Some Questions About My Upcoming Book

As I announced on Twitter a few days ago, I recently turned in the manuscript for my upcoming second book.

I’m extremely proud of this book, as I conceived of the entire idea myself, spent literally hundreds of hours researching materials and interviewing dozens of people, and spent the last three months tying together the manuscript.

Since I’m so excited to talk about it (and I know a lot of you are interested in what’s coming based on the emails and Twitter comments and instant messages I’ve received), I thought I’d offer up a little “question and answer” session about the book to whet your appetites.

What is the book called?
The book is tentatively titled “Making Change.” We hope to settle on the final title of the book within the next week or two. In fact, earlier today I submitted a revised title, subtitle, and very basic cover mock-up to my publisher, based on a brilliant suggestion from Sarah (my wife) a few days ago.

What is “Making Change” about?
The world is changing at a rapid pace. Twenty years ago, the web was nonexistent – today, virtually all of us use it as a key information gathering tool. Fifteen years ago, cell phones were a novelty at best – now, they keep us connected with each other in ways inconceivable a generation ago. Ten years ago, Asian economies were in ruins – today, products made in China and jobs outsourced to Bangalore are the norm. Five years ago, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist – today, hundreds of millions of people use these services to maintain social connections.

My own story is a perfect example of this rapid change. Four years ago, I was buried in consumer debt, working in a straightforward career in a monolithic organization, missing out on the work I was most passionate about. Today, we’re free of consumer debt and working in a freelancing career doing exactly what I love the most.

These rapid changes make our lives more unpredictable than ever. They’re changing some of the most fundamental ways the world works – things move faster with far less predictability. Many of the old rules – the old ways of doing things – simply no longer work.

“Making Change” is about navigating these changes – and all of the countless other ones coming our way in the near future. What can we do to protect our hard-earned money – and earn even more? How can we maximize our career opportunities? And whatever happened to the promises of economic and personal freedom that the future was supposed to hold? My own story of making change plays a central role in the story, as does many of the stories shared to me by readers of The Simple Dollar over the years.

Intrigued? I hope so.

When is “Making Change” coming out?
We’re hoping for an April 2010 release date, though nothing is set in stone. The enormous amount of research I did for this book (and an unexpected illness in September) caused me to slip a little in submitting the final manuscript, so this may cause the final release date to slip a little more.

What made you decide to write a book like this?
I originally started out writing a memoir – it was very humorous and self-deprecating in places. As I kept writing, I kept noticing a theme in what I was writing – everything was going along, then something fairly unexpected happened, leaving me gobsmacked.

Why were all of these radical changes always happening in my life?

The most fascinating part was that many of the things that happened to me were things that happened to many others over the last ten years or so. We fell into terrible debt. We had a child when we didn’t expect it at all. We found our career path twist in an wholly unexpected (and undesired) direction. We found large organizations being increasingly disloyal to us as individuals. We found communication tools that put us in touch with countless other people who shared the same seemingly obscure interests that we have. We lost the power of isolation, carrying cell phones that follow us wherever and whenever we are.

At first, I thought this might be a source of a few interesting posts on The Simple Dollar, but the more I began to study these disruptive changes – and how they’re becoming more frequent, not less – I realized that many of the rules of personal finance and career management didn’t really apply any more. They assumed a long period of stability – and those long periods of stability don’t exist any more.

I followed that rabbit hole and out came “Making Change.”

What happened to the memoir book?
Right now, it’s sitting in hibernation. While I did include some pieces of it in “Making Change,” the memoir has such a different tone to it that it’s really hard to compare the two.

In theory, if I ever got desperate for articles for The Simple Dollar, it would work well for that. The “memoir book” as it sits right now is a collection of about twenty essays, chronologically ordered, and about 3,000 words apiece. Each one relates – in a somewhat humorous and self-deprecating way – some personal finance principle that I discovered the hard way.

I’m honestly unsure what I’m going to do with it, but I know one thing – I need a “book break” for a while. It’s going to rest for a while. In a few months, I’ll dig it out, read it again, and decide what I want to do with it. I might ship it around to other publishers, self-publish it (using Lulu.com or something like that), or simply turn it into a long series of posts. I just don’t quite know.

What’s the most surprising thing about the book?
There are two things that I think will really stand out. One, I think I make a very good case for the large amount of unpredictability in our lives – far more than most people think there is. This area drew a lot of my research for the book, actually.

One of my biggest conclusions for solving that challenge is pretty surprising, too. Yes, I talk about all of the usual techniques – emergency funds and so on – but perhaps the best way to protect yourself against such uncertainty comes from a word that our grandparents would find more familiar than we do (but we have surprising ways to access it ourselves). That one word? Community.

When can I read some of it?
In a few months, I intend to start posting excerpts here on The Simple Dollar so you can make up your own mind about the book and discuss a few of the bits in detail with other readers.

People who have signed up in the past to be “Friends of The Simple Dollar” will get a few extra treats as the book release day approaches.

When can I preorder it?
It’s not listed on Amazon.com yet. As soon as it’s listed, I’ll let you know.

I do ask that if you discover a way to preorder it before I announce it here on The Simple Dollar, that you wait until I announce it. The reason is simple – a large “spike” of preorders all at once helps me out greatly in the promotion of the book and makes it that much more likely that it will be a widely-read success.

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  1. Moneymonk says:

    Nice to see you’re moving forward

  2. Johanna says:

    Congratulations on finishing the book. It sounds very interesting.

    However, after reading your description of it, I find several of your recent blog posts much more puzzling.

    For example, you’ve repeatedly urged twenty- and thirtysomethings to make decisions now about how they’d like to spend their time when they’re in their sixties and seventies. But doesn’t all this unpredictability make such planning extremely difficult, if not impossible?

    For another example, this sort of rapid change has a lot to do with why many current and soon-to-be retirees are in financial trouble right now, yet you showed shockingly little sympathy to their situation.

  3. Eden Jaeger says:

    Congrats! I’m looking forward to reading it.

  4. Des says:

    “Today, we’re free of consumer debt…”

    Fairly recently you posted that you had taken out a car loan for your Prius so you could keep you e-fund in tact. Did you pay it off that quick? Or, am I alone in feeling that a car loan is consumer debt?

  5. carmen says:

    Congratulations; good job. Not something I’m particularly interested in, though hubbie might be. He reads more motivational/management books than I do.

    I am intrigued to know how you’ve made the subject of ‘change’ interesting and what spin you’ve put on it though. Personally, I’m fed up of the media attention (TV ads anyone?) debt attracts these days.

  6. Susan says:

    Congratulations! I will pre-order your new book once it gets closer to publication time. Your last book is on my Christmas wish list.

  7. John says:

    Don’t you think you’re a bit young for a memior?

  8. Amy says:

    Sounds interesting and different. I look forward to reading it.

  9. JB says:

    Congratulations Trent, sounds great!

  10. Trent says:

    “For example, you’ve repeatedly urged twenty- and thirtysomethings to make decisions now about how they’d like to spend their time when they’re in their sixties and seventies. But doesn’t all this unpredictability make such planning extremely difficult, if not impossible?”

    Johanna, are you saying that all goal-setting is useless? The point of goals is to give us a direction to walk towards. Without that direction, we wander in circles and never get anywhere or achieve anything.

    “For another example, this sort of rapid change has a lot to do with why many current and soon-to-be retirees are in financial trouble right now, yet you showed shockingly little sympathy to their situation.”

    They’ve had decades to read their prospectuses and know the risks involved in betting their whole retirement on the stock market.

  11. Patty says:

    Trent – Good job buddy! Change is what life is all about. The more we push it away and ignore it, like an elastic band stretched too far, it will come back and slap you.

    I’ll admit I get cranky occassionally about lots of change, then I get over it, embrace the “change” as part of the journey in life. Sometimes it is crappy, though I don’t spend time there – move on.

    Looking forward to seeing Your Book!

  12. Johanna says:

    No, I’m not saying that setting goals is useless. Maybe it wasn’t clear what I was referring to – I was referring to your numerous posts in which you ask the rest of us youngsters to decide whether we’d like to walk away from paid work entirely when we hit 65, or whether we’d like to keep at it until we drop dead. The idea being that if we choose the latter, we don’t need to save quite so much for retirement.

    But how the heck are we supposed to know that, with life being so unpredictable and all? We ourselves change unpredictably – we may lose interest in some things and gain interest in others over time – and so does the employment environment. Twenty years ago the career opportunities for someone with a passion for writing were very different from what they are today. There was no such thing as a full-time blogger, for example. Isn’t it possible that it will change just as much over the next 20 years, and the next 20 after that? Forty years from now, when you and I are 71, the job that’s now your dream job may not exist in any form that would be recognizable today. And the jobs that are available at that time might not appeal to your future self nearly as much. And you might want to call it quits.

    So that’s why I’m wondering why, with all the potential for change, you think it makes sense to make a firm decision about whether you’ll want to work for pay 40 years from now or not.

  13. kristine says:

    Congrats!

    I just read an older book, as relevant in concept now as ever, except for the included topical political events.

    Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. The most interesting aspect was the constant insightful and humorously metaphorical analyzation of why we buy, and how the consumer culture works.

  14. The main change you need to make is in your attitude towards childless couples (and singles)

  15. Trent says:

    “The main change you need to make is in your attitude towards childless couples (and singles)”

    What change? The only “attitude” I have towards such people is that they have less impact on the next generation than parents do. Do you disagree with that statement? Please explain how, because I don’t understand.

  16. Trent says:

    “I was referring to your numerous posts in which you ask the rest of us youngsters to decide whether we’d like to walk away from paid work entirely when we hit 65, or whether we’d like to keep at it until we drop dead.”

    Because that impacts how you save for retirement NOW, and it has to do more with the kind of person you are – productive and can’t-sit-still or not, which most people know about themselves by the time they’re eighteen – than what you might specifically be doing in forty years. I think you must have skimmed those articles, Johanna.

  17. This one sounds like it could be good, I’d be interested to read it though I’m afraid I try not to buy new books anymore. ;) (I’m sure it won’t be too long before someone sells a copy on Amazon. I hope you of all people can understand, lol.)

    Change is something that’s become my friend, because it’s easier to accept it as such than to hate it. I’m getting ready to undertake my second move in five/six years! This time across the country in a different direction. :) Not sure what the next few years will hold, but I’m excited about it and feeling more optimistic than I have in a long time again.

  18. marta says:

    There is one thing I’d love to see change pretty quickly: your attitude towards criticism. It’s amazing to witness how obtuse you will pretend to be, like in your response to Johanna. Also, take the candles in the wind thread: are all those dozens of comments from trolls or people who “don’t get it”? If it’s the latter, maybe you need to express yourself better. That’s your job as a writer, to communicate your ideas clearly to the audience (I still think we got it loud and clear but whatever), not to put the blame on the readers for interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.

    On a more positive note, congrats on finishing the book.

  19. Congratulations, looking forward to it.

  20. Julie Rains says:

    Wow, this book sounds like it will be incredible. One of the biggest challenges I think we all face now is expertly navigating change: was discussing this with a client yesterday in fact. A stumbling block for me (besides what seems to be an inborn inclination toward stability) has been trying to figure out what trends will stick and which ones will disappear (new coke, beta VCR), and how to enjoy the ride to newness and perpetual change. My kids have helped me in that regard, constantly testing new things, now getting totally frustrated with glitches, and allowing me to add my traditional values and explain social context. I look forward to the release of the book.

  21. joan says:

    wow, Thinking about all the research you had to do, how you had to sift through all of the information and decide what to write. It boggles the mind. I’m really looking forward to this book.

  22. kristine says:

    Here’s the math on why childless people can have just as much influence on future genertations that parents:

    Assume you have 80% influence over 3 children. (The other 20% coming for their own experiences) That’s 240 units of influence.

    Now assume you are a teacher, or writer, or painter, or philanthropist. As an art teacher in elementary school- I have 450 students a year. Over 30 years (typical), that’s 13,500 students. Now, let’s assume that I influence 1 child every decade to love and pursue art for a lifetime-a choice of occupation. That’s about 30% influence, say 90 units. Then assume I influence about a hyalf of the kids positively about 1%, probably just by being kind, boosting confidence, and making them think about larger issues, and generally making an emotional impact on their tender souls. At a very young age- any influence is larger, and lasting. That’s (13500/2)x.01=67.5, plus 90. That’s 157.5 units of influence, about the same of that as a parent with 2 children.

    This does not account for how childless people have a larger disposable income, as a group having a larger influence on the goods/services economy of the next generation.

    And any person, single or parent, can have wealth and power that can topple governements, thus changing ways of life for many generations- millions of people. They would likley have more influence on future generations than a parent who worked 9 to 5 and had 2 kids who in turn worked 9 to 5.

    Generational impact is not well contrasted within parenting/non-parenting. Your casusal argument is weak and emotional more than rational. It comes from seeing the awesome impact your actions have on your own children. Profound, to be sure (I have seen this with my own children), but not necessarily, at large, more impactful long term than the impact of those without children. Future impact is a result of what you do, not whether you procreate.

    You may have greater impact on fewer people, while the childless may have more diffuse imapct on a larger number of people. It can even out. Or a similar impact on a few people too, depending on circumstance.

  23. kristine says:

    Oh,and pardon my spelling. I am on my lunch break and typing super fast.

  24. Kevin M says:

    I didn’t think Trent’s response to either of Johanna’s comments were obtuse at all, in fact I thought he stated his side very well. If anything, I thought her comments were a little nitpicky as opposed to most of her usually insightful thoughts.

  25. SoCalGal says:

    Great post, Kristine. You make a strong argument and I appreciate your thoughtful tone of the reply to Trent.

  26. BNice says:

    @kristine

    We all influence and are influenced by the people in our life. Without question, teachers have a profound influence on a lot of kids and I don’t think anyone is trying to belittle the effort that they give or the affect that they have. I have had a number of very powerful teachers that have influenced me in a number of ways and I still keep in contact with a few of them. However, influence is not something that can be measured in percentages or units. The only thing that I know is that no two people have influenced me more than my mother and father. This may not be the case for everyone but if I was given the responsibility to decide a child’s fate as to whether they were to have an amazing teacher or an amazing parent in their life, it would be the parent everyday and twice on Sunday.

    Do the best with what you have. Try to have a positive affect on every person in your life, if not just through your good example.

  27. Trent says:

    “are all those dozens of comments from trolls or people who “don’t get it””

    I would give a million dollars for a device that would help me be able to distinguish, just by reading a comment, who is a troll and who is actually expressing a real concern. It’s often impossible to tell.

  28. “What change? The only “attitude” I have towards such people is that they have less impact on the next generation than parents do. Do you disagree with that statement? Please explain how, because I don’t understand.”

    I do not disagree with that statement at all. In fact I agree.

    But you also said:

    1) “If no one had children, we would all be candles in the wind. In one hundred years, there would be no human race.”

    Has anyone suggested that no one should have children?

    If we all had a dozen children, the world would be in abject poverty.

    2)”…the often thankless work of raising that next generation of people.”

    A shame you think it’s thankless. Raising children is a joy and a blessing. Not everyone can participate.

    3) “Mr. Holland showed up for work and waved a baton”

    In that statement you are saying that no teacher, no friend, no mentor has a real effect on a child. It is >99% a result of the parent’s teachings. You cannot possibly believe that to be true.

    Regards,

  29. Tyler says:

    “Five years ago, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist – today, hundreds of millions of people use these services to maintain social connections.”

    I’ve had a facebook account for more than 5 years…

    I’m looking forward to reading your new book. Congratulations.

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