them, so find one that does. Fairley also offers "28 Ways to Save Money" that apply to all of us. (For example: don't buy clothes that say "dry clean only," carpool, borrow books from the library.) All in all, Fairley's financial advice, including the mantra to avoid credit debt, strikes the mark with young people out on their own for the first time.
When you're ready to invest
What do you do when you've got it all together? (That is, you have no debt, savings equaling three months' salary and the appropriate insurance to cover any unforeseen events.) Are you ready to be an investor? When you are ready for that step, read James K. Glassman's The Secret Code of the Superior Investor: How to Be a Long-term Winner in a Short-term World. Glassman is a well-known writer on finance and investing, perhaps best known for his popular book Dow 36,000.
The Secret Code is the "here's what you do next" book, a "get serious and follow a philosophy" kind of guide. Glassman's smart and sophisticated book promotes long-term strategy over short-term gains, and his cogent advice is to buy fundamentally strong companies and hold them for a long time. He makes simple sense out of a glossy and hyperactive stock market and assures the long-term investor that the market can be a friend, not a foe. For a sound, reasonable and common sense approach to the markets find The Secret Code at your favorite bookstore this month.
When the nest egg hatches
We know that newlyweds and single post-college types have financial problems, but what about all those sage investors who've spent years developing a nest egg? According to Terence L. Reed, they aren't immune from making silly mistakes with their money either. In The 8 Biggest Mistakes People Make with their Finances Before and After Retirement Reed says perfectly savvy investors make plenty of wealth-altering mistakes, including paying too much in taxes, taking on financial risk when they shouldn't and using the wrong type of investment strategies.
Reed considers his advice a wake-up call to help retirees realize there are potholes on their road to retirement. "Most of us only retire once," he says in the preface. "Wouldn't it be nice to be able to practice this event before we actually have to do it?" The 8 Biggest Mistakes is a trial run through the retirement process complete with challenges to long-held financial notions and some new ideas to help the future retiree think through every possible turn along the retirement road.
The New Rules of Personal Investing: The Experts' Guide to Prospering in a Changing Economy edited by Allen R. Myerson. The top business and financial writers at The New York Times offer directed approaches to personal finance in the post-New Economy world. Sharp, focused and just in time for the next year in your financial life.
The Market Gurus: Stock Investing Strategies You Can Use from Wall Street's Best by John Reese and Todd Glassman. The book I've been looking for: a simple comparative study of the country's best investors, side-by-side, highlighting their various stories, key investing criteria and who might use the investment techniques of the various investors. Includes Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch among others. A versatile and interesting book for beginning and long-time investors alike.
Sharon Secor is a business writer in Minnesota.