★ Rockstar Book Review: “Money Talks”

Review of: Money Talks
Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Reviewed by:
On April 7, 2017
Last modified:April 8, 2017


The ultimate "How To" book for just about any money conversation. Gail covers everything from emotional manipulation, to managing change, to addressing power and control issues.

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“Money Talks: When to Say Yes and How to Say No” by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

rockstar rating 5 stars

Who it’s for: If you need to have money conversations and find it difficult, this book’s for you. If you don’t think you need to have money conversations, this book’s still for you.

Readability: MEDIUM. At over 400 pages, this brick of a book can seem daunting, but three attributes give it its rating: the author’s conversational writing style, the heavy use of stories, and the organization of the information by type of discussion. Each section also contains numbered and bulleted lists, which adds to its usefulness as an ongoing reference.

What I liked about it: I L-O-V-E-D it all and found it hard to put down (let’s say I didn’t get a lot done for a few days). If you like tough love with just as much “love” as the “toughness” she doles out, you’ll enjoy Gail’s style. She’s what you would get if Oprah and Suze Orman were a single person (debit card scandal notwithstanding). She pulls no punches and manages to hug you at the same time… who does that?! And she understands that money issues aren’t really about the money. To Gail, money is what makes problems visible; it’s an amplifier of what’s really going on. That is, if we’re willing to look.

What I didn’t like about it: See above. :)

Where to find it:

Amazon @ $9.99 || Free @ the library :)

“Money Talks” Makes It Easier to Engage in Money Conversations We’d Otherwise Avoid

This book is the ultimate how-to book for just about any money conversation. Using an astounding seventy-five different scenarios organized in this eight-part book, Gail covers everything from emotional manipulation, to managing change, to addressing power and control issues.

“Money Talks” sounds like a nice hand-holding volume, unless you know a bit about the author. If you do, you’ve already figured out that the title is short for “Money Talks and Bullsh*t Walks”. To get a taste of what I’m talking about, you may want to YouTube this Jamaican-born Canadian author’s name (Gail Vaz-Oxlade) to see her in action. And yes, she writes as she speaks, which makes reading her work highly entertaining as well as informative.

What this book is not: Aside from a few appendices for reference, this book is not a nitty gritty how-to book about money management. You can consult some of her other books for that advice. This book is about addressing the need to take care of the tough stuff (the need to have difficult conversations and/or giving ourselves a much-needed reality check) that can prevent us from doing the easy stuff when it comes to money (saving more and spending less). The tough stuff is about understanding and managing emotions, self-deception and relationships. The easy stuff is nothing more than arithmetic once we’ve taken care of addressing the human element in the equation.

Given the very wide range of money conversations covered in this book, I won’t summarize its contents, but instead I want to talk about how the book helps us take action when it comes to our own money issues, or when it comes to helping those around us who struggle with their own.

This useful book:

  1. Helps us identify the root cause of the issues we’re dealing with
  2. Enables us to determine what the best course(s) of action is/are for us
  3. Gives us the tools to act on the decisions and, most importantly, follow through

#1. Identifying the Root Cause(s)

We use money (and other people’s money) as a tool, a salve, and a weapon for all sorts of reasons. Whether it’s figuring out why a friend or loved one can’t get on top of their finances, whether or not to lend someone money and under what circumstances, or in understanding our own illogical behavior(s). Gail invites us to ask the questions that help us get to the bottom of it.

And she often helps us achieve clarity by inviting us to look at our own situation from a third-party perspective (akin to looking at our situation in a dispassionate way, from the outside in). She helps us strip away the baggage to see how the resulting behavior is doing nothing other than helping us dig a bigger hole for ourselves. And, when we figure out the “why,” we can start addressing the “how” of getting back on track. Sometimes the evaluation is tough, but we can’t get anywhere without a good look in the mirror.

Money is a medium of exchange, that’s all. It’s what we use to complete our transactions. So money isn’t the problem. We are the problem. How we behave—what we do with our money and how we communicate about that behavior—is at the root of most of the challenges we face with, and blame on, money. (pg. 2)

#2. Determining the Best Course(s) of Action

Once we’ve taken an honest look at our situation and what got us there (sense of obligation, resentment, entitlement, secrecy, manipulation, wanting to keep a small business afloat), it’s time to take action. Gail doesn’t mince words. She tells us what to do from start-to-finish and what to expect along the way. Knowing this action plan is half the battle.

The book includes step-by-step instructions on how to do everything from setting up a money intervention, to evaluating the viability of a small business, to dealing with delusion (our own or someone else’s), even down to the actual wording we would want to use!

If you put wants before needs, if you have no goals, if you can’t see the big picture and don’t have the gumption to do the hard work to achieve what you want from your life, then you’ll likely make your self-fulfilling prophecy come true. (pg. 274)

#3. Following Through

Some of the advice we can find within the pages of this book go as far as the “then what” beyond a suggested course of action, usually with a set deadline(s) for re-evaluation (payment schedule, check ins, if/then pre-determined decisions).

That helpful assistance aside, when it comes to follow through, the message is clear: it’s rarely, if ever, about the money. And, as long as the one(s) suffering are not willing to acknowledge that it’s not about the money, there’s little anyone can do other than refusing to enable the delusion, the self-pity and the blaming of outside sources of the money troubles. Hard as it is, Gail emphasizes that refusing to help can be the greater act of compassion because we all have to hit our own level of discomfort before waking up to reality. And it’s usually better for people to “hit bottom” sooner than later.

Often, hanging on to a delusion is easier than coming to terms with reality. Living in denial is easier than facing up to the facts… Eventually, the dream will evaporate and you’ll be left holding a bag of warm, soft, smelly stuff. (pg. 210)

The Bottom Line

When it comes to money and relationship issues, Gail tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. She then arms us with the playbook we need to plan and have the tough conversations—with ourselves and others—we so often avoid. It’s tough love at its best.

Where you can find the book: Amazon @ $9.99
Where you can find the author: gailvazoxlade.com

Other books on money conversations: “One Bed, One Bank Account” by Derek and Carrie Olsen and “The Recovering Spender” by Lauren Greutman, “Findependence Day” by Jonathan Chevreau, and “Spent” by Avis Cardella.

Book suggestions regarding money and behavior: “The Behavior Gap” by Carl Richards, “Happy Money” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, “Your Money of Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, and “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton

Other suggested books by Gail Vaz-Oxlade: “Debt-Free Forever” for those of us needing to address our debt step by step, and “CEO of Everything” (her latest book) for those among us who find themselves single and in need of some non-judgmental hand holding.


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Hélène is Rockstar Finance’s Curator of Books, and Blogger at FreetoPursue.com. A perpetual student, speaker, writer and coach, you’ll often find her reading, researching or writing. She also likes travelling and hanging out with her husband and their greyhound Belle.

Last modified: April 8, 2017

5 Responses to :
★ Rockstar Book Review: “Money Talks”

  1. Taemoo says:

    I’m a huge fan of Gail! I’ve never read any of her books but used to watch her show ‘Til Debt Do Us Part religiously on CNBC. Looking forward to reading this recommendation

    1. J. Money says:

      Oh yeah! Forgot about that show! Hope you enjoy the read :)

    2. I L-O-V-E “‘Til Debt Do Us Part”. While reading this book and preparing this review I watched a number of episodes on YouTube, along with a number of interviews with Gail on various networks and online.
      It’s easy to see how she has become so knowledgeable in the psychology of money, both for the individual and for families in general.

      If you like Gail’s style, you’ll likely like her writing style…they’re virtually identical. It’s as though she’s right in the room giving you your own private lessons on a number of money and relationship topics.
      When I got to the last page, I was left craving more: more stories, more powerful insights, more Gail. I’d say that’s the best complaint I could possibly have about a book that clocks in at over 400 pages!

  2. Tucker says:

    Her Money Moron show was good, too. Princess was more meh. I enjoy her shows more than her books but her book on RESPs was super short and taught me a lot about how to navigate that little-known quagmire. Money-Smart kids was good, too. I am kind of sad that her blog is now defunct as I often loved the convos in the comments.

    1. I wish her blog were still active too. I have to say that “Money Talks” reminded me a great deal of her shows, more than “Debt-Free Forever” did. It’s more about navigating human nature and calling out BS, which is where Gail shines and sets herself apart from the rest.

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