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Smart Is the New Rich: If You Can't Afford It, Put It Down

ISBN: 978-0-470-64206-1
320 pages
October 2010
Smart Is the New Rich: If You Can


A practical way to think about money today

Author and CNN veteran money correspondent Christine Romans believes we should live by three qualifiers: living within our means, living with less debt, and being less vulnerable. While some may say this is old-fashioned, today it's hard to argue with Romans' view.

Smart is the New Rich explores how adopting a new approach to money can lead to a healthier financial lifestyle. Each chapter opens with a question about money to begin the conversation about earning, saving, spending, growing, and protecting your money. Using checklists and quizzes, Romans guides you through the "New Normal," helping you to think differently about your money and relearning good habits for prosperity.

  • Reexamines the money rules abandoned during the consumer bubble and poses the essential questions we should ask ourselves before spend our money
  • Provides an interactive, step-by-step guide to all things money, from credit, debt, and savings to investing, taxes, and mortgages
  • A companion Web site allows you to chat with other readers about jobs, mortgage rates, investing, and saving

For thirty years, the financial rules for life revolved around abundant credit. That bubble has burst. Smart is the New Rich addresses why these rules no longer apply, and reveals what it will take to make the right money choices moving forward.

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Table of Contents




Chapter 1 Reset, Repair, Recover.


The Retro Reset.

Repair the Balance Sheet.


The Payoff.

Chapter 2 Spending Your $$$$$.

Going Retro.

Living Beyond Their Means.

The Value Consumer.

The Recession-Weary.

The Conspicuous Consumer.

A Fool and His Money.

Be a Good Steward.

Retro Spending Rules.

The Payoff.

Chapter 3 Your Job.

Turning the Corner.

Top of Your Game Every Day.

Take a Pay Cut?

Switching Careers.

Where Are the Jobs?

Location, Location, Location.


Good Pay, No Degree.

Green-Collar Jobs.

You’ve Just Lost Your Job.

You Have a Job—Protect It.

You Think Layoffs Are Coming.

The Permalancer.

Long-Term Unemployed.

No Job Yet? Write It Off.

The Payoff.

Chapter 4 Debt.

Miracle or Mirage?

Sit on an Apple Box.

Generation Debt.

Respect Credit, Pay Off Debt.

The Dreaded Score.

Student Loans.

$200 Saved Now or Pay $396 Later.

Keeping Down College Costs.

Student Loan Defaults.

Mortgage Debt.

Will Borrowing Costs Rise?

The Payoff.

Chapter 5 Credit Cards.

Credit Card “Rich.”

New Rules, Rights, and Traps.

Credit Card Gotchas.

Debt Free in Three.

Card Payment Strategies.

Cutting Up the Cards.

Debt Revolt.

Boring Is Better.

Debtor Beware.

The Payoff.

Chapter 6 Home Sweet Home.



Mortgage Rate versus Home Price.

Getting a Loan.

The Fancy Kitchen Dream.


Losing a Home.

The Inevitable Scams.

The Payoff.

Chapter 7 Save, Invest, Retire.

Good Steward.

The Proverbial Rainy Day.

Getting Started, Starting Over.

Finding Your Magic Number.

Fixing Your 401(k).

Sabotaging Your Retirement.

Stay Focused.


The Payoff.

Chapter 8 Family Money.

Lead by Example.

Take Out the Trash!

Generation Y.

Paying for College.

Sandwich Generation.

Caring for a Parent.

’Til Debt Do Us Part.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.

The Payoff.

Chapter 9 Health Care.

Reform and You.

Under 26 Years Old.

State Health Exchanges.


FSA Changes.

Hospital Responsibility.

Health Care as Livelihood.

The Payoff.

Chapter 10 Small Business.

The Disappearing Banker.

“I Can Create Jobs!”

Social Butterfly.

Shop Local.

Cupcake Sisters.

Yes to Carrots.

Find the Money.

The Payoff.

Chapter 11 Government.

United States of Bailouts.

They Got It Wrong.

Spend, Spend, Spend.

The Payoff.

Appendix A Cover Letters: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

Appendix B Web Resources.


About the Author.


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Author Information

CHRISTINE ROMANS is the host of CNN’s Your $$$$$, as well as a featured correspondent on the network’s American Morning and CNN International. She is a former correspondent for both Moneyline and Lou Dobbs Tonight, and spent several years reporting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. In 2004, she received an Emmy Award for her reporting on Exporting America, a Lou Dobbs Tonight investigation into the impact of globalization on U.S. workers. Prior to joining CNN, Romans reported for Reuters and Knight-Ridder Financial News.
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Press Release

October 12, 2010
SMART IS THE NEW RICH: If You Can't Afford It, Put it Down

Your personal economic recovery is at hand, but to succeed you’ll need to master the new rules of personal finance to rebuild your wealth again, says CNN’s Christine Romans in SMART IS THE NEW RICH: IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT—PUT IT DOWN (Wiley, October 2010; $24.95; Hardcover). The good news is that these new rules aren’t so new at all: They are the time-proven rules forgotten in the financial excesses of the past two decades. Even better, anyone can master the new rules. Romans says your time for prosperity has come again.

Everything has changed – the rules on the credit cards in your wallet, the way you pay for college, the security on the job, everything. With so much out of your control, Romans zeroes in on what readers can control in this New Normal. SMART IS THE NEW RICH shows readers how to live within their means and with less debt and at the same time, not go without. Ultimately, this new lifestyle will make consumers less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the economy and the marketplace and better prepared for a rosy retirement.

SMART IS THE NEW RICH guides you through the New Normal in personal finance and reassures you that, yes, smart decisions today will help you build and prepare for retirement. Roman covers a vast array of issues—including job-hunting, debt, taxes, home  ownership, savings and investment, credit cards, and small businesses and entrepreneurship—and how they affect you and your future happiness.

Among the many recommendations SMART IS THE NEW RICH suggests:

  • If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. If you can’t afford it, put it down. It’s as simple as that. Learn the three key questions you must ask anytime you part with your cash to make a purchase.
  • Think of money like nutrition. Prolific and random spending is the financial equivalent of eating junk food. It might feel good at the time, but it hurts you in the long run and then limits your options later in life. Spend prudently, save wisely and you’ll be financially better-off in the long run—and happier, too.
  • Always save first. SMART IS THE NEW RICH helps you figure out how much to save and more importantly, how to find the money in your budget. Discover dozens of ways to put away more of your hard-earned income and make it more productive.
  • Become debt-free in three. If you’ve got credit card debt, it’s time to set the goal to be credit card debt-free in three years (or less). Learn what steps you need to take to make credit a powerful wealth-building tool instead of a crushing financial burden.
  • Don’t deny yourself. Thankfully, this is not the Great Depression and we are not Depression consumers and don’t have to be. Smart consumers don’t live extravagantly. They know the difference between needs and wants. The key is to know what you can live without.
  • Find, keep and excel at your job. Face it: it will be along time before all those jobs come back. SMART IS THE NEW RICH outlines which college majors have the most jobs and best pay, which careers offer six-figure income and don’t require a college degree, and which fields offer the best choices for retraining. You need to be smarter than ever to survive in today’s labor market. 

At the end of each of the ten short chapters, there is a summary called “The Payoff” for a quick read if you want the salient facts, the best advice, and a sharp perspective quickly. An appendix lists dozens of websites that can help you find the information you need to further help you turn your finances around. 

“My hope,” says Christine Romans, “is that SMART IS THE NEW RICH doesn’t end for you on the last page, but instead starts a running conversation between you and your spouse, your kids, and your parents about how to smartly prepare for a rich future.”

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