Young alum pens practical money strategy book for Gen Y, other readers

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State alumna Farnoosh Torabi's book may be simultaneously the most reader-flattering and trendy personal finance book title ever written.

"You're So Money: Live Rich Even When You're Not" offers a light read but a hefty amount of user-friendly advice especially for, but not limited to, Generation Y young professionals and Millennials. Chapters cover everything from savvy day-to-day purchases -- clothing, meals, cell phone plans -- to long-term investing recommendations based on the reader's life goals. The author's goal was to write an encouraging advice book (no finger-waggling allowed) that could help guide young people to live within their means without feeling like they're sacrificing the things they appreciate most.

Torabi works as a virtual on-air host of "Wall Street Confidential" for finance and business site thestreet.com TV, where she frequently interviews seasoned Wall Street expert and CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer. She's also a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine and former writer for Money and Time magazines and New York's Daily News and Newsday newspapers, and has been a featured guest on CNN, ABC, MSNBC, Fox news and Fox Business News. She is a homeowner (not a renter) in Manhattan. She completed her master's degree, wiped out any trace of credit card debt and finished her first book … all within six years of completing her undergraduate degree in finance and international business at Penn State, in 2002.

The idea for a book, she said, came to her during a reflective moment. "I was having a nice dinner with a friend in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, experiencing a snapshot of my 'good life' -- pinot noir, delicious seafood and a Manhattan ZIP code. I was just 25 years old and making $46,000 a year -- a salary that’s not terribly 'good life' on paper when you think of the pricey living costs in New York City," she explained.

"But somehow I’d managed to strike a balance between living a fiscally responsible life -- my student loans were being managed, I’d wiped off credit card debt and bought an apartment in Manhattan -- and living it up in my 20s, enjoying restaurant meals, 'mani/pedis' and a growing shoe closet," Torabi continued. "I was surely no rocket scientist, so I knew my money methods, a byproduct of being a financial journalist and parents who knew how to stretch a dollar, could apply to all my peers. So I grabbed a pen and paper."

Printing a financial advice book for the Internet and cell-phone generation took a bit of convincing. After meetings with nearly a dozen publishers, some of whom had ideas to publish the content exclusively online, she landed a deal that would use the book as a springboard for further advice venues -- online, television, radio and other publications. Farnoosh Torabi is a name to watch and a voice to heed. She knows her stuff -- and her audience.

"The young adults in Gen Y want what they want, when they want it. Our parents, meantime, have been more adept in 'building a nest egg' " -- and delaying gratification, she explained. "Today, with the widespread availability of credit cards and the pressures of living in a material world, Gen Y absolutely has a more challenging time with money and its purchasing decisions. Not to mention, Gen Y had little to no financial education, generally speaking, growing up. We didn’t witness economic crises like our parents might have, from '70s inflation, or our grandparents, from the Great Depression."

But Torabi insists her book's advice can apply to anyone, not just the under-30 crowd.

"The underlying philosophy of 'You’re So Money,' which is that money is best managed when you have a clear sense of direction and sense of self, is applicable to people of all stages in life," she said. "Also, the tricks to saving and being a smart consumer are important for everyone to embrace."

Torabi comes by her knowledge honestly. She uses her own financial moves and missteps as examples, often humorously, to demonstrate lessons she shares with her readers. She acknowledges that one of her biggest mistakes is something she has corrected by having written the book -- "not communicating with my friends about money and my money struggles.

"I’m not saying I wish I had cried on my friend’s shoulder when I was $4,000 in credit card debt after grad school," she explained. "Rather, I wish I had known the value in discussing my confusions and questions with my peers, who were likely in my same shoes, as well. We can be a great community for each other. It may seem awkward and a bit embarrassing to reveal our mistakes and our over-spending tendencies -- but it’s important to have an open dialogue to make sense of it all and work through the problems. I want my readers to know that they should seek the advice of those they trust -- be it their peers, parents or mentors."

One of her mentors is Cramer, who she describes as the hardest-working person she knows and an inspiration and motivation for her: "When I feel tired in the morning and I’m dragging my feet into work at 8 a.m., I think, 'Jim has worked out, filed three stories and probably had a breakfast meeting already. I have no excuse.' "

She said she also appreciates Cramer's engaging, entertaining approach to educating people about money matters, without compromising that education for a "cheap laugh." (Incidentially, "You're So Money" includes a foreword and investing tips by Cramer.)

Cramer demonstrated that balance of educator and entertainer when he kicked off his annual College Tour at Penn State, which aired live from University Park on March 26, and it was Torabi's connection to him that brought "Mad Money" to campus.

"Jim just loves visiting college campuses as much as young adults are crazy for his show. I told Jim that he has a huge fan base at Penn State -- and it was clear from the audience in March. I also told him about the fantastic Nittany Lion Fund, and he was just blown away," she said. "I also told him about the possibility of great CEO guests who are former alumni. The fact that the CEO of U.S. Steel is a Penn State alumnus is so honorable -- and what an incredible guest he was! Plus, Jim grew up in Pennsylvania -- it didn’t take too much convincing!" she added.

Bottom line, Torabi noted, is that whether it is from her amusing personal examples, her Wall Street advisers or her self-deprecating writing style, she wants readers of "You're So Money" to learn at least one thing about managing their money. "Be honest with yourself. Understand your goals and prioritize what you want out of life and your ideal lifestyle. Stay focused in your mind and in your wallet."
 

Read an extended interview with Farnoosh Torabi at http://live.psu.edu/story/30687.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010