Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the national unemployment rate has fallen to 7%, a five-year low. The DOL also announced that 203,000 new jobs were created in November—more than the 180,000 predicted. As the Great Recession recedes, the U.S. economy seems to be showing signs of growth.
Nevertheless, many of the country’s unemployed continue to face dismal job prospects, and there are indications that overall income inequality is increasing. For example, the Institute for College Access and Success recently reported that between 2008 and 2012, student loan debt in the U.S. grew at an average rate of 6% per year, and that the average student debt load for Americans who graduated in 2012 was $29,400.
The newest release from Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad series, delves into higher education–related financial challenges. Rich Dad Poor Dad for College Students: What Every College Student Needs to Know About Money is slated for release in April from Kiyosaki’s Plata Publishing empire, as part of the author’s Rich Grad program, which helps college kids on campuses across the U.S. become more financially savvy. Next up in the Rich Dad series: 8 Lessons in Leadership: Military Principles for Entrepreneurs (May), as well as Inspirata: Discovering What Inspires Us to Make Life-Changing Decisions (Nov.).
Intertwining inspiration and money matters might not have been fathomable just a short time ago, in a sink-or-swim economy, but a number of forthcoming titles are looking at personal finance through the lens of lifestyle. According to Hank Kennedy, president and publisher of Amacom Books, “A trend we’re seeing in personal finance is a shift away from the more traditional perspective of an individual balancing a budget and managing debt, to a focus on using the mindset and strategies of entrepreneurship and small business to generate extra income for a household, whether that is to supplement, or replace, income in an uncertain job market.”
In January, Amacom will release The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life by Kimberly Palmer, a senior money editor at U.S. News & World Report. Palmer previously penned Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back. In her latest, the author reveals how creative side ventures—like her own financially themed planning sessions that help lead people through life events and goals—can bolster precarious full-time incomes and help increase financial security, without feeling like chores.
“Books about entrepreneurship and small business are appealing to a wider audience than previously, and are tapping into a need for a new approach to career as well as finance,” Kennedy says. He also notes that “the authors of these books, and their potential audience, are using blogs and social media as a platform, whether to promote a business or service venture, or to share knowledge and tips about business development or saving strategies.”
Michael Pye, copublisher and senior acquisitions editor of Career Press, agrees that the tide of personal finance books is turning toward the personal and the enriching. “For the next year or two, it will still be books on tightening your belt, yet there’ll be a focus on making sure you aren’t giving up everything that makes life fun,” he says. “People are looking for finance books that are more tailored to their lifestyles or backgrounds. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for most people when it comes to money. Everyone has different access to retirement programs, salary, and budgets. That’s why we felt the need for The Veteran’s Money Book: A Step-by-Step Program to Help Military Veterans Build a Personal Financial Action Plan and Map Their Future.” Slated for release in April, the book is by Mechel Lashawn Glass and Scott Scredon, colleagues at CredAbility, a nonprofit financial counseling and debt management agency. “People coming out of the military are rarely informed about all of the benefits and services at their disposal,” says Pye. He adds that living far from home on a base is a different sort of living, “so when they come out of service, they have to again acclimate themselves to budgets and paying more attention to where their money is going.”
Empowerment is another recurring theme in the personal finance category, with some titles helping readers to educate themselves in a world dominated by still-shaky financial institutions.
Will Weisser, v-p, associate publisher, and marketing director of Penguin’s Portfolio imprint, notes, “It’s been five years since the recession, yet there is still anxiety and uncertainty. The personal finance category is always tied to what’s happening with the economy. Sometimes that means more books on investing and maximizing your assets, and sometimes that means more books that show you how to protect yourself during difficult times.”
Financial empowerment is at the forefront of two soon-to-be-released Portfolio titles. Coming in January is The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation of 2014–2019, which proves that readers shouldn’t get too comfortable with the idea of a rosy financial future. In it, economic forecaster Harry S. Dent Jr., president of the H.S. Dent Foundation and founder of Dent Research, predicts there will be a severe downturn and crash in early to mid-2014, triggered by the accelerated retirements of baby boomers. Dent offers advice on skirting the impending crisis, showing how investors can actually make tidy profits if they place their bets correctly. In April, author James Rickards unveils The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the Monetary System, his unsettling sequel to Currency Wars. The new title paints a haunting portrait of the looming failure of the dollar. In the past century, the international monetary system has collapsed three times: in 1914, 1939, and 1971. Rickards predicts it will happen again, and contrasts the ephemeral nature of monetary wealth with permanent, tangible wealth in the form of gold, land, and fine-art holdings. Weisser says, “They are different books that both reach different conclusions, but both are of the same genre, saying that you need to be careful out there—there are dangers and you need to protect yourself.”
On the less-gloomy side, The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs by Ric Edelman, host of The Truth About Money and author of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth, provides good, old-fashioned advice about retirement savings. Set to be released by Simon & Schuster in April, the book provides information on 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457s, and touts the benefits of IRA plans for retiring in comfort. According to S&S executive publicity director Cary Goldstein, “The nation’s ongoing economic uneasiness has not only demonstrated how fragile our savings can be, but also how complex and confusing it can be to build, manage, and ultimately use retirement accounts. Ric Edelman provides a one-stop guide for figuring it all out, laying out options and scenarios with the clarity and expertise his readers and clients have long appreciated.”
McGraw-Hill Professional also aims to educate and enable readers with its upcoming releases. The fifth edition of Stocks for the Long Run (Jan.), the long-term investment bible by financial expert Jeremy Siegel, delves into new research to provide an updated analysis of the financial crisis and its aftermath, as well as information on emerging markets. April brings Clash of the Financial Pundits: How the Media Controls Your Investment Decisions for Better or Worse by Joshua Brown, creator of the blog Reformedbroker.com and author of Backstage Wall Street, and Jeff Macke of Yahoo! Finance. The book shows investors how to wade through financial news to find the most relevant information.
These types of books, says Mary Glenn, McGraw-Hill Professional’s associate publisher for business, reflect readers’ needs. “For the Millennials, who don’t expect, and don’t seem to want, a corporate gig, personal finance is going to include lots of reading on how to pay their way through life through entrepreneurship,” she says. “So, we’re going to see a crossover between ‘start your own business’ literature and traditional financial-planning information.”
We’re in a postrecession economy, notes Glenn, but we shouldn’t relax yet. “It’s not really back to business as usual. Readers now know they need to really take control of their finances if they’re going to be able to save a decent nest egg for retirement, as well as plan for rising education and healthcare costs. They’re looking for unbiased information that will help them navigate the new self-service world, while also getting used to the fact that, for the first time, this new generation is not likely to be doing better than their parents,” she says.
Books also have the power to drive readers to change—or create—their own financial destiny. Consider The Millionaire Map by Jim Stovall, released this month by Sound Wisdom Publishing. Stovall, a multimillionaire, backs up his advice with his own collection of audited, personal financial records. “This is an interesting time in the personal finance arena because it’s the easiest time in many decades to become wealthy, but also the easiest time to become impoverished, if you don’t do the right things,” notes Sound Wisdom publisher David Wildasin. “I believe that in a postrecession landscape, people are looking for books that give them hope, with real examples from [authors] who have started with nothing and reached all of their financial goals. Many people are afraid to try for better things, and they need a specific track to run on.”
Meanwhile, Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money and cohost of Squawk on the Street, has a new title coming out Dec. 31. Jim Cramer’s Get Rich Carefully, from Penguin’s Blue Rider Press imprint, tells investors how they can build wealth by investing in equities, without taking too many risks. “The challenge for books is to provide timely information that’s also long-lasting,” says David Rosenthal, Blue Rider president and publisher. “More than ever, with all the competition from up-to-the-second digital media, financial books need to provide content of lasting value—long-term strategies, rather than quick hits.”
Education is central to personal finance books, and that’s why, although different publishing trends emerge as the economy changes, the category itself is here to stay. At Hachette Book Group’s Business Plus imprint, publisher and editor-in-chief Rick Wolff says, “In my experience, personal finance books just never go out of style. People are always thinking about money, and, specifically, how are they going to pay their bills. Are they saving enough for retirement or for their kids’ college education? Will they be able to survive if they lose their job? In short, people are focused on money. The problem is, our schools really don’t do much in the way of educating us on how to understand the essence of personal finance. As a result, I’m always on the lookout for new approaches to fill that gap.”
In July, Hachette will release The Millionaire Master Plan: Enlighten Your Path to Financial Success, by self-made millionaire Roger James Hamilton. In it, the Bali-based entrepreneur gives readers a quiz to help them understand where they stand on the personal wealth spectrum, and then offers guidance on how to advance. “It’s a fascinating new approach to generating wealth,” says Wolff, “and to me, it fits in with the public’s constant desire for new ways to make their fortunes.”
This bevy of books presents an interesting opportunity for the future of personal finance. Pye at Career Press thinks we’ve entered an era in which ineffective, formulaic get-rich-quick books may no longer have a place on the bookshelves of realistic readers who live in the present and are eager to maximize their current assets, rather than fantasizing about an unlikely future. “People feel like they don’t have any money, despite reports showing that personal savings are up,” he says, noting, “Most now realize there is no magic formula to becoming rich, but there are formulas to live within your means.” He believes that readers can spend responsibly and still lead “a very good life,” adding, “so that’s what the books we publish try to impart: practicality.”
Glenn of McGraw-Hill Professional sees the changing category as a reminder of the so-called Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” She thinks challenges are ahead for publishers, who will have to “find appealing new voices that both deal with the reality of the postrecession landscape and give readers hope that there are still paths to building wealth, or at least staying afloat enough to save for life’s luxuries, or a rainy day.”
At Portfolio, Weisser sees a simple but profound theme emerging in the personal finance category: “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a swing back to optimism,” he says.