A Gallup poll found that slightly less than one-third of Americans have a long-term financial plan that includes savings and investment goals. Many people know it’s important to get ahold of their finances, but it can be challenging to get started and build the necessary long-term habits.
Reading books to start your financial journey is one of the most effective ways to improve your understanding of money management and develop sound financial habits. Warren Buffett, widely regarded as one of the most successful investors of all time, has said he spends as much as six hours a day reading. By learning from the experiences and insights of successful investors and entrepreneurs, you can avoid common pitfalls, gain valuable knowledge, and make more informed financial decisions.
In this article, get a list of 17 of the best personal finance books that can help you start your wealth-building journey or level up if you’ve already begun.
17 Best Personal Finance Books
1. Total Money Makeover
Author: Dave Ramsey
Description: This book is a step-by-step guide for getting out of debt and building wealth using Dave Ramsey’s famous “baby steps” approach.
Favorite Quote: “A budget is people telling their money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
Why You Should Read It: Dave Ramsey’s advice in Total Money Makeover has been put to the test over and over. This book is a New York Times best-seller, and it spent 500 weeks on the Wall Street Journal’s best-seller list. With over 5 million copies sold, millions of readers have improved their finances with Ramsey’s seven-step process for getting out of debt, getting rid of credit cards, and building savings.
2. Rich Dad Poor Dad
Author: Robert Kiyosaki
Description: Kiyosaki uses personal anecdotes to teach the differences in thinking between the “rich dad” and “poor dad” mindsets, covering topics like the importance of financial education, investing, and real estate.
Favorite Quote: “Most people fail to realize that in life, it’s not how much money you make. It’s how much money you keep.”
Why You Should Read It: Rich Dad Poor Dad is an excellent book for people who don’t come from a wealthy background but want to learn how to build a “rich” mindset. Kiyosaki emphasizes the importance of financial education. He explains how his own father didn’t understand how to build assets and generate passive income. Still, he learned these concepts from his best friend’s father and now shares them with readers.
3. The Millionaire Next Door
Authors: Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Description: The Millionaire Next Door identifies seven common traits shared by a large number of individuals who have accumulated wealth.
Favorite Quote: “Have you ever noticed those people whom you see jogging day after day? They are the ones who seem not to need to jog. But that’s why they are fit. Those who are wealthy work at staying financially fit. But those who are not financially fit do little to change their status.”
Why You Should Read It: This book uses research to illustrate a typical millionaire’s lifestyle. Because the wealthiest people often don’t display their wealth in obvious ways, many people are unaware of what life as a millionaire looks like and how to achieve it. Stanley and Danko shed light on the strategies ordinary people can follow to become wealthy.
4. Your Money or Your Life
Authors: Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Description: Robin and Dominguez share their nine-step program for becoming more conscious about spending, improving your happiness and well-being, and examining your values surrounding money.
Favorite Quote: “No matter how much you have, that voice of “more would be better” drives you to make acquisition the name of your game. Greed is one of the many strings in the human heart, and it can be pro-survival, but unchecked by a sense of fairness, balance, and love, it can gut our capacity for joy.”
Why You Should Read It: This book is perfect for anyone early in their personal finance journey wanting to determine how their core values should guide their financial decisions. It provides an opportunity to reflect on what’s important to you while becoming more mindful of your spending.
5. I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Author: Ramit Sethi
Description: Sethi’s book offers simple steps for young adults to improve their financial standing by focusing on the four pillars of personal finance: banking, saving, investing, and budgeting.
Favorite Quote: “Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”
Why You Should Read It: Young adults may find they connect more easily to Sethi’s personal finance guide than books about money written by personal finance experts of previous generations. Sethi writes specifically for a 20–35-year-old audience and believes healthy financial habits don’t have to revolve around restriction. While other experts often recommend avoiding small expenses like lattes and take-out, Sethi encourages readers to focus more on larger things, like negotiating raises, automatic investing, and asset allocation.
6. The Simple Path To Wealth
Author: JL Collins
Description: This book explains simple personal finance concepts, emphasizing low-cost index funds and keeping a long-term perspective.
Favorite Quote: “There are many things money can buy, but the most valuable of all is freedom. Freedom to do what you want and to work for whom you respect.”
Why You Should Read It: Collins has been called the “godfather of personal finance” because of his warm and fatherly tone. The Simple Path to Wealth developed from a series of letters Collins was writing for his young daughter, so it should appeal to beginners who could use encouragement while building financial habits for the future.
7. The Intelligent Investor
Author: Benjamin Graham
Description: Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor is a guide to value investing, a long-term, rational approach to wealth-building. Graham, often considered the father of value investing, explains how to outperform irrational optimistic, or pessimistic investors by making data-based decisions.
Favorite Quote: “The market is a pendulum that forever swings between unsustainable optimism (which makes stocks too expensive) and unjustified pessimism (which makes them too cheap). The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”
Why You Should Read It: Graham’s book has been the primary guidebook for some of the most successful investors ever. Warren Buffet calls The Intelligent Investor “by far the best book on investing ever written.” If you’ve already mastered the basics of personal finance, minimized your debt, and are ready to dive deeper into investment education, this is a good place to start.
8. A Random Walk Down Wall Street
Author: Burton Malkiel
Description: A Random Walk Down Wall Street discourages stock picking and market timing, presenting evidence that patient investors focused on long-term gains will have the best results in building wealth.
Favorite Quote: “It is not hard to make money in the market. What is hard to avoid is the alluring temptation to throw your money away on short, get-rich-quick speculative binges. It is an obvious lesson, but one frequently ignored.”
Why You Should Read It: Many young investors feel tempted by get-rich-quick schemes when they first enter the investment world, but Malkiel outlines a tried-and-true strategy for building reliable wealth with minimal risk. Over one million copies of this book have been sold since it was published in 1973, establishing itself as a classic.
9. The Psychology of Money
Author: Morgan Housel
Description: Housel shares 19 short stories in this book that explore the emotional side of money and the ways people make financial decisions.
Favorite Quote: “Savings can be created by spending less. You can spend less if you desire less. And you will desire less if you care less about what others think of you.”
Why You Should Read It: If you’ve heard the advice about budgeting, saving, and investing, but you still struggle to make sound financial decisions, you likely need to understand your own psychological relationship with money. The story format of this book makes it an easy and essential read.
10. The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money
Author: Jill Schlesinger
Description: A former Wall Street trader, Schlesinger describes thirteen common financial mistakes that many people make, even those who consider themselves to be highly intelligent or financially literate.
Favorite Quote: “Getting right with ourselves around money doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. On the contrary, it means accepting our mistakes and rolling with them. Yes, we’ll screw up from time to time—and that’s okay . . . With money, the very concept of “rebalancing” a portfolio assumes that the portfolio will become out of balance. That’s fine, because you’re performing this rebalancing on a regular basis.”
Why You Should Read It: Even smart people with a financial education make mistakes with their money. Schlesinger’s book outlines the most common errors and allows readers to avoid these issues proactively.
11. Confessions of a Street Addict
Author: Jim Cramer
Description: In this book, Cramer describes his path from a middle-class background to becoming a top money manager and financial planner on Wall Street. He describes the fast-paced, high-pressure environment of working closely with the stock market.
Favorite Quote: “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to shop for fish at Whole Foods, he’ll be broke within the year.”
Why You Should Read It: If you want to learn about Wall Street from an insider’s perspective, Cramer is one of your best options. This book is more narrative-driven than many of the best finance books, which makes it a fun read. While Cramer’s brash tone isn’t for everyone, and his track record for providing financial advice isn’t perfect, investors that want to learn more about the industry may find this helpful.
12. The Art of Money: The Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness
Author: Bari Tessler
Description: The Art of Money is part personal finance guide and part self-help book. Tessler argues that understanding money is the path to building confidence, compassion, and self-worth.
Favorite Quote: “Perhaps one of the reasons many of us are afraid to inventory our values and track our spending is that we know our inner and outer worlds are out of sync, and we don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.”
Why You Should Read It: While many personal finance books are full of facts and figures, this one is heavy on emotion. Anyone who struggles to speak about money, feels nervous about looking at their finances, or has any type of unhealthy relationship with money can benefit from this book.
13. The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success
Author: Darren Hardy
Description: In this book, Hardy describes the “compound effect,” or the principle that a series of small, smart choices can reap huge rewards. He then provides a step-by-step guide for using those decisions to achieve the life you want.
Favorite Quote: “The real cost of a four-dollar-a-day coffee habit over 20 years is $51,833.79. That’s the power of the Compound Effect.”
Why You Should Read It: While this book isn’t solely focused on personal finance, it heavily focuses on how readers can use the “compound effect” to improve their net worth. However, once you learn how to apply this strategy to your life, you can take that knowledge to other areas of your life, including business, relationships, and fitness.
14. The 30-Day Money Cleanse
Author: Ashley Feinstein Gerstley
Description: This book teaches readers how to eliminate money stressors, understand where their money is going, break bad habits, learn how to invest, and build a sustainable financial plan in just 30 days.
Favorite Quote: “A happiness allocation is a plan where we look at what money is coming in and decide how to allocate it in the ways that are going to make us the happiest in both the short- and long-term.”
Why You Should Read It: This book is as much about creating a happy life as it is about creating a financially healthy life. Gerstley argues that a financially healthy life is what leads to happiness. Readers who feel like something in their life is lacking might realize that their finances are the key to creating the life they want.
15. Talk Money To Me
Author: Kelly Keehn
Description: Keehn discusses common questions like how to build good credit, how to invest, how to talk about money with your partner, and how to splurge once in awhile while still maintaining good financial health.
Favorite Quote: “Remember that self-worth and net worth are very distinct things. You’re still a whole and valuable person, regardless of your money situation.”
Why You Should Read It: Many people make their biggest financial decisions without discussing them with the people in their lives. When getting your first credit card, taking out student loans, or making your first investment, there’s a lot to consider. Keehn raises questions you may never have thought to ask during your first go at these things.
16. The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich
Author: David Bach and John David Mann
Description: The Latte Factor is a parable about a young woman living in New York City struggling to make ends meet. She meets a barista who reveals to her the secrets to financial freedom.
Favorite Quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not like where you end up.”
Why You Should Read It: Readers who enjoy fiction will like that this book provides financial wisdom while following a storyline. Through the characters, readers learn how to create a secure financial future with just a few shifts in their routines.
17. This Is the Year I Put My Financial Life in Order
Author: John Schwartz
Description: Schwartz describes his own journey to improve his financial situation alongside research about financial well-being. He describes how he learned about retirement planning, insurance, and wills.
Favorite Quote: “Money makes us crazy because it’s important and not just for food and mortgages. It’s important because it runs deep, way below the conscious level. It runs so deep that it connects with some of our most primal feelings and strongest fears.”
Why You Should Read It: Schwartz puts a personal touch, with plenty of humor on this straightforward personal finance guide. He started his own financial journey late in life, so readers who are past their prime but have yet to get their finances in order can look to him as a guide proving that it’s never too late to begin.
Set SMART Goals to Continue Your Financial Education
Becoming an expert at managing your finances is often a lifetime journey. While you might find a book on this list that really resonates with you, you shouldn’t stop learning when you’re done with the book. Continue to set learning goals for yourself using the SMART goals framework. A SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive.
An example of a SMART learning goal related to personal finance would be: “I will read twelve personal finance books this year.”
Specific: I want to read twelve personal finance books.
Measurable: I’ll know I’m on track if I read one book a month.
Achievable: I’ve read one book monthly for the past three months, so this goal is achievable.
Relevant: I’m working on improving my personal finances, so this goal will easily apply to my life.
Time-sensitive: The time frame of this goal is one year.
For more personal finance tips, check out these articles:
How to Become Financially Independent
How to Become a Millionaire: 5 Wealth-Building Tips