According to T. Rowe Price’s 2019 Parents, Kids & Money Survey, 75% of kids said they wished their parents taught them more about money, and 72% said that their parents are “always worried about money.” Generational financial illiteracy is a frequently discussed issue in the United States, but most schools do not teach it, even at the high school level. That leaves many young people feeling lost when it comes to basic money management.
Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research has repeatedly shown that people who learn about financial literacy as teenagers are more likely to save money for retirement and that those with a low level of financial literacy are less likely to plan for retirement and more likely to take on excess debt. That education can begin with something as simple as reading a book, and it could have a huge impact on the financial trajectory a person follows throughout the course of their life.
With all that in mind, here are the best finance books for teens of various ages and reading levels. Some books are even suitable for pre-teens, and all of them strike a great balance between educating and empowering the reader.
Best Overall: I Will Teach You to Be Rich
“I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi is a great book for older teenagers who want to begin adulthood on the right financial foot. Sethi’s writing style and straight-talking stance on financial responsibility will resonate with young readers. Additionally, Sethi’s advice on navigating student loans, using credit responsibly, and building a life free of both excess debt and a constant desire for more, are highly applicable for teens on the precipice of independence.
Sethi’s New York Times best-selling book offers a simplified approach to financial literacy that focuses on motivation and goal setting rather than reactionary decision making or painstaking optimization. In the book, Sethi argues that many young people fail to build wealth not because it’s difficult or impossible, but because they become so overwhelmed with minutiae—like attempting to time the market perfectly before investing or endlessly analyzing the difference between two very similar portfolios—that they often do nothing rather than risk making the “wrong” decision. Sethi offers an alternative to this all-or-nothing approach and does so in simple actionable steps that encourage lifelong financial responsibility.
Best for Older Teens: What You Should Have Learned About Money, But Never Did
Best suited for older teens, “What You Should Have Learned About Money, But Never Did” offers readers an introduction to personal finance basics like establishing financial goals, paying down debt, starting an emergency fund, and saving for retirement. The author’s conversational writing style and focus on setting up good habits early on make this a great book for teens who are entering the workforce for the first time.
Written by Sophia Bera, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and selected as one of the Investopedia 100 Top Financial Advisors, this approachable read covers teen-friendly subjects like how to start a side hustle and why it’s important to work towards multiple financial goals at the same time, as well as topics more applicable to adults, like student loan repayment and calculating net worth.
Best for Investing: The Early Investor
Authored by Michael Zisa, “The Early Investor” is an excellent read for any motivated young person who has an interest in investing and wealth building. Zisa offers comprehensive answers to questions like “What is investing?” and “Why should I invest in stocks?” as well as guidance on frugal investing, alternative investments, mutual funds, ETFs, and the basic concepts of investing and financial planning.
While this may sound very grown-up, and in some ways it is, this book, updated in 2020, is unquestionably written for the intelligent teen reader. Zisa, who is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) through the National Financial Educators Council (NFEC), a member of the Personal Finance Speakers Association (PFSA), and the Global Association of Teachers of Economics (GATE), has a knack for explaining complex concepts in a clear way. Along with his consistent highlighting of the power of compounding and the great advantages of investing at a young age, this read is sure to resonate with young investing enthusiasts.
Best for Financial Literacy: I Want More Pizza
“I Want More Pizza” by Steve Burkholder approaches the subject of personal finance in a way that’s accessible to kids. Burkholder’s writing is entertaining and clear, offering the young reader plenty of relatable anecdotes, examples, and hypothetical questions to ponder. Rather than just telling, Burkholder shows the reader why and how managing money well is so important.
The book includes an engaging introductory section followed by four larger sections, each referred to as “slices.” The first slice covers “You” and is focused on the reader’s relationship to money, behavior with money, and future goals. The second slice is titled “Saving” and does an excellent job covering the basics of tracking spending and saving money, even on a small income. The third slice, “Growing Your Savings,” is dedicated to investing and compound growth. The fourth and final slice is called “Debt,” which explains debt, credit cards, and paying for college. “I Want More Pizza” is an all-around great introduction to financial literacy for teens and pre-teens.
Best for Saving Money: Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?
Aimed at high school and college students, “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?” by Cary Siegel is a great book for teens of any age who want to learn the principles that underlie lifelong financial health. Rather than giving traditional budgeting how-to’s or specific investing advice, Siegel’s book outlines the larger habits and life planning skills that contribute to a person’s financial outcomes. Breaking each principle into its own chapter makes this book an especially good fit for teens who prefer perusing chapters sporadically, rather than reading a book start-to-finish.
Some of Siegel’s principles are well-trod personal finance concepts such as living within your means and discerning between wants and needs, but others touch on larger life decisions, like how your marriage impacts your financial life, and why it’s a bad idea to buy a home before you’re settled. As a father of five, Siegel is excellent at writing for the young reader, and the lessons he imparts in “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?” provide an excellent basis for future money-saving habits.
Best for Managing Money: Clever Girl Finance
“Clever Girl Finance” reads like a companionable book about personal empowerment while also comprehensively teaching the reader about the nuts and bolts of personal finance. While not written specifically for teenagers, this book by Bola Sokunbi provides an elegant approach to holistic money management. Sokunbi’s writing style is so relatable and personable, that high school-aged readers who shy away from other personal finance books may well find themselves eagerly devouring “Clever Girl Finance.”
As Sokunbi is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), you might expect this book to be all about budgeting and investing, and readers will certainly learn about those things in “Clever Girl Finance.” However, the first several chapters are dedicated to mindset and personal growth. Sokunbi tackles important issues like how friends and family can influence our spending habits and why having a wealth mindset matters. The author also peppers in real-life stories of different women coming to terms with their own finances, as well as lots of direct real-world advice. The result is simultaneously motivating, empowering, and highly educational.
Best for Personal Finance: Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens
The youthful companion to “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” “Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens” by Robert T. Kiyosaki is sure to be a hit with any young personal finance enthusiast or budding entrepreneur out there. Just as funny, insightful, and informative as the original book, which comes recommended by the Investopedia Financial Review Board, the teen spin-off informs readers on how the money habits of the wealthy differ from everyone else.
In addition to tackling the basics of financial literacy in an age-appropriate way, Kiyosaki writes extensively about ancillary concepts that are vital to financial success, like understanding your own learning style, finding business opportunities, and goal setting. Kiyosaki also dispels common myths that often lead people to believe they can never be wealthy, and in doing so shifts the mindset of the reader. Specifically, the chapters “The Myth of IQ and Intelligence” and “The Rich Think Differently” are sure to get the wheels of young minds turning.
If you’re not sure where to start on your financial literacy journey, we recommend “Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens” by Robert T. Kiyosaki. While it may not be the last personal finance book you ever read, it’s an excellent starter book for any teen interested in building wealth. Kiyosaki’s wit and holistic approach to both making and saving money make this personal finance classic a page-turner as well as an invaluable educational tool.
Why Trust Investopedia?
These books were chosen based on a variety of factors, including the author's subject matter expertise. Mona Bushnell has been a writer and journalist for 7 years. She was inspired to start her full-time freelance writing career after reading "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas J. Stanley. Armed with her selections, we gathered recommendations from the Investopedia Financial Review Board, scoured bestseller lists and award winners for titles written by true financial experts, and ensured these picks have stellar online reviews. She also considered the usefulness of the advice in the books as well as the entertainment value and writing style.