Book Review: Control Your Cash

by Joe Plemon on November 17, 2010

When Greg McFarlane asked me to review his book, “Control Your Cash” (co-written with Betty Kinkaid), he gave me these guidelines, “I only ask when you review it that you not go easy on me for fear of offending me. Tear the book apart (literally and/or figuratively) if that’s what it warrants: God knows I’ve done the same to books I’ve been asked to review.”

Greg, you can rest assured that the book is still intact, both literally and figuratively. In fact, it was a delightful read…something that, when stated in the same sentence as “financial book”, sounds like an oxymoron.

Here is what I liked about Control Your Cash:

The humor

I know. Financial books, by definition, are not and cannot contain humor. Wrong. The writers, with straight faces, interspersed zany analogies that often caused me to laugh out loud. Here are some examples:

  • In explaining collateral: “When you borrow money to buy a house, the house is the collateral. Fail to pay the money back on time, and the lender takes possession of the house. This is called foreclosure. When you borrow money from a guy named Salvatore to pay an outstanding bill, and instead bet it on a football game hoping to double your money, you are the collateral. This is called having your legs broken.
  • As a warning to never think of a car salesman as anything other than your adversary: “Whatever cue you give, whether visual, aural, even if you’re wearing CK 1 – the salesman will treat you like someone he spent time in a foxhole with.”
  • On types of home mortgages: “If your lender tries to get you into an interest-only mortgage, slap him but good and tell him to try again” and “Second mortgages are only available to that select class of people who have good credit yet want to destroy it for some reason.

Detail

Whether it be a detailed explanation of every single line in a company’s balance sheet (yes, EVERY single line…it made my head hurt) or every possible detail of a home purchase (types of loans, what constitutes “closing costs”, etc), this book has it all.

Understand, I am not a detail type person, so I appreciate having those details available as a go-to reference guide. I will never grasp and digest all of those details, but I can relax knowing where to read about them when the need arises.

Consistent Theme

The subtitle of the book, “Buy Assets. Sell Liabilities. Thrive.” is the theme throughout. Whether keeping those credit cards at bay, purchasing a car, investing for retirement or buying a house, the readers is reminded that the way to thrive is to buy assets and sell liabilities.

Quiz: Is an automobile an asset or a liability? Better question: is a hood ornament an asset or a liability? Read page 142 for your answers.

Easy to Read

I realize that I already toasted the humor, but the simple fact is that the breezy writing style makes this book hard to put down.  Although I like reading books on personal finance, very few hold my attention. This one does.

What I Didn’t Like About Control Your Cash

There was very little I didn’t like about this book, so my negatives are a bit nit-picky.

One is simply a formatting issue.
I wish that the Chapter titles were page headlined in each respective chapter. After putting the book down for a few days, when I resumed reading I had to turn back to the Table of Contents to see what chapter I was in. I often found myself glancing to the top of the page for the chapter content, only to find the book title on the right and the authors’ names on the left.  I told you I was going to nit pick.

No index
Again, this is a minor issue; one that would be a no-issue if I wasn’t planning to keep Control Your Cash as a reference book. When I want to review the definition of proxy or equity or debt, I need to pick the chapter most likely to contain those definitions and thumb through until I find what I want. An index would greatly enhance the ability to use the book for reference reading.

The Budget Chapter
This chapter just seems to drift. Our authors start by rating the best budgeting software and tell how great it would be to get your budget installed on your cell phone, but then dive into a detailed explanation of health care insurance. The explanation is well done, but I kept wondering when we were going to learn the basics of how to set up a budget. Besides, because the book has no index, I would probably have trouble finding the health insurance discussion in the budget chapter. It could have and should have been in its own chapter.

Conclusion

McFarlane and Kinkaid are not light weights in the world of finance. Their extensive knowledge of the housing market (Kinkaid is a real estate investor) shined and was indicative of their coverage of each topic in the book. Although the book is touted for “otherwise smart people in their 20s and 30s who know that they know nothing about money”, I am convinced it will educate those of any age even if they already know about money.

Control Your Cash is a well written, easy to read book with tons of depth. I recommend it and rate it a 9 out of 10.

Readers: Have you read Control Your Cash?  Feel free to share your candid thoughts.  Greg will be proud of you!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

James Fulton November 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

JOEPLEMON, Humor in Finance, thats interesting…I never read like that something before..surely gonna give it a try..Nice review…

James

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joeplemon November 19, 2010 at 11:14 am

James,
I agree that humor and finance are a strange combo, but that is why I gave snippets of that humor so you could judge for yourself. Give it a try. I think you will like it. Thanks for stopping by!

Reply

James Fulton November 22, 2010 at 11:21 am

Sure Joe, I may get a copy soon…Will give my opinion here once am finished with it….

James

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