Life of Fred: Financial Choices—in which we get a much better look at the real Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D. What we're to do with this information isn't immediately clear, and may not ever become clear, but it does help us understand some of the very good, very strange, and downright crotchety statements he makes in his latest educational volume.
As with his math and English books, Schmidt makes Fred the hero of Financial Choices, using a six-year-old genius as the model for how we ought to manage our money. Many readers will be glad to know that the humor in this volume is a little more grown-up (not adult in any inappropriate way), and there's a lot less condescension than in the grammar and English series.
How Does This Work?
Like all Life of Fred books, this one embraces a number of topics and themes while exploring the central subject. Unlike other Life of Fred books, this one focuses much more single-mindedly on the task at hand, with far fewer tangents. Schmidt mixes in a lot of economics and current statistics, but it's hardly possible to write a good personal finance book without these elements.
There's also a lot of discussion of things like taxes, insurance, spending, how to retire in 24 years, going into business and forming partnerships, etc. It's pretty obvious Schmidt is using his own life as an example most of the time, which lends credibility to his ideas but also comes off as somewhat self-satisfied from time to time.
As readers of his math books can probably conclude, Schmidt is fiscally conservative, anti-socialism, and committed to the free market (he has libertarian ideals, too, but they're less obvious). He starts with a discussion of income vs. expenses and assets vs. liabilities, differentiating between them and showing how important it is for one's income to exceed their expenses.
Fred begins his inquiries into financial peace and prosperity by reading the first line of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." This leads to a brief near-romance between Fred and another teacher at KITTENS University.
Schmidt extols the virtues of buying secondhand clothes, contrasts present orientation vs. future orientation, emphasizes the fact that the United States is a republic rather than a democracy, investigates means of obtaining capital, looks at the dangers of investments, and much more. He even evaluates whether college is a good option or not.
At key points, Schmidt has readers work problems out on their own to illustrate particularly important points. Answers are always on the next page, but he stresses that peeking at answers won't help you learn the content. The book is less than 200 pages, and full of graphics, pictures, lists, etc. to bring the content to life.
The ideas and wisdom here are to be imbibed through reading and reflection, not through workbook pages or assignments. In other words, this isn't a curriculum but simply a book that is a course on personal finance and a story about a weird person named Fred. To get the most out of Financial Choices, we'd suggest using it to spark discussion in a group setting.
Our Honest Opinion
There's a lot of very good advice here, and plenty of sound information. There's also a lot of opinion and cranky attitude. For instance, Schmidt uses pretty dismissive and insulting language to describe the lifestyles of many Americans, which will turn off many of those who most need to hear his message of carefulness and financial wisdom.
He also makes a strange and troubling statement in "A Note Before We Begin." This is a direct quote, found on page 7 of the text: "But having a decent amount of money can add a lot of pleasure in life. Being able to give things to your loved ones (and to yourself) is the ultimate reason to acquire wealth."
Schmidt says he's a Christian (though he does have a weird line about wanting to be united with "the Ultimate"). Is it consistent for him to say that the ultimate reason to acquire wealth is to be able to give other people and yourself things? Isn't the ultimate purpose to acquire wealth (if that's even something Christians should worry about) to glorify God and further His kingdom?
Another area that may give pause is the discussion of college education. Schmidt basically says you can't get a good education at a college these days, so just read a lot of books. While we certainly agree that reading a lot of books is always a good idea, and while his comments may be true of secular universities, there are still good Christian institutions of higher learning.
Overall, there's a lot of good information and advice here, but we'd advise against letting high school students read it without at least discussing the concepts with their parents. Too much depends on Schmidt's particular view of things to take what he says uncritically. A good balance would be the finance books available from Uncle Eric.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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