Financial Ignorance is the biggest money mistake you should avoid in your 20s. Yes, it’s the root cause of all money traps and a big contributor to all your money woes.
This week I came across this quote by Henry Ford:
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
Yes, it benefits the system if you stay financially illiterate, which is why they don’t teach you about money in school, yet it’s the one tool that controls almost everything you do in this world.
Why is financial literacy important?
Financial ignorance is big business for financial institutions. If you’re among the two-thirds of the world that’s financially illiterate, you lose in the following ways:
- You pay higher interest rates for loans.
- You pay higher transaction costs while accessing financial services.
- You risk being denied access to a loan if your credit score is low.
- Financially illiterate people have bigger debts.
- You risk retiring into poverty.
I know that saving more money will be in your list of 2021 resolutions because the chaos that has been 2020 has taught us the importance of a fat emergency fund.
And, saving more money is always in the list of the most common New Year’s resolutions, right next to exercising more, eating healthier meals and losing weight.
Do you want to live yet another 12 months in 2021 and end up with the same bank balance, same debts causing life-threatening anxiety, stuck in the same cycle living paycheck to paycheck and not having improved your net worth?
I don’t. I have started the process of setting my specific, achievable, realistic and time-bound financial goals. Have you?
I woke up one day in 2018 when I was stuck in debt and living paycheck to paycheck and decided I’d had enough of that cycle. My first step in my financial liberation was to read personal finance books.
I’ll share my reading list that has my best books on personal finance. Read, it’s the only way to guarantee yourself a greater 2021, armed with financial literacy.
Personal finance books worth reading
If you struggle with reading, form a book club with your crew and keep each other accountable.
1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
This is not a personal finance book per se, but it’s the first book that I recommend my clients to read when they hire me to help them make sense of their money.
Being good with money requires that you have positive habits in all areas of your life. If you adopt good sleep habits, you will be more productive at work which will allow you to achieve more and therefore set you up to earn more money.
If you have a good exercise routine you will feel more energetic, keeps you sharp and focused at work which sets you up to earn more money. It also makes you more confident because you feel good about yourself.
Generally, if you’re winning in one area of your life, it’s easier to start the journey of winning in your finances. Any time I struggle with improving a certain area of my life, I usually tell myself ‘you’re good with money, which takes time and dedication, you can get better at this too.’
This book is a practical guide on how to onboard new habits in your life (including better financial choices) and how to sustain them.
It will also give you clarity on which projects you should be working on so that you stop procrastinating and wasting time on the wrong things.
You know the way you always use the excuse ‘I struggle with motivation’ whenever you want to take up a new challenge or task? This book completely changed my mindset, I no longer use that sentence. As James Clear says ‘many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.’
Buy Atomic Habits on Amazon (highly recommended!)
2. The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
My best friend kept forcing me to read this book for months. I kept telling him that I have included it in my reading list, but I just didn’t have enough time to read all the books on my list. Bookworms in the house, we’ll never win this war!
He kept reminding me to read it, insisting that it was worth ignoring all my other reads. Finally, I got a copy on my Kindle on a road trip to Amboseli National park. I can’t recall anything I saw on that journey because I was hooked from page 1!
My fav excerpt from the book:
“A parable: The Monk and the Minister, two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king. Years later they meet. As they catch up, the portly minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin and shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king, you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.” To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans, you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.” Most of us fall somewhere between the two. As for me, it is better to be closer to the monk.”
This book is literally your roadmap to financial freedom and a rich life. J.L. Collins teaches about the 3 investing strategy phases: wealth accumulation phase, growth phase and deployment phase and goes ahead to show how best to invest your money depending on which phase you’re in.
Before I read it, I couldn’t get myself to stop spending, I was struggling with saving. He taught me something that I repeat almost on a daily basis:
“Stop thinking about what your money can buy. Start thinking about what your money can earn. And then think about what the money it earns can earn.”
That is the lesson from the book that makes me save and invest before spending every time I get paid. That quote has become part of my subconscious mind.
Collins will share the basic wisdom you need to make your money work for you, instead of against you. It’s a simple toolkit to achieving financial freedom.
Buy this book on Amazon if you want to get your personal finances in order.
3. The richest man in Babylon by George S. Clason
My uncle had this small book among his possessions. It was a small, old copy with mouldy pages that had turned yellow-ish.
I borrowed it during one of those long holidays that government universities dish out. I didn’t have any interest in personal finance back then, all I wanted was something to read. It was the only book he owned, so my options were limited. The book was written in the 1930s which would make one assume that it has no relevant modern-day financial tips.
One lesson stuck when I read it during that holiday; a lean purse can be cured. That to me meant that given time, I could escape poverty.
The 7 cures for a lean purse
- “Start thy purse to fattening. Save one-tenth of your earnings.”
- “Control thy expenditures.”
- “Make thy gold multiply.” (Invest)
- “Guard thy treasures against loss.”
- “Make thy dwelling a profitable investment.” (Buy a home)
- “Insure a future income.” (For your retirement)
- “Increase thy ability to earn.”
If you stick to just these basics that were followed by Babylonians hundreds of years ago, you’re assured of accumulating wealth.
This copy is one of my most treasured possessions and I have read it at least 10 times since then. I also prescribe to all my friends as soon as we establish a comfortable environment to talk about money.
4. The Jewish Phenomenon by Steven Silbiger
This was my first introduction to what a tribe can achieve if they work together to build wealth.
The book is about the 7 strategies the Jewish people have used for years to acquire knowledge and wealth. The strategies all revolve around acquiring quality education, networking, social mobility, portable wealth, and acquiring quality skills.
The first and most important strategy? ‘Understand that real wealth is portable; it’s knowledge.’
Buy this book on Amazon if you want to learn the secrets to building generational wealth.
5. The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan & Lauren Ver Hag
As soon as I learnt that Chelsea from The Financial Diet had written a book, I knew it had to be a 10/10! I didn’t need to read it to be sure because I had watched more than 500 videos by this lady on YouTube and she’s brilliant!
Not only does she address the personal responsibility reasons that cause us to make terrible financial decisions, but she also talks about the systematic reasons behind our financial struggles. She calls out the government all the damn time.
And that’s the best part about the book, it’ll make you understand that you’re not entirely to blame for your financial struggles. This will lessen your guilt and shame about money because yes, the system has failed many generations.
Buy this book on Amazon if you want to move past the self-loathing and self blame for your financial mistakes and be on your way to financial freedom!
6. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
This one is hot on the shelves! It was published in 2020 and I promise you that it will surprise you with novel lessons even if you think you know a lot about money! Morgan breaks down the psychology behind all our spending, saving and investing decisions.
It also reinforced the importance of the magic of compounding as Morgan pointed out that most of Warren Buffet’s wealth was acquired after his 50th birthday.
The one lesson that stuck with me from this book is the fact that we don’t need a reason to save money. We’re always encouraged to have saving goals and targets and to have a ‘why’ that pushes us towards saving more money. But Morgan argues that that would only make sense if we lived in a predictable world. A world without financial emergencies.
It’s a short and easy read that I plan to reread every year as it serves as a reminder that;
- You cannot time the market.
- It’s okay to break some investing principles; it’s okay to do whatever feels right with your money.
- “People buy fancy cars and mansions because they want respect and admiration from others. What they don’t realize is that people don’t admire the person with the fancy house of car; they admire the object and think of themselves having that object. So buying impressive items to gain admiration and respect from others is a fool’s pursuit – these things cannot be bought.”
I started rereading it as soon as I finished reading it. It’s that good!
“The challenge for us is that no amount of studying or open-mindedness can genuinely recreate the power of fear and uncertainty.” – The Psychology of Money
Instead of pretending that you’re a ROI-optimizing machine, buy this book on Amazon to have a better relationship with your money and to make smarter financial decisions.
7. Nudge by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein
This is a book I have never seen listed in personal finance recommendation lists, but if you want to fully liberate yourself from the demon that is credit card debt, learn how to save for retirement and how and why you should automate your savings, read it now!
James Clear quotes it a lot in Atomic habits which made me yearn to read it. It’s epic!
This book “does a brilliant job at pointing out the many behavioural and emotional biases human beings have, and real-world examples of how we can overcome them to make better choices with our money.”
Richard H. Thaler is a Nobel Prize winner in economics so you’ll be in the hands of an expert!
8. Rich dad poor dad by Robert Kiyosaki
I listened to the audiobook multiple times in 2019 and immediately regretted why I hadn’t read this book earlier. I think every young person should read this book. It should be a rite of passage.
The book will teach you how to make your money work for you as opposed to being stuck in the rat race for years as you work for money. Who wouldn’t want to learn this from day 1 of their first job?
There are people who give it just one star while others like me give it 4 out of 5. It’s an easy read, making it a great recommendation for beginners. It teaches us how to think about money which is something a lot of us learn too late in life.
If you want to leave the rat race asap, buy Rich Dad Poor Dad
9. I will teach you to be rich by Ramit Sethi
Simply, buying this book is equivalent to hiring a financial advisor. It’s a practical, step by step guide that does exactly what it says ‘teaching you to be rich!’
What I love most about Ramit is that he doesn’t teach you to cut back on the morning coffee that literally fuels your life, or deny yourself a Tesla if it’s your dream car. Instead, he teaches you ways to increase your earning ability such as through investing, negotiating for a raise, upgrading your skills.
I love his approach because I’m not about to give up my cappuccinos and extreme frugality is not my cup of coffee!
If you want to learn how to finance your wildest dreams, buy I Will Teach You To Be Rich on Amazon!
Personal Finance books for women
It covers everything from love, creating beautiful spaces for ourselves, career, investing, travel and giving ourselves permission to live a rich life.
Oprah also recommended The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist which I’m yet to finish!
Top personal finance books for beginners & young adults
If you’re super fresh into financial freedom, saving, investing and all things money world, I’d recommend you start with:
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
- The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan & Lauren Ver Hag.
Just so it is with the sons of men. Give them a choice of gold and wisdom-what do they do? Ignore the wisdom and waste the gold. On the morrow, they will wail because they have no more gold. – George S. Clason
One of the best ways to guarantee a better future for yourself is through accumulating knowledge, skills and experiences on how to grow your net worth. The best way to do this is through reading.
If you struggle with reading and you’re wondering ‘if I were to read just one book from this list, which one should I pick?’ I’d go with The Simple Path To Wealth by JL Collins. It’s your road map to financial independence and a rich, FREE life!
Here’s the thing, if you decide to go ahead and start investing your money into the market before you invest in financial education, you’ll eventually pay for it. Before you invest in financial assets, invest in financial education. Or the market will derive its fees from your investment.”
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