A savvy personal-finance manual for upper-income families, notable for its coverage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. The prolific Strassels (he's already brought out an examination--p. 1714--of the TRA) and his collaborator (a former Money editor) present their advisories in a 12-part format ostensibly keyed to the calendar. Conceding most of their suggestions can be gainfully employed at any time, the authors start with relatively routine briefings on calculating net worth and preparing budgets. They turn then to tax planning and investment possibilities. Devotees of the safe and sound, they largely confine their recommendations to federally insured CDs, no-load (or low-load) mutual funds with superior track records, and REITs (real estate investment mists); they're also keen on singe-premium whole life insurance, a misnamed thrift instrument ""that somehow survived tax reform."" Offered as well are grander but basically simple strategies for, among other things, meeting college tuition bills, buying insurance, making the best deal on housing, planning for retirement, handling windfalls, and taking advantage of the many breaks available to those who are self-employed even on a part-time basis. Strassels and Mead favor home ownership for many reasons, including tax shelter. Owing to the likelihood of sizable loan-origination fees, though, refinancing should be approached with caution; a better bet, in their view, is to accelerate repayment of a mortgage with extra monthly remittances that reduce principal. In like vein, they warn that losses on so-called passive investments (like real estate) made after passage of the TRA may no longer be deductible against salary, dividends, and/or business profits. In brief, then, prudent, up-to-date guidance for do-it-yourself money managers. The text includes a glossary as well as listings (complete with toll-free telephone numbers) for author-approved mutual fund sponsors, low-cost insurance underwriters, and related resources.