Book Review
Title: "The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in its Place"
Author: Hill Harper
Publisher: Gotham Books, 2011; 288 pages; $26

Overwhelming: that’s the most frequently descriptor I’m hearing readers and acquaintances use about their personal financial lives these days.

Many are still un- or under-employed; others are still reeling from having lost or short-selling a home; others are still tussling with their mortgage servicers in an effort to get an elusive loan modification that actually lowers their principal balance or their monthly payment, or both; and still others are trying to get out of debt, start saving or otherwise position themselves to survive after having gone from a longtime salaried position to a thriving (but seemingly less secure) series of freelance gigs.

And many of those who aren’t in the midst of a financial crisis are in the midst of an existential one, grasping desperately at balance, happiness and fulfillment in a world (and an economy) characterized by unpredictability and transition.

The folks I know are clearly no exception — they’re the rule. Inspired by a similar set of conversations with divorcing, recently widowed and recently laid-off loved ones, "CSI" actor and New York Times bestselling author Hill Harper set out in early 2010 to write a personal finance book.

(His own recent loss of a $350,000 investment in a tech company probably proved inspirational, as well.) Partway through, Harper was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and decided to take a retreat of sorts, traveling around the country to visit friends and family members in an effort to cultivate his own "spiritual wealth" and response to his impending cancer surgery.

Harper documented the "Wealth Cures" he realized and practiced during that trip, and fused them into his book, which has now been published as "The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in its Place."

In the book, Harper, a college friend of President Obama, sets out five steps to place money in its proper priority — lower than spiritual matters and relationships, but warranting our attention and energy, to deactivate the all-consuming stress and fear that result when money matters are not handled well:

1. The Diagnosis. In these introductory chapters, Harper retells the story of being diagnosed with cancer, and diagnosing himself with a crisis of spiritual wealth, to boot.

Rather than providing a checklist or quiz for readers to use in detecting what money matters need addressing, like most other finance books, Harper emphasizes that if you are without health issues, you are wealthy — period — and must take action to manifest your vision for life without further ado, and without self-sabotage through fear and behaviors that impair your physical health in the long run.

2. Treatment Options. Harper then begins to cover how we think and act with respect to our money, starting with how our spending levels create and keep us in bondage. He then:

  • walks readers through his method of getting clear on their own personal definition of wealth as it impacts their pursuit of happiness;
  • briefs them on an alternative way to look at money, as a medium of exchanging energy; and
  • sets out some concrete action steps and tools for creating a financial framework that empowers them to architect their lives in alignment with their prioritized Wealth Factors.

3. Compliance: Sticking with a Treatment Plan. In this step, Harper provides his angle on some simple steps and perspectives for saving and investing money and managing spending, eliminating debt and optimizing credit. He offers simple, but memorable adages on such topics as Smart Money (money which Harper describes as working while you sleep) and the dumbest money of all (that paid to credit card interest).

Wealth Cure’s Treatment Plan also includes easy-to-understand sidebars with Harper’s Smart Money Rule and Smart Money Contract, a simple set of smart financial rules to live by.

4. Maintaining Your Health and Wealth. This section, one of the most inspirational of the whole book, challenges readers to live lives that are both prosperous and aligned with their personal priorities. Harper encourages readers to spend their money wisely (e.g., on healthful foods and medical checkups vs. designer bags and cell phones) and to cultivate careers and businesses about which they are passionate, while still being smart about their income and expenses.

He also encourages them to set up a personal board of directors or mentors, and provides guidance and insight for couples with different money management styles — and for anyone who has been paralyzed from making important changes in their lives by fear.

5. Masterminding: Survive and Thrive. Harper’s last set of recommendations for mastering money matters involves doubling down on the commitment to live an excellent personal and professional life through investments in education, exercise, life insurance, wills, emergency funds and philanthropy.

He also introduces readers to the concept of creating a "mastermind group" of like-minded, excellence-seeking individuals who can encourage and educate each other in shared areas of endeavor and mastery.

"Wealth Cures" concludes with the story of Harper’s successful cancer removal surgery, reunion with his ex-girlfriend, and recommitment to his own personal set of values and Wealth Factors. If you are emotionally and economically worn out, and looking for more inspiration than nuts-and-bolts financial instruction, "Wealth Cures" might be just what the doctor ordered.

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