Sometimes, consumer personal finance journalism lets the public down. Not always (as I hear some of you say), just occasionally. Mea culpa and all that.
When people like me and my compatriots in the national press are busy campaigning – on anything from broken pension promises to crass government policy – we are at our finest. We earn our modest salaries in spades and we get results. Readers love us – which goes against conventional wisdom that says everyone hates the press.
It must also be said when we attempt to raise the levels of personal finance education (sadly lacking among both youngsters and adults), we on the whole do a mighty good job. We should do more of this nuts-and-bolts journalism.
But some of the time, our writing is a little lacking in imagination or appropriateness. For example, we write about investment opportunities in Japan when really few readers are that interested in such investment specifics.
More appropriate would be articles on whether people should be investing for the long term – an issue raised recently by Paul Lewis of Radio 4 Money Box fame, who believes cash – rather than equities – is often king. He is so convinced of his argument that he now uses his pension to hoard cash.
We as a profession, also tend to be a little too product-focused when we should be looking at the whole – the greater financial picture.
I raise these issues not because I want to beat myself up or self-flagellate in public. I do so because I have just taken time out to read a very interesting book on personal finance – and it has made me reflect on what I do for a living and whether I could do it better.
It is one of the best money books I have read in a long time – certainly, better than the rambling tome I wrote on personal finance in 2001 for the Mail on Sunday, although I was astonished recently to see that it is still available on Amazon for the princely sum of £32.78 (paperback edition).
A collector’s item – Jeff’s Lunchbox (1995) has not fared so well, and is still available at £6.99, although some used copies are on offer from £0.01.
The book in question is written by Chris Budd of Ovation Finance, a Bristol-based financial planner. It is called The Financial Wellbeing Book, and it is a gem (I do not use such a word lightly).
No jargon, lots of anecdotes and tips, and little focus on products, bar the odd mention of critical illness insurance, medical insurance and income protection. Written in plain English and, amazingly, it is a joy to read.
It will take you no more than an evening to finish, and I would be astonished if (as trusty financial planners) you do not already embrace the theme of the book in the work you do.