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Review: Financial Shock by Mark Zandi

Financial Shock is a timely read in in light of today's economic crisis. It has served me well in educating me as to the behind-the-scenes causes of the financial shock that we are all feeling. Dr. Mark Zandi, chief economist and cofounder of Moody's, gives simple and helpful advice on how to avoid/mitigate the damages of the next bursting bubbles. He ably identified time and time again that "Americans aren't as smart about money as we should be. Financial illiteracy was a fundamental cause of the subprime financial shock" (p. 236). This book, which is imminently readable, will go far to help educate any member of the public who spends the time to read it.

He begins the book with a very simply yet insightful summary of the recent history that led to the perfect storm. The remaining chapters go into detail on each one of the players. The book is full of helpful charts that convey simply pertinent information without confusion. Zandi is a master at making the complex understandable, at defining terms, and writing for the layperson (but I have no doubt that this would be helpful for the well-versed as well). Finally, although he misjudged the state of the market writing, "the worst of the crisis appears to be over," (published in July '08), he does give 10 "policy steps" based on all that he's written to help us fix this problem and to avoid or mitigate the damamges of bubble bursts in the future. This list will help you get a flavor for what he writes about in the previous chapters (don't worry if you don't understand the terminology - I didn't either - but if you read the book you will):

  1. Adopt a voluntary mortgage write-down policy
  2. Establish clear mortgage lending rules
  3. 3. License mortgage brokers
  4. 4. Expand data collection
  5. 5. Reform the fractured foreclosure process
  6. 6. Invest in financial literacy
  7. 7. Modify mark-to-market accounting
  8. 8. Raise financial transparency and accountability
  9. 9. Overhaul financial regulation
  10. 10. Pay attention to asset bubbles.

If I could summarize Financial Shock, it would be: Simply Helpful. Simple, but not Simplistic. And although it is writing about a scandal, it is not scandalous. History is used more to help us learn lessons than to point fingers. I have learned much from this book. It has given me the basis to digest most of what I'm reading in the paper and hearing on the news.

On a similar note, I found this roller coaster animation plotting housing prices exceptionally enlightening in regards to the financial state we find ourselves in (HT JT):

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