The book’s title is a mouthful, Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together- though the book itself is surprisingly accessible, for a financial memoir. It weighs in at a slim 304 pages and boasts an excellent cover, pictured here. You can say that a book is not its cover, but I promise, a cover decides who is going to pick up your book. Maybe half of readers, like me, are already invested in Gaby Dunn, but people unfamiliar with her work have to decide to pick up the book. Bad With Money has the pick-up factor in spades.
Gaby Dunn is primarily known for her work with her comedy partner, Allison Raskin, on their shared YouTube channel, but in the last couple of years she has also been doing a podcast on the Panoply network. “Bad With Money” the podcast has been on my radar for a while. It’s a good listen, and it’s enlightening for those of us who have only ever seen money through a specific lens. In my family, money was an open conversation. Reading about Dunn’s circumstances is anxiety-inducing, but makes the financial decisions of people different from me a lot clearer.
I was taught to save, save, save. Eat at restaurants infrequently, take-out occasionally, buy new things when you need them, but abstain when what you have is perfectly good. I always had everything I needed, but reckless spending was not what I was taught. Reading about Dunn’s financial foundations is an exercise in empathy. I come from a similar background, but had an entirely different experience with money. Dunn’s honesty, both in the podcast, and in her book, is refreshing. It’s hard to admit what you don’t know, especially when you are a woman. Gaby freely admits her youthful ignorance and recklessness, while acknowledging the people who have helped her get her financial life together since she began this journey.
As someone who is just beginning their independent financial life, this book actually helped me a lot. The main tool to playing the saving and investing game is one thing I have: time. You need time for your funds to vest, and if I start now, I’ll be in good shape when I retire in a half-century. There are a lot of great tips for people looking to save in a way that works for them, but my main takeaways from the book were similar to those I got from the podcast: no one has advice that works across the board, for everyone. My brother, who is disabled, cannot save the way I save, because he’ll lose his benefits. A lot of my friends live hand-to-mouth, and they don’t have retirement savings accounts. Some people I know support family, everyone’s circumstances are different. A lot of the takeaway from Dunn’s work is that capitalism is an iceberg that is on fire, and we are the Titanic. The rich have all pre-boarded the lifeboats, and the poor are all drowning. Also, the rich have publicly backed the fiery iceberg and bought travel insurance.
That dire prognosis aside, Dunn’s book was helpful for me to untangle some financial quagmires. As promised, I now know which kind of retirement savings account I need, and what kinds of debt I probably shouldn’t have. There’s a lot to love about Dunn’s book- it’s raw, and honest, and it doesn’t cause the reader to marinate in guilt about their own financial affairs. That last part might seem trivial, but it’s one of the most important ingredients to Dunn’s podcast and book: removing the shame of not knowing, putting the focusing on learning. Gaby expresses her own shame and embarrassment, while making it clear that she shouldn’t feel that way, that no one should.
In short, it’s worth a read. The book is fun, thorough, and interesting, without ever getting too bogged down in financial terminology for the average reader. I could have done without the chapter summaries, they were out-of-place and made me feel like I was studying for an exam, and most of the chapters were too short to need any review. I do highly recommend this book for anyone who is anxious about money, has a lot of money, or thinks they know a lot about money. You can find Bad With Money wherever books are sold, and you can listen to the podcast wherever podcasts can be found.