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Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry | [Helaine Olen]

Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we've taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude that if we're smart enough, we can overcome even daunting financial obstacles. But that's not true. In this meticulously reported and shocking audiobook, journalist and former financial columnist Helaine Olen goes behind the curtain of the personal finance industry to expose the myths, contradictions, and outright lies it has perpetuated.
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Publisher's Summary

If you've ever bought a personal finance book, watched a TV show about stock picking, listened to a radio show about getting out of debt, or attended a seminar to help you plan for your retirement, you've probably heard some version of these quotes:

"What's keeping you from being rich? In most cases, it is simply a lack of belief." (Suze Orman, The Courage to Be Rich)

"Are you latte-ing away your financial future?" (David Bach, Smart Women Finish Rich)

"I know you're capable of picking winning stocks and holding on to them." (Jim Cramer, Mad Money)

They're common refrains among personal finance gurus. There's just one problem: Those and many similar statements are false. For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we've taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude that if we're smart enough, we can overcome even daunting financial obstacles. But that's not true.

In this meticulously reported and shocking audiobook, journalist and former financial columnist Helaine Olen goes behind the curtain of the personal finance industry to expose the myths, contradictions, and outright lies it has perpetuated. She shows how an industry that started as a response to the Great Depression morphed into a behemoth that thrives by selling us products and services that offer little if any help. Olen calls out some of the biggest names in the business, revealing how even the most respected gurus have engaged in dubious, even deceitful, practices - from accepting payments from banks and corporations in exchange for promoting certain prod­ucts to blaming the victims of economic catastrophe for their own financial misfortune.

Pound Foolish also disproves many myths about spending and saving. Weaving together original reporting, interviews with experts, and studies from disciplines ranging from behavioral economics to retirement planning, Pound Foolish is a compassionate and compelling audibook that will change the way we think and talk about our money.

©2012 Helaine Olen (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC

What the Critics Say

"It's rare to come across a realistic and readable book about personal finance. Most are laden with rosy promises, followed by acronyms and turgid advice. Helaine Olen, a freelance journalist, offers an exception with Pound Foolish.... It's a take-no-prisoners examination of the ways she says we have been scared, misled or bamboozled by those purporting to help us achieve financial security." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (59 )
5 star
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4.0 (53 )
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3.7 (52 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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  •  
    Johanna Turner Mayfield, KY 06-15-13
    Johanna Turner Mayfield, KY 06-15-13 Member Since 2012
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    "The dark side of my industry"

    I read a review of this book in one of the financial magazines I receive as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner. I was intrigued by the expose and had to learn more. As a "fee-only" planner, I have my own jaded view of the financial industry. Ms. Olen started studying brokerages and so-called financial planners with zero financial knowledge, which makes it even more interesting that she was able to go so far in her research and understanding of the industry.

    Pound Foolish is a book that anyone who uses a broker, buys life insurance or annuities, or who is interested in finding a "financial planner" should read. Why the quote marks? Because most of the people who call themselves "planners" or "advisers" are sales wolves in sheep's clothing.

    Ms. Olen hit the right notes for 80% of the book, but I beg to differ with the last 20% that we are all the same (which is the reason for the 4-star rating). While I can totally understand her disenchantment with the overall industry, there are some white knights (mostly fee-only planners and financial LIFE planners). Just know that they make up maybe 5% of the total number of "advisers", maybe less. Why? Because commissions are SO much more lucrative. Typical "advisers" in this industry are trained in sales almost exclusively to the point of crowding out any education about how to truly help their clients. This is why it is so easy for consumers to fall prey to them. Sad.

    Use this book as a starting point, then seek out planners who are members of NAPFA and/or the Kinder Institute. Also find a "professional" who is willing to SIGN A STATEMENT that they are a fiduciary. You'll thank me later!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth AUSTIN, TX, United States 04-05-13
    Kenneth AUSTIN, TX, United States 04-05-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Exceeded my expectations"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Pound Foolish to be better than the print version?

    This book was a great listen. The author spoke clearly and at a good pace. After listening I didn't feel like I needed to read the print version to pick up on anything I might have missed.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the amount of detail uncovered. The story flowed well and was organized into themes: television, books, targeting woman, real-estate hustlers, and the issue with financial literacy. After reading other reviews I was a bit concerned that the author's views would be preached to me. The first and last chapters contained that but the meat was just fine.


    What does Lyn Landon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I like her reading style, it was easy to follow.


    Any additional comments?

    I think Ms. Olen did a fine job. I feel like she laid it on thick with the intentional or unintentional insinuation that the consumers of the personal finance complex are innocent (in many cases greed overcame them as well). However, Ms. Olen's book softened my hardline stance against those who remain at the bottom of the income scale. I gave the book 5 stars because I wanted to get from this book exactly what I received. A hard nosed look into the personal finance culture. This author's bias is clearly against the complex but she does not ram it into your eardrums, except for the first and last chapter. To Ms. Olen's credit, she lets the listener's know where she stands and attempts to be evenhanded overall.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicholas United States 08-11-13
    Nicholas United States 08-11-13 Member Since 2013
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    "The Mispronunciations Are Indeed Distracting"

    This book was reasonably entertaining. I agree, however, that the narrator did a poor job. An entire chapter of the book is devoted to Suze Orman, yet the narrator continually mispronounces the woman's name as "Sooze" rather than "Susie." The chapter in question is 45 minutes long, so for me the error was maddening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael San Diego, CA, USA 03-25-13
    Michael San Diego, CA, USA 03-25-13 Member Since 2003
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    "Will save you money investing"
    Any additional comments?

    Albeit the narration could have been better, this book will open your eyes to how much people lose in investments by ‘assuming’ people and companies that make commission selling you products have your best interest in mind. It offers clear examples of how various investment products are sold that benefit the salesman or company not the individual. Not only covering individual investing, the book points out how changes in government programs that have changed the way people save for retirement, not always for the better. It exposes how lobbyists promote laws that benefit large investment houses over the individual investor. Anyone that is investing for retirement should listen to this book to become a more enlighten investor when choosing products and investment help.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey Oxford, CT, United States 02-25-13
    Jeffrey Oxford, CT, United States 02-25-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Narrator should verify pronunciations"

    It took me about 5 references to Suze Orman as SOOZE instead of Suzy, before the mispronunciation began to grate on my nerves. I am surprised that this was wasn't caught before publishing. Sadly, Ms. Orman's name does happen to come up in a book about personal finance. However, it was a great story and written well, so I would definitely recommend the written version.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 07-01-14
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 07-01-14 Member Since 2012
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    "My suspicion about the industry confirmed"

    I often smelled dishonesty in the personal finance industry ads. This book tells me that the reality is much worse than I had imagined. The author's arguments seem backed by well-researched information and credible, and I could tell that she is honest, as she herself was once a financial columnist. I wished that she could provide some concrete recommendations to fix the problem, but pointing out all the problems is a very good start. The narrator could have done better though - she did not sound she had rehearsed at all. But overall, I highly recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sebastian Cambridge, MA, United States 12-15-13
    Sebastian Cambridge, MA, United States 12-15-13 Member Since 2007
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    "One of the best books on personal finance"

    For every 10 crappy Audible books, you get one like this: concise, informative, and well narrated. We all like to believe that we are in control, that when things go well financially it's because of our great insight and skill, and tha when things go bad for others, it's because of their greed and stupidity. This book clearly lays out the other forces at work: brokers, salesmen, Wall Street and other conmen successfully getting their hands into our pockets while having you take the blame when things inevitably go bad -- just whent they run away with your cash. The conclusion of the book is how the only remedy for our economic woes is to break with the current wage stagnation, and true political change.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dustin Houston, TX, United States 12-05-13
    Dustin Houston, TX, United States 12-05-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Good Review of the Personal Finance Idustry"
    What made the experience of listening to Pound Foolish the most enjoyable?

    In general, the book seemed to be well written and document the pit falls of the personal finance industry well. In general I liked the criticisms of the financial gurus and have had similar feelings in my subconscious that she gelled into words.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I am conservative and bought this book because of a Piece that Helaine wrote on Dave Ramsey in Pacific Standard that I thought was BS, but needed to know more about her thought process to dismiss it. Personally, I think that he has done a great job of getting a bunch of people to pay attention to their situation and take steps to make it better. Her work in this book seemed to acknowledge that people can make choices to better and worse their individual situations, but most gurus miss the fact that a minimum wage worker is not going to make it no matter how well they budget.

    I am glad that I took the time to listen to the book. While I don't agree with everything she stated, I do feel that I have learned some interesting things specifically about the mutual fund industry that is helpful.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Lyn Landon?

    Anyone who knew how to pronounce Suze Orman ... Being as it is critical of Suze's work, I feel that the publisher owes Suze the decency of pronouncing her name correctly in the audio.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The linking of the financial education movement to financial institutions was brilliant. I have never thought to think that why are the same people that are lobbying congress to make our financial future murky and impossible to understand the same ones that say financial literacy will save the day...


    As she said if they believe that the solution to the financial problem is for consumers to understand what they are doing, then the most obvious thing to do is to write simple contracts and sales material that disclose the fees and risks in common English.


    Any additional comments?

    I hated the diatribe on women investors and wonder if she could have put that part in a separate book for readers that are interested in that stuff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard SPENCER, MA, United States 03-21-13
    Richard SPENCER, MA, United States 03-21-13 Member Since 2012
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    "A quality listen"
    Would you listen to Pound Foolish again? Why?

    I'd listen again in time as I think it is enlightening in regards to investing for the avaerage Joe.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashley Phoenix, AZ, United States 03-12-13
    Ashley Phoenix, AZ, United States 03-12-13
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    "Sooz?"
    Any additional comments?

    Honestly, how can a producer not check the pronunciation of an admittedly confusing looking name before publishing an audiobook? It is clear the narrator never watched a single episode of the Suze Orman show, not did anybody involved with this audiobook publication. The author is probably furious knowing that her work is being represented that way.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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