Personal finance for the math-challenged

Book Review: 'The Real Cost of Living'

Personal finance maven Carmen Wong Ulrich applies the model of cost-benefit analyses to a variety of personal and financial decisions — your personal business, if you will — in her latest book, "The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life and Your Money."

And boring, this book is not! Wong Ulrich’s approach explodes the age-old tradition of looking at the dollars and cents cost of personal finance decisions, and looks at both the personal (i.e., psychological, emotional, lifestyle and other) and financial costs of all sorts of personal decisions that have financial implications, from getting married to maintaining your bad habits, to becoming your own boss and deciding whether to work or stay home with your children.

Her goal? To explore the myriad personal and financial factors that should be calculated for during our daily life decision-making, which sometimes even validates decisions that are not the smartest money move per se, but do further personal values and priorities that outrank the bottom line.

For example, Wong Ulrich surfaces a number of instances in which personal priorities can and often should outrank the financials of a fact scenario, in terms of their impact on our decision-making. Like paying off your mortgage — a move that the financial experts have long pooh-poohed, but which has the vast emotional advantage of stability and security for those who are able to pull it off.