What do ‘ketchup’ and Control Your Cash have in common?
No, they are not both red; one thing that Control Your Cash by Betty Kincaid and Greg McFarlane isn’t is ‘red’. You can’t figure this one out? At least you know Betty and Greg, right? They are the folks behind one of the blogs I regard very highly – Control Your Cash. (As a side note, because I suspect that by the time you have finished reading this you will really feel a strong urge to buy this book, you can do so through their site – just follow the link. And no, I am not on commission!)
Let’s get back to the question in the title! First I probably need to explain about ‘ketchup’. Have you noticed that Heinz ketchup has absolute monopoly on the market? In fact all other ketchup makers copy Heinz’s taste as closely as they can and any attempt to deviate from this fails. Malcolm Gladwell, well known for asking and answering interesting questions, set out to figure out why there are so many kinds of mustard and de facto only one type of ketchup. What he came up with was extremely interesting: the reason Heinz taste, objectionable as it is, is unbeaten is that it tickles all five senses of taste, namely salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami.
If ketchup tickles all five senses of taste, Control Your Cash excites all expectations of a good read.
Control Your Cash is informative
For some time now I have had a bit of a problem with personal finance books: with very few exceptions their authors repeat fairly obvious and useless advice. You know the drill, advice of the kind ‘spend less than you earn’, ‘watch your cash flow’, ‘sell all your stuff if you are hard up for cash’ and this all time favourite of mine ‘ask yourself do you need this’. In other words, most personal finance books offer simple rather than fundamental messages; and this is not helpful or informative.
Control Your Cash is a very different kind of book. It sets out, in the words of Betty and Greg themselves, to ‘simply teach’ and ‘teach simply’. Finance is not difficult to understand if you understand the basics – like maths builds on 1+1=2. You don’t need to learn a different language mainly consisting of abbreviations that frankly make me resort to good, hard hitting Anglo-Saxon vocabulary which I shy to use on my blog. Betty and Greg take your hand and take you gradually, although as is their style sometimes not too gently, through the key notions of personal finance; from explaining bank accounts, credit cards and credit score to negotiating major purchases and paying taxes. All is practical, all is explained using examples and all is very informative. In fact, now I understand the US tax system much better and this made me reflect on the UK tax order (which incidentally is the one of interest to me).
Watch out for the chapter on entrepreneurship – it is pure pleasure to read and easily one of the best pieces on the subject I have come across.
Control Your Cash is easy to understand
I probably touched on this one in the previous section but I find that usually if I repeat something it is important. One of the gripes I have with finance is that the books I find easy to understand are trivial; the books that are not trivial I find a real struggle to comprehend.
Control Your Cash manages to be non-trivial and easy to understand at the same time. It is beautifully written, the language is simple and precise and very complex notions are ‘chunked down’ and explained without sounding patronising. I probably won’t be exaggerating if I say that the book reads like a novel; it draws you in but doesn’t lull you in passivity – it makes you think and questions; it makes you want to act.
Control Your Cash is actually funny
Books on personal finance reflect the attitude of our culture to money and all things financial: it is far too serious. So texts are heavy, sombre and you feel like you are watching a movie by Theo Angelopoulos – tense, exhausted and confused by the time you finish.
Control Your Cash manages to tread the precarious lines between the serious, the funny and the ridiculous with unfailing grace. I guffawed, spilled my coffee on myself and felt outraged many times.
Did I like this book? Hell, yeah! Would I recommend that you go straight to Betty’s and Greg’s site, buy it and start reading it? If you are in the US certainly – reading this book will make your life so much easier and your finances so much healthier. If you are in the UK and elsewhere – yep, the book still has a powerful message; but you will have to skip the chapters specific to the US.
Right, I can’t stand this any longer so I’ll tell you what the message is and leave to you to work out the specifics. It is:
Buy assets, sell liabilities.
The one and only key commandment of happy financial life!
Although, thinking about it, my biggest liability is my children. Interesting! Betty, Greg, what do you reckon guys?