We got a free copy of All the Money in the World by Laura Vandekam for review purposes.
Here is the review!
All the Money in the World makes the case that many of us could be optimizing our happiness better by changing how we deal with our money and our time. We can make more money. We can spend money on different things. We can keep perspective on what we have, what we want and so on.
Like Warren’s All Your Worth, Vanderkam advocates getting spending right on the big things, not Bach’s latte factor. Lattes, she argues, bring more happiness than extra square feet in housing (or, in most cases, expensive jewelry). She’s also a proponent of making more money and using that money to buy time… she mentions the frugality alternative, but mainly gives it lip service. (Personally, I like the idea of maximizing the gap between earning and spending!) Another main tenet of the book is the suggestion to figure out what makes you happy and spend money and time on that *now* rather than “tomorrow” (but with balance).
There’s a great section on retirement that focuses on the new face of retirement age and looks on work in older age as an opportunity for personal growth doing something different. However, I don’t think it emphasizes enough the subset of retiree age folks who will be unable to work or even volunteer for health and other reasons (discrimination, skills obsolescence, etc.)– that’s a real worry that many of us will be unable to anticipate but should plan for, just in case.
The investment sections focus mainly on giving and peer-to-peer kinds of investing. Basically they’re what I would consider hobby investing, making this investing into a consumption good like when people say they play the lottery for the entertainment value and not because they think they’re actually making a wise money decision. This kind of investing would be on top of what you’re doing for your retirement funds and would fit into your charitable/social work mental account rather than your money making strategies.
Her weekly book-club has also been fun to read through.
The book is a very easy read.
She understands economics conceptually and explains it well. I like that. Hopefully people reading the book come out with a deep understanding of what opportunity costs are. In addition, I like the research base. It was also fun seeing people I know quoted.
Probably not. A personal finance guru manual for how to live your life– no, she clearly does not have that intention. Entertaining, definitely.
Will it be useful to you? Well, I think if you’re a bright type-A kind of person who just hasn’t thought about these issues, it could really open your eyes to the possibilities out there.
Was it useful for me?
Well, no. I already feel like I’m optimizing my time and money given the constraints I have. Sure I could work harder on bringing side income, but… then I would have less time, and time is really what I would want to buy. At the other end, I could spend more on things that give me time, but we’ve done that in the past and right now it isn’t worth it– especially the extra time and hassle it takes to find someone competent who isn’t going to charge you something different from you agreed on and won’t mow over the new blueberry plants. (Besides, I love the muscles my partner gets from the push mower in the summer. Mmmmm. Who needs to spend time at the gym?)
Random side notes
She pokes a bit of fun at the minimalist and homesteading movements. Not really sure what she has against home-grown tomatoes. As a symbol of a time-waster you can spend money to get they seem pretty weak– tomatoes are pretty easy to grow (even I can’t kill them) and they’re SO much better than what you can get in stores. Not everybody has access to local organic heirloom tomatoes at a farmer’s market or Whole Foods! I would have picked something more difficult to grow or easier to get a good quality version of at the supermarket (maybe cucumbers?).
Her story about ziploc baggies resonates with me. I’m guessing we had similar upbringings followed by a similar path into upper-middle-class-hood. (And, based on what I remember on her blog, we mostly did, including our high school experiences.)
She *almost* has a great soundbite explaining why there isn’t a fixed number of jobs in the economy. That’s my biggest stumbling block with reporters, trying to explain why, without drawing graphs, someone taking a job doesn’t mean someone else loses a job. I’m still not there yet. I think she understands it conceptually and man, I wish she could boil it down to a soundbite I could steal.
If you don’t feel like you’re already perfect, if you feel like you’re drowning in money problems or in time issues, then she’s probably got something to say to you. And the message goes down pretty easy. Get more money, buy more time. Worth a read.