February 6 2010 by Ellen Roseman
I love checking out personal finance books and I’m glad to see a big choice of publications for Canadian readers. There are still too many American financial authors populating the bookstore shelves.
As soon as you see terms like 401(k), Roth IRAs and tax-free municipal bonds, put down the book. It’s probably irrelevant to you.
So, what’s new? The big hit is Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Debt-Free Forever, which is in the top 10 bestsellers at Amazon.ca. As the host of Til Debt Do Us Part, a long-running reality TV show, she’s known for her blunt way of scolding the clueless couples she tries to reform.
She writes the same way she talks — plain, direct, colloquial, often personal. And while her advice is nothing you haven’t heard before — liive within your means, cut spending, avoid debt and repay what you owe — she has lots of practical suggestions and tips for staying solvent.
In Chapter 6, Make More Money, Gail reveals a truth many can’t face. If you’re not making ends meet and you’ve trimmed your expenses to the bone, you have to “bust your butt” and earn more. Whether you get a better job, a second job or a third job, you’ve got to do whatever it takes, she says. It’ll seem like a life of hell for a while, but you’ll get used to it and it won’t be forever.
On her TV show, I remember her ordering a stay-at-home mother to find work cleaning apartments in her building. Tough talk, but some people need a shake-up.
Another new book appealing to an audience of overspenders is The Smart Cookies guide for couples. But it’s blander, reflecting the fact it has six authors. The new Chatelaine guide is aimed at women only.
Last book I want to mention is Rob Carrick’s guide to the good, bad and awful in Canadian investments. It’s a series of lists, easy to scan and dip into, but does require some background knowledge. It’s for do-it-yourself investors and those frustrated with their investment advisers.
Since I do lots of teaching, I’m often asked about books to read. Often I come up short and recommend websites instead, like the redesigned Get Smarter about Money. I wish I could find a single investment book that covered all these topics in such a simple Q&A style.
If you don’t want to buy any books before sampling the advice, check out Gail’s website and the Gail Clubs popping up in many cities. And check out Rob Carrick’s book excerpt, Six Crummy Mutual Funds and his annual online broker rankings.