A Review of “The Index Card” by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

The Index Card

I received a review copy of The Index Card: Why Personal Finance DoesnÂ’t Have to Be Complicated* by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack a couple of weeks ago.

As you can probably imagine from the title, this is a little book. It’s a book that can be read in one setting, which is nice.

The book is composed of ten rules (the authors even include an index card with the 10 rules), which are:

The Index Card

As you can see, they are pretty basic rules. Most of us would agree with all of them.

One rule that I definitely agree with is no. 6: Make your financial advisor commit to the fiduciary standard. That is a must in my book. If they won’t do that, then find another advisor.

The two rules I don’t agree with are no. 4: Never buy or sell individual stocks. and no. 9: Do what you can to support the social safety net.

Although I think index funds should make up the bulk of a person’s investment portfolio, I would stop short of telling people to never buy individual stocks.

The chapter on rule no. 9 left a sour taste in my mouth. Here’s an excerpt:

“When someone decries Social Security as a Ponzi scheme, remind him or her that many elderly would lead much poorer lives without it. When you hear someone say the government should keep its mitts of Medicare, speak up and say it is a government program.

“But it’s more than that. We need to admit we are the 96%. Be honest about not just what you pay in taxes but what you receive in return. Almost all of us have been helped—or have friends or relatives who have been helped—by unemployment insurance, Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants to attend college, or other government offerings. All too often, we take them for granted, but without them many of us would be in worse financial shape. Acting together, we can protect one another against financial and health risks that would crush anyone of us, were we forced to face them unassisted.

“We must take care of ourselves and our immediate families through better planning, saving, and investing. When we do that, we are in a better place. But we must take care of our fellow citizens too. That’s the best way to ensure that all the new changes we’ve adopted over the course of this book have the best chance for success.”

Sounds like a page right out of the Democrat talking points, doesn’t it? It’s not my intent to take this review down the political path. Let’s just say that I think the above excerpt from the book is absolute hogwash. The book could have easily been written without it.

Politics aside, this is a decent book. It’s a great primer for someone starting out.

Other reviews from around the web: Adam Chudy

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