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Throughout our lives, we encounter fraught decisions around love and money: whether to take a better job across the country when our partner wants to stay put; when and whether to marry, buy a house, have a child; if we should work full time with children in the picture. Money and love “are profoundly intertwined, and both are fundamental to living a life of purpose and meaning, health, and well-being,” write Myra Strober and Abby Davisson, co-authors of Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions.

Strober, who was the first female faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, created a groundbreaking class on work and family and has led thousands of students through it over the years. As a business school student, Davisson took Strober’s class with her then-boyfriend, and for their final paper, the couple chose the topic of living together before marriage. (Now married, the two have returned to the class as guest speakers for a decade.) Money and Love is informed by this popular class.

Organized around issues such as dating, marriage, deciding where to live and dividing household chores, the book’s chapters offer anecdotes, background research and thoughtful commentary, as well as questions and exercises. The authors call their decision-making framework the 5Cs: clarify (define your deep-down preferences), communicate, choices (generate a broad range of choices), check in (consult with friends, family, research) and consequences (categorize possible outcomes over time). This framework may sound simplistic, but the authors emphasize the complexity of each step toward making life decisions. Good communication, for instance, “isn’t always polite and calm. Sometimes it’s incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes it involves raised voices and, later, apologies for what was said in the heat of the moment.”

Money and Love offers a readable approach with nuggets of wisdom throughout. “Remember that each new agreement is essentially temporary, changing as different parts of life ebb and flow,” Strober and Davisson note in the chapter on sorting out housework and caregiving. The authors supplement anecdotes from former students and colleagues with their own, and Strober’s stories about the end of her first marriage and her second husband’s Parkinson’s disease, and Davisson’s story of her mother’s devastating brain injury at 68, add depth to the book. Money and Love is a useful guide, particularly for young couples on the verge of big decisions.

Organized around issues such as dating, marriage and deciding where to live, Money and Love is a useful, logical guide for couples on the verge of big life decisions.
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Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway call their deeply researched new book, The Big Myth, “the true history of a false idea.” The false idea in question is not really a single idea but rather many connected assertions, promoted throughout the 20th century, that have gelled into the “quasi-religious belief that the best way to address our needs—whether economic or otherwise—is to let markets do their thing, and not rely on government.”

Both Oreskes and Conway are highly praised historians of science and technology. Their blockbuster 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, examined the effort by a small number of scientists to undermine the evidence of climate change. One common denominator they found among these scientists was a distrust of government. The scientists’ ideological and economic biases led them to oppose anything that would admit a need for governmental action. In the introduction to their new book, Oreskes and Conway say that this discovery was what led them to do a deep dive into the ideology of neoliberal, free-market, anti-government thought, which has persuaded many Americans that unregulated markets are inseparable from democracy and freedom.

But are those things really inseparable, the authors wonder. In an early chapter, Oreskes and Conway point out that Adam Smith, a seminal theorist of capitalism, believed that government regulations were in fact needed to preserve a competitive playing field. Another chapter examines the moment in American history when power companies decided it was just too expensive to bring electricity to rural farming communities. They believed the market was too small, but at the same time, they resisted community alternatives. In the end, it was the government, not business, that literally brought power to the people. This leads the authors to wonder, how do markets alone supposedly make people free? In later chapters, they examine the economic, political and public relations efforts that have fostered our belief in this pervasive myth that government is the problem and markets are the solution.

The Big Myth is deeply detailed in its argument. Readers will be intellectually enlivened by chapters such as “No More Grapes of Wrath,” which looks at the ideological shift in the movie industry, and the revelatory chapter “The American Road to Serfdom,” which explores the popular rise of economist Milton Friedman and the “Chicago school,” which deftly promoted the libertarian argument against government involvement in markets. The way the book challenges each component of market mythology is hugely impressive—but the book is sometimes so detailed in its pursuit of the truth that some readers will surely become intellectually exhausted.

Still The Big Myth’s arguments do add up. “Markets are good for many things,” the authors write, “but they are not magic.” In a world facing existential threats like climate change, markets alone do not suffice, they argue. Governments must act.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway boldly challenge the American myth that unregulated markets are inseparable from democracy and freedom.

“The making of many books is without limit,” says the book of Ecclesiastes, and that weary reaction seems appropriate when considering yet another offering on personal finance. But Paco de Leon’s Finance for the People: Getting a Grip on Your Finances is a refreshingly original contribution to this crowded field, and one her fellow millennials will find especially valuable as they contemplate the decades of decisions that will shape their financial futures.

Founder of the Hell Yeah Group, a financial firm that emphasizes service to creatives, de Leon touches all the traditional bases, from how to handle debt to saving and investing for retirement. Much of this advice (e.g., automate savings and max out contributions to a retirement account when there’s an employer match) doesn’t stray far from conventional paths. But as she leads readers on the perilous ascent of what she calls the “Pyramid of Financial Awesomeness,” several aspects of her approach stand out.

Acknowledging that we are all “weird about money,” de Leon offers an empathetic yet concrete perspective on overcoming the psychological barriers that prevent many people from dealing effectively with financial decision-making. And while she’s not averse to discipline, she disdains some of the popular emphasis on austerity (think David Bach’s The Latte Factor). Rejecting a worldview that chooses “scarcity over abundance,” she’s intent on “helping people connect to their financial power,” encouraging them to think at least as hard about generating more income as they do about saving in order to balance what she calls the “personal finance equation.”

De Leon delivers her message in a breezy, conversational style, emphasizing key points with an assortment of clever cartoons. At the same time, she is eminently practical, insisting on the need to set aside 30 to 60 minutes of “weekly finance time” as a first step toward systematically establishing sound money habits. Most notably, de Leon includes some tips—including journaling as a means of “unearthing your beliefs about money” and using mindfulness meditation to develop the muscle of delayed gratification—not likely to be found in other books of this genre. Above all, she’s an engagingly self-deprecating storyteller, illustrating her advice with tales of some of her own money missteps and their hard-earned lessons.

Dealing with money is one of life’s inescapable realities, and for most people there will always be some amount of pain associated with it. Having a friendly guide like Finance for the People can help the journey become both more bearable and more profitable.

Paco de Leon’s Finance for the People is a refreshingly original contribution to this crowded field of personal finance books.

For those of us whose workplaces closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the past two years have meant balancing Zoom calls, remote schooling and everything else from our kitchen tables. But, Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen argue in Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home, working from home is not what we’ve been doing. “You were laboring in confinement and under duress. . . . Work became life and life became work. You weren’t thriving. You were surviving,” they write.

With Out of Office, Warzel, a tech writer, and Petersen, a culture writer and the author of Can’t Even, aim to show that done right, remote work can make both workers and their communities happier and healthier. Warzel and Petersen have worked remotely since 2017, when they left New York City for Montana, and although this isn’t a memoir, their experiences inform this book.

Read our review of ‘Can’t Even’ by Anne Helen Petersen.

Out of Office first offers a brief history of American office work, touching on productivity culture, corporate cost-cutting, chronic understaffing, ever-expanding work hours, startup culture, burnout and the disconnect between a company’s stated values and the way employees are actually treated. Breaking their theme into four big concepts (flexibility, culture, office technologies and community), Warzel and Petersen offer a number of suggestions based on remote workers’ pandemic experiences, as well as on a handful of companies that tried to make flexible work culture a priority long before the pandemic. Some suggestions are simple—such as to standardize Zoom backgrounds for meetings so no one feels self-conscious about their messy kitchen. Others are complicated and far-reaching, like to create real trust throughout an organization and to make child care a national priority, with a living wage for child care workers. Near its end, the book takes a turn toward self-help, asking readers to recall what they loved to do when they were young, from riding bikes to playing cards with a grandparent to singing. These things can provide a first step toward prioritizing one’s self and life rather than work, the authors argue.

Out of Office is a well-researched, timely and mostly persuasive book that asks both workers and managers to reimagine the concept of work in a post-pandemic world.

This well-researched, timely and persuasive book asks both workers and managers to reimagine the concept of work in a post-pandemic world.

Business people—and the people who work for them—are forever looking for ways to be more efficient, more inspired, more informed. This quartet of books fits the profile: from the stock market to the Internet, business books to problem-solving, each of these titles will edify and entertain.

Problem-solving primer
Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People started out as a book for kids. Ken Watanabe, a Yale- and Harvard-educated management consultant for McKinsey and Company, wrote it in 2007 when the Japanese prime minister announced a focus on education via critical thinking skills instead of memorization. Watanabe felt compelled to do his part and created four case studies, or classes (e.g., Rock Bands and Root Causes, Soccer School Pros and Cons) to show how problem-solving tools can be applied to all manner of situations. Watanabe’s friendly, capable tone makes the book an enjoyable read; “tool boxes” and diagrams add clarity; and cute drawings make problem-solving playful. The book was Japan’s top business bestseller of 2007 and now it’s available in English.

How not to succeed in business
Today, we have Bernie Madoff, stock-fraud mastermind of a Ponzi scheme that robbed investors of a reported $50 billion. In the 1990s, there was Jordan Belfort, head of Stratton Oakmont, a Long Island brokerage firm that specialized in “pump-and-dumps”: using Belfort’s scripts, brokers cold-called potential investors and conjured up stories of demand for stocks. The firm then sold the overvalued shares, causing the price to fall and investors to lose their money. But Belfort and his minions made money and spent millions each month on drugs, prostitutes, cars and parties. Belfort chronicled much of this in The Wolf of Wall Street: Stock Market Multimillionaire at 26, Federal Convict at 36. In his follow-up, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison, he tells more tales of lying, cheating and debauchery—and denies responsibility for just about everything. The key themes of the book: things just happen to him; it wasn’t really stealing; did he mention he was married to a model? Despite his rock-hard abs, Belfort cooperates with the FBI; after depositions and recorded meetings with fellow fraudsters, he goes to prison for 22 months, does easy time and befriends Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong, who encouraged him to write this book). Oh, and did he mention he was married to a model? This might be a cautionary tale if Belfort were sorry for what he’d done; instead, he’s only sorry he got caught.

Business briefs
In keeping with their successful business model for 800-CEO-READ, which markets business books to businesses (the website offers top picks and reviews, plus links to order single or bulk copies), company founder and president Jack Covert and vice president Todd Sattersten have compiled The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You. It’s a busy executive’s dream: must-read titles are categorized so readers can concentrate on books that meet their needs (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Big Ideas). “Where to Next?” items after each review suggest further reading, and sidebars recommend movies or offer inspiration via quotes. This is an excellent resource for anyone curious about business books but overwhelmed by all the choices.

We’re all friends here
MySpace has been in the news a lot these last few years, from unsigned musicians who found success via its pages to the rise of competitor Facebook. In Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America,  Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin takes readers on a tour of the history and business battles behind the scenes of the cultural phenomenon. Founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson launched MySpace in 2003, and sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in mid-2005 for almost $600 million. In the intervening years, the site’s founders and employees alternately struggled and succeeded as they learned how to manage burgeoning popularity (41.8 billion page views per month) and legal issues (spyware, use of the site by minors, and more). Angwin skillfully blends personal sagas with business dramas, which makes for a fascinating, entertaining read.

Business people—and the people who work for them—are forever looking for ways to be more efficient, more inspired, more informed. This quartet of books fits the profile: from the stock market to the Internet, business books to problem-solving, each of these titles will edify and entertain. Problem-solving primerProblem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart […]

Now's the time to usher in the new year—and perhaps a new approach to your career. If you've resolved in 2009 to work smarter, be more productive, follow your dreams or find more fun in the daily 9-to-5, this quartet of books will come in handy.

Back to basics
Is your life overscheduled and overrun by clutter, whether piles of paper on your desk or way too many commitments on your calendar? Leo Babauta has the solution. In The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential. . . in Business and in Life he has created "a how-to manual on how to simplify and focus on the essential. How to do less while accomplishing more." Babauta isn't just paying lip service to the importance of learning to focus on what's important. Over the last few years, he's accomplished quite a list of goals (running two marathons, doubling his income, eliminating his debt, writing this book) while parenting six children. His secret lies in his ability to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to juggle too many things at once. In the book, Babauta offers targeted suggestions for slowly but surely finding focus (and thus, greater efficiency). A 30-day challenge provides a kick-start, and simplification strategies and tips abound.

Control is key
David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, published in 2001, sold a million copies and significantly increased demand for Allen's Getting Things Done, or GTD, seminars, delivered at companies and government agencies worldwide. Not surprisingly, he found time to write another book: Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life. This time around, he offers "new and deeper perspectives about why [the GTD] information works as well as it does and how universally it can be applied." The first few chapters explain the GTD concept and set up Allen's plan for Making It All Work. Perspective is important to this process, and the author skillfully frames the various levels of perspective as distances, which range from 50,000 feet (career, purpose, lifestyle) to 10,000 feet (current projects) to "runway" (daily actions, like managing email). The author says adhering to his principles will enable you to "quickly gain coherence and reorient yourself for the next round when you're faced with disruption"—a useful skill to have in a recession, for sure.

Entrepreneurial excitement
Donny Deutsch's CNBC television show "The Big Idea" profiled entrepreneurs who've achieved the American Dream of having, well, a big idea, and working hard to make it a reality. In the show's companion book, The Big Idea: How to Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True, from the "Aha Moment" to Your First Million, written with Catherine Whitney, Deutsch's energy and enthusiasm are infectious. The Big Idea is a fine mix of advice gleaned from his own experiences running an ad agency, plus stories of successful idea-implementers who have appeared on his TV show. Those profiled include the founders of Subway, Spanx and Sam Adams, plus proprietors of lesser-known companies like the Ugly Talent Agency, which fills the need for regular-looking folks on movie sets and in magazines. This book will serve as a useful how-to manual for would-be entrepreneurs, and provide "If they can do it, so can I!" inspiration.

Cubicle-bound creativity
Unlike most career-related books, Who Took All the Paperclips? Fun Things to Do with Office Supplies When the Boss Isn't Looking supports—nay, encourages—pilfering office supplies. Author Rachel Rifat advocates using those Post-its and paperclips to make crafts that will perk up a boring cubicle. Rifat opens her compendium of crafts with "Matchstick Incense: When nature calls and the whole office doesn't need to know!" and includes step-by-step instructions for a beaded privacy curtain and a pillow made from bubble-wrap, among other projects. Quirky illustrations and funny captions add to the book's appeal, as does the author's explanation of why she left her own corporate job: "she decided she could not stand to see another manager wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts at a beer bust." It's hard to argue with that.

Linda M. Castellitto makes Post-it origami in North Carolina. 

Now's the time to usher in the new year—and perhaps a new approach to your career. If you've resolved in 2009 to work smarter, be more productive, follow your dreams or find more fun in the daily 9-to-5, this quartet of books will come in handy. Back to basicsIs your life overscheduled and overrun by […]
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What a difference a year can make, especially if you have a 401k or other investments in the stock market. Now that the Wall Street bubble has burst, what's an individual investor to do? A new batch of books sets out to prove that even in bad economic times, you can turn your stock portfolio, bank account or retirement fund around and rebound financially.

Taming the Bear
Two of the best books are part of Wiley's Little Book, Big Profits series that focuses on all things financial, from investment strategies to long-term economic trends. My favorite is The Little Book That Saves Your Assets: What the Rich Do to Stay Wealthy in Up and Down Markets by David M. Darst, a managing director at Morgan Stanley. Darst says to thrive financially today you must practice asset allocation, compiling a financial portfolio with assets that make money when the economy is doing well, but also including assets that make money when the economy slows down. He says it's the approach the wealthy use to maintain their lifestyle even in tough economic times. Darst writes in a reader-friendly manner, often using football analogies to make a point. One of his strongest chapters is called "Building Your House," which compares a financial portfolio to a person's home. He writes that much like a house, a portfolio should reflect an investor's personality and should be "built" to have a mixture of assets that are functioning (steady and reliable, like bonds) and fun (riskier, but with a potentially bigger payoff, like stocks). In another compelling chapter called "The Road Less Traveled That You Should Take," Darst rightly argues that most people no longer have any choice but to be actively engaged in managing their financial portfolio because the days of a guaranteed pension are gone forever. Now all the responsibility rests on the individual.

Another recent book in the series is also well edited and on point. The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets: How to Keep Your Portfolio Up When the Market Is Down, by investment advisor Peter Schiff, is a playbook on how to preserve wealth even as the economy falters. After a brief history lesson on the U.S. stock market, Schiff outlines an investment plan that taps into the larger and financially stronger global economy. He particularly likes the money-making opportunities in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). All have seen their economies boom thanks to manufacturing; Schiff is particularly fond of China. Besides the BRIC bloc, Schiff likes Canada, Australia and New Zealand as good wealth-building opportunities through investments in raw materials, oil and minerals. He also recommends investing in precious metals such as gold (either in physical gold or in mining stocks). He closes out his book with a provocative look at the 2008 presidential election and argues that the American investor would be wise to wait until at least 2012 before re-investing in the market. Schiff wrote the bestseller Crash Proof, which accurately predicted the current Wall Street turmoil, so his words are particularly valuable now.

Think globally
Another book that urges a more global approach to your financial portfolio is Game Over: How You Can Prosper in a Shattered Economy by Stephen Leeb. The book went to print just as the Dow began its tumble last fall. Leeb's premise is fairly depressing; he argues that the economy will take years to recover from inflation, the weakening dollar and, most importantly, runaway national debt. He spends more than half the book discussing resource shortages like oil and water (the latter being the more interesting read of the two) and emerging alternative energies. Leeb urges investors to create portfolios that are inflation-proof and to invest in industries that produce high rates of return in spite of high inflation. Like other authors featured here, he urges investment in gold through exchange-traded funds or individual gold companies. Another interesting nugget from Leeb: he says the last thing any investor should do is turn investments into cash. He contends that money in a checking or savings account will not earn nearly the amount of interest needed to compensate for the decline in its value because of inflation.

The Jubak Picks: 50 Stocks That Will Rebuild Your Wealth and Safeguard Your Future sums up the latest strategies of Jim Jubak, senior markets editor for the website MSN Money, where more than a million investors click on his monthly "Jubak Journal" for financial advice. Jubak asserts that investing in the right macro trends will make you money, and he includes specific, detailed stock picks for each of his suggestions. He says the best investments right now can be found outside the U.S., particularly in China and India; in food (which he calls the new oil), through agriculture and food-commodity stocks; and in technology. Jubak ends his book with a chapter titled "50 best stocks in the world." Exxon, precious metals companies and search engine Google are among those that make the list.

The Ten Roads to Riches: The Way the Wealthy Got There (And How You Can Too!) by Forbes columnist Ken Fischer might be the most fun-to-read book in this group because it delves into one of Americans' favorite topics: how the rich get rich. Fischer knows that road well; he's a self-made billionaire who's on the Forbes 400 list and owns a firm that manages $45 billion in assets. Fischer says there are 10 ways to acquire wealth a lot faster than the idealized "work hard, save your money" mantra. The richest road is also the most obvious and the one most people take—starting your own business. But there are other ways, including managing other people's money, owning real estate and even turning celebrity into wealth. Fischer points out that boxer George Foreman retired from the sport completely broke. An indoor grill bearing his name changed his financial status and now Foreman is not only a household name (at least in the kitchen) but also worth millions. Single women, and maybe some single men as well, will be amused and perhaps inspired by the chapter which outlines marriage as another way to acquire wealth. My, how times have changed. Fischer says you should forget about marrying a millionaire—now you need to marry a billionaire to acquire true wealth.

Most of these books rely on the premise that the reader has money to invest and time to wait out the investment payoffs. What they don't address are the day-to-day financial struggles so many people are facing as jobs vanish and the economy spirals downward. The need for help in those areas should create a bull market in financial advice books as the new year progresses.

This will be another tough year in the housing market, with foreclosures expected to remain at their highest numbers in more than a decade. Two recent books offer timely advice for those facing difficult choices about their homes.

Putting your house in order
How to Sell a House Fast in a Slow Real Estate Market by William Bronchick and Ray Cooper is a smart, fairly fast read on what to do to get your house sold quickly. Some suggestions are obvious: invest in paint, new rugs and curb appeal. Other advice is simply interesting, like knowing the supply quotient for your neighborhood (divide the number of homes for sale by the number of closings in the last 30 days). If you have the time and/or live in the home, the authors recommend you do the selling yourself—you'll get to pocket a real estate agent's three to six percent commission. And there are good ideas about what to do if several months have passed and your home still hasn't sold (try the round-robin strategy, which involves holding an open house over a two-day period and then taking bids from all prospective buyers).

If you're facing foreclosure, pick up a copy of Stop Foreclosure Now, by attorney and mortgage expert Lloyd Segal. Lloyd self-published Stop Foreclosure Now in 2007 with considerable success; AMACOM recently issued a paperback edition. For less than $20, the book is a wealth of information on the foreclosure process, walking the reader through every detail. Early on, Segal advises the reader not to panic because foreclosure is a lengthy process that can take anywhere from three months (in nonjudicial foreclosures) to two years to complete. He urges homeowners to use that time to figure out whether it's better to try to keep the property or lose it. There's a lengthy section on refinancing as well as a chapter devoted to members of the military on active duty who are legally protected from foreclosure and may actually be entitled to a lower interest rate. Foreclosure is complicated and while Segal argues that a homeowner can handle the process, the wiser move still seems to be hiring an attorney to help you navigate the system.

Susan Rucci is a TV news producer who writes from Washington, D.C. 

What a difference a year can make, especially if you have a 401k or other investments in the stock market. Now that the Wall Street bubble has burst, what's an individual investor to do? A new batch of books sets out to prove that even in bad economic times, you can turn your stock portfolio, […]

Women may be the great communicators, but given the state of the economy, it’s no surprise that ladies aren’t clamoring to talk about personal finances. And January may top the list of the worst months to come out of the cave of denial as the post-holiday bills start pouring in.

To face your financial statement with less fear, we’ve found three books that mix self-help, financial how-to and a big dose of female sensibility. Each of these accessible books recommends opening up about money, and they give you the advice you need to make the conversations a little easier—whether it’s with your spouse, financial advisor or debt collector.

To get you inspired to take charge of your wealth (start with positive thinking!) in 2010, pick up Live It, Love It, Earn It: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom. Marianna Olszewski, a popular money and lifestyle coach with years of Wall Street experience, writes in an engaging style that educates without being overwhelming.

Olszewski focuses first on maximizing your potential to achieve financial independence by finding balance in all areas of life (diet, sleep, exercise) and adding more fun to the everyday. It feels a bit like you’ve wandered into a “best life” episode of “Oprah,” but it succeeds in energizing and opening your mind to new possibilities. Part two then gets into the financial practicalities of dealing with debt, cleaning up credit and saving for retirement. However, Olszewski goes beyond the basics by coaching the reader on uncovering why and how their individual money histories got them where they are today. She includes activities and questions to defuse emotions around money and even suggests that it’s OK to love money. The personalized “fun spending plan” reframes the money perspective to make it less boring than following a basic budget.

The final strategies focus on action, and the interactive approach helps you make the most of the advice. Whether you do it on your own, inspired by the personal stories from powerful women in the book, or start a group to work on the exercises together, Live It, Love It, Earn It will energize how you think about—and act on—money.

While you’re still feeling empowered, tackle Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey. This succinct guide teaches women in committed relationships how to talk successfully about money with their mate—without fighting. It’s no surprise that many gals simply avoid this tough conversation, since 85 percent of all couples say money causes tension in their marriage (according to Money magazine). But, while the conversation may not be appropriate for a first date, authors Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar say it’s a must to discuss what you own, what you owe, your income and your credit scores before moving in together or getting married. No problem, right?

Start by baring all and getting naked with yourself first, then warm up to doing it with your partner. Helpful “foreplay” questions get the ball rolling, and the financial compatibility quiz is revealing and eye-opening. The authors are refreshingly honest, reassuring the reader that you don’t have to love—or even like—dealing with money to be successful. Their best advice is that personal finance should be simple. Focus on the big stuff: house, car, kids, retirement and family. And the common sense, straightforward advice on these five key lifetime expenses makes it truly seem easy. It’s having the courage to have the “get naked” talk before saying “I do” that is really powerful. The roadmap developed by Thakor and Kedar helps readers navigate these landmine conversations and get to happily ever after.

Another distinctive female perspective on financial independence is A Purse of Your Own. It’s based on a metaphor we can all relate to: an impulsive splurge on a designer bag to fool everyone into thinking we have it all put together. This is what author and wealth coach Deborah Owens calls a “counterfeit purse.”

With 20 years of financial industry experience, Owens turns the purse metaphor into a wealth philosophy and provides tips, action steps and “purseonality profiles” for her seven must-have wealthy habits. It starts with cleaning out that purse to cultivate a Wealthy Outlook that allows you to dream big again. The remaining habits teach the basics of investing, with a heavy focus on owning stocks.

Some of the best advice comes at the end as Owens details how to start your own Purse Club and covers nine “pursessentials. ” The no-nonsense tips on hiring a financial planner, speaking the financial lingo and establishing your daughter’s purse allow you to start putting your new wealth habits into practice with confidence.

Pick up any of these valuable books to start your purse makeover in 2010.

Stephanie Gerber writes from Kentucky, where her purse has turned into a diaper bag.

Women may be the great communicators, but given the state of the economy, it’s no surprise that ladies aren’t clamoring to talk about personal finances. And January may top the list of the worst months to come out of the cave of denial as the post-holiday bills start pouring in. To face your financial statement […]

For those of you who’ve put “Get my finances under control” at the top of your New Year’s resolutions, we’ve compiled a reading list to make it happen. Whether you need a step-by-step approach to getting a handle on your money, advice for recovering from the market plunge or ways to work philanthropy into your budget, the advisors below  have a plan to help. These six volumes vary in terms of voice, length and philosophy, but they all work toward the same goal: helping readers better manage their money so they can do good and enjoy life, worry-free. And what could be better than that?

Big book of personal finance
First published in 1991, Making the Most of Your Money Now has grown by more than 200 pages and has been significantly revised to include advice for readers struggling to achieve balance in a still-unstable economy. Jane Bryant Quinn, a longtime financial journalist, shares her own financial missteps (there were more than a few) as a lead-in to advising readers on what she has learned, from “keep all your insurance plans simple” to “tune your BS detector to high.” This lengthy tome includes worksheets (in the appendices and throughout), filing-system strategies, a primer on CDs, advice on paying for college, retirement-planning tips and a lot more. While some of the information may seem rudimentary, the book’s structure makes it easy to flip to pertinent sections, and it provides plenty of information and ideas for undertaking a soup-to-nuts personal-finance improvement plan.

Do the math
Saving for retirement can seem daunting or mysterious: we know we should do it, but aren’t sure how—or how much to save. In Your Money Ratios: 8 Simple Tools for Financial Security, Charles Farrell, an investment advisor and CBS Moneywatch columnist, has devised a set of tools aimed at helping readers be more aware and in control of their financial present and future. For starters, he writes, “All decisions you make should help you move from being a laborer to being a capitalist.” With that in mind, he describes key ratios (e.g., capital to income, mortgage to income) and offers formulas that will help readers determine how much they should be saving each year in order to retire at a particular age or income level. In addition to straight dollar-figure calculations, he explores and advises on investment vehicles, insurance and real estate. Your Money Ratios is a no-nonsense, comprehensive resource for those ready to grab the reins of personal finance once and for all.

Financial recovery, Cramer-style
From his CNBC show “Mad Money” to the website he founded,, to his numerous books on money and investing, Jim Cramer has spent a long time educating consumers about investing. In his latest book, Jim Cramer’s Getting Back to Even: Your Personal Economic Recovery Plan, he and co-writer/nephew Cliff Mason, who’s head writer for “Mad Money,” dive right in to his advice for recovering from the 2008 stock-market crash and the continuing fallout: Chapter 1 is entitled “Don’t Give Up!” Cramer notes that he’s had personal experience with getting back to even—after his hedge fund was down $91 million in October 1998, he finished that year at a two percent profit. Of course, many readers may not be dealing in millions, so Cramer is careful to offer advice for new and experienced, wealthy and not-so-wealthy investors alike. Highlights include 25 rules for “post-apocalyptic investing” and details on five regional banks that earn high returns and also serve as templates for how to analyze and buy bank stocks. Throughout, Cramer mixes encouragement with signature exclamations, plus to-the-point exhortations like “Empathy is great, but it won’t make you money. You need concrete solutions, and this book is filled with them.”

A powerful plan for giving
From working at a refugee camp in the former Yugoslavia to conducting fundraising and generosity training at U.S. corporations to founding Raising Change (a fundraising group that works in America and abroad), Kathy LeMay has been actively involved in working to improve the lives of people around the globe. In The Generosity Plan, she advocates for an incremental approach to effecting positive change, noting that if you’re generous in your daily life, you “will develop a habit of giving that will transform you and expand philanthropy to its fullest potential.” She recommends reflecting on your past giving—was it through money? Time? What sorts of activities?—and identifying the causes that are most meaningful to you. A “giving formula” will determine how much money can comfortably be shared, especially in uncertain financial times, and giving goals can be set. An appendix offers further food for thought with questions and points to ponder—information that would be useful for passing along the philosophy of generosity and philanthropy to family, friends or colleagues. It’s a strong finish to a thoughtful, comprehensive resource.

Small donations, big impact
While media stories about über-rich philanthropists—from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey and the like—may give the impression that only large donations can lead to positive changes in the world, Wendy Smith begs to differ. In Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World, she makes a strong argument for casting aside all-or-nothing thinking in favor of making small donations. Among other statistics, she cites a study by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy that found “most of the giving to the tsunami relief efforts came from gifts of less than $50 made by millions of Americans . . . similar to the charitable response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and what we believe occurred after Hurricane Katrina.” Armed with this information, and the knowledge that small contributions have a ripple effect, Smith profiles groups that ad­dress hunger, health, poverty, education and access to tools, information and infrastructure. She includes anecdotes about people and places that have benefited from small contributions, plus appendices with contact information and methods for assessing various organizations. Give a Little makes a compelling case for the value of including a “donations” line in our personal budgets—no matter how small the amount may be.

Linda M. Castellitto wrangles her finances in Raleigh, North Carolina.

For those of you who’ve put “Get my finances under control” at the top of your New Year’s resolutions, we’ve compiled a reading list to make it happen. Whether you need a step-by-step approach to getting a handle on your money, advice for recovering from the market plunge or ways to work philanthropy into your […]
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Want to savor your retirement years? Then dream big, eat wisely and develop the financial acumen of Ben Bernanke. That’s the distilled advice from three new “geezer guides” for all those Baby Boomers now shuffling along the path to the Abyss.

Living the dream
Robert and Patricia Gussin’s What’s Next . . . for You? is more how-we-did-it than how-you-can-do-it. In realizing their ongoing dreams, money never seems to be a problem for the Gussins. Both are physicians who retired in 2000 from well-paying executive posts at subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson. He was 62, she “a few years younger.” With money in the bank, their kids gone and homes on Long Island and Longboat Key, Florida, the Gussins could have spent their twilight years in a supine position. Instead, both took up writing—she thrillers, he humor. This led, indirectly, to them forming their own fully staffed book publishing company. In 2002, they once again demonstrated their boundless interests by buying a working vineyard in New Zealand—and the villa that went along with it. Apart from overseeing these two thriving new businesses, the Gussins also volunteer as health providers for low-income seniors. Their stamina is simply epic. While most retirees are less wealthy, less connected, less educated and less energetic than this couple, their experiences nonetheless demonstrate that retirement doesn’t have to lead to a mental or an emotional fadeout.

Super foods for super health
Dr. William Sears’ Prime-Time Health, co-written with Martha Sears, is billed as “a scientifically proven plan for feeling young and living longer.” At the heart of Sears’ life-extending regimen is the wise consumption of 16 “super foods”: seafood (especially salmon), berries (especially blueberries), spinach, nuts, olive oil, broccoli, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, avocados, pomegranate juice, tomatoes, tofu, yogurt, red onions, garlic and beans and lentils. He explains how each food improves the functioning of specific organs and how to maintain a dietary balance. There are also tips on exercise and a colossally unimaginative chapter on how to have “better (and more) sex.” Sears could have done more to address the concerns of aging vegetarians who have qualms about eating fish. Still, his science is convincing and his tone reassuring.

Thinking ahead
The Bogleheads’ Guide To Retirement Planning, compiled and edited by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, Richard A. Ferri and Laura F. Dogu, takes its title from—and bases its investment strategies on—the teachings of John C. Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group. Consequently, there is no one-size-fits-all schematic. Instead, there are discussions of major financial instruments, from savings accounts and IRAs to Social Security, and how each applies to people of differing ages, incomes and retirement aspirations. The most accessible part of the book is the “Pearls of Wisdom” segment that offers such all-purpose economic maxims as “It’s what you keep, not what you earn” and “Don’t invest in things you don’t understand.”

Given the time it takes to digest and adapt other people’s solutions, perhaps the best strategy is just to keep on working.

Edward Morris, unretired and unrepentant, reviews from Nashville.

Want to savor your retirement years? Then dream big, eat wisely and develop the financial acumen of Ben Bernanke. That’s the distilled advice from three new “geezer guides” for all those Baby Boomers now shuffling along the path to the Abyss. Living the dreamRobert and Patricia Gussin’s What’s Next . . . for You? is […]
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Here are three things to buy that will help you either redeem or get rid of a hundred others. This trio of spirited, pragmatic books exemplify the deceptively simple principle that less is more. What’s more (and therefore less!), they offer a sound set of tools to help you take back your living space, whether you’re clearing out your clutter, becoming more thrifty with your resources or reusing what you’ve already got.

62 Projects To Make With a Dead Computer is filled with fun and surprises, and an almost puritanical zeal for the redemption of “lost souls”—otherwise known as discarded electronics. Digital cameras, keyboards, PDAs, MP3 players, earbuds and drives are, to author Randy Sarafan, raw material ripe for creative repurposing. Most of us have at least a few obsolete bits lying about—a bundle of mystery cords and a cell phone or two—as well as the basic skills to transform them into something else entirely: a mouse pencil-sharpener, a scanner side table, a cable coaster. Some projects call for tricky work involving voltage and solder, but even if you don’t “do” electricity beyond changing a bulb and you can’t begin to pronounce solder (sod’- er), many creations can be managed with a glue gun and basic hand tools. The Floppy Disk Wall Frame, for example, is super easy and really quite spectacular. The circuit panel memo board with keyboard key magnets is simple, too, and just as gorgeous. Projects range from fun to practical, with category-defying wonders like the flat-screen ant farm and the iMac terrarium. Whether weird or wonderful (or both), each aims at nothing less than the intersection of art, technology and ecology.

A penny saved
Anxious to distinguish thrifty from cheap, Be Thrifty: How to Live Better with Less, edited by Pia Catton and Califia Suntree, begins with the lesson that “thrift” and “to thrive” are cognates. Thus, thrift should radiate positive associations, not miserly ones. To be thrifty is to thrive, to flourish. The editors present seven categories in which to flourish: home, garden/pet, food, family, personal care, leisure and financial stability. Each offers more than enough information to tweak or outright overhaul even the most profligate of habits. In the first chapter, we learn to clean and maintain our home and car more greenly, reducing utility and repair bills and generating less waste. Need to know about furnace filters, clogged toilets, tire inflation or gutters? You’ll find the big picture and the little details. The same goes for every other facet of everyday life—even the faucets. This jam-packed omnibus encourages an old-fashioned, no, timeless self-sufficiency, while keeping an eye on how our choices affect not just our ability to thrive, but the planet’s as well.

Clean and clear
What’s a Disorganized Person To Do? by Stacey Platt answers its titular question with its subtitle: “317 Ideas, Tips, Projects, and Lists to Unclutter Your Home and Streamline Your Life.” As if to underline my own need for such a guide, when I type the word “unclutter,” my word processor underlines it in red: The term is unknown to it and to me. But if all I have to do is consult this fat little book full of numbered, logically sequenced bits of clarity, packed with smart photos and arranged with color-coded tabs printed on the fore-edge, I am set. Clarity is a key term: The author, a successful professional organizer, says “clarity is the foundation for a joyous and accomplished life.” (I’ll have what she’s having, please.) The message couldn’t be clearer: Reducing clutter—not just finding cute ways to store it—sets us free. Even the most overwhelmed among us can jump right in, thanks to quick tips taming every room in the house. Learn what papers to save for taxes and for how long, where to put the newspapers, when to throw away cosmetics, how to organize a closet and why you should defragment your hard drive—plus 312 other things. The format is a pleasure to browse, but it is also wisely designed to answer targeted questions on demand. Pare down, wise up. Less, again, proves to be much more.

Here are three things to buy that will help you either redeem or get rid of a hundred others. This trio of spirited, pragmatic books exemplify the deceptively simple principle that less is more. What’s more (and therefore less!), they offer a sound set of tools to help you take back your living space, whether […]

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