Washington Post personal finance columnist Nancy Trejos goes on a contradiction-exposing excursion extraordinaire in her latest money memoir/tutorial, "Hot (broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink it Too."

This revelatory book feeds the scandal and reality-media cravings of 20-somethings with Trejos’ extremely entertaining exposure of her own story, as a supposed money maven, leaving her day job at the Washington Post interviewing shopping addicts only to find her own mailbox at home crammed full of bills documenting her life in "DC" — an abbreviation that does double-duty in Trejos’ lexicon to represent both the District of Columbia and "debt city."

Trejos retells how she had "made pretty much every personal finance mistake you can make," culminating in a humiliating, tearful call for rescue cash to her Colombian immigrant parents — a call similar to those that have been made by many a member of Trejos’ generation, which she calls "Generation Debt."

Book Review
Title: "Hot (broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink it Too"
Author: Nancy Trejos
Publisher: Business Plus, 320 pages; $13.99

Washington Post personal finance columnist Nancy Trejos goes on a contradiction-exposing excursion extraordinaire in her latest money memoir/tutorial, "Hot (broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink it Too."

This revelatory book feeds the scandal and reality-media cravings of 20-somethings with Trejos’ extremely entertaining exposure of her own story, as a supposed money maven, leaving her day job at the Washington Post interviewing shopping addicts only to find her own mailbox at home crammed full of bills documenting her life in "D.C." — an abbreviation that does double-duty in Trejos’ lexicon to represent both the District of Columbia and "debt city."

Trejos retells how she had "made pretty much every personal finance mistake you can make," culminating in a humiliating, tearful call for rescue cash to her Colombian immigrant parents — a call similar to those that have been made by many a member of Trejos’ generation, which she calls "Generation Debt."

Trejos uses her own story as the hook for a quick, unintimidating set of insights she gleaned on her own path to freedom from debt, and shares with her readers in "Hot (broke) Messes," a money book that her target reader (and even readers older than that) will undoubtedly find much less excruciating and less boring than the average finance book.

Trejos talks readers through her financially calamitous college years, complete with those usurious credit cards hawked incessantly on college campuses, then through her years as an intern, then a writer at the Post, including a series of romantic relationships filled with shared rocky money decisions, including an escapade in premature homebuying with one boyfriend, which ended badly — suffice it to say that attorneys were involved.

Throughout, Trejos provides both insights of her own, like that her "hedonistic" lifestyle, supported by debt, was an unconscious effort to "lessen the pain of my breakups," and of finance experts and behavioral scientists about the dangers of young people creating a debt habit while their careers are on the rise.

Trejos goes on to talk readers through her own path — and share her lessons learned — while hiring a financial planner to hold her hand on the path to freedom from debt, becoming a wiser consumer and manager of her credit cards, and making better decisions about her money in the course of her romantic relationships.

She also covers topics like shopping compulsions, maintaining a chic appearance without breaking the bank, managing entertainment and transportation expenses, smart homebuying and retirement planning — at an early age.

"Hot (broke) Messes" wraps up with a number of mature, yet surprisingly fun and funny treatments on topics that are typically anathema to the Gen Z (those born in the mid-1990s to the late 2000s) set: planning for the unexpected cash crunches in life, like a layoff or illness; a great chapter on parental bailouts, and how to use these emergency measures only for good; how to hustle to make extra money to fund your financial goals — by everything from selling and renting out your belongings to getting a second job; and an in-depth look into Trejos’ own financial journal at the time when she started to follow a budget.

As the subtitle promises, "Hot (broke) Messes" offers both education and inspiration on how anyone whose generation is widely referenced with an initial can recover from the common financial pitfalls of modern young adulthood, without converting into a penny-pinching, toothpaste-tube scraping, latte-deprived miser.

Trejos’ full exposure of her own story renders the book relatable and entertaining, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone feeling intimidated or guilty at the start of their own path to financial recovery.

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