(Bonus) Book Review: Retire Inspired

Image via ChrisHogan360.com

Disclosure: I am a voluntary member of Chris Hogan’s Retire Inspired launch team, and although I have not been compensated for this review, if you purchase a copy of the book from my referral link, I will be entered to win prizes from Ramsey Solutions. Thanks for your support!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Remember those goals that I set for 2016? Well, they’re already becoming more difficult to achieve than I thought…especially my resolution to blog at least weekly. Some blogger I am!

I also know that I still owe you my review of Chuck Palahniuk’s Beautiful You, but I wanted to pause and share my thoughts on something completely different.

You are already aware that I’m a huge nerd when it comes to reading, but you probably don’t know that I’m equally nerdy on the subject of personal finance. I’m obsessed with bloggers like Financial Samurai and Mr. Money Mustache, as well as podcasts like “The Money Guy Show” and “Stacking Benjamins.” While most Americans are counting down the days until the Super Bowl, I’m awaiting my W-2 to get a head start on my taxes and wondering how I can get a ticket to FinCon.

Like many finance junkies, I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey, the king of cash and destroyer of debt. I’m by no means a religious person, so while I don’t adhere to his concept of biblical finance, I still appreciate his no-nonsense approach to managing money.

Chris Hogan is one of Ramsey’s media personalities who is leading the charge on retirement planning. If you’re familiar with the Dave Ramsey “baby steps,” you know that you shouldn’t even be thinking about investing for the long-term until you reach baby step #4:

  1. Save a starter $1,000 emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debts but your home mortgage using the snowball method, from smallest to largest balance.
  3. Build a complete emergency fund covering 3-6 months of expenses.
  4. Invest 15% of your household income into retirement.
  5. Save for your kids’ college education.
  6. Pay off your home early.
  7. Build wealth and give!

When I heard that Chris Hogan was releasing a book on the subject of retirement, I was immediately hooked. His deep, booming voice and enthusiastic attitude make him an excellent motivational speaker, and inspiration is exactly what people need to feel optimistic about their financial futures, because right now the forecast is pretty bleak, considering these terrifying statistics:

  • 76% of people in the United States are living paycheck to paycheck.
  • 45% of working-age households have no retirement savings at all.
  • Among people ages 55-64, the average household retirement savings is only $12,000.

Wake up, everyone! Pensions have all but disappeared, and Social Security is drying up. The only one who can save you from having to eat dog food to stretch dollars in your golden years (a tragically true Chris Hogan anecdote from the book) is YOU.

If I were grading Retire Inspired solely on its ability to inspire people to save for retirement, then Chris Hogan would receive 5/5 stars. However, I have to admit that the target audience is for those living paycheck to paycheck with nothing in the bank, not for those of us who are already “winning with money,” as Dave likes to say.

Unfortunately, this book is too basic for personal finance nerds who are light-years beyond this common sense stuff. Simple concepts like the difference between traditional and Roth IRAs are not even discussed until the second half of the book. I appreciated Hogan’s inclusion of both offensive (investing) and defensive aspects of retirement (insurances and estate planning), but I don’t need to be told that car leases and reverse mortgages are terrible ideas.

I understand that there are certain subjects that the Ramsey team does not endorse, such as commodities and annuities, but it would have been nice for more educated readers to hear all sides of these debates. And don’t get your hopes up over learning more about passive investing and robo-advisors: Ramsey Solutions has a vested interest in endorsing actively managed mutual funds. Bogleheads, you’ve been warned!

All in all, was I inspired to save for retirement? Absolutely! Did I learn anything new after listening to “The Dave Ramsey” show for years? Not particularly. If you’re a newbie to getting control of your finances, I would recommend Retire Inspired, but for everybody else who’s already paying attention to their money, you’re better off looking for advice elsewhere.

(Bonus) Book Review: All Joy and No Fun

Image via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

As I stated when I reviewed Hyperbole and a Half, sometimes I get the chance to discuss a book that I enjoyed, even though I’m not counting it toward my official reading quota.

Today I wanted to share my thoughts on All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, a work of nonfiction by Jennifer Senior.

Published in January, Senior’s book is an insightful look into how children affect their parents, with tons of research to supplement her own qualitative interviews.

After decades of progress regarding birth control and women’s acceptance in the workplace, children are more wanted than ever, as their parents can now plan for them when they are financially and psychologically ready.

So…never?

This progression is not without consequences; because of our elimination of child labor and focus on preserving innocence, society has defined children as “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.” Parenting went from being something everyone just did to our primary source of identity. Senior notes that the vocabulary shift from “housewife” to “stay-at-home mom” speak volumes about how much we define ourselves by our children.

Each chapter of this book reveals the struggles behind each stage of a child’s development: infancy, early childhood, and adolescence. Sure, everyone says that they love their kids, but here is the reality of their lives, according to Senior’s 2010 article in New York Magazine prior to the book’s publication:

“A 2004 study by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize–winning behavioral economist, who surveyed 909 working Texas women and found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.)”

“Robin Simon, a sociologist at Wake Forest University, says parents are more depressed than nonparents no matter what their circumstances—whether they’re single or married, whether they have one child or four.”

All parents spend more time today with their children than they did in 1975, including mothers, in spite of the great rush of women into the American workforce. Today’s married mothers also have less leisure time (5.4 fewer hours per week); 71 percent say they crave more time for themselves (as do 57 percent of married fathers). Yet 85 percent of all parents still—still!—think they don’t spend enough time with their children.”

Senior discusses all the strains that children create: the loss of autonomy, the lack of sex and sleep, the unequal division of labor between mother and father, the constant anxiety over a child’s happiness and future success, and the betrayal felt during teenage rebellion.

Again…never?

Of course, it is important to note that Senior has one child, so this book is not a diatribe against children, but rather an academic analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of parenting–and more importantly, how parents justify their choice when the research is heavily weighted against it.

I only wished that Senior was more comprehensive. Hopefully, future books of hers will discuss the effects of children on low-income or LGBT parents, because the heterosexual middle-class is just one slice of the parenting pie.

I recommend this book to parents and nonparents alike, because as a person who is childfree by choice and is often interrogated on why I don’t want kids, this book flips the question and forces people to evaluate why they do. As the stats show, it’s certainly not a decision to make lightly.

Food for thought…

For those interested in other books on this topic, I also recommend Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti. It’s a fantastic book from a feminist perspective about how parenting is especially difficult in the U.S. without such benefits as paid maternity/paternity leave, affordable day care, and equal pay.

So whether you have kids or don’t, let me know what you think about this divisive topic!

Amen!

I also want to wish everyone happy holidays! Be on the lookout later this week for my last book review of the year!