The best books about money

In my mind, I write about personal finance books all the time. I certainly read them all the time, and I talk about them with the people I know. But the reality is that I haven’t reviewed many books at Get Rich Slowly during the past couple of years. As a result, I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails asking for book recommendations.

Last weekend, I sat down to organize my office. As part of that, I performed a much-needed purge of my books about money. (And yes, I took them to a used book store so I could get a little bit of cash for them.) As I sorted, I made a list of my favorites, the books I recommend to people again and again. Today, I’m sharing that list.

It’ll probably come as no surprise that most of these books were on the last list I shared (which was 2-1/2 years ago!). Many were on my first list of recommended reading back in 2007. But for this list, I’ve added a few titles and removed a couple of others. These are the financial books I think would be most useful to Get Rich Slowly readers.

As before, these books are grouped into sections, roughly following the financial progression of the average person (from debt to financial independence). I’ve marked my favorite books with a happy star . I’ve linked to the Amazon page for each book, but, as always, I encourage you to borrow the titles that interest you from your public library.

Defeating Debt

For those in the first stage of personal finance, debt reduction is the most important task. I know from experience that this can seem like a long, lonely battle. But others have fought it before, and have lived to document the process. Here are three books that describe different approaches to winning the fight.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey — Ramsey is an anti-credit zealot. He made a $4 million fortune by his mid-twenties, and then lost it to bankruptcy. Now he runs a personal finance empire. He takes a lot of criticism for his support of the debt snowball, which he describes in detail here, but the thing is: his methods work. If you’re struggling with debt, there’s no better starting place than this book. Ramsey’s advice is permeated with his Christianity, but you can get a lot out of this book even if you’re not religious. [My review.]

Debt is Slavery by Michael Mihalik — Debt is Slavery is a deceptively simple book. It’s short. Its advice seems basic. And it’s self-published, so how good can it be? Well, I think it’s great. In fact, I found myself wishing that I had written it. Mihalik’s advice is spot-on, and he covers a lot of topics that other authors shy away from, such as the effects of advertising, the weight of possessions, and the soul-sucking misery that comes from a bad job. This book may be short, but it’s sweet. Especially great for recent graduates, I think. [My review.]

How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously by Jerrold MundisHow to Get Out of Debt is built on the principles of Debtors Anonymous, a twelve-step program founded in 1971 to help those who struggle with compulsive debt. Mundis was himself a debtor, and he based this book on his own experience. This isn’t purely theoretical information from the mind of some Wall Street finance whiz who has never struggled; this book contains real tips and real stories from real people. If you’ve tried Dave Ramsey without success, read this. It’s 20 years old, but the information is timeless. [My review.]

Everyday Personal Finance

After you’ve defeated debt, you enter the second stage of personal finance, mastering the everyday habits that allow you to build wealth. The books listed here offer a wide view, discussing many aspects of money. They offer advice about saving, investing, and frugality. They don’t go into much detail about any one subject, but they provide motivation to get started. And that’s what’s most important.

Your Money: The Missing Manual by J.D. Roth — Wait…I put my own book on the list? You bet. I wrote Your Money: The Missing Manual precisely to be the sort of book I needed when I was struggling with money. I think it’s a great resource, getting to the heart of a broad range of topics. I’m not the only one. In his review, Kevin Kelly (the founder of Wired magazine) wrote, “This is the best user-guide to personal finance I’ve found, and I’ve probably read them all.” I refer to my own book almost daily. No joke. I guess that’s one of the luxuries of writing a book — you can just write the book you want!

You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen — It was a toss-up whether to include this or Negotiating Your Salary [my review]. The latter is outstanding, and I recommend it highly to anyone who is applying for a job or asking for a raise. In the end, though, I chose Herb Cohen’s book because it covers a wider range of topics. And it’s entertaining! By becoming a better negotiator, you’ll not only save (and make) more money, but you’ll also become better at conflict resolution. [My review.]

Money Without Matrimony by Sheryl Garrett and Debra Neiman — As difficult as marriage and money can be, things are even tougher for unmarried couples, both gay and straight. It’s difficult for these folks to get good advice in a society that’s geared toward married couples. Money Without Matrimony is a great book with sound suggestions. It’s non-judgmental, practical, and packed with advice. If you’re in a committed unmarried relationship, I highly recommend you track down a copy. (This may be difficult: My county library system only has two copies, and the book is out of print. But Amazon has some cheap used copies left.) And to be honest, a lot of the advice here is great even for married couples! [My review.]

Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez, Robin, and Tilford — A classic, and one of the foundation books for the simplicity movement. The authors play off the concept “time is money” in a very literal sense. They encourage readers to sort out priorities, to cut expenses, and then to seek passive income in pursuit of financial independence. A little New Age-y in spots. An excellent book, and a huge influence on many prominent personal finance bloggers. I hope to review the new, revised edition of YMoYL soon. [Frykitty reviewed the previous edition of this book for GRS in 2006.]

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi — I didn’t like All Your Worth when I first read it. The book takes a dim view of frugality and thrift, and it contains some wild assumptions (like 12% stock market returns). But with time, I’ve come to appreciate the strength of All Your Worth, not just for those struggling to shake off debt, but also for those of us who are beginning to build wealth. This book’s balanced money formula is probably the single most important part of my current financial plan. There’s good stuff here, though you may need to filter some of the authors’ rhetoric. [My review.]

I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi — This book is great, but it’s not for everyone. It’s targeted almost exclusively at young adults. If you’re under 30 and single, and if you make a decent living, this book is perfect. But if you’re 45 and married with two children, and if you struggle to make ends meet, this book is less useful. Plus, Ramit has a strong authorial voice. He’s bold, sarcastic, and even a little sassy. Not everyone likes this. If you’re turned off by his blog (or by his articles at Get Rich Slowly), you’ll be turned off by his tone in this book. These caveats aside, I Will Teach You to Be Rich is packed with solid advice, cites its sources, and provides scores of tactical tips for managing money. [My review.]

The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn
“The Tightwad Gazette” was a newsletter published during the early 1990s by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”). Eventually the back issues were collected into a series of books, which were in turn collected as The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Dacyczyn wrote articles like: “Used Shoes: Are they Good or Bad?”, “Budget Bug-Busting”, “Tightwad Toys”, and “Saving Money on Your Mortgage”. Sounds just like a personal finance blog, doesn’t it? This book has thousands of tips, many of which were contributed by readers of the newsletter. (You won’t find any info on investing here. This book is about frugality!)


Learning to invest your money wisely is one important aspect of the middle stages of financial development. Wall Street is not friendly to the small investor. It’s designed to part you from your hard-earned dollars. These books can help you develop an investment philosophy that will let you improve your odds of retiring wealthy.

The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein — I’ve read dozens of books about investing. Of these, The Four Pillars of Investing is probably my favorite. Most investing manuals espouse one sure-fire method or another. Four Pillars does that to an extent, but the author provides a great deal of depth and color to support his argument. I love that Bernstein takes a comprehensive, holistic approach to the subject, not just looking at the theory and business of investing, but also looking at the history and psychology of investing. This is a great book. [My review.]

The Random Walk Guide to Investing by Burton Malkiel — Malkiel is best known for his classic A Random Walk Down Wall Street. This book is shorter, written in plain English (there’s no investing jargon), and easy to understand. But that doesn’t mean it’s simplistic. This is an excellent book, filled with advice based on sound financial principles. It covers risk tolerance, asset allocation, diversification, and even a little behavioral finance. An excellent guide for beginners. [My review.]

The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias — Andrew Tobias is an entertaining writer. His jocular, conversational tone will keep you interested as he describes mutual funds, bonds, and treasury bills. There’s a good section on how to handle a windfall (lottery, inheritance). My favorite bit from Tobias is his three-step budget: destroy your credit cards, invest 20% of everything you earn (and never touch it), and live on the remaining 80% no matter what. Awesome. This is a classic introduction to the subject of investing, though at times it seems a little dated. (You can read Andrew Tobias every day at his blog.)

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Larimore, Lindauer, and LeBoeuf — You want expert investment advice? You can’t beat the info found here. These devotees of Vanugard founder John Bogle are big on slow, sure investments like indexed mutual funds. They tap their decades of experience to teach about diversification, inflation, and asset allocation. It’s not nearly as boring as it sounds. This book covers a broad range of topics, though its primary focus is investing. Highly recommended.

I write a lot about personal finance books here at Get Rich Slowly. Past articles related to this subject include:

  • Building a cheap personal finance library
  • How to read a personal finance book
  • Ask the readers: Personal finance books as gifts?
  • Books with true-life stories about frugality
  • Which personal finance magazine is best?

Reading is one of the cheapest and most customizable ways to teach yourself about financial topics.

Financial Independence

This next group of books may be my favorite. These volumes cover topics related to Financial Independence — that magical point where you no longer have to work. This is the final stage of money management. For many people, this means retirement. But it doesn’t have to be that way. These books offer solid advice for how to create a future that matches your dreams.

Early Retirement Extreme Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker — Imagine a personal finance book written by a theoretical physicist. What would it be like? Full of formulas and figures, right? Well, that’s what you get with Early Retirement Extreme. But you get more, too. This is more than just a personal finance book filled with formulas and figures. It’s also philosophical. This book is about strategies, not tactics — it’s about the Big Picture instead of the day-to-day actions needed to retire early. If you’re up to the challenge of filling in Fisker’s framework with your own details, this book could be a life changer. [My review.]

The Quiet Millionaire by Brett Wilder — The Quiet Millionaire is a quiet book. Wilder isn’t bombastic, and he doesn’t tout any gimmicks. It’s not really a book for beginners. It’s targeted at folks who, like me, have reached the third stage of personal finance — or beyond. It’s for readers who are out of debt and building wealth. In many ways, The Quiet Millionaire is boring. It’s like a textbook for financial independence. But you know what? Smart personal finance is boring, too. Smart personal finance isn’t about being flashy or gambling in the stock market. Smart personal finance is about making the right choices day after day, year after year. The Quiet Millionaire may not make any best-seller lists, but I’ll bet it makes some of its readers rich. [My review.]

The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko — The authors interviewed and surveyed a pool of millionaires, attempting to find common connections among them. They discovered that millionaires live below their means. They budget. They let their adult children make it on their own. This book introduces several key concepts, including degrees of wealth accumulation. It’s a bit tedious in spots, at least in the audio version. This is one of just a few books to cover both sides of the wealth equation: saving money and earning money. [My review.]

The Incredible Secret Money Machine by Don Lancaster — This hard-to-find volume from 1978 looks like a get-rich-quick book. It’s not. It’s all about starting and running small businesses, especially craft businesses. To Lancaster, a “money machine” is any venture that generates “nickels”. Nickels are small streams of revenue from individual customers. If your goal is simply to earn a comfortable income for yourself by doing something you love, then this book can help you explore the idea of business ownership. One of my Dad’s favorites, and one of my favorites, too. [My review.]

Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement by Bob Clyatt — While Financial Independence is my long-term dream, semi-retirement is my more immediate goal. Clyatt describes techniques for leaving the workaday world years (or decades) before the traditional retirement age of 65. Work Less, Live More includes sections on defining your goals, learning to live on less, putting your investments on autopilot, and more. This book is like a toned-down, practical version of The 4-Hour Workweek. I like it. A lot.

The Psychology of Money

I firmly believe that success with money is more about mind than it is about math. We all understand the arithmetic behind personal finance — to build wealth, you must spend less than you earn — it’s mastering the emotions and habits that causes us trouble. These books explore your money and your brain.

Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig — I haven’t reviewed this at Get Rich Slowly yet, but it’s a great book. Zweig covers the latest research into how money affects our behavior. There are a lot of interesting books out there about the psychology of personal finance, but this is the most comprehensive. Your Money or Your Brain was an essential reference while I was writing my own book. (Zweig’s extensive footnotes point to tons of great research studies about how we handle money.)

Mind Over Money by Brad and Ted Klontz Mind Over Money by Ted and Brad Klontz — Mind Over Money won’t teach you how to budget and it doesn’t ever mention index funds. This isn’t a book about the nuts-and-bolts of personal finance; it’s a book about how we relate to money. The authors argue that our relationships with money are complex and not wholly rational. Our financial behavior is influenced by psychology and emotion and, especially, our personal history. We’ve all developed money blueprints that shape how we deal with our finances. Mind Over Money doesn’t provide all of the answers you need to correct your money blueprint, but I don’t think that’s the point. The strength of the book isn’t in the answers it provides, but in the questions it provokes. [My review.]

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes (and How to Correct Them) by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich — In this short book, Belsky and Gilovich catalog a menagerie of mental mistakes that cause people to spend more than they should. What might have been a boring topic becomes fascinating thanks to an engaging style and plenty of anecdotes and examples. This book covers more than a dozen psychological barriers to wealth and explains how to prevent them from sabotaging you. [My review.]

Kids and Money

Many parents are unprepared to teach their children about money. You needn’t be one of them. These books suggest methods for getting kids to understand how money works.

Living Simply with Children by Marie Sherlock — Sherlock offers tips for how to raise children that aren’t part of the consumerist culture. She encourages strong family ties as a counter to the relentless purchase to acquire “stuff”. Sherlock is also a proponent of using family rituals to replace consumer-oriented cultural activities. There’s some great advice here (the book is strongly influenced by Your Money or Your Life), but some readers may be put off by the author’s philosophy.

Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids by Gail Karlitz — Growing Money has good chapters on banks and bonds, but most of the book is devoted to stocks. The book also contains chapters on the history of the stock market, how investors make money, and how to buy and sell stocks. This is probably my favorite book for children, but it does have some weak spots. Only one page out of 120 is devoted to mutual funds. Because the book is aimed at children, taxes are barely considered. Still, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. It’s the sort of book to buy for your nephew, but read yourself before you pass it on. [My review.]

What Color is Your Piggy Bank? by Adelia Cellini Linecker — This slim volume is a great choice for kids from 10-14 who are beginning to show an interest in entrepreneurship. Linecker covers the world of jobs, setting up shop, and how to manage money.

Financial Journalism

This final trio of books won’t help you get rich — at least not directly. These don’t contain overt stock tips or advice for frugal living. Instead, they tell real-life stories about certain aspects of finance.

Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart — It’s not just Bernie Madoff. Wall Street has fallen prey to all sorts of unscrupulous men over the course of its history. In Den of Thieves, Stewart takes us inside the high-finance worlds of Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin Siegel, and Dennis Levine. These men were embroiled in the insider trading scandals that shook the market during the 1980s, and through their stories were able to see just how corrupting the influence of money can be. A little dense at times, but a great way to learn about the market.

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein — It’s no secret that Warren Buffett is one of my financial heroes. In this biography of Buffett, Roger Lowenstein describes the events that shaped his life, starting as a boy in the early 1930s. As we follow Buffett’s growth, we learn about the development of investment theory. There’s plenty of information here about Buffett’s investment philosophy. Entertaining and educational.

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel — Writer Studs Terkel published Hard Times in 1970. It features excerpts from over 100 interviews he conducted with those who lived through the 1930s. Terkel spoke with all sorts of people: old and young, rich and poor, famous and not-so-famous, liberal and conservative. By including the perspectives of so many different people, Terkel is able to paint a richer picture of what things were like. [My review.]

A word about magazines: I read a lot of personal finance books, but I also read a lot of personal finance magazines. Lately, though, I’m short on time. As a result, I’m reading fewer magazines than before. In fact, I let my subscription to Smart Money lapse — it’s not as good as Money or Kiplinger’s, and I hate their slimy renewal policy. Which three magazines do I never miss? Consumer Reports, Consumer Reports Money Adviser, and my favorite — Countryside. If you’re interested in homesteading, DIY, and country living, give Countryside a try. It’s awesome (kind of like a multi-author blog in magazine form). I just wish it were published more than six times a year.

Final Thoughts

Few personal finance books are perfect. For most, you need to employ personal filters. Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover is a fantastic book on debt reduction, but if you’re not Christian, you’ll have to tune out the Bible verses. All Your Worth contains a great plan for achieving financial balance, but you may need to ignore its constant disparaging of frugality and thrift. Please feel to share your favorite books about money and explain why others should read them.

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There are 69 comments to "The best books about money".

  1. 20's Finances says 28 November 2011 at 04:56

    Thanks for the great resource. I will definitely take a look at some of these in 2012.

  2. thefrugallery says 28 November 2011 at 05:13

    I really enjoyed “Your Money or Your Life.” It opened up a lot of great discussions between my then-fiance and I which has ultimately led to a smoother financial life together. When you figure out how much your time is worth you will reevaluate what you spend your time doing and what you value. A must read!

    • Miser+Mom says 28 November 2011 at 09:28

      Hear, hear! I read this book out loud to my husband. I’m very cheap (as you can tell by the name), and my husband is very NOT cheap. But this book gave us some really valuable common ground for approaching our financial life together.

  3. Simon says 28 November 2011 at 05:19

    Even if people don’t identify as religious, there is something beautiful to be gained from the ancient Jewish wisdom passages that Ramsey cites in his book.

    • Sam says 28 November 2011 at 14:32

      I’m agnostic and TMM is still my favorite personal finance book. For me, spending, debt, finances is based in emotion so TMM got me fired up to live a debt free life.

    • El Nerdo says 28 November 2011 at 20:06

      I’m rabidly anti-religious, particularly anti-Christian (sorry Mom!) but Total Money Makeover is an awesome book.

      Yes, there were paragraphs that burned my apostate eyes, and yes, religious proselytizing gives me horrible hives, but at least Ramsey makes clear where he’s coming from and why he says what he says– e.g. “as a Christian, I believe that my pastor…” etc. etc. He does not claim his religion as absolute truth for everyone.

      Since he constantly reminds the reader of his own personal perspective, it allows people with different perspectives to take what they need from the book and reject what they don’t. And I appreciate that.

      So yes, in spite of the many cringe-inducing paragraphs I’ve found there, I recommend this book to everyone, even to those who like me will be damned for eternity for repudiating the gospels. (No, he doesn’t say that, that’s just me being flippant.)

  4. The+Money+Clubhouse says 28 November 2011 at 05:30

    Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson is a useful reference book. It’s easy to read and lists lots of resources. The book is updated every few years to stay current with changes to tax laws, credit cards etc.

    • Jenzer says 28 November 2011 at 09:17

      Agreed. Tyson’s book (and The Tightwad Gazette) got me through my first few years after college in good financial condition.

  5. mihai says 28 November 2011 at 05:55

    As I am still raising money for my first house down payment I have to say that Dave Ramsey is the one author I care for now.
    Without actually knowing it I followed his method (ended up paying the car sooner then the personal loan) and now I have 0 debt.

    Andrew Tobias sounds pretty interesting on the investing side. Mostly because where I live (Eastern Europe) there is no such thing as functioning stock market).
    The issue with investing is . I don’t know when I should start it. Is it wiser to buy a house first,pay it off and then invest ?

    • Mom of five says 28 November 2011 at 10:37

      We also followed Dave’s advice before I found him on the Fox Business Channel. I have to admit that line about “good growth stock mutual funds” grates on me too, but I find him to be very motivational speaker.

      I bought his book to give to a friend drowning in debt, but I read it first to see if the Christian talk would be too overwhelming for her. It wasn’t but I found the book to be not nearly as inspiring as listening to him is. Next time I think he could help someone I will buy either a DVD or something they can listen to in the car.

  6. Kylie Ofiu says 28 November 2011 at 07:07

    I like 365 Ways To Make Money. It covers not only ways to make money, many of which can be done on the side or from home, but also how to get started, advertising for free or cheap, motivation, that sort of thing.

    Of course I may be biased, as I am the author, lol.

    I found Dave Ramsey real good, Your Money or Your Life is another I enjoyed, but the first finance book I read and still one of my fans is The zRichest Man in Babylon. Read it at 13 thanks to my dad.

  7. Brett says 28 November 2011 at 07:08

    What is an excellent book about growing wealth for a 20 something? As an avid reader of GRS, I feel like most of the 20 something finance books are like taking a remedial class. Are there more advanced money management books for someone in their 20’s?

    I’m 27, put 12% of my pretax income into my 401K, rent but don’t own, I have zero debt, budget well and still have enough left over at the end of the month to save up for a house. I want to grow my money now while I can. Should I put more into my 401K? Should I open a Roth IRA? How about investing on my own so I can reap the benefits a little sooner? Another positive aspect is I have pretty high earning potential with my career.

    I’m looking for a way to invest so that I can enjoy the wealth in my 40’s. My 401k is for when I’m retired. I want to enjoy life a little sooner than that.

    • Emily @ evolvingPF says 28 November 2011 at 07:36

      I agree with you. I have a favorite PF book for 20-somethings that I recommend to friends, but it is “remedial.” Honestly I think that you won’t find what you’re looking for in books targeted for our age group – either look into the retire early/semi-retirement literature or stick with blogs. There are young bloggers who write about these topics and I think that’s where you’ll have to get your information and inspiration, at least until one of them publishes a book. Or trust your own instincts – you’re doing well already and you’ll probably continue to make good decisions.

    • mihai says 28 November 2011 at 08:06

      Brett,I am 30.
      I do not think you can ever save enough for a house monthly.
      I save about 40% of my income and I am looking for ways to advance to 50% just for this purpose.
      Still I will need 7-8 years to buy the apartment cash(and 1 1/2 years to buy it with a loan).
      So your statement puzzles me.
      Of course in US there are other investing opportunities so can’t help you there. But I have the feeling it is safer to invest in your house if you rent and then fully INVEST into the stock market,gold,businesses.

    • Katie says 28 November 2011 at 10:32

      I like Ramit’s blog (his book was mentioned by JD): Some of the stuff is more for beginners, but there are also a lot of helpful blog posts and tips for more advanced folks. I’m in the same boat as you (401K and Roth growing, emergency fund done, house fund growing, etc.). He gives some good investment advice in his book and his blog’s focus on financial independence and earning more is in-line with my financial goals.

      If you want more intense investment advice, the Boglehead’s forum ( is awesome. These folks are VERY advanced and know a huge amount about specific investments and strategies. They are also a really nice group and are very welcoming if you decide to post (as long as you are respectful).

      To some degree, I think what you are feeling is financial plateau. Once you’ve eliminated debt and already have healthy retirement and emergency funds, it can feel like there is nowhere left to go. Just keep setting goals and remember to reward yourself when you meet them. After all, the purpose of personal finance is not to obsessively hoard money, it’s to use it effectively to create your goal lifestyle.

      • Mike Piper says 30 November 2011 at 19:54

        Excellent suggestion. IMO, the Bogleheads forum is hands-down the best place to go for online investing information.

  8. Realitybytes says 28 November 2011 at 07:11

    AH! No list like this is complete without “The richest man in Babylon”.

  9. Slackerjo says 28 November 2011 at 07:50

    The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan.

    10 kids + alcoholic husband + no credit = creative ways to earn money/household items.

    The movie isn’t as good because it does not depict the devastating affects of alcoholism as well as the book.

    I remember reading this book at work and my (mostly 19 and 20 yr old) co-workers did not understanding that in the 1950s most people did not have access to credit.

    I think that Studs Terkel’s Hard Times should be studied by every high school student. I read that book about 20 years ago and I still think about it when I am frustrated or depressed by my own situation. The I usually feel ashamed for feeling deprived. Thanks Studs!

    Oh, because I am Canadian, The Wealthy Barber. A classic!

  10. James says 28 November 2011 at 07:52

    The total money makeover is a good book overall, as long as you can hold in your laughter when you get to his investing tips. Dave’s investing tips are the only beef I have with him. I wish he said NOTHING about investing, it would make him sound more legit. You hear the phrase “Good growth stock mutual fund” on his radio show about 64 times each day. Followed by “which average 11% historically”. Yeah, hate to break it to you Dave, but finding a mutual fund earning 11% is next to impossible. 8% maybe, in a perfect world. If I could earn 11% as simple as he makes it sound I could have probably retired 5 years ago.

    • DollarStretcher says 28 November 2011 at 11:09

      Agreed. I remember him saying 12% average return. Maybe he changed it? Or maybe I’m losing my mind.

      • Sam says 28 November 2011 at 14:37

        I listen to him and he now says 6-8% and is more realistic about the market on his radio show. But I agree, his investment advice is pretty thin.

  11. Emily @ evolvingPF says 28 November 2011 at 07:54

    Thanks so much for this list! I have read a few books on it already and I got a lot from each (well, except The Total Money Makeover, which I just read because it seemed everyone else was). I just requested several of these titles from my library and I’m excited to dig into them!

    The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn is one of my favorites as well. I noticed you don’t have any of David Bach’s books on this list. I found the values-clarifying and goal-setting sections of Smart Couples Finish Rich to be very useful.

  12. Diane says 28 November 2011 at 08:08

    …Anything by Ric Edelman, but especially “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth”.

  13. Mary says 28 November 2011 at 08:51

    I’m excited to see a list with a few titles I haven’t even heard of (let alone read) – woot!!

    I’m glad to see Ramsey’s book at the top of your list. That book changed my life forever (consumer debt-free thanks to DR and about to close in on the mortgage). I think more and more people are choosing to eschew debt thanks to that book.

    • Sam says 28 November 2011 at 14:45

      A lot of these titles are great and I’ve read many of them. But for us, TMM changed the way we live our life. We killed the consumer/student debt ($55,500) and we have avoided consumer debt ever since. We save up for big purchases, i.e. car, vacation, holidays, home improvement, etc. We live within our means by spending only current dollars. We have changed the way we live in a dramatic and, for us, positive fashion, based on TMM. The investment advice is thin, but by following his plan we are able to max out our 401ks and our IRAs which means we are on target to save $43,000 in 2011 for retirement.

  14. phoenix1920 says 28 November 2011 at 08:53

    I think this article also needs a category for how to successfully institute change–the psychology of change. Everybody understands intuitively HOW get rich slowly. Decrease spending; increase income; invest wisely. The problem most of us have is how can we make these changes that we know we ought to make.

    One of the books that has become very important to me is Switch (I think I learned about this book here on GRS.) If we rely on self-control alone, we are doomed to fail in the long-run. Self-control is like a muscle that will tire out. For me, I avoid going places where I will spend money I don’t mean to spend. Others make a game out of saving money.

    • Rosa says 28 November 2011 at 10:57

      Weirdly, I’ve found the best books for that to be about marketing & anti-marketing, like The Conquest of Cool, The Paradox of Choice, and Juliet Schor’s two “American” books. I just reserved Your Money and Your Brain from the library.

  15. Peggy says 28 November 2011 at 08:56

    I’m glad that you included a self-published book on this list–there are some real gems out there, and it is often difficult for a self-published author to be taken seriously.

    GRS has had two very good posts on the real costs of having children lately, with hundreds of informative comments. But I don’t know of any book that addresses this subject well, except for my own self-published book: The Naturally Frugal Baby. I humbly recommend it as containing all the things that I wish I had known before having children. (The Complete Tightwad Gazette’s sections on this subject are brief and scattered.)

  16. ER says 28 November 2011 at 10:04

    I have to agree with the post, I got great advice from The Total money makeover as far as a road map for your money, The millionaire next door is great book, in theory. I also enjoyed RichDad PoorDad as it lights a fire within you to look at realestate in a capitalist mindframe.

  17. Terry says 28 November 2011 at 10:11

    Many of these, admittedly good, books focus on money management and not how you make your money.

    My perspective is that you should: 1.) find what you are passionate about in life, 2.) become highly skilled in that area, and 3.) share your passion and your knowledge with others.

    You make money by both doing what you love and in helping others to learn to do what you do.

    In proportion to how much you help others, the money will follow.

    See my article “3 Ways Why You Become a Giant When Your Write Your Book” at

  18. DreamChaser57 says 28 November 2011 at 10:24

    *peeks head in amid the loud boos and hisses* I liked Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I don’t agree with being overleveraged in Real Estate, but in a post Great Recession economic climate I am not sure if it’s logistically possible to do that to the same extent. I found value in his obsession with true assets and the distinction been mindless consumerism. So many middle/working class families take their hard earned income and plough it into cars, televisions, vacations. Then when tragedy strikes they find their households are precariously close to the edge. A lot of times when you hear about people in bad situations they never consider the years when income was bountiful and consistent. I like the idea that job should never be your only source of income. The most enduring lesson that I retained, scramble and be intentional about building an asset base. If you are tethered (meaning your presence is required) to your income stream it is inherently limited and stagnant.
    Bach’s first book The Automatic Millionaire was incredibly inspirational – it brought me to tears. It really captured the hopelessness and despair associated with living like a hamster, exerting energy on the wheel but never going anywhere. This was Bach’s first work before he was brand and a machine. I am not as impressed or moved by his subsequent works.
    The Richest Man in Babylon by Clason (Short stories, timeless values, ideal for young readers)
    Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control your Destiny by Suze Orman (Over years I have waned myself off of Suze, her overbearing style appeals to me less and less. Great estate planning stuff in this one)
    The Top Ten Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle Class by Keith Cameron Smith (psychology of wealth, short read but packs a punch)

    My long love affair with PF titles started by consistently reading GRS in Jan 2010 – the post and comments always referenced the classics. I also saw a millionaire on CNBC mention he’s read at least a 100 PF books, another millionaire on a podcast mentioned committing to at least one new book per month – building wealth is a skill. Any skill can be learned or refined through effort and acquiring knowledge.

  19. The Tim says 28 November 2011 at 10:39

    I’d add the great SNL classic tome: Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

  20. Dally says 28 November 2011 at 10:44

    For many of us the period of acquisition of retirement assets is coming to a close and it’s time to think about draw-downs. The very best book I’ve ever read about living in retirement is Henry Hebler’s “Getting Started in a Financially Secure Retirement: Pre- and Post-retirement planning that makes senses”. This is a book for people who aren’t afraid to break out a spreadsheet. He’s literally a rocket scientist who tackled the issues of financing retirement with all his acumen. He maintains a website filled with spreadsheets he built to help you. He’s scared for you. He’s worried about your roof, and whether you’ve prepared yourself for the biggest threat in retirement (unemployed single-parent children who boomerang home… oh, and also rising medical expenses) and whether you’re ready to buy your last car. I love this guy. He wrote another smoother book after this, but this is the REAL DEAL in all its rawness.

  21. Cybrgeezer says 28 November 2011 at 11:00

    I like to think I’m not the only old fart who reads this blog. If I’m not, and there are others getting closer to retirement, one of the best books around is “Retire on Less Than You Think” by Fred Brock.

    Another excellent book is “You Can Do It!” by Jonathan D. Pond. The book’s subtitle is “The Boomer’s Guide to a Great Retirement.”

    Now you kids go back to commenting … and stay off my lawn!

  22. Don says 28 November 2011 at 11:20

    Wow!! Incredible post!

    I’ve read many of the books on this list. The one that I would is “Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money” by Paul Merriman. It is a quick and easy read about the ideal portfolio for your investments. The author even has created sample portfolios for you to use for free on his website.

  23. Chett says 28 November 2011 at 11:36

    If you haven’t read The “Big Short,” you have to. It’s an inside story of the collapse of the real estate market and those who saw it coming. The author of Money Ball and The Blind Side wrote it, so you know it’s gotta be good.

  24. Tanya@TheInspiredBudget says 28 November 2011 at 13:20

    Your book reviews are probably my favorite part of GRS. I like the way you’ve categorized the books by topic. For people who are interested in the topic of faith and money but want a shorter, simpler book than Dave Ramsey’s, I’d also like to recommend “Money & Faith in Motion.” or

  25. Fawn says 28 November 2011 at 13:53

    The Millionaire Next Door completely changed the way we spent money (well, that and Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) and his follow up book, “Stop Acting Rich and Start Living Like a Millionaire” was a fantastic addition to our library.

    Thanks again for your site!

  26. Lolo says 28 November 2011 at 14:03

    I’m curious to know your opinion about Suze Orman’s books. In several posts I’ve found that some of what you advocate is exactly what Suze Orman advocates, but I’ve never seen you mention her.
    Personally, I gained a lot of insight from Young, Fabulous, and Broke. I know her style can be off-putting to many, but that doesn’t come through as much in her books. In any case, I was just wondering if there was some philosophical mismatch between GRS and Suze Orman.

    • Dally says 28 November 2011 at 14:20

      Personally, I find Suze Orman a bit horrifying. She appears to think that going from drastically screwed up to just minorly screwed up is a great accomplishment. I aim higher.

      • Lolo says 28 November 2011 at 14:25

        I’m not sure that I understand your comment. Everyone has to start somewhere before they can reach that higher point.

    • The Tim says 28 November 2011 at 14:39

      If you’ve never seen J.D. mention Suze Orman, you just haven’t been watching carefully enough: A quick Google search reveals numerous posts by J.D. about Suze’s philosophy and her books.

      • Lolo says 28 November 2011 at 15:32

        I misspoke. I’m a regular reader for about two years and only recall Suze Orman mentioned in one post. (You’ve obviously done research beyond what I did to find that she does receive some mention, but I was just going on what I remembered). She comes up in comments here and there.
        However, I’ve seen many other famous financial advisors (e.g. Dave Ramsey) mentioned much more. I’m just curious about why that is.
        One of my good friends really bought into the Dave Ramsey philosophy. It really helped her. Me, not so much. It occurs to me that different advisor/books appeal to different people, so there should be a mix of books that appeal to a variety people with the same goals on the list. I think JD’s book list does that mostly, but I’m just surprised that not one Suze Orman book makes it. I think it appeals to a certain type of person.

    • Shelley says 28 November 2011 at 15:10

      I, too, really enjoyed “YF&B.” It hit at just the right time for me & my husband as most PF books at the time were clearly marketed towards a different demographic. I haven’t looked at it in at least five years, so I’m not sure it still holds up, but I can’t imagine us doing as well with buying our house without that book.

    • JCC says 28 November 2011 at 16:39

      I am troubled by Suze’s ties to insurance companies (google Forbes and Suze Orman for a profile on her). I think she does give some decent advice, though she has total freaks on her show, mostly.
      I think it’s important to vet ANY personal finance writer – research them, look up criticisms, etc.
      I have little use for Dave Ramsey. His snowball method might have some psychological benefit if you have smaller debts, but paying down high-interest debts first would save more money. He has the nerve to down bankruptcy when HE benefitted from filing by erasing millions in debt. (Spare me the “but he learned from it” lectures, he STILL benefitted from it. If he hadn’t filed, he may never have been able to escape the hole he was in. He’s a hypocrite.)
      Eric Tyson is a well-regarded personal finance author. He doesn’t promote pie-in-the-sky ideas about how you can give up lattes and become a millionaire or anything.
      I very much enjoyed The Tightwad Gazette when I first read it around 14 years ago or so, and the principles are good, but some of the info is dated. However, some great concepts there.
      Ramit Sethi is good, so is Elizabeth Warren’s books.

    • Diane says 29 November 2011 at 12:35

      Suze Orman is like fingernails on the chalkboard to me. She makes my ears hurt. Can’t say why completely, she just does. Her message might be “fabulous”, but I just can’t listen to it. When I try to read one of her books, I can’t help but see/hear her. Jim Cramer has a similar effect.

  27. Lane says 28 November 2011 at 16:03

    Great review– many books I am not familiar with which I will check out.

    As someone who has not inherited money, I am now pretty set for retirement in a couple of years before I turn 60. You must earn and save, play any games with yourself you need to as you might to lose weight, but start now and do it. There was never any question of putting money aside over the last couple decades. As friends were buying or leasing fancy new cars, we bought their older models. We have taken some great vacations, but always had the money up front. We love to eat out and frequent local good restaurants, but never as a convenience. I love clothes more than my DH, but have budgeted for what I like. We also have always donated a lot of money every year, no matter what the economy was like. Our kids are welcome to come back here for a while after college with the proviso that there will be a contribution of time /and perhaps $ to be here. They are used to participating in the life of the family, so this is not a shock to them as it is to some of their friends. They are not too big to fail.

    As we did a lot of the ground work for this in the 90’s I have a soft spot for Tightwad Gazette, even though I have not followed a lot of what Amy recommended. It is the mind set that she advocates.

    • Jaime says 30 November 2011 at 23:02

      My parents bought new models of cars, but they always drive them until the car dies out or is getting ready to die out.

      With some high paying professions out there, people are able to buy what they want and save too.

  28. Marks Spencer says 28 November 2011 at 17:02

    For seventy years, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has influenced people worldwide by teaching social skills that not only win others over but give way to personal financial success. This book is as useful today as it was when it was first published.

    • Lis says 29 November 2011 at 20:46

      I love Dale Carnegie’s book! While it’s not specifically about personal finance, it has a lot of useful information about how to live a better life. 🙂

  29. Amanda K. says 28 November 2011 at 20:41

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with your recommendation for Countryside. I got the magazine and it was a waste of money. I garden and do a lot myself. The articles in this magazine were amateur and mostly nostalgic features about life on the farm. Disappointing. Plus, they sold our information. I still get solicitations for magazines.

    • Jaime says 30 November 2011 at 23:04

      All magazine companies do that. I subscribed to a travel magazine and ended up getting solicitations from Vogue and other fashion magazines.

  30. Greg says 29 November 2011 at 05:44

    Thanks for all the really great recommendations, I will be adding a good number of these to my reading list.

    Full disclosure, I work at The Motley Fool, so I have some obvious partiality, but I do believe some of the books published by The Motley Fool are strong contenders and warrant a space on your list, especially the most recent two:

    MOTLEY FOOL’S MILLION DOLLAR PORTFOLIO takes a look at a variety of different investing styles from Growth to Value to Dividend to International to help you determine what type of investor you are.


    WARREN BUFFETT INVESTS LIKE A GIRL is a very unique spin on investing for women and how it aligns with the greatest investor of our time. Good stuff.

  31. Jenna says 29 November 2011 at 09:57

    Great list and posts. TMM and YMYL were life changing for me, as well as GRS. About the same time I read them and found GRS, I also read Affluenza:The all consuming epidemic. I loved this book and found it helpful in the psychology area of personal finance. At the beginning of my journey I had a lot of consumer debt and was trying to understand why I let this happen with little thought. This book helped me understand how we are being manipulated to become consumerist sheep, spend spend spend so your possessions reflect who you are (or want to be). It was eye-opening and changed me forever.

  32. Kurt Fischer says 29 November 2011 at 11:53

    “Your Money or Your Life” changed my life. Along with “Walden”, it’s proved formative for my own philosophy of life. Walden is generally not considered a ‘money book,’ but it’s all about practicing a philosophy of life which can’t help but be supportive of meeting one’s money goals.
    Thanks for the post.

  33. Eileen says 29 November 2011 at 13:44

    Last summer, after about a year of reading GRS, I finally made myself read Your Money or Your Life because it seemed to be referenced a lot. I absolutely HATED it at the time and was once reading it on an airplane wishing I could open the window and throw the book out into the great blue yonder. BUT…some of the things that seemed ridiculous to me were probably pointing at areas in my life that I was in denial about…otherwise, why did I have such a strong reaction? (it’s only a book!) It was worth it for that alone. Also, there is this part where someone recounts the story of a lawyer who finally had enough money in the bank to retire and because of it he gained the courage to speak up more at the office. I think of it as the “bulletproof” story because evidently the guy was walking around thinking “I’m bulletproof, I’m bulletproof.” I think of that a lot. Even a little money in the bank helps clarify that kind of thing and gives you some clarity about why you work in the first place and what’s actually important.

  34. Teinegurl says 29 November 2011 at 17:22

    i just finished reading Young , Broke and Fabulous but i’m in the demographic (25 years old) but i seem to get better advice from GRS then i did from that book. I do like watching Suze Orman’s show but i understand how some people dislike her.

  35. Jana @ Everything Finance says 29 November 2011 at 19:32

    What a great, comprehensive list! I’ve been looking for some new books to read in 2012 and this certainly provides a number of options.

  36. bryan says 29 November 2011 at 22:23

    The 4-hour work week should be included this list, but good job even though

  37. AP says 30 November 2011 at 08:16

    How can I give any of these books as a gift without it being taken as an offense?? I do not want to say ‘I have it all together and you clearly do not, so try this…’ but that is what it feels like it will say. Anyone have advice?

    • Matt, Tao of Unfear says 30 November 2011 at 10:04

      I know this has been answered, either in a blog post or in the comments. Don’t remember what the specific advice was though.

      I might give three or four books on different topics, and just have that be one of them, so that it’s just “an interesting stack of things to read.” I’m sure if you do a search you can find that other post.

    • Matt, Tao of Unfear says 30 November 2011 at 10:07

      Not what I was thinking of, but

      • Amber says 01 December 2011 at 04:11

        Thanks for the link Matt. Basically, the answer is no gifting, better to ignore the house on fire. bummer.
        YMOYL was my intro to personal finance books (that I found in a library) and the thinking was revolutionary to me.

  38. Matt, Tao of Unfear says 30 November 2011 at 10:00

    I actually saw one of Dave Ramsey’s books in a used bookstore yesterday while I was there using my gift card. Not what I was in the market for, though. Got a copy of Oscar Wilde stories in Spanish so that I can practice (after J.D. mentioned that he was reading Harry Potter in Spanish, I’ve realized that that’s kind of the stage I’m at with learning Spanish).

    I did read Ramit’s blog for a while, but he got really pushy about sales in an annoying way. Turned me off. I might have to go give it another try.

  39. Aaron says 30 November 2011 at 12:34

    I’m actually really enjoying a book called the Wealth Cure, by Hill Harper.

    Really helpful about putting money in its proper place.

  40. Matthew Pryor says 30 November 2011 at 13:15

    I’m biased because it’s our book. But The Sound Mind Investing Handbook by Austin Pryor is a fantastic book for the beginner to the advanced money manager (and let’s face it, we’re ALL money managers on some level). We’ve made it incredibly user friendly, with many pictures and charts to break down complicated topics. We’ve even pre-highlighted some of the important points to remember. There’s a reason why it’s in its 5th edition with over 100,000 sold… because it’s a great teaching resource. And you don’t have to be a Christian to benefit from it. In fact, while there are Biblical principles woven throughout, you’ll likely have heard some of them before in a secular nature because they are smart, basic, common-sense principles. It’s not a curl-up-in-bed and read from start to finish kind of book. But it is a read a chapter at a time, make sure you grasp the concepts (assuming you agree with them), digest it, and move on when you’re ready. But read it all!

    So that’d be one of our top books (I warned you I was biased).

    Some of our other favorites are the Millionaire Next Door and Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes.

  41. Maggie@SquarePennies says 30 November 2011 at 19:50

    “Hard Times” by Studs Terkel is so interesting. It’s amazing how many people found ways to have fun even during the Great Depression. It’s about the indomitable will of people to make their way in the world no matter their current situation. Inspiring.

  42. Jaime says 30 November 2011 at 22:20

    Great list, I personally like your book and your money or your life as my favorites. I really want to read these other ones though so this list is very helpful.

    I paid off my debt and now want to focus on savings and wealth building. 🙂

  43. Marjorie says 05 December 2011 at 18:34

    Jeff Yeager’s book ‘Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches’ is a fun book about frugality. He defines true riches as being safe and comfortable; there’s very little in it about investing. However, the two page spread about spending $20 at the Dollar Tree is hysterical! Good advice, but mostly fun!

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