By Ben Stein
Reviewed by Jon Ford, CFP®
Ben Stein was a keynote speaker at the Financial Planning Association's annual conference in Denver last September. Most of us recognized him as the host of Win Ben Stein's Money, a TV game show, or as the dry economics teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. His address to the FPA conference attendees, "How to Ruin Your Financial Life," revealed him as a very likeable, bright, multi-talented, patriotic and incredibly funny fellow.
I bought his book of the same name not so much because I thought it would introduce advanced or alternative views of financial planning concepts and practices, but because I wanted to further look into Stein's advice for how to ruin one's financial life. Stein provided the general session with a dozen or so samples of advice, but his book has more than 50. I wondered if conceivably his little tome would be a means to provide students or clients a more palatable introduction to their self-defeating financial behaviors. Perhaps I might recommend that parents and others give it to recent graduates or newlyweds.
I found the book to be a delightful, quick-read reference and alternative to the stuffy columns available in newspapers and magazines. His first piece of advice, for example, is to "forget about tomorrow." Later, he advises the reader to "invest in penny stocks," "put all your eggs in one basket," put off taking charge of your financial life for a few more years if it seems overwhelming to you," and "buy and read newsletters and do exactly what they tell you."
There are 55 of these silly pieces of advice—each one highlighting in a comical manner how people perform all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify behaving as they do. Of course, the result of following these homilies is financial ruin. This is a great book to give as a gift. It should be in doctors' offices, on the coffee tables of your clients and students, and in the hands of newly married couples, or recent graduates as they transfer to the work world. My advice: find a discount book dealer, buy 20-or-so copies, give them away at every opportunity, and know that it will be read and you're giving a book that will, in fact, help people avoid financial ruin.
Jon A. Ford, CFP®, is president of Commission Free Financial Planning Solutions Inc. in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Hay House Inc.
$14.95 (Hardback: 131 pages)