Back to the Black by Michael MacMahon

Cover of Back to the BlackThankfully, I didn’t read this book because I’m hugely in debt, but if I were, it would be an invaluable resource to help me recover.

I think it’s a good idea for everyone to read books like this now and again, to nip bad financial management habits in the bud, and to realise how easy it is to slip into deep debt. I’d put the advice in this book on a par with the wonderful Alvin Hall’s books and broadcasts on personal financial management, but with a more British angle and with the added advantage of being written from the perspective of someone who has himself been to the edge of bankruptcy and back.

The Voice of Experience

Michael J MacMahon, a lively septuagenarian still pursuing a portfolio career as a voice actor, speaker and coach, wrote his book after recovering from a disastrous financial position years ago. He has clearly done an enormous amount of research on the solutions. What makes his advice especially digestible is that it’s very personal and humane. MacMahon does his best to abolish the shame that one might feel if near bankrupt. He offers fellow-feeling and empathy rather than admonition and punishment.

In between dispensing serious guidance on recovery from debt, he shares numerous case studies demonstrating how easy it is to get into debt, with many of these examples showing that it’s not necessarily the debtor’s fault. This attitude deflects the focus from the reader’s feelings of shame and guilt, and clears the way for them to get on with the important process of recovery. He also adds lots of entertaining and memorable quotes from people in all walks of life about the value and role of money, adding some welcome comic relief and wry humour.

Choice of Solutions

Another benefit of this book is that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. Instead the author presents three different broad plans of action and helps the reader to decide which one suits their own personality. He also shares many details of his own recovery and talks about what suited him, without insisting that it’s the only way.

This is a deeply practical book, including lots of useful contact details plus templates for letters to be used at different stages of the recovery process.

The author has clearly remained in sound financial shape and retained the good habits that he had to learn the hard way. That he is apparently happier and more fulfilled in his current state may be taken as proof of the wisdom and genuineness of his advice.

For Richer, For Poorer

For such a thorough, personal and practical book, I reckon this is excellent value. No matter what your level of debt is, I’d recommend it as a justifiable investment in your recovery. If you’re in debt, it’s likely to become your bible to help you get Back to the Black – and if you’re not in debt, read it all the same, to help you stay there!

For more information about the author, visit his website., where he blogs about financial matters and much more.

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