Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s

For a lot of individuals in their 20s and 30s personal finances have a lot in common with David Copperfield; money appears and disappears and sometimes it earns more in a bank account but at the end of the day it's all magic.

If you fall into this group you can either sit around and moan about the lack of a personal finance course at your high school or you can do something about it.

Good, you're still reading, so I assume you'd rather your finances are a bit more like Penn & Teller; mind blowing and quick to call "BS" on gotcha's and bad money deals. Well you're in luck, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s" does just that; offering up sound advice in an easy to access format that calls attention to important facts with sidebars throughout the book.

My favorite sidebar examples in the book are of the "Money Pit" and "Dollars and Sense" variety, which you can see throughout this post. These include cautionary notes and tips to keep you on top of your personal finances.
If this is your first foray into personal finances, this book starts with a great primer for folks who don't know a lot about personal finance but also covers more advanced topics and touches on important life events like moving out, weddings, buying a house and retirement.

A few of my favorite introductory sections include:
  • Taking a Look at Your Bank Accounts
  • The B Word: Budgets
  • Getting into the Swing of Savings
These aren't the only helpful chapters of the book; I found these advanced topics to be summed up nicely as well.
  • Working from Home
  • There's No Place Like Home (a primer on home buying)
  • Retirement Funds for the Twenty-First Century
While you're not going to become an expert by reading each of these chapters you will know more about your finances and the decisions that need made. Yes, you can find information about buying a home or working from home on the Internet, but it's great to be able to get a 14 page summary of complex topics from a reputable source in a matter of minutes.

Speaking of the source, Sarah Young Fisher who wrote "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finances in your 20's and 30's" is a certified financial planner who manages $160 million as president of Kuntz Lesher Capital LLC. Recently she took time out of her busy schedule to talk to WalletPop about what she wants young people to take away from reading her book.

Sarah told WalletPop that, "If readers take nothing else away from this book, I want them to remember to look at what the actual cost of a transaction is." She explains that, "Everything has a cost; a list of pros and cons that need to be considered before a decision is made." Whether its comparing fees, commissions, points or how often interest is compounded Sarah is passionate about convincing young adults to ask these questions and make informed decisions.

For Sarah Young Fisher and her co-author Susan Shelly, who Sarah credits with making the book "cute" and coming up to the sidebars that I thouroughly enjoyed, the fourth edition brought several additions and upgrades to reflect the changing times.

Key changes include an expanded work from home section, online banking and the focus on comparison shopping online for bank products like CDs. Ultimately Sarah hopes that this edition will empower more people and get them to "ask questions about their money."

Like most books in the Complete Idiot's Guide series, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s" won't have you going cover to cover in a weekend but it is a great go to reference to answer your questions about money. If you or someone you care about is under 30 and needs a handy book to consult before making money decisions then this book is a great reference manual for answering life's money mysteries.

Sidebar excerpts published with Permission from "The Complete Idiot's Guide® to Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s," Sarah Young Fisher and Alpha Publishers.
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