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Book Recommendation: Paco de Leon’s “Finance for the People”

Finance for the People is a book for those that approach money with cognitive dissonance; they understand the practical need to have a budget and see the benefits financial security allows, but simultaneously do not identify (or actively loath) the realities of our economy.


Paco starts with a confession to being a “financial industry apologist;” someone with gobs of experience in financial planning who wholeheartedly sees all of it’s dark flaws and hypocrisies and does not extoll the virtues of extractive consumer capitalism. Or perhaps it is the author’s consistent recognition of finance being rooted in systems of oppression and empathy for not wanting to put energy into that system. It doesn’t really matter when the fandom turned into full-blown swoon, but you get the point.

The book is chock full of delightfully parsimonious illustrations that help visualize complex concepts in a cute way for the spreadsheet-impaired:

  • An adjustable rate loan rollercoaster

  • A loan cocktail

  • Debt as fertilizer/poo for your garden of life

  • Your emergency fund as the lone wolf kid in the cafeteria

  • A suitcase holding all your beliefs around building wealth

The last one is an example of where this book shines. Paco de Leon, more-so than any authority on finance I’ve come across, addresses all the gnarly beliefs, feelings, experiences, and trauma that make us ALL weird about money. And it’s done so in a deeply empathetic, caring, but never saccharine way. Paco invites the messy world of behavioral psychology into the conversation, because money is inextricably tied to our relationships, work, body, and of course our mental and emotional states. Labeling these variables as irrelevant to our finances denies our reality. Acknowledging them allows for understanding, and eventually growth. Thoughtfully, this book offers up accessible, relatively painless opportunities to reflect on your personal relationship with money so you can unstuck yourself from your old ways of being. Some reflections include:

  • What is an early memory you have of debt?

  • Growing up, what were some stories you learned from your family about the way money operates? What were the spoken and unspoken messages?

  • What are your beliefs around work? Income?

  • What are you trying to feel or avoid by reaching your financial goal?

  • How does it feel when you delay gratification?

  • What’s happening in your body when you feel like making an impulse buy?


These are questions that I can almost guarantee will not be asked by your parents’ financial planner, and definitely not by a robo-investor or budgeting app. Even if you do work with a planner who sees you for the miraculous, complex human that you are, following the guided exercises outlined in this book will help ensure that your behaviors and choices outside of planning sessions align with your goals.

If you’re trying to get your monies together but suspect you may be getting in your own way because you simultaneously want to burn the whole system to the ground – give the book a whirl!


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