Looking for some inspiration to get your finances or your investments back on track?
These eight personal-finance classics, as judged by Goodreads reviewers, cover everything from getting your finances in shape to investing basics to the more sophisticated. While one book was published nearly seven decades ago, half of the list first came out in the first decade of this century.
For those looking for a list of newer books, turn to “These 8 are the best money books published in 2017”, also as judged by Goodreads reviewers.
“The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
The authors’ message is pretty straightforward. Live below your means. Invest. Your neighbor’s flashy car and ostentatious home don’t always signal a fat bank account.
This book was first published in 1996, so its twist on not keeping up with the Joneses is no longer surprising. Some critics say the book is dated and repetitive, and time is better spent reading some blogs on financial independence.
But this one-star review from Linda Terblanche shows even the naysayers found value in reading it. While she called the book “stupid,” she concluded that it “did make me evaluate my lifestyle and spending habits. Which is obviously a good thing. And I will be giving a copy of this book to a few people as birthday gifts. Begrudgingly.”
MarketWatch’s Philip van Doorn offers his own praise of the book — and suggests it makes a great gift for someone seeking financial security.
Overall, Goodreads reviewers give it an average rating of 4.01 out of 5. While that’s not the highest score on this list, it did get the most reviews.
“The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness” by Dave Ramsey
Here’s how you start on Dave Ramsey’s seven-point plan. One: Create a $1,000 emergency fund. Next: Pay off debt, starting with the smallest amount.
This book, first published in 2003, offers entry-level financial advice that has resonated with many.
“Sound advice, a good dose of the cold hard truth, and a very personable voice,” writes Royaevereads, who gives it five stars.
But a reviewer named Chelsea found it too full of self-promotion, given how often Ramsey gives shout-outs for his other books and live events. “This was written so gimmicky and like a used car sales person’s pitch,” she writes in her one-star summation.
Overall, though, Goodreads readers rate it highest of all the books on this list — 4.29 out of 5.
“Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
This book, first published in 1992, helped kick off the Financial Independence movement. Mr. Money Mustache, one of the movement’s high priests today, calls it “one of the Founding Documents of Mustachianism”. The book urges readers to be more deliberate in spending and to live well for less (sounds like those millionaires next door). An updated version, to be published in April, will address challenges faced by millennials and add a new category called Financial Interdependence.
“Vicki Robin’s book is not about just about money, but how we spend the allotted time of our life. She challenges her reader to ask if they have “enough” enough stuff, enough time, enough energy and enough money. She then asks the reader to really figure out what they value in their life outside of money. When the reader knows what enough is for them and what they value she lays out the steps to become financially independent in that place,” writes Naomi, who gives it four stars.
But Trish says it’s worth just two stars. “Not a favorite. Skip to the back to get the main ideas without all the motivational guru speak cluttering the rest of the book.”
Goodreads reviewers give it a 4.07.
“I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi
Let’s be frank: this is not a get-rich-quick book. Like some others on this list, this one, published in 2009, is aimed at those who need help saving and getting out of debt.
“A good financial book that teaches you to basically quit being stupid and be conscious of your spending and to not accept ignorance as an excuse for not planning. It is more geared to the late 20s and early 30s people but there is still very smart, good information to be taken away,” writes Andrew Wiese in his four-star review.
But Don Nestor says “the right title is ‘I will teach you how to be in the middle class’ and gives it just two stars.
Goodreads reviewers say it’s a 4.05.
“The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham (with commentary by Jason Zweig)
Value investor Benjamin Graham is one of Warren Buffett’s mentors, and Buffett calls this his favorite book. Picking it up, he once wrote, was “one of the luckiest moments of my life.”
Some describe this book, first published in 1949, as dense, dry and with (perhaps unsurprisingly) outdated examples. But its fans say its message remains relevant nearly 70 years later and praise the 2003 update with commentary from Jason Zweig, a Wall Street Journal columnist. (Both MarketWatch and The Wall Street Journal are owned by News Corp.)
“The commentary by Jason Zweig draws from the fundamental messages behind the book to provide more up-to-date advice on how to invest. Undoubtedly, Benjamin Graham provided the foundation for the commentary with his book, but I personally found Zweig’s portions easier to read and relate to,” writes Tim Chang, who gives it four stars.
This comes in second on the Goodreads list, with an average score of 4.26.
“The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing” by Taylor Larimore, Michael LeBoeuf and Mel Lindauer
Bogleheads are investors inspired by Vanguard founder John Bogle, the man who invented index-tracking mutual funds. They preach keeping investment costs and taxes low and portfolios simple, avoiding attempts to time the stock market and, like others, starting to save early.
Like some other books on this list, this one, first published in 2006, is best for those just beginning to invest.
“Just a great all-around introduction to investing. I went into this book knowing the basics about stocks and bonds and came out of it feeling much more prepared to take control of my financial future,” writes Caroline. She gives it 5 stars.
But Justin calls it “basically a long advertisement for low cost index funds” and rates it three stars.
The book gets an average rating of 4.24, just behind Benjamin Graham.
“A Random Walk Down Wall Street” by Burton G. Malkiel
This one is another Wall Street classic, first published in 1973. And like Benjamin Graham’s book, this isn’t the simplest read.
Critics quarrel over the truth of the efficient markets hypothesis, which maintains that stock prices always reflect all relevant information and investors can’t beat the market.
Even so, a reviewer named Dzabinski gives it five stars and writes: “Of all the books I’ve read on investing this will be the number one book that I recommend for people who are considering getting started. I’m not a fan of the efficient market theory so I tend to disagree with his main point of view HOWEVER, he does an outstanding job breaking down the methods and strategies in use today.”
Greg Anders, who also gives it five stars, says it’s a steal. “Considering that the advice in this book can easily earn you over $100,000 in lifetime net worth and that you can read it in one week for free from your local library, this may be one of the best investments you can ever make in your life.”
But Jack isn’t persuaded.
“Many years ago I bought this book about the stock market. In retrospect, it is the worst book I’ve ever bought because it made me believe in efficient capital markets. The author made his point with a lot of arrogance — just like finance professors did 15-20 years ago. At the time the markets very certainly not as efficient as the author believed. There have been several updates to the book, but the condescending voice of the author remains.”
He gives it just one star.
Overall, Goodreads readers give it a 4.06.
“The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns” by John C. Bogle
Here’s the word from John Bogle himself. No surprise, buying a cheap index-tracking fund is a core message, underscored with charts.
“Bogle’s common sense and humble arithmetic make this a great read for those looking for an easy and wise way to invest in the market,” writes Jordan Brown in his four-star review of this book, first published in 2007.
But Jeremy found it a one-theme book. “Beats into your head the idea that the average investor is better off buying and holding a low cost index fund. Beats it into your head over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over…”
And Sonya called it “part instruction manual, part Vanguard sales pitch. 200+ pages of “invest in low-cost, diversified, passively managed index funds.”
The two each gave it three stars.
Goodreads reviewers sided more with Brown, giving it an average rating of 4.11.