As I've griped about on occasion, I'm in a long-time span of unemployment … five years last week. So, the concept of being able to score some free-floating funds certainly appealed to me, and being able to snag a copy of this for a buck was great. You've no doubt heard that the author here has recently been sentenced to prison for 10 years, lucking out that his conviction was for “criminal contempt” rather than for fraud, which (his already having a couple of felonies racked up) could have ended up with 25 years of incarceration. With the awareness that this was one slippery character, I slogged into reading Kevin Trudeau's Free Money "They" Don't Want You to Know About. As far as I know, he's not been brought to task for the contents of this book (unlike some of his other “They” titles), although I've read a few things on the web where people have complained that they were outright scammed by organizations recommended in here … which is a bit unsettling.
One thing I'll give Trudeau: his style is light, engaging, and with just enough humor to take the edge off some of the more grim scenarios. If you didn't know any backstory on the guy, you'd like him … I'm guessing that this is one of those books which was recorded to video and transcribed, as most of the expository parts sound very much like you're sitting around listening to him chat. There has also been some good amount of research involved here. Sure, most of the info could be found in a few hours on the web, but there's a lot of data in here, and numerous links for other info, be it news stories, or specific URLs for government sites that might not be so easy to dig up on one's own.
He repeatedly “baits the hook” with his insistence (and quotes from various sources backing him up) on how many billions of dollars get lost in the shuffle out there, and how many programs, both public and private, exist to distribute other billions of dollars. Trudeau is obviously no fan of the “They” groups in the world, and in this case he points fingers at the Congress, whose habit of stuffing bills full of obscure “pork” (which they then only inform their “in crowd” of), creates hard-to-find resources that are intended (despite the wording on the bills) to not be available to the “average Joe”.
I actually tried one of the services he recommends early on, http://missingmoney.com, a service of a group called the “National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators”, which seems legit. I struck out completely with that search (nothing even close to me in their system), but it was pretty easy and straight forward … and I anticipate that a good number of similar things are legit and useable in here. But some (as noted above) aren't, and the problem is sorting out the services from the scams.
Of course, that's supposedly what the book's about … bringing together a lot of info from a lot of sources, saving you the trouble of digging it up on your own. I'm thinking that if one wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, and was uncomfortable with doing research, this book could be very appealing … and he certainly sold a ton of them. There are 24 chapters here, most dealing with a particular area where one might find “free money” … Savings Bonds, Bank Accounts, Tax Refunds/Credits/Etc., Pensions, Life Insurance, Veterans Benefits, Social Security, Class Action Suits, and more. In that part of the book, he does raise the reasonably plausible scenario that one's parents might have had some pension from an old job that didn't end up being updated, and that (and similar sorts of money) might still be out there. The next part of the book was about finding free stuff, medical care, legal help, and the like. One very odd thing in this is that he puts in fourteen pages of small print listings for legal services in California … yes, it does give the impression of just how much stuff is out there, but serves very little purpose in the book, where it's useless to the rest of the country … and the URL should have sufficed!
Also, my impression with these “legal services” were that the average middle class person fallen on hard times was unlikely to get much help there … I was reminded of a time when an eastern European friend had been out of work in Chicago for a couple of years, and was trying to get some housing help for his family, and was told “that's not for you!” by the clerk in the appropriate government office, although he fit all the qualifications (coming from a socialist state, he was enraged at the “minority politics” in play here). Needless to say, my cynical side kept coming up, in reading these parts, with a lot of “like that's gonna happen!” moments – but that's in Chicago, you mileage may vary if you're in, say, Montana somewhere.
He then moves into looking at options about housing, ways to reduce your mortgage and loan payments, etc., and a lot of stuff about HUD and other groups that, again, sounded pretty Pollyanna-esque for my part of the world. But, again, there's enough solid info here (if approaching “common knowledge” on what one should be doing financially), that it doesn't read as something wasting the reader's time (let alone a scam).
Towards the end he addresses Grants and Foundations … noting examples of some that are pretty narrow-focused (one offering grants for classical music grad students “who need additional specific coaching lessons to make their professional debut”), listing several dozen specific groups, and pointing the reader to resources (at the library) for more info. There's info on several government programs in there too … such as a National Security program that provides graduate fellowships “to study languages and cultures that are deemed important to to U.S. National security” (I wonder how many of those markers got called in for the Urdu students over the past couple of decades).
Free Money certainly isn't a magic tome that's going to unlock the treasure cave for most folks, but if one is “research impaired” it could be useful in getting pointed to place that might be helpful. On the other hand, Trudeau is a noted scamster, and there are stories of people being taken by groups that he recommends in the book. Admittedly, most of the complaints are from people ordering the book from the infomercials … and since it's available elsewhere, that's a sucker bet. Now, the copy I found at the dollar store is the original 2009 version, and there's a new 2014 update out there … which you can get through Amazon, but it evidently is just them selling through (at full cover) the book from Trudeau's organization (which would at least save you from inflated shipping and “mystery charges” to your credit card). It's available for a couple of bucks “like new” from the used vendors, but I can't really recommend this to anybody. It's not a bad read, but the info it has isn't some economic panacea, and there's the whole “scam” thing going on … so only consider this at your own risk.
Or, as Patti Smith put it:
See those dollar bills go swirling 'round my bed.
I know they're stolen, but I don't feel bad.
I take that money, buy you things you never had.