An Interview with Al Jacobs

1.  There are so many books on personal finance and investing these days.  How is your book unique and why should people find it compelling?

Despite some notable exceptions, most books on finance and investment embrace particular techniques, topics, or advisors, where the reader relies upon some prepackaged program.  Nobody’s Fool: A Skeptic’s Guide to Prosperity is designed for persons with a desire to understand how money is handled and a determination to oversee their own financial affairs.

2.  Parents often struggle between prioritizing their own financial needs and providing well for their kids.  How can they achieve balance and choose priorities when money is tight?

There should be no conflict between parent and child.  Parents are responsible for the financial well-being of the family.  They should establish the policies and include the children in vital decisions as their ages warrant. The finest gift a parent can provide is an assurance the offspring need never be called upon to support an indigent parent.

3.  How important is an allowance in teaching kids about money management?

I’ve never cared much for allowances.  I dislike the idea of providing regular payments to offspring for doing nothing in particular.  I do, however, approve of a child earning money for performing meaningful tasks.  Whether the job is mowing a lawn, participating in housekeeping, or assisting with the care of a younger sibling, the concept of monetary reward for services rendered makes good sense.

4.  What is the best lesson parents can teach their kids regarding money?

Actually, there are three best lessons.  First, income should regularly exceed outgo, with life style adjusted accordingly.  In short, don’t spend money you don’t have.  Second, meet financial obligations promptly.  A person with such a reputation will find life agreeable.  Third, the payment of interest resulting from personal borrowing is a sure route to financial misfortune.  In particular, the misuse of credit cards is the single most pernicious defect undermining the American public.

5.  What is the biggest misconception about finances that you hope to address?

There is no greater risk than entrusting others to direct your financial affairs.  This is so regardless of the reputation of the advisor.  You are in jeopardy unless you fully control your assets.  This means your broker will not possess a discretionary account nor may your banker reinvest a matured certificate of deposit without your fully informed consent.  Never authorize any transaction you don’t thoroughly understand.  The one person you may always rely upon to represent your best interests is the face in the mirror.

Al Jacobs has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. He is a nationally syndicated columnist and appears regularly on, and He draws on his extensive expertise in real estate, mortgage, and securities investments to counsel millions on how to invest wisely and spend prudently. He is the author of Nobody’s Fool: A Skeptic’s Guide to Prosperity. Subscribe to his financial column, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting

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