Updated: May 18, 2019
Kristin Wong's book Get Money is a worthwhile starter for any person from any profession looking to nail the basics of personal finance. If you're a writer, you might find it has even more appeal: if you visit Kristin’s blog here, you’ll find that she’s actually a pretty awesome freelance writer. Her expertise on finance was built by working as a writer for a finance blog for a few years. Now she works to help inspire other writers and coach them about how to make the money they deserve for their craft. Pretty badass! And at the end of her book, she offers some quick tips on how to start a side hustle, including freelance writing. Love.
The book takes readers through three “stages” which I see as the crust (financial goal setting, saving, frugality, and budgeting), the main pie (optimizing your finances after your strategies are in place), and the icecream and frosting on top (how to increase your income).
Kristin gives advice on things ranging from haggling, to emergency fund planning, to how to deal with finances up front (and avoid a fight) with your significant other or a spendy friend. She gives a pretty in-depth explanation of the following: how and why you might consider switching banks; how to avoid cognitive bias and the sunk-cost fallacy to make smarter purchasing decisions; how to beef up your credit score; how to strategically tackle debt; and how to handle your taxes.
My favorite is, of course, the icecream and frosting (and all the other little sprinkles, swirls and cherries on top): growing your income. Kristin covers investing and saving for retirement, negotiating and asking for more money, and side hustles.
I appreciate that she also admonishes readers (citing words of wisdom from Cary Carbonaro, a CPA and author), to focus on paying off student debt AND saving for retirement. It’s not an either/or, people! When I ran the numbers in an early retirement calculator, I found that I would get the most bang for my buck if I split all of my “flex” money, or unallocated funds, evenly between paying off debt and investments. The interest rates and balances outstanding math out so that if I use a 50/50 split, theoretically I can retire 2 years earlier than trying the next best strategy. To figure this out I first used the early retirement calculator spreadsheet from this Business Insider article that utilizes the 25x rule, but you can also find retirement calculators of all types ALL OVER THE INTERNET, depending on what you’re looking for. But I’ll cover early retirement calculators in another blog.
Anyhow - one thing Kristin does with this book that I appreciate - that more and more writers are starting to do – is include access to a lot of online tools and resources for those that want to go deeper. A second tactic she uses to get readers more engaged with the book is by providing forms, assignments, and challenges for readers, asking us to actually take action to get money. You could use this book like a workbook and actually fill in answers to the questions on lines provided. She also references lots of other pros on finance and psychology to explain common hang-ups, misconceptions and pit-falls of finance as well as tips, tricks and tried and true strategies to reach financial independence.
Can money buy happiness? According to the research quoted by the author: yes – but only up to $75,000 a year. Beyond that, “there is no change in day-to-day happiness.” [citations omitted]. “It makes sense. It’s so much easier to be content when you don’t have to worry about past due bills or whether or not you can afford lunch.” P. 278.
Perhaps there are diminishing returns on investment beyond covering our basic financial needs...but I like the answer from Kristin’s book dedication (a quote attributed to her parents) better:
“let’s find out just to be sure.”