Money at 30: “Get Money” Book Review
Over the past few years, personal finance has taken on an increasingly important role in my life. While on my own money and writing journey, I’ve been inspired by a number of other finance bloggers along the way. Nearly from the beginning, one of my favorites in this category was Kristin Wong, whose work I knew from Lifehacker’s TwoCents page. Given this affinity, I was excited to learn that Wong was publishing a book all about personal finance titled Get Money. As I suspected before I even picked it up for myself (though I’ve now confirmed by reading it cover to cover), the book is an approachable 101, 201, and perhaps even 301 course in personal finance that manages to be smart, funny, and informative all at the same time.
Before getting into the review itself, I feel like I should spend some time on just the title of this book and why I love it. First, the main title — “Get Money” — is meant to have two meanings. In this case, Wong isn’t just suggesting you earn and stash cash but, instead, “get” money, as in understand it and learn to harness its power. Beyond that brilliance, the subtitle of the book also holds a special place in my heart: “Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford.” Between these two phrases, Wong really lays out what her approach to personal finance is all about and, frankly, it’s one I’m very much on board with.
Emphasis on Gamification
From reading a number of her articles over the years, I’ve known Wong to be a strong believer in the power of gamification, proposing various money challenges to keep budgeters engaged. As it turns out, gamification actually plays a major role in Get Money on top of Wong’s brief explanation of why she finds it so effective. Instead of traditional chapters and sections, the book takes readers through three stages and thirteen levels, rewarding them with mini achievement trophies at the end of each. It’s a bit cheesy, to be sure, but it does highlight how small rewards and recognition can go a long way toward keeping you on track to reach your goals.
Much More Than Budgets
Speaking of its organization, Get Money follows a pretty logical path as it explores some basic money topics as well as some you might not think as much about. Sure there are chapters — sorry, levels — regarding essentials like budgeting, emergency funds, and credit scores, but Wong also hits on some important topics I probably would not have considered including. For example, Wong dedicates a level to “de-consumerizing” your brain, which highlights some of the tricks and fallacies that cause us financial harm. Additionally she shares tips for things like finding the best bank, talking to friends and loved ones about finance, and other slightly off the beaten path subjects.
An Interactive Approach to Teaching
Contrary to how I consumed the book, Get Money isn’t just meant to be read — it’s intended to be a hands-on, interactive workshop. To accomplish this, Wong includes numerous written exercises, checklists, and templates that can help readers apply the concepts they’re learning directly to their own lives. For those who don’t want to sully their pristine copies of the book by writing in it, Wong also includes many of her written materials on TheGetMoneyBook.com (note: you will be asked to join an e-mail list when you go to download the files). On the site you can also find a series of helpful video tutorials on things like how to properly fill out a W-4, how to open a retirement account, and how to check your credit.
Coming from a technical writing background, Wong definitely has a way of explaining complex topics in easy-to-understand ways. That said there are some moments in Get Money that can feel a bit drier than the rest of the content. Namely I’m thinking of sections in the tax and investing levels that, while made more digestible than they would be otherwise, still prove to be a bit of a chore to fully comprehend. Of course, this is hardly the fault of Wong, who deserves commending for even tackling these topics in the first place (although their absence in a book such as this would have been glaring).
Final Thoughts on Get Money
After reading Get Money, I feel like Wong and I have very similar philosophies when it comes to money and personal finance. However, she manages to articulate these beliefs with brilliant metaphors and a precise clarity that I strive to emulate. In addition to my appreciation for that aspect of the book, there were many things I learned from Get Money, even as someone who’s likely achieved more of these levels ahead of time than I suspect most readers will have (#HumbleBrag). Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay the book is that, before I had even finished reading it, I was already thinking of people in my life that could benefit from it. With that, whether you’re just thinking about getting your finances in order or you’re a blossoming money nerd like me, I’d definitely recommend Kirstin Wong’s Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford as a way to do just that.