Most financial how-to books start with some sort of inventory or assessment. The experts seem unanimous on the point that you can neither eliminate your money woes nor commence wealth-building until you have an orderly catalog of what you have and what you owe.

However, for so many real estate consumers, the last couple of years have involved simply battling to keep their homes — more or less successfully, as the case may be. When your home and real estate assets are down in value, all the other elements of your financial life seem secondary or even lower down on the priority list. With all the talks of personal economic recovery as the reigning theme and aim of 2010, though, it’s time to get back to basics and revisit the whole picture of our finances. And it’s a topic that deserves more than a single chapter.

Book Review
Title: "One Year to an Organized Financial Life"
Author: Regina Leeds
Publisher: Da Capo Press, 2009; 288 pages; $16.95

Most financial how-to books start with some sort of inventory or assessment. The experts seem unanimous on the point that you can neither eliminate your money woes nor commence wealth-building until you have an orderly catalog of what you have and what you owe.

However, for so many real estate consumers, the last couple of years have involved simply battling to keep their homes — more or less successfully, as the case may be. When your home and real estate assets are down in value, all the other elements of your financial life seem secondary or even lower down on the priority list. With all the talk of personal economic recovery as the reigning theme and aim of 2010, though, it’s time to get back to basics and revisit the whole picture of our finances. And it’s a topic that deserves more than a single chapter.

With her latest title, "One Year to an Organized Financial Life," Regina Leeds, author of the bestselling "One Year to an Organized Life," aims to devote appropriate attention to the matter of creating holistic financial order, with the help of her co-author, certified financial advisor Russell Wild. Breaking the often overwhelming and dauntingly gargantuan task of organizing one’s money matters into a thorough, week-by-week plan, Leeds and Wild aim to imbue an otherwise crazy-making process with Zen calm and positive energy. Their primary tool? Leeds’ trademark, three-step "Magic Formula" for organizing any and everything: Eliminate, categorize, organize.

"One Year to an Organized Financial Life" presents a model that is elegant and simple, yet masterful in its deep and compassionate accounting for frequent human financial foibles and the inextricable links between our money and the other areas of our lives.

To wit, Leeds and Wild include numerous habit-creation lessons that have more to do with the overall creation of order and energy to fuel readers’ progress through their money-organizing endeavors, while not strictly related to finances. What other money book advises readers to make their beds every day and drink more water? It might seem a little out there, but Leeds and Wild paint a vivid picture of how an orderly life is the backdrop for orderly finances.

Weaved together, throughout the weekly to-do’s in "One Year to an Organized Financial Life," are tasks that are financially therapeutic reflections on our money past, tasks that are exercises to heal and evolve our relationship with money going forward, and concrete organizational tasks in every financial realm, including everything "from your bills to your bank account, your home to your retirement." Downsizing, document management, estate planning, holiday budgeting and even charitable giving — each get their own week in this yearlong calendar for creating a Zen state of mind (and state of accounts!).

This book is not simply a book of lists, however. Every weekly task or, rather, subject, is fleshed out with a concise description of explanations, resources, success tips and pitfalls to avoid.

The beauty of "One Year to an Organized Financial Life" is that it offers simplicity and thoroughness — on a topic that is nothing but simple — in one space. It offers readers a place to hold and release their mental money chaos, in the context of having an utterly doable and not unrealistic or "overnight" plan for achieving clarity — and eliminating the drama, fear and uncertainty about what to do next that causes so many of us to maintain piles of unopened money papers.

I also feel that "One Year to an Organized Financial Life" is the portal to a lifelong practice of money clarity and order. Smart readers will execute this calendar through 2010, and hold onto the book to work several of its areas through years to come to maintain the order and financial calm they create.

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, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

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