There are a lot of personal finance books. And truth be told, there are many good ones.
But there are very few great ones.
The eight personal finance books listed below were all profoundly impactful on my own life. I’ve read well over 100 books on topics ranging from budgeting to investing and everything in between, but these are the ones I return to for guidance, advice and inspiration.
#1. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Best for: Developing a sound money mindset.
First published in 1996, The Millionaire Next Door has sold over 4 million copies, making it one of the best-selling personal finance books of all time.
The book breaks down one of the largest-ever studies on millionaires’ real-life habits, looking at granular details like how they save, the types of cars they drive, the types of housing they live in and the types of jobs they have.
It provides fascinating (and often surprising) answers to these questions, and offers practical advice for those looking to become wealthy themselves.
Related reading: How to become a millionaire from nothing.
#2: The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Mel Lindauer, Taylor Larimore and Michael LeBoeuf
Best for: Understanding what successful investing looks like.
This book is a comprehensive guide to investing written for everyday people who want a simple but efficient way to build wealth. It covers the basics, including understanding risk and returns, why index funds are the optimal choice, and knowing which accounts to invest in.
It’s written in a clear, easy-to-follow style that helped 22-year-old me (who had zero investing experience) not only grasp the concepts but actually put into motion an investing strategy that I still use decades later.
Note: The term “Boglehead” refers to devotees of the former Vanguard Group CEO Jack Bogle, who pioneered the concept of index investing; the authors of this bestseller were active on the popular Bogleheads online forum, which is still one of the best places to get financial advice today.
#3. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Best for: Learning everyday money management skills.
This book is crammed with actionable advice on all things money management, including how to automate your finances, optimize your credit score, pick and choose the right credit card, structure your financial accounts and more.
It’s written in a humorous, conversational style that goes against the grain of most personal finance books. It’s the go-to book I recommend to someone in their 20s or 30s who is just beginning their financial journey.
#4. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Best for: Changing your mindset about debt.
Getting rid of debt is tough once you’ve developed the mindset that it’s a normal part of life. The Total Money Makeover is a book that helps change that mindset, showing people how they can get out of debt and then stay out of debt for good.
Ramsey strongly advocates for using the snowball method, which involves paying off your smallest debts first while making the minimum payments on your larger debts. This approach gives you the psychological boost you need to keep going, in large part because it gives you concrete proof of your progress (in the form of paid off debts).
This is my go-to recommendation for someone who has consistently been living paycheck to paycheck and/or has struggled to pay off their credit cards or other high-interest loans.
#5. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
Best for: People who have the basics of personal finance down but need help overcoming their emotional biases.
This is one of the few recently-published personal finance books to make this list. It’s both original and insightful in a way that few other recent books have been.
The Psychology of Money dives deep into why people make the financial decisions they do.
Rather than giving preachy advice, it guides readers through fascinating stories and anecdotes that illustrate the book’s key lessons, which were first published as a blog post.
Related reading: The best behavioral finance and investment psychology books.
#6. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle
Best for: Driving home the principles of successful investing.
The one book on this list you could finish within a single day, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is a must-read.
John Bogle, the late founder of Vanguard, simplifies investing and sets out his key investment principles in this book. It’s written in an easy-to-understand style, making it accessible to even novice investors.
I often recommend this book to people in their 30s and 40s who are starting to compile some wealth but who don’t yet have a sound investment strategy in place.
#7. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Best for: Helping someone rethink their relationship with money.
The book stands out because it’s not about stocks and bonds, but rather your life and how money can add to rather than subtract from it.
Since it was first published in 1992, it’s gone from cult classic to a mainstream bestseller.
Your Money or Your Life teaches a process for achieving financial freedom, which is defined as when the money you make from investments is greater than your expenses. At the same time, it places a focus on achieving that financial freedom in a way that optimizes your quality of life.
In other words, it teaches you that money should serve your life goals, not the other way around.
I recommend this book to anyone who is feeling stuck in a rut when it comes to their finances and needs a new perspective. Make sure to get the latest revised edition, published in 2018, as some of the advice in the original edition is out of date.
Our frugal living tips article walks you through the book’s process of creating a values-based budget.
#8. Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes… and How to Correct Them by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich
Best for: Someone who has accumulated a degree of wealth in their life and wants to avoid going backward.
One of the things I find most unique about personal finance is that not only do smart people make mistakes, but often, it’s the world-class investors — those at the top of one of the most competitive fields in the world — who make the biggest mistakes of all.
Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes is a great book for understanding the psychology behind financial decisions. It goes into how our cognitive biases and mental shortcuts can lead us astray when it comes to money, and offers approaches to preventing these mistakes from happening in your life.
The Best Personal Finance Books of All Time: Final Thoughts
There are a lot of other really good personal finance books I’ve read over the course of my life. The Richest Man in Babylon, The Simple Path to Wealth and A Random Walk Down Wall Street are a few more that stand out.
At the same time, my goal with this list was to create the smallest possible collection of books that you can read through to get a well-rounded, world-class education in personal finance.
So while there’s a wealth of information out there, these are the key touchpoints I recommend starting with if you want to develop a healthy (and profitable) relationship with money.