Let me start off this post with a bit of a scandalous statement. I know, WHAT A SURPRISE, huh?
Most personal finance books are trash.
Okay, they’re not trash. It’s just that if you’re an intermediate or advanced student of the subject, most will be filled with stuff you already know. Authors cater to the lowest common denominator, because that’s where the dollars are, yo.
For people just starting out, this isn’t a bad thing. If you know nothing, everything is going to be enlightening. But for people who already know the basics, you’re going to have to wade through a bunch of the same stuff over and over again. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
Since I’ve read approximately 5929582950285296205025 (that’s a lot of fives) personal finance books in my day, I figure I can help you guys out. Let me sort through the trash for you, leaving you with a list of stuff that’s actually good. We’ll cover everything from the basics to advanced investing stuff, meaning just about anyone can find something in this list that appeals to them. If not, you’re not really trying.
Let’s do this thang.
1. The Wealthy Barber
Fun fact. I discovered The Wealthy Barber in my sister’s bathroom when I was in grade nine. Yes, my love affair with money literally began because I wanted reading material while emptying my bowels.
David Chilton’s tale of a small-town barber teaching the basics of finance while cutting hair is a classic because it’s presented in an easy to read manner with an actual entertaining story attached. It outlines the basics of everything from investing to insurance to saving, with plenty of other stuff.
I’ve also been known to give this book as a gift at weddings. It’s about as popular as you’d think.
2. The Wealthy Barber Returns
Read my review here, including when David Chilton actually shows up and says nice things.
Some 20 years after the original, David Chilton is back, updating his classic book. The Wealthy Barber Returns is a little different than the first, sort of written like a blog. Chilton covers everything from emergency funds to index investing, all in small bite-sized chunks for today’s busy Canadian. This, somewhat ironically, makes it the perfect book to have in the bathroom.
3. The Richest Man in Babylon
Yeah, it’s basic, but the message is easy and timeless. The Richest Man in Babylon is a series of fables set in Babylon, which teach the reader the basics of finance and building wealth. It’s basically a bunch of fairy tales.
4. Think and Grow Rich
As much as I think attitude is one of the more overrated parts of finance, I may be biased because I’ve never really had a problem with getting excited about being rich. So after reading Think and Grow Rich!, I was a little disappointed. I thought it was a little light on nuts and bolts, and a little heavy on inspirational stuff. But with so many people loving it, maybe there’s more to this inspirational stuff than I think.
5. Rich Dad Poor Dad
Look, I know Robert Kiyosaki is nothing but a relentless shill. His Rich Dad seminars are filled with high-pressure sales tactics and other questionable business practices. Hell, there’s even evidence that his “rich dad” didn’t actually exist. But the overall message of Rich Dad Poor Dad is sound, and will question some of your beliefs on things like whether your home is an asset, and how debt is bad.
6. The Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door is a flawed book rife with confirmation bias (it’s obvious that a certain kind of millionaire would best respond to the authors’ incentives), but you should still read it, even for the inspiration factor alone. Too many people think you need a flashy title or job to become a millionaire. The Millionaire Next Door busts that myth.
7. The Millionaire Teacher
Read my review of it here.
Andrew Hallam, the author of Millionaire Teacher might be the nicest guy on the whole internet. He also built a million dollar portfolio on only a teacher’s salary by successfully value investing, before switching to ETFs. Oh, and he runs marathons and has beaten cancer. These days, he travels around the world teaching expats about investing. Pretty sweet gig if you ask me.
8. How To Win Friends and Influence People
I know, I know. How to Win Friends and Influence People is cheesy as all hell. It was originally published in the 1930s, and I’m pretty sure it was cheesy back then. But getting people to like you is important, and so is communicating in ways where you get people to want to do things for you. It seems like salesmanship when you’re reading, but it works, dammit.
Oh, and once you’re done reading it, you can totally tell who has also read it. I had a boss who LURVED the criticism sandwich (a complement, followed by the criticism, followed by another compliment). I started doing it back just to troll him. I’m not sure it worked, but I had fun with it.
9. The Uncommon Investor III
Although my version of value investing is pretty unique, if I were to compare it to one person, I’d probably say Benj Gallander of Contra The Heard. The Uncommon Investor III is the layman’s introduction to Gallander’s investment philosophy, told in a similar fashion to The Wealthy Barber. Plus, it includes a same-sex couple, because GASP WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN.
10. The Intelligent Investor
If you’ve spent longer than a minute reading about investing, you already know what The Intelligent Investor is all about. This timeless text by Benjamin Graham should be required reading before you get to pick individual stocks. It’s a little dry, but there’s a reason why it might be the most universally loved book on value investing. If you’re too lazy to read the whole book, Warren Buffett says his favorite chapters are 8 and 20.
11. Security Analysis
The Intelligent Investor is for the layman, which you might not think after reading it. If you’re a serious student of value investing, then it’s time to take the next step, reading Security Analysis. Yeah, it reads like a textbook, and it’s more than 700 pages, but I guarantee you will be a better investor if you wade your way through it.
12. You Too Can Be A Stock Market Genius
Joel Greenblatt is sort of like Walter Schloss. As in, he might be the smartest investor you’ve never heard of.
Greenblatt’s penultimate work is You Can Be a Stock Market Genius, which is a simple look at not only value investing, but things like bankruptcies, mergers, spinoffs, and other sorts of special situations. You’ll find they have a lot in common with value ideas, which make them a simple add-on for any value portfolio.
13. The Value of Simple
Written by friend of the blog John Robertson, The Value of Simple is the book for anyone who is still a rookie at the investing stuff. It’s an easy to read guide (including plenty of pictures, graphs, and so on) on everything from TFSAs to RESPs, mostly focusing on avoiding fees while building a portfolio that tracks the index. It’s basic, but that’s all it’s supposed to be.
There are a bunch of books out there that I’m going to bunch into the other category. These books are anything from biographies of masters to specific books on specific topics only loosely related to personal finance. Yeah, it sort of strays from the personal finance books for Canadians theme, but they’re still all worth your time.
14. The Snowball
Author Alice Schroeder was given full access to Warren Buffett for years, interviewing his friends and family, as well as unrestricted access to his business records. And apparently after reading The Snowball, Buffett was so pissed off that he hasn’t talked to Schroeder since. That’s the kind of book I can get excited about.
The Snowball is admittedly light on investing tips, but it does have all sorts of timeless lessons on compound interest, doing what you love, and how doing things the right way is incredibly important.
At first glance, a book on baseball seems like pretty much the opposite of something that will help you with your finances. But what’s important about Moneyball is what it teaches you about thinking outside of the box. If you translate the lessons used by the Oakland A’s to your own life, I guarantee you can make things better.
John D. Rockefeller was a business pioneer. Things like we take for granted as sound business practices today — like controlling your own supply, consolidating competition, and using technology to increase production — were practically invented by Rockefeller. Sure, he stumbled upon the oil business at a pretty opportune time, but I’m convinced he would have ended up rich no matter what he did. Not only was Rockefeller the richest man of his time, but he ended up as perhaps the richest of all time once you adjust for inflation. Anyway, just read Titan already.
17. The Dip
Knowing when to quit something is one of the most difficult things any of us deal with. The Dip will help you through the decision, teaching you to separate the difference between the dip (when a new job reaches its low point) and when it’s time to quit. It also busts the myth that winners never quit. Winners do quit. All the time.
18. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
If you have trouble with picking up impulse items at the grocery store, Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping is going to be endlessly fascinating. It outlines all the tricks stores use to get people to put things in their carts. You’ll learn the secrets of why disorganized displays sell better than pyramids of cans, and why the placement of products on the shelf matters. The world of convincing you to buy stuff is surprisingly complicated.
19. Atlas Shrugged
More than a decade after reading it for the first time, I still have to say Atlas Shrugged is my favorite book — even though Ayn Rand isn’t the greatest writer and the book is about 200 pages too long. She doesn’t so much as suggest her philosophy onto you, but does her best to beat you into submission with it.
But there’s a whole bunch of good with Atlas Shrugged too, including a great story, and a way of looking at the world which will either change your life or make you want to strangle a puppy (or, depending on how seriously you take it, sometimes both!). If it doesn’t inspire you to build your own future, then I’m pretty sure you’re a robot.
20. Too Big to Fail
Andrew Ross Sorkin (who looks like he’s 25), pens Too Big to Fail, an incredibly detailed look at the financial crisis, with all sorts of insider stories that will leave your mouth agape for about half of the book.
21. Confessions of a Street Addict
Have you ever wondered what actually goes on behind the scenes of a hedge fund? Before he was making goofy sounds and saying BOOYA! on CNBC, Jim Cramer ran a successful hedge fund. Confessions of a Street Addict is his fascinating inside look at the industry, including some stories about throwing telephones across the room. It’s the only Cramer book reading.
22. Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money, & Life
If you’re like me and find Kevin O’Leary hilarious, you’ll enjoy Cold Hard Truth. In it, O’Leary takes stories from his own life and weaves them into lessons that can benefit most everyone. Plus, you’ll giggle a few times.
Did I forget any?
That’s about it. Feel free to any of your favorites to the comment section. All complaints can be sent to GoToHell@IDon’tCare.com.