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Book Review: 'Zombie Economics'
An Introduction to "Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance"
"Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance" is a personal finance and horror book by Lisa Desjardins ad Rick Emerson. The cover looks like a combination of a get out of debt book like those by Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman and World War Z and other zombie horror books. While playing on both these trends, the book is an amusing and insightful book.
Seeing the economic disaster as a challenge to survive is both refreshingly serious and a new perspective. The cover, too, is amusing. The dead eyes of various Presidents was enough to frighten my daughter; she turned over the book before she would talk to me.
The High Lights and High Points of the Book
If you have a young adult in your life who you want to motivate into getting out of debt and saving more money, likening debt to a horde of zombies will get his/her attention and tap into the emotional intensity that is necessary to get out of debt.
The book "Zombie Economics" covers serious matters like outlining a budget of what you must pay to survive and the free cash flow left over, while explaining that calling it discretionary income could lead to you blowing it.
The book describes the realities of the modern job search. It used to take 16 weeks, in a good economy. Today, it can take up to a year to find a job, and that may be at a lower pay rate than you were used to receiving. The book discusses when to start searching for a new job, and why you should do that while you have a job.
"Zombie Economics" touches on matters many young people struggle with regularly. Do I study or get out of debt? The book's answer is to survive first - studying can come later. If you spend money on schooling and run out of money, you have neither a degree nor savings. So work now to save up and pay off debt. You can go to school or return to school when your personal economy permits it, when it is safe to go outside.
The book is pragmatic in its approach. For example, it says if you are a recreational drug user or drinker, moderate it so it doesn't make you sick. Have safe sex or no sex, the book advises, to protect against both pregnancy and disease. Cut back on your vices, like drugs, alcohol, smoking and soda.
There are a few curse words in the book, but they are sparing and used appropriately.
Zombie Economics begins each chapter with a piece of a short story, essentially portraying the reader as a survivor during a zombie apocalypse. You have limited resources, so you must decide what to fortify first. You have to make priorities, like choosing between junk food and health. You have to control the desire to escape the grind, which could leave you in the middle of a zombie horde and death.
It is actually realistic in its portrayal of a survivor who isn't a gung-ho survival expert, and thus relatable as a zombie survival story. The character is forced to search stores and shops for food, sometimes getting seriously hurt in the process. The character goes stir crazy at the house, and he/she is surprised by zombies who are dragging themselves across the ground or silent due to a decaying voice box. There are all too human mistakes and solutions that are not out of the blue plot devices.
The authors have a website, zombieeconomics.com. And unlike many authors with a website, the URL is not plastered across every other page. Nor does it endlessly hype the author's other books or podcast.
Unemployment is you, a living person, in a graveyard. It may feel hopeless, and it is dangerous, but being unemployment doesn't make you dead. It's a good metaphor.
The book "Zombie Economics" by Desjardins and Emerson distinguishes between the personal economy and the overall economy. You probably won't get enough ammunition (money / paychecks) to save the economy as a whole, but that's not your purpose - your purpose is to save yourself and your family if you have one. You can have a strong personal economy and go out in the world, while others are struggling. But if you have a weak personal economy, your first job is to save yourself.
A Quick Comparison to Similar Books
The "Graveyard" chapter on staying in a job you don't like in order to pay your bills is actually more realistic than Jon Acuff's "Quitter".
Instead of fluffy visualizations of where you want to be and creating a plan you may not carry out, "Zombie Economics" talks about the reasons to stay in a job - even if you hate it - so that you can survive the zombie economy.
Paying your debts off, building up an emergency fund and having the skills to survive are more important than living off your limited reserves while the bills / debt surround your home and threaten to eat you alive. "Zombie Economics" talks about how to get through a work day at a job you hate until you have enough ammo (money) to leave the job you hate and face the world. And tips on how to sustain your soul before it is crushed by a deadening job while you dig out of your financial mire.
The horrors in the hospital are a fine piece of story-telling. And I say this as a science fiction and horror author, the writer of "Humanity's Edge" and "Sirat: Through the Fires of Hell”.
This book goes through the debt snowball method of paying off debt by recommending that all cash go to the debt with the highest interest rate. While mathematically sound, as a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University volunteer, I've seen the psychological effect of paying off a series of small bills along with the relief of having fewer bills overall to pay.
Both methods - highest interest rate and smallest debt - are valid. Choosing a method to get out of debt and sticking with it is more important than which one you use; however, from my experience, the debt snowball gets people further.