Review: Generation Earn

Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book or other book of interest.

geI really enjoy reading personal finance books that target young professionals – the one group that I believe could use the personal finance help the most. So many of them are really well-written, but they each take one of two routes: they either focus so generally on the issues that it doesn’t feel like it’s in touch with the lives of young professionals, or they focus exclusively on one small subgroup of young professionals (Farnoosh Torabi’s You’re So Money falls into this category, focusing on consumerism-oriented young female professionals).

Because of this, I usually either recommending one of the “narrow” books to young professionals or, if none of the ones I’m familiar with seem to fit, I just point them towards the personal finance book that changed my own life, Your Money or Your Life.

Generation Earn by Kimberly Palmer falls straight into this category – one only needs to glance at the subtitle, The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back, to get the idea.

Does this book actually rise above the crowd of “average” books for young professionals? Does it particularly address the needs of a specific group of them?

Building Your Life
One thing that I particularly liked about this book is that it starts right off the bat with the one area that I find young professionals constantly struggling with: getting some control over their spending. Often, this is the first time in a young adult’s life that they’ve had full control over their money, and unless their parents have been very effective at conveying money ideas, these newly flush young adults (and I certainly was in this category seven years ago or so) make some awful spending decisions that they suffer for the rest of their lives.

What suggestions does the book offer? First, set some goals. Spend some time thinking about where you want to be in ten years, what it will actually take to get there, and what steps you need to take now to make that happen. Second, apply some thought to your purchases. The big one: carefully research any purchase over $100 to make sure you actually need it, that it meets your requirements, and that you’re getting the best price on it.

This portion of the book covers a lot of topics: jobs, credit cards, all of that basic personal finance stuff that a lot of books offer. How does this book handle it differently? What stuck with me is that it didn’t spend time demonizing bad practices – instead, it spent space lauding positive practices. I like that perspective, as it does a great job of creating a sense that these things are doable and they will result in something positive rather than making the reader feel self-conscious about the mistakes they’ve made.

Creating A Home
The middle third of the book is focused strongly on setting up a full household for the first time. When you first leave college and have your own apartment or you’re thinking about buying a home, it’s very easy to fall into some huge traps – buying more house than you can afford, decorating and stocking the apartment with expensive stuff (bought on credit), and so on.

Palmer focuses on tactics for drastically reducing the costs of each of these aspects. The biggest part of all of this is an honest evaluation of the question “what do you need?” versus “what do you want?”

From there, the section moves onto simple frugality – steps people can take without disrupting their life to reduce bills and required expenses once they’ve set up house. In many ways, Palmer focuses on doing this through simplicity (things that save both money and time) and meaningfulness (worthwhile uses for that money and time, such as thoughtful gift-giving – and even homemade gift-giving).

Changing the World
These topics bridge the gap into the third section of the book, which focuses on how a young professional can use the resources in their life to actually promote positive change in the world, often while achieving the other ideas in this book at the same time.

Volunteerism opportunities are discussed at length, both in the sense that they give someone an opportunity to facilitate positive change and as a way to quickly make social connections in a new area. There’s also a focus on how the frugal tactics that can save you money and time also have a positive environmental impact as well.

What’s the purpose of this section, really? It does a great job of casting the day-to-day choices of what people do with their time and money in the light of how better choices with those resources can have a lot of positive impact, both on yourself and on the broader world.

Is Generation Earn Worth Reading?
This is a great book for a thoughtful college graduate. In fact, without knowing anything more than that about a graduate, this would be my first pick as a gift for graduation (perhaps coupled with Your Money or Your Life).

As with many such books, the subtitle should make it clear whether this book will have any value for you personally. Are you a young professional? If the answer is yes, this book is probably worth a look.

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