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Book Review:
The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life

By Matthew Arnold Stern

Suze Orman's book The Laws of Money, the Lessons of Life is the first book about finance I've read that recognizes the emotional attachment we make with money. We don't measure money with numbers, but how it makes us feel. We use money to evaluate our sense of self-worth, security, social standing, and even love. These are the reasons so many people make stupid choices regarding their money.

Suze Orman addresses these emotional ties with money and their resulting problems with five common-sense laws. She wrote this book in the aftermath of September 11, the burst of the stock-market bubble, and corporate scandals, but the laws apply in all financial conditions.

Consider her first law, "Truth creates money, lies destroy it." This law doesn't just apply to gross acts of corporate malfeasance like Enron and Global Crossing. Think of times when you bought extravagances you cannot afford with hopes of paying off your credit cards later. Meantime, you are amassing interest along with your original debt, and you find yourself in financial bondage for years.

In addition to addressing our emotional issues with money, she also provides some practical advice. In the law "Invest in the Known Before the Unknown," she advises to focus on paying off our debts, especially our home mortgage, before dabbling in the stock market. At a time when the stock market jerks up and down depending on what happens in the news, we know that we can be assured a 57% rate of return by paying off our mortgage. (For paying off credit-card debt, that rate can be 1821%.) For those of us who invest, she provides a good rule of thumb of whether to keep investments or sell them.

To help you address your emotional and practical concerns about money, the hardcover edition of the book includes a 131-page workbook with exercises and additional guidance.

After reading this book, I understand why Suze Orman has such a wide following and has such great ratings for her PBS specials and CNBC talk show. She makes the subject of money understandable and human. In doing so, she can help us make better decisions about what to do with our money by showing us the emotions that we tie to it.

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