Soldier of Finance is a guide to the basics of personal finance, but what makes it unique are the analogies throughout the book to real soldiering. The author, Jeff Rose, is a Certified Financial Planner and an Iraq combat veteran, as well as a personal finance writer and blogger who publishes Good Financial Cents. So he’s well-qualified to make those analogies.
Soldier of Finance is a solid introduction to personal finance. All of the basics are covered, included budgeting, saving, debt, and investing. And while the analogies of a soldier’s training to one’s financial plan might be hokey at times, Rose generally does a great job of showing how the two are actually quite similar. For example, he compares one’s credit score to a soldier’s roster number – and the comparison works, because both numbers are used for identification, albeit for totally different reasons. Your credit score identifies you as credit-worthy (or not) to prospective lenders, while a soldier’s roster number is basically his name.
Each section of the book has a similar pattern: Rose introduces a military concept, and then introduces its corresponding personal finance concept. After explaining the personal finance concept and why it’s important, Rose suggests some actionable steps. The steps are contained in a “Go/No Go” list, another military tie-in. This one is a little poorly executed, in that you simply check “Go” or “No Go,” which doesn’t convey the imperative need to take action. But the idea of outlining steps you can and should take is a good one. Finally, each section ends with a quick summary – so once you’ve read the book, it’s easy to go back and get a quick refresher on those points that particularly apply to you.
The best part of the book are the personal anecdotes – mostly from Rose, who talks not just about his experience in the military, but also about his own financial mistakes and successes. There are also some anecdotes from third parties, including some you might recognize if you follow personal finance blogs.
If you’re fairly savvy when it comes to personal finance, you probably won’t learn much that’s new in Solider of Finance. But you just might pick up a tip or two. My personal favorite is the concept of “Tactical Budgeting,” which is analogized to the military’s “Sensitive Items Report.” Rose describes the Sensitive Items Report in detail, but in a nutshell, it’s a checklist of all important gear. He explains that he and his squad constantly went over the Sensitive Items Report and that the repetitive checks “sucked,” but they were worth it because everything was in order when they found themselves under fire. Similarly, budgeting also sucks but a “Tactical Budget” designed to get you to your next goal is worth the trouble. I especially appreciated Rose’s idea that a “Tactical Budget” is handy at certain times, but isn’t something you need to mind on an ongoing basis if your finances are generally in order.
One thing to note about Soldier of Finance is that it is not a “get rich quick scheme.” In fact, it’s the exact opposite – a common-sense, real-world introduction and guide to getting your finances in order.