Mike and I are avid readers. In fact, it’s probably my favourite hobby. When I was about 9 years old, I asked for a battery operated light as a birthday present just so I could covertly read under my covers after my Mom had told me for the umpteenth time to turn my lights out and go to bed.
Nancy Drew’s were my goto, but it was kind of a 1A / 1B situation between Nancy and the Hardy Boys. Of course I always assumed that I would grow up to be Nancy Drew and marry one of they Hardy Boys – either one was fine with me, they were both pretty cool dudes.
Ironically, it actually came true. I kind of became Nancy Drew, at least in my professional life, and oddly enough, I landed my Hardy boy, although I levelled up in a big way, cause he’s way cooler than Frank or Joe ever was. Sorry boys.
As a kid, I also prided myself on joining the summer reading challenges at our local library, particularly the part where I would blow everyone else out of the water. 12 books in one summer – come on – that was what I read in a week. (Have I mentioned that I was a competitive child?)
Somewhere in my early twenties my taste for books took a dramatic shift towards non-fiction, and I have never looked back. Not surprisingly I was addicted to finance books for quite some time (until it felt like I was reading the same one over and over, just with a new title). And at the peak of my sleep troubles I was going through every piece of literature my library had in supply on the topic, and then, I finally turned my attention to the packed space of personal introspection and well being.
And for all the finance books I have read over the years, the personal well being section hands down reigns champion as the area from which I’ve learned the most valuable lessons when it comes to money.
Which makes sense when you break it down. Money is a tool to get you to where you want to be. In order to use it efficiently – you need to know where exactly it is that you want to be.
Sounds obvious – and yet, most people don’t. There are still parts of my life where I don’t quite know, but I’m a lot further ahead then I once was.
So, whenever anyone asks me what finance book they should read, I skip right over the typical answers and direct them towards one of my favourites from my list of Top Finance Books (that you’ll never find in the Finance Section):
#11 – How to Heal Back Pain, by John Sarno
Random! Why is a book about chronic pain sitting on my top 10+1 list of Finance Books? Great question!
Dr. Sarno’s book is a deep dive into his theory that many (not all, but many) chronic pain conditions have little to do with an actual physical injury (although an injury frequently acts as the trigger point for people experiencing chronic pain) but rather is a condition perpetuated by our psyche.
One in which the mind and body are cleverly working together at a sub-conscious level to produce pain as a distraction from the real issue, being a state of emotional distress, generally in the form of repressed anger or anxiety. Sounds hokey at first, I get it, but stay with me on this one!
For people who suffer from chronic pain, it’s a challenging book to read. Being told that your pain is psychological is not a concept many people are open to, but for those who are, the ability to work through the pain and often eliminate it entirely is a very real possibility.
The financial lesson in this book is all about gaining a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of our mind and body, and even more importantly, question social norms. The things we assume are fact because that’s what “everyone” has always thought.
We often laugh at many things that previous generations whole heartedly believed regarding diet, exercise, scientific principles, or how to manage our money. We shake our heads at their “primitiveness”, and yet often we forget to recognize that there is much we do not know about the mind, human body, and the world around us that demands the ongoing challenging of current assumptions, and methodology. And that absolutely includes how/why we spend our money and our time.
Whether you buy into Dr. Sarno’s theory or not, critical analysis of our experience, social “givens”, and available options is a major financial takeaway from this book.
#10 – The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
Moving right along from chronic pain to relationships! The 5 love languages is all about identifying the individual manner in which each of us experiences the feeling of being loved. This book is great for two reasons. One – getting some insight into your own needs when it comes to feeling loved, and what makes you feel like the people around you care about you.
Two – it gives you great insight into your partners needs. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to get ahead financially, and buying them gifts to make-up for your lack of presence, and yet their love language is quality time, you are going to have a spouse with an empty “love tank” AND you’ll be wasting your money.
Learning how to better identify your spouse’s love language, and invest in making sure their love tank (and your own) are properly filled can go a long way in improving any relationship.
Seeing as how divorce is one of the TOP financial destroyers – this is definitely a book worth reading.
#9 – 10% Happier, by Dan Harris
NBC anchor, Dan Harris’ book delves into the actions and life choices that led him to have an on-air panic attack, and then begin questioning how to improve his life.
This book outlines Dan’s journey towards meditation, and the ultimate understanding that small incremental improvements can make big impacts in the overall picture.
Incremental improvements is a concept I buy into big time, whether it’s about happiness, contentment, diet, exercise, or your savings rate. Often achieving financial success isn’t about big moves and dramatic changes, but rather looking for the multitude of small deficiencies that are derailing your plans, and then optimizing those areas.
Compounding isn’t a concept solely reserved for investing – compounding good habits, financial or otherwise, can create massive long term growth.
#8 – Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne
A parenting book – for finance? It might not be quite the stretch you think it is.
Kim’s book deep dives into the current psychological conditions and diagnoses plaguing our children, and how at the heart of much of it lies the issue of more. Too much stuff, too much stimulation, at the cost of insufficient routine, insufficient ability to just play, insufficient sleep, and almost always, insufficient quality time with their parents.
Kim walks readers through case study after case study where a simplification of life eliminates everything from major behavioural issues, to diagnoses of ADHD and severe anxiety, all without any need for pumping our children full of meds.
There’s a lot for any parent to learn from this book, but you can also clearly see how Kim’s rules can simultaneously apply to adult lives and the pace and degree to which we are often over-extending ourselves. No wonder anxiety is so dramatically on the rise (which at this point could probably take you right back to reading book #11!).
#7 – Learned Optimism, by Dr. Martin Seligman
One of my favourite books I’ve read in recent years, Dr. Seligman takes a deep dive into the origin of his discovery for Learned Optimism, and positive psychology as a whole.
Highlighting through scientific studies just how impactful our perspective can be on outcome, this book is compelling in so many ways. It drives the reader to take ownership of their circumstance and trajectory , regardless of how they arrived there, and discard negative thoughts and habits.
For people who aren’t naturally optimistic, it provides strategies and methods for how to minimize self-doubt and negative inner thought processes in order to get over the first stumbling block to taking action, failing to believe you can succeed.
While positive thinking alone will never get things done, it is an essential component to building the courage to take your first steps in the direction you want to go. And without those first steps – it’s mighty difficult to build momentum.
#6 – Atomic Habits, by James Clear
I read this book only a few months ago – and I loved it. As a hard core optimizer, looking for ways to create daily efficiency of habits is right up my alley. (Also – this may sound neurotic, but as someone who really appreciates how a book is laid out and appears visually to the reader, James and his publishing team get huge props for using wonderful spacing, chapter length, and font size!)
What I love about this book is that James gives clear and concise methods to both improve your ability to form good habits AND equally strong ideas on how to minimize or eliminate the bad ones.
This books concepts apply to every aspect of self-improvement or growth, and most definitely to how we approach spending, saving, and investing. Definitely a must-read book for anyone looking to improve their financial habits.
#5 – Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
If you are pursuing FIRE or Financial Freedom in any capacity – read this book. If you are looking to be a better manager, leader, employee or parent – read this book.
Greg outlines his philosophy on how to take our over-worked, over-taxed, over-extended lives, and assess every single aspect through a lens of whether or not it’s essential or brings you immense value. Discarding anything and everything that doesn’t meet his rigorous test of essentialism.
This book will make you reevaluate everything you are doing. From how you choose to exercise, eat, spend your money, or spend your time, it forces you to look at all aspects of life with utter mindfulness and attention, ridding ourselves of so much of that which unnecessarily weighs us down.
#4 – Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan. I love his books, his Ted talks, his podcast Revisionist History. Simply put – he’s one interesting (and incredibly smart) dude. Not to mention, he has a great voice that just lulls you into listening for hours (which is why it’s so awesome that he narrates his own books in their audio versions!).
I feel like you could insert any one of his books in this same slot (even his new book which I haven’t even read yet and is due out in September, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know) and get equally valuable financial insight, but I’ve selected Blink because it’s all about how we think.
How we make split second decisions, how our subconscious and past experiences come into play, and how our decision making habits can be so incredibly flawed, without us ever so much as noticing.
Most importantly, it brings awareness to our human weaknesses when it comes to how we approach decisions. And in the financial arena, awareness of our individual biases and flaws in decision making is absolutely king.
#4 – The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown
Much like Malcolm, Brene is another go to favourite author for me. Her books never disappoint, nor do her TED talks (as the multi-million view counts they’ve garnered will tell you!) There are major life takeaways in all her content, but of her books, my particular favourite is The Gifts of Imperfection.
The book focuses on how we can start to let go of the person we feel we are “supposed” to be, and focus our efforts on embracing who we are.
As a recovering perfectionist I could relate immensely to the topics within this book, but also found it incredibly helpful when assessing our lifestyle goals and what I wanted out of life moving forward. Bringing my focus back to what we wanted as a family and ignoring urges to maintain a certain facade or image was a major part of succeeding in our pursuit of Financial Freedom.
#2 – The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
Any of Gretchen’s books will provide awesome insight, whether it’s Better than Before, focussing on habit creation and maintenance, or her newest book Inner Order – Outer Calm, her writing is inspiring but also very much a common sense approach.
I read The Happiness Project a number of years ago when I launched my own year long journey to better understand myself, what I wanted in life, what brought me happiness, and the ultimate goal, to find a place of contentment.
The Happiness Project gave me a framework to start assessing what I had in my life, discard things that weren’t bringing me value, and invest in the areas that were. Additionally, Gretchen’s personality framework “The Four Tendancies” are incredibly powerful when applied directly to finance.
Understanding my tendency when it came to accountability, particularly my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to meeting expectations (both my own inner expectations, as well as outer) allowed me to build in accountability measures that ensured I was maximizing my positive financial habits, while minimizing those that could detract from our overall goal of Financial Freedom.
From a finance perspective, understanding your tendency should be a mandatory component of financial planning. It’s only once you understand your own tendency that you can build in habits and strategies that will ensure you remain accountable to your plan, rather than inadvertently adopting ideas that are in direct opposition to your core traits.
#1 – Why We Sleep, by Matt Walker
Sleep is essential to EVERY aspect of how your body operates. Including living a productive and happy life. Need I say more?
Dr. Walker lays out some of the biggest and most compelling reasons we need to prioritize sleep in a society that has steadily chipped away at every pillar of it.
While there are MANY books out there on sleep, if you are going to choose one to read, make it this one.
Making sound financial and life decisions is contingent on the ability to maintain perspective, take in information, assess available options, and identify the optimal course of action for your desired end goal. Doing that when you are sleep deprived is a recipe for financial disaster.
The Bottom Line
While there are many great finance specific books out there – sometimes the topic of personal finance and the minutia of budgets and investment strategies obscures what we are really trying to accomplish. It places the focus on the process of how to get there, often at the cost of identifying where we want to end up, and why.
If your goals are to be rich, or to simply make as much money as possible along the way, my question is: how will you know when you are there? If your goals are limitless and obscure, when will you feel content with what you have?
Having the financial freedom to choose what we do with our time is all about finding a place of happiness and contentment in life. Investing in things that bring us the most value. In order to succeed at that, we need to truly understand what brings value into our lives.
By assigning specific numbers to our financial goals, it forces us to look a little deeper into what we want, why we want it, and how much we’ll need to get there.
But unless we understand ourselves, take time for some introspection, and deep dive into identifying our real wants and needs, specifically OUR OWN (not what we feel society expects of us) how can we ever expect to structure a financial plan that will leave us feeling both content and fulfilled?
So take a moment to visit your local library this week and pick up one of the books on this list, and make an investment of time into understanding what YOU want your money to facilitate for you.
And PLEASE – leave a comment and tell us what YOUR favourite personal finance book is (especially if it won’t be found in the finance section!)
Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying our content – please share the blog with your friends and help us grow our readership! Next week is Post #99 here at Freedom 101, and to mark our last post in the double digits we’re going to back track in a big way, and talk about the pivotal moment that led Mike and I to pursue Financial Freedom. See you then!