What's On My Bookshelf

Elisabeth Leamy's Personal Finance Standouts

ByElisabeth Leamy
October 18, 2010, 9:48 AM

Oct. 18, 2010— -- From time to time, I like to tell you about books on my bookshelf that I think could benefit you. This week, I'm making my way through two personal finance books from authors at different points in their lives and careers. Their perspectives could shine a light for you depending where you are in your life and career.

Liz Weston, author of the upcoming book "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (Hudson Street Press, January 2011) has been writing about money for 15 years, first at the Los Angeles Times and now as the most-read personal finance columnist on the Internet at MSN Money. She's been at it long enough to see how the right money moves have changed with our economy. She trained as a Certified Financial Planner, but maybe more valuable, her writing is informed by having heard from thousands of readers over the years.

Kimberly Palmer, author of the new "Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing and Giving Back" (Ten Speed Press, October 2010) speaks of and for the next generation. Palmer writes the popular "Alpha Consumer" column for U.S. News and World Report and she's mad! She's tired of today's young professionals being referred to as "Generation Debt." Palmer points out that Generations X and Y hold more advanced degrees than any prior generation, giving them serious earning potential.

The personal finance shelf of your local bookstore is sagging under the weight of hundreds of preachy volumes, so what could these two authors possibly have to add? Plenty, it turns out.

In "The 10 Commandments of Money," Weston lays out nuanced new rules for financial life that are based on her own observations of the real world and real consumers. Where other authors often get it wrong, Weston gets it right. She digs in to the data like nobody else. Consequently, Weston's advice is audaciously logical -- and yet she's not afraid of shades of gray. For example, every personal finance author touts the importance of building an emergency savings fund. But Weston goes beyond that and suggests that we should also nurture our access to credit. Why straddle these two seemingly opposing viewpoints? For maximum flexibility in a financial crisis. If there's a double dip recession coming, "The 10 Commandments of Money" is like your Boy Scout guide to being prepared.

What stands out about "Generation Earn" is that Palmer goes beyond the desperate "me, me, me" of most personal finance books. Of course, she advises young professionals on how to get their financial houses in order. That's obligatory. And she covers those fundamentals with a crisp, conversational style that makes it sink in. But then she goes beyond that and advises her generation on how to fulfill their dreams of making a difference. It's a lot easier to change the world if you have something more in your arsenal than just sweat and tears. Palmer advises on green spending, wise giving and what she calls "Nonprofit Dreamin.' Generations X and Y are often maligned, but nobody can deny that these young people often think beyond themselves. "Generation Earn" can help them put some money and muscle behind their good intentions.

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