Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Financial Advice for Females

Small disclaimer: Normally I don't like to "genderify" (yes, I know that's not a real word) things, but this book really does help women to understand their finances. Women still earn statistically $0.70 to every $1 men earn, and being financially independent is a necessity, especially with the rise of single mothers, single women, and main-household-wage-earning women out there.

Confession: I have been carrying around minuscule scraps of paper with bits of notes jotted down on them about different financial books for close to 4 weeks. Only someone truly suffering from 'intending to blog' syndrome would do that on the off-chance that
I have a spare second to sit down and share this with you. Well, this is your lucky day because I found a spare second! Pull out your pencils and notebooks, folks, because you won't want to miss this bonafide financial advice from someone not even remotely qualified.

First, I have to say that this isn't really financial advice. It's more advice about where to get the financial advice you may be seeking. Without fully revealing my financial status, let me just say that I find myself, a single female in my 20s, beginning to think about things like savings (any at all), graduate school (cross your fingers I get in!), retirement (someday I hear this will happen and by then Social Security will have run out), a house (though the odds of me being able to afford something with the way our current real estate market is looking are slim to none), a new car (dear my '99 Toyota Corolla, I know you've got a few hundred thousand more miles left in you please), and all those other time-of-life things that I suppose it's now my responsibility to care about. This being the case, and finding myself with friends in the similar position, a book was recommended to me which opened my eyes to
a world of financial responsibility and possibility. I will now share that book and others I have discovered on my way to financial autonomy.

On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar is knock-your-socks, stockings, and stiletto heels -off enjoyable! This book is amazing for what it accomplishes, all without making you feel like a complete moron for not knowing it in the first place, and building you up so you believe you can actually be financially savvy. I realize I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks learning about financial planning is fun, but this book makes everything having to do with money so easy to understand, it's actually not scary! That's probably one of the best ways to recommend this book. Everything is dealt with so matter-of-factly, there's no chance to be scared. Things you sort of knew about, things you sort of heard about, and things that haven't crossed your mind entirely are all addressed in a comprehensive, yet not overloading, sort of fashion. The first part of the book is all the basic stuff - budget, what you should be saving for, and how to go about doing that. The second part of the books delves a little deeper into things like investments. A very good introduction for any woman 18-108.
9781598691245 $12.95

From this point on, things get a little tricky. I had all of this great energy for doing everything the book wanted me to do, but I wasn't quite sure where to start for things like investing. Really, I'm just waiting for these women to write book two, which would delve deeper into the things discussed in the second half of the book, but no luck with that so far. That left me to my own devices. Personally, I'm interested in things like socially responsible investing and green investing. It's not only important that my money work for me, but that it does so in a way that isn't hurting anyone else. The big problem with this is that there are few books that deal with these subjects in general, and then I've found none of them to be a) geared toward a novice, b) geared toward women, or c) written very well at all. So, briefly, here are a few books I've looked at, and how they rank.

Green Investing: A Guide to Making Money Through Environment-Friendly Stocks by Jack Uldrich 9781598695823 $14.95
I hate to put my politics right in the forefront, but I'm sorry, any book that has a George Bush quote in the first paragraph - especially a book about investing in the environment, hello? Anyone else notice he undid about 10 years worth of environmental-protection legislation in his first 4 years in office? - is a book I usually want to throw right out. That aside, the rest of the book was okay, for being one of the only books out there dedicated to this subject. The main problem was that I was looking for a how-to, some information on how to go about practicing green-friendly investing. Maybe some companies to look into, how to diversify my portfolio (or whatever that means), etc. What I was not looking for? This guy's personal views on the economic structure of investing, ev
er. I'm a fairly intelligent human being, but I have to admit that the combination of long-winded sentence structure, the completely unnecessary elevated verbiage, and pages of superfluous information put this book way above my commitment level (case in point).

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Socially Responsible Investing by Ken Little 9781592577293 $16.95
Not to begin in a completely negative tone, but I hate the Idiot's Guides and the Dummy's Guides. I think they're tacky and insulting. And yes, I'm a hypocrite as I have at least one on my own bookshelf at home. Also, I think it's sad that the Idiot's Guide company came out with something like this first. That being said, this really wasn't that bad. It was pretty user-friendly, as are most of these books, and actually offered some easy how-to advice. As much as I hate to admit it, this book was the winner of these three extras being reviewed. Guess there's a reason these things are so popular after all.

How to Invest $50-$5000: The Small Investor's Step-By-Step Plan for Low-Risk, High-Value Investing by Nancy Dunnan 9780061129827 $14.95
If the previous book was a clear winner, then this book is the clear loser of the three. I made a lot of assumptions about this book. I thought, Hey, written by a woman - financial books written by women are not as common - must be pretty user-friendly and woman-empowering. I thought, Based on this title, clearly I will be able to find advice for my financial bracket - also hard to do as a lot of investment guides are geared toward people who have money to "play" with. What's that saying? Oh, yes: assume(ing) makes an ass of u and me. And so it does, and so it works both ways. Nancy Dunnan assumes a heck of a lot about the person reading her book. Things she says are not explained fully, leaving a lot of frustrated questions hanging. Points she makes are unclear to someone who is not fully versed in the financial matters to which she is referring. Lastly, forget that title. My $50 are going to continue sitting in my savings account, and I'm sorry, but something about that just doesn't seem quite like "investing" to me. All in all, I was thoroughly disappointed.

So there ya have it. What I've been carrying around in my pocket for the last month. Fresh from me to you. Good luck saving!



Ann said...

Hi Rebecca,
I'm going to send you a copy of David Bach's Go Green, Live Rich. I'm not sure it's exactly what you're looking for, but it does include a section on "green" investing. Hope it helps!

Ann @ Random House

The Odyssey Bookshop said...

Thanks, Ann! I'll keep an eye out for it and let you know what I think.