Personal finance can be a fraught subject for anyone, but if you came of age during the 2008 economic meltdown, it can be downright terrifying. Instead of facing it head-on, many young Americans don’t talk about what’s going on in their bank accounts, and as a result, they don’t know the first thing about personal finance. Pundits are fond of telling the under-35 crowd that they need to stop buying their precious avocado toast if they ever want to buy a house, but in Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together, 30-year-old comedian, author and financial podcast host Gaby Dunn makes it clear that the financial hurdles and morphing job market faced by her fellow millennials are far more difficult to navigate than the ones faced by their parents.
Silently struggling with your finances while feeling guilty and ashamed about your lack of know-how won’t get you anywhere, and Dunn advises that letting go of those feelings is the first step toward a brighter, more bountiful bank statement. She lays out the basics of how finances work with good humor and friendly prose, clarifying the perplexing and cryptic language of taxes, 401Ks and investing while offering advice on how to create a budget, choose a credit card, find an insurance plan and manage young America’s kryptonite: student loan debt. Dunn admits that she used to be terrible with money, but she learned a lot through her various money missteps, and she wants to share that hard-earned wisdom with the financially clueless out there. Anyone overwhelmed by the murky, flawed system of finances in America will find an honest, helpful guide in Dunn.
Elizabeth White represents a different demographic of the financially unmoored. She has worked at the World Bank, holds an MBA from Harvard and started her own company with her mother. After eight years and the dissolution of that company, she re-entered the job market at age 47, certain that her stellar resume would land her a job fairly quickly. But years went by with no steady source of income. Short, unfulfilling job stints and freelance work saw her turning 60 with a rapidly dwindling number in her bank account and rapidly rising panic. She was broke, and she was ashamed. Looking around, she realized that her private shame was something many older, former professionals were quietly carrying with them as well. But no one was talking about it, and no one knew what to do.
In 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life, White offers advice, exercises and tips for the millions of Americans in their 50s and 60s who have unexpectedly found themselves struggling to stay afloat. But perhaps most importantly, she provides hope and empowerment. Throughout this book, White includes quotes and stories from boomers who are figuring out their next step, bringing home the powerful and important message: You are not alone. This is a deeply empathetic, informative and accessible book from a woman who understands—because she’s been there.
Perhaps an antidote to financial frustration is to understand, fundamentally, how we arrived at our current financial landscape and where our world economy can go from here. Renowned English economist and social science expert Paul Collier takes a broad view of our economic climate in The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties and asks the big questions: How did we get here, and what do we do now? Collier lays bare the inherited flaws of Western society’s corrupted capitalism and how it has failed us. As the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider, other divisions become more pronounced, and contempt blossoms. In such an environment, something must change—and soon. Collier eschews political partisanship, instead presenting practical, deeply researched arguments for ethics-based capitalism to heal a deeply fissured society. Bringing morality and ethics back into the economic and public-policy discourse is the only solution.
This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.