Book review: Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner
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They should hand out “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties” along with diplomas at high school and college graduations. Many graduates, or just about anyone in their 20s or 30s, would benefit from reading this book. “Get a Financial Life” teaches many essential financial concepts that are great to learn at an early age.
Most people don’t have a college course that teaches you the basics about paying taxes or the benefits of a Roth IRA. These are valuable topics to learn about when someone is starting their career, rather than years later.
The book covers everything ranging from investing to retirement to banking to buying a home. It’s perfect for the busy person that doesn’t have much time to read a lengthy book on personal finance. The 10-page first chapter is set up as a cheat sheet and each chapter contains a helpful short summary in a bulleted format.
Beth Kobliner has been writing, researching and talking about personal finance as an author, commentator or journalist for 30 years. She’s also been a contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a regular columnist for Money and other publications.[This is the Bankrate Book Club’s third book. The book club reads a personal finance book together every month and discusses it in the Money Masters group on Facebook. You can also follow along on Instagram for more announcements and group discussion.]
The payoff for reading this book
Kobliner states in the book that she used more than 800 sources for this edition and the original edition of the book. It’s difficult to find an area of personal finance that isn’t covered.
For instance, many in the book’s target age group may be buying their first car. Kobliner gives great advice about not sharing your monthly budget for car payments with the sales representative. This is because once a car dealer has that information, there are variables that the dealer can use to extend the loan or change the interest rate to lower the monthly payment into your budget.
“Instead, simply say that you want to check out the different cars you’re interested in and settle on the price before you discuss financing,” Kobliner writes in the book.
Advice like this is important because, for some, buying a car is among the priciest items people purchase in their lives. So you definitely want to make a sound financial decision.
Kobliner says that buying a used car as opposed to leasing may be a wise decision. Used automobiles are usually a lot less expensive than new ones and leasing is similar to renting a car. At the end of a lease, all you did was pay the amount the vehicle depreciated, Kobliner writes in the book. And after the lease runs out, you’ll need to either go ahead and buy a car or start the leasing cycle all over again.
The book gives you a solid foundation for a variety of personal finance topics that should be on your radar.
[READ: How to save money in your 20s]
Online banks usually help you earn more interest
Every personal finance book should have a chapter about choosing a bank and the best practices for banking. Kobliner has good advice about keeping your savings account at an online bank, since online banks generally offer a more competitive annual percentage yield (APY) than brick-and-mortar banks.
Kobliner’s compromise for readers to have a checking account at a brick-and-mortar bank and a savings account at an online bank makes sense. The earlier that people start saving — and accumulating money in a high-yield savings account — the better their saving results should be.
For those bank accounts, here are some of Kobliner’s banking suggestions:
- Pick up the phone and talking to a bank representative to try and get any fees that you’re charged to be refunded. Stating your case, or explaining that this is a first-time occurrence — if that’s the case — may be worth your time and effort.
- Introduce yourself to the local branch manager at your bank — assuming you drop by your local branch every so often. Kobliner makes the case that bank managers can help those customers who have a good banking history and choose to speak up.
- Get cash back at a store when you’re not near an in-network ATM, as it can save you on fees. A Bankrate study from 2019 found that, on average, customers pay an average of $4.72 when using an out-of-network ATM. That includes an average charge of $3.09 from the ATM and around $1.63 charge from your bank. Making a small purchase at a convenience store or pharmacy that provides cash back for free when you use a debit card can be a way to avoid an ATM fee. Always confirm that the store won’t be charging you a fee for this service.
- Don’t always assume the ATM you used gave back the correct amount of cash. Although these machines are usually pretty accurate, an error (not necessarily in your favor) is possible.
Final takeaways: 4 out of 5 rating
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made it impossible for a very detailed book published in 2017 to stay current. So it’s very important for readers to realize that some of the tax tips and strategies have changed.
But the basics of the book are still relevant, even after the tax overhaul. Kobliner was careful to use wording that indicated the information was current as of the book’s writing.
Kobliner mentions compounding in the retirement chapter. But it would have been great to mention this in the banking chapter as well, to give readers an example of how compound interest can grow money in a high-yield account.
Also, the fact that some money market accounts have check-writing privileges would have been a good thing to add when explaining what a money market account is.
Overall, this book contains information that everyone should know to help maximize their financial knowledge. Since it’s meant to be for people in their 20s and 30s, it can be thought of as a graduate course — one that’s easy to get through and will be rewarding you with knowledge for decades to come.
About the book and author
Published by Simon & Schuster, “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in your Twenties and Thirties” retails for $16.99.
Kobliner is a former Money magazine staff writer and has contributed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Kobliner also has a book called “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not).”
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— Note: Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer.