What I Read to Keep Up on Personal Finance

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A reader, Jimmy, wrote in with an interesting question recently.

Where do you come up with your ideas? I know you read a lot, but what do you read for personal finance ideas? Just the books you review?

I thought, in response to Jimmy’s question, that I’d list all of the materials I read regularly for ideas and inspirations for The Simple Dollar.

Personal finance blogs I read several of these on a daily basis and I go through fifty or so every week when I prepare my weekly roundup. The ones I enjoy reading the most right now include Frugal Dad, Get Rich Slowly, Gather Little by Little, Queercents, Money Saving Mom, and Wise Bread. All are pumping out a lot of interesting stuff right now. If you’d like to see some of the other sites I read, check out the list of sites on the right hand menu of any Simple Dollar page.

Other thought-provoking blogs I regularly read about the same number of non-personal finance blogs, too, and they often give me interesting insights and angles I hadn’t considered before. Chief among these (my daily reads) are Seth Godin, Reddit, Lifehacker, Glenn Greenwald, and Consumerist (which trends pretty hard toward personal finance). I dip into many others about once a week, usually when I do my roundups, because occasionally I’ll find a relevant link in a non-personal finance blog.

Personal finance magazines I read the “big three” personal finance magazines once a month in the reading room at the local library. This includes Money, Kiplinger’s, and SmartMoney. I usually have a notebook with me to jot down thoughts – I’m usually more inspired by single sentences and pictures than I am by the articles, though. I find Money to usually be the most relevant, but also the most repetitive.

I subscribe to The Economist and I find it to be the most informative thing I read each week. It’s my primary source for keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world and also for learning more about how economics is applied today. I almost always have a few interesting ideas after reading an issue, and it’s one of two that I make sure to read cover to cover during a week, the other being…

Business Week is the other strongly related magazine I subscribe to. It’s not quite as good as The Economist – it has an American business focus to it – but like The Economist, it inspires lengthy trains of thought. I tend to read this one cover to cover as well, with a pen in hand so I can scribble on the pages and circle things that make me think.

Other well-written general magazines I also subscribe to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and a few cooking magazines. While I read all of these intensely, they rarely inspire thought about personal finance, to tell the truth. They do, however, often inspire me to write about other things.

Personal finance, personal development, and business books As readers of this site know, I review two books a week, usually one that’s generally describable as a personal finance book and another that would be a personal development, business, or entrepreneurship book. I tend to read two and a half books in this genre a week, usually quite speedily since much of the material is now familiar to me. I tend to slow down if the book is entertaining or offers ideas I’ve not really heard before.

Challenging fiction and nonfiction of all kinds I usually get through about another book a week on a completely separate topic. I read all kinds of stuff, from philosophy to the latest Michael Chabon novel. Much like the general magazines I read, I occasionally get inspired about personal finance from these books, but not often. They mostly help me with other trains of thought and with mastery of language.

How do you read so much?
This is a question I get all the time. The truth is that I usually set two to three hours a day in the middle of the day aside for devoted reading related to The Simple Dollar, then an hour or two in the evening is spent with other reading choices. Add on top of that the fact that I can read pretty fast and it’s clear how I can get through so much material.

I find that it’s easier to come up with interesting ideas when you constantly hit yourself with a wide variety of ideas and facts. That’s why I read so much and it’s why I rarely have difficulty coming up with topics to write about for The Simple Dollar.

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20 thoughts on “What I Read to Keep Up on Personal Finance

  1. Hi Trent,
    I read most of the same sources myself – aside from a couple of the blogs that you linked to.
    Do you find that since you have become self employed that you are able to consume more information?
    Thanks for a great list of links.
    -Tyler

  2. I run an entrepreneurs blog and I find that as I read other’s blogs and as I read books that I get most of my ideas as a bounce off from other people’s ideas. If I stop reading then my creativity often stops flowing. But the more I read the more I can give to my readers in the form of ideas and posts.
    I like how you take aside time to just read material related to your blog. I think it is a great idea and I think I will start doing this (but maybe starting with 15 minutes per day instead of 3-5 hours per day) because I do not have as much time as you to do it full time.

    Thanks for this post it was really inspiring and truthfully I can relate a lot because I run a blog similar and anyone who reads this post should take the advice and run with it.
    Cheers

  3. Thanks, Trent, I’ve been wondering where I can read more about personal finance. I tend to shy away from magazines but have recently found Inc. which helps me to dream about where my small business can go. ‘Read voraciously’ is a quote from somewhere that I try to follow. The amount of reading you do is about the same as mine, and now I don’t feel like I’m the only one. Recently I’ve been reading about how to decorate more cheaply and about gardening- we’re buying a house. Most of what I read on those topics is found on the internet via StumbleUpon.

  4. We read many of the same things. However, I’ve quit taking Smart Money. It just doesn’t speak to me – a little too high end. It was easily the least favorite of the big three.

    I’ve been on the fence about the Economist, but after your glowing accolade I might just take it for a year and see. I’m more concerned about the time it takes to read it more than content.

    Also I’ve trimmed back my personal finance blogs. The political season makes it much easier. I’m finding some people take too rigid of a political stance and seem to be very argumentative towards their readers. I’m all about being open to debate and free thought from all sides of the argument – not judgemental. So I’ve trimmed a few back that sided on the “I’m right, and your wrong” camp. My advice to bloggers who want a wide reader base – stay away from politics and controversial issues. It’s one thing to generate discussion – its another to show that you are taking sides.

  5. I read the section “Challenging fiction and nonfiction of all kinds” and whisper to myself “How does he read so much!” then I continue on for the answer lol

  6. Some of the best advice I ever recieved is make sure you check who you are taking advice from. Investigate and don’t just assume that because someone is on such or such a show that they are credible. Like don’t take advice about being self employed from someone who is not self employed even if it is a CEO of a company. If the CEO is employed by the company they are not self employed.

    Thanks for the article.

    Robyn
    Recritique.com
    Restaurant Coupons, Freebies and More.

  7. Hey Trent! I was just reading my newest issue of Woman’s Day magazine and saw you featured in their article on how to save money grocery shopping. I was so excited to see it because I have only been reading your blog for about a month, and it was neat to recognize one of my inspirations in a magazine! I quickly pointed it out to my husband and he thought it was pretty cool, too. :) Just thought I’d share.

  8. Trent, that’s a lot of reading. I think the quality that sets you apart from other bloggers/writers is your ability to process complicated financial information, relate it to honest experiences in your personal journey, and express it in a way that is easy for us to understand.

    I’ve had The Economist recommended to me previously, but have never really been drawn to it. Since you see value in it, I will give it an honest shot. I stopped reading MONEY 16 years ago after investing in some stocks by their “experts” and having them all tank big time. Now I do my own research.

    Great post. I admire your skills and tenacity.

  9. Wow, between the hundreds of finance books, all the PF blogs you read and your frugal approach to life, you must be a millionaire by now. Perhaps even a billionaire. Can you give us an update on how rich you’ve become by reading, writing, and practicing frugality along with reading all the things you do for the past couple of years?

  10. Trent, thanks for being a Frugal Dad reader! You’ve highlighted a few of my favorite sources as well, and The Simple Dollar has been on my blogroll since the first day I started blogging.

    I would really like to boost my reading time, too, but continue to find competing priorities getting in the way. Once the kids are back and school, and the household returns to some sense of normalcy, I will start trying to carve out more time for reading.

  11. “Reading is the means by to become educated…School is not education…School keeps us from the real education…Don’t let School get in the way of your education…” quote from my grandmother on reading and educating.

    Great post trent! Keep your education alive.

    Clint Lawton

    http://www.a-debt-free-life.com

    P.S. I learn more each day from reading good books than all the school classes I have ever taken on money and personal finance.

  12. I really enjoy the Economist as well. My other favorite is the Financial Times, for keeping track of business and financial trends and general news from around the world.

  13. FYI about the Economist. The entire edition is free online. There is no reason to pay the $150 a year for a subscription. On a website partially about frugality, that should be noted. I’d certainly cancel an Economist subscription, get the same content online over making my own detergent.

  14. Great post Trent…sometimes, something totally off of the PF radar is good to remind us to stretch our brains.

    The greatest President we ever had (IMHO), Teddy Roosevelt, reportedly read a book every day to stretch his grey matter…he’s my hero and I’m trying to get to that level of voracity! One of my favorite sayings is “so many books, so little time!”.

    For Frugal Dad, and also Trent, since I know you both have young children…one way to insure reading time is to teach your young to read, read, read! My first hubby and I made a concerted effort to make sure our son knew the importance and indeed, the joy of reading. Our son could pick up any of the hundreds of books in the house and we would help him read it. As his skill grew, we started stretching our collection to include his areas of interest. (I know, that’s slightly more than the few books Trent keeps on his self and yes, I have had to move them three times now!) I am extremely proud of the fact that my son, who is a senior in high school this year, reads at a post-graduate college level. And, I never worry about reading time…he “respects the book”.

    Anyway, thanks for all you do, Trent. You do put yourself, and your family, out there for us all to see…brave, very brave!

    Hope everyone has a joyous day…get a good book to read in the sunshine today!! Nothing better! Time’

  15. I don’t think it’s good to read so much. It’s better to read fewer, better books. You would do better, for example, to use some of that three hours to teach yourself Greek and read Homer.

  16. Trent,

    Thanks for the links. You might also want to consider subscribing to the Financial Times paper or at least visit their web site from time to time at http://www.ft.com.

    I think they provide an unbiased account of global economic issues that may help with personal finance as well.

    Eric

  17. Trent,

    You mention, “I can read pretty fast.” Was this learned, if so how, or just a natural gift?

    Keep up the good work.

  18. Trent, I hope you are aware that you can access articles online remotely, from your local library website? If you pay taxes to a local library in Iowa(?) you will most likely be able to get a password to get thousands of magazines online with full-text. You don’t mention this, so maybe you have discussed it before. This is Imperative for the average person to know and lots of people don’t know this. I am really impressed with your columns.

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