This is one of those reviews where work gets in the way. I’ve written a Q&A with Helaine Olen about her new book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, for a financial website, and don’t want to give away too much here before that interview runs.

So what I’ll say is this: Olen has put together a remarkably researched and scathing view of the personal finance industry. If you feel like you’re getting squeeze money wise, and that advice dispensed by talking heads on TV doesn’t add up, this book explains why. Whatever most personal finance experts say won’t make up for growing income inequality, rising healthcare and education costs, and the disappearing safety net. This idea that it’s up to us to save more to make up for these things is ridiculous, says Olen. We need to work as a group to change these major problems, and no skipping on the Starbucks coffee is going to make up for the difference. Throw onto that life’s unexpected events, like a major medical bill, divorce, etc., and it’s easy to see why people get into debt and feel hopeless about money, and retirement.

It’s a good, long read, especially for skeptics. Her goal, she says, is to start a conversation so we can start addressing this as a society instead of an individual. I hope it works.

On a freelance writing note: I read the entire book before I interviewed Olen, which not only made for more pointed and specific questions, but also earned thanks from Olen. So many times, reporters won’t read the book before interviewing the author. I get that some of that is time, and I’ve had to scan books before, but try try try to finish the book before the interview. It’ll make for a better piece.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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