Monday, March 26, 2012

Debt Free for Life (Canadian Edition) by David Bach

Sometimes a good financial planner is also a cheeseball. In this best-selling book, David Bach provides some very good advice on how to become debt free. Unfortunately, this common sense approach is often undermined by a writing style that is (how can I put it) akin to a 16-year-old girl writing in her diary about the cute boys in class. Other parts of the book, meanwhile, sound like an informercial, as various sections contain "testimonials" from readers about how great Bach's lessons are. This reader feedback is then interspersed with semi-regular sales pitches on how you can buy some of his other books, such as his highly popular work The Automatic Millionaire.

To give you an example, Bach REALLY likes to write the occasional word in CAPITAL letters in order to make it clear that his point is really IMPORTANT. This "cute" technique -- it would be a bit cruel to call it "childish" -- often gets in the way of an otherwise sensible book. While not ground breaking, Bach provides a lot of useful tips on how to lower and eventually eliminate your debt, including: how to fix your credit score; how to negotiate with credit card companies about lowering your interest rate; how to pay off your mortgage quicker; and how to find a good debt counsellor that can help with any serious debt repayment problems. True, a lot of this advice is common knowledge and can be found elsewhere, but by putting all of these tips in a single book the reader can use it as a workbook to help them reduce their debt.

It is clear from reading this book that Bach has transformed himself into a product and that he can't help but market himself.  Make no mistake, this book is the literary equivalent of an infomercial that is selling debt-counselling advice. In fact, at certain points, one almost expects to see a 1-800 number at the bottom of the page accompanied by a two-for-one special that will give the reader a special gift (but only if the readers acts now by buying another of Bach's books). That being said, it is also true that this book contains a lot of common sense, and that it can be quite useful for anyone who is having problems getting their financial house in order. So before we make too much fun of this REALLY IMPORTANT book that will help you become DEBT FREE FOR LIFE we should also recognize that it does contain a lot of good advice.

3 out of 5 stars

The RESP Book by Mike Holman

Mike Holman has produced a very useful handbook that explains the intricacies of Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs). From how much money can be invested into an RESP, to how much grant money an account can receive from the Government of Canada, to excellent tax advice on how to withdraw money once the RESP beneficiary enrols in a post-secondary institution. What happens if the beneficiary decides not to have a post-secondary education? This book clearly explains the consequences of this scenario, while offering good advice on how to minimize your tax bill and any penalties.

This easy-to-read book should be studied by anyone who wants to open up a RESP for a child, young relative or family friend. Its practical advice (which can easily be digested in an afternoon) provides great tips that can be used for the entire life of an RESP account.

4 out of 5 stars