Friday, November 30, 2007

Review: Getting Started - The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation

Okay ... so does the "younger generation" really need another financial how-to book?

That's the question I found myself asking when I first picked up Getting Started: The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation, by Brian T. Jones, CFP®. (Actually, I was asking myself another question, too: At age 36, can I even claim membership in this so-called "younger generation" any longer?)

The answer to the second question — much as I hate to admit it — is "Probably not."

The answer to the first (and more important, if you're writing a book review) question is "Sure, if you can get them to read it."

It probably won't surprise you readers to know that there are a lot of Money Idiots out there. And once you clear out all the old and middle-aged Money Idiots, then what you're left with are the young Money Idiots. To be fair, there are a great many young Money Idiots running rampant over our beautiful countrysides.

But if we can get books like Getting Started into the hands of these young 'uns, and if we can get them to drop their Wii remotes and actually read the book (aye, there's the rub!), then we at least have a chance of getting these ne'er-do-wells to do something with their time other than blowing paychecks at the mall.


Each day Americans charge more and more consumable goods to their credit cards and fall deeper and deeper into debt. Once-manageable payments become too large of a negative monthly expense and the bills mount over time. Late payments, addditional charges, harassing phone calls from bill collectors and even the possibility of bankruptcy are not enough of a deterrent to keep average Americans from spending themselves into oblivion. But there is hope.

Certainly Brian Jones isn't the first author to step forward with money advice for the younger set. Heck, even Suze Orman couldn't resist this market; her 2005 Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke had her practically dominating the afternoon talk-show circuit for at least 4 or 5 days there.

Here, though, one gets the feeling that Brian is a lot closer — both in age (34, at the time of publication) and perspective — to his target audience than Suze ever was. (You tried hard, Suze, to be youngish and hip in voice — I'll give you that. But you just never made me believe.)

Some interesting (and perhaps slightly unexpected) snippets from Getting Started: The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation:

Positive cash flow can be achieved a number of different ways, but we're going to focus on six of the most important things you and/or your family can do to achieve positive cash flow:
1. Not falling prey to "moving on up"
2. Coupons
3. Saying NO to impulse buys
4. Controlling your lifestyle
5. Learning to cook
6. Setting limits on your annual vacation

Ehh ... okay. I'm all good with five out of six of those. Number 2, though? Coupons? A key to positive cash flow?

Sounds old fashioned, but they [coupons] are a time-honored way to maximize your cash flow. Coupons = free money.

True, but we're talking "most important things to do to achieve positive cash flow," right? I'm sorry, but I'd shove coupons way to the back of the cash-flow pack. Let's kick around "earn extra income in your spare time" instead. That'll put some "Oh!" in your "Cash Flow."

Going into debt to fund your vacation is hardly relaxing. If you plan on taking a vacation, it should be paid for before you leave. If you have to save some of your paycheck on a monthly basis to fund your vacation throughout the year, then do so.

Preach on, Brother Brian. You're talking serious Freedom Account action right there. I like the way you think.

Use this rule of thumb when it comes to funding your vacation: Don't spend more than 5% of your gross annual income on your vacation throughout the calendar year. ...If you have little people [children], you will need to deduct 1% off your vacation budget for each child. Your ability to afford a vacation decreases exponentially with each child you raise. Bummer. The 5% Rule really gets bent out of shape (read: no longer applicable) when you have more than two children.

I'm not sure where he came up with the 5% Rule — it seems plausible enough, I suppose — but I gotta tell ya: I'd feel guilty as heck if my clan went and blew 5% of our gross income on vacationing this year.

That's, like, a lot of money. Way more than I could save with coupons.

If you buy a mammoth-sized SUV that only gets 12 mpg in the city, you will make more trips to the pump than your neighbor in a hybrid. That is not a slam on owning an SUV; it is just a fact. You will spend more of your positive cash flow every week, month, and year on gas than your neighbor. If you can't afford the gas — i.e., if you complain about the price at the pump — you can't afford the vehicle.

Better watch out, Brian. Those "My SUV is a God-given right, and Exxon is the devil incarnate!" folks are a hard-nosed lot. Don't let 'em catch you trying to merge from that on-ramp ...

The point I'm making is that parents must fund college early, and fund it often. College is an impending liability. It will happen, just like retirement, whether you are prepared for it or not. You can't slow your kids down or hit the "pause" button to give you time to fund their college expenses. Bite the bullet now and save today.

Concise and well-put. Agreed.

On the topic of driving and car insurance:

So ... please slow down and drive defensively. I never thought I would give advice that sounds so trite, but I do so now with great conviction, especially after my wife had the front end of her car taken off by an idiot who blew through a four-lane intersection at 60 mph. If you want to protect yourself and your family, then drive like a little old lady. Most people can't drive, and those that can either speed, aren't paying attention, or talk on their cell phone.

Brian ...dude ... get out of my head.

On divorce, and our nation's standard of living:

If the thought of being "economically solo" makes you nervous, it should. The American standard of living has reached the point where it now requires two paychecks to sustain the middle-class lifestyle once made possible by a single-wage earner.

Hmmm ... no, it doesn't, says I. Well, I guess it might, if you're spending 5% of your gross annual income on vacations. (And since when does gross income matter, anyway? I don't know a single soul who has access to his or her gross income.)

My Overall Take on Getting Started

Suze's book looked nicer, I guess, but as an avid personal-finance reader, I enjoyed Getting Started more. The two books cover much of the same standard ground — life insurance, retirement, saving for college, and so on — but Brian doesn't ever speak from the Pearl Pedestal that Suze sometimes does. His book feels more conversational, and more earnest.

I'm particularly appreciative of all the little "personal stories" which Brian interwove into his work — relating the situations of friends and folks he's met both inside and outside his CFP practice. Brian writes that as a kid, he learned much more from his parents when they told him situational, evocative stories which illustrated a point than when they simply lectured him for a couple of hours straight.

Therein rests the reason I'd recommend Getting Started over most other young-adult-focused money books: I can relate to Brian, I enjoy his delivery, and I can glean insights from his real-world stories.

I might not always agree with his take on everything, but I'd certainly like to lob his book at a few Money Idiots I know ... and just hope that something sticks.

For more info on Getting Started: The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation, you should start at There's also the book's website, but prepare to be disappointed: The blog hasn't been updated since April '07, and the podcast page generates only server-error mishmash.


— Posted by Michael @ 7:01 AM


I have to agree with you. It doesn't always require two incomes to support a family. Of course that depends upon the amount of the single income person's paycheck.
And we have 4 children, short term mortgage, and putting 6% of my salary away for retirement. That's been getting bumped up every year by 1%, for the last 3 years.

** Comments Closed on this Post **

Thoughts on my personal finances, goals, experiences, motivations, and accomplishments (or lack thereof).

My financial life began turning around when I took responsibility for it.
— Dave Ramsey


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Currently: $0
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Savings Goal: $15,000
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