What’s your money strategy? Do you even have one?
If not, it’s not uncommon. Until two years ago, I didn’t have a financial plan, whatsoever.
Even though I’ve been reading about money, finance, and investing ever since I made my first few bucks as a teenager, I never created a financial plan.
But now, I think every single working professional needs a financial strategy. How do you spend your money? How much do you save? What are your thoughts about debt? How do you invest your money? How much money do you need to retire?
These are questions that every person who makes money must answer.
Let’s face it. If you want to retire comfortable (I’m not even talking about living a luxurious lifestyle), you need to get rich.
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And the 8 books that I recommend in this article will help you to do that. Read them and you’ll never have to worry about personal finance again.
1. The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason
This book was published in 1926 and as far as I can tell, it was the first popular book on personal finance.
Usually, I’m not into parables. But this is a great book. It’s the only parable that I’ve read that makes the message of the book even more powerful.
What it comes down to is this: Rich people are rich because they save their money, don’t get in debt, and don’t spend their money foolishly.
Clason recommends to save 10% of your income (I believe you should save 50% — more on that later). He calls saving “paying yourself first.” That’s an important mindset.
You only get rich by paying yourself. Don’t foolishly spend all your money on things you don’t need. When you do that, you pay others, not yourself.
Everyone should read The Richest Man In Babylon — the earlier the better.
2. Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
What I enjoyed most about this book is that it teaches you to transform your relationship with money. This will change your life.
Money is something you trade your life energy for. Think about it. You work to earn money.
But you spend your time to work. That’s why Robin and Dominguez spend the first part of this book to make us aware that more is not better.
More money is especially not better if you have to put your own well-being on the line. It’s never worth it. Just ask the family of the bankers who committed suicide during any recession.
If you want to live a healthy and wealthy life, you must detach yourself from money. Instead of striving for more, get better at managing your money.
Save it. And don’t waste it on stuff you don’t need. Your Money Or Your Life starts out strategically and gets more practical towards the end.
One thing I don’t agree with is retiring early. I don’t want to retire and sit on a beach. That’s because my mentors, who are beyond the retirement age, still work and are very happy. I aspire to do the same.
But I also want to build enough wealth that I don’t “have” to work if I don’t want to. That’s one thing Robin and Dominguez also believe in.
3. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (with commentary by Jason Zweig)
I bought my first stocks when I was 20 years old. At the time, the finance sector was doing great, and I thought it would be good to invest in ING, the major Dutch bank.
Oh yeah, I should mention that this was in 2007, right before the financial crisis. I invested €1500 in ING and €500 in AEGON, a Dutch asset management firm.
It was about half of my savings at the time — a lot of money for a student. And a few months later, when Lehman Brothers collapsed, my stock portfolio was worth only a few hundred euros in total.
Man, I was so pissed off. I can’t even tell you how livid I was. But looking back, I understand that losing money is a part of investing.
And fortunately, I didn’t sell and waited until the stocks recovered. That took eight years, though.
I decided to not invest in individual stocks anymore. And The Intelligent Investor is one of the most important books that helped to realize investing in stocks is not for me.
If you already know that you don’t want to invest in individual stocks, you don’t have to read this book. However, if you are interested in finance, I highly recommend it. The commentary by Jason Zweig, a WSJ columnist, is also excellent.
P.S. I skipped the chapters about stock analysis because I’m not going to use it.
4. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by Jack Bogle
The reason I stopped investing in individual stocks is Jack Bogle. This man is a true hero.
He founded Vanguard and created index funds. Unlike everyone else in finance, he’s not worth billions. Why? He created financial products for the people.
Vanguard is a unique company. Why? It’s the only company in finance that has the same interest as you. When you invest in their funds, they win, and you win.
But every firm, banker, broker, or advisor in finance, has different interests. Namely, their own. And sure, this is a black and white view. There are many unbiased financial advisors too.
But why should you give them your money if you can invest your money by yourself? Instead of buying individual stocks, Jack Bogle demonstrated that it’s much better to buy all the stocks in a certain index, industry, group, or even country.
History has shown us that indexing outperforms the majority of mutual funds. Plus, the fees of index funds are lower because they don’t have managers or expensive offices.
5. A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel
Malkiel is an economics professor at Princeton. Usually, economics professors are the last people you should take financial advice from because they are disconnected from the real world (read Skin In The Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for more thoughts on that idea).
But Malkiel is different. A Random Walk Down Wall Street digs deep in various investment strategies but remains practical at all times.
One of my friends who’s a successful investor recommended this book to me. And after doing some research online, I found that it’s one the most recommended books on investing by investors.
Again, this book advocates indexing over active trading. But because Malkiel is an economist, he does a much better job of explaining how markets work.
It’s actually very comforting. Markets are truly efficient. For every action, there’s a reaction. If that weren’t the case, the Western World would have collapsed when Lehman did.
6. The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
If you want to read only one book on this list — pick this one. The proposed plan in this book comes close to my personal financial strategy.
Collins is a practical man. And The Simple Path to Wealth is the most practical book I’ve read on personal finance.
He recommends saving 50% of your income. And that’s what I believe in too. The more you save early in your career, the better.
His strategy is super simple. If you’re still building wealth and are working, Collins says you should do two things:
- Save enough so you have “F-You money.” Have enough money in the bank that gives you the freedom to do anything you want for a longer period (it’s up to you to decide how much you need, depending on your monthly expenses).
- Put 100% of the money you want to invest (this is money you save on top of your F-You money) in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX).
Risky? Yes. Most upside? Hell yes.
If you plan on retiring within 10 years, put 80% in the VTSAX, 15% in the VBTLX (bonds index), and 5% in cash. That’s what Collins recommends. Of course, it’s his opinion. And he’s not a fortune teller.
The point of all these books is to educate yourself enough so that you can make the best decision for your own personal situation.
7. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Until now, I shared books that tell you WHAT to do with your money. But HOW do you even make money? If you have only one income stream, it’s time to change that.
It’s one thing that no book on personal finance addresses. My personal view is that valuable skills result in more income.
In general, the better you are at your job, the better your compensation is. It’s also true for entrepreneurship. That’s why I’m an advocate of investing in yourself.
Tim Ferriss started a revolution of making passive income online. With the tools and ideas in The 4-Hour Work Week, you can learn how to create your own passive income streams.
Because it’s great to invest your money. It’s also great to invest in skills that can make you money.
8. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
After the first time I lost money on the stock market, it took me eight years to make another investment. Why?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reading about investing and talking to investors is that it’s scary. No matter how much you know about investing, the fear will never go away.
So if you want to be a good investor, learn how to deal with the fear. And this book by Carnegie is one of the best books to help you do exactly that.
Because at some point, you have to decide how you’re going to invest your money. And, if you don’t have a clear strategy, it’s maybe even better to not invest at all. Because that’s also a decision.
So after you educate yourself and know enough(you don’t need to know everything), it’s time to act in your own best interest.