Color of Money: Truth-Squading the Gurus

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— On Ramsey: “Debt is Ramsey’s latte factor, his claim to fame. Ramsey’s take on borrowing money is both simple and extreme. Just say no. No to credit cards, 30-year mortgages, home equity lines, car loans, and anything else that permits you to live beyond your means.”

— On Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” which advocated getting rich through real estate investing: “Kiyosaki’s not howling at you for being in debt like Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, and David Bach are. He’s howling at you for being in the wrong sort of debt. Greed is good, he tells us.”

Olen is also highly critical of the authors who are paid to promote financial products or services, making it hard for them to remain unbiased. It’s a fair criticism.

But even Olen writes that we have to talk about money. “The financial therapy movement has hit on one universal truth: When it comes to money, the vast majority of us are nuts. … We engage in so many self-defeating behaviors it’s impossible to list them. We don’t open our 401(k) statements. We ‘forget’ to pay our bills or file our taxes until the last minute.”

That’s why I continue to look for and recommend personal finance books to help people address their issues. And I’ve found plenty that I think can motivate people to change their bad financial habits, save more, spend less or take action to hedge against a financial calamity. Whether you love or hate Orman, Bach, Ramsey or Kiyosaki, at least on some level their materials have helped people take action about their finances.

“Pound Foolish” does deliver on the promise to show the flaws in the personal finance industry. Even if you get the best financial planning and advice, it can’t shield you from “stagnant salaries, income inequality, and a society that offered a shorter and thinner safety net with each passing year,” Olen writes.

Her book provides a cautionary tale that you need to read. The overall message is that you should always be asking what’s the motivation behind the money advice given.

I’ll be hosting a live online discussion about “Pound Foolish” at noon Eastern on Jan. 31 at Olen will join me to answer your questions. Every month, I randomly select readers to receive a copy of the featured book, which is donated by the publisher. For a chance to win a copy of this month’s book club selection, send an email to with your name and address.

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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