Financial Book Review on Chuck Jaffe’s MoneyLife

Managing your financial life can seem intimidating. Many women don’t know how or where to start. I was a guest today on Chuck Jaffe’s MoneyLife. We discussed why women need to be actively involved in managing their financial lives and how they can overcome their anxiety about money and invest. Check out the audio and full transcript below. 

Chuck Jaffe: Welcome to the Book Interview here on MoneyLife where I’m joined right now by Nancy Doyle. She is the author of Manage Your Financial Life: A Thoughtful Organized Approach for Women. Now before we go any further, I know that not all of my audience is women, but A, if you have a woman in your life, this book can help them and you want to hear it. But even if you don’t, the concepts truthfully that we’re going to talk about are for the most part gender neutral. There are some reasons and we’ll discuss them why books and projects are done more specifically for women. But a lot of the things behind it I know guys that are in the same boat as the women we’re talking about who need help managing their financial life. Now if you want to learn more about the book, the website is Nancy Doyle is on Twitter. She’s @NancyFinance, but right now she’s on MoneyLife. Nancy, welcome to the show.

Nancy Doyle: Good morning, Chuck.

Chuck Jaffe: So I always look at books that are aimed at one gender with a bit of a jaundice eye because the truth is financial advices, financial advice and although you might talk about longevity issues or what have you and say, “Yeah, here are concerns that one gender might have more than the other, the truth is finances by themselves are gender neutral. But your book makes a point one that I happen to agree with that talks about how women aren’t necessarily indoctrinated in this stuff and if they’re not, they can get themselves into a lot of trouble. So how have we come this far and yet we still have that problem societally?

Nancy Doyle: Well, that’s a good point, Chuck, because the topics I discussed in the book are really meant for men and women, but for many reasons I’ve targeted the book at women. As you know our financial lives have gone increasingly complex and there are a number of important factors, demographics, socioeconomic, and behavioral finance reasons why I’m writing for women. We all know that women live longer than men, but more women are living alone than in the past. Currently, 50% of households in the US are married couples. That was 80% in the ’50s and the average age of widowhood in the US is 59 years. But perhaps more importantly most women during their lifetime go through a transition with the financial impact whether it is parenthood buying home, starting a business, changing careers, divorce, widowhood, and when women go through those transitions, they often realize they want a better understanding of managing their financial life. But I have yet to find truly comprehensive resource that I find helpful to women that’s easy to understand and also as independent and objective and that’s why I decided to write the book.

Chuck Jaffe: Well, the interesting thing to me was that if I needed to sum up the book in four phrases, I can do it and yet I find that the four phrases would terrify. In fact, I tried this. I was just talking today to a friend of mine who used to work in financial services and was talking about how terrible she always has been on the money side of things in her own life which kind of funny when she worked for a financial services company for a long time. And I happen to say I was going to be doing this interview and I ran past her the four basic phrases that I think would summarize your book which is one, you need to get organized, two, you need to sort of analyze yourself and understand yourself, three, you need to educate yourself when it comes to investing, and then you need to go out and invest. And her response was, “Yup. It’s great advice.” And everything but the self-analysis which boils down to, “I’m terrible at money,” kind of terrifies me.

Nancy Doyle: Well, I think that’s a common perception that people have and that’s where I believe that when you start with the first step, getting organized, the whole process can be a lot less intimidating. Because if you think about it, I think one reason that people are not as active in managing their financial life is, men or women, is that we are inundated with information. We are inundated with documents. We don’t know what to keep, what we can shred or toss, what’s important, what’s not, but more importantly, we don’t know where information is. And if you go to the first part of the book, getting organized, do a financial spring cleaning, yes, it can be painful initially but once you go through it, you will feel so much better and so much more confident. Then when you develop your In-Case-of-Emergency File and In-Case-of-Emergency Plan, you have set the groundwork to become more involved in managing your financial life.

And I think a number of these concepts on the surface may sound confusing or difficult to people. But one of the key points of the book is to make it approachable to people and I’ve been in the finance and investing world for 30 years. My editor is not a financial person. She in fact is my college roommate, someone I’ve known for 35 years, and we were a great team because if something was not easy for her to understand, it was not going to be easy for my readers. So we went back and forth for three years writing the book with that very goal in mind to make it approachable to people.

Chuck Jaffe: But there does come a point where someone who is reading the book has to actually — it sort of like saying, “Okay, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about skydiving.” But at some point when it comes down to investing your money, you got to actually jump out of the plane in this case. And for a lot of women, that’s particularly difficult. How do you suggest somebody get over that fear? Because the truth is you can have a fear that you’re going to invest and how bad things happen and worried about market risk. But if you don’t invest in the market, you’re just given a big wet kiss to purchasing power risk or longevity risk and all those other things.

Nancy Doyle: Absolutely, you’re jeopardizing your future and it’s imperative. The vast majority of us have not saved enough for retirement and that’s a well-known fact. But I think a main reason that people don’t want to jump in, they’re reluctant to become involved is that they don’t understand how some of the very basic securities work, how some of the asset classes change in value. And I think if people understand the risk of what they’re investing in, it’s less intimidating. And I think that many people are reluctant to become involved because they think, “Oh, that’s beyond my education. I don’t have a background in finance and investing like the author does. That’s not something I can understand.”

In the book I give examples of people who don’t have background in finance and investing yet they are successful lifelong investors because they understand it’s important, they invested a little bit of time to understand the key concept and they stay engaged throughout their lifetime. I think one of my biggest message is I really want to encourage people you can do this. It doesn’t to be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be scary, but you do have to devote some time. I’ve heard back from so many people who’ve read the book and said, “This really isn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be.” And what’s also interesting, I’ve heard from several men who are thrilled that their spouse is reading the book and it’s going to be more actively engaged in managing the family finances together.

Chuck Jaffe: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the kind of thing where I truly do believe that the book is particularly helpful. I mean I have a couple of women involved in my life, my daughters most notably, and my daughters grew up in a household where, trust me, they were exposed to all the things money, but they’re still trying to make sure that they get their emotions right about money all the time. They’re giving themselves permission to spend, they’re giving themselves permission to invest, allowing themselves to take a chance. My oldest who does not earn very much money has been saving relatively aggressively and then she looked at me the other day or the last time we had a conversation by phone and was saying, “I think I need to invest more because it’s clear that I’m not investing a big enough percentage of my assets.” I’m like, “Good for you kiddo that you understand you need to do more of that.”

So this is the kind of book that can help, quickly, because we’re almost out of time. Of the four things that I’ve talked about, getting organized, doing your profile, getting the education about money, et cetera, which do you consider the most daunting? I mean, it is true that anybody can educate themselves about investing, but there’s a reason why people don’t. But at the same time, if you can do an accurate financial analysis of yourself, it can go a long way. So which do you think is the most important of those steps?

Nancy Doyle: Well, I think first of all, it’s imperative that you start with getting organized, but the largest part of the book is the section on educating yourself about investing. And I’ve laid it out in a very well organized manner that I think makes it less intimidating because I think you can’t understand the investing world unless you understand the fundamental concept, the different types about the classes, the different types of structures, you know what’s the difference between a mutual fund and an ETF. It’s a short discussion, but there are important differences. And last, you have to understand the different types of accounts and what might be right for you. So I think if you can devote sometime to the educating section, it really will make a big difference in your comfort level with the topics of investing. And again, I also have the website that people can go back to and you’re even able to ask me questions if you like. If there’s something you don’t understand, you could submit a question on the website and I’d be happy to follow up with and put something on the website.

Chuck Jaffe: The book is Manage Your Financial Life: A Thoughtful Organized Approach for Women. The website is where you can get more information about the book and you can contact the author. That’s Nancy Doyle. That’s what who we’ve been talking with. Nancy, thanks so much for joining me on the show.

Nancy Doyle: Thank you so much, Chuck.

Chuck Jaffe: Remember, you can also follow Nancy on Twitter. She’s @NancyFinance.

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