For decades, the conventional wisdom about personal finance has been based on a strong message of self-deprivation: If you’re in debt, the narrative goes, it’s because you’re spending frivolously and neglecting necessities. A group of new books posits that this thinking is out of place in a world where student debt has spiraled out of control and home ownership is out of reach for many, and where valid anxiety about money fuels some to make poor financial decisions.
It’s the system, stupid
The days of personal finance gurus advising their acolytes to make coffee at home are over. “A lot of personal finance books are really frustrating,” says Emily Wunderlich, a senior editor at Viking. “They encourage personal discipline and courage, challenge you to manage your money, and make assumptions about how much money people are earning or spending. They leave a lot of people out.” your acquisition Finance for the people (Penguin Life, February 2022), which Paco de León, founder of financial firm Hell Yeah Group, wrote for creatives and freelancers, “takes into account a more diverse set of financial circumstances. Many of the ‘habits’ mentioned in other books are short-term; It is about feelings and beliefs. We are all weird with money. It’s about untangling those oddities to help you live better.”
various publishers PV Whoever he spoke to for this feature touched on the fact that financial challenges are not created in a vacuum; systemic problems have a huge impact on the way we earn, spend, invest and save. Patronizing advice about following pennies fails in an era when dollars are out of reach.
“The days of personal finance books offering platitudes that were supposed to work for everyone, the coffee thing, are over,” says Kate Zimmerman, senior editor at Sterling. In financial first aid (April 2022), Alyssa Davies, author of 100 day financial goal diary“recognizes the systemic problems that people face, the difficulty of finding stable employment, the precariousness of the informal economy, the difficulty of finding health insurance if you are self-employed, the cost of childcare” .
Many of these systemic problems disproportionately affect women. “There are so many forces in the world that make women feel like they’re not good with money,” says Helen Healey, editor of Portfolio. “Can you really blame people for falling prey to the insane financial system we live in?” Healey acquired Kumiko Love’s My money, my way (February 2022), based on the author’s self-published budget planners, which she notes have sold more than 140,000 copies in total.
Love seeks to help women understand the emotional components of their financial struggles and use that understanding to get out of debt and spend their money in ways that are meaningful to them. “Some of the universal standard finance authors make readers feel like they’re the problem,” says Healey. “Miko makes them feel like they are the solution.”
Like Love, Kimberlee Davis found herself struggling after her divorce when she had to support her children alone. “The financial situation of women has always been tenuous compared to that of men,” says Ariel Curry, who worked as a development editor at Davis’s power to the bag (Wonderwell, May 2022). “And even more so now; 80% of the people who have left the workforce during Covid are women.” Davis’ advice: Don’t let someone else own her financial future.
A first step toward financial peace can be to talk openly about financial fear and anxiety. women talk about money (March 2022), an anthology edited by Rebecca Walker and containing essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom and Alice Walker, among others, offers women writers of many races and gender identities the opportunity to share the reality of their situations. “Even in 2021, women are uncomfortable talking openly about money,” says Hana Park, assistant editor at Simon & Schuster. “This collection seeks to dispel shame and break that barrier.”
It’s my bank balance, and I’ll cry if I want to
Understanding the emotional roots of money problems is the first step to solving them, according to financial therapist Bari Tessler, author of The art of money workbook, a June release from Shambhala. “There’s a lot of fear and confusion around money,” says Beth Frankl, Shambhala’s executive editor. “This book uses the reader’s relationship with money as a training ground for compassion, confidence, and self-esteem.”
In contrast, Matthew Partridge, senior editor of the UK’s money week magazine, suggests that removing emotion from investment decisions may be the key to smart investing. In Investing Explained, which Kogan Page will publish in February, “he talks about behavioral psychology and how readers can harness and benefit from the irrational behavior of others,” says Isabelle Cheng, senior editor at Kogan Page.
Nick Amphlett, who edited William Morrow’s April release The eager investor, points out that the already unpredictable economy is prompting many to try their luck in the stock market. “There was a lot of fear about finances and what was going to happen; Would they still have jobs, what was going on with the stock market, he says. “We realized that there is room for a book on what investor psychology is and how to understand it.”
Hit the road jack
This same economic turmoil is also fueling new books that discourage readers from counting on their nine-to-five schedules to keep them employed and solvent. “Covid has given people an opportunity to reassess how they live their lives, how they approach life goals like sending their children to college,” says Amphlett. “There’s definitely a lot of entrepreneurial stuff to chart your own path.”
In money magic—a January release of Little, Brown Spark that PVCalled “a must-read for anyone concerned about their financial future,” the featured review: Economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff discusses, for example, why becoming a plumber may be a better career choice than becoming a doctor; they earn similar money, but plumbers do so without crushing medical school debt.
“People are interested in financial freedom,” says Marisa Vigilante, senior editor at Little, Brown Spark. “How can you create your own wealth to be more independent? Many of these conversations originated in the FIRE [financial independence/retire early] movement; we’re seeing this resonate in a new light with the Great Resignation, as we see more people who don’t want to work unless they’re being compensated properly. Workers in general feel they have more rights than before.”
And they don’t feel blind loyalty to their employers. “Younger professionals don’t want to stay in their jobs for 20 years, but they still want financial security,” says Jeanenne Ray, executive editor of trade publications at Wiley. “We are looking at proposals on how to buy a van to live in, how to travel full time and work remotely, how to buy a place in Mexico and be autonomous to support a new minimalist lifestyle.” The acquisition of Ray Financial Adulting (March 2022) by Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, founder and CEO of Fiscal Femme and author of The 30-Day Money Cleanse, aims to help young people make good financial decisions.
This type of training can start in high school, according to Dan Sheeks, who wrote First to a Million based on his experience as a high school business teacher. He wants to teach teens about finances and also offer alternatives to the “work until 65, then retire” maxim. Kaylee Walterbach, COO of BiggerPockets Publishing (which will release the book in December), notes that this is the first foray into YA nonfiction for the company, whose primary audience is real estate investors. Among that group, she says, “we’re seeing people saying, ‘I don’t want to quit my job; I want the flexibility of knowing that I could if I wanted to.’ ”
It’s an empowering feeling and in line with the spirit of many of the season’s personal finance titles.
Liz Scheier is a writer, editor, and product developer living in Washington, DC. Her memoir never simple It will be published by Henry Holt in March 2022.
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated the number of copies Kumiko Love’s self-published budget planners have sold.
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A version of this article appeared in the 11/29/2021 issue of weekly editors under the title: It’s not about the latte