On My Own Two Feet

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You CANNOT fight the good fight while broke on your beautiful progressive bottom.  Fortunately, the world is filled with accessible advice books designed to keep you fiscally healthy as you rock on with your bad self. On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance is full of really practical advice, told in an honest, approachable manner, using very concrete examples. I didn’t feel panicked while reading it, which is totally unusual for me when in situations talking about money and math. Plus, the tone is so confident (without being condescending) that I actually sat down and did my budget. I’m still looking at a mountain of debt, but I also am hoping to eventually start the nucleus of a mutual fund. In my imaginary world of HOPE and CHANGE, this is a frickin’ awesome idea since the stimulus plan is saving the US economy.

Of course, I can’t actually add or subtract, so what the heck do I know? If I plan carefully, I’ll be able to afford to fight the good fight long after I retire. That, my loves, is some radical ish.

Comments

  1. says

    I utterly loathe books that are marketed in this fashion. A common sense guide to dealing with your own finances? That’s great – that is the kind of thing we should be teaching in high schools – it would be better for the economy in the long run than the basic trigonometry needed for the SATs.

    But why do they have to market it to GIRLS? Oh right, that’s obvious! Men don’t have trouble with money! It’s only the silly flighty girls who aren’t born with that innate capitalist instinct.

    Rather than being as “empowering” as the descriptions and table of contents proclaim this book to be, I see a steaming bill of patronizing crap:

    “For all you girls who decided you didn’t want a man to take care of you but never realized just how hard that could be! Just in case you don’t get enough condescension about how well you are doing considering your circumstances.”

    Yeah. I’ll pass.

  2. the OTHER Maria says

    In regards to this particular book, I disagree. I think that girls/women are still really discouraged from learning to manage their own finances. While the marketing of books like this can be problematic (I’m thinking of the Suze Orman book *Young, Fabulous, and Broke* which does the flighty girl thing you describe), this book in particular locates itself as being particularly oriented to girls and women interested in correcting a socially engineered educational deficit. Plus, another thing I liked about it is that it doesn’t presume you’re going to get married, or be engaged in a long-term heterosexual relationship that’ll be a deciding factor in your present financial decisions (which the Orman book does).

    I think acknowledging that society has failed to prepare you in a specific way, and has in fact then gone out of its way to make it difficult/socially awkward/socially frowned upon for you to get that info, doesn’t make a product necessarily problematic.

    I do wish they made books like this for people who are transitioning class backgrounds, though, since some of the stuff they described is stuff I think I didn’t know because lower middle class people and working class people don’t approach their money in that way.

  3. Eileen says

    This review didn’t really tell me anything substantive about why the book is or isn’t worthwhile. And why is the cover illustration a pair of disembodied legs in heels? That annoys me.

    Why does sensible and easy to read financial advice have to be gendered? It doesn’t. Me no buy.

  4. the OTHER Maria says

    This was actually a harder book for me to review because I don’t really know a lot about money. I read it at the same time I read Suze Orman’s *Young, Fabulous, and Broke* and Orman’s *Women and Money.* I was also looking at *Personal Finances for Dummies,* but found the organizational style really frustrating. The last two are organized by topic, whereas the first two (*YFB* and *On My Own Two Feet*) are organized by processes and steps — theoretically you could go chapter by chapter heading towards financial well-being. I was originally planning to do a multi-book review of all four of these books, but had to return *On My Own Two Feet* and *For Dummies* to the library. :P

    Anyways, the thing I liked most about *YFB* is that there’s a companion website. Unfortunately, if you get the book via a library or borrow it, you don’t have access to that website. I got the book as a gift, and can say it’s a pretty sweet website that helps you manage your budget, and offers little quizzes that can then help you pick financial strategies. However, the fact that you can’t just use it without buying the book bugged me. That, plus the sometimes condescending tone (I felt like things were a little TOO dumbed down, and that she was basically like, You’re broke because you’re shallow) really turned me off.

    While *On My Two Feet* DOESN’T offer such a website, I found it way more useful in terms of practical advice, examples (I think one of the imaginary characters is around 40, is single, and has been working in non-profits for the last 20 years — HOW WILL SHE RETIRE???), and in terms of HOW they explained what messes you up financially. And again, I really liked that in their older women examples, the authors didn’t assume that planning for a child’s education was a priority.

    Haha, this’ll teach me to not review books if I’ve only read 3 others like it. ;)

  5. says

    How American-centric is the book? I not only don’t know what a 401(k) plan is, I don’t need to know – we don’t have them. (But hey, I know about them, because wow is our culture saturated with American magazines.)

  6. the OTHER Maria says

    I think it’s pretty American-centric… like they talk about picking a good savings account, but a lot of talks about mutual funds, Roth IRAs, credit ratings, etc., that I imagine are handled differently in other countries.

    I’ve heard that this book:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Suze-Ormans-2009-Action-Plan/dp/0385530935

    is better for Brits (and for people wanting something more like a workbook), but can’t think of any others.

  7. says

    I can chime in on the cover illustration. A few months ago I attended a panel about “chick lit”, and one of the frustrations the authors on the panel expressed was that if you were a woman writing, then pretty much no matter what your book was about, it was going to get a cover with disembodied woman parts. Legs are very popular, but also the ol’ headless torso in a dress, etc.

    The publishers are apparently pretty adamant that these covers help sell books to women.

  8. says

    Jennifer nailed it – as one of the authors of On My Own Two Feet (and a fervent feminist) I can tell you that authors sadly do not have the final say on their covers. Our hope was that the cover would be representative of “every woman” (my coauthor & I are both children of immigrants and very sensitive to issues of not just gender but also ethnicity and socio-economic diversity).

    As for why the focus on women (alas, we also had no control over the subtitle; “girl” is so not a word we would have chosen…) while personal finance is important for both genders – we feel it is extra important for us women if for no other reason that we are quite literally the last ones standing. Not only do we earn less (grrrrr…..) and tend to move in and out of the workforce more than men – but we live 7 years longer on average. As such it is imperative that we nail this subject if we are to lead productive, full, and enjoyable lives to the very end.

    Bottom line – our goal with this book was to help strong, smart women nail this woefully under-discussed. If you can look past the legs, I think you’ll find some very empowering and liberating information within :).

    With gratitude,
    Manisha Thakor
    co-author, On My Own Two Feet

  9. Zahra says

    I haven’t yet read this book, despite a personal recommendation, but I have to say that I was very impressed with the On My Own Two Feet website, and that I downloaded the free sample budget from the site and used it to set up my own, which has been invaluable. All that I read there, and heard from my trustworthy source, was very feminist.

    It is a sad fact that many otherwise strong, smart women expect, consciously or not, that a man will take care of their money problems (which could mean anything from expecting his income to subsidize things to expecting that he’ll take care of budgeting and paying bills on time). Even those of us who believe fervently the opposite often don’t have the skills or training–much the same way that I didn’t learn to be handy with machines and tinker with cars from my father, even though he was good at it. The book & associated site very openly acknowledges this, cites it as a problem, and seeks to change it. I find nothing condescending about that.

    And as a former book editor, I have to agree that authors very very rarely have any say in their covers, or even titles, much of the time. This is not necessarily a bad thing–many talented writers are not equally gifted in the visual and snappy-title realms. Both the cover and the title are marketing tools, and the real power there lies with the marketing department. The problem is that said marketing depts seem to be enthralled to a host of sexist assumptions about appealing to female markets…

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