A Personal Finance Thriller

For the last six months or so I have been working on my first novel, a personal finance thriller entitled Cream City Hustle. While there are financial thrillers out there, it is a fairly small genre. I’m not even certain that a would be sub-genre, personal finance thrillers, has any entrants. If so, it has to be a minute number.

While I enjoy running my blog, RetirementSavvy.net, I was looking for a different way to be more creative and communicate with those interested in personal finance; something different from the blog or my first book, RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit, a non-fiction ‘how to’ book on preparing for retirement.

The idea behind the book was simple; communicate personal finance concepts and ideas within the framework of a fictional thriller.
The execution was more difficult. I wanted to avoid simply ‘plugging’ personal finance concepts and practices  into a story. I wanted to share them is such a way that they fit naturally into the story and are easily absorbed by the reader as the tale unfolds. Taking on the challenge intrigued me.

The story’s protagonist, 20 year old Marcus, faces the same challenges many other Millennials are now confronting: building and maintaining an emergency fund, controlling debt and saving for retirement.

Two years out of high school, Marcus yearns to go to college, recognizing that despite the costs, a college degree still generally provides the best path to the middle class and beyond. However, he has no desire to take on the onerous debt often required to earn a degree in 21st century America. Moreover, his minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant ensures he will never be able to live a middle class life and save for college. His answer? Work part-time in a criminal activity to build and maintain an emergency fund, save money for college and establish a foundation – via a Roth IRA – for retirement. Unfortunately, this activity brings him into contact with the story’s antagonist, Caine; suspense, tension and violence ensues.The three personal finance practices alluded to previously are weaved into the story:

Emergency Funds:  This is a cash account that is used only in the event of an emergency, to fill critical financial gaps, or meet unexpected expenses. It is immediate access to cash that allows individuals to take care of unforeseen circumstances without impacting the money they have committed to saving and investing. Individuals that fail to build and maintain such a fund often find themselves relying on credit cards to overcome emergencies and subsequently incur more debt.

Debt: Particularly student loan debt is troublesome for Millennials. A recent TransUnion study found that a decade ago, student loans accounted for only 12.9% of the total debt load carried by people ages 20 to 29. It now stands at 36.8%. Moreover, the average student loan balance for those with loans jumped to $29,575 from only $17,442 in 2005. Student loan and credit card debt is killing Millennials. If a young person is constantly focused on debt, they are not in a position to save and invest for financial goals such as buying a home or saving for retirement.

Retirement Savings: For those that fail to recognize, and use, the power of time and compound interest, or are unable to take advantage of the phenomenon because of existing requirements to service debt, time soon becomes the enemy. Too often those that have failed to invest sufficiently during their 30s and 40s assume that they will simply work longer; work past the traditional retirement age. Numerous recent studies have shown that a majority of workers are now planning to work past the age of 65, many are planning to work past age 70 and some have no plans to ever retire. However, the decision to work may not be up to the individual. Changes in the economic environment or health related issues often force people out of the workforce earlier than desired. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that people develop and start funding a retirement plan as soon as possible, ideally in their 20s.

I hope you will give the book a look. Did we just have a Dr. Seuss moment? I believe so. Anyway, I hope you will take the time to read the book and let me know, through providing a review at Amazon or dropping by my blog, if I was able to pull off weaving personal finance ideas and concepts into the framework of a thriller, in an engaging way.

The hustle is on! Cream City Hustle is now available at Amazon.

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