Book Review: “Soldier of Finance” By Jeff Rose
I’ve been blogging for “only” three years, and back in 2010, Jeff Rose was already several years into it. Yet even while he was building his blog and his financial-planning business (and raising a family and helping his spouse with her own blogger business), he was working on a book project. It’s been a pleasure to watch the book grow as he’s worked through the drafts and found a publisher and started marketing it. We’ve heard about it for months, and I finally got the chance to review an “advance uncorrected proof”.
“Soldier of Finance” is hitting the streets next month. Jeff uses the metaphor of his military career and his experience with debt to show you how to eliminate your debt and reach financial independence. He made a few of his own financial mistakes when he was starting out, and he explains how to avoid repeating them. You don’t have to be in the military to use this book, but military families will appreciate that perspective even more.
Jeff starts the story with his struggles at paying for college. He eventually decided to improve his finances by joining the Army National Guard, and he shares his recruit training stories along with using those experiences to cope with budgeting, saving, and paying off debt. In the same way that he learned to deal with combat, he applies that mindset to dealing with financial problems and building your own wealth.
He really took those battlefield lessons to heart: while he was deployed to Iraq he began the online courses that led to his first financial certification. When he returned home he completed the curriculum to become a Certified Financial Planner. He later went on to start his own financial planning business, where he’s helped plenty of people figure out their finances and achieve their financial goals. Just as he learned his military and financial skills, he shows you how to develop your own financial training and win your own money battles.
The book begins with the basics of recruit training: “Why are you here?” Most people get into debt through a combination of ignorance and a lack of initiative, and the situation doesn’t improve until they’re tired of living with debt problems. They have to learn to get their finances under control, attack their debt, start saving and investing for their life’s goals, and make sure that they protect themselves with insurance. By the end of the second chapter, you’ve decided to tackle the discipline & practice to pay off your debt. You even take an oath to yourself and find a battle buddy to keep you focused on your goals.
The second section walks you through explanations and checklists. You’ll total up your debt, understand your credit score, and learn how to read your credit report. Dealing with credit-card companies might be like doing the low crawl through mud & barbed wire, but you’ll know where you are and you’ll figure out the best way to pay off your debt.
The third part of the book, of course, takes you through the debt war. Once you’ve started changing your financial habits, you’re ready to pay off the that debt and start saving. Jeff explains several different methods to pay it all off, giving you plenty of ammunition to help you enjoy your progress and keep you motivated. It’s not just the math of paying off the high-interest-rate debts first– it’s also the psychological victory of racking up success at paying off smaller debts, or pushing very hard for a few months to make a lot of progress on one particular bill.
The payoff accelerates as you make progress, with less of your money going to interest payments and more of it paying off the actual debts. This is Jeff’s point for using your new positive cash flow to finish the payoff, develop your long-term spending plan, and start saving. More explanations and checklists take you through the basics: how much to save, where to put it, and which goals to save for.
Jeff’s financial planning chapters cover investing for servicemembers, civilians, and their families. One paragraph near the back of the book hit a sour note: the commentary on the military’s Thrift Savings Plan. It seems to dismiss a servicemember’s only opportunities to save $17,500/year in the TSP or the Roth TSP. It doesn’t balance those remarks with any of the advantages of the TSP. (The TSP may have limited investment choices, but it also has the world’s lowest expense ratios and the “G” fund.) It doesn’t have all of the advantages of a civilian 401(k), but it offer matching for the federal civil-service employees. Jeff says “You make valid points regarding the TSP and I feel I need to do a better job of offering a solution. I plan to tackle this on the blog in the near future.” Good to go.
That’s only one minor paragraph out of over 200 pages. The rest of that section teaches you more about retirement investing than you’ll ever learn from the military or a civilian employer.
I’m really glad to see Jeff’s book get on to the shelves (and on to my iPad). I don’t talk much about debt in my book or on my blog, and “Soldier of Finance” fixes that gaping deficiency. If you’re dealing with any debt or feeling discouraged about your own retirement planning, then browse the website, read the first chapter for free, and get your hands on the book. Ask your local public library to buy this one for you, or buy the cheaper Kindle version, or buy it and share it with a friend.
This is one of those paperbacks that you’ll use many times with dog-eared pages, margin notes, and plenty of wear & tear. (Or at least a few Kindle highlights.) It’ll look just like Jeff’s first copy of the Soldier’s Handbook.
If you’ve already scored your own copy of the book, please share a comment with our readers– and consider posting an Amazon review!
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