Money at 30: “Bad with Money” Book Review
When most people think about financial books, I have to assume they envision thick economic textbooks or perhaps a hardcover series from a money guru like Dave Ramsey. In reality, the personal finance books I’ve reviewed come from authors like Tanja Hester, Grant Sabatier, or Erin Lowry who all gratefully give their takes on money matters that make such topics approachable, actionable, and interesting. That’s why I was intrigued when I spotted Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together at my local library as it seemed like the type of book that would be in the same vein as some of the others I mentioned. While that may be true to some degree, in actuality, the book is practically a genre unto itself and shakes things up in what I found to be a great way.
Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Dunn or this particular book before coming across it. From what I can tell, it was originally released just over a year ago and Dunn actually hosts a podcast of the same name. In any case, while I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I was taken by its bright colors and only slightly censored profanity in the title, so I decided to give it a shot.
Now, as I alluded to, Bad with Money isn’t your typical personal finance book in that it’s more a memoir than a money how-to. While other titles I’ve reviewed may have been 90% lesson and 10% anecdote, this book is pretty much the opposite recipe. Mind you this is in no way a criticism but it did surprise me as someone who didn’t really read the back of the book too closely.
With that said, Dunn really uses this unique format to her advantage as she recalls a number of personal (some very personal) stories from her life that somehow involve finance. What’s great about this is that it allows her to touch on topics that might not be considered in more “traditional” texts of this nature. For example one of the most interesting chapters in my opinion touched on how your mental health can have a huge impact on your finances. Not only was this section eye-opening but its title — “Bipolar II: The Sequel” — displays Dunn’s sense of humor and ability to find levity even when dealing with tough topics.
On that note, while I wasn’t familiar with her work until reading Bad with Money, Dunn has a background in comedy and entertainment, which really comes across throughout the book. As a fan of stand-up, this injection of humor really worked for me — even getting me to literally LOL on a couple of occasions.
Although I mention that the book is mostly a memoir, there are some exceptions to that. For one, each chapter ends with a “Takeaways” section that help hammer home some of the lessons you may have missed in the prose. Since the work covers a large part of Dunn’s life, these tips are aimed mostly at high schoolers early in the book, college-aged adults after that, and then everybody else. Honestly, I don’t know enough about Dunn’s audience to know the likelihood of high schoolers or younger adults absorbing this info in time for it to be relevant but, luckily, there’s enough entertainment there that those of us beyond those years don’t feel like we need to skip these entries.
While I enjoyed Bad with Money on the whole, I could see how some might not appreciate it as much. Take, for example, those who might have been hoping for more straightforward advice on getting their money in order rather than taking a journey through Dunn’s successes and failures. Additionally Dunn is very outspoken about her politics, so it’s easy to imagine that being a turn off to certain readers as well. Personally, while I may disagree with certain conclusions such as the back cover’s assertion that “capitalism is not your friend,” I never felt distracted or frustrated by Dunn’s insertion of her beliefs. And, to her credit, I appreciated how she did feature some differing points of view, including sharing The Unbanking of America author Lisa Servon’s insight into the payday lender and check cashing industries.
Like I said, Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together isn’t your regular personal finance book — but that’s exactly why I found it so refreshing. As someone who fancies himself fairly financially savvy, I loved taking a break from reading about the same money topics and, instead, getting to go in-depth on someone else’s money journey. If that sounds up your alley, then I say checking out Bad with Money could be a very good thing.