¶ … Money Game by Charles Green (2011)
Presidential candidate Herman Cain recently observed, "If you aren't rich, blame yourself!," a sentiment that is echoed time and again in Professor Green's authoritative text on personal money management, The Money Game. While it is reasonable to suggest that many if not most people will never become rich, it is also reasonable to suggest that given half a chance, consumers can overcome these obstacles to wealth accumulation through improved money management. These issues form the basis of Green's book which is reviewed below, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.
Scarcely a day goes by without a new service charge being assessed by banks for one service or another, and many American consumers have suffered as a result. Not only are the bankers after consumers' money, a whole laundry list of financial services organizations is standing by, ready to exploit the fiscally uninformed despite the protections afforded by the Credit Card Act of 2009. In this regard, Green emphasizes that, "After the shellacking that many have taken from the financial industry with their bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and investments in the past several years, you should know that the financial industry does not have your best interest at heart" (p. 7). Furthermore, Green suggests that the financial industry has intentionally created an environment in which it is difficult or even impossible for many American consumers to ever achieve financial independence. As Green points out, "The way they have treated many Americans, it appears that they don't even have a heart. They behave more like the mob (Banksters), by the tactics they employ against consumers keeping them in debt forever" (p. 7). While it is easy to point fingers at "evil bankers" as being responsible for many American's money problems, the issues involved are of course far more complex. The lingering effects of the Great Recession of 2008, for example, have plunged many Americans into a financial chasm from which there is no easy or quick return. According to Green, "The U.S. faces the most challenging era since The Great Depression. None of us have ever seen the breadth and depth of problems in our lifetimes that we now face in our economy, and everyone will be affected: individuals, households, businesses, and government" (p. 12). Complex problems, of course, demand complex solutions, and the current economic environment is certainly no exception. As Green points out, "It took 30 years to descend into our current economic abyss, and the structural issues left in the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2008 will require structural responses (realignment of our priorities and investment in our future) to resolve. (p. 12). While the challenges and obstacles to financial independence are great, so too are the rewards for those who succeed as explained by the author in his chapter one which is discussed further below.
Chapter 1: The Millionaire Mindset.
In this chapter, Green makes the point from the outset that in order to achieve financial independence, consumers must first develop a mindset to match. As the author points out, "If your mind is not right, you cannot build and sustain wealth for the long-term" (Green, p. 17). In other words, without a vision to guide them, consumers will continue flounder instead of making progress towards their goals.
The Brokenaires. In this section, Green elaborates on the distinction between those who were once rich but are now broke and the reverse wherein people who were once poor are now millionaires. The differences between these two groups, Green suggests, relates to their vision for the future and the how prudently and diligently they kept their eye on their monetary goals by putting their money to work for them. As Green puts it, "The millionaire mindset gives every dollar a job, no matter how many or few of them you have. You can easily go from riches to rags if your mind isn't right (like the Brokenaires)" (p. 18).
Brother Can You Spare A Dime. Even the most ambitious vision for financial independence will be ineffective without a written budget...
In this section, Green emphasizes the need to develop a budget that can help control consumers' money and to keep it working for them. In this regard, Green advises, "The purpose of your budget (which is the basis for any financial plan) is to ground your financial goals in reality and to give every dollar a job toward your financial goals" (pp. 18-19). The repeated emphasis on keeping consumers' money at work is one of the keys to achieving financial goals, Green says, and adds that fully 30% of most consumers' income simply disappears without any trace, making the need for a formal accounting all the more important.
Living Large. Most people live beyond their means, but Green cautions that doing so can cost even more in the long run. Many Americans, of course, are fond of instant gratification and delaying this is not a favored alternative. Nevertheless, delayed gratification today, Green says, can have enormous long-term implications. According to Green, "Decisions you make today, even if your financial goals are far into the future, either set you up for success or failure. Time can either be your friend or enemy" (p. 21). Even though "you can't take it with you," Green emphasizes the need to "keep it with you" as long as possible. In this regard, Green adds, "Living large today will certainly diminish the possibility of living in comfort later in life or retirement because of the opportunity cost imposed each day that your money is not working for you" (p. 21). For every dollar spent today, the author argues that consumers are missing out on the boat to financial freedom and it is easy to feel guilty about buying a Starbucks coffee today at $4 when Green says that that same $4 could earn a gajillion dollars by the time someone retires if it is put to its optimal use.
Pay Yourself First. This is some of the author's best advice in this chapter, Green emphasizes the need to set aside money for yourself first, and then pay everyone else. The author plays the guilt card here as well when he writes: "The amount of money you pay yourself now will have a direct impact on the quality of your life today and in the future. If more people paid themselves first, they would not overextend themselves with credit and they would feel a lot better about their future" (p. 24). Despite the uneasy feeling this creates in the reader that every dollar spent unnecessarily is a real crime, Green does make a good point with respect to the need to use this step as part of the larger vision toward financial freedom.
The Big Dog Playbooks. In his description of his implementation of his strategy for financial growth, Green emphasizes the need to prioritize the way money is spent. For instance, the author says that paying off credit cards first makes more sense than trying to save money since the pay-off is less for the latter. The overarching theme of this section is to put money to work where it will do the most good.
Top Up, Bottom Down. The next step in Green's strategy for financial growth concerns the need to plan ahead so that appropriate uses of money today will achieve these goals far into the distant future (at least from the perspective of many younger readers). In this regard, Green enthuses that, "If you save just $1 a day over your whole lifetime, say 70 years, you would have saved about $25,000. Assume an annual return of 8% (for the purpose of illustration), you would have created over $1 million in wealth" (p. 29). This is of course, that one successfully lives to be 70 years old and while that prospect is increasingly feasible, not everyone has a dollar a day or lives to be 70, but this is a dramatic example that makes a good point.
Free Money. The bank robber Willie Sutton once explained that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is." Similarly, Green advises that it is important to seek out opportunities such as employers matching funds for 401(k) or 403b contribution plans, as well as through individual retirement accounts. For the truly ambitious, Green goes on to explain the differences between the return rates that can be attained with these different investment methods and provides a ream of advice concerning the need for financial security.
The Credit Card Game. Easy credit is the devil's work from Green's perspective, and he practically suggests that every reader put his book down at once and cut up all of their credit cards. Otherwise, credit card consumers will just keeping feeding the beast that is keeping them down in the first place, but he does admit to the need for some credit in this form for financial security.…
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