How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents (Zac Bissonnette)

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Zac Bissonnette has another winner on his hands with How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better Looking Than Your Parents. His self-deprecating humor is on display in one of the most useful personal finance books you will ever read. Whether you are young or old, in debt or financially solvent, you can learn how to get your financial house in (even better) order with this quick, interesting read.

The book starts by reminding readers what financial freedom is. It is not the fantasy of being rich and living a life of leisure. It is being able to live life the way you choose: being able to take a lesser paying job because it’s what you love to do, being able to start a family because your debts aren’t eating up all of your paycheck, and simply having more choices in your daily life.

Bissonnette lays the foundation by discussing research which shows that the more materialistic they are, the less happy they ultimately are with life. Having nice things won’t make you happy, especially if you’re going into debt to get them or you’re sacrificing meaningful belongings (like a modest house, for example) in favor of expensive labels on consumer goods.

The meat of this book is in Bissonnette’s ability to debunk many myths surrounding personal finance issues, and succinctly explaining how you can make better financial choices. He starts with the financial services industry, pointing out how these people are there to help themselves, not you. Readers are educated on how to use financial services (credit cards, insurance, loans) in ways that will help keep them available and protect your financial well-being, without overpaying.

A discussion of investing and mutual funds will help you understand what the average consumer doesn’t: the type of fund you should pick, fees to avoid, and the long-term results you will get from keeping your money in an inexpensive mutual fund.

Bissonnette spends little time on budgets. Why? Because most people won’t follow them for the long term anyway, and making true changes in your lifestyle is the real way to becoming more financially secure. The author discusses topics including wine, clothing, getting in shape, technology, and food, pointing out many obvious ways to change your spending and still feel good about yourself. Yet as obvious as these are, too many consumers aren’t following the rules and are ending up broke because of it, so they need to hear it again.

A whole chapter is devoted to automobiles, probably because this is one area in which people universally waste a lot of money. People buy new cars because they think they will make them feel better about themselves, but scientific studies debunk this myth. The concepts of leasing, buying new, avoiding auto loans, and how to buy a used car are covered briefly, but thoroughly.

The chapter on home ownership is one of the most useful in the book. Bissonnette talks about how to compare renting versus buying, and provides valuable tips on purchasing . The book closes with chapters on relationships and careers, which are definitely geared toward the younger reader. (So if you’re an older reader, buy the book and read it, give it to your kid to read, and you’ve just doubled the return on your investment.)

This book is geared toward the younger generation, particularly with Bissonnette’s brand of humor. However, nearly all of the information is applicable to older people (myself included) as well, so if you can get past the tasteless (but still quite funny) jokes, you will learn a lot from the book.

How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better Looking Than Your Parents may not present any new personal finance topics (Are there any that haven’t been discussed to death?) but Bissonnette has built a better mousetrap. The explanations and logic are clear and easy to follow, the information is right on point, and it is summarized well. My biggest disappointments were that I wasn’t mentioned in the book, and that Zac’s editor failed to change “OK” to “okay” numerous times throughout the book. If these are my most pressing complaints, I think it’s clear that the book is a winner.

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