Home > Book Review, Personal Finance > The Real Cost of Living by Carmen Wong Ulrich

The Real Cost of Living by Carmen Wong Ulrich

By Nikki Green

A little food indulgence provides you with brief and fleeting moments of serenity. But overindulgence can cause you to gain pounds that can set you back a couple thousand dollars, and that’s not even including the health care cost. This is just one example of the costs of the decisions we make in everyday life that personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich uncovers in her new book, The Real Cost of Living.

In her book,  Ulrich prepares you for real informed financial decision making. She tackles your finances in almost every aspect of your life from the small purchase of a can of soda to larger and more significant financial decisions like purchasing a home, saving, college, and investing in your future.  She helps you make the best decisions for your life, weighing the cost and benefits both personal and financial.  Unlike many personal finance experts ,Ulrich recognizes that every financial decision we make, is not financial alone; there are personal factors that play a large role, whether it be habit, addiction, esteem, or security.

Say you want to purchase a home. What is it that you think about first? Price, well, yes of course; but you also think about how the home defines you, your future there, and how owning a home means you have made a successful step in your life. It then becomes much more than a financial decision. It is not just an investment in your pockets. It’s an investment in a community and in your happiness. But what if you already have a home mortgage? Carmen Ulrich takes on a full scope of home ownership decisions.  She tells you what you need to do if you are in a situation where you might be “underwater”, when it is right to foreclose, and even when renting is better than ownership.

Say you want to go college.  Are the costs for college even worth it anymore? The cost for college has been sky rocketing while the job market for recent grads really hasn’t, especially in these harder economic times.  College is definitely a financial decision, but not solely one. Ulrich writes about how for most of us college is the promise of a better life. So, the financial costs for a couple years of schooling compared to the personal benefits for the rest of life are immeasurable.  On the other hand, she also digs into the fact that there are personal and financial costs to every benefit.  College can leave some us in so much debt it is hard to get out of it on an entry salary.

Analyzing the personal cost and benefits along with the financial cost and benefits is done for every major and non major decision we make for our lives. Chapters include Marriage and Divorce, Family, College, Bad Habits, Business Ownership, Credit Cards, and others. There are well put together financial and personal cost-benefits charts at the end of each section for those of us who need a synopsis.

This is the book that if you ever want a holistic pro/cons list about purchasing a pack of cigarettes or owning a business, you need to have.  Making better decisions means living a better life.

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