Let’s just state up front the I’m a huge fan of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide” series in general. Whenever I am just beginning to seek out information on a new topic, they are one of the first resources I look for. They do an amazing job of breaking complicated subjects down into easy to digest morsels.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Out of Debt by Ken Clark, CFP is no different. It does an amazing job of covering a wide variety of topics concerning not only getting out of debt, but also of personal finance in general. Like many books in the series, Ken divides the book into short, but powerful sections. This allows readers of all speeds and levels to work through the book at their own pace. In addition, each chapter ends with a “The Least You Need To Know” section. This enables you to skim sections you might already be very familiar with, while ensuring you don’t miss any of the unknown content.
Let me provide a brief overview of how the book is broken down. If you are interesting in knowing more about any of the topics below, you’ll know where to find them in the book.
Part 1: How Debt Works
As you would imagine Part 1 starts with the very basics. Clark examines where debt actually originates, before defining the categories of debt (long-term/short-term). Later on, he breaks down the actual mathematics behind how interest works. These first few chapters are great for someone whom is just starting from scratch.
This section also contains one of my favorite chapter in the book, Chapter 5: Denial, Acceptance, & Action. I’m a huge fan of the psychology being much more important than the actual dollar figures. Some of my favorite topics discussed were:
- Coming to terms with where you are currently
- Tracking progress for motivation
- Discovering your vices and how to avoid them
- Cutting back your lifestyle
- Setting Goals
- Holding yourself accountable
Part 2: Your Debt Reduction Plan
In Part 2, Clark shifts into more of the physical details of executing a plan. Of course, Clark relies heavily on two of the most important principles in all of personal finance: Increasing Income and Decreasing Expenses.
Over the next few chapters, budgeting is discussed in detail, including how to plan for unexpected expenses. Clark also touches on how to organize your debt and the basics of actually creating your payment plan. Although this section is vitally important, it was a little slow for me. I feel like more spice could of been added to help keep and maintain interest.
Part 3: Debt-Specific Strategies
Part 3 examines and defines common categories that people deal with as they are getting out of debt. The first chapter talks almost exclusively about credit cards. I found several great strategies within this discussion including some tips on how to negotiate lower rates.
Clark then moves into Real Estate. He outlines different types of mortgages (inlcuding HELOCs), the refinancing process, and closing costs associated with purchasing a home. Next up is Student Loans, including the types, payment options, and consolidation facts. Once again, if you are needing basic information on either of these topics this can be a great resource.
Another favorite chapter of mine was Chapter 17: Strategies that can back-fire. Clark discusses some types of things you should definitely avoid:
- Retirement Loans
- Debt Consolidation
- Debt Settlement
- Borrowing from family/friends
- Credit Card checks
- Tax Refund loans
- Pawnshop loans
- Getting paid under the table
Finally, Clark wraps up this section with an overview of the different types of bankruptcy. I read this part closely as I wasn’t quite familiar with all the types (7, 11, 12, 13, & 15).
Part 4: Protecting Yourself
I thought Part 4 was the most information intense part of the whole book. This is a good thing as the topics covered are generally not well known by the average consumer. Among the important legal topics outlined were:
- Consumer Credit Protection Act
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
- Fair Credit Billing Act
- Truth In Lending Act
- Restriction on Garnishment Act
- Predatory Lending laws
- Usury laws
Even the most die-hard personal finance fans can find some helpful information when it comes to consumer rights. Clark later outlines the makeup of your Credit Score, how to deal with Identity Theft, and how to Avoid Scams.
Part 5: Life After Debt
As I got to the end of the book I was hoping for a strong finish. Although there was great information on savings accounts, insurances, and passing on your money skills, I found this section to be lacking. Towards the end of a book like this I want to be inspired. I want to throw down the book and crave to get starting eliminating by debt. While I found the information helpful, I didn’t crave much at all.
Should You Read This Book?
That depends. I believe there are two types of people that would benefit greatly from this book.
First, people who are literally starting from scratch. There are a ton of people in this category. Clark does an amazing job of summarizing a wide variety of complex topics. This would be great for someone who didn’t have a clue how interest worked; or even what a ARM is. This book can take you from complete zero and get you up to speed fairly quickly. Once again, the short chapters and great design help new readers digest the content easily.
People who have the “I just want the facts” mentality. This book does a great job of not having an agenda. There’s not much hype and the author generally has a very even-keeled attitude. It’s very straight forward and informational.
I, on the other hand, really like an book and an author whom can inspire. I love reading work that seems to ooze with passion. I’m not saying the Ken Clark is not that person, but rather that this book is designed with a different target audience. If you find yourself in the same boat as myself, you might prefer books such as The Total Money Makeover or Your Money or Your Life to get you started.
With all that being said, I would definitely suggest this book to a friend, but it would depend heavily on the friends style of learning.
Have any of you read the Idiot’s Guide to Getting out of Debt? What were your impressions? Do you agree or disagree with the review? Join in on the discussion by commenting below!
They do an amazing job of breaking complicated subjects down into easy to digest morsels. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Out of Debt by Ken Clark, CFP is no different. It does an amazing job of covering a wide variety of topics concerning not only getting out of debt, but also of personal finance in general…