As a reader, I’m always looking for ways to challenge my way of thinking. Many books will often contain one or maybe two golden pieces of information within a few hundred pages, but I find it is worth spending time reading to discover these. I recently finished Smart Women Finish Rich, by David Bach, and wanted to share with you the few golden nuggets I received from reading this book.
One of the best experiences I have while reading comes from tackling the same topics but from completely different perspectives. It helps me break out of my usual pattern of thinking and challenges me to explore why others might see things differently.
This was one of those books.
Smart Women Finish Rich is about taking financial ownership over our lives so that we can end up financially secure.
With Smart Women Finish Rich, the first few chapters were extremely worth the read. The middle section of the book was more into the nuts and bolts of investing (which I advocate an index fund approach vs the book’s recommendation of mutual funds and an advisor). And the final portion of the book offered a valuable list of 12 items we can do to attract greater wealth (detailed below).
Of course, the book is targeted at women. Therefore, there is a specific emphasis (obviously) on problems and opportunities unique to women. Personally, I found many of the topics very interesting and even eye opening.
I also got a laugh at the fact that the author is male, but if you look up his bio, you’ll see why I think he’s definitely qualified to speak on the topic. Many of the ideas he reiterates in the book come from his own grandmother.
Bach did write a similar book called, Smart Couples Finish Rich, that has now been added to my reading list.
Anyway, without further ado, I wanted to run through the gems I found valuable in Smart Women Finish Rich:
100% Responsibility is on You
As a man who is currently in a committed relationship, I do not approach our personal financial goals as being a 50/50 split in responsibility. I think this is a dangerous mode of thinking because I’ve seen it lead to fighting and stress when the going gets tough.
I view my end of the responsibility as 100%. My girlfriend views her end as 100%. We each have full control over the success or failure of the end goal. This approach leads to zero blame on the other person if either of us fall short; we end up supporting and helping each other more often.
We weren’t always this mature; early on in our relationship we used to go for the 50/50 split, but it didn’t work as well. I discuss this topic more in one of my first articles.
The reason I knew Smart Women Finish Rich would be a great read was because the author honed in on this point right away. He went on to explain a lot of other reasons why the approach is critical.
Depending on the study you cite, women live an average of 5-9 years longer than men. This translates to many widows who will have bare sole responsibility of the family’s finances for a considerable amount of time.
I was shocked to read story after story about women who did not know anything about their personal finance situation. Months after having lost a husband, they needed to sell their house too quickly and at a discounted rate. Other women would trust financial advisors who would offer the wrong advice.
You might be thinking most families have wills or established trusts or some type of system set up for the worst case scenario — but, it is human nature to essentially ignore the inevitable. Most families don’t plan on a death in the family, which often leaves women on their own.
I was shocked when I read this part and immediately asked my girlfriend a simple question from the book:
“Do you know where our money is?”
I was so happy to hear her say, “Yes; it is in Vanguard index funds. We each own a small slice of the overall economy.”
Based on the information presented in the book, a scary amount of significant other’s do not know. If this case holds true for you, then consider making sure the person you love and want to take care of knows.
While divorce rates in the U.S. are going down, the rates are still quite close to about half of all marriages ending in divorce.
With that in mind, women should not rely on a man to be the Chief Family Officer.
I don’t think it is healthy for either the man or the woman to place the entire financial burden on one another. Doing that only make sense when each person is familiar with keeping track of the income and expenses, but have chosen to nominate one person to handle everything, including investments. For most American households, that is not the case.
What the two topics above (Lifespan Gap & Divorce) have in common is this: many couples are unprepared for the worst case scenario.
Wills, Trusts, Estates
The book contains a lot of great introductory advice on what you need in order to create a will or establish a proper living trust. It also dives deep into the topic of estates and how you can avoid probate.
More importantly, the book handles many of the emotional and family aspects of having these documents in place.
To drive home the message, the book discussed many examples of families being torn apart after a father passed away early and his remaining children fought over the estate.
In some cases, many people who would have been outside of the estate are then given legal rights in the courts.
It is a scary thought and one that I’ve been comfortable putting off. I know I need to wise up soon and put the final pieces of my financial house in order. This book was a great reminder and a helpful resource I will likely pick up again when I start the process.
Managing Your Funds (My One Criticism)
The book highlights the advantages of working with a personal advisor over and over again. My experience is financial advisors charge too much and advocate for funds where they receive commissions as part of the exchange.
Unless the advisor you’re working with has a fiduciary duty, we should stay far, FAR away.
I might be a bit harsh here and I need to remind myself the book was written in the 90’s.
Nowadays we have dozens of different online tools that can help us track our expenses (I use Mint which is free), monitor our credit scores (I use CreditKarma which is free) or help us track our investments and net worth (I use Personal Capital which is free).
You’ll notice a trend here: These tools today are available to us for FREE, so go back and reread my line about taking ownership over our financial lives. If we do this, then we can finish rich (woman or man).
I’ve said it elsewhere before, but if we invest two thousand hours a year to make money, then we should spend a few hours a month learning how to effectively put that money to use.
12 Commandments of Attracting Greater Wealth
The title of this section is a piece the author put together near the end of his book. I mentioned it above, but this section alone was worth the price of the book.
The list spends two commandments discussing how we (women in this example) do not get paid for what we’re worth. I’ve seen the affects of being underpaid personally, so I think it is fair to say employees are underpaid compared to what most employers can pay them.
Now, you might agree with Jay Z’s line, “I’d rather be underpaid than overrated,” and I completely agree. So long as you follow through and take action to be paid what you’re worth.
Personally, I went along with HR’s standard line of, “you’re one of our best employees and are being paid in the upper bracket of your peers.” Well, when I decided to switch jobs, I quickly learned I was smack dead in the MIDDLE.
Don’t ask a barber if you need a haircut and don’t ask your employer if you SHOULD get a raise. Do your own research and don’t sell yourself cheap.
Near the end of his list, I had my final takeaway:
Work everyday as if you’re leaving for Hawaii tomorrow.
Now this part wasn’t exactly about managing your finances as much as being effective in your career. I liked the concept a lot and have used it in my own life now.
For some reason, if we have to leave work early, we somehow find a way to get EVERYTHING done just in the knick of time. But, when we have one or two small projects left in an afternoon, we can find ourselves lazily getting through them or utilizing the time to catch up with someone at work.
Smart Women Finish Rich had a lot of value in it because it dived into areas of personal finance I had never before considered. I hope this recap was also valuable to you.
I was hooked immediately into the book as I didn’t realize how critical it is for BOTH people in the relationship to have a firm handle of the family’s money.
As I mentioned above, it can be easier to have one person handle everything, but I think it is only wise to do this if both people understand what they are handling.
If either you or your spouse is unable to specifically say where your money is, then you might need to bring them up to speed on where you stand financially.
Were any of these takeaways something you’ve recently learned or had to deal with in your life? Anyone else read the Smart Couples Finish Rich book and recommend it after reading the Smart Women Finish Rich book? Any other books you would want me to review?