The 9 Best Personal Finance Books of 2020
Manage your money better with these reads
We are committed to researching, testing, and recommending the best products. We may receive commissions from purchases made after visiting links within our content. Learn more about our review process.
Some people manage their money like they were born with calculators in their hands. Others…not so much. Maybe they fall prey to their own instincts to spend more than they should. Maybe math just isn’t their strong suit or they find it unbearably tedious to keep track of pennies and dimes, let alone dollars.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Just look at the statistics: The American Psychological Association does a survey every year in an attempt to pin down where folks think they stand financially. The most recent survey indicated that a walloping 70 percent of us believe we’re on shaky financial ground. Even more — 75 percent — are of the firm belief that we’d be a whole lot happier if we just had more money.
So what can you do to get a grip on your finances and make your money grow? Learn. Educate yourself. That’s how Elon Musk and Warren Buffett started out, and they haven’t stopped reading now that they’re at the top of their respective games. These books should give you a great start.
Best Overall: Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?
Author Cary Siegel first got the idea for Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School: 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By when he realized how inadequately schools had taught his own kids about handling money. This book brings young people up to speed, but don’t overlook it if your twenties are now in the rearview mirror; You’re never too old to master these 99 principles.
Sure, 99 sounds like a lot, but Siegel has encapsulated them into eight broad lessons. They’re about learning to manage your money so it doesn’t manage you. And the book is particularly digestible with less than 200 succinct, let’s-get-to-the-point-here pages.
Siegel has an MBA from the University of Chicago, but his book isn’t highbrow and lofty. It’s about basics, couched in terms that even your high schooler can easily grasp. They apparently work well because the author retired at age 45.
Best for Building Wealth: The Automatic Millionaire
Straightforward without unnecessary details, the beauty of David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich is that it delivers exactly what it promises: a one-step plan.
At first, the book almost reads like fiction with a success story about a couple who earn a modest income but nonetheless owns two mortgage-free homes with significant retirement savings, too. From there, Bach explains a simple one-step process that will put you in this couple’s shoes — and it doesn’t involve budgeting, gritting your teeth, or earning six figures a year, either.
You can trust Bach, as he's previously published three other bestsellers. The Automatic Millionaire spent 31 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List when it was published in 2004 and it’s sold more than 1.5 million copies.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best books about investing.
Best for Debt Management: The Total Money Makeover
When Dave Ramsey talks about money and finances, people sit up and listen, and with good cause. Along with his highly successful radio program, the Dave Ramsey Show, he’s written five New York Times bestsellers, including The Total Money Makeover. This edition, The Total Money Makeover Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, includes some new “Dave Rants” that tackle budget-busters like marital difficulties and how to foot the bill when your kids head to college.
This is no get-rich-quick scheme — Ramsey’s books never are. The book provides a solid foundation for saving enough money so that the next life emergency won't derail your finances and you can retire comfortably. Ramsey’s cred has always involved paying off your debt so you can get there, and he tells you how.
Best for Budgeting: Your Money or Your Life
The authors of Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence dare to express the idea that living frugally will actually make you happier.
Think about it: you have a choice between two jobs, one that pays really well and one that doesn’t. But the well-paying job involves something — maybe coworkers or the nature of your duties — that will make you really, really dread going to work. Which job do you accept? Robin and Dominguez think it’s a no-brainer. Earning money should not mean misery. Go with the one that makes you happiest and trim your budget accordingly, and Your Money or Your Life will tell you how. Overall, it’s not so much about learning to budget as it is about living within your means by changing your habits and enjoying life.
Check out our other reviews of the best books about frugal living available on the market today.
Best Memoir: Rich Dad Poor Dad
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! is something of a memoir with lessons attached. With an updated, 2017 version, 20 years since it was first published, this read is one of the bestselling personal finance books ever.
Kiyosaki walks readers through some childhood reminiscences, a contrast between his not-very-wealthy father and the dad of his friend who happened to be one of the richest residents of Hawaii. The comparison shines a spotlight on how to best manage your money or lack of it, as well as helping your kids to do so as well. According to Kiyosaki, not all debt is bad, and you can work your way toward wealth even if you don’t enjoy a staggering income. It’s all about how you handle the money you have and figuring out how to escape your small paycheck. This updated edition of Rich Dad Poor Dad is particularly enjoyable and insightful as it compares life 20 years ago against what it is today.
Best Self-Help: You Are a Badass at Making Money
You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth is from Jen Sincero, author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Published in 2017, this second Badass book takes more of a financial angle than the first one.
Prepare to chuckle and roll your eyes. This book is candid and funny, and if you’re like many of us, you’ll recognize yourself and your own habits in its pages. It’s based on Sincero’s personal experiences as she emerged from her salad days to living very, very well. You Are a Badass at Making Money is designed to help you nix the financial habits that hold you back and introduce some simple, easily understandable concepts that will help improve the way you handle your money.
See more reviews of our favorite self-help books available for purchase.
Best about Retiring Early: How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
On the flip side, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor isn’t as much about taming your finances in preparation for retirement as it is about retiring well on what you have managed to save.
Interestingly, it doesn’t promote working longer and harder to achieve that. The “happy, wild and free” part of the title is not to be overlooked, and Zelinski doesn’t think you need $1 million-plus in savings to accomplish it. These are the best years of your life, and Zelinski imparts a few lessons about how to enjoy them on the money you have, sooner rather than later.
Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best success books can help you find what you're looking for.
Best for Beginners: Broke Millennial
As the title suggests, Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together is targeted towards 20- and 30-somethings wanting to learn about finances. Author Erin Lowry makes things easy for young adults who are overwhelmed and confused about debt and budgeting with this smart, motivating guide. Promising to show how to go from "flat-broke to financial badass," it differs from other personal finance books by covering tricky, real-life situations involving money, from managing student loans to not being able to split the bill with friends. Among the plethora of personal finance books made for older people, Broke Millennial offers a fun, relatable take on managing money for beginners
Best for Inspiration: The Millionaire Next Door
To truly understand how to accumulate wealth, business professors William D. Danko and Thomas J. Stanley explores the seven common traits found among millionaires in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy. After years of research into the wealthy, the authors interestingly found that most of them don't live in Beverly Hills or drive fancy cars. Instead, these people acquired most of their wealth by working hard, living frugally, and saving most of their money. Contrary to the media's flashy depiction of millionaires, the book emphasizes how to get rich without needing a high-profile job or degree. This best-seller is in its third edition since it was first published in 1998.