To be honest, I would have never picked up Edward Ugel’s book if I wasn’t a personal finance blogger. But after finishing it, I’m glad I didn’t make the mistake of passig it up.

I was at the library for some entertainment books (I seem to have lots of reading time these days). I took this book home with the stack as “homework”, thinking it may be kind of boring. The dark side of the lum sum business would be perfect to read just before bed for deep sleep. Or so I thought.

Moneyfornothing What I didn’t expect was getting to bed late every night last week reading it. Last night, I just had to cut myself off, difficult since I was 20ish pages from finishing. (I woke up early this morning and finished it over breakfast.)

First of all, the guy is hilarious. His style reminds me of J. at BudgetsAreSexy and Mark LaFlamme at the Screaming Room; the guy gives you the info in a fun way with some great characters and presonal stories. In short, this book is one written by your wacky fun friend.

But being hilarious is not the only thing that kept me up nights. I found there was interesting information to glean on many levels.

First off, I never buy lottery tickets for the simple reason that I’ve always thought there was some kind of catch. There is, of course. High taxes and annuitized payments that decrease in value year after year. (Because do you really think the $200,000 yearly check will seem nearly as impressive 20 years from now? Of course not. And it’s not like the government is nice enough to pay you interest for that money either.)

Also, looking at the bigger picture, the lottery isn’t the great fundraiser for a state it claims to be. For example, if let’s say the lottery goes toward education and the state budget allows for $150 million for education. If during the year the lottery raises $50 million, you’d think education would get $200 million, right? Nope. The $50 million from the lottery means the state contribution is cut back. A little misleading I’d say.

And whether or not you have any interest in the lottery, there is other interesting stuff in this book. As a salesman, Ugel is good and has some useable advice for salespeople. (And if you think of it, we all “sell” something, right?) I think it may help me close a deal or two someday anyway.

In the end, I thought I’d close the book with some definite conclusion like “Wow The Firm is evil” or “Gee, the lottery isn’t that bad” but I don’t feel strongly one way or the other. The whole thing felt like a pretty balanced look. Ugel does equal justice to portraying himself, not the best at everything but you see he certainly isn’t a bad person either. The last few pages contain a good summary behind the idea of the book, whether you look at it from the point of view of the lottery winners, the lum-sum salespeople, or just an average person:

“I have a theory. If on the day they won, lottery winners were told that they had to somehow earn their lottery check, rather then simply wait for it by the mailbox, lottery winners as we’ve come to know them would be the exception rather than the rule. Of you were handed a thousand dollars, if you won it right out of the blue, what would you do with it? No lying. Yeah, I’d blow it, too. Now, if you were made to dig a ditch or paint a house, or do any job for a day or two in order to recieve that same money, what would you do with it then? Exactly. Me too. Bills are bills.”

I highly recommend this book and am excited to see that Edward Ugel is publishing another book in the spring of 2010 called “I’m With Fatty” about his journey to weight loss (“50 pounds in 50 miserable weeks” to be exact). I’ll definitely put this one on the fun reading pile because now I know that Ugel’s writing doesn’t feel like homework.

Check out Ed Ugel’s website (with blog)…
Another review of the book at Almost Somewhat Positive…

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