Monday, 17 December 2007

Love is Not Enough

Christmas is upon us where the nation eats and drinks to galore with no thought for tomorrow. People bombard the shops like they are possessed in search of the wonderful Christmas present for their loved ones. Then comes January when the credit card bills hit the carpet and people become aware of how much they have indulged themselves. With interests rates sky high and increasing number of home owners defaulting on mortgage repayment, it looks like 2008 will be a rocky year. If you are a woman then it is even more imperative that you get your finances under the control. More and more women are living alone and taking out mortgages in their name. There are also thousands of single mothers out there who are working hard to support their children. This means that women need to be on top of their game when it comes to their cold cash and a new book that has just been released has just the formula to do it. Love is Not Enough is a guide to personal finance written specifically for women, topics that are covered are how to reduce debt, invest with confidence and get onto the property ladder. Merryn Somerset Webb is the Editor of MoneyWeek and she writes this book with flair, imagination and with lots of chutzpah. By the time you have read the book, you will be so clued up on finances that you will also be able to write a book about it. I caught up with Merryn so she could give me some inside tips on money.

What inspired you to write the book?
I found that I was becoming increasing worried by the lack of thought women give to their long term finances. We are good at earning our own money these days but bad at leveraging our earnings into long term financial independence. I wanted to show in less than 200 pages just how easy it is. The financial industry has a huge vested interest in making money seem complicated and difficult (the more confused we are the more they can charge us) but it isn’t. It is very simple and the sooner we all understand that the better. I was also concerned about the connections we make between money and happiness. Lack of money can make us very unhappy but having money can’t actually make us happy – this was a theme I wanted to look at in more detail.

Why do you think some women are reluctant to talk about money easily like men do?
Education and upbringing. Fathers don’t talk to daughters about money and nor do mothers. Financial sections of the papers are generally written by men for men.

Your book is very frank and cuts to chase, which I find refreshing.
The title is very emotive, did you come up with it?
Thank you! Too many women – subconsciously I think (I hope) - are relying on a man to finance their long term future. They can manage the here and now but in most of their fantasy worlds a man is financing them as a family. But you can’t rely on this.. Men aren’t always all that with money and even if you find a good one you’ve a 40% chance of divorcing and being alone anyway. Love is not enough.

Ok I am a woman in my 30s who has gotten to grips with my finances but I want to go to the next level of stocks and shares. What would be your advice on getting into this area?
There’s a chapter in the book on it – read that and you should know pretty much all you need to know!

You did an MA in Japanese studies, how did you get into finance?
I was hired by a stockbroker in Tokyo when I finished my Japanese course there and things moved on from that.

Give me five tips on investment.
I have to refer you back to the chapter on investing in the book for this one but the key is to recognise that it is not complicated and to not be scared of markets.

How did you land your book deal?
My agent Rupert Heath contacted me after he read some of my columns in the Sunday Times and asked it there was a book I wanted to write. There was. I wrote a proposal and he sold the idea to Harper Collins. Simple as that.

What authors do you admire and why?
I have almost no time for leisure reading, any more which is awful.

The life of a writer must be a busy one. Can you describe a typical day?
My day job is editing
Moneyweek magazine so most of my time is spent in my office there. I get the baby up and leave home at 8. Into the office for 8 hours of talking, writing and editing and then home at 6 to give the baby her bath and reading before bed. No glamour I’m afraid!

Where do you do most of your writing, desk, garden, coffee shop?
Garden and coffee shop sound lovely but sadly not. My freelance columns are written in my tiny study at home after the baby has gone to sleep and the rest is done in the office at Moneyweek. That said I did write the book at my mother’s house in the South of France just after the baby was born so that was rather better!

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m pretty busy. I’ve got Moneyweek to do plus columns in the Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, The Sunday Post and Saga and a few other bits and bobs. I’m also doing increasing amounts of radio and TV work which I love. But I am hoping to do another book in the next year or so – I’ll keep you posted.

Harper Collins have given me five copies of Love is Not Enough for five lucky readers. All you have to do is email me your details and you will get a copy in the post.

The paperback issue of Love in Not Enough is available in January. You can check out Merryn Somerset Webb's website here.

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