Updated on 10.07.10

Review: Generation Earn

Trent Hamm

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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  1. Andrew says:

    After reading your review of this book, I considered buying it. I saw the price on amazon.com, 10 Dollars, which converts to 6 pounds. I thought that was an excellent price, so went to amazon.co.uk and it was 13 pounds.

    I don’t like being ripped off like that and since that’s how I’d feel if I bought the book I’m now not going to.

  2. Johanna says:

    @Andrew: Surely it can’t be news to you that things generally cost more in the UK than in the US, can it?

  3. Chris says:


    Thanks for the recommendation. I enjoy reading books like this (ideas around a proactive approach). I’m a very proactive person … especially in finance. But my friend, I am in the minority.

    This book has a marketing problem. The problem: it’s proactive. Ideas are much easier to market when they are around moving away from pain (like debt).

    I wish there was away to gather more attention to the proactive financial awareness space. The author of this book sure would appreciate it. Your thoughts?

    A little less “get out of debt…”


    “Get rich quick”

    Let’s learn to be financially intelligent before chapter 11.

  4. deRuiter says:

    This is the UK ripping you off with its higher taxes including VAT, to fund your welfare system. Almost all, if not all books, which are sold in America and the UK cost MORE in the UK. The book jackets are identical, EXCEPT FOR THE PRINTED PRICE. I never buy books in the UK. I browse the bookstores, make a note of the books I want, and wait until I’m in America to buy. Everything which costs a dollar in America, costs a pound in the UK. Everything which costs a dollar in America costs one Euro in Europe. America has the cheapest prices for stuff because until Jan 1, 2011, we had lower taxes as we were not funding cradle to the grave Socialism. Are you surprised that items come with higher taxes and therefor cost more in Socialist UK and Europe? How did you think all those cradle to the grave perks were funded? In order to spend, the government must confiscate the money of the productive class to distribute to the non workers. The more (mostly unproductive business wise) stuff a government DOES, the more of the productive citizens’ money the government must confiscate. Eventually the productive people smarten up and stop working, or move to a place with a better tax structure, and the original country has LESS moeny to spend. Think NJ which has had a rush in wealthy citizens moving to low tax states like Florida, Texas, North Dakota. NJ had LOST over 70 BILLION dollars in taxable wealth in the last few years, as people with business and cash fled to low tax states.

  5. Roberta says:

    Many of those “wealthy citizens moving to low tax states like Florida” where I live are on Medicare, a large government-funded medical program for retirees, paid for by taxes. Try, just try, taking medicare away from those “wealthy” and “productive”–people, and then see how they really feel about government as you say “confiscating the money of the productive class to distribute to non-workers.” How many wealthy white Repulican retirees are on medicare, and are using its services frequently? Probably near 100%

  6. Riki says:

    I’m a Canadian and I pay higher taxes than those of you in the US.

    And you know what? I bet it’s WAY cheaper than paying for health insurance in the way that Americans have to. I gladly pay my taxes, knowing that anybody in my country can receive basic health care free of charge. And health care is only one example — our education system/public schools are excellent and in general, I think our “restrictive and controlling” government does a pretty good job of creating opportunity, infrastructure, and a generally happy population . . . all for the cost of a few extra percentage points of income tax.

    I’ll freely admit that our system is far from perfect, but I’ll take our flaws any day over the “freedom” of America. The truth is, there isn’t much freedom in the US any more but few are willing to admit that.

  7. It may not be a bad book for parents of a soon-to-be college graduate as well.

    There might still be some time to instill some good habts in them, or prepare them for the responsibility of being in charge of their own money…

  8. Marie says:

    Thanks for this review! Looks like a great book. I’m a young professional, so this looks really appealing. Like you said, some books geared towards young professionals aren’t that great (I hate when they assume young people have massive consumer debt). Looking foward to reading this!

  9. Chip says:

    It’s no surprise that a book published in the US costs more in the UK. At least they are making it available in the UK (some books aren’t). Check out shipping from Amazon.com (US) to see if you are getting screwed. As a US resident I have on occasion been force to buy books from Amazon.co.uk because they weren’t offered here, yeah shipping sucks. (Maybe a kindle version is the answer.)

  10. Roberta says:

    #5 Riki: Excellent comments. If here in the US we could stop paying the middleman for insurance, and just pay directly for healthcare services, preferably through a government-run universal health care system like Canada’s, the US taxpayers would save a lot of money, even if our taxes were increased to fund it. My employer kicks in for my health insurance, but I still get a chunk taken out of my check, and have to pay co-pays all along the way. The US lags so far behind other countries in this regard. What puzzles me as I was trying to point out in my comment is why the demographic here in the US that seems to complain the most about “government spending” is itself the largest beneficiary of government spending. Well said, all around, Riki.

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