Money at 30: “Money Magic” Audiobook Review
Having completed another year of (near) monthly book reviews, it’s time to start off 2022 on the right foot! Released earlier this month, Money Magic: An Economist’s Secrets to More Money, Less Risk, and a Better Life by Laurence Kotlikoff is a title I encountered on one of my daily dives for finance news, leading me to cash in one of my Audible credits and listen to the audiobook (which is read by Alex Kotlikoff). So, was the content as magical as the title suggests?
In Money Magic, you’ll be introduced to plenty of concepts you may either not be familiar with or that fly in the face with what you’ve been told. That’s where the “secrets” part of the book comes in — and Kotlikoff peppers more than 50 of them throughout the book. Lest you doubt whether or not that number is true, the author rattles them off at the end. As he jokes, this might mean that some pressed-for-time reader could just skip to the waning pages for shortcuts, but the reality is these concepts are such that they need to be consumed in context to be fully understood and appreciated.
Although Kotlikoff warns early on that the book’s material will cover several different stages of life and might not apply to you in the moment, I was still taken back a bit when I realized that several of the front chapters would likely not mean much to me for another 30 years or so. This isn’t to say that I didn’t find the insights interesting — it’s just that many of them were specific to those nearing retirement and who will surely want to heed the author’s advice on matters of Social Security.
Furthermore, the details Kotlikoff goes into coupled with the breadth of situations examined almost assures that there isn’t one person who every bit of advice will apply to. Of course, that’s kind of the point as the author is sure to note all of the nuances at play and ensure everything is as accurate as possible. Plus, while you might not find yourself in these applicable situations, there’s a chance you might know someone who does. Funny enough, not an hour after I consumed the book’s chapter on Social Security, Kotlikoff’s advice (namely waiting until you’re 70 to take it) came up in a conversation I was having with my dad, as I got to share a bit of my newly attained knowledge.
Digging Deeper Into Money Magic
On the other end of the spectrum, another chunk of the book is dedicated to the topic of higher education. For my own biased reasons, this turned out to be one of my favorite sections. In it, Kotlikoff critiques several aspects of the current college status quo — from the cost of tuition to the loan industry that helps land students in long-term debt. Again, while I appreciated the author’s point of view, it’s not like I’m going to be going to college myself as, well, that ship has pretty much sailed. Yet, as my friend’s children get older, perhaps I’ll be able to help them navigate some of the landmines Kotlikoff documents here.
Elsewhere in Money Magic, Kotlikoff is likely to present you with topics that aren’t exactly comfortable or comforting. For example, there are frank discussions about divorce viewed through a mostly financial lens that doesn’t exactly vibe with the emotional experiences of marriage, love, and, love lost. On a less serious but perhaps equally cringeworthy note, Kotlikoff makes a case for living with your parents — again, using a pure finance focus to make his point. To me, these chapters weren’t exactly silly nor insensitive as much as they were kind of obvious and oversimplified. Nevertheless, there may be a few takeaways to be found in these sections.
As for the book overall, while Money Magic does include plenty of facts, figures, and numbers, I still found it easy to digest. I also found an appreciation for Kotlikoff’s occasionally humorous inserts, which helped prevent the book from feeling tedious. Indeed, while I did listen to the book, I do think it’d be a fairly easy read.
That said, for as much as I enjoyed listening to Money Magic: An Economist’s Secrets to More Money, Less Risk, and a Better Life, if it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend picking up a printed copy instead. Not only are there a lot of concepts and figures that are likely easier to consume when seeing them as opposed to hearing them but, since the book offers advice that might not apply to you for some time, it’s likely better to have this reference sitting on your shelf than stored as audio on your hard drive. So while I may not be acting on many of Kotlikoff’s ideas immediately, I reckon they’ll stick with me for when the magical opportunities he details do present themselves.
Also published on Medium.