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Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry
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If you’ve ever bought a personal finance book, watched a TV show about stock picking, listened to a radio show about getting out of debt, or attended a seminar to help you plan for your retirement, you’ve probably heard some version of these quotes:

“What’s keeping you from being rich? In most cases, it is simply a lack of belief.” —SUZE ORMAN, The Courage to Be Rich

“Are you latte-ing away your financial future?” —DAVID BACH, Smart Women Finish Rich

“I know you’re capable of picking winning stocks and holding on to them.” —JIM CRAMER, Mad Money

They’re common refrains among personal finance gurus. There’s just one problem: those and many simi­lar statements are false.

For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we’ve taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude that if we’re smart enough, we can overcome even daunting financial obstacles. But that’s not true.

In this meticulously reported and shocking book, journalist and former financial columnist Helaine Olen goes behind the curtain of the personal finance industry to expose the myths, contradictions, and outright lies it has perpetuated. She shows how an industry that started as a response to the Great Depression morphed into a behemoth that thrives by selling us products and services that offer little if any help.

Olen calls out some of the biggest names in the business, revealing how even the most respected gurus have engaged in dubious, even deceitful, prac­tices—from accepting payments from banks and corporations in exchange for promoting certain prod­ucts to blaming the victims of economic catastrophe for their own financial misfortune. Pound Foolish also disproves many myths about spending and saving, including:

  • Small pleasures can bankrupt you: Gurus popular­ized the idea that cutting out lattes and other small expenditures could make us millionaires. But reduc­ing our caffeine consumption will not offset our biggest expenses: housing, education, health care, and retirement.
  • Disciplined investing will make you rich: Gurus also love to show how steady investing can turn modest savings into a huge nest egg at retirement. But these calculations assume a healthy market and a lifetime without any setbacks—two conditions that have no connection to the real world.
  • Women need extra help managing money: Product pushers often target women, whose alleged financial ignorance supposedly leaves them especially at risk. In reality, women and men are both terrible at han­dling finances.
  • Financial literacy classes will prevent future eco­nomic crises: Experts like to claim mandatory sessions on personal finance in school will cure many of our money ills. Not only is there little evidence this is true, the entire movement is largely funded and promoted by the financial services sector.
  • Weaving together original reporting, interviews with experts, and studies from disciplines ranging from behavioral economics to retirement planning, Pound Foolish is a compassionate and compelling book that will change the way we think and talk about our money.

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    Format:
    Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
    Street Date:
    12/27/2012
    Language:
    English
    ISBN:
    9781101575307
    ASIN:
    B006CUDCUM
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    Citations
    APA Citation (style guide)

    Helaine Olen. (2012). Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. Penguin Publishing Group.

    Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

    Helaine Olen. 2012. Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. Penguin Publishing Group.

    Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

    Helaine Olen, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. Penguin Publishing Group, 2012.

    MLA Citation (style guide)

    Helaine Olen. Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. Penguin Publishing Group, 2012. Web.

    Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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    If you’ve ever bought a personal finance book, watched a TV show about stock picking, listened to a radio show about getting out of debt, or attended a seminar to help you plan for your retirement, you’ve probably heard some version of these quotes:

    “What’s keeping you from being rich? In most cases, it is simply a lack of belief.” —SUZE ORMAN, The Courage to Be Rich

    “Are you latte-ing away your financial future?” —DAVID BACH, Smart Women Finish Rich

    “I know you’re capable of picking winning stocks and holding on to them.” —JIM CRAMER, Mad Money

    They’re common refrains among personal finance gurus. There’s just one problem: those and many simi­lar statements are false.

    For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we’ve taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude that if we’re smart enough, we can overcome even daunting financial obstacles. But that’s not true.

    In this meticulously reported and shocking book, journalist and former financial columnist Helaine Olen goes behind the curtain of the personal finance industry to expose the myths, contradictions, and outright lies it has perpetuated. She shows how an industry that started as a response to the Great Depression morphed into a behemoth that thrives by selling us products and services that offer little if any help.

    Olen calls out some of the biggest names in the business, revealing how even the most respected gurus have engaged in dubious, even deceitful, prac­tices—from accepting payments from banks and corporations in exchange for promoting certain prod­ucts to blaming the victims of economic catastrophe for their own financial misfortune. Pound Foolish also disproves many myths about spending and saving, including:

  • Small pleasures can bankrupt you: Gurus popular­ized the idea that cutting out lattes and other small expenditures could make us millionaires. But reduc­ing our caffeine consumption will not offset our biggest expenses: housing, education, health care, and retirement.
  • Disciplined investing will make you rich: Gurus also love to show how steady investing can turn modest savings into a huge nest egg at retirement. But these calculations assume a healthy market and a lifetime without any setbacks—two conditions that have no connection to the real world.
  • Women need extra help managing money: Product pushers often target women, whose alleged financial ignorance supposedly leaves them especially at risk. In reality, women and men are both terrible at han­dling finances.
  • Financial literacy classes will prevent future eco­nomic crises: Experts like to claim mandatory sessions on personal finance in school will cure many of our money ills. Not only is there little evidence this is true, the entire movement is largely funded and promoted by the financial services sector.
  • Weaving together original reporting, interviews with experts, and studies from disciplines ranging from behavioral economics to retirement planning, Pound Foolish is a compassionate and compelling book that will change the way we think and talk about our money.

    reviews
        • premium: True
        • source: Publisher's Weekly
        • content:

          October 15, 2012
          The worth of the personal finance industry is inversely proportional to its ubiquity, according to Forbes.com blogger Olen in his breezy romp through recent financial history. According to Olen, given today’s increasing income inequality and shaky employment prospects, a secure livelihood or retirement is a chimera. Olen’s fast-paced narrative focuses on the rise of media celebrities and financial pundits who assure us: “You can do it!” What we can do is sign up for overhyped and overpriced investment seminars and services, promoted largely by the powerful motivator of fear. Such luminaries as Suze Orman, Jim Cramer, Robert Kiyosaki, and Peter Schiff may be household names, but their (often self-serving) advice did not prevent American retirement vehicles from losing $2 trillion in 2007–2008. The proposition that media icons are also self-promoters will astonish no one, and Olen’s frequent iteration of this point diminishes the value of her observations. Though her intention is to provide an exposé, not financial advice, her own observations are commonplace. One can enjoy her glimpses of the world of financial celebrity while remaining skeptical about the scope of her proposed remedy. Agent: Andrew Stuart, the Stuart Agency.

        • premium: True
        • source: Kirkus
        • content:

          November 15, 2012
          Dishy dirt on the "financialization" of American life and the hordes of carrion-pickers who swarm us in the hope of lifting still more dollars from our pockets. By Forbes.com blogger and former Los Angeles Times writer Olen's account, this financialization was a bit haphazard and not entirely well-planned-out. The IRA, for example, was intended as a supplement to other retirement measures, whereas "what we today think of as the natural retirement planning landscape started as an accident, a 1978 shift in the tax code designed to clarify a few highly technical points about profit-sharing plans offered by many corporations to high-ranking employees." Lest it make you feel cuddly to think that your retirement account has its source in something meant for the rich and powerful, Olen observes that it's a mook's game these days: Whereas in the 1950s, only 5 percent of Americans were in the stock market, by 2000, that had gone up to fully half, with a vast industry peeling off dollars in the form of management fees, commissions and so forth. The stock market and its ancillaries received promotion as "a way to gain wealth we could not gain through conventional savings or earnings strategies." Unconventional means risky, as a generation of shorn investors has recently come to appreciate, but that risk doesn't stop us from wanting to try our luck again--and that brings in a bunch of Olen's bugaboos, including the "wealth creation seminar business" and people like Suze Orman, "whose riches came from...lecturing the rest of us on our inability to manage our funds." A nice takedown, particularly in its acknowledgement that the deck is always stacked against "participants in a vast experiment" of the deregulated marketplace--namely, the little guys.

          COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

        • premium: True
        • source: Booklist
        • content:

          December 1, 2012
          The personal finance and investment industry is a juggernaut, a part of both the ascendant financial services sector of our economy and the ever-booming self-help arena, states Olen, personal finance writer. Readers learn about Sylvia Porter, whom Olen describes as the mother of the personal financial industrial complex. Porter, by the 1960s, had a daily column in which she explained stocks, bonds, and budgeting to millions of Americans. From that beginning mushroomed financial therapy (psychotherapy, life coaching, and financial planning), which originated in the 1970s and caught substantial media attention after the 2008 financial debacle. Explaining the shortcomings of financial therapy, the author cites bias toward individual demons, errors in comparing financial problems of the rich to those of average and poor Americans, and a dysfunctional relationship with class, specifically the lack of class mobility in a country that prides itself on the American Dream. This thought-provoking book alerts us to important issues in today's postrecession economy and thus will enlighten many library patrons.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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    If you've ever bought a personal finance book, watched a TV show about stock picking, listened to a radio show about getting out of debt, or attended a seminar to help you plan for your retirement, you've probably heard some version of these quotes:

    "What's keeping you from being rich? In most cases, it is simply a lack of belief." —SUZE ORMAN, The Courage to Be Rich
    "Are you latte-ing away your financial future?" —DAVID BACH, Smart Women Finish Rich
    "I know you're capable of picking winning stocks and holding on to them." —JIM CRAMER, Mad Money

    They're common refrains among personal finance gurus. There's just one problem: those and many simi­lar statements are false.

    For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we've taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude...

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