Nine Reasons I Keep Reading Personal Finance Books

Scott writes in:

How can you read and review a personal finance book every week? I’ve read three or four of them and they seem all the same to me. Don’t you get tired of the reviews?

I get some version of this question quite often – and it’s a good one. I’ve been reviewing one or two personal finance or personal development books a week for about two and a half years. In fact, here’s a list of all of the book reviews I’ve done192 reviews and counting, as of this writing.

That’s a lot of books, no matter how you slice it. Why on earth would I read so many – and so regularly? I can think of nine reasons…

Reading personal finance books helps me keep my eyes on the prize. Reading a book every week makes me think once again about the need for keeping my money in order and the tactics I use to do it. It’s similar to the reason that a lot of people read The Simple Dollar – regular reminders keep the message fresh and keep our eyes on the prize.

Reading more personal finance books helps me make better book recommendations to others. Every month or two, I’ll read an exceptional book – one that really helps break down personal finance issues in a spectacular way for a specific audience. For example, Please Send Money by Dara Duguay does a great job of addressing the needs of college students, while You’re So Money by Farnoosh Torabi really hits the financial needs of young single female professionals. I also stumble upon great books on specific topics, like Financial Infidelity by Bonnie Eaker Weil, which brilliantly addresses the problems of money and marriage, particularly when one spouse is “hiding” money issues.

Reading personal finance books written for different audiences helps me to see the different needs that different people have. Reading books intended for different audiences is very insightful. For example, I quite enjoyed You’re So Money even though I’m not in the demographic for the book at all – it challenged my thinking in a lot of ways and helped me to see how twentysomething professional women might have different perspectives on money issues than I do. Understanding this enables me to write better articles for The Simple Dollar.

Each personal finance book I read exposes me to a new idea or angle or two. I learn something new from almost every personal finance book I read. Those new ideas get filed away for future reference and combination with other ideas I’ve already learned, and quite often, it’s the meeting of two ideas that becomes the impetus for a post for The Simple Dollar.

I still love hearing stories of financial turnarounds and financial success. I know it can be done from my own life, but I still love hearing stories of people overcoming their adversity. It’s a great thing – people come across challenges, they work hard and commit to real changes in their life, and they do it! They make it!

Once in a while, I’ll discover a really great book that twists how I think about things. Not all books can match Your Money or Your Life. However, once every few months, I will read a book that shocks my system a little bit and makes me really think about issues in my own life. It’ll float around in my mind for weeks, sowing ideas wherever it goes. A recent one I’ve reviewed in that vein is Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferrazzi.

Seeing the same idea written in many different ways gives me food for thought on how to present personal finance ideas. Even the repetitive aspects inspire me. After seeing the same idea described in thirty different ways, I grow as a writer. I begin to see how the same idea can be tackled in lots of different ways, and I work through how I want to present them and think about them.

Seeing where personal finance tactics contradict each other – and there are a lot of places – gives me a lot of food for thought. Some books advocate an index fund-based strategy for investing. Other books offer completely different advice. Those conflicts excite me. They make me think hard about what’s really going on, and sometimes, they make me come to completely unexpected conclusions.

Reading lots of books of any type exposes me to different writing styles, improving my own writing. Beyond what I review on The Simple Dollar, I also read two or three additional books a week (those who follow me on Twitter know all about them, because I mention them there). Reading so much not only exposes me to a lot of ideas, it also provides tons of insight on how to write in general. I find myself trying subtly different approaches on The Simple Dollar all the time.

To put it simply, if you blog on a particular subject, there are few things you can do that are more useful than becoming well read on the subject and then sharing what you learn and the ideas all that reading causes to grow in your head.

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22 thoughts on “Nine Reasons I Keep Reading Personal Finance Books

  1. Sean says:

    Or perhaps it’s just a strange addiction… :p

  2. Jason says:

    Trent I am always looking for another personal finance book, business book or the other areas I enjoy to read for one main reason. TO NEVER STOP LEARNING! I always find at the end, even if I didn’t enjoy the book, I tend to learn at least one new thing use in my everyday life.

  3. JerryB says:

    Hi. My name is Jerry and I’m a personal finance blog addict. ;)

  4. chris says:

    I, too, have read many personal finance books over time and have realized that they all boil down to the same thing. I stopped reading PF books and have started applying what I haven’t already. For me it’s now optimizing things and learning from my own mistakes. Trent is a writer/ reviewer and I understand why it makes sense for him to read/ review those books. For a lot of us it doesn’t make any sense and a great waste of time.

  5. SpendingIt says:

    Trent,

    What a great post!! I am a huge reader, but don’t have the discipline to read more than one book a month. I wish that I could read one book a week.

    I always wanted to know how you could read one personal finance book a week. And, after you explained the nine reasons why, it all makes sense.

  6. karyn says:

    That’s really impressive. How many kids do you have? I feel like all I ever get to read are picture books and kids’ chapter books!

  7. Joey says:

    I skim PF blogs, but have little interest in the books, although I enjoy reading people’s reviews of them. I still find your index card post covers what one needs to know as well as anything else out there:

    http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/11/29/everything-you-ever-really-needed-to-know-about-personal-finance-on-the-back-of-five-business-cards/

  8. Joey says:

    I skim PF blogs, but have little interest in the books, although I enjoy reading people’s reviews of them. There are only so many ways to spell out, “spend less than you earn.”

  9. DB Cooper says:

    Since my financial epiphany last March (which was actually brought about in part due to a PF book – John Furhrman’s *Credit Diet*), I have read dozens of personal finance books. I read them for many of the same reasons Trent does – but primarily reason #1 – it keeps me focused on my pursuit of financial freedom,

  10. KC says:

    Once I got burned out on personal finance books I moved on to books about money and economics. There are some good things out there about the current situation and the housing fiasco, etc. There are also good books about general economics like the Naked Economist, wish I’d have had something like that in high school econ instead of that boring textbook.

  11. Matt @ Ratoinal Imperative says:

    Trent, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and appreciate the time and effort you put into your posts. It is great to see someone look at finance rationally, as so many seem to spend emotionally rather than think their actions through.

    Keep up the great work!

  12. Ken says:

    Hats off to you for being able to block off time for reading so much AND writing a great blog as well. I wish I could read just 1 a month. Thanks for delivering good information.

  13. guinness416 says:

    I’ve read a lot of them too and find that once you get past the big name personal finance books that have endured over the years so many of them are sooooo poorly written. The ones with the enormous typeface, 9-year old level english and two paragraph chapters in particular are hard to get through.

    The commenter up above is right – it’s all mostly the same advice just packaged differently (and really, single female professionals aren’t airheads, they don’t need a book with the “hook” of $3000 designer bags in the content, they need one of the better general interest books or blogs).

  14. I read the same ones over and over–Your Money or Your Life, Millionaire Next Door, The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need. I think it’s because–as Amy Dacyzsyn notes (in another book I read over and over)– you need to know you’re not the only frugal one out there. At least I do.

  15. Carole says:

    I like to read “thrift” books although I could probably write one. I bought your book 365 TO LIVE CHEAP. I must confess I bought it used.

  16. J. Money says:

    I just love re-affirming that what I’m doing is GOOD. Being plugged into the pf blogging world helps w/ that as well, but seeing it on paper makes it even better ;)

  17. I get the same question from a lot of people. I’m a Certified Public Accountant and read lots of financial books. Each book gives me a new perspective and helps me help my clients. I also love the success stories and use them with my clients to show them there is a way out.

  18. Caroline says:

    It’s true – you get really get a good idea of something from only a few sources. I find myself reading tons of personal finance stuff, and I think it’s mainly because it keeps me motivated.

  19. Oskar says:

    Thanks Trent for another great post.

    I think it is great to read PF books & blogs not because they teach you anthing new (it’s after all basically the same…spend less than you make, pay of debt and invest wisely for passive income). However it keeps me motivated as well as puts words to my own thoughts which is very useful when explaining the way of thinking to friends and relatives.

  20. Dave says:

    I’m with Scott. There’s only so many times I can read the same advice over and over again. Although it’s worthwhile to come here for some great frugal cooking tips!

  21. Chris @ BuildMyBudget says:

    It could be a strange addiction..but I agree that you never know who might have a good idea or strategy you haven’t seen before. And it keeps you fresh and up to date too.

  22. tammy says:

    Education, no matter if it’s personal finance or cooking, keeps the brain active and engaged. I have to confess the only PF book I read again and again is Your Money or Your Life. It totally changed my outlook. I now buy copies to pass around to friends and family. Of course, I buy them at my local thrift mart for a buck!

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