Listen to Lance Alston’s advice: don’t buy his book

Review: Wealthfullness, by Lance Alston

Brown Books Publishing Group, $19.26 (Amazon)

Lance Alston’s Wealthfullness, a five-chapter guide on investing and money management, has several solid strategies for getting one’s finances in order. Alston shares years of financial management experience and anecdotes from conversations with customers to describe the need for long term financial planning and well thought out investing. If you’ve got a job, stable housing, limited debt and enjoy reading books that suggest that every financial decision you’ve made that it doesn’t agree with is an indication that you are an idiot, this is the book for you.

I find it difficult to read books that offer hypocritical or patronizing advice, and Wealthfullness does both. Alston has lots of good advice to hand out to would-be investors; don’t try to beat the market, take the long view on investing, make long term retirement plans and more. Now that you’ve read my last sentence, there’s no need to slog through the 170 pages of berating other bankers and investors who listened to advisors who aren’t Alston.

Nor is there any purpose for you to read Chapter Four, where Alston breaks off on a tangent about money and happiness which includes an introductory sentence that a fourth grader would instantly recognize as heavy handed. Take the following passage as an example. Alston has been describing the value and relative value of money and needs to pivot towards explaining the value of happiness to his readers:

“Happiness is clearly an important concept, or so the founding fathers thought. They imbued our declaration of independence with its importance, holding happiness out as a standard for the citizenry.”

I found this paragraph to detract from the meaning of the book, though it’s relative isolation made it less distracting than the use of the word “paradigm,” which appeared enough times in the book’s 170 pages that looking for it became the literary equivalent of counting cows on a roadtrip through cattle country.

The idea of “wealthfulness,” meanwhile, which is Alston’s invented word for the mindset created by following his path, is fundamentally sound. His path, should you be lucky enough to have the resources to embark on it, will almost certainly lead to less financial stress and make worry free retirement a truly attainable outcome. That said, there’s almost no discussion of student loan debt, which is undoubtedly the largest problem affecting students during and well after their time at school. I find that to be a fundamental flaw in what is pitched as a guide to financial and emotional security.

Undergraduate students are not this book’s target audience. Adults with real incomes can gain serious benefits from thinking through their financial decisions, but that’s a lesson you can also learn from newspapers before you run out of free, monthly demo articles. Alston warns about paying fees to brokers to try to beat the market and to make more money, blasting the high fee money managers demand without necessarily making you better off. Take his advice and don’t even bother giving this financial advisor any of your money for his book. It probably won’t help enough to make up for the $15 expenditure.

2 out of 5 stars.