Loaded: a book that will change the way you think about money

Gary Adams's picture

This book’s actual title is somewhat longer than what we’ve given it in our competition to win one of two copies. Its full title is ‘Loaded: Money, psychology, and how to get ahead without leaving your values behind.’ You can see why we shortened it.

We receive a lot of personal finance books into the Moneywise office, but it’s rare that one stands out as saying something really different. This one does, however.

 

The author, Sarah Newcomb, works as a behavioural economist, which is a relatively new field. Its marriage of psychology and economics offers a subtle and complex view of how money really works. Economists often consign people to playing the role of rational actors who make decisions based on what gives them the greatest advantage only. Ms Newcomb explains that the complexity and contradictions of our lives, our self-identity and how we view money act as the launch pad for trying to work out why we do what we do.

Loaded is split into two main sections - the psychology of our relationship with money, and a more practical, hands-on part on personal budgeting.

The first part tries to explain why so many of us have such a dysfunctional relationship with money, complete with case studies. While understanding the issues of the rich, poor and those in-between, it devotes a lot of space to explaining why people who suddenly come into a lot of money can be so self-destructive. It then shows how the messages we receive from those who brought us up, in their actions and words, can stay with us our whole lives. This turns money, essentially a cold, exchangeable resource, into something so loaded with emotion.

The second part attacks traditional budgeting and offers an alternative. It comes with worksheets and quizzes that are designed to really show you why you do what you do, and how you can change it - without contradicting your values. I challenge anybody to not take something from this - the author’s way of looking at how we deal with money is, at least to me, unique and at times, quite profound. I don’t have any real problems with budgeting, but while reading this book I was already making changes in my head, not just in where my money would be allocated next, but in how I think about each section of my budget.

 

This book is a short, snappy read. It’s stuffed with good information and its lack of judgement - and honesty - can be, at times, touching. It’s a little USA-centric and I disagree with some of it, for example, how the author values higher education, but if you’re looking for a different approach to personal finance, that doesn’t beat you over the head with strict advice, but instead teaches you how to give yourself a break, this is well worth the cover price.