Ask the Guidebook

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, August 6, 2006

I always thought it would be nice to have a pocket-size book of my grandmother's advice. Whenever I was perplexed about something, I could just flip through the book and see what Big Mama would say.

My grandmother's advice was short and simple, although not always too sweet. But there were gaps in her knowledge: She couldn't advise me on investing.

Big Mama refused to do anything with her money except put it in a savings account. The woman wouldn't even buy a certificate of deposit at the bank or a U.S. savings bond. In fact, the only bond she ever bought was the bond adhesive for her dentures.

In my early twenties, I fumbled along some financial roads, often following bad advice from folks who, it turned out, didn't know what they were talking about.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a simple, trusted guidebook for the many financial dilemmas we often face? I'm not talking about an A-to-Z tome on all things financial and legal -- just something that would offer basic tips to get you started.

Well, I've found just such a book. It's "Your Little Legal Companion: Helpful Advice for Life's Big Events," written by editors at Nolo. This is my choice for the Color of Money Book Club selection for August.

"Your Little Legal Companion" is 200 pages, but it's small enough to slip into a handbag. And the advice is affordable at $9.95.

This book is a departure from Nolo's typical comprehensively written titles such as "The Executor's Guide: Settling a Loved One's Estate or Trust," "Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce" or "How to Write a Business Plan."

Instead, "Your Little Legal Companion" reads more like David Letterman's top 10 list.

"We wanted to publish a book with little bits of wisdom," said Tamara Traeder, acquisitions editor at Nolo.

The editors, all of whom are attorneys, cover 50 life situations, including starting a new job, buying a car, quitting a job, buying a dog, starting a business, investing, knowing your legal rights when moving in with your lover, and surviving bankruptcy. Their counsel is humorously written with lots of fun facts.

You'll find just enough information to set you in the right financial direction. Want to start a band? Then one of your first steps toward financial success might be asking people, "Was that two large and a medium?" the editors write.

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