Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No-Nonsense Book Review: "How to Get Out of Debt: Get an ‘A’ Credit Rating For Free Using the System I’ve Used Successfully With Thousands of Clients" by Harrine Freeman

Author: Nick
Category: Money

how to get out of debt by harrine freeman

Nick read another book! In other news, Hell froze over.

Title: How to Get Out of Debt: Geting an “A” Credit Rating For Free
Author: Harrine Freeman
Flavor: Pages taste like Cherry Coke.

Short Attention Span Summary. Two books in one! Credit repair for people who can’t tell a credit card from a cookie cutter, and credit protection for everyone else.

What’s in the book? How to Get Out of Debt opens with a thrilling narrative of the author’s own journey into and out of massive credit card debt. The author, a credit repair counselor, uses the rest of the book to help you avoid the same mistakes she made, dig yourself out of bankruptcy, and maintain awesome credit for the rest of your life. Other topics covered include:

  • How to spot if your financial life is falling apart.
  • Creating a spending plan.
  • Women and credit.
  • Improving your credit score.
  • Dealing with telemarketers and creditors.
  • Preventing and recovering from identity theft.

The best part of this book depends on who you are. If you’re spiraling toward financial self-destruction, you’ll need Chapters One and Two to help you identify and correct your problem. For those of us in no danger of monetary mauling, Chapters Six and Seven tell how to boost your credit rating and keep it up there. As Freeman explains, a higher credit rating opens the doors to lower interest home, auto, and consumer loans.

People who need to read the book include anyone teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. It’s not a cure-all for anyone with financial problems, but it presents a basic outline that’ll help even the dumbest of spendthrifts rein in their out-of-control expenses.

People who may want to read the book… Anyone looking to skyrocket their credit score for financial gain. That higher credit score will help you score lower interest mortgages and lucrative zero-percent balance transfer credit cards.

How did this book help me? Not much, but that’s probably a good thing. I’m not in financial trouble, and my credit score is just fine. But I’ll hang on to that chapter on dealing with telemarketers in case any ever call me. Sadly, nobody ever calls me. Not even wrong numbers. Sigh.

Is this book worth buying? There are lots of books out there about dealing with debt and improving your credit. I haven’t read any of them except for this one, so I can’t really compare it to others like it. I do like the way the book is written—lots of simple-to-read lists and bold points to emphasize the important parts. A debt-riddled person with an open mind could probably turn his or her life around if they followed the book’s lessons religiously.

The parts geared more toward people like myself—those seeking to improve their credit for financial gain—present a good overview of the way credit works. I do have to take issue with some of the book’s advice on credit cards. Freeman specifically warns to use credit cards “for emergency purposes only.” I guess this is good advice for credit card junkies recovering from high balances. But for those of us who know how to use credit cards responsibly, these little pieces of plastic can provide interest-free loans, gobs and gobs of reward points, protection from theft, and many other benefits you don’t get from using cash.

Oh, one more point worth mentioning: if you pick up this book for its 230+ pages of debt-fixing goodness, you might be a little disappointed because the actual book ends on page 140. The remaining 90 pages are just appendices featuring mailing addresses for every consumer protection agency ever, a rudimentary budgeting table, and a few other resources you’ll probably just search the internet for anyway.

Buy How to Get Out of Debt on ($13.57 as of September 19, 2007)

Monday, November 6, 2006

No-Nonsense Book Review: "Health Care on Less Than You Think" by Fred Brock

Author: Nick
Category: Money

health care on less than you think by fred brock

Title: Health Care on Less Than You Think
Author: Fred Brock

Short Attention Span Summary. Tips and tricks for cutting your health care costs. Useful for people with multiple options, no employer health plans, or little money for insurance premiums.

What’s in the book? Health Care on Less Than You Think provides a broad analysis of the state of U.S. health care. The book opens with an interesting look at the events which led to the current health care crisis, and the rest is designed to make sure you don’t become another victim of the crisis. Topics covered include:

  • Common health insurance terminology you should know to help you find the best plan for you.
  • A detailed look at Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), a new concept which can save certain people money in the same way a higher-deductible car insurance policy can save a driver money but with the added benefit of using tax-free dollars to pay medical expenses. Brock spells out with clear, concise examples who can benefit from HSAs.
  • Creative solutions to obtaining individual health insurance. For example, Brock suggests moving to one of five guaranteed-coverage states (Maine, Mass., NJ, NY, and Vermont) if you can’t get insurance elsewhere.
  • Comparisons of HMO, PPO, and HSA plan prices and the range of expenses which may come with each. This part definitely makes pricing policies and options a little easier.
  • Tips for saving money on prescriptions, from shopping around, ordering cheaper higher-dosage pills and splitting them to your needs, or buying name brand (but not generic, which are more expensive) from Canada.
  • An easy-to-understand chapter on Medicare, its costs, and gaps in coverage–along with ways to overcome the gaps and how much it will cost to do so.

my diagnosis: you are allergic to money, so give me all of it

The best part of this book is Chapter 7: Mastering Your Insurer’s Fine Print. A better title would have been “When Insurance Companies Attack” as this section explains how to deal with rejections, disputes, and unexpected charges. I hope nobody who has insurance ever needs to use this chapter, but it provides a series of smart strategies for handling situations when your insurance doesn’t behave as expected.

People who need to read the book probably can’t afford it. There’s a lot of great information on obtaining affordable health care, especially for those who can’t keep up with the pinch of monthly premiums or who aren’t healthy enough to qualify for individual coverage. Brock offers practical advice and real-world examples for slashing medical costs, and anyone struggling to pay their doctor bills should find at least one or two useful tidbits that will save them money.

People who may want to read the book… Anyone who is confused by multiple employer plan options. Not sure if an HMO or an HSA is your best choice? Health Care on Less will help you calculate the costs and determine the risks and rewards of each option.

cut prescription costs: replace pills with mike and ikes

How did this book help me? I definitely have a better understanding of how health insurance works. My own options are limited to my employer’s various HMOs, but the book inspired me to ask my employer to start offering HSAs since they could save me a lot of money. Hopefully that pans out; in the meantime, I haven’t picked up on any tips that’ll save me money on health care overnight. But if my insurance provider ever decides to pick a fight with me, I’ll be armed with some tough strategies for fighting back.

Is this book worth buying? The people who stand to save the most money with the techniques in this book are those who aren’t sure which insurance option to choose. Brock presents examples where people saved thousands by doing the math and making careful health care elections. These are calculations you can do by yourself with information from health care providers, but Brock’s examples make them a lot easier. As an added bonus, you’ll find some useful tables in the back of the book to help price your plan options and keep track of services rendered.

Health Care on Less will pay for itself if your finances are tight and you need to pay for your own health care. The chapter on prescription drugs alone could save you a ton with lots of ways to find cheaper pills. Again, while you could dig up this information yourself, Brock spells it out with stylish charts, fun examples, and easy guides that are sure to help you cut down on your medical costs.

Buy Health Care on Less Than You Think on ($10.20 as of November 6, 2006).

Punny Money’s No-Nonsense Book Reviews

Author: Nick
Category: Money

no-nonsense book reviews

In the next day or so I’ll be putting out my first real personal finance book review. Writing book reviews can be tricky because people looking to buy a book often want a clear yes or no answer on the value and content of the book. Traditional book reviews talk at length about the content and might mention some of the benefits of reading the book. Some will also include scores like “3 1/2 stars” or “7 out of 10.” Scores are nice for people who would rather read numbers than words, but people looking for book reviews probably want to know if they’ll get their time and money’s worth out of reading and/or buying it.

That’s why I’ve come up with a sort of template for all my future book reviews. I call them No-Nonsense Book Reviews because they’re short, concise, and get right to answering the most important question–should I get this book? These are book reviews for people who would rather read books instead of book reviews.

Here’s exactly what you’ll see in every Punny Money No-Nonsense Book Review:

  • Short Attention Span Summary. In 25 words or less, I’ll tell you what’s in the book and who, if anyone, should pick up a copy.
  • What’s in the book? Quick, straight facts on the content of the book.
  • The best part of this book… is self-explanatory. Maybe there’s a chapter or a memorable anecdote that really stands out. I’ll pick it out and mention it here.
  • People who need to read the book. If there’s a particular subset of people whose lives will be changed by this book, I’ll come out and say it here.
  • People who may want to read the book. The book might not be life-changing for everyone, but some people may still enjoy reading it and take something away from it.
  • How did this book help me? I’m an ordinary person like you, so there’s no better way to show the usefulness of a book than by stating how it’s helped improve my life.
  • Is this book worth buying? There’s a reason I own few books: just about anything I need to know can be found on the internet for free. I would argue that practically every personal finance subject has been exhaustively covered already and can be found online with a quick visit to a search engine. That said, books often present such information in an easier-to-read, more enjoyable format. This section answers a few key questions:
    • Is there unique information in this book you can’t find anywhere else?
    • Can you find the majority of the information in this book online with little effort?
    • Is there a different book I would recommend in place of this one?

Do you want your personal finance book reviewed by Punny Money? Then contact us!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mini-Review: "The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner" by David Bach

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

this is a book, not a house

I was lucky enough to win one of Free Money Finance‘s book giveaways a couple of months ago, and I finally had a chance to finish reading the book last night. The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner by David Bach promised an enjoyable read that would show me how to stop being an idiot renter and start making my automatic millions of dollars through real estate. The book certainly delivered on its promise, but I was a little disappointed with the execution of the delivery.

The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner starts out strong–maybe a little too strong. Bach recounts a tale about an ordinary couple who, over the course of a few decades, turned a dreary economic outlook into a far brighter one thanks to some wise real estate transactions. These early chapters come off a little too much like an infomercial trying to sell me the book (and maybe some of Bach’s other books), but it wasn’t enough to turn me off from continuing.

The remainder of The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner details a pretty straightforward process of buying a home, living in it for a while, then using the built-up equity to buy another home while renting out the previous. Bach goes into some of the finer details of finding the best deal on a mortgage, hunting for the right house, and transitioning from being a simple homeowner to a landlord.

Bach’s writing style is easy to read and kept things interesting throughout, but I still found myself wanting more in the end. The book glazed over what most people will say is the hardest part of the home-buying process: closing on the purchase. But in Bach’s defense, it would probably take two more books to treat that subject with the detail it really needs.

I can say that The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner certainly gave me the extra push I needed toward pursuing homeownership. While my wife (who also read the book) and I previously considered waiting two or three years to stop renting and start owning, reading Bach’s book motivated us to push that timetable up by a year or more. In fact, we’ve already gone to a couple of house showings, so we may own a house far sooner than we thought.

If you have a friend who absolutely refuses to stop renting, you can offer a copy of The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner to help him or her see the opposite side of the coin. I can’t promise this book will change everyone’s mind toward owning a home, but it can at least help inform people about the benefits of doing so.