I’ve been a fan of Ben Stein’s financial writings for years, but this is the first book of his that I’ve picked up. Could it possibly be as good as his columns? Is it worth reading at all?
A large portion of the book (chapters 7 through 13) really focus on issues that many people begin to face in their thirties, and this provides the central meat of the entire book. It provides some general financial rules of thumb in several different dimensions of life during the third decade of life.
On a career in your 30s Basically, the book indicates that for the most part, the biggest acceleration in salary you will have in your life occurs in your 20s because early on is when you can demonstrate the greatest increase in your skill set. How can you leverage this? By remembering that a 10% raise when you’re making $25K is the same net increase as a 5% raise when you’re making $50K (ignoring taxes, of course).
On being single in your 30s The book advocates that as long as you’re single, you should put effort into staying competitive in your career, as married life often can fill up a lot of time that you would have otherwise used in building up your career. Continue to invest in your own human capital with time and money.
On being married and setting up a home in your 30s If you’re married, learn how to start living well within your means and saving money for a home. This means being frugal and cutting down on unnecessary expenditures, and taking that extra money and socking it away until you have a house down payment. If you “can’t” do this, then you are opening yourself up for a lot of risk in the event of job loss.
On having children in your 30s Children are wonderful, beautiful, amazing things – but they’re also expensive things. Plan ahead by having a “saving for baby” account if you’re going to have one in the future, then use that when it comes time to actually have one, as you’ll have start-up costs and a nice increase in your monthly budget.
Investment changes? The book is still in favor of being rather aggressive with retirement savings throughout your thirties, though depending on your specific plan, you may want to readdress things when you get near the end of that decade.
The remainder of the book discusses life at 40 and beyond – we’ll look at that tomorrow.
Yes, You Can Get A Financial Life is the twenty-first of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.