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"Unscramble' is a bit scrambled up

(ran HC, HP editions)

How to Unscramble your Nest Egg, by John J. Cunningham (Contemporary Books, Chicago), 1994, 230 pages, $11.95.

Reviewed by ROBERT BRUSS

Despite the misleading title of this new book, it is about reducing your home mortgage and saving thousands of interest dollars. To illustrate, author John J. Cunningham gives the example of his sister and her husband who were contemplating refinancing their home loan. Instead, he suggested paying the $3,000 loan fee to reduce their mortgage balance, thus saving $59,000 of interest and cutting their loan by 15 years. Sounds simple. But it is not.

"We can no longer borrow ourselves rich," Cunningham says. He advocates shifting from lazy debt to hard-working debt which earns profits for the borrower. "It's an overall philosophy, the Zen of home ownership," Cunningham says.

I'm not sure what this new book is really about. At first I thought it was about how to save thousands of interest dollars on your mortgage. It is. But then the author launches into a chapter called "Sanctuary" about home as a place of safety. Either the author is very brilliant, or he is very strange.

This book requires the reader to be tolerant of the author, who tends to ramble about unrelated subjects. Finally, the author settles down to talk about home ownership and market value appreciation. Then he launches into "Home Economics" about the purchasing power of a home mortgage. Finally, he gets to explaining about the true cost of interest which, I think, is what this strange book is all about.

Finally, in chapter four, Cunningham discusses "principal acceleration" of paying off home mortgages faster than required. He explains the homeowner benefits of principal prepayments and why they save interest dollars. Some of the author's explanations are hard to grasp, but the general idea is the faster principal is paid off the lower the mortgage interest cost.

The book's first section deals with mortgage principal prepayments and the homeowner's ideal budget. The second section about myths and tips explains the mechanics of home mortgages and how to save money by outsmarting the lender.

This rambling book could have been cut in half if the author got to his point about saving interest on mortgages rather than wandering all over the countryside. The concept is great. But the explanation was weak.

On my scale of 1 to 10, this book rates only a 7 because of its unfocused writing style.

Robert J. Bruss is a nationally syndicated columnist on real estate. Write to him in care of the Tribune Media Syndicate, c/o the Times, 64 E Concord St., Orlando, FL 32801. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.