Before moving to King William, Michael Taylor was a Wall Street bond salesman and ran his own investment fund.  Today, our neighborhood financial expert follows his passion of providing a basic financial education to the rest of us.

Michael is an instructor at Trinity University in personal finance, and a freelance columnist for several Texas newspapers.  He has distilled much of his teachings down to a breezy, accessible, 200-page book entitled The Financial Rules for New College Graduates: Invest Before Paying Off Debt – and Other Tips Your Professors Didn’t Teach You.

Michael’s book does not try to show you how to “beat the market” or “beat the Street”.  He doesn’t share any secret knowledge.  Instead, the reader is encouraged to cultivate the attitudes of wealthy individuals.  One should be optimistic about your ability to build wealth.  One should be modest about comparing your wealth or investment performance with others.  Finally, one should be skeptical of what the “Financial Infotainment Industrial Complex” is selling.  These attitudes, with a bit of self-discipline, are all that Michael advocates. 

You can’t have a book entitled “Financial Rules” without math, and there is plenty in this section of the book.  The math-avid will find reasons for optimism from Mike’s illustration of the power of compound returns.  The skeptical will find tools that will help them separate the good financial products from the bad.  The modest, particularly the math-averse, will learn the basic principles that support the remainder of the book. 

Once armed with the right attitudes and the tiniest bit of math, the reader is ready to follow the book’s remaining chapters, which discuss the typical, important financial decisions of a person’s life.  Chapters about beginning to build a surplus include practical lessons on debt, savings, taxes, and the purchase of houses and cars.  Later chapters teach the reader to discern between good financial products and bad.  The book ends with discussion on retirement, estate planning and death.

In these chapters, Mike disposes of several financial planning myths that could lead to bad decision-making.  My favorite example explains why even those paying-off high-interest debt may be better off participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans. 

While aimed at new college graduates, the book is equally useful to any young person – particularly with its emphasis on starting retirement savings early.  Put one on your gift list for your new graduates, and maybe get one for yourself. 

- Patrick Conroy