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Green With Envy: A Whole New Way to Look at Financial (Un)Happiness

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In this myth-shattering book, a leading business journalist exposes the shocking gap between personal finance and public image, and reveals how Americans are caught in the trap of living beyond their means.


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In this myth-shattering book, a leading business journalist exposes the shocking gap between personal finance and public image, and reveals how Americans are caught in the trap of living beyond their means.

30 review for Green With Envy: A Whole New Way to Look at Financial (Un)Happiness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Meszaros

    Boss starts her book with her personal story. She and her unemployed husband worry over bills and try to subsist in New York on her single income. New neighbors move in and the apartment scuttlebutt tells them they paid cash for their new digs. Boss jealously eyes her new neighbors' piles of deliveries from Barneys and seethes with envy as they mention they are heading upstate to "antique" for the weekend. However, once Boss's writing project on money is underway, she asks her neighbors if she ca Boss starts her book with her personal story. She and her unemployed husband worry over bills and try to subsist in New York on her single income. New neighbors move in and the apartment scuttlebutt tells them they paid cash for their new digs. Boss jealously eyes her new neighbors' piles of deliveries from Barneys and seethes with envy as they mention they are heading upstate to "antique" for the weekend. However, once Boss's writing project on money is underway, she asks her neighbors if she can interview them. What seems like a perfect, wealthy life quickly fades. By the end of the project Boss has gone from envying her neighbors to deep relief her problems are so small in compare. This, she concludes, is the way the majority of Americans live today. Rich, flashy and expensive facades backed by styrofoam peanuts and credit card debt. Money, the "last taboo" is simply not spoken of. To admit being broke, not being able to afford a trip, needing to borrow money or going into bankruptcy are simply too embarrassing to discuss, even with the closest friends and family members. Boss interviews families who go into hundreds of thousands of debt without one partner knowing. Others are nearing retirement age and either have nothing in their savings or have no idea what their spouse has saved. The median most retirees have in their 401(k)s or IRAs is around $16,000-20,000. Over a lifetime of work, this is all many people have managed to sock away. This book is a definite wake-up call, a scary and gripping look at American debt and, like House Lust, has its moments of smug satisfaction for the average reader. We could NEVER let things get that bad, right?... Right? When you are done with Green With Envy, grab your Suze Orman books and go to your happy place.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lana

    Have you ever wondered about your friends and neighbors and how they can afford nice things that should be out of reach based on their salary? This is what this book is about. It is more of a sociology than financial advice book. In terms of finance, it's more like a "what not to do" book and I thought it's very unique and valuable in that sense. The book starts with describing our perceptions of affluent people and the often different reality of debt, keeping up appearances, and lying to oursel Have you ever wondered about your friends and neighbors and how they can afford nice things that should be out of reach based on their salary? This is what this book is about. It is more of a sociology than financial advice book. In terms of finance, it's more like a "what not to do" book and I thought it's very unique and valuable in that sense. The book starts with describing our perceptions of affluent people and the often different reality of debt, keeping up appearances, and lying to ourselves and those around us. I really loved this part and was a bit shocked to be honest that people have so much debt they don't really know how much or what they can afford, but I am not surprised considering once you take out a lot of debt for student loans, mortgage, etc, small sums here and there probably seem like nothing. The last part of the book lost me a bit. The chapter on politicians was very interesting, but I don't know if I fully believe that's how most of them really live. Then it started promoting Eastern religion and meditation somewhat as a solution before even mentioning simple tips like turn off the TV, set up a budget, add up your debt totals, and be honest about your finances. It actually didn't even mention all of this as a solution. The chapter on people who are independently wealthy also lost me a bit as it seemed very different from people who are struggling but trying to maintain a false facade and just seemed like it should be in another book. Overall I thought it was great though for a unique and important take on finances and definitely worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Fascinating anecdotes about people the author interviewed. You get to see into their financial lives and how money (or lack of it) can make life unhappy. However her analysis seemed unsupported and her conclusions personal, not academic. One interesting chapter covered Washington politicians and the fact that they don't get much beyond their salary so unless they are independently wealthy, it is a struggle to cover rent, their home in their home state, and travel expenses to see family. Her reco Fascinating anecdotes about people the author interviewed. You get to see into their financial lives and how money (or lack of it) can make life unhappy. However her analysis seemed unsupported and her conclusions personal, not academic. One interesting chapter covered Washington politicians and the fact that they don't get much beyond their salary so unless they are independently wealthy, it is a struggle to cover rent, their home in their home state, and travel expenses to see family. Her recommendations at the end are very feel good but not groundbreaking.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I really enjoyed this book. It answered much of what I'd suspected about the McMansion owners. I read a handful of the lower reviews who complained that the book lacked follow thru. They wanted to know how the personal stories ended. Where those folks ended was not the book's point...the point is where did you land when it comes to envying others possessions? What is your level of contentment? How transparent are you when discussing money. I believe the author intended to impact your answers to I really enjoyed this book. It answered much of what I'd suspected about the McMansion owners. I read a handful of the lower reviews who complained that the book lacked follow thru. They wanted to know how the personal stories ended. Where those folks ended was not the book's point...the point is where did you land when it comes to envying others possessions? What is your level of contentment? How transparent are you when discussing money. I believe the author intended to impact your answers to those questions. Don't miss that.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    Skimming the aisles, what stopped me at this book was the subtitle: "Why Keeping Up with the Joneses Is Keeping Us in Debt." "She's right." I thought, thinking of my neighbour's gorgeous sofa and how I envy it. Of course, I have a totally serviceable sofa-- I just don't like the way it looks. Boss writes of her own struggles to keep up with her Joneses, Tina and John. As it turns out, while she envied them, they had their own financial struggles. Similarly, she profiles several others while uncov Skimming the aisles, what stopped me at this book was the subtitle: "Why Keeping Up with the Joneses Is Keeping Us in Debt." "She's right." I thought, thinking of my neighbour's gorgeous sofa and how I envy it. Of course, I have a totally serviceable sofa-- I just don't like the way it looks. Boss writes of her own struggles to keep up with her Joneses, Tina and John. As it turns out, while she envied them, they had their own financial struggles. Similarly, she profiles several others while uncovering their money woes. She argues that the shame of money, or of not having it, contributes to the effort to keep up, and that it becomes a cycle, one where we can become increasingly alienated from our peers, and sink further and further into debt. Many times, couples will not even discuss finances with each other. Tina managed to hide her $20K credit-card debt from her husband, and this is not uncommon. I hadn't known this until reading the book, but bankruptcy too is not uncommon: Boss writes that about 1.6 million families per year are going bankrupt (the book was published in 2006), which makes 45% more bankruptcies than divorces. "So, statistically, if you know two couples who've gotten divorced in the past year, you also know three families who have recently declared bankruptcy. Also, more people are going bankrupt now than are graduating from four-year colleges." There's much more like that, and much more of the author's own candid reflections. She takes on common perceptions that may drive the urge to keep up with the Joneses, and argues against them, point by point, with facts. She offers concrete methods for readers to reign in their envy, too. Useful and honest. http://www.moneychallenge.ca/blog/201...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill Kemerer

    Great premise but not much follow through. I love reading the juicy details of how other people deal with money, and the author clearly does too. While this book does have great insight about society's taboo about money, our own keeping up with the Joneses propensities, and how any income level stresses about finances, I was disappointed there wasn't much follow through. We learned about the couple next door, but once we knew their situation, we never really found out how they ended up. We learne Great premise but not much follow through. I love reading the juicy details of how other people deal with money, and the author clearly does too. While this book does have great insight about society's taboo about money, our own keeping up with the Joneses propensities, and how any income level stresses about finances, I was disappointed there wasn't much follow through. We learned about the couple next door, but once we knew their situation, we never really found out how they ended up. We learned about the couple who declared bankruptcy, but how did the fallout affect how they spent money? Sure, they found new friends and had to make do with less, but were lessons learned? Maybe that wasn't the point of the book, but if I read examples, I want to know how it all turned out! Including the author's life. She shared, so where are they now? Still, this was an insightful book worth reading, especially for anyone who wonders how their neighbors afford their lifestyle. :)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Fast read, and compelling enough, but it's pop sociology. There isn't enough info about the root causes of overspending and dealing with one's own place in the social networks we travel in. There also isn't any kind of counter-example - someone who makes more money than he needs, and therefore finds decent uses for it; charity, saving, long-term goals. NYTimes just did a series on something very similar called Age of Riches. Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich and Making Do, With $10 Million by Gar Fast read, and compelling enough, but it's pop sociology. There isn't enough info about the root causes of overspending and dealing with one's own place in the social networks we travel in. There also isn't any kind of counter-example - someone who makes more money than he needs, and therefore finds decent uses for it; charity, saving, long-term goals. NYTimes just did a series on something very similar called Age of Riches. Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich and Making Do, With $10 Million by Gary Rivlin. Also, the counter-example, Living Modestly Despite a Nice Nest Egg. (all around Aug 5, 2007) Would definitely recommend Juliet Schorr's books before this - and others. The interesting thing is how the home equity line of credit lets people get way out of their depths, and then they're in danger of losing not only their credit and money, but their house.

  8. 4 out of 5

    D

    I got this book for 50 cents off a clearance table at Big Lots. It proved to be quite a bargain. I enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot about why we have some of the attitudes we do about money and why we often do stupid things with money as we compare ourselves and our financial situations with others. Often what we think we see with regard to other people and money, is not reality at all. This book gives great insight into personal finances -- our own and others. It talks about debt, ba I got this book for 50 cents off a clearance table at Big Lots. It proved to be quite a bargain. I enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot about why we have some of the attitudes we do about money and why we often do stupid things with money as we compare ourselves and our financial situations with others. Often what we think we see with regard to other people and money, is not reality at all. This book gives great insight into personal finances -- our own and others. It talks about debt, bancruptcy and the financial problems of others we never see. Written in 2006, it is probably more relevent today after the financial melt-down, then it was when it was originally published.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Reader

    I got this at a dollar book store, and it was a good find. I found it particularly interesting that this book was published in 2006, yet she was digging into the values and mindset that caused our current financial situation before it really happened. The book switches between personal stories and research/interviews. The personal stories were fun (and made it a quick read). However, I would have preferred more research and formal information, as opposed to book quotes and poems to reinforce some I got this at a dollar book store, and it was a good find. I found it particularly interesting that this book was published in 2006, yet she was digging into the values and mindset that caused our current financial situation before it really happened. The book switches between personal stories and research/interviews. The personal stories were fun (and made it a quick read). However, I would have preferred more research and formal information, as opposed to book quotes and poems to reinforce some of her observations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    Somewhat amusing that I found this book at Big Lots for 50 cents. It was a relaxing read that reminds us we are all in the same boat together, regardless of what we think to the contrary. Reading this book is a good reminder to be grounded and grateful for the things we have, and not necessarily the material things.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    I have recommended this book to so many people....and each has found it fascinating......a book ahead of our time, it explains, through so deep dives into personal stories, how our country ended up in such severe debt. A great read.....and cautionary tale.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I've been thinking a lot about money lately (unemployment will do that to you) and picked up this book as a result of that. It talks about the way money and envy of those with it shapes our society. A pretty honest and frank look at the subject. I've been thinking a lot about money lately (unemployment will do that to you) and picked up this book as a result of that. It talks about the way money and envy of those with it shapes our society. A pretty honest and frank look at the subject.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Read this for book club...some parts were really interesting and other parts I found kind of dull. I found it fascinating to read about the different people and their financial troubles. It made me grateful for what we have and where we are in life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tiffani Morgan

    Analytical and thought provoking regarding the misconception of who we think appears to "have it all."however it didn't offer anything I haven't heard or read before regarding finances. Analytical and thought provoking regarding the misconception of who we think appears to "have it all."however it didn't offer anything I haven't heard or read before regarding finances.

  15. 4 out of 5

    shannon

    eh. feels half-finished.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Ever wonder what the neighbors earn? Where they're getting their money, and how much? So did Shira Boss, and she wrote up what she found out. Hint: there's a lot of debt and pretension involved. Ever wonder what the neighbors earn? Where they're getting their money, and how much? So did Shira Boss, and she wrote up what she found out. Hint: there's a lot of debt and pretension involved.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Soto

    Never assume, never assume.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I really, really enjoyed reading the anecdotes. Just wish the book had been longer!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    A peek into the lives of people who are living way above they're means, and why they feel the need to keep of with the Jones. A peek into the lives of people who are living way above they're means, and why they feel the need to keep of with the Jones.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lela

    Very well written book on the subject of money & the choices we make on what we spend -- and value. Great true-life examples. Wish she'd write another book! Very well written book on the subject of money & the choices we make on what we spend -- and value. Great true-life examples. Wish she'd write another book!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bela

    A little on the "lite" reading side. Good research and interviews but there could've been more of both. Great bibliography that I will explore further. A little on the "lite" reading side. Good research and interviews but there could've been more of both. Great bibliography that I will explore further.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  24. 5 out of 5

    Yelena

  25. 4 out of 5

    Coykoi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian Dance

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  29. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jensen

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