May 22, 2006

Book Review: He Said It! I Did It!

When you get a book that's subtitled "Lessons From My Father on Mastering Personal Finance" and see that it includes Bible study questions at the end of each chapter, you think many different things. The first thing I thought when I saw this book and read the press release that came with it was "prosperity gospel."

Thankfully, that is not the case with this book. Charles Buffington III has written this book as a guide to managing your finances with a goal in mind -- and the goal is to use the wealth you get to help others. Wealth is not an end unto itself -- it is a means to an end. The book is really, first and foremost, about stewardship: putting the resources that you have been entrusted with to the best use possible not just for yourself, but for others.

Buffington recognizes that for the average American, debt is a huge problem. In fact, debt has a power to enslave people -- we are stuck in jobs we hate because we have bills to pay. How many of us have ever sat back and said "If I just had these bills paid off, I would..." But unlike so many other writers, he also recognizes that some debt is not avoidable. He breaks debt down into two categories -- constructive debt and toxic debt. Constructive debt is your home mortgage, or your business loan. Toxic debt is the payments on that new plasma TV, or the even bigger car. Constructive debt should be minimized; toxic debt should be avoided.

So many of these "get out of debt and stay that way" books have a very preachy tone. Reading many of them, I feel like I'm in college again, and my father is lecturing me about using and abusing credit. In He Said It! I Did It!, we learn with Buffington, from his father. Each chapter begins with a conversation with Charles Buffington II, where we get an overview of what the chapter is going to teach us. This makes it a lot easier to read -- we know that the author isn't a know it all, because he had to learn these lessons, too, just as we are.

Many of the lessons in the book are common sense: stay out of debt, live below your means, save, invest, etc. We all know that we should do those things. Where the book becomes most valuable is in its example. We see someone who, just like most of us, has heard the lessons but not lived them. He's in the same boat we're in. But he applies these lessons, and ends up better off. He's able to do things for people because he's got the means to do it. He sets a goal, and achieves it by applying the lessons his father teaches him. And those lessons are lessons his father also learned the hard way, so we have two people with whom we can identify. That encouragement, that knowing that these things really do work, is where the book is the most valuable.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 Your post describes a book that should be read by all young people without the proverbial silver spoon. I would suggest, however, that all debt be viewed with suspicion, including debt on your home. Debt is necessary for young people getting started, but the goal of all should be to become debt free. Most people spend far too much; another way to say most people save far too little. "Debt free" is not just possible but a realistic goal for anyone. Just buy only what is essential for life. No more big homes with excess air conditioning so that doors may be left open to overcome global warming.

Posted by: Howard at May 23, 2006 05:35 AM (m4tNp)

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