The key to charting the right financial path, according to a spate of books to be published in 2016, is financial literacy. Forthcoming titles define jargon in plain terms, detail how to find the right financial advisor, and offer advice on taking control of your finances, whether you’re seven or 70.
The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack (Penguin/Portfolio, Jan. 2016) itemizes 10 points that fit onto a 4” × 6” card—literally. The book is packaged with a pullout titled “All the Financial Advice You’ll Ever Need on One Card”; tips include “strive to save 10%–20% of your income” and “never buy or sell individual stocks.”
“A lot of people are overwhelmed by all the noise and fearmongering coming from the financial services industry,” says Niki Papadopoulos, senior editor at Portfolio, Sentinel, and Current. “They know they have to plan for the future, but they get a lot of conflicting advice.”
The book grew out of an interview that Pollack, a social scientist at the University of Chicago, conducted with Olen for the Reality-Based Community blog (motto: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”) about her book Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry (Penguin/Portfolio, 2013). Pollack said that everything one needs to know about managing money could fit on an index card and then scribbled down his points. He posted a snapshot of the card on the blog, which was widely shared online, earning attention from USA Today, Forbes, and other outlets.
Jane Bryant Quinn, an Emmy Award–winning financial journalist and author of several books including Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People (Simon & Schuster, 2006), zeroes in on her readers’ later years with How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide (Simon & Schuster, Jan. 2016), which PW’s starred review called a “hugely valuable resource.” She shows how to turn assets into a steady monthly paycheck that will last for life and offers advice on fixing retirement-planning mistakes, such as taking Social Security too early. (For more on Quinn, see “Why I Write.”)
Rick Wolff, senior executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, says that the post-corporate economy is spurring individuals to customize their financial planning. “There was a time not that long ago,” he says, “when most employees didn’t need to be all that financially savvy. You worked for a corporation, they defined a pension for you, and when you got to 65 you were given the gold watch and a monthly pension for as long as you lived.”
Those days are long gone, he explains, and even those working for companies that offer 401(k)s must make their own investment decisions. The task of simply getting a financial advisor isn’t enough: many people, Wolff says, don’t even know what their advisor charges them. What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You: The 10 Essential Truths You Need to Know About Your Money by Liz Davidson (Jan. 2016) aims at this audience, with explanatory charts, checklists, plain talk, and chapter headings such as “Taxes: Why Your Investment Statement Is Not Entirely Accurate” and “Your Life Partner May Be Your Worst Financial Enemy.” Davidson is the founder of the financial education organization Financial Finesse and holds an M.B.A. from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
In Self-Made: How to Become Self-Reliant, Self-Realized, and Rich in Every Way (Random/Spiegel & Grau, May 2016), Nely Galán, an Emmy Award–winning TV producer and former president of entertainment for Telemundo, addresses the personal aspect head-on. Early in Galán’s career, according to senior v-p and publisher Julie Grau, the author, whose family emigrated from Cuba when she was a child, was ashamed of her Spanish accent. She turned that shame into an entrepreneurial opportunity and started a company to help women who wanted to lose their accents.
Grau says that many people, particularly women, “are looking to start businesses that are personally gratifying, personally motivating, profitable, and benefit friends and family.” That’s no small order, and Galán, beyond making catchy pronouncement such as “Don’t buy shoes, buy real estate,” also digs into the fundamentals of financial success, advising that readers “get out of survival mode” and shift focus “from instant gratification to goal orientation.”
New Concerns, New Definitions
Other forthcoming titles offer their own spin on the concept of personal wealth. Taking an overtly political tack is Gerri Willis’s Rich Is Not a Four-Letter Word: How to Survive Obamacare, Trump Wall Street, Kick-Start Your Retirement, and Achieve Financial Success (Crown Forum, Apr. 2016). Willis, host of the Fox Business News show The Willis Report, speaks to traditional conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Party conservatives, offering advice on how to overcome the financial hurdles that she sees as the result of liberal Democratic policy.
Scammed: Learn from the Biggest Consumer and Money Frauds How Not to Be a Victim by Gini Graham Scott (Skyhorse/Allworth, Aug. 2016) sounds an alarm bell exposing prevalent fraud schemes. Scott, a sociologist and author of numerous books including A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses (Amacom, 2005), recounts the personal stories of victims of over two dozen types of scams—investments, housing, and more—and what they did to recover.
The new Rich Life series from Plata, home to Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad books, shifts the publisher’s typical focus from personal wealth toward personal goals—or more plainly, according to Mona Gambetta, director of global publishing, “it’s not all about money.”
Books in the series will downplay conspicuous consumption and material wealth and instead, Gambetta says, focus on “richness in your life, health, relationships.” Of course, finances still matter. Among the line’s first releases is The M Words: Marriage/Money/Motion by Robert Kiyosaki and his wife, Kim Kiyosaki (June 2016), which posits that the #1 stressor in marriage and the leading cause of divorce is money.
Similarly, in The Feel Rich Project: Reinventing Your Understanding of True Wealth to Find True Happiness (Career Press, June 2016), certified financial planner Michael F. Kay says that deep-rooted feelings about money inform how each person interprets the concept of being rich. By examining these personal beliefs, he says, readers will be better equipped to achieve true wealth—however they define it.
Liz Hartman writes frequently about books for Publishers Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of a senior executive editor at HMH. It is Rick Wolff, not Wolfe.
Below, more on the subject of personal finance books.Beyond the Lemonade Stand: Personal Finance 2016Why I Write: Jane Bryant Quinn