Pound Foolish

  • by Helaine Olen
  • Narrated by Lyn Landon
  • 9 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

If you've ever bought a personal finance book, watched a TV show about stock picking, listened to a radio show about getting out of debt, or attended a seminar to help you plan for your retirement, you've probably heard some version of these quotes:
"What's keeping you from being rich? In most cases, it is simply a lack of belief." (Suze Orman, The Courage to Be Rich)
"Are you latte-ing away your financial future?" (David Bach, Smart Women Finish Rich)
"I know you're capable of picking winning stocks and holding on to them." (Jim Cramer, Mad Money)
They're common refrains among personal finance gurus. There's just one problem: Those and many similar statements are false. For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we've taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude that if we're smart enough, we can overcome even daunting financial obstacles. But that's not true.
In this meticulously reported and shocking audiobook, journalist and former financial columnist Helaine Olen goes behind the curtain of the personal finance industry to expose the myths, contradictions, and outright lies it has perpetuated. She shows how an industry that started as a response to the Great Depression morphed into a behemoth that thrives by selling us products and services that offer little if any help. Olen calls out some of the biggest names in the business, revealing how even the most respected gurus have engaged in dubious, even deceitful, practices - from accepting payments from banks and corporations in exchange for promoting certain prod­ucts to blaming the victims of economic catastrophe for their own financial misfortune.
Pound Foolish also disproves many myths about spending and saving. Weaving together original reporting, interviews with experts, and studies from disciplines ranging from behavioral economics to retirement planning, Pound Foolish is a compassionate and compelling audibook that will change the way we think and talk about our money.

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What the Critics Say

"It's rare to come across a realistic and readable book about personal finance. Most are laden with rosy promises, followed by acronyms and turgid advice. Helaine Olen, a freelance journalist, offers an exception with Pound Foolish.... It's a take-no-prisoners examination of the ways she says we have been scared, misled or bamboozled by those purporting to help us achieve financial security." (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The dark side of my industry

I read a review of this book in one of the financial magazines I receive as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner. I was intrigued by the expose and had to learn more. As a "fee-only" planner, I have my own jaded view of the financial industry. Ms. Olen started studying brokerages and so-called financial planners with zero financial knowledge, which makes it even more interesting that she was able to go so far in her research and understanding of the industry.

Pound Foolish is a book that anyone who uses a broker, buys life insurance or annuities, or who is interested in finding a "financial planner" should read. Why the quote marks? Because most of the people who call themselves "planners" or "advisers" are sales wolves in sheep's clothing.

Ms. Olen hit the right notes for 80% of the book, but I beg to differ with the last 20% that we are all the same (which is the reason for the 4-star rating). While I can totally understand her disenchantment with the overall industry, there are some white knights (mostly fee-only planners and financial LIFE planners). Just know that they make up maybe 5% of the total number of "advisers", maybe less. Why? Because commissions are SO much more lucrative. Typical "advisers" in this industry are trained in sales almost exclusively to the point of crowding out any education about how to truly help their clients. This is why it is so easy for consumers to fall prey to them. Sad.

Use this book as a starting point, then seek out planners who are members of NAPFA and/or the Kinder Institute. Also find a "professional" who is willing to SIGN A STATEMENT that they are a fiduciary. You'll thank me later!
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- Johanna Turner

Exceeded my expectations

Would you consider the audio edition of Pound Foolish to be better than the print version?

This book was a great listen. The author spoke clearly and at a good pace. After listening I didn't feel like I needed to read the print version to pick up on anything I might have missed.


What did you like best about this story?

I liked the amount of detail uncovered. The story flowed well and was organized into themes: television, books, targeting woman, real-estate hustlers, and the issue with financial literacy. After reading other reviews I was a bit concerned that the author's views would be preached to me. The first and last chapters contained that but the meat was just fine.


What does Lyn Landon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I like her reading style, it was easy to follow.


Any additional comments?

I think Ms. Olen did a fine job. I feel like she laid it on thick with the intentional or unintentional insinuation that the consumers of the personal finance complex are innocent (in many cases greed overcame them as well). However, Ms. Olen's book softened my hardline stance against those who remain at the bottom of the income scale. I gave the book 5 stars because I wanted to get from this book exactly what I received. A hard nosed look into the personal finance culture. This author's bias is clearly against the complex but she does not ram it into your eardrums, except for the first and last chapter. To Ms. Olen's credit, she lets the listener's know where she stands and attempts to be evenhanded overall.

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- Kenneth

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-19-2013
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC