Publisher: Navigator Press, 2010
Genre: Non-Fiction: Financial Planning
My Rating: 2.5 stars
I don’t usually review books about financial planning or money management because this isn’t the type of book I seek out. However, when Rebecca from The Cadence Group asked me if was interested in reviewing Gary Klaben’s Changing the Conversation, she shared the following descriptions of the book:
Through a series of chapter “conversations” about client dysfunctions and challenges encountered over 25 years, author and financial advisor Gary Klaben seeks to stimulate a new kind of conversation. Time and time again, people have watched helplessly as the family wealth-destruction cycle has gone from “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves” in three generations. His book, Changing the Conversation, seeks to empower readers to begin a journey of self-discovery in order to become masters of money, not slaves to it. In Changing the Conversation, Klaben emphasizes a major shift in the way businesses and individuals speak of financial planning and money. The topics of meaning, values and purpose must be brought to the forefront to be able to contend with the economics, demographics and social framework of today’s America. This how-to guide to financial management with its many conversations about what really matters shows readers a new way to think, prioritize and act and is thus a wonderful addition to the shelves of businesses and families alike.
After reading these descriptions, I thought “Well, the economy is kind of mess right now, and I know I could sure use some guidance in managing our money better so maybe I should check this out.” I’m sure many of you have been experiencing some economic pain or uncertainty in the last few years. In fact, I know very few people who haven’t been directly affected by layoffs, job uncertainty, unemployment or financial difficulties lately. So this book seemed timely and relevant. When I received the book, both the subtitle, “Transformational Steps to Financial and Family Well-Being,” and the cover blurb by Douglas R. Andrew—”Finally! A roadmap for securing personal and financial prosperity over time.”—caught my eye. Prepared to find some useful information, I settled in to read.
I’m sorry to report that, 283 pages later, this book was not quite what I was seeking. Although I think the author’s heart is in the right place, his message felt simplistic and repetitive, and I didn’t find much useful financial information or guidance. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a financial expert or have any great interest in the field; that is why I read the book in the first place. However, the book felt more like a self-help book than a financial planning book. There was a big emphasis on why we need to change our attitudes toward money and place more emphasis on family, long-term relationships and personal happiness. Although I agree with this concept, it wasn’t the type of advice I was expecting.
Klaben shares many stories from his years as a financial planner and his personal life, and I think that his holistic approach to money management is to be admired. I know I would prefer a money manager who looked at my needs on a personal as well as a financial level. However, I was seeking practical advice rather than a philosophical approach to thinking about money. So, in the end, I think that was why I was so disappointed in the book. I also struggled with Klaben’s writing style, which felt choppy and fragmented. In addition, he had a flexible approach to punctuation and capitalization that I found very distracting. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of the em dash (—). Klaben seems to be a big fan too, but his use seemed bizarre to me. Consider these two sentences, which have some of the oddest structure I’ve ever seen.
These are all necessary and important tasks but fall into the busywork category. —Nothing exciting or stimulating here.
The Dan Sullivan Question stumps most people. —Because it asks them to envision of picture of their future.
I’m not usually one to harp on stuff like this. However, in this case, I found his sentence structures so distracting that I started paying more attention to the misuse of my beloved em dash than Klaben’s message.
My Final Recommendation
If you’re looking for a practical, understandable guide to help you manage your family’s finances, look elsewhere. This book focuses much more on the philosophical musings of a long-time financial planner who would like to see people focus on their personal growth, happiness and relationships as well as their financial well-being. In the end, I think the point of “changing the conversation” is a message from Gary Klaben to his financial planning peers that they should not forget to look at their clients as real people. Although readers might find nuggets of wisdom that might help them adjust their attitude toward money, they won’t find straightforward advice on managing money.
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