Before you can achieve anything with your personal finances, you need to educate yourself. Books are singlehandedly the best way to learn about personal finance. This post will rank some of the best personal finance books of all time.
There are SO many personal finance books out there. From super niche books about certain tax policies to extremely broad books regarding saving, there are enough books that you can read for the rest of your life and never finish. That's why it's so important to filter only the best of the personal finance book universe.
This post will detail 7 of the best books out there today regarding personal finance. The books will be ranked on different metrics and a final winner will be revealed. First things first though, why books?
In today's day and age, there are lots of different mediums to get information from. This list could have been one about:
- Top personal finance Tiktokers
- Most informative personal finance YouTubers
- Best personal finance podcasts
The reason it's about books is because books are the most personal medium and tend to evoke the most change. When you read a book, you are basically sitting down and having a coffee chat with the author. Even though the author isn't there in person, their thoughts and ideas are carefully and painstakingly crafted for you to enjoy.
Topics such as math and science can be taught objectively and logically just fine. But when it comes to personal finance, people often tend to overlook the personal side of things. That's why connecting with an author's thoughts through books (one of the most intimate mediums) is bound to touch you more than other platforms.
Ranking The Best Personal Finance Books of All Time
Here are the 7 best personal finance books of all time ranked. They will be be weighed based on 5 different factors: Motivation, Useful Info, Fun, Correctness, and Popularity. Each one will get a score from 1-10 with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.
- A motivation score of 1 means you actually feel worse after reading the book and choose to take the opposite course of action to the one suggested. On the other hand, a motivation score of 10 means the book really struck a chord and you instantly start implementing its ideas.
- A useful info score of 1 means there is no information in the book which is practical/useful. A useful info score of 10 means that there is plenty of useful information which could realistically help to shape your personal finance decisions either now or in the future.
- When it comes to fun, a 1 means that you had to force yourself to read the book whereas a 10 means that it was a breeze and you enjoyed every second of it.
- A correctness score of 1 means the book was extremely misleading and left out tons of relevant information. A 10 would mean that all of the information provided within the book is correct and it leaves few to no holes.
- Finally, a popularity score of 1 means that nobody has ever heard of the book. A 10 in popularity is a worldwide phenomenon that almost everyone has heard of.
Here's the overall Best Personal Finance Books of All Time Ranking Table:
Let's take a closer look.
Rank #7: The Automatic Millionaire
Because it made the list, The Automatic Millionaire is STILL one of the best personal finance books of all time. That being said, relative to the other books here, it falls a bit short.
Originally published in 2003, The Automatic Millionaire advocates for investing for the long long term by automating your savings into the stock market. David Bach details how he discovered the “underground” world of secret millionaires, and what their secrets are. In short:
- Set it and forget it (your savings and investing).
- Work for 40 years and when you're 65 you'll have tons of money due to the power of compounding.
The Automatic Millionaire is a fantastic book about the power of compounding in the long-run. The issue is that it doesn't do much more than that. It sort of says the same thing 20 different ways until you really get its message: automate your savings and investing. Not too much practical advice, nor is the ton super fun to read.
Plus, asking someone to invest for 40 years and wait to be a millionaire isn't exactly motivating.
Motivation: 5, Useful Info: 7, Fun: 3, Correctness: 9, Popularity: 6, Total Score: 30.
Rank #6: Think and Grow Rich
Think and Grow Rich is one of my personal favourite books of all time (personal finance and otherwise).
In this classic read, Napoleon Hill teaches you how to do exactly what the title promises. Written in 1937, this book is more of a life-development guide than a finance book. Napoleon Hill reveals a step-by-step map to follow that can help you achieve almost anything you want in life. He came up with this formula by studying over 20 years worth of individuals who have achieved success in life.
The main ideas of the book are:
- You can get almost anything you want in life (including money) as long as you consistently focus on it
- Visualization is more powerful than you realize and the most successful people in the world are all big visualizers
The one thing that this book sort of lacks is… fun. Being written in 1937, it can be a bit of a dry read at times, and that can seriously impact the quality of the book. All of the concepts and ideas make sense, but getting through the book and pulling all the good stuff out can be a task.
Motivation: 8, Useful Info: 7, Fun: 4, Correctness: 8, Popularity: 7, Total Score: 34.
Rank #5: The Psychology of Money
Published in late 2020, The Psychology of Money has tons of current references and nods that make it a highly relevant read. On top of that, Morgan Housel used to write for The Wall Street Journal and The Motley Fool, so he definitely knows how to grab and keep your attention.
Morgan Housel reminds readers of basic truths that are easily forgotten with time. Truths such as:
- The greatest value of money is its ability to give you control over your time
- Wealth is the stuff that you don't see (when you see somebody driving a $100,000 car, all you know is that they're $100,00 POORER than before they bought the car)
- Past performance is NOT indicative of future results (aka, there's always a first for everything)
The main theme throughout the book is that your wealth has WAY more to do with how you behave, than what you know. This is one of many universal lessons that we already know. Yet Housel does a fantastic job of using anecdotes, data, and unique examples to reiterate the messages to us again.
Honestly, this was one of my favourite personal finance books and I had to read it again just to make sure I got everything. The only reason it's not ranked higher is because of the lack of actionable advice. One of the lessons basically being: “change is the only thing that's constant”, there's only so much advice that Housel can give.
I finished the book feeling way more educated and equipped mentally to deal with whatever financial troubles life will throw my way, but with nothing to really act upon.
Motivation: 4, Useful Info: 9, Fun: 7, Correctness: 10, Popularity: 8, Total Score: 38.
Rank #2: The 4-Hour Workweek
With these next 3 books all being legendary, I couldn't really find a clear way to separate them so they all hold the #2 title. The first one that we'll chat about is the 4-Hour Workweek.
The 4-Hour Workweek is a personal finance / lifestyle book which advocates for what Tim Ferriss calls “lifestyle design.” The basic premise is:
- Retirement should be your worst-case scenario. Most people can realistically never save up enough to fully retire (they just have to work until death). And if you ARE able to save up enough to retire, chances are you're an overachiever who will hate every second of the inactivity during retirement.
- Instead, enjoy and live life to the fullest NOW by becoming part of the New Rich and utilizing principles like automation, currency arbitrage, and mini-retirements.
He explains that with enough “smart” working, outsourcing, and negotiation, you can cut down your work to 4 hours every week and enjoy the rest of the time.
Tim employs a humorous tone which is incredibly fun to read and also quite motivating. For the everyday chap, this book can seem like the holy grail to all of their problems. The one thing I will point out about it is that there are a few missing links here and there which prevent the perfect picture from being painted.
Tim talks about lifestyle design and outsourcing your work, yet doesn't delve too deep into HOW to actually build a business to the level which outsourcing is possible. To me, this book seemed like one for people who already own a business and are workaholics who need a reminder that life is for the living.
Motivation: 8, Useful Info: 7, Fun: 10, Correctness: 6, Popularity: 8, Total Score: 39.
Rank #2: The Millionaire Fastlane
Where Tim Ferris falls short, MJ Demarco picks up the slack. In The Millionaire Fastlane, Demarco explains what the Millionaire Fastlane is and how to achieve it.
In short, The Millionaire Fastlane is a redefinition of wealth from society’s standards. Most financial advice nowadays sounds something like “invest consistently for 40 years and you’ll be rich.” (The Automatic Millionaire^) Which, although might be true, isn’t exactly exciting. (Wouldn’t you rather be young and rich than old and rich?) The Millionaire Fastlane is a path that’s vastly different. Instead of saving and investing for 40 years to become rich, you can become rich by building a successful business.
Demarco then goes on to cover the fundamentals to building a successful and scalable business without any of the BS.
One of his potent messages is that if you provide value to people and affect millions of people, you will undoubtedly be rich. This can come in many forms, but a few are:
- Making millions of people look better
- Teaching millions of people something
- Entertaining millions of people
- Helping millions of people achieve their goals
- Saving millions of people time
If you can do any one of these things, according to MJ, you will find it hard NOT to become rich.
The beauty of the book is that after reading The Millionaire Fastlane, you'll probably feel extremely motivated to start carving out your own fastlane. The singular caveat is that it's not easy. Not everyone can build a successful business and MJ makes that extremely clear. For those who are willing to try, though, the rewards can be phenomenal.
Motivation: 9, Useful Info: 8, Fun: 7, Correctness: 8, Popularity: 7, Total Score: 39.
Rank #2: Rich Dad Poor Dad
No personal finance book list is complete without the classic book which (arguably) started it all: Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Rich Dad Poor Dad is an international hit that most successful entrepreneurs, investors, and businesspeople quote as the start of their personal finance journey. Heck, it was MY start too!
In the book, Robert Kiyosaki completely flips many notions upside down:
- Many people who are rich are NOT born rich
- Your primary residence (house) is most likely NOT an asset
- The rich work to LEARN, not to make money
On top of this, he also introduces many useful concepts such as the cashflow quadrant:
and Rich vs Middle class people income statements:
To top it all off, Rich Dad Poor Dad is an extremely entertaining read with Kiyosaki sharing many of his own stories. Along with all the other books on this list, anyone who wants to learn more about personal finance should DEFINITELY give Rich Dad Poor Dad a read.
Motivation: 8, Useful Info: 6, Fun: 8, Correctness: 7, Popularity: 10, Total Score: 39.
Rank #1: I Will Teach You To Be Rich
The number one best personal finance book of all time (in my opinion) is Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
The main reason why this book is ranked so high is because of its usefulness. Unlike some of the other books, almost every single piece of advice Ramit Sethi provides can be acted upon immediately. Sethi details how to build wealth in a step-by-step approach with specific tasks to complete in every category.
His 6 steps to become rich are:
- Optimize Your Credit Cards
- Open high-interest savings accounts which work for you
- Open investing accounts
- Automate, automate, automate
- Start investing
Within every single one of these steps, Ramit gives examples and instructions on how to complete them. Also, because it's not something (seemingly) difficult like starting a business, most people will actually follow through and implement to advice in the book!
Something else I loved about Sethi's book is his idea of spending lavishly on what you love and cutting aggressively on what you don't. This smart allocation of money makes it so that you don't need a ton of money to be “rich.”
Motivation: 8, Useful Info: 10, Fun: 7, Correctness: 8, Popularity: 8, Total Score: 41.
Accumulating knowledge is like investing money: the effect is compounded when you start earlier. A book that changes your mind when you're 18 years old has more of an impact on your life than one that alters your perspective at 50 years old.
The ranking system I've come up with is a helpful guide, but at the end of the day these are all fantastic books. Any one of them could change your life. It's more important THAT you start reading, than WHAT you start reading.
This is why it's so important to start taking action TODAY. Most of these books can be bought online, and honestly pirated for free off certain websites. So… what are you waiting for? Start building your personal finance knowledge today! I promise you won't regret it.
Jeff is a current Harvard student and author of the blog Financial Pupil who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.