Friday, February 15, 2008

Love is Not Enough: The Smart Woman's Guide to Making (and Keeping) Money - Merryn Somerset-Webb

I was never that bothered about finance until we started buying a house. However, during the long, long wait for the chain to complete, the market movements all started to take on an ominous significance. Would rates go up again before we finalised our mortgage offer? If it all fell through, would house prices have spiralled out of our reach entirely? Like most other first-time buyers, I found the relentless property-ramping in the press utterly sickening; how on earth could it be a good thing for house prices to shoot up so far ahead of wages? A rare voice of reason was Somerset-Webb's publication Moneyweek, one of the few papers that saw the house-price boom for the unsustainable overhyped bubble that it was; even after the sale completed, to our great relief, I found I'd become really quite interested in this whole economy thing. Deciding to finally get my finances in order, her book was the obvious place to turn.

Don't be put off by the cheesy title, the pink cover and the chick-lit layout; this is not about how to afford more shoes, but a sensible and entertainingly-written plan for sorting your money out and making sure you have financial independence. As you'd expect, it is somewhat skewed towards the needs of us ladies, but only in the sense that it contains extra information about the pay gap, maternity leave, married tax credits and so on - most of the information here would be just as useful to men. Somerset-Webb does occasionally slip in a bit of pop-psychology nonsense about how "women are naturally better at X" but you can safely ignore this, in the knowledge that she's an expert on finance, not biology. The same can be said of the rather unnecessary end section on how to achieve happiness (no, I don't need to get religion, you weirdy blinkered Christian) - stick to the money stuff and there's all kinds of good information in here.

The book gives a practical action plan for sensibly managing your money, with most of the technical stuff spelled out in easy layman's terms, and the financial jargon made easy to understand. Basically it boils down to this: earn as much as you can, spend as little as you can, get out of debt, start saving, then start investing. Somerset-Webb goes over the various types of products available for borrowing, saving and investing, and provides useful pointers on which ones to avoid, and how to tell a good deal from a bad one. Some of it is obvious, but a lot of it is not, and whatever your level of financial literacy you'll probably learn a few things here (unless you're actually an investment banker). The writing is accessible without being patronising, and I found the whole thing very useful indeed.



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