Friday, February 26, 2010

Progress, or lack thereof, and some new personal finance books

Not a lot of time for reading/blogging this week. I was putting together The Mercury's annual Progress section spotlighting area business accomplishments. Look for it online at or in print this Sunday, Feb. 28.

Stories for the 12-page section were written by each of the Merc's three in-house reporters, me, and one stringer. Their four stories are all great reads, but I'm gonna tell you about mine:
I wrote about Limerick residents Doug and Deb Campbell. They faced the challenge of their professional and personal lives in September 2008, when their Pottstown properties burned to the ground after an accidental fire was set (kids playing with matches was the unofficial ruling). Luckily, none of their 54 tenants were killed in the fire. A few were injured jumping off the roof of the three-story structures to safety, as were some area firefighters hurt in the line of duty.

The Campbells decided to rebuild; their new buildings literally rose from the ashes. Once they went through the often frustrating process of getting all the necessary permits lined up, they started to rebuild in August 2009. This March, they will open up the newly rebuilt High Street Rentals at 538 and 540 E. High St.

Their story is just one of those to be featured in our special section. Please check it out.

But if, in the meantime, you were just itching for some personal finance book news, below is the AP's personal finance Bookshelf feature. Enjoy.

Date: 2/26/2010 10:33 AM
New titles cover personal finance from all angles
By The Associated Press

Financial well-being can be reached from a variety of paths. Several are charted out by money experts in new personal finance books.

In "One Year to an Organized Financial Life," the message to readers is to get off your assets and put your financial life in order, month by month, topic by topic. Organization, then, is the way to success.
The second title, "Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is," follows a more inspirational strategy en route to "portfolio peace of mind."
An alternative way of approaching things gets explored in "The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed." Its target audience may have no choice but to march to a different personal finance drummer in what the authors characterize as a world of mass layoffs and ever-shrinking benefits.

Here's a look at the new titles:

TITLE: One Year to an Organized Financial Life
AUTHOR: Regina Leeds with Russell Wild
PRICE: $16.95 (paperback)

SUMMARY: The Los Angeles-based Leeds, who dubs herself the "Zen Organizer," takes on finances in her third "One Year" book. Her overarching premise is that when things are in order, you'll feel calmer and more inspired.
To help put readers' financial lives in order, Leeds brings in Wild, a financial adviser with a few books of his own. But this book isn't about how to invest or where to stash cash; it's about taking control.

Leeds offers a month-by-month approach written in simple, straightforward language that begins with understanding your relationship with money and moves to decluttering your wallet, briefcase and office space. She offers a schedule for making sense of different topics, from bills to spending, taxes, credit cards and retirement accounts.
There's a chapter for kids and money, and one on controlling holiday spending. And while the book is set up like the calendar, Leeds notes you can start the 12-month plan at any time.

QUOTE: "Your budget is the foundation of your financial life. Without it you might be robbing Peter — say your 401(k) — to pay Paul — perhaps that four-star vacation you just put on a credit card."

PUBLISHER: Lifelong Books (Da Capo Press)
— Eileen AJ Connelly

TITLE: Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is
AUTHOR: Sue Stevens
PRICE: $15.99 (paperback)
SUMMARY: Some personal finance books are checklists summarizing all the things you need to do to be financially sound. Others are inspirational, focusing on a right-brained approach to your money. This one is a mixture of both, as underscored by the title.
The author, a former professional cellist turned financial planner at Vanguard, Morningstar and now her own firm, takes the reader through the basics in this 168-page book. Key points about budgeting, determining net worth, retirement planning, health care concerns and estate planning all are addressed.

But her primary message throughout concerns finding financial happiness and using money to support your highest intentions — employing a personal, conversational writing style and drawing on real-life stories to make her points. Underscoring her theme, she outlines a six-step process to achieve what she calls "portfolio peace of mind."

QUOTE: "By paying attention to a few key areas, you can transform your everyday relationship with money from frustrating to inspiring. Instead of endless worry, you can create a life that you look forward to living because it reflects who you are and what is important to you."
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace
— Dave Carpenter

TITLE: The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed
AUTHOR: Joseph D'Agnese and Denise Kiernan
PRICE: $15.00 (paperback)

SUMMARY: Salaried workers often take a lot for granted when it comes to their personal finances. Taxes are automatically withheld, and insurance and retirement plans are at their disposal. For freelancers and other independent contractors the lack of a financial plan can cause tremendous problems.

Just consider the unpredictability of their income from month to month, or working with clients who pay late. "The Money Book" lays out the key issues for workers who don't have benefits. It hits on the major themes of saving regularly, planning for retirement, and managing your taxes when you, the worker, are ultimately responsible. Its conversational tone makes it easily accessible for readers who aren't inclined to read about how to crunch numbers and budget.

QUOTE: "This is a book for anyone with a job that doesn't provide benefits. It's for anyone who is trying to plan for the future on an income that varies from month to month. It's also a book for the hardworking individuals who, by no choice of their own, find themselves juggling temporary jobs to make ends meet, none of which provide the kinds of benefits that most Americans rely upon."

PUBLISHER: Three Rivers Press
— Trevor Delaney

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