Financial expert Jean Chatzky’s ability to explain complex financial issues in a non-threatening manner has garnered her a position as a "Today Show" financial contributor and as a columnist for some of our country’s most well-respected financial magazines. In her signature down-to-earth and pedantic tone, she has now penned You Don’t Have to Be Rich: Comfort, Happiness, and Financial Security on Your Own Terms, a book geared towards simplifying money matters and characterizing financial security as a universally achievable goal. In it, she dispels the myth that overall happiness is linked to the amount of money earned and, in turn, offers simple steps anyone can use to achieve a solid future—both financial and otherwise.
The basis for this book is the survey results Chatzky received from more than fifteen hundred participants around the country (many of the questions are included in the book, so readers can gauge how their responses compare to those surveyed). The questions cover a wide range of financial behaviors, probing participants for information about, for example, spending and saving habits as well as attitudes towards debt and financial risks. Chatzky analyzed this extensive pool of information, extrapolated the trends, and used the results as a foundation for her well-reasoned and now well-substantiated financial advice.
One pervasive finding in this survey (and one of the book’s main themes) is the strong correlation between financial security and overall happiness. In contrast, the results indicate a very weak correlation between the amount of money people earn and their satisfaction with life in general. Since Chatzky has historically said that following her advice will lead people of all income levels to financial security, she uses her survey results to take this position one step further. Specifically, she convincingly argues that the achievement of this financial security will not only lead to financial happiness but to a greater sense of happiness relating to day-to-day activities.
Chatzky’s financial advice centers around small tasks which have the potential to produce significant rewards. While few of her ideas are novel ones, they all lend themselves to the conclusion that the road to wealth is an obtainable goal, regardless of the size of one’s paycheck. For example, she explains the importance of saving money on a consistent basis regardless of how small the amount, tracking all expenditures, and paying bills as they are received. The goal of these suggestions is to take control over your finances rather than allowing your financial situation to control you.
While Chatzky acknowledges the volatility of the stock market and the wide variation of income levels around the country, she rejects the idea that this instability must infiltrate one’s personal financial life. As her title suggests, you do not have to be rich to be financially secure and content, you just have to follow Chatzky’s simple advice.