Ten Personal Finance and Career Books You Should Read

I’ve decided to discontinue the weekly book reviews for the time being. I have reviewed hundreds of personal finance books over the years and, frankly, there aren’t enough new and compelling personal finance books coming out to justify weekly reviews. I’ve read too many books recently that just duplicated stuff said in other books. Instead, I’ll irregularly review interesting new personal finance books on Sunday mornings, and I’ll cap off the series by listing the ten books (of the hundreds I’ve reviewed) that have had the most impact on me.

Each of these ten books contains some powerful ideas that made me rethink some aspect of my finances, my career path, or my other personal choices that impacted these things. Each one of these is a powerful and useful read, and I highly recommend that everyone read most of the books on this list. They’re presented in no particular order after the first one.

ymoylYour Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
This is the personal finance book that turned my life around. It’s as simple as that.

I picked up this book at the library when I was struggling with figuring out what to do next. I had come to the realization that I was in real financial trouble, but as for coming up with a plan and really understanding how money fit into my life, I was lost.

This book isn’t really about how to invest your money or what specifically to do with your dollars. It’s much more about figuring out why you earn money and why you make the choices you make with it. It forces you to think about your finances in a completely different way.

I read this book in mid-2006. Since then, I have paid off almost $300,000 in debt and am currently debt free. It took a massive mental shift for that to happen, and I attribute much of it to this book.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
If there’s one single book I’d suggest for dealing with the challenges of debt, it would be The Total Money Makeover, without a doubt.

It does the things that people seriously in debt most need better than any other book. It provides an incredibly straightforward plan for escaping from the pit of debt and it provides forceful cheerleading to go right alongside that message.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
Never Eat Alone addresses the challenges of building a social network, but it adds two ingredients to the mix that Dale Carnegie and the like are missing.

First, Keith is pretty obviously an introvert, and the book is written from that perspective. There are many elements of this book that may seem obvious to a strong extrovert that aren’t as clear-cut for introverts. This made the book click for me.

Second, a big part of the book is service oriented. If you want to achieve something in life, help others. It’s as simple as that. This is the way I tend to view the world, and it’s a perspective that’s been reinforced over time.

born to buyBorn to Buy by Juliet Schor
This book, more than any other, really opened my eyes to the impact that marketing has on all of us, starting even before birth and really picking up during infancy. Our brains are just inundated with marketing messages all through life.

If you doubt the power that such messages have, this book is an essential read. I would encourage anyone with a child – or anyone even considering having a child – to pick this one up, read it thoughtfully, and reflect on it deeply, not just in terms of your child but in terms of the impact on your own life.

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
I consider public speaking to be one of the two most valuable career skills a person can have. If you can present your ideas clearly to others, you’re going to do well.

This is, far and away, the best book I’ve ever read on the art of public speaking. It includes every tactic I’ve ever used successfully in getting myself up there on a stage and includes countless more useful ideas and anecdotes for making that challenging process work.

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael LeBoeuf
This is the single volume I’d recommend for anyone who wants to know more about investing. It tackles investing from the basics (getting your personal finances under control, because the less you spend, the more you can invest) through to almost every investment topic an ordinary individual investor would want to know about.

What sets this book apart is the consistent ideas and tone. The key idea, really, is inexpensive and simple diversification. You want to be invested in a lot of things so that if one thing collapses, you’re not completely bankrupt, while at the same time you don’t want it to be overly complicated so that you can’t really understand what’s going on.

The “Bogleheads” lay it all out clearly in this book. It can be a challenging read at times, but it’s a consistently worthwhile read and one that will really help you solve your investing problems.

gtdGetting Things Done by David Allen
What’s the other valuable skill, the second career skill I alluded to above? It’s time and information management. You need to be able to utilize your time effectively and know how to tackle the genuinely important things (and toss the rest).

That’s exactly what this book does. It offers up a number of incredibly powerful principles for getting the multitude of things you need to get done in your life finished. It goes beyond that and offers a complete system for using those principles, but honestly, it’s the principles that really make this book.

This book changed how I organized my time in such a drastic fashion that I was able to launch and build The Simple Dollar while working full time at a demanding job and spend a ton of time with my family to boot.

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey
For many people, entrepreneurship is the most powerful route there is to financial success and personal fulfillment in life. I’ve read many books on entrepreneurship, from the “idea in your head” stage to the thriving business stage, and none of them work nearly as well as a single guide as this one.

EntreLeadership does just what I describe above. It takes a person from an idea for a business to the point where the business is large enough that delegation needs to happen. It offers tons of ideas and food for thought during that entire process, and does it in a readable and comprehensible manner.

Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey
This is the single best handbook I’ve yet found for taking on the challenge of teaching children about money. It’s also one of the most well-worn books on my shelf, simply because I’m raising three children of different ages.

This book offers real parenting tips for children in each age group, offering up countless ideas for introducing kids to money and giving great suggestions to the common struggles that parents have with their children and money at each age level, from very young children to young adults. I anticipate I’ll be using this book for many years to come.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko
The final book on this list works well for one reason alone: it completely debunks the ideas most people have about what it means to be rich.

The guy in the Armani suit with the sportscar is probably broke. The ordinary looking guy in the reliable automobile is probably the millionaire. Why? People who have spending habits that lead them to buy the flashy things rarely are on a path to financial success.

The book backs up insights like these with extensive interviews and research, creating a fascinating and eye-opening study of what wealth actually looks like.

If you read these ten books, you’ll have a much deeper view of your money, your career, and the financial world around you.

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  1. Kate says:

    Wow…more of the same…again. This is disheartening.

  2. Kevin says:

    Simply put, if you drive a nice car you’re probably incredibly and deeply broke.

  3. Dave M says:

    “I’ve read too many books recently that just duplicated stuff said in other books.” Smell the irony!

  4. Kittie says:

    geez people, if you don’t find this blog interesting and worth your time, then don’t bother leaving a comment and stop reading it. I really enjoy this blog and find something useful from nearly every day. My favorite feature is the “Ten pieces of inspiration” which has introduced me to so many amazing things I likely would have never seen otherwise. Thanks Trent!

  5. getagrip says:

    @2 Kevin If I recall correctly in the millionaire next door you find that with the example of the two doctors the “frugal” one is driving a Mercedes. It’s older, but still a nice car and the real difference is he isn’t churning cars every few years but enjoying and maintaining the quality of the one he does have. I agree though, that the image people often want to take from the book is that everyone who “looks” rich must be one step away from disaster, which is hardly true. My take away from the book was you can spend your salary living like you imagine your supposed to live or become rich (or at least better off) by making your salary a small percentage of your actual wealth.

  6. Raya says:

    I read Ramsey’s “Total money makeover” and the best thing about it is the drill-sergeant tone which may be motivating for some people and stop them from making excuses.

    Otherwise, everything else in it – to me – is just common sense.

  7. Dee says:

    Thanks, Kittie. Well said.

  8. Kai says:

    This one actually makes sense to me. He has now put up a post that covers the top ten he’d likely refer others to go back and read in the future, and he’s said that since he doesn’t have enough good books to talk about any more, he’s going to finish it at this post for a while.
    I think this is a great way to end a series – it would be worth doing with some other themes when he has run out of ideas for them.

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