Books to help get your family’s finances in order

It’s hard to separate money concerns from family matters.

Families are economic teams, and wealth is passed down through the generations. So is advice on smart spending and saving.

Here are a few titles to help families embrace healthy financial habits. They’re especially relevant with so many family budgets stretched thin these days.


TITLE: Protecting Your Parents’ Money

AUTHOR: Jeff D. Opdyke

PRICE: $15.99 (paperback)

E-BOOK: Available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader

SUMMARY: The intimidation factor is high when adult children have to jump in and deal with their parents’ financial needs. There are so many important issues and planning matters to consider: legal documents, annuities, health care costs, insurance, reverse mortgages and more.

Yet you don’t need a degree in finance to sort through them. Opdyke, a financial columnist and former Wall Street Journal reporter, makes the task of protecting aging parents and their money much more manageable with this authoritative but easy-to-understand handbook of all the key financial issues.

Besides discussing topics that need to be addressed to help navigate the finances of aging, he gives tips on the best strategies for ways to broach each subject with a parent. He also offers suggestions on where to go for help and more information.

At 288 pages, it’s as concise and clearly written a guide as you’re likely to find on a parent-child role reversal. It’s a scenario that’s becoming much more common, and more critical to master, as we live longer.

QUOTE: “Yes, caring for the needs of your aging parents will be challenging. It will be heartbreaking. Frustrating. Mind-numbing. At times you will want to cry. You will want to scream. … (But) you can do this. And you will find in doing so that your parents ? and you ? will be better off because of the love, the time and the effort you put into helping them live more happily and securely in the final years of life.”

PUBLISHER: Harper Paperbacks

? Dave Carpenter


TITLE: Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction

AUTHOR: Matthew Kelly

PRICE: $21.95

E-BOOK: Available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader

SUMMARY: Is the idea of achieving “a work-life balance” getting in the way of true satisfaction?

Kelly argues that the premise of the term ? now ubiquitous in corporate America ? is faulty because it assumes that work and life can be compartmentalized. It also implies that there’s some magic ratio of office-to-personal time that can bring about nirvana.

Instead of a superficial work-life balance, Kelly argues that what everyone really wants is a satisfying life experience. And that comes from being the best version of yourself possible, whether it’s by improving family relationships or completing a rewarding project at the office. In that light, Kelly notes that working an 80-hour week can be just as gratifying as dinner with a group of friends.

The book includes several lists of questions to help readers determine how much satisfaction they’re getting out of life. To increase that quotient, Kelly recommends a strategic approach. That means committing to specific actions that can help readers move toward their life goals ? both personal and professional.

QUOTE: “The work-life balance conversation that has dominated the corporate landscape for almost two decades implies that work and life are separate. In this way, we set work and life against each other, and the thought that follows is that you are either working too much and living too little or vice versa. The term itself diminishes our ability to make the case that work can be a richly rewarding part of a person’s life and should in many ways be personal.”

PUBLISHER: Hudson Street Press

?Candice Choi


TITLE: Clark Howard’s Living Large in Lean Times

AUTHOR: Clark Howard with Mark Meltzer and Theo Thimou

PRICE: $18 (paperback)

E-BOOK: Available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader

SUMMARY: Fans of Clark Howard’s radio and television programs will be familiar with many of the tips on making smarter purchases and saving money. But whether or not you’ve ever heard him on the air, there’s a good chance you’ll pick up a few ideas that can make the cost of the book worthwhile.

Howard’s advice is broken down into 10 chapters that cover the main areas of spending and shopping, homes and real estate, insurance and travel. His tips span the gamut from the tried-and-true (buy three Sunday newspapers to maximize the number of grocery coupons you can clip), to some innovative suggestions like how to shop for a new apartment (including tips on how to get your current landlord to offer a deal to keep you as a tenant).

The tips also vary in magnitude. He spends a few paragraphs discussing how to make disposable razor blades last longer, a tip that will arguably save only pennies. But he also offers an explanation of how credit unions can provide better deals for consumers. This advice has the potential to save an individual thousands of dollars on loan interest rates and bank fees over time.

Howard also offers advice for filing complaints against banks, fixing credit report errors, dealing with insurance issues and other money-related problems. The way “Living Large” is organized and the detailed index makes it a good reference to keep around and check from time to time, or when a customer service problem pops up.

QUOTE: “Here’s some advice for those who are going to buy just about anything on the Internet. First, stick only to sellers that have multiple positive ratings ? not just one or two glowing postings from family and friends. You can use to vet out potential vendors. Or use a search engine… and enter the vendor’s name plus the words ‘rip-off’ or ‘scam’ to see what kind of gripes are out there in cyberspace.”


? Eileen AJ Connelly


TITLE: A Simple Book of Financial Wisdom: Teach Yourself (and Your Kids) How to Live Wealthy with Little Money

AUTHOR: Danny Kofke

PRICE: $12 (paperback)

E-BOOK: Available for Kindle Reader

SUMMARY: “A Simple Book of Financial Wisdom” is the second personal finance title by Atlanta area special education teacher Danny Kofke. His first, “How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher’s Salary” from 2007, came just as the nation was about to enter the recession. It focused on frugal living and making wise decisions about home ownership and debt.

The latest book starts out analyzing why people are broke and turns to recommending ways to change one’s perspective on money and debt and setting goals. He then reviews budgeting basics and ways to cut spending. He also covers saving for retirement and for emergencies.

Another chapter, “Giving Your Children A Financial Education” focuses on passing on the wisdom of managing money to the next generation from the value of work to balancing a checkbook to establishing wants versus needs.

QUOTE: “Many people don’t see the need to learn about money and how to manage it correctly. They bury their heads in the sand and don’t want to be worried about the true state of their finances because, if they did, they might have to change their spending habits. The thing is, if you continue to make poor financial decisions, these actions will eventually come back to haunt you.”

PUBLISHER: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing Inc.

? David Pitt