A review of Jonathan Clements’ “The Little Book of Main Street Money”

June 18, 2009


Wiley’s Little Book series is a wee bit confusing in that there’s The Little Book That Beats the Market*, which is a stock-picking book. Then, in the same series there’s John Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing*, a book essentially about indexing or passive investing. So, you read one book and say, “That makes sense,” only to have that opinion challenged by the very next book in the series. If it’s confusing to me I can only imagine how confusing it might be to someone who might be new to investing and financial planning.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when received a copy of Jonathan’s The Little Book of Main Street Money*, which is much more of a book on the basics of financial planning and the bigger picture rather than just another book touting a particular investment strategy.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Jonathan. He was the author of the Getting Going column, which ran in the Wall Street Journal for something like 17 years. I interviewed Jonathan a couple of years ago (Part 1 and 2).

I asked Jonathan about his book and he said, “I’m biased, of course, but I think it’s easily my best book. The “Little Book” format really suited my writing style. It was like penning a series of columns, except—because it’s a book—I was able to draw tight connections between the different topics.” He also added, “Most personal-finance books are about money and only money. But as we all know, there’s a whole lot more to life than dollars and cents, and I endeavored to make that clear with my Little Book. Money is just a facilitator, a means to an end, and we need to think long and hard about how we save, spend and invest if we want a truly happy financial life.”

In The Little Book of Main Street Money* you’ll find 21 truths about money expressed in a no-nonsense, easy-to-read manner. Truths like:

• We can’t have it all – a basic law of economics that people tend to forget.

• No investment is risk-free

• Markets may be rational, but we aren’t

• Paying off debts could be our best bond investment.

Because it is a “Little Book,” each chapter is short. The entire book can almost be read in one sitting (unless you’re a slow reader like I am). The concepts in the book aren’t new but have clearly been ignored by lots of people as you can tell by watching the news or reading the newspaper. It’s time to get back to the basics and that is what Jonathan’s book is all about.

I think that’s why this is my favorite of the “Little Book” series so far.

2 responses to A review of Jonathan Clements’ “The Little Book of Main Street Money”

  1. How I miss Jonathan Clements. I don't think he's been replaced.

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