Jane Bryant Quinn confesses to being an impatient shopper who grabs the first thing off the grocery shelf. She buys junk food; cereals with sugar, and extra ice cream.
Despite her spendthrift ways at the supermarket, however, Quinn is no novice in money matters. A syndicated columnist with Newsweek and over 100 newspapers, as well as a regular business commentator on television, Quinn is one of the nation's foremost authorities on personal finance and consumer economics. Her knack for explaining pocketbook issues in terms the average consumer can grasp has catapulted her annual income into the six-figure bracket. This, her first full-length book, is a highly readable and authoritative guide to consumer finance.
It is a welcome addition to the small but growing ranks of handbooks aimed at helping bewildered consumers cope with double-digit inflation and protect themselves against shoddy business practices. It dispenses information and advice on a broad range of topics, from buying a used car or vacation home to detecting home repair frauds. It shows how to set personal financial goals, protect your assets, stretch your income, and plan for retirement.
There are excellent chapters on estate planning, exercising rights relating to credit, and selecting long-term investments. Quinn takes much of the mystery out of life insurance with lucid descriptions of the pros and cons of various policies. Straight life, one of the most popular types sold, doesn't fare well under her scrutiny. Throughout the book, she is careful not to overwhelm readers with facts and statistics or to bore them with trivia.
Veteran financial columnist Sylvia Porter, one of the nation's most widely read journalists, covers the same terrain and then some in her 1,300-page paperback. A revised and expanded version of her 1975 best seller, the "New Money Book for the '80s" contains chapters on low-cost vacations, such off- beat investments as Oriental rugs and vintage cars, and selecting vocations and schools, to name a few. A new chapter on saving energy in the home walks the reader through every room in the house, showing ways to cut waste.
An inveterate bargain hunter, Porter is at her penny-pinching best when throwing out tips on how to shop for food, clothing, and furniture -- the staples of household budgets. She has a checklist for just about everything, from seeking a college loan to buying a condominium. Partly because of the book's compehensive scope, however, the useful information is sometimes clouded by irrelevant facts and opinions.
"More for Your Money," by Richard Stillman, is, by comparision with the two other money handbooks, superficial and often repetitive. It is directed principally to college students and recent graduates. Stillman, a professor at the University of New Orleans, tries somewhat unsuccessfully to apply a business manager's approach to personal finance. While the concept is laudable, the execution is poor, and the reader may be put off by the book's managerial jargon and trite phrases.
Either the Quinn or the Porter guide would make a sound investment that should pay for itself many times over. Both books are well organized, with handy indexes. For readers who value completeness and don't object to a didactic tone at times, Porter is probably the best choice. The well-informed reader who might already subscribe to Changing Times magazine or Money magazine might prefer Quinn.