By The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett (Bantam Dell, 2008)
After a collective epiphany inspired by an Oprah episode about personal debt, the five young authors of this book decided to form a “money group,” which they say is “kind of like a book club where you read bank statements instead.” They agreed to support one another in developing better fiscal habits, and the results were nothing short of astonishing: Each member went from being hamstrung by debt to becoming a mostly debt-free homeowner in only one year. This rapid transition from financially clueless to fiscally savvy makes them extremely sympathetic and nonjudgmental advisers, and their book, cowritten with Wall Street Journal economic reporter Jennifer Barrett, balances the authors’ personal stories with straightforward financial counsel. Topics range from the psychological (breaking the taboo around discussing money; visualizing your financial goals) to the practical (developing smarter spending habits; mastering investment basics). Readers can apply many of the suggested tips and insights right away. Other steps require a little more time and study, but none are overwhelming. Overall, this is among the most practical financial guides we’ve seen.