Book Review
Title: "Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship with Money"
Author: Karen McCall
Publisher: New World Library, 2011; 288 pages; $10.17 at

There’s a season for everything in life. And as a country, we’ve been in a season of economic recession for some years now. I could make quick work of compiling a laundry list of reasons Americans are in such a financial mess, from Wall Street to Main Street, from the housing sector to the employment market, but the reality is that underwater home values and a desiccated credit market ultimately surfaced the already tenuous nature of many an American’s household financial well-being.

When you regularly float living expenses on credit and simply live beyond your means, empowered by free-flowing credit, then credit goes bye-bye. What can no longer be floated sinks, savings deplete, the gap between income and expenses glares, and bad financial habits begin to threaten not just the financial future, but the present.

Fortunately, for those who choose to wake up and smell the insolvency, after a season of financial illness can come one of recovery — as taught for nearly 30 year by Karen McCall, founder of the Financial Recovery Institute and the author of "Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship with Money."

McCall starts "Financial Recovery" telling her own personal story of falling into a pattern of chronic overspending and debting in the wake of a divorce, after which she found herself, a successful computer salesperson, having to sell everything she owned and get a night job as a live-in cook just to have a place to live.

McCall enrolled in Debtor’s Anonymous and began creating her own personal program of financial recovery, which eventually became her life’s work. Readers who are looking to begin or accelerate their own personal season of financial recovery will find clarity, order, hope and inspiration in "Financial Recovery," and the eight steps McCall lays out therein:

1. Understanding your relationship with money. In this chapter, McCall speaks authoritatively from her own and her clients’ experience to the point that most people with financial issues have a problem deeper than simply not having enough income, and that if the core relationship you have with money isn’t healed, then getting more money "merely adds zeroes at the end of financial problems without solving them at all."

This step is about exploring what financial patterns and habits you have that aren’t working and assessing what your goals are, in terms of healing your relationship with money.

2. Getting out of the "money/life drain." McCall offers her wisdom here on how our money issues can and often do infect other areas of our lives, and provides steps for how to stop what she calls the "Money/Life Drain," which she defines as a "vicious cycle that erodes not only our financial lives but the emotional, social and spiritual qualities we want out of life too."

3. Establishing the difference between needs and wants. McCall believes that chronic overspending and debting can be a result of deep, fundamental confusion about what is really important to us, which drives us to "spend money in ways that leave our needs unmet and drive us to spend even more." In this step, McCall walks readers through the process of cultivating clarity on their true core wants, needs and desires in life.

4. Developing sound, daily money practices. Throughout "Financial Recovery," McCall’s rallying cry focuses on designing a stable, fulfilling financial life. In this step, she teaches readers the so-called "nuts and bolts" of living such a life, including how to use tracking to stop automatic, dysfunctional financial behaviors, including the spending and debting on unfulfilling things.

5. Creating an individual spending plan. Beyond a simple budget, McCall walks readers through the process of creating a spending plan that empowers them to fund the experiences and daily life they want to have, moving forward, on financially stable footing.

6. "Saving your way out of debt." Many debt elimination programs fail because they are so brutally restrictive and unfun, or because every cent is put into eliminating debt and the whole program gets derailed when an emergency expense comes up and has to be paid on credit.

McCall’s approach to digging out of debt includes a three-step process that solves for both these issues, and cures the behavioral pattern of debting for the long term, replacing it with the vastly more powerful habit of saving.

7. Working on work. Because the work we do on a daily basis is so deeply intertwined with our finances, but also with our quality of life, McCall devotes some quality time to digging deep into our financial beliefs about earning enough to create the lifestyle we want, and helps readers bring their work, financial and ideal lives into harmony.

8. Adopting "sterling money behaviors." Most of "Financial Recovery" is about healing and stabilization, getting out of financial crisis mode. This step is about moving beyond financial stability to a place of prosperity and what McCall calls the "sterling money behaviors" that make life go from good to great.

Ultimately, whether anyone is ready, willing and committed to move from a season of financial distress to one of financial recovery is up to that particular person. But many who do try to make that move find themselves overwhelmed and stressed, which can snowball into spending to soothe, killing those dreams of a sound financial lifestyle. "Financial Recovery" and the very simple, sometimes counterintuitive tools and practices McCall offers in it provide a powerful process to move into and through money healing, and beyond.

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