Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Books I have read...

Over the summer I have tried to educate myself on the events that led up to the financial collapse in 2007.  Now that it is December I have come to the realization of two things:

1) It is incredibly difficult to write a blog post on an iPhone at 30,000 feet
My summer reading started off with a book called "Borrow: The American Way Out of Debt".  It covered the history of the credit industry in America from its early days of pre-industrialized, primarily agricultural funding to the current "buy now-pay later" mentality we currently find ourselves in now. Given that my profession is personal finance and the over-extension of credit is the main impetus for people to come seek me out, this was a great primer to understanding just how we (America) got into this mess to begin with. Excellent book, one I would love to have on my shelf if only I could find it at Half-Price Books.

The next book was "Chain of Blame". This specifically covered the rise and fall of the sub-prime mortgage industry over the past 30 years with emphasis of what led to the implosion in 2007. It's a who's who of mortgage lenders and how the industry changed after the collapse of the S&L's. All parts of the mortgage creation business are explored in detail in how greed at each step of the way caused the meltdown. Also another great book.

The third book was "Whatever Happened to Thrift?" Truth be told.... I can't remember what this book was about only that I was reading it in a hotel room Pensacola , Florida. Maybe that was my brain telling me it wasn't worth reading, too much whining by the author maybe? Or that it (my brain) was already on the beach and wished that I would put these books down and join it there. I'll chalk that one up to emu brain.

Next up was "Busted - Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown". This book told the history of the housing crisis mixed with the author's own personal experience that was paralleling the events being played out on the national level. While I was less than thrilled at the personal choices he was making in regards to other areas of his life (affair/divorce/remarriage) he does lend a sense of "This could have happened to anyone" during this time-frame if you believed in all the marketing hype that was thrown at you. Many will tell you that you CAN, but that doesn't mean you SHOULD!

"The Big Short" has led to another couple of books that I have read or want to. Here the author delves into the insurance collapse that accompanied the mortgage collapse and how the two were tied together. I haven't finished this book ironically because I own it and since there isn't a pushy librarian demanding I give it back, it's been pushed to the bottom of the stack. Four years post meltdown, we all know how it ends so I'm not too worried about history changing itself.

"Liar's Poker" was my follow up read to "The Big Short" although chronologically it really happens before. Same author, this time talking about his short stint as bonds trader for Salmon Brothers and its eventual implosion while he was employed there.  The sheer amount of greed is overwhelming.
The latest completed book was "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America".  The author decides to conduct an experiment to see if she can make a living at working some of America's entry level "unskilled labor" jobs.  It was a fascinating read as she writes about the struggles to find decent housing, manage the physical and mental demands of her jobs and the different trials that came up at each location.  My only comment about this book would be more towards the parameters of the experiment.  She was trying to go it totally alone with no help whatsoever.  Why?  I believe we were meant to live in community.  I understand for the sake of the experiment she didn't have the time to develop the necessary relationships to ease her burden, bond with those around her and improve her life.  There was a blurb in the book when she was working as a WalMart employee in Minneapolis where she interviews a "friend of a friend" who actually did what she (the author) was attempting to do, pick-up and move to a strange place knowing not a single person and start a new life.  The interviewee said it best when she said "The first thing you do is find a church."  That really spoke to me as to the kindness and generosity that we "the church" should have towards the needs of those around us and how we were meant to live in community.  Whether the interviewee was just using the church or actually joined the particular congregation, I don't know.  It makes my heart joyful when I see messages come across "The City" message board for our church where we've been able to lighten each other's burdens through various ways (e.g. finding employment, new lawnmower, a car, moving assistance and prayer). 
So, in all, it hasn't been a bad summer/fall for reading.  Not too many fines accumulated by late fees :) I've attempted several other financial history books but decided to give my brain a break and indulge it in some Amish romance novels.  A girl needs some fluff in her life.

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