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Four must-read financial literacy books

Learn how to make your money work smarter, not harder

Handsome man relaxing with a book on sofa at home.

Whether it’s ancient history or your financial future, one of the best ways to learn about anything is by picking up a book. But head to the personal finance section of your favorite bookstore, and you’ll find an overwhelming number of options, from advice on getting rich quick to, well, advice on getting rich even quicker.

The following books offer more time-tested and mindful advice. There are countless worthy titles out there, but here are a few that will have you taking a more thoughtful approach to money, whether you’re learning how to budget, interested in saving money, setting financial goals, thinking about estate planning, or just looking for ways to get more for your buck from your 401(k).

In this article:

1. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

The Psychology of Money deals with the harsh reality that decisions around money and financial planning often have more to do with feelings and emotions than cold, hard calculations. That’s because humans aren’t machines, as Housel documents. Consequently, we tend to underestimate how emotional we tend to be with our decisions around money.

Beyond providing examples of how humans aren’t profit-seeking machines, Housel offers twenty actionable pieces of advice on how to build a better relationship with your money and avoid repeating harmful money patterns. In general, his advice revolves around understanding that the best financial plan for you is the one that allows you to sleep at night, as seeking to maximize the return on every dollar invested won’t necessarily make you wealthy.

For example, Housel advises readers not to follow one specific person but rather a broader philosophy. While you may personally admire Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or any other financial success stories, the likelihood of you (or anyone) being able to replicate their experience is minuscule. However, rather than letting that discourage you, this book says you should instead look at broader patterns of success as a more reliable way to achieve your own financial success.

2. The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael LeBoeuf

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing has become a cult classic among passive investors. Named after John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Investments, this book teaches the principle of investing in low-cost index funds rather than riskier investments in individual companies.

Investing in index funds — which are made up of stock from multiple companies, sometimes hundreds — can allow you to enjoy the benefits of a successful (if expensive) stock (say, Apple stock) while mitigating the risk of trying to find the next Apple all on your own, or of putting all your financial eggs in one basket by purchasing higher-priced stocks.

This allows you to reduce the risk of losing money from your investments. If you were to invest all of your money into just a handful of companies, you would be putting yourself at risk of losing a portion of your portfolio should one of those companies go under or make a devastating mistake. By spreading your investment portfolio among hundreds of companies, you are minimizing the risk that they would all go bankrupt at the same time while still having the potential for a good return on your investment.

Beyond this simple philosophy, the book also offers some concrete advice on maximizing your investments and optimizing your lifestyle for financial independence.

3. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

In this book, Benjamin Graham offers a different approach from Bogle’s. Firmly planted in an entirely different field of investment strategies, The Intelligent Investor advocates for an active role in your investment decisions. Rather than investing in stocks that seem to be doing well, Graham lays out a strategy for evaluating the real value of a company in what he refers to as value investing, an approach favored by the likes of Warren Buffett.

With value investing, you are encouraged to look into a company’s finances and real-life performance before you decide to invest in it. Although stock prices are often swayed by speculation, Graham believes that a company with solid finances and a positive performance will continue to deliver stock market gains regardless of Wall Street speculation.

This book can be an excellent choice for more advanced investors who are looking to have a more active role in their investment portfolio.

4. Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry

Finally, we have a timely financial guide for millennials. Although all books on this list offer invaluable advice for investors of all ages, Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together seeks to address some of the specific challenges faced by those between their late 20s and early 40s. For example, unlike earlier generations, many millennials are saddled by student loan debt and face an affordable housing crisis.

This book offers concrete strategies that millennials can use to get out of student debt and adapt to the current financial situation. For example, the author offers suggestions for capitalizing on your financial instruments, like choosing a good high-yield savings account.

If you’re a millennial currently facing financial struggles, this book could offer helpful advice from someone who understands precisely what you’re going through. The book is among four in a series (so far), and in true millennial style, Lowry can also be found dispensing advice on Instagram.

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About Marco Monroy Robles

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

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