Smart Women Finish Rich Book Review

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.

Lifespan Gap

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?

Master Distiller

18 comments… add one
  • Tina @ Aug 17, 2016, 5:28 am

    “Smart Women Finish Rich” has motivated me like nothing else has. Absolutely, great work by Bach. Loved it… This book is surely help people about their financial priorities.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:23 pm

      I kept telling myself how surprised I was. I didn’t expect I would like it as much as I did. A great book, absolutely.

  • Jon @ Be Net Worthy Aug 17, 2016, 5:47 am

    Sounds like some great lessons in that book and I’m surprised too that he’s recommending using a financial advisors – crazy! I suppose like you said, times have changed. I also like your line about working like you’re leaving for Hawaii tomorrow. That is so true how you can really get things done when you are leaving for vacation and it is so easy to leave things until tomorrow if you know you’ll be there.

    It’s always interesting to hear how different people approach the personal finance topic.

    • Max Aug 17, 2016, 11:25 am

      Well, Bach IS a financial advisor, so why wouldn’t he recommend them? Having said that, I’ve read several of his books and he generally has a solid message and great advice for an introduction to personal finance. I’ve been trying to get my wife to read this book and Smart Couples Finish Rich after we went to a local seminar a couple years ago, which got her a little more interested in our finances but not interested enough to follow through and learn more.

      • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:31 pm

        Right! Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut and don’t ask David Bach if you need a financial advisor!

        I wonder if you could share more. From my perspective, I felt like any woman who was exposed to this book and the materials in it would be extremely happy to learn more, so I’m surprised by your wife’s reaction. I don’t mean to pry, but perhaps you already wrote a post about this?

        • Max Aug 19, 2016, 10:22 am

          I haven’t, but it’s definitely on my list of posts to write about in the future.

          I think there are a few reasons. She trusts me as an accountant (she is marketing), we are well on the path to FI, her parents were similar in their roles so maybe her upbringing, and she doesn’t really have any interest in our finances beyond knowing we are doing great for our age and knowing how much we’ve agreed she can spend per week/month on groceries and other miscellaneous. They say opposites attract and I guess that’s true in our case…I’m obsessed about our finances and she has little interest. It worries me a bit if something happened to me (well a lot more than a bit for many reasons), so I’m trying to set things up in joint accounts with a list of logins/passwords to make things as easy as possible for her to access/continue if it came to it. It’d be better if I could get her more interested in it though (tips welcome!), so it’s still a work in progress.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:29 pm

      Yep! I actually wrote that line at the top of my To-Do list now and it reminds me to stay in that headspace.

  • [email protected] Smarter Decisions Aug 17, 2016, 5:58 am

    We don’t do the 50/50 split either. We know a couple who does though – and it works for them. I think you really have to figure out together how to handle finances, but letting one person do it is not the answer either. I do handle most of the money in our house, but we have monthly (and sometimes more often) meetings to discuss where things are and how the month went for expenses. And we just got wills, POA’s and health care proxies done last fall. You are young – but this is still important and we should have done it MANY years ago.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:33 pm

      Another great reminder that we need to sort through those same documents.

      As for us, we tend touch base monthly on expenses and quarterly on where we stand from a net worth perspective. To a large degree, I can pinpoint where we are at any point, but those are the only times we put numbers down on paper.

  • Apathy Ends Aug 17, 2016, 6:49 am

    Have read a few of Bachs books – The Automatic Millionaire and Smart couples Finish Rich – they are both awesome and great introduction to personal finance reads.

    I agree with your assessment on Financial Advisors, the books were written before FinTech companies started making services available for free and have disrupted the market!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:35 pm

      I didn’t mentioned Automatic Millionaire above, but I heard that was his breakthrough book. I’ve also added it to my list, but not as high up as the couples book.

  • Matt @ Optimize Your Life Aug 17, 2016, 8:48 am

    Any day that you can work a Jay-Z lyric into a post is a good day.

    I think the idea that both partners need to be 100% responsible is one that needs to be pressed more often. Dealing with death and divorce are hard enough without having to add “learning about finance” to your to do list.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:38 pm

      Hah, honestly, it just flowed outta me when I was writing. Felt right in the moment and glad you liked it!

      Great point – since many people tend to shy away from the “difficult conversation,” but it is easier to remind them now is a better time than when things get much worse.

  • [email protected] Aug 17, 2016, 4:27 pm

    Thanks Matt, I recently read (and reviewed if you’re interested!) the Start Late, Finish Rich book, so was curious to see what you thought about this one – I’ll add it to my list! Could not agree more that we each have to take 100% responsibility for our finances. Also, they do say opposites attract, so our partners might not be the perfect money match!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 18, 2016, 7:40 pm

      It seems like the 100%/100% item really resonates with a lot of people – which is GREAT! I think that’s one of the biggest success factors in my relationship to date. We support each other so much more since we’re both rooting for the same goals that are sparked outta our common values.

      Thanks for letting me know about the Start Late book. I’m reading your article now and will leave a comment once I’m done! 🙂

  • Frugal Mainer Mar 27, 2017, 10:54 pm

    I know I’m several months late to this conversation (I’m brand new to this blog), yet have a couple of thoughts to throw out as a retired widowed woman.

    1) Way too many women (of all ages/education/professional levels) that I know continue to shy away from financial responsibilities. Often it is because the male partner is willing to or want to do it. Too frequently it’s because they say they find finances “too stressful” or they aren’t “interested”. To which is say poppycock (to be polite). Life is stressful, we can get interested in many things if we want to and men can (and should) turn more of this over to their partners. Not only do women absolutely need to know what are the household and assets, retirement plans and potential income, etc., they also need to understand the routines (and time commitments) involved with the seemly simple act of organizing and paying monthly bills. I was actually the one who paid the bills, though in years past my husband had done it and was good at it, and I was the one who did the filing, so I knew intimately where everything was located (though, again, my husband was fully aware of my system) and together we made all the investment and budgeting decisions. However… and this is Very Important, when he died unexpectedly I was thrown into such an emotionally frozen zone EVERYTHING was hard to focus on for far longer than I would have ever thought or would have imagined. If, if, if I had not known the what and hows of continuing to keep the monthly finances afloat I would have been in seriously deep trouble as those first several months were definitely not the time to get up to speed. Plus, even with a Will (or a Trust) there is a ton of information your attorney, investment company(s) and bank all need to have to proceed forward with getting assets in your name, etc. If you have no clue where those things are you will be without an income flow very quickly. So, women (and men) suck it up and start getting yourselves smart. FAST! There are no excuses!!

    2) I can see how using online tools can be very useful in terms of their efficiency and ease of use. However…. nothing is ever truly free in this world. I know and you know these companies are also mining your information to sell you something. They may (or may not, I haven’t ever read their entire privacy policies) be selling your data to others, but they are definitely going over it with a fine tooth comb for their own purposes to make money off you (or in some other ways) from that information. Personally, I do use a fiduciary who charges a reasonable amount; however, there are also Fee For Service advisors who only charge by the hour and don’t manage your money. Plus companies like Vanguard and Fidelity have people who can advise without taking big percentages. In fact, at Vanguard their advisors are paid a salary, they aren’t on commission – one of the reasons their costs are so low.

    Sorry to be coming in so late, but maybe my thoughts can still be helpful…

    • Distilled Dollar Mar 28, 2017, 5:32 am

      1) Similar to my experience with reading Smart Women Finish Rich, there is definetly a need for a baseline of money knowledge.

      2) Agree but with Vanguard index funds you wouldn’t need to fork over any advisor fees or online fees at all. That’s the approach I recommend here on the sitee and one I have discussed on the podcast before here.

      Thanks for the comments!

      • Frugal Mainer Mar 28, 2017, 10:02 am

        I agree re: Vanguard and it’s index funds. However, few (very few) people are all that good about managing money at all, forget about investments. I can and do talk to people I know about financial issues from day-to-day practical stuff to investment concepts. I try to keep things as simple as possible, yet in all to many cases eyes start to glaze over. Therefore, especially with women, I actually do recommend they go to Vanguard and talk to one of their advisors. At least in the beginning. Otherwise they have little or no clue about how to proceed — and, as a result, do nothing. They will either keep their money in a bank saving account or spend it. Either way, so not good.

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