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Personal Finance Books are Following the "Conventional Wisdom"
Eleanor Laise wrote an excellent piece for today's Wall Street Journal in which she examined how personal finance books have recently changed their tone, racing to capitalize on the prevailing fear.
As Ms. Laise rightly notes, "the actual usefulness of many of these books may be less than advertised. Some of the authors offer few specific tips, while others are substantially altering the advice they've served up in the recent past."
She also offers a few chuckle-worthy examples of position shifts by financial gurus. My favorite was her catching the ubiquitous Suze Orman's flip-flop on the wisdom of "hybrid" mortgages, which offer a fixed rate for a time (generally 3-7 years) and then adjust with market conditions. In 2005, Suze took the reasonable position that these hybrid projects were a good fit for young homeowners unlikely to stay put for long. In her new book, she instead plugs fixed-rate mortgages "so you never have to worry about your payment rising."
In the race to capitalize on fear, sometimes the problem is less inconsistency than quality control. She sites one journalist who took just two weeks to churn out a book pitched to fearful investors.
I think most of you will find the piece is well worth your time. Paid subscribers of the Journal can access the piece at the Wall Street Journal website. Happily, anyone can read this and ALL other Dow Jones personal finance content at FiLife.com.* (This particular story is at http://www.filife.com/stories/the-boom-in-financial-books ).
Please add a comment if you come across other instances of personal finance writers who seem to be cashing in on fear by rushing out new work or shifting previously held positions without explanation. Thank you!
*(Full Disclosure: I work as a commentator at FiLife.com)