As a eager but nervous 20 something, I’ve spent the past year educating myself on the basics of finances. Or at least, what’s seen as good finances, the standards that everyone is expected to follow. While I gathered most of my information from sites such as Creditkarma or Lifehacker, I recently went trolling at the local library for what physical media has to say. What I found was the same material, but packaged in particularly media savvy ways.
There are two kinds of personal finance books: those for old people, and those for young people. I took a look at the latter.
These books have pretty much the same content I learned elsewhere, aside from certain outdated material (Bissonnette’s book saying you have to pay for a credit score, when that is not the case.) Instead, it is all about the presentation. Kobliner’s book draws on digital media: the font is reminiscent of early internet, though it’s actually modeled on certain receipt printing techniques. Bassinet’s book’s font has a hand written look, with a hasty but assured style. Perhaps that assuredness comes form the boastful title.
Both will no doubt attract a young audience based on one word: debt. It’s the largest thing young people today have to deal with, taking on large amounts of debt for their education. College is now a necessity, but priced like a luxury. Debt is a universal burden, and books promising a way out are therefore highly attractive properties.
While these books have glossy covers, they are still books composed mostly of text. Not so with the next “book” I encountered.
Primarily know for a career in business journalism, this book reads a collection of clickbait articles with a lot of pictures.
The pictures serve little use, they merely fill up space so Otter’s writing seem substantive. The book’s hook is that it merely presents the decisions many of us may face in our lives (buy or rent?), and supposedly gives you some good information so you feel better prepared to make such a decision. Otter also presents one “quandary” that is also one of the most alarming things I’ve ever read: to cheat on your wife or not?
The first gut reaction is to exclaim “why is this in a book on personal finance!” Otter provides an answer in a roundabout way. See, the reason you shouldn’t cheat on your wife (the audience for this book is assumed to be [white] male) is because she could sue. Not because it would be morally or ethically bankrupt, but because it could cost you money.
Personal finance books are mostly trash, usually because they either are just a rehash of everything you already know or could get for free on the internet if you know the right places to look. But it’s also trash for patriarchal garbage like this, patriarchy being a consistent lingering thread I see in a lot of finance talk. White men dominate the world of finance, and it’s stuff like Otter’s book that reveals this at its most rank.