Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

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by Helaine Olen
     
 

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An exposé of the personal finance industry and the irrational choices it leads us to make.

When Helaine Olen joined The Los Angeles Times, she was flabbergasted to be asked to write a "Money Makeover" column. Knowing nothing about personal finance, she gave it her best shot and soon realized that her ignorance barely mattered.

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Overview

An exposé of the personal finance industry and the irrational choices it leads us to make.

When Helaine Olen joined The Los Angeles Times, she was flabbergasted to be asked to write a "Money Makeover" column. Knowing nothing about personal finance, she gave it her best shot and soon realized that her ignorance barely mattered. Pretty much anyone could fashion themselves as a money expert.

This experience inspired Olen to investigate the transformation of personal finance-from a few practical, well-meaning, post- Depression advice givers to a multibillion-dollar industry predicated on the promise of quick and easy wealth for everyone.

Weaving together behavioral economics, psychology, and her own reporting, Olen exposes all the ways we've allowed ourselves to be duped-whether by listening to so-called advisers whose main objective is to get rich themselves, placing risky bets on the stock market, or cutting out lattes in an effort to save while ignoring ever-increasing income inequality. Full of shocking stories and data, Pound Foolish will allow us to make smarter choices about money by opening our eyes to the realities of where wealth comes from.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
It's rare to come across a realistic and readable book about personal finance. Most are laden with rosy promises, followed by acronyms and turgid advice. Helaine Olen…offers an exception with Pound Foolish…It's a take-no-prisoners examination of the ways she says we have been scared, misled or bamboozled by those purporting to help us achieve financial security.
—Caitlin Kelly
Publishers Weekly
The worth of the personal finance industry is inversely proportional to its ubiquity, according to Forbes.com blogger Olen in his breezy romp through recent financial history. According to Olen, given today’s increasing income inequality and shaky employment prospects, a secure livelihood or retirement is a chimera. Olen’s fast-paced narrative focuses on the rise of media celebrities and financial pundits who assure us: “You can do it!” What we can do is sign up for overhyped and overpriced investment seminars and services, promoted largely by the powerful motivator of fear. Such luminaries as Suze Orman, Jim Cramer, Robert Kiyosaki, and Peter Schiff may be household names, but their (often self-serving) advice did not prevent American retirement vehicles from losing trillion in 2007–2008. The proposition that media icons are also self-promoters will astonish no one, and Olen’s frequent iteration of this point diminishes the value of her observations. Though her intention is to provide an exposé, not financial advice, her own observations are commonplace. One can enjoy her glimpses of the world of financial celebrity while remaining skeptical about the scope of her proposed remedy. Agent: Andrew Stuart, the Stuart Agency. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Dishy dirt on the "financialization" of American life and the hordes of carrion-pickers who swarm us in the hope of lifting still more dollars from our pockets. By Forbes.com blogger and former Los Angeles Times writer Olen's account, this financialization was a bit haphazard and not entirely well-planned-out. The IRA, for example, was intended as a supplement to other retirement measures, whereas "what we today think of as the natural retirement planning landscape started as an accident, a 1978 shift in the tax code designed to clarify a few highly technical points about profit-sharing plans offered by many corporations to high-ranking employees." Lest it make you feel cuddly to think that your retirement account has its source in something meant for the rich and powerful, Olen observes that it's a mook's game these days: Whereas in the 1950s, only 5 percent of Americans were in the stock market, by 2000, that had gone up to fully half, with a vast industry peeling off dollars in the form of management fees, commissions and so forth. The stock market and its ancillaries received promotion as "a way to gain wealth we could not gain through conventional savings or earnings strategies." Unconventional means risky, as a generation of shorn investors has recently come to appreciate, but that risk doesn't stop us from wanting to try our luck again--and that brings in a bunch of Olen's bugaboos, including the "wealth creation seminar business" and people like Suze Orman, "whose riches came from…lecturing the rest of us on our inability to manage our funds." A nice takedown, particularly in its acknowledgement that the deck is always stacked against "participants in a vast experiment" of the deregulated marketplace--namely, the little guys.
From the Publisher
“It's rare to come across a realistic and readable book about personal finance. Most are laden with rosy promises, followed by acronyms and turgid advice. Helaine Olen, a freelance journalist, offers an exception with Pound Foolish.... It’s a take-no-prisoners examination of the ways she says we have been scared, misled or bamboozled by those purporting to help us achieve financial security.”
The New York Times
 
“Have you ever met anyone who has grown rich just by saving? Probably not. But you may well have met someone who has grown rich looking after other people’s savings. That dark secret lies at the heart of ‘Pound Foolish’, Helaine Olen’s excellent book, a contemptuous exposé of the American personal-finance industry.”
The Economist

“A cautionary tale that you need to read.”
The Washington Post
 
“Dishy dirt on the ‘financialization’ of American life and the hordes of carrion-pickers who swarm us in the hope of lifting still more dollars from our pockets.”
Kirkus
 
“This thought-provoking book alerts us to important issues in today’s post-recession economy.”
Booklist

“A highly readable antidote to the snake oil of the personal finance industry. Suze Orman, watch out!”
—GREG CRITSER, author of Fat Land

“Wow, does personal financial advice need debunking. And Helaine Olen does it like an old master. Clear, witty, takes no prisoners, and right as hell. Olen will wake you up. There is no financial trick to make you rich.”
—JEFF MADRICK, author of The Age of Greed and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

“Helaine Olen explains in simple language why most Americans are never going to understand the myriad complexities of investing and borrowing, leaving us all vulnerable to being ripped off in oh so many ways. Combining thorough research with passionate writing, Pound Foolish tells us what to do to protect ourselves and our hard-earned money.”
—DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Fine Print

“As Helaine Olen shows in this powerful exposé, ‘personal finance’ is the ultimate oxymoron. The financial challenges that most Americans face are not simply personal—they reflect the failure of our polices and our leaders to tackle growing middle-class insecurity. And the advice that self-proclaimed money experts provide is far from sound finance. Too often, it’s snake oil that only adds to the problem.”
—JACOB S. HACKER, director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, and author of The Great Risk Shift

Pound Foolish is a fabulously well-reported, lucid, and witty tour of the train wreck that American finance has become. Olen has the rare ability to demystify the countless swindles and frauds that lately comprise the basic operations of the investment scene. As a kind of bonus, she depicts with verve and intelligence the panoramic freak show of personalities who infest the money scene.”
—JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER, author of The Geography of Nowhere and Too Much Magic

“In this gripping account, Helaine Olen pulls out the rug from under the finance industry, and does so in time for at least some of us to find alternative solutions to financial security.”
—DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, author of Life Inc. and Present Shock

 “The world of personal finance is an economic sideshow filled with illusionists, conjurers, and snake-oil salesmen of every stripe. Thankfully, Helaine Olen has spent enough time inside the circus to be able to guide us wisely and wittily through the hall of mirrors—and come out smarter on the other end.”
—JAMES LEDBETTER, opinion editor, Reuters, and author of Unwarranted Influence

“The cult of ‘personal finance’ sells itself—and preys on pocketbooks—with a wildly false message: that American middle class families only have themselves to blame for their economic troubles. With wit, simple math, and relentless sleuthing, Helaine Olen shows how the personal finance industry has led savers and investors astray, and what you can do to avoid its traps.”
—ALYSSA KATZ, author of Our Lot

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591844891
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
12/27/2012
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“It's rare to come across a realistic and readable book about personal finance. Most are laden with rosy promises, followed by acronyms and turgid advice. Helaine Olen, a freelance journalist, offers an exception with Pound Foolish.... It’s a take-no-prisoners examination of the ways she says we have been scared, misled or bamboozled by those purporting to help us achieve financial security.”
The New York Times
 
“Have you ever met anyone who has grown rich just by saving? Probably not. But you may well have met someone who has grown rich looking after other people’s savings. That dark secret lies at the heart of ‘Pound Foolish’, Helaine Olen’s excellent book, a contemptuous exposé of the American personal-finance industry.”
The Economist

“A cautionary tale that you need to read.”
The Washington Post
 
“Dishy dirt on the ‘financialization’ of American life and the hordes of carrion-pickers who swarm us in the hope of lifting still more dollars from our pockets.”
Kirkus
 
“This thought-provoking book alerts us to important issues in today’s post-recession economy.”
Booklist

“A highly readable antidote to the snake oil of the personal finance industry. Suze Orman, watch out!”
GREG CRITSER, author of Fat Land
 
“Wow, does personal financial advice need debunking. And Helaine Olen does it like an old master. Clear, witty, takes no prisoners, and right as hell. Olen will wake you up. There is no financial trick to make you rich.”
JEFF MADRICK, author of The Age of Greed and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute
 
“Helaine Olen explains in simple language why most Americans are never going to understand the myriad complexities of investing and borrowing, leaving us all vulnerable to being ripped off in oh so many ways. Combining thorough research with passionate writing, Pound Foolish tells us what to do to protect ourselves and our hard-earned money.”
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Fine Print
 
“As Helaine Olen shows in this powerful exposé, ‘personal finance’ is the ultimate oxymoron. The financial challenges that most Americans face are not simply personal—they reflect the failure of our polices and our leaders to tackle growing middle-class insecurity. And the advice that self-proclaimed money experts provide is far from sound finance. Too often, it’s snake oil that only adds to the problem.”
JACOB S. HACKER, director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, and author of The Great Risk Shift
 
Pound Foolish is a fabulously well-reported, lucid, and witty tour of the train wreck that American finance has become. Olen has the rare ability to demystify the countless swindles and frauds that lately comprise the basic operations of the investment scene. As a kind of bonus, she depicts with verve and intelligence the panoramic freak show of personalities who infest the money scene.”
JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER, author of The Geography of Nowhere and Too Much Magic
 
“In this gripping account, Helaine Olen pulls out the rug from under the finance industry, and does so in time for at least some of us to find alternative solutions to financial security.”
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, author of Life Inc. and Present Shock
 
“The world of personal finance is an economic sideshow filled with illusionists, conjurers, and snake-oil salesmen of every stripe. Thankfully, Helaine Olen has spent enough time inside the circus to be able to guide us wisely and wittily through the hall of mirrors—and come out smarter on the other end.”
JAMES LEDBETTER, opinion editor, Reuters, and author of Unwarranted Influence
 
“The cult of ‘personal finance’ sells itself—and preys on pocketbooks—with a wildly false message: that American middle class families only have themselves to blame for their economic troubles. With wit, simple math, and relentless sleuthing, Helaine Olen shows how the personal finance industry has led savers and investors astray, and what you can do to avoid its traps.”
ALYSSA KATZ, author of Our Lot

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Meet the Author

Helaine Olen is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times.

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Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
WendyNYC More than 1 year ago
This book deals with the essential problem that with stagnant wages it is becoming impossible for ordinary people to save for retirement etc and the advice gurus having been dishing out bad advice and making people feel guilty at the sae time. While tis is important, it seems to me that there are too many repetetive chapters on assorted failed gurus, some still quite active and busy trying to change their advice after it has failed. It would have made an excellent long article, but is not enough to sustain interest through a whole book. either fewer gurus or briefer accounts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had already come to the scant conclusions drawn in this book. If you're searching for a solution, you won't find it here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author makes some interesting points concerning the abuses of the Financial Industry. Rightly so, but not everyone in the industry is a hack, criminal, shyster, or worse yet a demon possessed banker. I get tired of reading how we need more government intervention to protect us from all evils, when the government can't seem to protect itself from making ill advised financial decisions. Financial education is not a bad thing, but it must be done without the pretext of someone trying to sell or influence the hearer into purchasing the next great financial product. I believe the author was on the right track in many cases but never really seemed to deliver the final goods.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We know that the perdonal finance industry is crooked. This will show you just how much it really is
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ahola. My name is jamie. I have brown hair and blue eyes. I love 1D. I play basketball. I have a hourglass figure .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is sick. Yall have twisted minds. Instead of doing this, read a self help book or some nicholas sparks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello have dirty blinde hair qith almond colred eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah sure! I have 1 qurstion though do you live in a tlwn called canton? Cause i think i might know u
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Y
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:o O.o NOOO!!!! ITS THE END OF THE WORLD!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poor EPUB, the book has more than 50 pages of notes, but there are NO footnotes in the text. Plus the "index" section does not work. I have seen much better EPUBs. The book was fairly good. Nice look at the world of financial "guidance". Many case of people selling "advice" that if it really worked they would be using it, not selling it. The small part of the book where the author tries to say the problem is not individuals, but the system was very weak and should have been left out. But that is only a small piece.