In 2010, the bestselling finance books represented a sampling of old standards mixed with modern classics. I have selected some of my favorites that I think you'll enjoy as well-written and valuable books to improve your financial life. (We give you a list of informative and entertaining reads that you'll want to share with others this season. Check out 10 Books For The Holidays.)
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1. "The Total Money Makeover" (2007) by Dave Ramsay
Well-known personal finance expert Dave Ramsay has again achieved bestseller status with his latest book on improving your financial life. Ramsay's books focus primarily on the early stages of getting your finances in order. According to Publisher's Weekly, "The bedrock of his system is simple: work hard, pay what you owe and stay out of debt."
In particular, Ramsay is known his "snowball" strategy for getting out of debt. The strategy involves focusing on paying off small debts first, while paying only the minimum for all other debts. Then, once a debt is paid off, one takes the amount saved from not paying interest on that debt and focuses on paying off the next smallest debt. Mathematically, this is not the most effective way to pay off debt (which would focus on debts with the highest interest rate), but as Ramsay points out, it is a more motivating approach. After all, if people were perfectly rational, they would not get into so much debt in the first place.
2. "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" (2009) by Robert Kiyosaki
Rich Dad, Poor Dad certainly ranks as one of the all time classics in personal finance books. Rather than focus on concrete steps for what people can do to fix their financial life, the book presents an alternative mindset about money. According to Kiyosaki, the rich teach their children a fundamentally different view of the financial world.
For example, the book points out that working hard and even earning a high income are not enough to ensure financial success. Rather, the book emphasizes that the rich work smart and spend more intelligently. Indeed, a person with a $100,000 income and $110,000 in expenses will end the year poorer while a person with a $30,000 income and $20,000 in expenses ends the year wealthier.
"Rich Dad, Poor Dad" is a must read for those looking to change their attitude about money and wealth. You can read all the practical books with sound financial advice, but if you lack the mindset to truly build wealth, it will be difficult to achieve financial success. (We provide some classic and lesser-known titles to add to your collection. See Investing Books It Pays To Read.)
3. "The Intelligent Investor" (1949) by Benjamin Graham
The Intelligent Investor is the grandfather of investment strategy books. Author Benjamin Graham is often regarded as one of the fathers of the value investing school. The book stresses the importance of fundamental analysis and truly understanding your investments. By learning to analyze potential investments in depth, investors can learn how to spot underpriced stocks backed by robust companies.
The central tenet of the book is that a scientific approach should be used when directing your investments. Reading this book you will learn to keep your emotions out of your investments, and develop a skeptical stance toward anything resembling the type of Wall Street hype that so often gets the average investor into trouble.
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4. "Real Money" (2005) by Jim Cramer
Popular financial analyst Jim Cramer's book "Real Money" has continued to sell well since its 2005 debut. The book provides an interesting look into Cramer's mind. The most striking thing you will find about Jim Cramer is that he is far more intelligent and deliberative than the over-the-top caricature he presents on television. The book provides a basic play-by-play analysis of the basic techniques that Cramer advocates for buying stocks.
This is not the book for those who want set-it-and-forget-it investments. Cramer advocates not "buy and hold" but rather "buy and homework" reflecting his desire that you spend at least one hour per week analyzing each position you hold. While this homework can quickly become a large time commitment, Cramer recommends that you hold somewhere in the ballpark of ten positions so that you remain diversified. This may not be the right book for every investor, but if you are interested in the types of things that a hedge fund manager thinks about all day, you will enjoy this book.
5. "The Richest Man in Babylon" (2004) by George Clayson
Another oldie-but-goodie is amongst the top books to read this year. "The Richest Man in Babylon" is somewhat of the same genre as "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." You will not necessarily get a lot of actionable items from this book; instead, the book is a collection of parables about money. These are the type of fairy tales one could imagine Warren Buffet would tell small children about his road to wealth.
Perennial tips like saving 10% of your income are presented as "save one piece of gold for every ten which come into your purse." The advice in this book is simple and easy to understand. The book may be overly simplistic for the taste of those already well acquainted with the principles of personal finance. For the majority of readers, however, the parables provide a new perspective on financial decisions, and will help instill good financial habits as purely common sense. (While it is important to invest early, it is also important to invest wisely. Read Top 5 Books For Young Investors.)
The Bottom Line
If you find a book on this list that you haven't read, I recommend you pick it up the next time you are in the book store, or better yet, check it out from the library. Your wallet will thank you.
Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: Insiders, Door Busters And Debt Contagion.