Published May 15, 2017|7 min read
After I graduated college, the last thing I wanted to do was read a book. I took a four-month hiatus from reading. When I ventured back to the practice, I did it slowly and easily. I first wanted to find out who this Harry Potter was. I then wanted to be inspired and read The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama.
I eventually wanted to learn more about investing, money, and business in general. I was told once that the education that makes us wealthy is the education we receive after our college professors are done with us. The point is that we should never stop learning, never stop reading.
This list is a list of the nine personal finance books that are the best investment of your time and money.
Originally published in 1973, A Random Walk Down Wall Street, written by Burton Gordon Malkiel, was recommended by my father. Having been an avid investor himself, he said this book would give me a history of the stock market and understanding of how it works. It did.
Despite the ongoing "efficient market theory" debate – basically that it’s impossible for an investor to "beat the market" – Malkiel gives average investors what they need to be informed investors. Investors, though, shouldn’t get too confident in the efficient market theory when they’re able to pick winners in an up or bullish market. It’s the down or bearish market when the professionals earn their pay.
The most illuminating part of Malkiel’s book is his detailing of the Dutch Tulip Bulb Crash. For those who want to understand the Dot-com crash, the 2008 housing crash, and the higher education bubble, the Dutch Tulip Bulb Crash is an intriguing window into how exactly bubbles form and why they continue.
Online entrepreneur Joseph Hogue, of My Stock Market Basis, recommends Niall Fergusson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. Hogue says The Ascent of Money is "both entertaining and very educational as it guides you through some of the biggest turning points in financial history. You'll see how financial catastrophes and market bubbles formed all the way back to the Dutch Tulip craze of the 17th century. Understanding how money has guided our history will help you be a more rational user of your own assets."
Later turned into an Emmy award-winning documentary, Fergusson published The Ascent of Money in 2008. It is to the history of money what A Random Walk Down Wall Street is to the history of investing. If you’re going to spend your career trying to earn as much money as possible, it will only help to understand money.
Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich is on the top of most "best book" lists. Having studied some of history’s most successful people, from Andrew Carnegie to Henry Ford to Thomas Edison, Hill shows how the right person with the right attitude who associates with the right people is the perfect recipe for personal financial success. It’s not the money you come from or your formal education. Some of history’s most successful people came from poverty and little to no education.
Think & Grow Rich is still a leading book in new thought and the law of attraction thinking. The information Hill dispenses from his time’s most influential leaders has informed many of today’s leaders, from Tony Robbins to Bill Gates, and is the kind of education you typically can’t buy (but can now get for less than $9.00).
Another personal favorite is Good to Great by Jim Collins. Collins studies why some companies fail, some are good, and some are great. Collins gives insight into the inner workings of some of business history’s most important decisions. Good to Great is an excellent education for young professional to gain historical information to use when talking with more experienced colleagues.
Collins’ research, like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, underscores the value of individuals and businesses focusing on that they’re good at and not being distracted by what they’ll never master. When we work to improve our inherent capabilities, we develop our personal brand and skill in a way to earn the most money from our abilities.
During my last semester of college, I had nine credits left to take. Having been mentally checked-out, I took my first 6-to-9er (a class that was once a week from 6pm to 9pm) called Business Thinking. I assumed it would be a high-level overview of business theories heavily weighted on human resource and management. I assumed it would be easy.
I was wrong and right. My class was a high-level overview of a business theory, and it was easy only because it was fascinating. Dr. Blue took us through Stephen Covey’s opus, and it blew my mind. Covey covers concepts I had never heard of before in my schooling. His theory on synergies, at the time, were revolutionary and his idea of thinking with the end in mind has been a hallmark of my life, personally, professionally, and financially.
Some of the best best personal finance books are being written today. Such is the case with Erin Lowry’s recently published Broke Millennial. Emilie Lima Burke of BurkeDoes.com credits it for being a "very clear step-by-step guide that can help establish the foundation for good financial behaviors and it addresses some important super-taboo topics." Claudia Pennington of Two Cup House says Broke Millennial is, also, "perfect for Generation Z – those who are about to graduate high school or college – who want to avoid financial missteps."
Lowry perfectly tackles issues unique to her audience, such as managing student loan debt and the managing friendships when there’s income disparity between friends. Just in time for spring, Lowry shares her advice on how to handle the deluge of wedding invitations recent college graduates start to receive this time of year.
For anyone trying to figure out today’s economy and where they fit into it, I offer Daniel Pink’s 2005 A Whole New Mind. Pink describes the three pillars that will drive the economies of the future: "abundance, Asia, and automation." As groundbreaking as his work was in 2005, its accuracy in 2017 makes it even more so.
We’ve learned much about the human brain since 2005, and the world domination of right-brain thinkers Pink talked about may never become a reality. But the traits traditionally applied to right-brain thinkers, such as "creativity, emotion, and intuitiveness," are the attributes proving valuable today.
To help those concerned about the changing job market, Scott Trench of the popular blog Bigger Pockets, wrote Set for Life to teach his readers how to "build their financial runway." By this, Trench means to share what he’s learned in creating a life and income stream to earn the most, spend the least, and reduce your reliance on employer-based revenue.
Trench walks his readers through the steps to create a system intended to build wealth, as defined by Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad – Poor Dad. Wealth, Kiyosaki says, is when your investment income, not earned income, exceed your expenses, and Trench takes that advice to heart in his own book.
Melanie Lockert wrote Dear Debt based on her personal, entertaining, and emotional struggle to pay off $80,000 in student loan debt. Lockert helps others in similar situations manage both sides of their balance sheets. By creating a strategy to pay down seemingly impossible amounts of debt and increasing their income, Lockert sets her readers on a path to achieving financial freedom fast.
As Tyler Philbrook of I Am the Future Me says, "Dear Debt helps you not only get rid of debt but get rid of the "illness" that causes you to get into debt. It does all of this not from a perspective of someone who knows in theory but someone who has been there and comprehensively understands."
Reading any one of these books will change the way you think about money. Reading all of these could change your life.
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