Review of Jane White’s America, Welcome to the Poorhouse

by James & Miel on December 16, 2009 · 0 comments

I recently read Jane White’s America, Welcome to the Poorhouse: What You Must Do to Protect Your Financial Future and the Reform We Need. White is a retirement expert who has written books on personal finance, retirement and housing, as well serving as a Congressionally appointed delegate to retirement summits among her other, numerous, qualifications.
Her book is divided into five sections, each tackling a different financial issue facing the U.S. Those issues are: inadequate retirement savings, housing, the cost of education, credit card debt and the impact of the federal government on our country’s financial state. Each section has two main parts, an explanation of the problem as the author sees it, and her proposal for fixing the problem. One main criticism of personal finance books is the lack of implementable advice – we even had a commenter mention on an earlier post that the reason they don’t like controversial personal finance writer Robert Kiyosaki is because of a perceived lack of “concrete, step by step advice”. White avoids this common pitfall by offering at the end of each section an outline of what she would do to fix the problem, with advice coming from both the personal and the political standpoint.
By the way, if you’re looking for someone to hold your hand and comfort you about some of the economic problems we’re facing, this is not the book for you! Her criticisms are fair, and there isn’t a party or a politician spared by her frank assessment of how Washington in particular is handling economic issues. I found this approach refreshing; many of the books or articles I’ve read either treat politicians with kid gloves, ignore their shortcomings altogether, or commit the worst offense (in my opinion at least) by fiercely attacking a political party or school of thought while turning a blind eye on their own favored ideological shortcomings. Her stark approach endeared me a great deal to her book, and in my opinion, gives her thoughts a greater weight.
My favorite section of the book was the last part, Part 5: “Real Campaign Reform That Puts Citizens, Not the Business Lobby, First”. The issue of the revolving door that exists between the financial industry and the government regulators that oversee them is a particular point of irritation for me, and I found myself nodding along frequently during that section of the book.

Of course I didn’t agree with everything she wrote (and what book exists that I would?), but the depth of White’s financial experience coupled with her clear and concise (203 words in the meat of the text, plus more resources in the back) arguments made this an interesting read that I enjoyed and learned from. I found myself agreeing with her or being persuaded to her side of the argument more often than not.

Ultimately, this book made me think, which is what I’m always looking for when reading books of this kind. Also, for more information on the information she gives in the text, be sure to check out the Endnotes in the back; they’re full of interesting links and further explanations and resources that reinforce her opinions.

I had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions regarding her book and her financial philosophy in general, and she was gracious enough to accept. That interview will be in my next post.
-Michael

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