"Stop it. Just stop it," you said. "Stop with the personal finance books. Twelve ways to build my nest egg. Six ways to retire at 60. Sixty ways to retire at 6. What would the Buddha do with $5,000 and the right ETF? I can't take it anymore."
Well, you know what? Neither can they.
How much longer do you think the personal finance gurus, exhausted by their own rhetoric and embarrassed by their awkward wealth, can muster the energy, or the nerve, to counsel us bunglers? I give it six weeks.
In 2014, a mutant strain of empowerment and advice books will begin to spread, each with Zombie in the title, entirely without justification and solely as the deal closer. After five are published, the whole industry will implode, like one of those stars only Stephen Hawking can explain, and honestly not even then.
But what a five.
- "Confessions of a Frugal Zombie," by Nathaniel Scolari. One man’s obsession with saving. In a gradual retreat from society, the author becomes isolated from friends and colleagues who tire of being lectured on the perils of carrying credit card balances and the merits of credit unions over big banks. At 40 he begins to live full-time in his minivan, lurking in mall food courts for the leftovers and washing in fountains and streams. Over 12 years he saves 95 percent of everything he makes until he is fired at 52.
- “Wallow in Financial Misery, Zombie,” by Patti Sprecher. Rather than exhorting readers to take simple steps to achieve financial freedom, "Wallow" attacks the American cult of control and presumption that financial health is the ultimate goal of all individuals and societies. Each chapter begins with vignettes of a famous person who died in penury and a country that descended into debt: Poe and Portugal, Wilde and Italy, Gauguin and the U.S.
- "Investing Made Simple With Zombie Haiku," by Hiroki. A sampling:
Buying stocks at highs
And selling them at their lows
Is not a great move
That your company may match
Free money. Rejoice!
Think of a load fund
As your very own ball, chain
Hurts thinking of it
- “The Secret of Retirement,” by Annabel Siegel Zombie. Remember “nothing books” -- looked like a regular book but all the pages were blank? Here, each page has just one word on it. Yes, it rhymes with rave. After reading the book for 50 years, you can buy the next one in the series. Rhymes with desire.
- "We're So Sorry, Everyone," by Some Zombies. A compilation of sincere apologies from all of the major participants in the 2008 financial collapse who have complicated your personal finances yet somehow themselves are not reduced to keeping receipts for dish soap and making turkey sandwiches to bring to work like you are and none of whom can fall back on the excuse that they were bitten by the undead. Maybe they should have been.
Suzanne Woolley is personal finance editor of Bloomberg.com.