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Book Review: Suze Orman

True confession: I love Suze Orman. Her attitude! Her spark!  The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke was the first personal finance advice I stumbled on when I set out to rethink money. I actually violated my No New Books ban to purchase this at my local, independent bookstore. Since then I’ve perused a few more financial experts and delved further into the frugalsphere, and there are parts of The Money Book that I now find wobble into questionable advice. But man, I still love Suze.

Orman gets her audience–recent college graduates and underemployed adults on the precipice of financial disaster. “Broke is having a ton of student loans that make you nauseated when you think about how long it is going to take you to pay them off,” Orman writes. “Broke is counting every penny in your change jar […] is not having one penny saved even though you have a good job.” The Money Book does not purport to be a quick fix to the problem of being broke, but it does attempt to help readers take steps to not end up broke forever. Baby steps, in other words.

The Money Book covers ten broad topics from FICO scores to retirement, big ticket purchases to merging finances with your sweetie. Each chapter starts with a quick overview, “The Lowdown,” and ends with a recap of the most important takeaways from Orman’s advice, “Quick Playback.” The result is a resource that’s easy to revisit when you need a refresher but don’t have the time reread the whole book.

The problem is that much of Orman’s advice to young folks seems counter-intuitive. Instead of suggesting people find new and creative ways to supplement income through side gigs, Orman recommends using credit cards to fill income gaps.  Have lots of student debt? Try paying it off with low interest credits cards or a Home Equity Line of Credit. Now, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one person near my age who owns his home. How are we supposed to use a HELOC to pay off student debt if we’re spending upwards of half our income on rent?

Orman is best when she sticks to timeless basics.  Contribute as much as you can to your 401k. Transfer your credit card balance to a lower-interest card. Make snowballing payments on your credit card debt. And make sure you have diverse investments to weather the ups and downs of our ever shifting economy.

There’s also an accompanying website where you can use the Action Planner to identify your next steps. The book also points readers in the direction of additional resources available on Orman’s website. The website is clunky and difficult to navigate. It doesn’t have the same level of professional looking interface or graphics that you would expect from a contemporary finance website. The content on YF&B site doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2013, and there aren’t any posts on the message board there since 2013 either. That means you’ll have to look elsewhere for the most up to date info on student loan repayment options. Bottom line: the most helpful resources from the YF&B website are templates for legal documents like co-habitation and prenup agreements.

So who should read The Money Book?  I think it’s a fantastic primer for young people who need some economic education on how credit scores are determined. Orman’s chapter on FICO scores is probably the soundest advice in the whole book. Now I have a clear plan for paying off my credit card debt and car loan, and I know to not cancel my card when I do pay it off so it doesn’t shorten my credit history. I would maybe recommend this specific chapter but advise readers to steer clear of the more dubious recommendations.

But man.  I do love Suze Orman.

Note on gifts: I have not received a review copy of The Money Book, nor do I have any affiliate links for this product.

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