Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Review: Control Your Cash, by Betty Kincaid and Greg McFarlane

There are two parts to this review – the contents of the book itself, and its ease of use on the Kindle. For the content, I’d give it an 8/10. For the ease of use on the Kindle, 6 or 7 out of 10…. (It is also available as a print book.)

First I’ll review the book, then I’ll talk about the Kindle ease of use.

First, here’s the Table of Contents.

1. Bank accounts
2. Credit cards
3. Your credit score
4. Investing
5. Securities
6. Buying a car
7. Buying a house
8. Budgeting
9. Taxes
10. Entrepreneurship

The book originated as a blog of the same name, ControlYourCash, also available on the Kindle. Their description of the blog:

“Control Your Cash is part manifesto and part owner’s manual. It helps the reader move from clueless, passive bystander to active, responsible consumer and investor.”

Their website (as opposed to their blog) is:

a place that caters to both neophyte and veteran, and where common sense prevails. If you don’t know where to start to get your finances in check, or want to learn how to prosper without undue risk (including the risk of inertia), stick around and stay a while. This is financial education for people who want results, not coddling.

The website also has message boards, which readers will find of value.

Here’s the brief bios of the authors of the book and blog:

Betty Kincaid. Semi-retired real estate maven who started with nothing. Former wage slave who eventually figured out that to some degree, entrepreneurship is a vital part of any wealth plan. Fond of cats, dogs, pronghorn antelope, and those who take ownership of their lives.

Greg McFarlane. Advertising copywriter. TV and radio producer. Ex-Canadian. Objective critic of the 9-to-5, work-until-incapacitation lifestyle. Blessed with a gift for demystifying difficult financial concepts and making them easy to understand.

Today more than ever, is is important that people understand how money works. Where it comes from. How it should be used. How to keep it safe. It's important for people these days to be "in control." And the only way to be in control is to have knowledge. The more knowledge the better.

This book gives you that knowledge.

The rule of thumb the authors attempt to drive home is: Buy Assets. Sell Liabilities.

This means, as far as possible, only buy material that is going to do you some good.

“An asset is something of value. For our purposes, an asset is something you own that will help your net worth grow.
These are assets:
-Savings account
-Checking account
-Money market fund
-Certificate of deposit
-Mutual fund

-Credit card debt’-Car lease
-Golf clubs (unless you’re a pro)
-Netflix membership
-dinner out with friends, 5 nights a week
-one more round of drinks at the table
-US Weekly subscription
-any money you bring into a casino
-cat food
-cat toys
-cat litter

I perceive from this list that the authors are cat haters, but apparently have no such disdain for dogs!

The book is written with breezy humor, and the authors go through the list of financial topics, explaining everything so that the layperson can understand. It may sound preachy to some people (in the very beginning of the book they advocate giving up drinking and gambling - but if you read their explanations it actually makes a lot of sense. Especially the gambling – buying lottery tickets is a waste of money as is going into a casino or playing online casino games.)

But once into the nitty gritty of investing, of buying large ticket items like your house and car and so on, you’ll find plenty of advice that you will want to follow, and you’ll educate yourself as well.

Why 8 out of 10? Well, it's that breeziness. Breeziness is okay for a blog, but for a book, I prefer a more serious approach. However, if breeziness and humor is your thing, you'll enjoy reading the book, as well as acquirng the knowledge therein.

Kindle Issues
1. The table of contents is not hot-linked to the rest of the book.
2. There’s no hot-linked index [I've never seen a book that had a hot-linked index, but it's be a nice feature.)
3. There’s no Glossary
4. There are notes scattered throughout the book. To access them, you have to move your five-way controller to the note (a number next to the text they wish to explain), and press it. This takes you to the notes section. To get back to where you were in the book, you can’t hit the “prev page” button, you need to move your five-way controller up to the note’s number, press it, and then you’re returned to where you were. So that gets a bit cumbersome. For myself, I wish they’d just put their explanation in brackets right in the text of the book. If I want to read it I can, if I want to ignore it, that’s easy to do, too.

However, those are minor matters. The text is really the thing, and this book is an excellent manual on how to “control your cash” so that you keep as much of it as possible, use as much of it as possible, and give the government and banks (in the form of fees) as little of it as possible.

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