The Money Book For The Young, Fabulous, And Broke: Chapters 1 – 3

The Money Book For The Young, Fabulous, and Broke is an attempt by Suze Orman to take personal finance ideas that traditionally appeal to older generations and make them palatable to Generation Y. The back states clearly that this isn’t your parents’ personal finance book, but is there anything really interesting or different about the book that makes it stand out from the crowd? This week, let’s find out!

Chapter 1: Know The Score
The first chapter is all about the credit score: what it means, how to get it, and how to improve it. Most of the main part of the chapter lays out how a credit score is defined, which is almost exactly the same as Wikipedia’s definition of a credit score. Suze’s advice is spot-on here: knowing exactly how a credit score is defined is the biggest key to knowing how to improve it, as most common mistakes with improving a credit score are simply the result of not understanding what’s going on. She’s even wise to the freecreditreport.com ripoff – you should only get your score from the government or directly from Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.

Most interesting problem: I am slowly paying down my credit card debt and plan to cancel each card as I get the balances to zero. For the love of God, don’t do this. Your oldest credit cards are part of the foundation of your credit report. If you cancel your earliest cards, your credit rating will go down as you are choosing to shorten the length of your credit history, which is a significant factor in calculating your score. Cut them up instead, or put them away in a lock box somewhere.

Chapter 2: Career Moves
The general point of this chapter is that if you’re not happy at your job, find a different one or else subject yourself to a lifetime of misery, something no one wants. Since this book is targeting twentysomethings, this is good advice; you’re at the very point in your life where a career change is most appropriate, before the burdens of a marriage, a home, and children begin to force you to remain employed. Some of her advice here is kind of odd, though; she encourages using credit cards for necessities if you’re working a job that pays very poorly but has strong potential to pay a lot more in the future. I’m not sure I agree with that; I think it’s a better life skill to learn how to suck it up and make it work, so to speak.

Most interesting problem: I hate my job and want to go back to school. In almost every case, this is a bad idea, as it prolongs the inevitable challenge of finding strong employment, increases your debt burden, and also gets you started in the workplace at an older age. For most people, going back to school is a crutch to lean on because they can’t get it done.

Chapter 3: Give Yourself Credit
As I mentioned before, Suze is often just fine with credit cards, and this chapter is basically about how to use credit cards in a sane and sensible manner. I agree with her that they can be used as tools, but the problem is that the modern consumerist society is basically set up to encourage people to spend beyond their means, in which people bringing in $130,000 a year are buying Ferraris and million dollar homes. Marketing has become so effective that for many people it makes the debt risk seem trivial in comparison – and then suddenly they find themselves in desperation. Thankfully, this chapter bookends the “use a credit card” advice with some sense, like making sure that the things you buy are actually necessities, and that eating out (for example) is not a necessity.

Most interesting problem: The only debt I have is my hefty balances on five credit cards. I want to begin to pay them off, but I don’t know where to start. The advice here is a home run: pay the minimum balance on all of them, but pay as much extra as you can on the one with the highest interest rate. Once that’s paid off, move on to the others. This is the route to paying the least amount possible in finance charges.

The Money Book For The Young, Fabulous, And Broke is the sixteenth of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.

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