The Financial Dietby Published 26 Sep 2017
|The Financial Diet.pdf|
How to get good with money, even if you have no idea where to start.
The Financial Diet is the personal finance book for people who don’t care about personal finance. Whether you’re in need of an overspending detox, buried under student debt, or just trying to figure out how to live on an entry-level salary, The Financial Diet gives you tools to make a budget, understand investments, and deal with your credit. Chelsea Fagan has tapped a range of experts to help you make the best choices for you, but she also knows that being smarter with money isn’t just about what you put in the bank. It’s about everything—from the clothes you put in your closet, to your financial relationship habits, to the food you put in your kitchen (instead of ordering in again). So The Financial Diet gives you the tools to negotiate a raise and the perfect cocktail recipe to celebrate your new salary.
The Financial Diet will teach you:
• how to get good with money in a year.
• the ingredients everyone needs to have a budget-friendly kitchen.
• how to talk about awkward money stuff with your friends.
• the best way to make (and stick to!) a budget.
• how to take care of your house like a grown-up.
• what the hell it means to invest (and how you can do it).
"The Financial Diet" Reviews
I want to start this out by saying that I'm a big fan of the Financial Diet on YouTube. In the YouTube context, I find Chelsea and Lauren's voices to be relatable and refreshing. They create listicle-style videos on a variety of financial and lifestyle topics such as "12 side hustles you can do in bed." So I really wanted to like this book and was looking forward to reading this book.
However, I'm not sure that that this listicle-style approach translates well to a book, particularly a book that is subtitled "A Total Beginner's Guide to Getting Good with Money". This is not a book that would help a 20- or 30-something gain financial literacy. It's a lifestyle book, focused on how to get the lifestyle you aspire to on a budget, how to cope with the fact that some aspirational lifestyles will remain out of reach, and how to feel as though you're doing a good job with your finances.
The book is structured in the following way - author Chelsea Fagan relates an example from her life, such as being bad with money in her teens. That is followed by some tips on a particular topic often presented in a graphic format by TFD co-founder Lauren Ver Hage. Each chapter then features interviews with other "experts", such as financial bloggers, design bloggers, fashion bloggers, entrepreneurs, or Chelsea's Mom. People who have successfully attained a certain lifestyle.
This book does a good job at talking about the **feelings** associated with not being good at managing a budget, and it has some quick tips, presented in an infographic-format. But it does not define basic or complex financial terms such as diversified portfolios in context. There's a glossary in the back, but that's not enough. This could easily leave a younger / novice reader adrift.
The book is not structured in a way to help someone learn in a logical manner. It presents complex financial formulas like calculating what you need to save for a down payment in an overly-breezy way that left me confused.
And in some many cases it actually gives bad advice. For example, in an interview with a fashion blogger, the blogger recommends buying an upscale work bag, for example a "3.1 Phillip Lim" bag. (Those bags start at $500+). Or even more disastrously, in an interview with a VP at a bank, "you can buy a house with only 3.5% down". That's a TERRIBLE idea.
At one point the book recommends finding a financial sherpa, perhaps not realizing that some people are turning to the book itself to get financial advice. Unlike some of the good personal finance books I've read, the book doesn't direct you to good resources for learning more on particular topics, which would be one way of dealing with topics at a more superficial level in the interest of covering a lot of ground.
It should be noted that this book is written specifically for Millennials. While written in a tone of "I was a hot mess" that is relatable, it leans a little bit too heavily on swearing and hot mess stories. At it's best, the book offers a critique of Instagram and Pinterest-lifestyle aspirations, or why we shouldn't all be working 80-hours a week.
But at it's worst it leans too heavily on the feeling a young person might have of not being a grown-up, not having one's shit together, relying on Mom for advice. The reason I call this out is because I think that Chelsea is giving other 20-somethings short shrift. I think that 20-somethings are capable of gaining an in-depth knowledge of their personal finances and achieving their personal goals.
I think that the author believes this too, but she doesn't serve them by writing this book that lives in the layer of fixing up thrift store furniture so that it's Pinterest-worthy, rather than really digging into the nuts and bolts of how to negotiate the confusing experience of being a first-time homebuyer, or by explaining the mechanics of compound interest rather than just mentioning it in passing.
I would strongly recommend Beth Kobliner's book "Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties" as a good alternative to this book for 20-somethings that want to get a strong foothold on their finances early.
DISCLOSURE: I was given a free advanced reader's edition to review.
I've been a longtime TFD reader and normally I'm actually a fan of Chelsea's writing. That being said, I was very disappointed in this book, and the positive reviews it has been getting in the media. One of my biggest frustrations as a woman who cares about personal finance is how difficult it is to find content that's geared towards women without being infantilizing. All too frequently, personal finance for women is dumbed down to books with pink covers, pretty fonts, and the most basic information, rather than information that actually addresses things like how women should be investing differently considering we generally outlive men but take bigger hits to our lifetime net worth with parenting. The TFD book represents the worst of personal finance for women, right down to the millennial-pink cover. There's a lot of aspirational quotes and sad feelz about mismanaging (or lacking) a budget and why we should talk about money (which, to be clear, we should), but the actual useful financial information in the book could be pared down to about a paragraph. The majority of the book's investment advice is pretty ridiculous, considering it's geared at young investors-- low-yield CDs and bonds are extremely conservative, low-return options and the majority of millennials would be seeing far greater returns with slightly more aggressive (but still safe!) options like ETFs. It also barely defines financial terms, is vague on what things like "long-term investments" actually mean, and often provides financial advice that probably works for the Carrie Bradshaws of the world (like buying expensive designer bags for your first job) but not for the average millennial on a budget. In all, this book is less about personal finance for young women and more about how to become the sort of young woman I imagine Chelsea and her social circle generally are-- largely white, largely affluent, largely living in expensive cities, and taking pride in the fact that they have a "budget" but with no desire to actually take charge of their finances by say, learning the difference between Vanguard and Betterment as investing options. There's also something to be said for the lack of diversity in the book's contributors. The majority seem to be Chelsea's former Thought Catalog colleages like Ella Ceron and Stephanie Georgopulos, or Chelsea's mom. Entertaining, readable women, but not who I'd consider experts on personal finance.
The vast majority of positive coverage in the media appears to be limited to the fact that this book is uniquely geared towards women, when most financial books are not. Unfortunately, personal finance for women isn't as simple as pink covers and flowery aphorisms-- at least, not for intelligent women. If you're looking for actual financial advice geared towards women, look elsewhere. If all you want to know about money is that budgets are good and savings are nice, this book is for you (but also, consider raising your standards)
I enjoyed the pictures more than the content. It's geared towards millennial women so it is very Instagram and Pinterest worthy in regards to layout/color/pictures. It has a few good tips in it (for example Chelsea says to save in 3 different accounts - one emergency fund you can easily access, one investment fund that can be liquidated if needed and then a long investment fund all of which I personally agree with) but overall it talks down to the reader. And yes I understand this is a beginner's finance book but still. I do not think a financial book needs a chapter on How to Be Your Own Italian Grandmother (food) or a chapter on decorating tips for your apartment/house (though the chapter on how to talk to your significant other/friends about money is good).
Worth it just for the discovery of The Woks of Life website for recipes right up my alley. Having already watched all of The Financial Diet’s YouTube videos, and reading Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry, there’s not a whole lot new in this book for me, but it was still really well done, cute, and easy to get through, and I definitely took more notes on things to change or look into for the future.
Informative, but I wish some of the chapters had gone more in depth. Clearly geared at someone who has no idea what to do with money (i.e. first step: open a 401k) and not as much someone who has the initial bases covered and is looking to go to the next level (like investing).
BUT I really loved the chapters on careers and relationships, both had great advice. And I also appreciated their stance that being good with money isn't about depriving yourself, but about knowing where your money is going and spending it with intention. So you CAN have your avocado toast and eat it too...