The Only Personal Finance Books You Need To Read In 2014

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This post is a little overdue because I’ve seen quite a few bloggers beat me to the punch when it comes to book suggestions for the New Year. Thankfully, I have some different picks than what you may have seen on other websites. Without further ado, here is my list:

The Only Personal Finance Books You Need To Read In 2014


Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olen

This is a must-read for personal finance bloggers, because it’s important to understand your role in the machine.

I grossly underestimated the personal finance industry and my part in it, making Pound Foolish a particularly interesting read as someone profiting from both sides of the equation. Moreover, it’s essential reading for the people that subscribe to personal finance products (and that includes personal finance blogs).

Olen provides an insightful and critical look at the personal finance doctrine that financial security is a matter of watching your pennies given current economic conditions, and whether or not your favorite finance personality is the real deal or just a brand exploiting your ignorance.

I was a huge fan of her dissection of The Latte Factor (a mythology I never subscribed to) and quietly shaken by the figures of decreasing wages and purchasing power that’s really keeping the average citizen from gaining any financial ground.

I have a great appreciation for her emphasis on the reality that even if you do everything right, you can still end up totally screwed. Unexpected job loss, medical expenses, and other challenges can rapidly erode decades of frugality and diligent saving.

It might seem depressing to look at things from this perspective, but you’re not seeing the full picture if you don’t.


Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graaf

This book is a little dated, but that only makes the figures all that more terrifying because unsurprisingly, our behaviour hasn’t changed — if anything it’s gotten worse.

I picked up Affluenza because I love reading books on consumer culture, but I loved this one in particular because it put everything in the context of resources consumed. This book covers everything from the ever-increasing average house size to the ridiculousness of owning vehicles like Hummers.

It’s an excellent overview of where everything is coming from without weighing you down with textbook-like data, which is my main complaint of similar book The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. The unavoidable truth is that we can’t keep doing what we’re doing, but from what I can see, we’re still not changing our behaviors. Which begs the question, are we doomed?


Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!by Preet Banerjee

I’m echoing the sentiments of other bloggers Cait of Blonde On A Budget and Jessica of Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses. This book targets Canadians, so I apologize for my American readership.

As a Canadian that’s been nurturing a hatred for Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey since I learned who they were, I don’t have a lot of suggestions when it comes to finance books in the USA. Maybe you can offer me some suggestions? But I digress.

I have always loved Preet’s straight-forward, no-nonsense approach and this book is no different. Honestly, he had me at “drink all the lattes you want”. This is a perfect book for newcomers to the personal finance world that want to get their money under control but are feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of resources and acronyms in the money community. It’s easy to get distracted by what seems trendy or a quick-fix, but fundamentally money truly is very simple, and Preet brings everyone back to that simplicity.

(Also can I just say after reading Pound Foolish how much of an appreciation I have for Canadian financial personalities like Preet Banerjee, Gail Vaz Oxlade, and Lesley Scorgie who seem to eschew the gimmicky, get-rich-quick approach that is the American way? There’s no magic math compounded by celebrity in Canada, there’s just some legit helpful guides to lead you on your quest to financial security. Rock on, Canada!)


The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel by Benjamin Graham

I picked this one up to better manage my own growing stock portfolio. I love this book and can’t stop singing its praises.

This is one of the most thorough personal finance books I’ve ever read (and I read a lot), but the ultimate conclusion is that the average investor should just stick to index funds and avoid common stocks entirely. Nevertheless, this book provided invaluable hard skills to evaluate companies before I elect to purchase their shares.

Be forewarned: it can get a bit weighty with calculations. The Accounting class I completed last semester was all but essential to understanding what was going on.

A new investor might find themselves unfamiliar with the terminology and ratios, so I recommend brushing up on (or learning for the first time!) the basics of valuation before tackling this book. Nevertheless, after finishing it, I adamantly feel no one should buy individual common stocks without reading this book first.


The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy by Raj Patel

I’m a big fan of Raj Patel and this book didn’t disappoint. The Value of Nothing is an overview of modern local and global economics with strong political undertones.

I get behind this book in particular because it clearly articulates that money is power, and without money you’re at risk, not of merely being destitute, but of losing very basic human rights. As a middle-class first-world citizen, it’s easy to forget the painful day-to-day realities of all the workers supporting my lifestyle.

Patel advocates for social and political change, that comes from both changing our consumption habits and dismantling the system that not only facilitates, but encourages, exploitation of people and natural resources.

While I agree with the assessment and proposed solutions to our socioeconomic problems, I also feel that things will only change if we run out of essential resources and/or oppressed workers wage war on the upper classes. Or maybe we can peacefully usher in a new era, starting with everyone reading this book?

So those are my book suggestions for 2014! Maybe “only” was a bit limiting for this list, as I’ve got a ton of books I have high expectations of on my to-read list. I’ll be sharing with you all my good finds as we go forward!

In the meantime, this batch should set a solid financial foundation to help you better understand money personally, culturally, and economically.

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13 Comments. Leave new

  • Thanks Bridget. I’ve been looking for a couple of different personal finance books for my book club. Pound Foolish and The Value of Nothing sound perfect. I read Affluenza and The Story of Stuff a few years ago. Both are excellent.

    Reply
  • Affluenza is a fantastic book, I read it in college and was very interesting although the lessons did not really stick at the time.

    I’m putting Pound Foolish on the list. I also tend to avoid specific PF-money books because they don’t teach me anything I don’t already know.

    (Great minds think alike because I had a similar post coming up.. hah! 🙂 )

    Also, Benjamin Graham wrote a fantastic book but even he admits that people should just invest in index funds. Buffett really looked up to Graham, and even HE says index funds are the way to go for most people. *shrug* Who am I to argue with 2 great financial minds?

    Reply
  • I’ve got the Intelligent Investor, but I am putting the other 3 (skipping your Canadian recommendation) on my library list immediately, I am especially pumped about Affluenza! Great picks.

    Reply
    • I need to find some good American personal finance books.. I read a bunch just because I’m interested in the topic but I haven’t found a good one yet. Enjoy the other reads!

      Reply
  • Thank you for this. My uncle had mentioned the first book but I was not able to locate it thinking the title was something difference. For Kindle it’s only 8$ which is a savings and prevents me from building up extra physical books. I do tend to buy my PF books in physical copy to share, but I think this one will be okay just for me.

    Reply
  • Thanks for this- off to the library tomorrow to hopefully check some of these out!

    Reply
  • Thanks for the reading tips. I’m definitely checking the Affluenza and the Value of Nothing.

    I too do not like Suze Orman. I tried reading one of her books, I believe it was something like Money for women and couldn’t pass the first pages. Apart from the fact that we live in different countries and most of the things don’t apply where I live, I found her writing style atrocious, she simply talks down to women and has a self-righteous attitude that I didn’t find helpful. And I wasn’t even on the examples she gave!

    Reply
  • Great book suggestions, I’ll definitely need to check some of these out!

    Reply
  • Only one I’ve read so far is Pound Foolish. I really enjoyed it, especially her tearing down all the crap that people try promoting. I follow Helaine Olen on twitter, and she shares lots of articles in the same vein (both her own and others)

    Haven’t read any of the others, but I might add them to my wish list. I think I need to read some books about investing, I mostly just leave my money in my retirement accounts and hope for the best (oh my goodness I’m a terrible pf blogger/person)

    Reply
  • Hey Bridget,
    It seems there is a new edition of Affluenza coming out next month, called Affluenza: How Over-consumption Is Killing Us–and How to Fight Back, so you said it was a bit outdated… wouldn’t be anymore soon!
    Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Affluenza-Overconsumption-Killing-Us%C2%97-Fight/dp/1609949277

    Says Feb 3rd, 2014.

    Reply

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