plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

December 31, 2008

looking for good personal finance books

Filed under: philosophical — Tags: , — plonkee @ 11:10 am

What do you look for in a personal finance book?

There’s been a discussion on Christian personal finance books on The Simple Dollar.

As a matter of interest, Trent, who writes the Simple Dollar ,happens to be a Christian, if pushed I’d guess he was a liberal to conservative Christian. Of course, since that’s fairly mainstream American (especially in Iowa) as far as I’m concerned it’s the fringes that are having the polite and well-mannered interesting discussion on that particular post And the fringes are me (the atheist), glblguy and mbhunter (born again Christians – I think, and great bloggers).

is there something wrong with Christian personal finance books?

The issue at hand was why I don’t like Christian personal finance books, and my original statement is that I would like them a lot better if they didn’t:

1 assume that I was a Christian

2 assume that Christianity was self-evident

Actually, I think this about all religions (because I am a non-believer) and all media. I think it’s interesting that none of the Christian personal finance bloggers write stuff that I despise. None of them assume that the casual passer by on their blog *is* Christian – although they may state that only Christians are likely to be interested in a specific post – and as a result, they don’t generally assume that Christianity is self-evident. Once you’ve admitted that there are non-Christians, you have to admit that the whole thing doesn’t make sense to some people (even if you then think that they are misguided).

what makes a personal finance book good?

Now, broadening it out away from matters of religion, it got me thinking about what I look for in a personal finance book. I’ve found that where the worldview is completely at odds with mine, and it’s one that I can have problems respecting, I don’t find the book helpful. If it’s not helpful, then for me that defeats the object of a personal finance book. This rules out The Secret, amongst other contenders.

Another thing that I look for when I’m browsing in a bookshop are a good writing style. If it’s not easy to follow, then frankly I haven’t got the time. There are plenty of sources of information on personal finance that are a pleasure to read; I see no reason to waste my time on something filled with poor English.

At this point in my personal finance thinking, I don’t really need a book on the basics. I’m (strictly in a personal finance sense) well read enough that I know how to find any information that I’m looking for on the internet. What engages me more, is the sort of extended riff on a theme or idea. Books like Your Money or Your Life appeal because they are coherent, and different presentations on what money means in the personal context.

I also don’t need books primarily aimed at someone who is at a different life stage to me. Books of frugal money saving tips may be very useful, but if the majority of advice is aimed at people with spare time on their hands, or with children, then it’s not going to appeal to this family of one.

Overall I want a personal finance book that changes me – by altering my views, or perceptions or calling me to action. I don’t need my existing ideas confirmed unaltered – not that the book would be wrong, you understand, just that it would be waste of time reading it.

On the other hand I have to start from where I am, and so, to an extent, does the book. If it disagrees with my strongly held core personal finance assumptions then it had better have a stellar argument for that. If it disagrees with my strongly held core personal values of tolerance, fairness and equality, then it’s going to be kicked to the curb.

tell me about your favourite personal finance books

My requirements are vague and woolly – I know exactly what I’m looking for but struggle to describe it. What do you think about personal finance books? Where do they fit when there’s so much information readily available on the web, tv or radio? Do you have any suggested personal finance books that fit my requirements? Do you have any other books that maybe aren’t what I’m looking for, but could be just the thing for someone else? Let us all know in the comments.

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