Book Review
Title: ‘Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths That Are Destroying Your Prosperity
Author: Garrett B. Gunderson with Stephen Palmer
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Press, 2008; 272 pages; $21.95 list ($14.93 on

Myth-busting is not a brand-new concept. Neither is paradigm-shifting. But Garrett Gunderson’s "Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths That Are Destroying Your Prosperity" is a novel take on paradigm-shifting dressed as myth-busting, relative to its brethren on the personal finance bookstore shelves.

"Killing Sacred Cows" is a mindset-expanding vehicle for Gunderson’s mission to shatter the foundations of what he sees as counterproductive financial belief systems and replace them with squishy, New Age-y, but potentially powerful new perspectives.

The book’s format — and message — is super-simple: Each chapter houses Gunderson’s attack-and-rethink on an old-school financial doctrine, like: "Financial Security Means Steady Paychecks and Benefits"; "Money is Power"; "High Risks Equal High Returns"; and "Avoid Debt Like the Plague."

What is novel about "Killing Sacred Cows" is the substance of Gunderson’s offerings as truths to replace the myths. Rather than compiling a bunch of financial proofs to bust myths with facts, Gunderson largely devotes his energies to proposing, explaining and supporting new ways of thinking about these various tenets — then uses stats and data to make a case for the paradigm shift.

When, for instance, Gunderson tackles the age-old, virtually unconscious and universal belief that financial security involves steady paychecks and benefits issued by the government, employers, financial institutions and the like, he explores an empirical study to debunk the myth of financial security by relying on others.

But as the chapter proceeds, Gunderson focuses more on emotional, lifestyle and empowerment implications than on financial calculations in advocating personal responsibility and creating prosperity by producing value in the marketplace as an alternative model for achieving and maintaining financial security.

Similarly, the book exhorts readers to attack the core emotional, mindset and behavioral traps underlying their excessive or dysfunctional indebtedness. Instead of the usual finance book fables of how skipping a daily coffee can get rid of your debt "for good," Gunderson’s approach acknowledges the utility of right-minded and strategic debt/leverage.

Then, it challenges readers to craft a lasting, personal solution to chronic debt by delving deeper into how the lack of alignment between their consumer behaviors and their life’s "Soul Purpose" gave rise to problematic spending and debting. …CONTINUED

The ultimate message of "Killing Sacred Cows" is really more a three-part command to readers. The first is to question essentially everything about conventional financial wisdom, as very little of it is, frankly, that wise or effective. (Five years ago this advice would have seemed pretty "out there," but I think the country might be open to questioning traditional financial beliefs these days.)

Secondly, the book challenges readers to get and stay clear on the true endgame of all financial pursuits — happiness — and to apply a happiness-creation acid test to every money-related plan, concept and action.

Finally, "Killing Sacred Cows" drills into readers the concept that our "Soul Purpose" and creating value as producers in the marketplace are the ideal media for the pursuit of happiness.

According to Gunderson, financial instruments, insurance and other investment strategies get us closer to prosperity and happiness only to the extent that they are in alignment with or furtherance of the values of purpose and production.

In some ways, "Killing Sacred Cows" is a very New Age, new-school personal finance guidebook that the resistant among us will see as excessively warm, fuzzy and concerned with matters not strictly financial. In others, the book is a throwback to classical economic works that commonly concerned themselves with values and what should be, rather than how to crunch a certain set of numbers or handle a particular type of asset.

If you’re looking for stock tips, this is certainly not the book for you. But if you’re at a place in your life where you’re open to rethinking the core underpinnings of your relationship with money and financial behaviors, read this book — but be ready for some off-the-grid stuff.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site,


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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