I love to party.
And by party I mean read books.
Usually financial ones.
Books about the tax code really get my juices flowing.
When I started really diving into reading about the tax code and I found out I could make over ONE HUNDRED GRAND without paying a single penny in taxes, I got seriously excited about that. Why don't people know this stuff? I bet you could walk up to 100 people on the street and ask them if it's possible for a married couple with two kids to make over 100K per year and not pay a penny in taxes on it, and do it completely legally (therefore staying out of jail.) I would be extremely surprised if even one person out of the hundred knew this was the case.
But it's perfectly accessible information. Usually it's not that hard to actually learn something, the hard part is knowing what you should be learning.
Other than keeping your health in shape, reading and learning is the most important thing you can do to improve your life. So, I've decided to list my 5 favorite and/or most influential books, along with what I learned from them and why you should read them. I've read hundreds of financial books over the last 15 years or so. 95% of them are very unremarkable and don't tell you much of anything of value. The sum of all the financial books I read in my 20's basically told me to max out my Roth IRA's every year with S&P500 index funds. If you want to become rich and/or financially independent, that advice is completely useless.
These five books will fundamentally alter how you think about money, they will guide you on how to view things correctly on a conceptual level. They are not the standard financial books which tell you which numbers to crunch or which specific stocks to buy. That's easy to find out. Read those later.
These five books will change your life.
1. Your Money or your Life by Vicki Robin.
This book will change the foundation of how you think about money. You need to realize that when you trade your time for money, in effect you are trading your "life energy" away. Everyone's life is like the gauge of a gas tank. By the time you get to middle age, the tank is at 1/2 full, by the time you get to the standard retirement age, it's probably 1/4 full. It suggests you add up all the money you've ever made in your life, and think about what you currently have to show for it. If you're like me (and most other people,) you'll probably have a very rude awakening. Most of the "stuff" you consume on ends up being of little or no value, once you look back on the purchase later on. This is one of the major factors that led me to Dividend Growth Investing. Currently this book is available used on Amazon for just over 4 bucks. Buy it.
2. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley and William D. Danko.
This book studies people who are millionaires, and details their behavior. The first thing you will learn is that the big spending "millionaires" that the media reports about such as celebrities, etc are not typical and basically total BS. Most millionaires have made their fortune slowly and carefully, and every decision they make in their life is made slowly and carefully, and always with an eye toward the sweet spot of efficiency, or the most benefit for the least cost. Buy it used on Amazon for a PENNY plus $3.99 shipping. I guarantee this will be the best penny you have ever spent.
3. The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason.
A few years ago I found this at the library and read through it in a couple hours. It was originally written as a series of pamphlets in the 1920's which were distributed by banks and insurance companies, and the pamphlets got consolidated into this book. A year ago or so, I found this at a used bookstore and picked it up for 50 cents. You don't even have to do that however, the full version is available free online to download at: http://www.ccsales.com/the_richest_man_in_babylon.pdf. I believe it's in the public domain (not copyrighted anymore,) so if that link stops working for any reason, just do a quick search on Google for "download Richest Man in Babylon" or something like that and you'll find it. This book is packed with timeless truths about money, but one of the things which struck me the most is that the effort to "scrimp and save" or to deny yourself certain things in the present has always been difficult. It seems like in the modern world there's tens of thousands of things we could instantly buy right now if money were no object. Sure, 100 years ago there were no ipads, but your great grandpa still had many thousands of things he could have done with his hard earned money at any time that would have provided more instant gratification than saving and/or investing it. Denying yourself that instant gratification takes character and is not easy. It never has been and never will be. Of course, there's many other great points in the book, but that happens to be the one that stood out the most for me.
4. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
Another book which is available used on Amazon for just a few bucks. While I've run into many people who aren't fond of Robert Kiyosaki, this book really does explain the mechanics of how rich people get rich and stay rich. While the author can come across as a bit of "used car salesman" type of guy with his lectures and games that he sells, that is no reason not to read this book. The most important point in this book is that it will teach you exactly what an asset is, vs. what a liability is. You absolutely need to learn this. Then you can forever change the way you think, taking this information into account. This will greatly help your journey to getting rich. In a nutshell, an asset is anything that puts money in your pocket. A liability is anything that takes money out of your pocket. If you own and live in a house and are trying to get a bank loan for something, your banker might want you to list the house under the "assets" column of your net worth sheet. That house will cost you many thousands of dollars a year in property taxes, maintenance and repairs, utilities, insurance, etc. Even though your banker may consider it an asset, it is not, it is a liability. Yes, you need somewhere to live, but that's besides the point. If you own that house and rent it for more than those costs, to where it puts, say $1000 per month INTO your pocket after costs are paid, then now it is an asset. Either way, it is the same exact house we are talking about, but it's how it affects your finances that makes the difference. Do you collect things? Your collection is never going to come close to the return of stocks over a period of decades. It's a liability. Structure your life so that you get rid of as many liabilities as you can, and put all your efforts into buying assets. Buy buy buy. Then use the money from your assets to buy more assets. You won't just be on the fast track to getting rich, you'll be on the freakin' bullet train.
5. Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey.
Dave Ramsey is another author that a lot of people tend to ridicule. He is very religious and he integrates this into his message. For people who are not religious that can be a turn off. But he has some great things to say. His biggest and most useful idea is to AVOID DEBT LIKE THE PLAGUE. He has helpful methods which detail how to get out of debt, should you need them. (If you are in debt, read my post Your Financial Life as a Lake for more about Debt and Dave Ramsey's ideas.) He also talks about how you "can't out earn your own stupidity" I personally was forced to learn this and found it to be true. His readings are packed full of little gems like this. It's another one on Amazon used for a penny.
You can buy all of the above books, including shipping, from Amazon used for under $20 bucks, TOTAL. Do it. Read. Learn. Change your behavior. Become rich. Become free.
See you on the other side!
**Also, I think I've learned just as much from blogs as I have from books. While books can give you a level of depth and detail of the fundamentals that most blogs don't, blogs can provide real world examples and up to date information not found in books. So be sure to take advantage of both. Check out my blogs page for some great examples of blogs to follow.
***Interestingly, many times I've found that shorter books actually contain better information stated more clearly. In general, the longer books tend to include a bunch of "fluff" which seems like it was only put there to make the book seem thicker, which probably fools people into thinking "more is better." In the case of books, sometimes even a quick read can forever alter your thinking. This is definitely a case of "less is more."