The 5 personal finance books everyone should read

must read personal finance books

Whether you’re a financial novice interested in learning the ropes, someone who is trying to grasp getting out of debt, or a young parent making some overdue plans to take better care of your family’s money situation, it’s never a bad time to brush up on the basics of personal finance. We took the liberty of rounding up some must-read personal finance books, from Finance 101-style how-tos to some friendly advice from an all-time legend. Hope you don’t mind.

To be clear, there’s a whole world of options out there, from books on behavioral analysis to studies on how your personal bias might keep you from betting on winning stocks. You won’t find those here—they’re for more seasoned investors—but consider the books below starters on your journey toward greater financial freedom. And while we’re on the topic, we should mention that virtually any financial book will tell you to set yourself up with some life insurance, if you haven’t done so already.

If you’re just getting started… The Index Card by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

True to its title, this book was born when the authors, in a moment of unexpected inspiration, grabbed an index card and wrote down everything the average person needs to know about managing his or her money. Their photo went viral, and this book is the result—one chapter on each of the ten things they say you should know, each of which will fit onto one card. (Well, technically it’s nine—the tenth tip is “Remember the card.”) The advice is basic, but if you’re having trouble just getting going, this might be the perfect place to begin.

If you struggle with debt… Confessions of a Credit Junkie by Beverly Harzog

You might not believe this, but apparently, some people use their charge cards until they can’t charge anymore, and wind up facing a mountain of debt that looks totally insurmountable. Yep, true story. If that sounds like someone you know, get this book, which will help you navigate your way out of debt and break some of the habits that got you there in the first place. The writer has cred—Harzog speaks candidly about her own experiences and struggles, giving the book an in-the-trenches authenticity.

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If you need a monetary cleanse… The 21-Day Financial Fast by Michelle Singletary

Perhaps you’re familiar with the idea of a dry month. That’s when people, typically in January, forsake alcohol for one month as a way of refocusing on one’s health and wellness choices. This book recommends doing something similar with your money. The idea is you go three weeks spending only cash, only on the necessities. By doing this, you make some painful choices, and learn what you really miss—and what you don’t. (Fair warning: There’s a religious element to Singletary’s thesis, but you don’t need to subscribe to her spiritual beliefs to benefit from her financial ones. (Oh, and if you’re not into this whole “reading thing,” you can get some of the same great ideas on the author’s YouTube channel.)

If you need a fiscal philosophy… The Essays of Warren Buffett

Here’s a name you probably already know. This book collects the Oracle of Omaha’s writings over the years, from essays to his renowned investment letters, and organizes them by theme. While this won’t help you, say, learn what to look for in a financial advisor (or even whether you need one), it will help you see the entire playing field, and get a perspective you can apply to your own life. Buffett’s core belief—that there’s a difference between price and value, and smart investors know how to spot it—will help you make better decisions, whether you’re making choices with your stockbroker or just at your fantasy football draft.

If you need a story… The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Okay, so technically this isn’t a personal finance book, though it could be an anecdote from Confessions of a Credit Junkie. This 1884 short story tells a timeless cautionary tale. The gist of the story is that one half of a married couple strongly desires a life of material wealth. When they’re invited to an important party, the man buys his wife a fur coat to wear to it. She’s not happy. He suggests she wear flowers. She’s still not happy. He suggests she borrow a wealthy friend’s very expensive necklace. She does, and they go to the party and have a wonderful time. Only one problem: She loses the necklace. To replace it, she shops around and finds a similar one, but it’s so expensive that they have to sell everything they own and take out a massive loan. They live in destitution for ten years, when the wife runs into the wealthy friend, who can barely recognize her. She tells the friend her story. Spoiler alert: The friend laughs because, oops, the necklace was a fake, and worth a fraction of what the replacement cost. Cue the sad trombone.

Anyway, the point is to live within your means. And maybe read more late 19th-century French literature when you can.

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Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.

Opinions expressed by the author are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Haven Life.

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC15DTC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Not all riders are available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is 0K71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

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