The Bank Book

“The corner bank is going the way of the corner drugstore,” write Naphtali Hoffman and Stephen Brobeck. The consumer is being bombarded with new savings options and unsolicited offers of credit. The average individual, who cannot afford to retain a certified public accountant or a money manager, is bewildered and may be wasting money in several directions--getting less than optimum interest on savings, paying out more than necessary on loans, and being gouged with mysterious fines and fees.

Reading THE BANK BOOK, subtitled HOW TO GET THE MOST FOR YOUR BANKING DOLLARS, is like finding somebody in a foreign country who speaks your own language. Its eleven chapters contain a wealth of information and advice on such subjects as how to select the best checking, savings, and NOW accounts (interest-bearing checking accounts); how to use electronic banking services; where to find inexpensive credit cards; how to evaluate savings options, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs), certificates of deposits (CDs), and money market accounts; how to get the best installment loans and mortgages; and whether to refinance.

Naphtali Hoffman is an associate professor of economics, and Stephen Brobeck is the executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. They believe that federal deregulation has been good because increased competition among financial institutions should continue to benefit the public in terms of yields, costs, and services. One of their major purposes in writing THE BANK BOOK, however, was to demonstrate the need for new disclosure laws similar to the Truth-in-Lending Act of 1968.

The book is well organized and well indexed, so that the reader can turn directly to the page dealing with his specific money worry. Almost every chapter is headed with a box titled “Recommendations” containing distilled financial wisdom. The book is published in paperback, probably because the volatility of today’s fiercely competitive banking industry will make some of its data obsolete within a year or two. At present it is the best book of its kind available.