Part 3 of 3
This is the final part of a three part review, which covers the final three chapters of his book, followed by a critique of the design and layout. If you have already, go read Part 1 and Part 2 of the review. Remember this is not simply a review, but also includes some commentary and additional information.
Step 10 - Saving for College
We’ll remind people: You cannot afford to save for your child’s college until your own student debt is paid off and your own retirement savings are well on track. The tax benefits of 529 plans are usually meager in most states.
We’ve met many dozens of docs struggling to pay off their own debt, while contributing to a 529 plan for a child. That’s equivalent to taking out new student loans NOW to pay for your child’s future education. In certain cases, it may make sense to contribute to a 529 prior to paying off your loans if 1) you get a state tax deduction 2) you have maxed out all your available retirement accounts such as 401k/403b, HSA, Roth or backdoor Roth, etc. and 3) shooting for PSLF, where paying off loans any faster than necessary is not a good idea.
Step 11 - Estate Plan
Very short chapter. Our additions: 1) Make a will, it’s usually very easy 2) If you have kids, you likely need a trust, as you don’t want your toddler inheriting your estate and life insurance directly 3) Make sure you have a living will. You all have seen situations in the hospital where not having one has created a mess.
Step 12 - Asset Protection
Selling or promoting complicated asset protection strategies to paranoid docs is a big business. As this chapter mentions, make sure you have sufficient liability insurance (i.e. malpractice), make sure you get an umbrella policy (they are very cheap!), and don’t do stupid things.
When talking about asset protection, we’re (mostly) discussing what happens if you lose a lawsuit (professional or personal) which exceeds the amount of coverage you have. In general, this is very rare. Certain things like asset protection trusts and titling homes in specific ways are common suggestions for physicians. We’re certainly not experts in such matters. When you find yourselves with “significant” assets which are outside of retirement accounts, consult a good estate planning attorney for advice on these matters. But just keep in mind we’ve seen a few docs pay for very complicated asset protection strategies they didn’t need.
Does it Matter What the Book Looks Like?
A few thoughts on one way to improve the book. Here at DM, we think that design really matters and that people are more inclined to read and use resources that are designed well. We found the overall look and design a little distracting and we think a stronger focus on design would make the information presented more powerful. [As a side note, we highly recommend Matthew Butterick’s online book Practical Typography for anyone doing any sort of writing and design.]
Let’s face it, there is not a lot of ‘new’ information or discoveries in personal finance. We don’t know who first said “spend less than you earn” but we do know that it was probably a really long time ago. All personal finance writers (ourselves included) are just repackaging old wisdom in new ways to try and help people continue to follow that advice in our shiny modern lives. And with the creation of the world’s largest copy machine, the internet, we have even more ways to manipulate old information in new pretty fonts, sizes and types of media. We honestly think that this repackaging of information is meaningful (we don’t make this site just to pad our CVs).
All of the above is to say we think good content deserves a little attention to thoughtful design, and unfortunately this book doesn’t come up to that standard. A few examples: lists of unnecessarily long urls at the end of every chapter; images and tables that are too large or unhelpful; the way the anecdotes are presented throughout the book. We realize this is opinion and dependent on one’s personality. Content comes first, especially when writing a book on the cheap (that is not meant to be an insult, btw). But, to use a Power Point analogy, it’s distracting to the content to have unnecessary clip art, swirly text, slide transition animations, and slides which one can’t read for whatever reason.
That wraps up our thoughts, opinions and musings on Jim Dahle’s most recent book “Financial Boot Camp”. We hope that it has shed some light on great financial literacy content and how that content is presented.
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