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The statistics are grim: more than 50% of mortgages in the U.S. are underwater. Unemployment stands at 8.6%, the lowest figure since spring 2009, while outstanding student loan debt will exceed $1 trillion this year, outpacing credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Department of Education.

In the third quarter of this year alone, the net worth of American households fell by $2.4 trillion. In a recent survey conducted by Wells Fargo, 75% of respondents said they anticipate working past retirement age. It’s no surprise that the Occupy movement has gained a foothold not just on Wall Street but all across the country. Last week, demonstrators occupied ports along the West Coast and forced shutdowns at shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Longview, Wash. Goldman Sachs owns a large stake in port operator SSA Marine, which was a focus of the protests. Post-AIG, post–Lehman Brothers, post-bailout, many Americans have been left with the sinking feeling that the game is rigged, and not in their favor.

Julie Grau, publisher of Spiegel & Grau, says, “The Occupy movement’s message of the 99% has given the injustice and unfairness that people have been feeling a legitimacy and a collective voice. The growing mistrust of financial institutions more than ever has created a desire and a need in individuals to take control of their finances, to make decisions and take actions that will deliver security.”

Coming from Spiegel & Grau in January is the paperback edition of Suze Orman’s The Money Class: How to Stand in Your Truth and Create the Future You Deserve. (The hardcover ran for seven weeks on PW’s list back in March and April.) The latest edition incorporates new material on the debt ceiling debate, the subsequent downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, and the Occupy movement, as well as the latest legislation and information on rates up to November 2011.

Trends in New Titles

The updates to Orman’s title are indicative of a larger trend in personal finance books in general. Most publishers are working to adjust to the current situation, but there is a feeling that the dour climate could influence sales in the category either up or down. Under economic pressure and mistrustful of banks and other investment institutions, consumers may simply throw up their hands and place what little money they have left under the proverbial mattress, or they may try to handle their investments themselves, often relying on books—a relatively inexpensive source of advice—to do so. Obviously, publishers are gunning for the latter.

Grau continues, “We’re all looking for reason to be hopeful about the future. We want our hard work to pay off in the ways it did for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. So it would make sense that a book that promises to restore a sense of hope and also promises to make you as bulletproof as possible to the vagaries of the economy is a book for these times.”

At Wiley, editorial director Debra Englander reports that the current climate of uncertainty is definitely having an effect on the types of books being published. She says, “The personal finance category is somewhat aligned with the mood of the country. People are distressed that the economy is still stalled, especially for the 99%. They want advice, but they’re skeptical. We can no longer publish generic ‘invest for retirement’ or ‘how to manage your debt’ titles. Instead, we look for authors who have many years of experience and insights into both bull and bear markets.”

Upcoming Wiley titles include MoneyShift: How to Prosper from What You Can’t Change by Jerry Webman (Apr.), chief economist at Oppenheimer Funds, which covers the large global economic shifts of recent years and details the new financial reality. Also on the Wiley list, next May, are The Aftershock Investor: A Crash Course in Staying Afloat in a Sinking Economy by David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer, and Cindy Spitzer, authors of America’s Bubble Economy: Profit When It Pops (Wiley, 2006), which predicted the bursting of the real estate, stock, and private debt bubbles, and The Little Book of Bull’s Eye Investing by John Mauldin (Apr.), whose previous title, Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle and How It Changes Everything, has sold more than 50,000 copies in less than a year. The Little Book of Bull’s Eye Investing looks at what the author terms a “muddle-through economy.”

St. Martin’s editor-in-chief George Witte acknowledges that investing is more difficult than ever “in turbulent times” and anticipates that readers looking for a safe place to park and increase their money will turn, next May, not only to investment books such as Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom: A Woman’s Guide to Enjoying Wealth and Power by Carol Pepper and Camilla Webster but also to such titles as The Real Crash, in which Peter Schiff provides an in-depth look at the country’s current economic woes and predicts a bleak future. (Schiff is pushing for the U.S. to declare bankruptcy and start over with a clean slate.) According to Witte, Schiff’s title “analyzes the core problems that our government won’t address and advises readers on how to protect their own finances from an imminent and even more profound collapse.”

At Perigee, publisher John Duff says, “There will always be books and authors promising untold riches that entertain more than they inform or appeal to the risk takers and gamblers. But these appear to be less popular among readers who are in the midst of a struggling economy and seeking actionable advice from a trustworthy source.” Perigee doesn’t often dip its toes into the personal finance category, but it has seen good results with Daniel R. Solin’s Smartest series: the latest just out is The Smartest Money Book You’ll Ever Read: Everything You Need to Know About Growing, Spending, and Enjoying Your Money. Solin is affiliated with Mint.com, a financial planning Web site with more than seven million subscribers that is endorsing the book.

According to McGraw-Hill business publisher Gary Krebs, “The state of the economy and the volatility of the markets haven’t shown much improvement since last year, which means every book and author in the finance area needs to be right on the money. For the short term, we’ve witnessed a trend of ‘mistrust’ within the financial community and are offering several titles that help investors get past the B.S. and know what to look for to avoid scams and invest safely.” Krebs points to Backstage Wall Street: An Insider’s Guide to Knowing Who to Trust, Who to Run From, and How to Maximize Your Investments by Wall Street insider Joshua Brown (Apr.), who blogs at TheReformedBroker.com; The Malign Hand of the Markets by John Staddon (Apr.), which offers a new spin on Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” and purports that the insidious forces of Wall Street are destroying financial markets; and What’s Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio by John Del Vecchio (Aug.) as three titles that stand as examples of this tendency.

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