Readers of personal finance books find renewed focus in new year
With each new year comes a fresh start. The end of January also brings the first round of bills for Christmas purchases and the first set of tax documents from financial institutions and employers, all reminders of what’s already been done—and, in some cases, what we shouldn’t have done. In short, it’s the ideal time of year to set some financial resolutions or simply to push our financial restart button.
For customers looking for a new way forward with their finances, publishers are supplying a number of new titles in the category to help them chart a path to better stewardship.
The latest round of finance releases shows that authors who have personal experience—sometimes with understanding intimately how someone can end up having done it all wrong—appeal to the everyday reader.
One such author, Cheri Lowe, wrote Slaying the Debt Dragon (Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House Publishers, January) after racking up more than $127,000 worth of debt, mostly in student loans, and then paying it all off.
Lowe, who blogs at queenoffree.net, shares that even though her family’s debt left them in a difficult situation, the experience of fighting for financial freedom together not only strengthened her marriage and taught her children money-management skills but also brought her family closer to each other and to God.
Mary Hunt’s The Financially Confident Woman will be re-released in January, and her classic Debt-Proof Living was re-released in July, both from the Revell imprint of Baker Publishing Group. Hunt says that for many women, limited financial knowledge is less the issue than a lack of confidence. As someone who also has first-hand experience getting out of debt and following a successful financial strategy for the future, Hunt is well-positioned to encourage readers.
Revell Executive Editor Vicki Crumpton says that personal experience, along with years of research and reader feedback through Hunt’s Debt-Proof Living company, are the factors that have given Hunt’s books a high profile in the marketplace.
“She knows how to explain finances in a way that everyone can understand,” Crumpton said. “But most importantly, she’s a coach and encourager, coming alongside her readers and saying, ‘You can do this! I’ll show you what to do, step by step. Now let’s get going.’ ”
Sandra Vander Zicht, associate publisher and executive editor of trade books at Zondervan, agreed that shifts in the category show a greater affinity among readers for books by authors who have lived the questions at hand.
“I do think there has been a movement away from financial entrepreneurs, such as Ron Blue (Master Your Money) and Larry Burkett (How to Manage Your Money) to books that have been birthed out of personal experience, such as Mary Hunt (Debt-Proof Living) and now to books by bloggers and others that were a response to the recent recession, such as Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup and The Money Saving Mom’s Budget by Crystal Paine,” Vander Zicht said.
The conversation about personal finance also has become broader, including many who have found themselves on far less secure economic footing than they thought they were when the recession hit—and that trend hasn’t escaped notice.
“Due to the changing economy over the last several years, many ordinary people who never anticipated financial worry to be part of their future have found themselves in the midst of it and are now speaking out to share how they made it through,” said Sarah Atkinson, associate acquisitions director for Tyndale Momentum.
Many financial experts have said that getting out of debt and becoming financially secure require some sacrifice. But with the economic difficulties that many families have been through in the last decade, a new attitude has emerged, particularly so among the rising corps of women bloggers. For these writers, living with less has become part art form and part spiritual practice.
Ruth Soukup’s Living Well, Spending Less (Zondervan, January) mirrors not only the author’s blog of the same name but also the growing trend among readers who are realizing that having it all is not only practically impossible but also mostly unnecessary. Instead, Soukup focuses on creative ideas and practical advice that empower moms to create a life where their homes and finances reflect their true personal goals. The readers she appeals to favor capsule wardrobes, meal planning and do-it-yourself refreshes rather than buying more.
Another of the early-in-the-year releases will be You Can Adopt Without Debt by Julie Gumm (Abingdon Press, January). Gumm knows the financial pressures that adoptive families face first-hand. She and her husband added two siblings from Ethiopia to their family of two biological children in 2008. With the large amount of money required by private adoption agencies, many families either give up discouraged or take out large loans, adding to their financial stress.
Yet, as the Gumms prove by their own example of adopting without debt, creative families can cover the cost by applying for grants, doing some strategic budgeting and even personal fundraising.
Marketing Manager Cat Hoort said that Abingdon plans to support the release with “exclusive content that includes checklists, worksheets, reference recommendations, workshops and unprecedented [author] access.”
In addition, they’ll be reaching out to adoption organizations, family ministries and church communities to create awareness for the book.
Authors Scott and Bethany Palmer realized early on through their work in the financial field that family dynamics are impacted greatly by money matters. The Palmers, each of whom has more than 20 years of experience in financial planning, began to realize that they were increasingly seeing marriages end in divorce because of money issues. This observation prompted them to develop The Money Personality Assessment and write The 5 Money Personalities (2013). At the end of December, the pair will release The 5 Money Conversations to Have With Your Kids at Every Age and Stage (W Publishing Group).
“We believe that Scott and Bethany Palmer provide a very important contribution to this genre because of their focus on personality alongside money management,” said Matt Baugher, senior vice president and publisher, W Publishing Group. “Finding these traits and managing them as we relate to others is just as important as the money management itself. And kids are no exception to the rule. In fact, as parents, we have a unique opportunity to identify a child’s money personality early on and then parent toward that personality, just as in every other area.”
As the kids get older and consider how to prepare for their careers, they and their parents will be hit with the reality that the world has changed. Robert Dickie, president of Crown Financial Ministries, advises the new generation in The Leap: Launching Your Full-Time Career in Our Part-Time Economy (Moody Publishers) on how to navigate an economy that no longer seems to encourage lifetime careers with one company. In this January release, he outlines seven proven strategies for operating in today’s job landscape, discussing the value of considering various education options, the creation of multiple income streams and compensation areas to negotiate, among other key topics.
Two January releases will be of particular interest to charismatic or Pentecostal readers. The latest from author C. Peter Wagner, The Great Transfer of Wealth (Whitaker House), focuses on the prophecy of Isaiah 60:11: “Your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles.”
Wagner tells readers that the Bible proclaims a coming day when God will release a great transfer of the world’s wealth into the hands of His people and shows how He will bring about a miraculous, worldwide financial transformation so that the Great Commission will be fulfilled and His kingdom will be established on Earth. He describes the proper uses of this wealth, the goals it is intended to achieve and how the newly financed church will use its “seven mountains of influence” to change the world.
C. Thomas Anderson also delivers the Harrison House book Becoming a Millionaire God’s Way, Part II, a follow-up to part one of the book of the same name from FaithWords.
“God has a plan for us to be prosperous so that His will can be done on earth as it is in heaven,” Anderson said.
Best-selling author and radio personality Dave Ramsey also brought a fresh perspective on wealth with his October release, The Legacy Journey, published by Ramsey Press and distributed by Thomas Nelson. Ramsey’s April release, Smart Money, Smart Kids, co-authored with daughter Rachel Cruze, has sold more than 100,000 copies. Known for his practical approach to getting out of debt, budgeting and investing, Ramsey heads a different direction with The Legacy Journey, examining what Scripture says about the financial legacy an individual leaves upon death.
Brian Hampton, senior vice president and publisher, Nelson Books, sees this as part of a trend in the category.
“In the future, we see potential for books that take readers to that next step—the significance level—by helping them understand how to use money to make a difference,” Hampton said.
Hampton also cites People Over Profit, the May 2015 book by Dale Partridge, founder of the socially conscious e-commerce company Sevenly.org, as part of the trend toward using money to make a difference. Partridge says that established corporations have begun re-evaluating the quality of their products, the ethics of their supply chain and how they can give back. Meanwhile, millions of entrepreneurs who want a more responsible and compassionate marketplace have launched a new breed of socially focused business models.
Partridge uncovers seven core beliefs behind this transformation, believing they are the secret to creating a sustainable world that values honesty over deception, transparency over secrecy, authenticity over hype and, ultimately, people over profit. In less than two years, Sevenly has donated more than $3 million to charities across the globe. He has been featured on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine, in INC magazine and on FOX News.
And with the church more aware of social justice, the biggest shift may be how Christians talk about and handle money-related decisions. In addition to discussing good saving, giving and investing habits, the conversation has grown to include a key question: “How much is enough?” While financial planning for retirement and future concerns is still important, the concept of stewardship is taking hold in a greater way.
Retailers can help meet the felt need for books in the category by similarly broadening their thinking. Rather than simply allowing best-sellers or books by known names to fill product displays at the first of the year, capitalize on fresh thinking by creating other clusters of books that speak to related topics such as living with less, handling everyday life on the cheap or developing better disciplines in several areas of life, including financial stewardship.
Books like Spiritually Strong by Kristen Feola (Zondervan, January) reflect that “wise financial stewardship is an act of surrender and worship, just as much as Bible study and prayer,” said Vander Zicht, the book’s acquiring editor.
Feola takes a whole-person approach that puts financial health in the context of all of the resources God gives.
Similarly, relatively recent books like Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine (Thomas Nelson, 2014), founder of moneysavingmom.com, tap into an audience familiar with her work and primed for larger discussions about developing better stewardship of not just money but, along with it, time and other resources.
In this social media era, stores also have the ability to connect customers with authors to share quotes or articles and then link them to books available in-store.
The Bookery Parable Christian Store in Mansfield, Ohio, makes good use of business relationships by hosting Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes taught by one of the financial-services companies they work with in the store’s conference room. The store’s marketing manager, Heather Stofer, said the classes have created a win-win situation by allowing the store to partner with another company to create an event with added customer value.
Alternatives for stores with less space might be working with business partners to host these types of classes and providing discount coupons for related resources. Christian retailers also might consider inviting speakers from the community to address specific topics just before or after regular store hours to maximize the number of people who can attend the event.
Steve Storey, music and book buyer at The Open Door in Terre Haute, Indiana, said his store has the most success with well-established authors like Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett. The Blessed Life: Unlocking the Rewards of Generous Living by Robert Morris (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group) also is selling well.
As is common practice, The Open Door features finance books in January.
“We do an endcap featuring titles about finance,” Storey said. “The titles that are featured in the Covenant catalog will also be featured on sale on our website.”
Overall, personal finance is a category that continues to get attention in the marketplace.
However, Hampton of Nelson Books sees the category as still largely belonging to the more established voices.
“It seems to us the category is a difficult one to crack for new authors—more difficult than many other categories we publish to,” he said. “Money issues are always important and often emotional. My sense is that readers demand not just sound advice and lots of inspiration, but also an author who has a long track record of helping people win in this area. They tend to return to authors such as Dave Ramsey again and again rather than seek out new voices.”
W Publishing Group’s Baugher, on the other hand, sees new authors in this genre as important and believes they should be welcomed.
“I believe that there will always be a place for strong content in this area because the principles of good stewardship apply to any generation at any time,” he said. “New voices are important because they allow us to see a particular issue in a fresh new way, and each author’s examples are unique to both them and the reader.”