Book review: The RESP Book
There are typically two popular methods of writing a personal finance book aimed at the average investor. The first is in the form of a narrative using fictional characters- see the Wealthy Barber as exhibit A. The second is to simply present the facts and advise in a concise and pithy manner. After all, money is not a sexy topic to non Gordon Gekko type people.
Mike Holman, half the writing team behind Money Smarts Blog, has opted to adopt the latter in The RESP Book: The Complete Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans for Canadians. I don’t much blame him. Since a RESP is a type of program, rather than a product per se, it is hard for fictional characters to get worked up about how government rules and regulations work.
Despite the inherently dry nature of the topic, Holman manages to hit all the relevant points about a most important program for any household with children; as he points out, under the Canadian Education Savings Grant, the government is basically giving you money to be a contributing member of the program. Thus, it literally pays to understand the program properly.
Another reviewer indicated that much of the information found in the book could be retrieved on a government website. However, if one has tried to navigate any government website, it is pretty apparent that usability was not very high on the list of priorities. This is where the book thrives. It hits all the relevant points quickly and without much wasted build-up. Consider it more of an instruction manual than a book.
The value add of the book is derived from Holman’s background as a long-time financial blogger who understands the “why” questions is as important as the “what” question. Rather than pushing the program for the sake of pushing the program, he addressed honestly at the outset of the book why someone should not contribute to a RESP and places the strategy question first (“what are you goals?”) before the product question.
There are a few minor quibbles with the book. The book should have larger sections headings to break up the 13 chapters for easier navigation. Perhaps having read one too many tax books, there should be an appendix reviewing some of the tax effects of the RESP rules to accompany the account set-up checklist. The material is dense and it is easier to an overall reference page to refer to the rules. But, all in all, these are small details to an otherwise solid work.
I’ll be giving away one copy of The RESP Book. Post a comment by Friday midnight to win. Good luck.