I was fortunate enough get a review copy of It Is Only Money to look over. As far as I am aware, I am not receiving any compensation for reviewing this book, although I will certainly update if I do receive something!
I went into this book expecting yet another financial self-help pamphlet, and frankly, by about 10% in I was ready to give up. The book starts with a look at a Christian theology surrounding money and as an atheist, I tend not to connect very well with advice that is coming from a religious perspective. I kept reading, however, and was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the book.
The lessons are taught through a financial class run by a woman named Catherine, and attended by students from a variety of backgrounds. Each student has something from their cultural or religious background to offer, to assist the class (and us) in better understanding the purpose of money and therefore how to responsibly manage it.
I really liked this book as a sort of primer, or mindset check to get people to think more about their relationship with money. There is not a lot of percentages, or descriptions of the types of stocks and bonds available, or whether to have a financial planner. This is not, to a large extent, a nuts-and-bolts book. What it does instead, is walk the reader through several different thought processes that can assist in building wealth.
The book starts with a discussion of attitudes and a parable of Frank and Mary. Frank is bitter, always remembering the sacrifices of the Great Depression, and sad and upset that younger generations have an easier time. Mary, during the same time period, helped her community and raised a family through working with others and providing generously. Both were poor, but each had an entirely different outlook on the place of money that contributed to the outcomes that each experienced.
I know I myself need to work on this. I do tend to have a “scarcity” mindset when it comes to money. There never feels like there’s enough. I also tend to have the “baglady” fear that many women do, that constantly warns me I’m going to be out of a job and on the streets in no time. Part of the fear reaction I had when the large medical bills came due was that niggling voice in the back of my head that warned me that these large bills were going to put us on the street. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. We paid them, and moved on with our lives. But the fear is very real.
Instead of remaining fearful of loss, Cara asks the reader to be ready to grow what you do have. If you have a particular skill, or are part of a particular community, how can you leverage that to your advantage (without, of course, taking advantage of someone else)?
The later chapters go through dividing your income into spending, savings, investment, charity, and tithing (if you choose), starting your own business, and growing your funds in a way that is responsible for yourself and the world around you. The book also seems to be geared toward study, either individually or in a group or class setting and includes chapter questions at the end of the book designed to provoke further thought. Any persons in a relationship may find this very helpful in jump-starting a conversation about money and money management prior to joining accounts or making significant joint purchases.
All in all, Cara is an engaging, informative, and thoughtful writer. While theological advice doesn’t usually speak to me, I actually found the different cultural views on money helpful in thinking about what I personally value regarding money and its purpose. I was particularly drawn to the idea of using our time and money to better the world around us, and that each of us has a responsibility to carefully manage our resources to provide the greatest gain (note: this does not always mean the greatest percentage yield). I will be recommending this book to anyone that is starting out on a path towards debt freedom or more responsible money management. A link will also be available on the Resources page of this website.