June 17, 2009
Wealth Is a Choice: How to Choose Wisely
***** 5 Stars — Thoughtful Advice on Investing and Money Management
This book’s title “Wealth Is a Choice: How to Choose Wisely” says it all. Wealth is a choice. No one gets rich without making the decision to do so, whether it is deciding to buy a lottery ticket or pragmatically planning for retirement. The first thing people must do is make conscious decisions that they will have wealth and then set goals to achieve that wealth. Of course, the goals must be realistic, which rules out the lottery. In “Wealth Is a Choice” James Studinger provides valuable advice for setting realistic goals based on his own experiences and his many years of helping his clients increase their wealth.
Throughout “Wealth Is a Choice,” Studinger relates personal experiences—his childhood in Manistique, Michigan, his working for a firm that helped prison employees with managing their money in the Marquette Branch Prison, various firms he has worked for in Michigan, and examples of the clients he has helped to grow their wealth, as well as examples of clients who did not grow wealth and what held them back. He also tells his own story of personally learning how to handle his money so he was not in debt. He began writing “Wealth Is a Choice” because he wanted to leave his sons a money road map should anything happen to him. That idea grew into one of the best books on money management I have ever read.
“Wealth Is a Choice” stands out for many reasons. First of all, a lot I know about money I learned from Suze Orman. Her books and television show are fantastic about money management, but Orman and many others focus primarily on how to get out of debt, and how to save money by spending less. Studinger talks about debt briefly, but he notes that many good books already exist on the subject. His purpose is instead to help us learn how to grow our money, which is what I’ve most wanted to learn. I’m apparently one of the fortunate few in America not in debt who has always been good at saving money. My need has been trying to figure out what to do with the money I save—how to invest it, what to invest it in, how to know whether an investment will be good or bad.
I have read books about mutual funds and stocks and how to determine which ones are likely to grow. Most of it I quickly forget. What was missing from the equation, and Studinger is the only author I know who has made this clear, is that the ultimate goal is to figure out how much you need to retire, and then to track your progress regularly toward that goal.
One point Studinger covers extensively, which cannot be underestimated, is the importance of finding a reliable advisor. He warns us that many advisors try to sell clients products based on how much commission they will receive rather than what is best for the client. He tells us to ask advisors upfront what the benefit is to them, while reminding us just because one investment will pay off for the advisor more than another, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t choose the investment that will help the advisor more, we just also should choose what makes most sense for our investment needs. After all, advisors deserve to make a good living off their work provided they are giving their clients good advice. Studinger tells us to ask three basic questions of advisors before we make an investment: What is the rate of return? What is the risk? What is the cost?
Beyond finding a good advisor, Studinger suggests we find a good software program that allows us to track our investments. I have tried to track my investments by paper statements, making spreadsheets etc., but it is tedious and I never keep up with it. A software program sounds like the way to go. Studinger’s own wealth management firm, JPStudinger Group, provides a wealth management solution tool that is web-based so clients can track their investments. A video of this tool can be viewed at www.jpstudinger.com.
The only slight flaw I see in this book are the examples of wealthy clients Studinger uses. The majority of them have significant incomes ranging from $80,000 annually and upward. Most Americans do not have such incomes, so they might find such numbers intimidating. Unfortunately, it is people with such high incomes who will most likely be reading this book. However, the person who makes $30,000 a year will find the advice given just as useful. Don’t let the numbers intimidate you. A person’s current income does not have to determine whether someone has the choice to become wealthy. As Studinger points out, it’s about making good choices with the money you have that will make the difference.
“Wealth Is a Choice” is an easy to understand book. Unlike with many investment books, I never once felt lost or confused. Studinger writes in a straightforward style, and his honest advice leaves me with no doubt that he has the reader’s best interests at heart. He has great cartoons throughout the book to illustrate his discussion, and he uses effective analogies, including football offense and defense and archery anchor points to get his points across. I think male readers will especially be able to relate to his examples and find the advice practical.
Lots of people read about money or tell themselves someday they will get their finances together. This book will inspire people to do so. Many readers, after completing this book, will realize that wealth is a choice and be inspired to make that choice for themselves. I know “Wealth Is a Choice” has encouraged me to review my financial goals and plan better for retirement.
For more information about J.P. Studinger and “Wealth Is a Choice: How to Choose Wisely,” visit www.jpstudinger.com
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of the award-winning Narrow Lives
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