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Good clear guide for consumer finances

Book Review: “Uncommon Insights” is a wakeup call in print

Your Money: Uncommon Insights: What You Really Need To Know To Protect And Enhance Your Wealth! By Joe Biegel, CFP, J.D. Infinity Publishing, 121 pp. Your Money: Uncommon Insights: What You Really Need To Know To Protect And Enhance Your Wealth! By Joe Biegel, CFP, J.D. Infinity Publishing, 121 pp.

“I retire on Friday and I haven’t saved a dime. Here’s your chance to become a legend!”

This punch line is found in a cartoon which shows a client talking to his astonished financial advisor, in Joe Biegel’s book Your Money: Uncommon Insights: What you Really Need To Know To Protect And Enhance Your Wealth.

If the cartoon was not so realistic, it would be hilarious.

This is a short read, only 121 pages, but one that is packed full of financial information almost everyone needs to know.

The book begins with a Quiz, with the intention of raising a lot of doubt to stimulate additional interest in reading the book to find some answers. The book digs right into some of more serious and possibly most ignored financial decisions: liability, disability, and long-term care insurance and estate planning.

The summary nature and length of the book does not allow detailed solutions but should produce enough concern that something needs to be done and help readers see those areas demand additional information.
 
Practical advice with a balanced viewpoint

Whenever a financial book provides substantial space on the issues of debt, expenses, and taxes, my confidence rises in the content because the book is not just an attempt to draw investable assets. Mr. Biegel discusses the importance of an emergency fund, prepaying a mortgage, and spending less to save more. There is an attitude here that the reader needs to pay attention to the issues of debt and the effect it can have on a savings plan.
Mr. Biegel even gives us: “A penny saved is better than a penny earned.” This may seem elementary but there is a good message there.

Virtually every financial information book tells the reader they must have a budget. But not this one: “I think life is too short to have to conform to a rigid budget and most people are mature enough not to be spendthrifts.”

There might be a collective sigh of relief as that point is digested. The reader is not off the hook however, especially anyone who loves the daily visit to Starbucks. Calculations have been completed and the estimated value lost as a result of being a coffee snob is about $50,000 over a thirty year career.

Gulp!

The logical conclusion is made to more seriously consider the “free” not-so-special coffee at work.

The conclusion is that all spending is opportunity lost. Choosing the right life insurance is brought back to mind as well as every other financial decision that has to be made. Of course even some investments turn out to be an opportunity lost. Guidelines are covered to help recognize some of the issues.

The book seems to park on life insurance a while, to describe the various types of insurance. As a trust officer, it is easy for me to see the benefit of life insurance in numerous situations, but I have to also agree with Mr. Biegel that a lot of money is diverted to life insurance that perhaps should go elsewhere.

Many questions were raised in my mind with regard to what really is best in a given situation. I quickly developed trust in Mr. Biegel’s opinion due to a lack of any motive except to inform the reader--which caused me to wonder how to trust someone actually offering life insurance for sale.

The sense of doubt and awareness is probably a good thing when discussing life insurance with a provider.
 
A serious look at personal investments

The latter part of the book discusses investments. Asset allocation is given serious consideration, as is rebalancing and the ease and diversity of assets. Annuities, 529 plans, and other tools whose providers push their tax advantages are given an airing out. It is easy to see that 529 plans are not one of the author’s most-favored places for investment.

His opinion of annuities is somewhat cloudy. That was surprising to me, because I have experienced a much higher number of unhappy annuity owners in comparison to 529 plan participants. Granted, the reader is cautioned to look at the charges, penalties, and withdrawal rules but supposedly these are disclosed at the time of sale of an annuity.

I did appreciate Mr. Biegel’s analysis of 401(k) plans. We are all told to defer tax now in anticipation of lower taxes when we retire. The elephant is the room is revealed in that most likely our tax rate will not be lower!

If we accept that point, then what are our options with regard to investing in 401(k) past our company match percentage? Our entire financial picture needs to be considered: liability, disability, and long-term care protection must be settled and other investments more suited to one’s personal situation are employed.
 
Where are you headed?

The final chapters are spent looking at the goal: a successful retirement with adequate funds for living expenses; no concern for running out of money; and providing for a legacy and gifting. Some startling charts are provided to see the effects of too much spending, insufficient assets, or wrong mix of investments. Guaranteed income streams: Social Security, pensions, and annuity payments create this base for retirement income. The remaining income is from other assets that are not invested at a significant level of risk but generate adequate income.

A conclusion is easily drawn from these final chapters: we must more than adequately prepare as outlined in all the previous chapters.

Each chapter ends with a list of “Uncommon Takeaways.” These are bullet points that provide a good summary of each chapter. The BOLD button is pushed frequently throughout the book as well with points the author believes are especially important. They are appreciated.
 
A banking angle

I found the epilogue, “Choosing Help,” interesting. Although somewhat cynical at times, these final pages tell the reader of how to find a financial advisor. If I were looking for help and had read this chapter, frankly, I would be afraid to talk to anyone. The reader is left with this advice: Ask someone you know and respect for a recommendation. A series of questions are listed to ask the prospective advisor. While these questions are quite good, it does show a serious problem for the public as they seek help.

Your Money: Uncommon Insights would be helpful for almost everyone, but especially for those that just starting to be concerned about their financial situation. Also, personal bankers or tellers who are regularly asked to make referrals to Trust Departments and Financial Advisors in their institution may appreciate this book, as it would help them understand why it is important for bank clients to really prepare for retirement. The length is not threatening and the summary nature will be helpful.

As an added bonus, they may learn about their own needs.

If you'd like to review books for our online book column, or have recently read a book that you found helpful that we haven't already reviewed, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=Volunteer%20for%20book%20review">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tagged under Books for Bankers,

Will Taylor

William Taylor is senior vice-president and senior trust officer at Soy Capital Bank & Trust Company, Decatur, Ill. He is a frequent book reviewer for ABABJ.com

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