Al Jacobs brings forty years of entrepreneurial experience to bear in his
straightforward financial guide Nobody's Fool. Subtitled A Skeptic's Guide to
Prosperity, this eminently readable resource also lays out the ground rules for
living with your eyes wide open -- not so much in the dharmic sense as in the purely pragmatic,
although a certain implicit thread of spirituality does run through every
chapter of practical advice in the manner of bestselling personal finance guru
Suze Orman's The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. What Jacobs drives
home again and again is his intense personal belief in the power of a skeptical attitude.
Lest readers mistake his positive mantra of skepticism for a negative cynical
one, he defines his terms up front:
The cynic dismisses everything as nonsense; the skeptic recognizes that some portion may be valid and seeks to find it... Being right by accident doesn't help much. You must know why you are right. [Skepticism's] principles apply to every human endeavor and deserve consideration in the situations you confront... a questioning approach and an unwillingness either to believe or disbelieve without persuasive evidence.
definition is the crux of Jacobs' instruction. The way to success is paved with
knowledge. He admonishes readers not to simply accept what they're told or led
to believe in business situations or in life in general, but to seek out facts
and paths for themselves. Jacobs is a firm believer in lifelong education -- not
so you can wave around an often insubstantive degree after several years in a
course of study, but so you can prepare yourself for circumstances where you
find yourself in an adversarial position, and so you can understand a subject or
process on your own terms.
Yet the philosophizing does not strain for lofty heights of discourse; Jacobs
is about bringing a sensible, winning attitude to all daily affairs. Still and all, the thrust of
the book is financial in nature ("It is with money that we keep score of our
successes and failures," Jacobs writes), and it doesn't stint on good
advice there. Cogent discussions of just why stocks are risky, why even mutual
funds should be viewed with a strong skeptical eye ("As for the mutual fund
industry, who in God's name is watching the store?"), why the advice of
superstar analysts should be taken with a healthy dose of salt, why investment
in interest-bearing securities such as corporate bonds and treasury obligations
belong in any growing estate, why investing in real estate demands that you be
fully informed and ready to work, why Social Security isn't working, and a full array of resources for more
in-depth investigation into every topic discussed make Nobody's Fool easily
worth several times its cost.
Jacobs also touches on a handful of topics tied into personal finance such as
education, health, politics and charities, making solid general recommendations
about a fresh way to approach most aspects of your life. Summarized points at
the end of each chapter, coupled with often amusing but pointed bits of verse to
reiterate his counsel create reader-friendly flow -- this is if nothing else a
good read, well-designed and familiarly written. Appendices including
illustrative exhibits from the author's own experience as well as seven pages of
other book and web resources round out a financial self-improvement package that
is useful for just about anyone. Don't miss out on this gem.