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The Only Personal Finance Books You Should Ever Have to Read In Your Life

NEW TO ALL OF THIS PERSONAL FINANCE STUFF?

All my money posts are here and sorted by sub-categories.

ON TO THE BOOKS!

I’ve been reading personal finance books on and off over the years, starting around 2006.

As a result I’ve read both bad and good books but about 98% of them have not made it into my personal PF book vault of “MUST READ AND KEEP”.

I’ve been asked a number of times over the years to recommend books, so while I am obviously biased towards certain styles of writing or topics, here are my personal finance book recommendations.

I’ve placed them in order of difficulty to understand for someone totally brand new to money management, and they are not ALL about investing or saving or budgeting, so don’t worry.

Some of them are actually fun to read.

(And yes, I will be buying copies for my children to read as they get older and updating this page as I see fit.)

Here goes!

These are the books I’ve written on money::

http://amazon.com/author/saverspender


https://www.likeabossbooks.com/investing

1. The Millionaire Next Door

by Thomas J. Stanley 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0671015206/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0671015206&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

It’s pretty easy to read.

Full of anecdotes about ordinary folks who just saved their money to become millionaires and filled with a lot of statistics and numbers about how much millionaires spend and where. It even has a few calculations like how much your net worth should be.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

It’s the first personal finance book I read after graduating with $60,000 in student debt.

It made me realize my mistakes of the past (spending rather frivolously for a college student), and before that time, I like my parents, thought that the only way you could ever become rich or a millionaire was to win the lottery.

Other Reads:

Still, this is one of those books that either it changed your life, or it didn’t really make an impact on you.

For me, it changed my life because before that book, I never thought about saving, money or retirement or even having a path towards wealth. Heck, I didn’t even know what net worth meant.

CAVEATS:

As mentioned above, it is a love-it or leave-it kind of book for people.

People either gush about it (me), or find it kind of annoying.

It’s a good book to start with if you are really starting out in money management and are curious as to how someone could plausibly earn a normal income and become a millionaire.

It will NOT teach you how to budget or do anything specific, but it will get you into the mindset and understanding of how you can think about your money going forward, which for me, is the first step in gaining any kind of understanding about your money.

Thomas J. Stanley has built a very lucrative career on this millionaire thing, and has written quite a series on millionaires after having written this classic original, but they’re pretty much all re-hashes of this book.

Don’t get me wrong, I still read all of them, but I wasn’t learning anything new..

I just like reading new anecdotes or stories.

2. Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value and How to take Advantage of it

by William Poundstone

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0809078813/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0809078813&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

VERY easy to read.

This is a book that will teach you what it means to spend money and how retailers trick you into spending money.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

I read it in 2012 and loved it.


I know it seems like an odd choice for a personal finance / money management book, but I think a lot of us struggle with the concept of saving enough and spending less which are two sides of the same coin.

Saving money is easy when you don’t spend it, and if you learn how to watch out for tricks that make you want to spend money on anything, be it a house, car, jewellery, clothes or what have you, then you will be more likely to understand and feel less likely to part with your hard earned money.

The best takeaway I got from the book was learning what were anchor pricing cues and how it affected my shopping.

CAVEATS:

Again, it will not teach you about budgeting, but it will help you get angry at yourself for being tricked by retailers and this spend-spend-spend mentality that is so prevalent in our society.

As mentioned with the book above, it will get you into the mindset and habit of  NOT wanting to spend and to save instead, which for me was the first step in money management.

3. Your Money or your Life

by Vicki Robin

book_your-money-or-your-life

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

EXTREMELY easy to read.

It won’t even feel like a money book.

It is more about rampant consumerism, clutter, minimalism and changing the mindset of how you look at money, and then it goes into getting you to prove to yourself that you’re wasting your “life energy” (e.g. money) on crap that doesn’t matter.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

Basically it’s Fight Club in a book format.

If you haven’t watched Fight Club, you should. It’s a movie that hides a lot of great money management / consumerism mindset principles in a very enjoyable way particularly because the actors and actresses are just so damn good.

Anyway, it didn’t because it came about 9 years too late for me!

I could have done with reading this earlier and would have probably reached my (current) lifestyle and conclusions sooner. I think it’s a really REALLY good book to read to jump start you into a life that is lived, rather than a lifestyle that is just to make money to buy stuff or to hoard your wealth like some Scrooge.

It talks about consumerism, clutter, consumption, and is more about addressing your approach and mindset towards money (very important to change), and even a little about HOW TO do things like budget and track your expenses.

The basic ideas are:

  • Money saved = Freedom
  • Work Less, Spend Less, Live More
  • Don’t be a money slave to your debts and things
  • If you work less for things you don’t want to buy to show off to people you don’t care about, you’ll be happier

Personally, I agree with the entire premise of the book and its ideals / principles, but it did have a few drawbacks for me reading it after having already changed my own life to live the way the book proposes you live.

CAVEATS:

It’s kind of a book on being frugal and has a distinct 1980s flair to it. I can’t pinpoint why I feel like it’s so retro but it must be the way it’s written.. the language, the styling.. it’s kind of old.

I did not really enjoy the anecdotes of people saving money in little ways, but I do understand why they’re in there, even if it made me think of scrimping on toilet paper to save a few cents.

See, I kind of enjoy buying stuff even as a minimalist so this was a bit of a “meh to each their own” thing, but I can see how it’s really motivational to people who don’t consider what they buy.

(e.g. I love clothes and spend good money on it, but I would pretty much be burned at the stake for saying so if I wanted to become an “FI”‘er (FI = Financial Independence)

The book cover and title kind of sucks (it does..!). It isn’t catchy enough. It should be called: Work Less, Spend Less, Stop being a Slave to Money and Live More.

I found it a bit cult-ish with their “life energy” metaphors, this “FI Level 1” and “FI Level 2” talk, and it had some serious hippie / environment / eco-friendly and religious overtones (I myself am a bit of an eco-hippie).

Lastly, having to tabulate and track your “life energy” based on your income and expenses to how low you can get your expenses versus your income strikes me as a bit too tedious and time-consuming for nothing. It doesn’t motivate me to see my money saved as “life energy”, even though ironically, this is exactly the way I act / think / feel when I pretty much live a semi-retired life by working and then taking breaks in between contracts.

If I were starting out in personal finance and money management, I wouldn’t have really done this part of the book, but that’s my personal preference.

4. Money Rules (Canada)

by Gail Vaz-Oxlade (a.k.a. GVO)

http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=gail%20vaz-oxlade%20money%20rules%3A%20rule%20your%20money%2C%20or%20your%20money%20will%20rule%20you&linkCode=ur2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20&url=search-alias%3Daps

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

You really can’t go wrong. She even swears with baby swear words like using the word “caca”.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

For GVO, I like that she basically just brain dumps all these thoughts about how stupid you can be with your money into one big fat list.

I can actually hear her voice scolding the reader as I read through it.

There is something for everyone in that book, trust me.

CAVEATS:

I’d really recommend Money Rules for everyone even though it is written more for Canadians.

Most of her advice is universal, and the stuff that is country-specific like RRSPs (they’re like 401Ks) or TFSAs (they’re like Roth IRAs) can be learned elsewhere or later.

Also, the tone is different because we never really mention healthcare as a huge financial issue in Canada because… it isn’t.

The book will roughly / kind of of teach you how to budget and track your expenses or get out of debt (which is essentially the happy result of budgeting and tracking your expenses) but it won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of doing so, which in my opinion is a good thing because now I can direct you to my posts where I do that specifically.

Nitty Gritty Budgeting & Debt Reads:

It also won’t teach you how to get out of debt but frankly, if you’re budgeting, you will have excess money to put towards your debt.

Yep you can also read a post I wrote on that too:

 

5. I will teach you to be rich (U.S.A.)

by Ramit Sethi

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0761147489/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0761147489&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

Very low. This is geared towards the super beginner who is just dipping their toes into money.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

For Ramit, same deal. I read it in 2013 and it didn’t influence me because it came too late in my PF life.

He just talks normally and lays it out pretty simply. You kind of can’t screw up with his book.

CAVEATS:

It will roughly / kind of of teach you how to budget and track your expenses or get out of debt (which is essentially the happy result of budgeting and tracking your expenses) but it won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of doing so, which in my opinion is a good thing because now I can direct you to my posts where I do that specifically.

Nitty Gritty Budgeting & Debt Reads:

It also won’t teach you how to get out of debt but frankly, if you’re budgeting, you will have excess money to put towards your debt.

Yep you can also read a post I wrote on that too:

6. It’s your Money, Honey

by Laura J. McDonald and Susan L. Misner

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1118133285/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1118133285&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

This is a book that starts from when you are starting out in college with student loans and goes all the way to talking about how to teach your children money, how to manage your career and talks about things like becoming a freelancer.

It’s surprisingly helpful even though the pink wallet on the cover kind of turned me off initially (honestly, I would have preferred a stronger magenta to make it less Pepto-Bismol….).

It’s also great because it kind of blurs the line between U.S. and Canada. I believe they are more Canadian-based by the tone of their writing and what they reference, but it isn’t country-specific.


HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

I found a few parts of it that was interesting for me because it talked about handling money with children (they even agree that you should handle your retirement first before helping your kids out), how to handle adult children who boomerang back into your nest, and all these other topics that I find lacking in other PF books.

They have less of a crass/crude tone to it versus GVO books (she swears a lot with baby swear words), and they have a lot of analogies to shopping and things that most women can relate to (including myself).

I also like that it gave a good brief (technically-sound) overview on making sure you are financially independent and you are also properly set up with Power of Attorney, a Will, Benefactors, Beneficiaries and all the other things that other books tend to kind of skim over.

I like that it forces you to consider how to handle the parts of life that suck like getting a divorce, or whether or not you are covered as a common-law spouse even though you have kids together but your husband dies without a will.

It also goes into how to run a business, get money for your business, be an entrepreneur and so on.

A very good look at the kind of hazy side of money, life and career management.

CAVEATS:

It will NOT teach you about budgeting or tracking expenses, nor how to invest in index funds or anything other books in this post will do.

In fact, it kind of makes a faux pas of telling you to put cash and guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) in your Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) in Canada. I totally cringed reading it.

Nevertheless it is obviously geared towards women, but if you’re a guy and read it, just skip over the shoe and clothing references.

They still talk about really relevant topics to everyone, just in a tone more geared/suited towards women which might turn you off initially but there are a lot of good topics hidden in there.

7. The Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth you should have learned in school

by Andrew Hallam

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0470830069/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0470830069&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Medium

Now we’re getting into the stuff that is slightly more difficult, but this is quite easy to read and a good overall book on investing.

You will seriously not find a better one anywhere else, I guarantee it.

It is not dumbed down for the masses or a baby finance book by any means, yet it is easy to read and follow. It also briefly talks about why you should take your money seriously.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

I read this book in 2013 and found it to be perfectly written and easy to understand for a beginning investor.

See, I’ve read all of those OTHER classic books like The Richest Man in Babylon, The Wealthy Barber, and so on.. but none of them really appealed or stuck out to me like this one.

In it, the book says exactly what I believe in and have been saying all along on this blog about investing and money management.

If I were to have written a book about what you should know about basic money management and investing, I would only hope it would turn out to be as good as this one.

I really really wish I had this book when I first started college. It probably would have changed my life.

CAVEATS:

It is not a hand-holding, step-by-step, how to build a budget and track your expenses kind of book, it has a brief introduction about why you shouldn’t spend so much money and save it instead (lifestyle and mindset change, remember?) and then it dives right into investing.

8. Index Funds: The 12-Step Recovery Program for Active Investors

by Mark T. Hebner

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0976802341/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0976802341&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: High

You need to understand basic money management and basic investing principles (what an index fund is for instance) to read this book and really understand it.

That said, it’s actually kind of funny.

They played it like it’s a rehabilitation program with 12-steps to stop people from actively trading individual company stocks and to just invest in index funds.

Kind of like Stock Pickers Anonymous.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

I read this book right out of college. It was given to me with a short little note saying: Read this and stop wasting money.

Intrigued, I read through the entire thing and was completely convinced that index fund investing is the way to go for the majority of my investments and money, for the rest of my life.

I only dabble in stock picking and dividend investing for fun, but the bulk of my investments are in those super cheap and rather index funds.

Only 10% of mutual funds / advisors actually beat the average of the stock market.

90% do not…..and these are people who are supposedly smarter than any of us in managing money and finances!!!!

I am not going to bet my life’s savings that I am in that super smart 10%, so I don’t.

index-funds-active-recovery-program-for-investors

CAVEATS:

Like I said, you need to know about investing and what a stock is before you can dive into this and sink your teeth into it.

9. The Intelligent Investor

by Benjamin Graham 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060555661/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0060555661&linkCode=as2&tag=fabubrokinthe-20

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: High

This is a little less friendly to read than the 12-step book above, but if you’re interested in stock picking (even after repeated warnings to just do index funds), then give this a go.

Graham who died in 1976 was the idol of rainmaker Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (surely you must know who he is!!).. and if you don’t, read this book about him.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

It teaches you how to look for companies to invest in. That’s it.

It’s an interesting read.

CAVEATS:

You have to be willing to put in the time and research to find these companies to invest in.

I only do this for a few stocks but not as a full-time thing, which is why I am admittedly lazy and throwing everything into index funds rather than scouring the stock exchange for hidden gold nuggets.

If you are interested in stock picking, start with that book (after you read the other ones of course).

10. The Soul of Money

by Lynne Twist

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Low

This is how I live my life. This is such a good book I can’t even begin to tell you. The anecdotes are poignant and spot on, and it is a good read even if you already know and have read everything about money on this earth.

HOW THIS BOOK INFLUENCED ME:

 

It teaches you whether money has a soul or not, and the wolf that you feed is the one that survives.

CAVEATS:

None.

 


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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39 Comments

  1. Brock Turner

    I like this new book out called Capital Compounders. Its focus is on the Canadian stock market. Hard to find books like this one in Canada. Some good growth investing strategies, http://a.co/d/dzDMCnA

    Reply
  2. Morgan

    I’ve only read the Millionaire teacher, gotta get my hands on some other books. I used to read your old blog Fabulously broke, I loved it so much, love this one too 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh yay!! I’m glad to hear that 🙂

      Reply
  3. Myles Money

    Thanks. There are plenty of books here that I haven’t read and it’s always good to have a solid recommendation.

    Reply
  4. Renee

    I just finished Millionaire Teacher. It was great! I didn’t really know anything about investing last week. You and Mr. Hallam are teaching me fast! I’m going to move my superannuation into a low-fee index account ASAP.

    I wish I could start investing in stocks today, but first I need to pay off my student loan (in Australia we pay an annual CPI indexation – 2.6% this year – plus we get 5% bonus on early payments. So I think I should take the 7.6% guaranteed before I start buying stocks and bonds).

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Yes please take the “free” money first if you can get it, before investing. But if you do have money to invest, low cost index funds are the way to go.

      Reply
  5. Jessica Moorhouse

    Lovely how I found this on the first page of google for personal finance books! Great suggestions, thanks 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      LOL! My Google SEO-fu is fierce then.

      Reply
  6. Shandi76

    Just wanted to point out that there is a “fight club in book format”. It was a book before it was adapted into a film 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      No kidding!! I’ll have to read it, thank you.

      Reply
  7. tomatoketchup

    Have you read “Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes” by Belsky and Gilovich? It’s a good look into the psychological aspects of how people, by following their gut instincts, get duped into making poor decisions.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @tomatoketchup: I will take a look at it! Thanks for the recommendation.

      Reply
  8. MelD

    I like no. 3 and no. 1, too, and I felt much the same as you initially when I read the finance chapter of Janet Luhr’s Simple Living Guide… duh.
    However, what you don’t point out and I think could be pertinent (although not hugely important because the principles remain the same!) is that these books are no longer recent. In fact, when I read YMYL, Joe Dominguez had just died… this was about 15 yrs ago, so it’s older than that! So you’re right, that’s why the tone is a bit hippyish, they were 68ers 😉
    (But then I am also a bit older ;o)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @MelD: Ahh true, but I still think the principles can apply to today’s times even if it sounds older 🙂

      Reply
  9. Kandice @ The Simple Year

    Loved this post! I will definitely be reading some of these.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Kandice @ The Simple Year: Let me know how you like them

      Reply
  10. Nell @ The Million Dollar Diva

    Oh great list – there’s a few on there I’m going to be looking up at my local library. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Nell @ The Million Dollar Diva: You’re welcome! They’re all highly recommended by yours truly.

      Reply
  11. Heather

    I love all your book posts! I’ve read some of these and just added a few others to my wish list! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Heather: Haha, I filter the rotten eggs 🙂

      Reply
  12. iou

    Man, I thought I had read every consumer behavior/retail book on this planet. I was wrong! I’m going to add Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value and How to take Advantage of it to my reading list right away.

    Thank you for this list!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @iou: It is an excellent list. I love reading about consumer behaviour as well 🙂

      Reply
  13. Charles@gettingarichlife.com

    Rich dad poor dad got me highly interested in lowering my taxes to build wealth. Automatic millionaire by David Bach is another good read to supplement millionaire next door

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Charles@gettingarichlife.com: I read both of them and did not find them to my liking….

      Reply
  14. Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild

    I love I Will Teach You To Be Rich and hate The Millionaire Next Door! I put a few of the other books on my to read list 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild: Yep, that book is a love it or hate it kind of deal. It opened my eyes to PF in general, so I have a soft spot for it.

      Reply
  15. Cashville Skyline

    Awesome list! I’m almost done with The Millionaire Next Door right now and can’t wait to dive into the rest. Definitely bookmarking this post for later!

    Reply
  16. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    This is a great list. I have not read a few of them, so I am exciting for the references. Even though I am in finance, I find most finance books difficult to read. 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Shannon @ Financially Blonde: Ditto. I really hate dry personal finance books.

      Reply
  17. Fig

    Great list! I’ve read quite a few of these and loved them.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Fig: Each book offers something different 🙂

      Reply
  18. Lila

    I hate “Your Money or Your Life” because the language is very dry, and I didn’t like their graphs and the F1 crap really annoyed me too. It felt “New Age-y” to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not my style.

    I will say though that the new “YMYL” book cover is much nicer than the one in older versions. I’m not religious which is kind of why sometimes Dave Ramsey books are lost on me at times because he’s very religious about Christianity and believes that the principles of FI come from the Bible.

    I think money issues are universal and it affects everyone regardless in religion. I don’t think the Christian bible was the first to talk about these principles. I like Gail because there used to be a show called “Princess” that she was on, where she advised spoiled women about their finances and how to stand on their own two feet.

    Anyway thanks for posting these. I want to get more into investing and this guide here gave me other books to read. 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Lila: I skipped the graphs but really liked the gist of what they were saying in terms of looking at your expenses / income. It is VERY new age-y, I agree, but I’ve looked past all that hippy stuff because as Mel mentioned above, it was written in a different era.

      I am not religious either, so when I read religious overtones in books it makes me mildly uncomfortable. I’d rather just get the learnings without the preaching.

      Gail’s Princess show was GREAT! I am trying to see if they put new episodes online (different from the ones I have watched) but so far nothing.

      Reply
  19. Cindy

    Wow I loved this post!!! Probably the first post in my blogroll in a while I read thoroughly without skimming thru it. I have read some of these books like I will Teach you to be Rich but I am definitely going to read more “difficult reading” books like the Index investing and the millionaire teacher. very good post!

    http://www.cindyslittleblackbook.com

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Cindy: Glad you found it useful!

      Reply
  20. moneystepper

    I’ve never read Millionaire Teacher so I will have to add it to my reading list. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      You’re welcome. It’s a really good book and easy to understand.

      Reply

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