Review: Personal finance industry gets drubbing
"Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry" (Portfolio/Penguin), by Helaine Olen
After the financial crisis began in 2008, it suddenly became OK, even desirable, to talk about the illogic of ballooning borrowing and runaway stocks — and the inevitability that bubbles pop. For years, financial journalists had been required to "balance" their realization that lending had come loose from its moorings with industry assertions that things simply worked differently now. In 2008, we finally could say the emperor — the overavailability of all types of debt, the expectation that markets would heal all ills — had no clothes. We no longer had to wait for his side of the story.
That was a good thing. It made possible a whole new genre of nonfiction — highly readable deconstructions of how regulatory and moral gaps spawn financial excess and contributed to the collapse. There are even subgenres, including half-investigation-half-confessions. It is in this burgeoning category that Helaine Olen presents "Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry." Olen is taking on the sellers of a particularly insidious form of snake oil, the idea that if you try really hard — and maybe pay $29.95 for a book or $89.95 for an online "membership" or even more to attend a live program — you, too, can achieve financial success. A former Los Angeles Times reporter who made a career interviewing people about their personal finances and getting them professional advice, Olen opens with a rundown of major self-promoters in the field.
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