Having worked as a freelance writer/editor/book reviewer my entire adult life, I fall into the category that might as well be labeled on the tax form as "starving artist."
So I'm always keen for financial advice - provided it isn't to switch careers. (Hey, I'm following my proverbial bliss, for which I even earned a graduate degree!)
However, I've gotten pretty sick of hearing all those money gurus on PBS chide the hoi polloi to sacrifice their daily lattes and let their cable service lapse for their own financial good.
What lattes? What cable service? Can we back up here and start with how to cope with last month's 50-cent increase per gallon of milk?
This was my frame of mind when I approached Silverdale financial advisor Marcia Brixey's new book, "The Money Therapist." Brought out by Seal Press, the feminist press founded in Seattle but gobbled up later by a larger publishing concern and moved to California, "The Money Therapist" proposes to guide women toward creating a healthy financial life.
Brixey is a former Social Security Administration employee who, citing Oprah as one of her inspirations, went on to found a nonprofit organization that teaches money management skills to women.
Brixey urges women to put their financial house in order and she uses that metaphor throughout "The Money Therapist." She recommends setting goals (creating a "floor plan") and getting organized (decluttering the "attic of your financial house"). She insists that readers examine and reform their spending habits (the "leaky faucets" - and yes, she does mention lattes and cable service here - groan!) There is a chapter on eliminating credit card debt, which otherwise will undermine the "foundation" of any financial plan.
The book also provides good information about credit reports and credit scores and has helpful advice about avoiding identity theft.
In sum, this book provides a reasonable blueprint for working toward financial security. It's just as helpful as anything personal finance superstar Suze Orman has churned out, and if you buy this book, you'll be supporting a local author.
But the phenomenon of all of these self-help books on financial management makes me wonder if we aren't missing the bigger picture here.
And that's why I'm urging everyone to take a good hard look at "(Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents," a new book by Seattle journalist Nan Mooney.
Mooney argues that the American middle class has been severely eroded not by cappuccino consumption but due to bad government policies. Spiraling education and health care costs, predatory lending practices, and allowing outsourcing, downsizing and other dubious corporate practices - all have combined to create a precarious financial situation for a growing number of Americans.
So by all means, do what you can to shore up your own financial foundation, but maybe it's time also to recognize and insist that our government has a responsibility to protect the middle class - the taxpaying citizens who, let's not forget, make our government possible in the first place.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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