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The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
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The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,075 ratings  ·  400 reviews
TV analysts and money managers would have you believe your finances are enormously complicated and if you don’t follow their guidance, you’ll end up in the poorhouse. They’re wrong.

When University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack interviewed Helaine Olen, an award-winning financial journalist and the author of the bestselling Pound Foolish, he made an off­-hand suggest
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Portfolio
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  3,075 ratings  ·  400 reviews

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Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
I was two chapters away from giving this book a 4 star review and then I read the chapter about tip 9.

I've read lots of books about personal finance and through tip 8 I thought the authors were giving great advice.

However, I 100% disagree with their tip 9. To make my point I've knocked the book from 4 stars to 2.

Tip 9 is "Do what you can to support the Social Security network."

The authors are big defenders of SSI. They specifically dispute the claim the Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but do
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Somewhat paradoxically for a book of 210 pages, the premise of The Index Card is that the necessary rules of personal finances can fit on (wait for it) an index card. As the authors sensibly explain in the beginning, however, basic rules often require a little elaboration to be implemented, and that is what the book tries to do. I’m sold!

It does a decent job of it, but with some holes. One issue is that it occasionally throws around vocabulary assuming you already know what it means, such as “sm
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: miscellaneous
Simple and sane advice on personal finances.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The less you know about sound money management, the more valuable this book will prove to be. Literally. Very few people, regardless of income level, understand every aspect that contributes to maximizing (or jeopardizing) one's financial health. Perhaps more important, avoiding the numerous pitfalls which dot the road to a secure retirement takes time, attention, care, and commitment.

While there is a lot of good, general advice that is applicable to everyone, some is specific to the American co
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Helpful reminder of basic tips: Save on a regular basis; don't spend too much.

Subaccounts for your main bank account:

1. Savings
2. Vacation
3. Emergency fund/rainy day
4. House
5. Taxes

Don't prioritize emergency savings over credit card debt. Pay off your credit card first!

Secret to our grandparents' financial discipline:

- Lack of access to credit
- Layaway plans
- Loved ones (reality test)
- Loan sharks (most people sensibly avoided them)

Rank your debt; pay down the bill with the highest interest rate
Q.T. Pi
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Simple advice that's easy to follow. Most of the tips are about personal responsibility and self-education. I was shocked by the statistics of people who do not follow common sense steps like taking their time to shop around for the lowest mortgage, or not paying off their principle on their credit cards. The trick is to save money, to find the best deals, to protect your best assets and to pay off the highest interest first.

The most sound advice was paying off your credit card as quickly as pos
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Good intro to personal finance that I recommend to any beginners. The whole premise is that all you need to know about personal finance fits on an index card, which I can agree with. There are a couple of things I don't quite agree with though. One, is that it isn't good to roll your 401(k) over to an IRA when you leave your job. I can understand their concerns, but I think it's better to move it to a low-fee company and choose your funds. Secondly, they didn't like target date funds. I once aga ...more
Alicia Groscost
This one is a short & quick read that provides some good information. I'm currently on a finance journey and there are a number of things in here that I liked/learned about investing. Glad I read this one!!!! ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've now read a few of these financial advice books, but Helane and Harold's is among the best. I think many people feel overwhelmed when thinking about personal finance, and it's not always an easy thing emotionally or even logistically to deal with.

What I appreciate the most about this book is that the authors spend time acknowledging what few other personal finance books will: that our policies have limited what the poor and middle class really have power over when it comes to our personal f
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a very readable book. I have been told many times by different people to try Dave Ramsay's Total money makeover because it's really good and works, but I was always skeptical because I knew that everything was pretty heavily religious and I am not. I finally decided to try it and I was not wrong. I couldn't even get out of the introduction. It was so preachy and then boring on top of that. This was exactly the opposite. It had NO religious aspect, it was short and to the point and the a ...more
Julie Guzzetta
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
I don’t often read non-fiction/self-help type books, but this one came highly recommended. After all, who couldn’t use a little bit of advice about money?
This book was well-done! Simplistic but not pandering. It explained words that you might not know the exact meaning of (like fiduciary), but it didn’t dumb things down. I enjoyed it! You know, for a book about finances.
It was included in an article as a good book for women who want to take control of their finances. But the book is for anyone.
Daniel Christensen
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finances, life
Solid, basic financial advice.
Some good tips (think of personal finance like weights - start small, incremental improvements).
Maybe a bit too American for an Australian audience.

Update 24/02/18
Upgraded this from 3 to 4 stars.

Incredibly basic, but I did get quite a bit of personal benefit from implementing these:

RULE #1: Strive to Save 10 to 20 Percent of Your Income
Save 10-20% or more.
1) Monitor your spending (in detail for 3 months)
2) Confront your spending
3) Refine your expenses ov
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer by:
Shelves: 2016
Wow. This little book packs a punch!

I admit I breezed through the first few chapters. Yes, emergency fund. Of course pay your credit in full. Yep yep, maximize employer contribution... and then I hit the Rule #5: Buy Inexpensive, Well-Diversified Indexed Mutual Funds" and I thought, hang on. What are my investments? I dug the dusty paperwork off and my heart sank. All actively managed mutual funds. Crap. I need to call my financial guy.

Then I hit #6: Make Your Financial Advisor Commit to the F
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Simple, practical easy advice. A quick read; well written and engaging. Would be a great college graduation gift. I was particularly impressed with the last chapter focused on being supportive of the social net hat our government provides, and the stark truth that 96% of us use it. Important words in this "me-centric" age. ...more
Margaret Lozano
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Straight forward, simple advice that will reap the average individual a solid financial future.

Although numerous personal finance books are published each year, there are precious few classics that reliably explain personal financial strategy in a way that is easy to follow for even the least educated investor. This leads many people to follow the advice of popular gurus like Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and David Bach.

While some of the advice these experts provide is great, it usually fails disma
Kater Cheek
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I heard about The Index Card, the idea, the card, the book, from Planet Money and decided that it was the thing I needed to read/listen to in order to find out if I'm as much of a hopeless financial screw up as I feared I was.

If you haven't heard about "The Index Card" the idea is that all the financial advice you need can fit on the back of an index card and that it's all free from the library. I don't remember all the rules, but they are nothing extravagant, things you might figure out on your
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
So normally if I heard a book was based on a viral Internet post I would screech and begin lashing out but this was pretty good. It is easy to lecture about thrift and prudence but the personal finance industry is designed in a lab to steal from you. So the book holds your hand and walks you through what prudence would really mean. It's important to emphasize that your bank (etc) will not tell you. Even if you just picked the most conservative-seeming options available at every turn and avoided ...more
Claire Drolet
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Fairly good general advice, but I feel like it’s geared mostly towards the middle-class who have some money already but just aren’t sure what they are supposed to be doing with it. I got really lost in the investment information, so I will have to reread that to see if I can understand what I’m supposed to do... I admit I got annoyed when they keep repeating how simple it was, and it didn’t at all feel or sound that way. I’m also speculative of their insistence that you have 20% down for a house ...more
Katy Eyberg
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lately I've been interested in personal finance and, like many people, in trying to figure out how "to make my money work for me." I never learned anything about investing in school, and in light of the market downturn, Bitcoin craze, and personal events in my own life, I've been trying to make sense of money. How should I invest, given my age, income, and future prospects? What does diversification mean, and why is it important? Why should I be wary of financial advisors but also seek their gui ...more
Kaitlin Oujo
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Things I loved about this book:
Good financial advice from someone who is fundamentally suspicious of the financial services industry and conspicuous consumption, in general. SO MANY finance books are written for people who want to get rich, or beat the market. This is a great book for regular people who want to incorporate responsible financial habits into their lives so they can retire and take care of their families. That’s it.

I also love that the book kicks off by talking about how people wh
Colona Public Library
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ashley
I'm learning about personal finance and thought this was a really great starting book. It's based off this index card (that went viral, I apparently missed it lol) that everything you really need to know about personal finance can fit on an index card. They go through the card in more depth in the book. I personally really love the chapters about insurance and fiduciaries. I learned quite a bit from this book and it is really well paced and is not confusing to understand. ~Ashley ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a great introduction to personal finance as well as a great review. My husband and I had some great discussions as we read this book together and made a few changes because of it. Most of these things are pretty basic, and everyone should understand them, but for some reason a lot of society just doesn't know them. It's a pretty easy, quick read so you should give it a try. ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mba-courses
Personal financial planning is the difference between a sound future and a deferred retirement. But the good news is that a few simple rules can de-stress your relationship to money and get your financial life in order. By planning early and often, you can get out of debt and ensure yourself a comfortable retirement.
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very basic, encouraging personal finance book that avoided the moralism you find all over the place in personal finance. I really appreciated the way the authors repeatedly acknowledged that we're all sort of stuck in a rigged game, but still gave their best advice for achieving a positive outcome. All while reminding the reader that your life should be more than your financial life. ...more
Sarah Groh correa
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book. The bones of great financial from 2 good friends. I will reread the section on insurance (rule 8?) cause that is the section I can not get in control. The financial advice was very direct. Boundaries on risky behavior and advantage taking from brokers. Highly recommend to any young person, or those who are intimidated by finances. I feel like an educated boss bitch now.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the first financial book I've ever read and it was very helpful, clear information and specific strategies. I have a lot more to learn but this was an excellent way to get started. It's well written, short and sweet and to the point. I have already recommended it to several friends. ...more
Whitney Bolin
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, bolin-library
This was a quick read that really simplified how to handle your personal finances. I’ve been meaning to read it for over a year and I’m very glad I did. Helaine and Harold break down personal finance to its essentials in a very approachable way. Would recommend to almost everyone.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you can only read one or two books on personal finance, this should be one of them.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
Simple, straightforward, clean. Recommended.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really great advice, written in a way that's easy to digest. ...more
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