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Book Review: From Here to Financial Happiness by Jonathan Clements

At this point, when I read a personal finance book that’s targeted toward a general audience, what I’m usually hoping for is simply that the book is enjoyable to read. I’m not necessarily expecting to learn a lot of new information that will improve my own finances. This is the natural consequence of reading many books in one field over time — each one tends to provide less new information than the one before.

I imagine many of you are in a similar position.

Suffice to say, Jonathan Clements’ new book — From Here to Financial Happiness: Enrich Your Life in Just 77 Days — surprised me.

In case you haven’t heard of the book yet, it’s a collection of brief financial lessons on a variety of topics, with the idea being that you do one lesson each day. (Admittedly, I did not follow the one-section-per-day plan. I think I read it over 3-4 days. Regardless, I enjoyed the unique structure of the book. It makes it easy to pick up, even if you’re not sure you have a lot of time, because you know you’ll never be more than a couple of pages from a “stopping spot.”)

Some days Clements provides a succinct explanation of a specific financial topic (e.g., why it’s important to have disability insurance if you’re still working). Other days he guides you through a brief personal reflection of sorts (e.g., asking you a specific question about one of your financial goals).

In other words, the book is, in part, a step-by-step guide to getting your finances in order, if they aren’t already: make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage (and no unnecessary coverage), contribute enough to your employer retirement plan to get the maximum match (if one is offered), select an asset allocation that does not exceed your risk tolerance, etc.

But a major part of the book — the part I enjoyed the most — was about how to get the most happiness out of your money. This is of course a trickier topic to navigate, because the answer varies significantly from one person to another. This is why, in these sections, Clements is generally asking you questions rather than giving you answers.

The major brilliance of the book, in my opinion, is that Clements makes these personal reflection “to do” items brief enough that you’re likely to actually do them, because it’s clear that what you’re being asked to do will only take 2-3 minutes. But, over time, the insights build on each other.

I’m intentionally not delving into the specifics here, as what you get out of the book will be different than what I got out of it — which is exactly the point. But I recommend the book highly. It’s the first personal finance book I’ve read in quite a while that had me frequently taking notes for my own benefit (as opposed to taking notes for the sake of a future article).

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