Around this time last year, I won a copy of the Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance by Steven Arnott (thanks Kari!).
This little book popped up on a couple Canadian personal finance blogs I enjoy in early 2020. I enjoyed Kari’s Q&A with the author and the other reviews I read, so I threw my name in the hat…and actually won!
The book arrived just as the snow melted and spring began. And even it’s a personal finance book, not a seasonal read, I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a book with snowman in the title after an east coast winter.
If you’re from here, you know what I’m saying.
Several months later, winter has come back around and it finally felt like the right time to pick up this book. A quick read, I finished it in a couple sittings and today, I wanted to share some of my thoughts.
Disclaimer: As mentioned right off the top, I won a copy of this book, so I didn’t pay for it. That being said, the decision to read and review the book here was my choice. A review was not requested and I’m not being compensated for writing one.
The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance: an overview
The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance by Steve Arnott is billed on the cover as “a simple approach to managing your money.” After reading it, I’d say that’s an accurate description.
The book clocks in at 176 pages and is divided into three parts:
- Building a Snowman (Chapters 1-5), which outlines saving and investing;
- The Accessories (Chapters 6-17), which focuses on tools, like budgeting and account options; and
- A Helping Hand (Chapters 18-21), which explains where to go next and some considerations along the way.
There are also closing remarks, acknowledgements and three small appendixes to wrap it up.
As the title suggests, the book makes use of analogies –specifically the idea that personal finance is similar to building a snowman. Appropriate, since the book is written by a Canadian, for Canadians, and heaven knows Canadians know a thing or two about snow.
What I liked about the book
Don’t let the fact that it took me more than a year to get to this fool you; I enjoyed many things about this book.
- The accessibility
This book is easy to read and understand. Along with short chapters, the author writes in a way that’s clear, concise and not loaded with jargon. That makes this a great book not just for beginners who are just starting to learn about personal finance, but for anyone.
- The variety of topics covered
The biggest section of this book — the accessories — covers everything from insurance and wills to the stock market to taxes. I can see where some could argue for more elaboration. But for what the book is trying to do, I think it gives a fairly comprehensive snapshot of the overall personal finance landscape.
- The “key takeaway” sections at the end of each chapter
At the end of each chapter, the author provides a list of two or three bullet points summarizing the main points of the chapter. As a reader, I found that really appealing; definitely helped with the accessibility factor while also providing quick reference points for readers who might wish to revisit a particular chapter.
- The appendixes!
I don’t usually read appendixes in books but I’m glad I did in this case. The two main appendixes — how to start investing and how much to save for retirement — are beginner friendly with great examples.
- It’s Canadian!
This won’t matter much to some, but as a Canadian, I love finding Canadian personal finance books and resources! While some sections are applicable to anyone, I loved the focus on Canadian-specific products and services.
What I didn’t like about the book
Let me start by saying this: the thing I’m going to mention here is not really a reflection on the book, per se, so much as it is my own expectations based on my experience. I think this book did a great job at what it set out to do: set out that simple approach for managing money. It’s important to acknowledge that up front.
That being said, as I read the book, I couldn’t help but feel the presence of an elephant in the room: that debt is a significant element of the target audience’s financial reality. In particular, I’m thinking about student loans.
That’s not to say the book doesn’t acknowledge young Canadians have student loan debt — it does. But considering half of graduates in 2015 graduated with a median amount of $17,500 in student loans ( Statistics Canada) with only a third of graduates paying off their loans in full within three years…I can see where it may be hard for someone in that position to even think about saving or investing.
That being said, I still think the book offers a lot of value to that target audience. Even if you’re not ready to use all the tools, it can’t hurt to learn about them. More financial literacy is never a bad thing.
The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance: overall rating
Overall, I think the Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance is a solid book and I would recommend it.
It covers a lot of ground, but it does it in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand. If you’re in a situation where student debt makes the idea of ever being able to save for retirement (or anything, honestly…) feel impossible, some elements might feel a little far off, but it’s still worth having on your shelf.
The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance is a quick, informative read.
I’ve got several sections highlighted and it’s a book I can see myself revisiting as we move closer to different milestones in our financial life. If you’re a Canadian looking for a handy reference, this book is worth checking out!
Photo by Brodie Vissers from Burst
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