Quirky, insightful and enjoyable—a welcome corrective to the typical advice from economists and financial managers steeped...

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ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

WHAT THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT GETTING AND SPENDING

Vanderkam (168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, 2010, etc.), a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, takes a fresh look at financial planning.

The author debunks the traditional approach to budgeting in which fixed percentages are allocated to predetermined categories that prioritize the basics such as housing and food. According to Vanderkam, the trick to remaining financially solvent without sacrificing is not to scrimp and save on the small items—the lattes and occasional nights out. She offers a road map about how this might be accomplished and substantiates her claim that “the resources we already have or can obtain can do more for our happiness than we think.” A key tenet is that our happiness is not based on the accumulation of big-ticket items—diamond engagement rings, super-sized homes and cars—but on the accumulation of everyday pleasures, especially those activities we share with friends and family. Vanderkam provides thought-provoking examples of how it’s possible, even in a depressed economy, to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities to supplement income as an alternative to penny-pinching self-denial. She also warns of the pitfall inherent in saving for retirement—not only because of the effect that market volatility can have on a nest egg, but also the possibility of inflation. She suggests that it is better to find rewarding work than plan for early retirement, and warns of the dangers of becoming entrapped by the “hedonic treadmill” of increased expectations and spending more for less.

Quirky, insightful and enjoyable—a welcome corrective to the typical advice from economists and financial managers steeped in the “dismal science.”

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-457-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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