Don't be fooled by the compact size of Jonathan Clements' new book, "The Little Book of Main Street Money: 21 Simple Truths that Help Real People Make Real Money." This small book -- part of Wiley's "Little Book Big Profits" series -- packs a good dose of practical financial advice to help you weather this brutal economy and work toward building wealth. Because the chapters are short, the book can probably be read by many people in a day.

Clements, a former Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist, offers 21 easy-to-understand principles based upon the financial philosophy he has developed over the years. His advice goes beyond simple money management and offers tips for living a more fulfilled life. The book's nuggets of valuable information include "We can't have it all," "Our Finances Are Bigger than a Brokerage Account," Time Is as Valuable as Money" and "Markets May Be Rational, but We Aren't."


I particularly liked the chapter titled "Money Can Buy Happiness -- If We Spend It Carefully." Clements makes the point that no matter how much stuff you buy, none of it will buy lasting happiness. His suggestions for handling money more wisely include buying experiences, rather than things, counting your blessings and finding a purpose.

"The Little Book of Main Street Money" also offers tips for choosing a mix for your portfolio, building savings, tax planning, insurance and focusing on economic fundamentals when making decisions about your investments. Clements writes that investors who have a gambling mentality "fundamentally misunderstand what stock market investing is all about. We don't invest to beat the market, get rich, or earn the highest possible return. Money isn't an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to other ends. We invest to meet our goals, whether it's buying a home, putting the kids through college, or paying for our own retirement."

He also says it's important to strive for financial peace and that we should focus on things we can control, rather than panicking over every blip that occurs in financial markets. So even if the stock market is falling, home values are plunging, and inflation starts to soar, he emphasizes that there are things each of us can do to put our own financial house in order.

The take-away from this book is that money is tied up in all aspects of our lives, and we should give appropriate attention to managing it wisely. It doesn't make sense to obsess about money, but it is important to have specific financial goals and a plan to implement them. Clements writes: "We should strive to ensure money is enhancing our lives, rather than getting in the way."


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