Friday, June 25, 2010

Some excuses, and 3 new mini book reviews by the Associated Press

With my lack of reviews of personal finance books of late, you would think I seldom read a business book anymore ... and you would be right. But I did stay up til 4 a.m. today finishing Stieg Larsson's fiction thriller/bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ... I reaaaalllly wanted to know what happened.

What can I say - reading fiction for me is pure escapism.

But I do have a few biz books stacked on my desk in the "to read" area. The latest to land in my mailbox are "Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive," by Erik Wesner and "Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business," by Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something and founder of Dress for Success. So, stay tuned.

But until then, you may see a blog about Larsson's book ... and some more picks from my friends at AP.
Here are three now:
By The Associated Press

Saving a 401(k) from lackluster performance or, even worse, from sliding backward is the focus of a new title by business owner and executive David Rye. Most retirement savers can glean something from this book, which covers the basics for a novice but also explores various funds and strategies for more experienced investors.

Another new title, "How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes" offers a light look at some heavy issues. Through cartoon drawings and simple language, it explores demand, consumption, productivity and other economic issues.

TITLE: Save My 401(k)! What You Can Do Now to Rebuild Your Retirement Future

AUTHOR: David Rye

PRICE: $14.95 (paperback). Also available electronically for Kindle.

SUMMARY: In just over 200 pages business owner and executive David Rye walks through the basics of the 401(k). He lays out simple steps for choosing the right investment options and tips on diversifying.
Rye, in later chapters, delves deeper into investing in various funds and how they can help a worker meet retirement goals. Stock and bond funds are covered along with index funds, target-date funds and exchange traded funds. He also devotes a section of the book to managing money in retirement with useful discussions on when it's best to begin drawing Social Security, signing up for Medicare and dealing with inflation.

He offers useful detail on rolling over a 401(k) into individual retirement accounts and when it's an appropriate move.

QUOTE: "For starters, you've got to play an active role in managing your 401(k) plan because if you do nothing but watch from the sidelines, you will lose even more. Although taking on that responsibility may seem like a daunting task, it doesn't have to be."

PUBLISHER: The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
—David Pitt

TITLE: How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes

AUTHOR: Peter D. Schiff and Andrew Schiff

PRICE: $19.95 Also available electronically for Kindle, e mobi and Nook.
SUMMARY: Expanding on a story their father, Irwin Schiff, first told them during a car trip to explain how economics works, brothers Peter and Andrew Schiff take readers to a desert island inhabited by three men who fish with their hands. When one of them hits upon the idea to make a net, the number of fish they can catch expands, and island's economy starts to grow. Eventually, the growth leads to complicated transactions, the "Fish Reserve Bank" makes questionable decisions, and a "hut glut" created with easy credit collapses, taking the island's economy with it.

In simple language illustrated with cartoon drawings, readers learn through these three men and their descendants about concepts from demand, consumption and productivity to the creation of banking and a service sector. With a "reality check" at the end of each chapter, they note how the simple story can be translated into what happens in the larger world.

The authors use the book to challenge mainstream economic viewpoints like support for government spending to stimulate the economy. The characters are modeled, and named, after real-life figures, like Ally Greenfin, Ben Barnacle and Senator Cliff Cod, but a level of humor throughout keeps the reading light when the concepts get heavy.

QUOTE: "Despite the fact that many islanders were upset for overpaying for their huts, the island economy would have actually been better off if hut prices came down and building ceased altogether, at least until real demand returns. That way people could spend less on huts and have more to spend on the things the economy lacked — like new businesses and carts that could be pulled by just one donkey. Resources used for new hut construction, like bamboo and rope, could be used for new businesses instead. Unfortunately, government interventions would prevent this natural reallocation of resources from occurring."

PUBLISHER: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

—Eileen AJ Connelly

TITLE: The Mindful Investor: How a Calm Mind Can Bring You Inner Peace and Financial Security

AUTHORS: Maria Gonzalez and Graham Byron
PRICE: $24.95. Also available electronically for Kindle.

SUMMARY: Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of where and what you are without being disturbed by outside influences. Maria Gonzalez, founder and president of Argonauta Strategic Alliances Consulting Inc. and Graham Byron, an investment adviser and certified financial planner, pose that mindfulness helps individuals achieve a healthy relationship with money and their financial goals.

The book's first few chapters explain mindfulness, offer techniques to achieve it and outline the five obstacles that impede success including attachment; aversion; ignorance, confusion and delusion; envy and jealousy; and pride. The book's middle chapters guide readers to identify their goals and determine if they are on track to achieve those goals. The remaining chapters focus on portfolio management, client/adviser relations, estate planning and what to do when things go wrong all in the context of mindfulness.

QUOTE: "In reality, most people have enough money, even after the recent market collapse. What they don't have is the level of calm, clarity, focus, and equanimity required to live peacefully with money. Mindfulness can help achieve it."
PUBLISHER: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

— J.W. Elphinstone

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