Billfold Book Review: Personal Finance for Dummies and The One-Minute Money Mentor for Women

I got two books in the mail to review this month: the 2018 edition of Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson, and The One-Minute Money Mentor for Women by Deborah Smith Pegues.

Although each of these books is ostensibly written “for” a specific subgroup of people, the advice in each of them is pretty much identical. Even the advice that starts off different ends up the same; For Dummies advises people to avoid buying expensive beverages at restaurants, and For Women counters this with “I know I’m going against the teachings of several popular financial gurus in telling you not to give up your lattes until you have six months of living expenses in the bank,” but within a few paragraphs both books have summed up their pro- or anti-beverage stance as follows:

For Dummies: “I’m not saying that you should live on bread and water. You can have dessert — heck, have some wine, too, for special occasions! Just try not to eat dessert with every meal.”

For Women: “I’m certainly not saying to splurge on luxuries every day; however, you can enjoy a treat without waiting forever to do so.”

The very next sentence in For Women sums up the core message of both books: “Just include it on your prioritized plan and offset it against another category of expenditures.”

Believe it or not, both books advise their readers to:

  • Track their spending and learn where their money is really going
  • Use what they learn to create a budget based on their needs/priorities/values
  • Try to keep their spending within their budget
  • Pay down any debt as quickly as possible

From there, readers can continue to grow their personal finance skills — and their money — by:

  • Building their retirement funds
  • Opening investment accounts
  • Buying a home or investing in real estate

You get the idea. It’s the Cat Tower of Financial Well-Being all over again — and, honestly, I think Lillian Karabaic’s Get Your Money Together: An Illustrated Purrsonal Finance Workbook is the better choice, if you want an easy-to-understand overview of what to do with your money and in what order.

At 468 pages long, nobody is going to sit down and read Personal Finance for Dummies cover to cover; in fact, they might assume the book is intended to be a paper Wikipedia of sorts (it is encyclopedic in both design and content) and put it on the shelf “to reference later.”

The One-Minute Money Mentor for Women can be read in a day, or a few days, but what it doesn’t say on the cover is that it’s actually for Christian women; the first Bible quotation comes three pages into the prologue. That said, For Women has one big thing going for it that For Dummies does not — it includes chapters on how to earn more money. Sure, some readers are going to be put off by the suggestion that women who want to advance their careers should wear more makeup, get better haircuts, and focus on their “people skills,” but dress for the job you want is a thing, as is learn how to network, so I won’t nitpick.

Both For Dummies and For Women are, all in all, decent guides to managing your money. Neither include mathematical formulas to increase your wealth, a la The Value of Debt in Building Wealth or The Power of Zero, nor do they attempt to guide you towards financial independence the way Your Money or Your Life does. Both books take you through the basic steps of “how to do money,” and they might be good choices for the right reader at the right time.

But I’d still recommend Get Your Money Together instead.

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