The 12 Best Personal Finance Books of All Time

I can say unequivocally and without a hint of exaggeration that starting to learn and read about money dramatically changed my life. Below, I will share some of the best personal finance books of all time, which have, among other things, enabled my family to:

Pursuing your financial education may feel like a daunting task. Where is the best place to begin? How do we know what financial advice to listen to or avoid? What are the most important things to know for our long-term goals with money?

Fear not. With the proper reading material and some basic self-education skills, you’ll have everything you need to get started. Here are the 12 best personal finance books of all time.

Best Personal Finance Books of All Time: Managing Money

Getting rich and living well financially starts with one basic set of skills: excellent money management.

A firm grasp of financial literacy basics like how to maintain a budget, pay off debt, build a financial plan, and create financial security is the foundation. Your future success or failure is based heavily on how robust you make that foundation.

Whether your long-term plan with money is to retire early, live a debt-free life, or continue to make money through things like entrepreneurship or real estate investing, these are the must-read books to set you on that path.

1. The Millionaire Next Door by Tom Stanley

The first major study of its kind, Tom Stanley’s far-reaching analysis of American millionaire households blew the lid off how we view everyday wealth.

In “The Millionaire Next Door” and its spiritual sequel “The Millionaire Mind” (one of the best personal finance books of all time in its own right), Stanley sheds light on some truly groundbreaking insights about typical American millionaire families. They:

  • Live below their means
  • Carry very little debt
  • Earn average incomes and save aggressively
  • Drive modest cars and live in modest homes
  • Don’t “look rich” 

A million dollars might not be quite what it used to be, but Stanley’s invaluable insights into what real wealth looks like remain invaluable. A riveting tour of the role of frugality and good money habits in wealth-building, this book is not one you want to miss.

2. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

“I Will Teach You to Be Rich” is not only one of the best personal finance books of all time; it’s also one of the first personal finance books I ever read! To this day, I recommend it to anyone looking to jumpstart their financial education.

This is one of the best personal finance books for college students, or anyone just getting started on their wealth journey. Ramit Sethi’s electric personality shines in this fun romp through all the basics of money management.

This is quite possibly the best book for getting started making money and managing it well. Sethi covers all the basics of income, debt, investing, and more in a funny, engaging, and easy read.

Sethi advocates for living a “Rich Life” where you build for financial success later, without having to sacrifice having an amazing life right now. Who can argue with that? 

3. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez

If you have ever felt trapped in your career, living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to save money, wondering what it’s all for, then this book is an absolute must.

First published in the early 90s, “Your Money or Your Life” lived a quiet couple of decades before its recent resurgence as a sort of bible to the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement. 

Years before there were legions of bloggers like myself screeching about achieving financial freedom and independence, Robin and Dominguez published a book with a message that no one else at the time was saying. They said that there was exactly one thing your money could buy that was more valuable than anything else: freedom.

In the book, Robin and Dominguez paint a harrowing picture of the true cost of trapping yourself in the “rat race” for 40+ years. They then offer a roadmap for exactly how you can avoid the hedonic treadmill and build a life of freedom, purpose, and total financial independence. 

4. Napkin Finance by Tina Hay

One of the newest books on this list, “Napkin Finance” has only been around for a couple of years but is already one of the best personal finance books of all time. It’s also one of the best personal finance books for young adults.

Similarly to the “index card” school of thought on personal finance, Tina Hay argues that healthiest personal finances are simple, simple, simple. 

One of the biggest and most common mistakes people make with their money is that they overcomplicate things. Not only does that make things strenuous and lead to unnecessary worrying, but it also tends to cost more money and trigger worse financial decisions.

This book will help you understand everything you need to, and identify everything you don’t.

5. The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage

Another relatively new book, “The Financial Diet” helps you improve your financial fitness from just about every angle.

It is fun, fast-moving, and a great fit for millennials ready to get serious about their finances. This is one of the best “generalist” financial books, covering a little bit of everything from budgeting to choosing the right financial advisors. The focus is giving yourself a complete money makeover by trimming out unnecessary jargon and equations in favor of good, simple habits.

I love this one because it is full of beautiful graphics and illustrations by the authors to help make concepts more digestible. If you’re a visual learner, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

Best Personal Finance Books of All Time: Investing

Contrary to what Wall Street, Hollywood, and the money manager down the street want you to think, healthy investing for regular people is a simple, cheap, and reliable way to get rich slowly over time. The best personal finance books on investing all know this.

With a little bit of research, and a willingness to make intentional, long-term choices, you can build a simple investing strategy and start creating big-time wealth. These books will show you how.

6. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by Jack Bogle

The gold standard of investing advice for regular people is rapidly coalescing around one simple, modern idea: index funds. In case you’re not familiar, an index fund is a single investment that is automatically diversified across dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of stocks, bonds, and other securities.

If you want to learn all about index funds, how and why they work, and why they are the only thing a money-smart long-term investor needs, look no further than the man who invented them.

Jack Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group and pioneer of the modern index fund, has had such a profound impact on the investing world that he has a dedicated following who refer to themselves as “Bogleheads.” In this detailed guide to getting started with investing, he’ll show you everything you need to know about how to create a simple portfolio that wins over the long term. 

7. The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins

One of the original big-time personal finance bloggers, JL Collins knows a thing or two about wealth-building. In his book, Collins paints a clear, unintimidating roadmap to lifelong financial independence with simple steps and strategies that can work for anyone.

Building on the inspiration of Jack Bogle’s index funds, Collins goes a step further. The portfolio he recommends to anyone (and he himself uses) contains just one investment. One specific index fund.

How can owning just one fund be safe, reliable, or anything else we look for in an investing strategy? Well, I’ll leave it for this book to convince you, but suffice it to say investing wisely for regular people is MUCH simpler than you’ve been led to believe.

8. A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel

When you start to read about building wealth in the stock market, one thing that you will hear over, and over, and over again is to avoid making decisions based on emotion. Intelligent investing is simple and reliable. Some might even call it boring (which, first of all, how dare they).

No matter how many times people give this advice, write it down, carve it in stone tablets, or tattoo it onto their foreheads, others will still make mistakes. There will still be greed and panic. There will still be throngs of people trying to get rich quick with the hot new investing trend, and then senselessly losing their hard-earned money when it collapses.

There is no better way to prepare yourself for this cycle and protect your long-term wealth than with “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” by Burton Malkiel. 

Malkiel, a lifelong economist, masterfully demonstrates how time, time, and time again, people have (incorrectly) believed that they could outmaneuver and outsmart the financial markets. In every case, the winner, in the end, was the person who stuck to a simple long-term strategy and avoided the gold rushes, the mass panics, and the flashy but ultimately untested tactics.

Best Personal Finance Books of All Time: Money Mindset

No book can fully prepare you for every money situation you will encounter. But what the best personal finance books of all time can do is help shape your money mindset.

With the right mindset, you will be ready to face any new situation that arises on the path to your financial goals. It’s not always about having the right answers so much as having the right principles.

These books about building a wealthy mindset will teach you the principles that all self-made millionaires use to create a financial future.

9. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

When I said the best personal finance books of all time, I meant of all time. George Clason wrote this bestseller nearly 100 years ago. The fables and parables inside are set around 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon. Yet, despite all those years, the wisdom within remains as relevant as ever.

In a theme connecting its many individual cogent points, this book demonstrates that the fundamentals of money and building wealth have never changed.

Currencies and economies will rise and fall over time, as will the ways people make money and how exactly they invest it. But the fundamental mindset of wealth never does: 

This book is a timeless classic brimming with insight into a genuinely wealthy mindset. There is good reason that despite being a century-old book full of millennia-old stories, it is still one of the most popular personal finance books around.

10. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Despite its permanent place on every “best personal finance books of all time” list and that the words “get rich” make up half its title, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill has very little to do with money. At least directly.

This is not a personal finance book about money-making schemes, frugal living, or even savvy investing. It is a book about setting massive, optimistic intentions for yourself and your life, and setting out to make them a reality.

Whether you aspire to have a successful career, build your own business, or pursue any other goal in your financial life, this book is an informative and motivational must-read that continues to stand the test of time.

11. The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

By now, you’ve most likely noticed a theme running through many of the books on this list: simplicity. It is not a very complicated thing to become rich. But it is a slow process that makes it hard to stick to healthy choices all along the way.

“The Automatic Millionaire” is David Bach’s bestselling answer to this problem. In it, he offers a simple process to make your financial planning easy, stress-free, and automatic. 

Automation is a powerful behavioral tool that can keep you on track with any long-term financial goal, like retirement planning, paying off student loan debt, or building streams of passive income. It all starts with paying yourself first, and this book will show you how. 

12. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Like many of his peers in the mass-market personal finance advice space, Robert Kiyosaki has received a fair amount of criticism for some of his views and teachings. Even so, his seminal work, “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” remains a popular and well-recommended guide for getting started with building wealth.

The premise is simple: Kiyosaki juxtaposes the two key father figures in his life, who he calls his “rich dad” and his “poor dad.” Throughout the book, he uses these two lenses to highlight how wealthy families view money differently than middle-class and working-class families do.

As with all nonfiction, it is worth taking some of this author’s more hardline views and stances with a grain of salt. All the same, it is filled with gems of a “rich dad education” on topics like assets and liabilities, creating positive cashflow, and how to be successful in running a business. 

Getting Started with The Best Personal Finance Books of All Time

By now you should have a nice full reading list of inspirational money books to read. No matter where you choose to start, you can’t make a wrong choice. They are, after all, the best personal finance books of all time. 

Any one of these books will give you invaluable, actionable insights on how to manage your money, become a more intelligent investor, and become more financially fit. What are you waiting for?

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Hey, I’m Sam. I created Smarter and Harder to explore big ideas, both old and new, about building a better life. My mission is to evolve the conversation about personal growth and have fun doing it.

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