While yesterday, Black Friday, was a day of “shop until you drop” revelry featuring what merchants try to advertise as “can’t miss” sales, we all know that for many the bill will come due sooner or later. A common complaint is how January is the most difficult month to get through financially because all the Christmas bills come due. It’s why vowing to straighten out finances is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.
But what if you could enable yourself to have a few extra dollars to purchase nice gifts without driving your credit card balance through the roof? It’s the premise of Gordon Bennett Bleil’s book, Give Yourself A Raise.
Writing a review of a financial book can be difficult because the plot isn’t a constant, nor can the book be indicative as a history of events. But GYAR can be used as a guide to the future if used properly and in the spirit of financial improvement.
Not so much of a traditional book as it is a series of lessons, GYAR comes chock full of charts, worksheets, and advice for climbing out of the financial hole more and more Americans find themselves in. Of course, the first step is evaluating your situation and this is handled ably in the introduction and expanded upon in the first chapter through what Bleil calls the Financial Freedom Risk Assessment Quiz. Chances are a high percentage of those reading the book need some help.
But much of what Bleil talks about can be termed common sense in money management: pay yourself first and live within your means. Those who are deep in a financial hole need to be reminded that the process of getting out of it will take a little bit of time.
One thing which struck me about the book – and perhaps a bone of contention – is Bleil’s advocacy of multiple, interconnected bank accounts in what he calls the Family Freedom Money Management System. It’s a complex system of checking, savings, and retirement accounts with a heavy reliance on electronic banking and bill paying. A hands-off approach such as this may be fine for a family on solid financial footing, and may already be in place for families to some extent as many already have checking, savings, and retirement accounts set up. But Bleil advocates tying all these together in order to transfer funds as needed.
Common sense returns in the second half of the book as Bleil applies his financial advice to debt management, spending strategies, and a series of chapters on financial literacy which briefly introduce readers to several aspects of the fiscal world. There’s no question that financial literacy is something which has to be learned by most because it’s not generally taught. Bleil’s is not a bad guide to doing so.
As it stands, the book can be a useful guide to those who wish to right the financial ship and want to invest the time in doing so. For example, there’s a time-consuming portion of the book where Bleil advocates analyzing spending over a month to determine where petty cash goes. While it’s true that those Starbucks lattes and trips to the corner store add up, going through statements and receipts may be a daunting task for many.
But in this book there is one huge drawback which must be improved to make it useful. Perhaps this is an oversight, but many of the charts in the book which are supposedly found on an associated website can’t be found there. Certainly this is a drawback to the usefulness of GYAR.
Unlike other authors, though, it’s worth pointing out that the price of the advice lies completely in buying the book and perhaps running a few copies of the charts. Bleil doesn’t use the book as a jumping-off point to sell other services, although he has worked in the academic and broadcasting fields as a financial expert.
So as a self-contained financial primer, this book could be useful to those who are looking for advice on getting out of debt. It’s a system which can work if one wants to devote time and effort to putting it in place and keeping an eye out for trouble.
Disclosure: the author of this review was provided a copy of the book by The Cadence Group, for whom he has reviewed a number of volumes.