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Do you ever feel like some people naturally understand personal finance? They’ve been diligently saving since childhood, have paid off their debt and have the recommended six-month emergency fund. It’s certainly possible that some people have a natural inclination toward saving money and cutting costs.
But not everyone is a natural when it comes to money. If money management doesn’t come to you naturally, you have to put in the time to learn the fundamentals. Fortunately, there are tons of resources available that can help you understand the basics of money and saving.
In fact, the sheer number of resources available can make it hard for some people to even know where to begin. These top personal finance books will help put you on the path to financial fluency.
1. The best book for the basics
“The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated” by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack
Many people buy a personal finance book assuming it will solve all of their money problems, says Hali London, certified financial planner with Facet Wealth. The problem is, most personal finance books make things too complicated for people just starting out. “Because our lives are busy enough,” London says, “we are unlikely to try most of the strategies offered by personal finance books.”
That’s why London recommends beginners start with “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated.” The idea behind the book is that everything you need to know about personal finance can fit on a single index card.
The book outlines 10 principles for building a strong financial future, and it breaks these ideas down by chapter. These principles cover things like saving in your 401(k) at work, paying down debt and diversifying your investments.
“Even if somebody just reads the table of contents, they can learn some good habits that will improve their financial lives,” London says.
2. The best book for creating good money habits
“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
We all make daily decisions about how to spend and save money. But Brent Weiss, also a certified financial planner with Facet Wealth, argues that most of us don’t understand why we make the decisions we do. And we have no framework for how to make better decisions. That’s why he recommends “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.”
“Nudge” isn’t your typical personal finance book, but it speaks to how and why we make financial decisions. That’s why Weiss recommends this book for anyone trying to improve their financial situation.
“Before we start thinking about a retirement that is decades off or other goals in the distant future, we need to focus on improving our habits,” Weiss says.
Too many people, Weiss says, are focused on finding “money hacks” or ways to game the system. “Nudge” helps readers understand how to create habits that will build a secure financial future. Weiss call these habits “the core elements that drive our decisions.”
3. The best book for paying down debt
“The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness” by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey is a well-known personal finance expert who has helped millions of people through his radio show and books.
Ramsey’s books are easy to understand and provide actionable steps for paying down debt and creating a stable financial future. If you’ve been struggling with debt and need a step-by-step plan for how to pay it off, “The Total Money Makeover” gives you precisely that.
Ramsey also explains what you should do with any excess cash once your debt is gone. The book covers things like building an emergency fund, handling holiday spending and saving for retirement.
4. The best book for investing
“The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns” by John C. Bogle
Investing in the stock market can seem intimidating at first. You may think you have to get lucky and pick the next Amazon to build wealth. However, that’s not the case.
In “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing,” Bogle, the late founder of the Vanguard Group, does a great job of breaking down how to invest in index funds. Index funds are typically low cost and well-diversified, and they mimic the market’s return rather than trying to beat it.
Bogle explains how index funds, like ones that track the S&P 500, often provide higher returns than individual stocks and are a better long-term investment strategy. The book is an easy read and will leave you feeling more capable and informed when it comes to investing.
5. The best book for money mindset
“The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Although the term “money mindset” has become a bit of a negative buzzword in recent years, “The Millionaire Next Door” does an excellent job of breaking down the mindset of millionaires and the habits they developed to get to that point in their financial lives.
One of the most interesting things the book points out is that the habits of millionaires aren’t what you might expect. Instead of buying expensive sports cars and living in oversized mansions, most millionaires are frugal and acquired their wealth by managing their money responsibly.
6. The best book for achieving financial independence
“What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You” by Liz Davidson
When it comes to achieving financial independence, many Americans will turn to a financial planner for guidance. Certified financial planner Michael Smith with Facet Wealth says that the right adviser can be a huge help and bring a lot of value to the table. However, Smith cautions that not all advisers are the same.
“From education to experience to fees, advisers come in all shapes and sizes,” Smith says. “Consumers should educate themselves on how to find the right adviser for their situation.”
That’s why Smith recommends reading “What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You” by Liz Davidson.
Despite the provocative title, Davidson’s book is not a critique of financial advisers. Instead, she points out that we’re ultimately responsible for our economic future, not our financial adviser. The book breaks down complex personal finance topics in an easily understandable way. It also does a good job of explaining what the average person should focus on in their financial journey.