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Reading Jean Chatzky’s Make Money, Not Excuses: Takeaways and Highlights

I recently got sent a copy of Jean Chatzky’s new book (just rereleased as an updated paperback) Make Money, Not Excuses: Wake Up, Take Charge, and Overcome Your Financial Fears Forever. I’ve been meaning to do more reviews of the books I read and I’ll start with this one.

Make Money, Not Excuses is particularly aimed at women, but it could also work for men who have been passive about their finances and are looking for some control. In particular, it’s geared toward those who have been taking a passive financial role in a relationship or those who get paralyzed by the thought of managing money.

Main takeaways: These are best parts of the book, where Chatzky particularly shines.

The 4 Things You Need to Be Rich

  • You need to make a decent living
  • You need to spend less than you make.
  • You need to invest the money you don’t spend so that it can work as hard for you as you’re working for yourself.
  • And you need to protect yourself and this financial world you’ve built so that a disaster—big or small—doesn’t take it all away from you.

She basically boils it down the to main points of PF. You can’t pay down debt, build savings, etc if you don’t actually have the money. She has all kinds of ideas to find the money, stuff you hear in a lot of places. And once you’re making the money, it doesn’t help if you spend it all. Investing is key so that your money isn’t all eaten away by inflation and so it has a real chance at growing. You need insurance and skills because life’s a scary place. Good sound stuff.

She starts right off with it, and I think she could have had an excellent book even if she’d ended there. As I’ve said before, this book is for people getting started so it’s an exposition of how to do these four things and a strong encouragement on your journey.

Money Groups

from her Money Groups page on Oprah:

A Money Group is like a book club, but with no books. It’s a bunch of friends who get together on a regular basis to talk about financial matters. At one meeting, you might talk about getting the right life insurance; at another, paying for your children’s college education or figuring out how to quit quibbling with your partner over his spending habits (or yours). The point of a Money Group is to learn about-and discuss-your financial life.

To me it sounds like a group of pf bloggers supporting and encouraging each other only without the blogs. Brilliant idea. I think a lot of women do well in support structures of friends sharing their interests. This could also work as a blog network or forum, but having people in real life is a big help too.

Maps to a Million

These are sections in the chapters as well as a section at the end which give you ideas for getting started on your path to wealth. For example, on page 20 she shows how much refinancing a $275,000 mortgage from 6.75% to 6% will save you. Not a million itself but one place where you can save and then invest a significant amount.

Don’t Bitch

One of the slogans of this book is “Get Rich, Don’t Bitch.” Translated, “complaining about your situation isn’t going to get you anywhere.” She starts even chapter with a problem, a complaint that women frequently voice. For example, chapter 2 “I like money it’s the numbers I can’t stand” starts off with statements by women to that effect. Then it examines how and why women may feel this way. Then she moves to “Get Rich” her solution.

I think it’s an ingenious structure. She preempts common roadblocks, fears, and excuses by acknowledging them and then proposes ways to get past them. The “Don’t Bitch” sections are as useful as the “Get Rich” parts, simply because they address what you might be feeling as you read the book.

Some may be a little on the hopeful side, but they’re still a lot of good ideas.

Main themes woven throughout the book:

– Knowing your money. You should know how much you have and where it is. You should see where it goes. Even if your husband is great at managing your money and won’t leave you, he’s still mortal. It’s easier to learn this now than later. Even if he still manages the money, have meetings with him and communicate.

– Living and spending wisely. She promotes frugality and sensible shopping/living. Spend on what you need, buy quality, etc.

– Investing wisely. Like many of us who promote indexing, she believes in settling for good enough when investing. Chasing what might be best can lead to big mistakes or paralyze us with indecision.

– Changing your thinking to change your actions. She has a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement throughout the book. For example, she has “say it and sound smart” which I think is mostly better to say in your head since it could come off as uppity.

The book also has a handy set of definitions in the bank. They’re geared more towards someone who knows almost nothing about personal finance. But even so, they can be handy if you want to get things straight.

To buy or not to buy

If you’re a woman who’s looking for a way to get control of your finances, if you’ve been feeling paralyzed, if you’re looking for a place to start, I would say that Make Money, Not Excuses is a solid book to begin with.

I’d advise most women to look into the money groups as a way to get support and keep going. Female bloggers may get the support they need from other blogs, but they might also make good leaders.

For others who are farther down the path, I’d advise getting it from the library if you found this interesting. Then again, I think most books should be prescreened via library. πŸ˜‰

I may be giving it away in the future, I just want a little more time to make sure I get the meat.

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Which Personal Finance Guru Would I Recommend?
September 1, 2008 at 10:45 pm


paidtwice April 11, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I just reviewed this book today on my blog too lol!

I am doing like a three month review though because I liked it so much I am going to babble on about each chapter. heh.

Good job!

Nicole April 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I think a lot of people are passive about taking charge of their happiness in general and if they need something to psych them up about taking charge of their money, this sounds like a good book to get pumped up about it. Good for you making the time to read and write about it!

Grace April 11, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I like Jean’s writing, especially in Money magazine. But her last book was inane–how all our problems could be solved if we just save an extra $10 per day to reduce our indebtedness. Umm, Jean? Good plan but not exactly doable, yuh know?

I don’t know that I can bring myself to give this one a try–particularly since it seems aimed at a younger audience than this 59 year old.

mrsmicah April 11, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Yes Grace, I didn’t like that one much either. It works well for people who can find an extra $300/month, but that’s not everyone. Much preferred the previous one.

It’s definitely aimed at a younger audience, but I think part is aimed at women who’ve found themselves single later on in life and don’t know what to do about their money. If you’re still trying to figure out how to control your finances and motivate yourself, it might work. Library first. πŸ˜‰

My Daily Dollars April 11, 2008 at 6:08 pm

I like your emphasis on support networks. I know the blogs are functioning that way for me. It’s interesting because once I shared my blog with my social circle, people have started talking to me a lot more about their money. I agree a “money club” could be a great idea! You know, I wrote my dissertation on women’s clubs in the nineteenth century, and one chapter is about how they supported women’s transition from the home to the workplace. By the way, they also started 75% of the libraries in America. Hooray for women!

Shanti @ Antishay April 14, 2008 at 11:57 am

After reading your review, I REALLY want to read this book. I already think I have a great handle on my money, but who doesn’t want to read more about PF always? πŸ˜‰ I think you should give the book away! I was thinking of urging PaidTwice to give it away, but maybe you BOTH can… that would up my chances of winning πŸ˜‰

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