Book Review: Gimme My Money Back

The financial downturn in 2008 and the continuing less than cheery financial situation has been horrible for most people.  High unemployment, fears about losing the job (or increasingly, jobs) you do have, and money troubles abound.  This dismal environment has been good for one group, though: personal finance writers sharing ways to rebuild your monetary standing.  There’s been a veritable boom of personal finance books focusing on how to recover from the downturn, from just about every personal finance writer out there.

Such is the case for Gimme My Money Back.  Ali Velshi of CNN fame shares some methods for recovering from the downturn, as well as general tips for money management.  Are the suggestion new,  relevant and helpful, or pretty much par for the course, personal finance-wise?  As always, let’s read on and find out!

Summary

Gimme My Money Back starts with a summary of how we got to this point financially, a guide to what happened during 2008 and the years leading up to it to leave us in this position.  It emphasizes how the failure of the credit market complicated the situation.  The second chapter goes into more depth on the function and importance of credit in the modern world, showing how it makes the financial world work and the importance  keeping credit flowing.

The third chapter covers the basics of putting your financial house in order, from paying down credit card debt to taking advantage of retirement accounts for your investments.  Chapter four provides some basics on the types of investments out there, from stocks and bonds to international investments and commodities.  This leads into chapter five, which provides some basic advice on investing success, from the relationship between risk and return to diversification and methods of optimizing your account (maximizing your your return for a given level of risk).

The sixth chapter covers one method of achieving diversification, by taking advantage of mutual funds and ETFs that hold many different investments within a given class.  There’s quite a bit of discussion on how to evaluate different funds, as well as what sort of funds are available within given asset classes.  There’s also sections on the advantages of index funds, and when you should consider selling your investments.

Chapter seven looks at building a portfolio of your own from various types of mutual funds.  It provides several model portfolios, and a short quiz to help figure out which is best in your circumstance.  It also has some advice on when is the most appropriate time to contact professional financial planning help.  Chapter eight looks at retirement, providing ten tips on having a well-financed retired life.  Chapter nine finishes off the book, providing encouragement to stay with your investments, regardless of how the 2008 downturn may have battered them.

Pros

As with many books that attempt to explain the basics of personal finance, this book is simple, short, and easy to follow.  It covers the basics of investing pretty well, and provides reasonable advice on how to set up an reasonable investment account.

Cons

The book tries to cover a very wide array of material in a very small space, and as a result, sometimes doesn’t cover its subjects very deeply.  (This issue is complicated by Velshi’s occasional off the cuff comments referencing, say, hedge fund activities without much context, making it sometimes hard to know what is important and what isn’t.)

Overall

Gimme My Money Back is a pretty standard entry-level personal finance book, albeit one with a larger emphasis on explaining the 2008 downturn than most.  It does provide a decent introduction to investing and other personal finance concepts, but as you might guess with a book that covers everything from the financial downturn to commodities investing, doesn’t provide much depth.  Still, not a bad place to start your investment reading.

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