More Than Money
Issue #33

Embracing The Gift

Table of Contents

“Culture: Squandering Aimlessly: My Adventures in the American Marketplace”

Reviewed by Gretchen Kinder

Squandering Aimlessly: My Adventures in the American Marketplace
By David Brancaccio (Simon and Schuster, 2000)

"As a host of a public radio program about money, I am asked all the time what to do with it." So starts Squandering Aimlessly by David Brancaccio, host of "Marketplace," produced by Minnesota Public Radio. Intrigued by the ecstatic financial choices made by many new lottery winners, Brancaccio undertook ten "pilgrimages" across the United States to learn more about our nation's cultural and financial ethos. The result? An amusing, insightful, and engaging book about money, values, power, and impact.

Squandering Aimlessly tells the stories of characters Brancaccio meets on his trips to a variety of locales, including the New York Stock Exchange; Levittown, Long Island; the "SRI in the Rockies" conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; the Biosphere between Tuscon and Phoenix, Arizona; and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Brancaccio deftly weaves together interviews, his own personal reflections, and economic analysis to challenge popular cultural assertions about giving, investing, spending, saving, retirement planning, home ownership, work, earning-and even gambling! At the end of each road trip (corresponding to the end of each chapter), Brancaccio presents an economic analysis of each interviewee's decisions. He also reflects on what he learned from the trip, and the action steps he is motivated to take when he returns home.

At the core of this book is the message that our use of financial resources-be it the $17,000 Brancaccio himself blew in an ill-planned venture to launch a foreign news bureau or the billion dollars that Texas businessman Rod Kennedy lost running the Kerrville Folk Festival-is intimately related to who we are as people. To avoid squandering aimlessly, Brancaccio suggests, each of us needs to take time to figure out what makes us tick.


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