Emily Guy Birken is a former educator and lifelong money nerd who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books: “The Five Years Before You Retire,” “Choose Your Retirement,” “Making Social Security Work for You,” and her newest title “End Financial Stress Now.” Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Kiplinger’s, MSN Money, and The New York Times online.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book was nearly 10 years in the making. I’ve been thinking about how we think about money for a long time, ever since I read the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and it helped me realize that we are all working with a different set of assumptions about things we think of as rational choices. This led me to reading more about behavioral economics and how it interacts with our money decisions.
What is your book about?
My book is an examination of the ways that we are irrational about money and how making better and more logical financial decisions can help us ease our money stress.
What one key takeaway you hope someone gets by reading your book?
I hope that every reader will come away from the book with a clearer understanding of why they make the money choices they make so they can align their financial choices with their values.
Who should read this book?
Anyone who has felt stressed about money will learn from this book–which means everyone!
What are you working on now?
I’m taking some time to work on a novel that I’ve had on the back burner for nearly a decade.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Social media is the bane of the modern writer’s existence. I often have to use apps that limit my ability to log onto social media sites to make sure I don’t fritter away my writing time on liking my best friend’s uncle’s breakfast post.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Exercise is one of the best ways to work through a writer’s block. If I’m having trouble finding the right way to put something or I simply can’t figure out what I want to say, a brisk walk will often help break through my mental block. Also, my sister is one of the smartest people I know and talking through a writing problem with her is invaluable. Everyone should have such an awesome sister. If the combination of exercise and sister talk don’t solve my writer’s block, I put it aside and move on.
What does your writing space look like?
We just moved to Milwaukee last year, and I’m very lucky to have a dedicated office in our new house.
I have plenty of room for books, files, and an L-shaped desk configuration so I can hand write on the same space where I have my computer.
What are your top three favorite books of all time?
This is a very difficult question for me to answer! I’m an avid reader, and even books I didn’t particularly enjoy will often stay with me for years and offer me new ways of looking at the world.
If I had to narrow it down to just three favorites, I’d say my favorite books within my career field are Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. Predictably Irrational is an excellent introduction to behavioral economics and the weird and wonderful ways it makes us tick, and Your Money or Your Life will help you to better understand how you can be in charge of your money and achieve financial independence.
Outside of personal finance, the fiction of Barbara Michaels (who was also known as Elizabeth Peters) are among my favorite books to return to again and again.
Where can people find you?