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The Simple Dollar

Book review: Hot (Broke) Messes

Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book or other book of interest.

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Thirteen: Sex and the City Meets The Golden Girls
Retirement often doesn’t seem like any sort of realistic concern to someone in their twenties or thirties, but the key thing to remember is that if you start to save in your twenties and thirties, you don’t have to save nearly as much for retirement than if you wait until your forties to start. You can get away with (relatively) tiny amounts of retirement savings if you start younger. That’s why the most important thing you can do with regards to your retirement savings is simply start saving – as long as you diversify what you save, you’ll be much better off than if you wait.

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Fourteen: What Do You Expect When You Didn’t Expect It?
A healthy emergency fund can make all the difference between a bad event being apocalyptic or merely being a road bump. An emergency fund means cash – it doesn’t mean a credit card that’s available to you only at the whim of a bank who might cut your line of credit when you need it most. The best way to build this up is to open a savings account, then start some small automatic transfers into that account on a highly regular basis (say, weekly). Trejos also offers brief coverage of various types of insurance and unemployment benefits here.

Fifteen: Papa Don’t Preach… Unless He’s Paying My Rent
Here, Trejos covers the phenomenon of children returning to the nest when they find themselves having financial or professional difficulties after college. This tends to happen much more often in times of economic crisis. Even worse, it can be a difficult situation for both the child and the parent if it’s not dealt with in a frank fashion. The key here is candor and discussion, with both parent and child both stating what their expectations and plans are for such an arrangement. Without that, you’re begging for hurt feelings and problems down the road.

Sixteen: Show Me the Money
Near the end of the book, Trejos addresses frugality in earnest for the first time, discussing a ton of little ways (most of them fairly well known) for saving money in just a handful of pages. My favorite? Using your home to make money by renting out rooms, something we’ve discussed doing in the past and may ultimately do in the future.

Seventeen: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
The final chapter is actually a diary by Trejos of her first few months dealing with her financial recovery. It somewhat brings the book full circle, harkening back to the deeply personal nature of the first few chapters.

Is Hot (Broke) Messes Worth Reading?
This book works best when it focuses on Nancy Trejos’ story rather than trying to be a one-size-fits-all personal finance book. The first few chapters and the last chapter are thoroughly engaging and set the stage for threads that carry throughout the book, though the thread is fairly weak in the meaty middle of the book.

If you find that ideas go down better if presented in the context of an engaging story, this will be a great personal finance book for you, particularly if you’re a twenty- or thirtysomething professional female.

If you find yourself too far outside of that description, this book will still offer great advice, but there may be other books out there that click well for you.

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