The 10 Best Personal Finance Books of 2021
Get your money on track with our picks
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Want to improve your personal finances? You’re not alone. In fact, an Intuit study found that 59 percent of adults said they lived paycheck to paycheck in 2019, while another learned that 28 percent had no emergency savings.
Learn personal finance basics, like why paying yourself first pays off, how to manage and pay off debt, and even the money lessons that should be taught in school (but aren’t) with our picks of the best personal finance books. Sure, it’s not light reading, but your wallet—and your investment portfolio—will thank you.
Best Overall: Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?
Ask anyone what they wish they’d learned more about in school and the answer is likely money. More specifically, how to properly handle one’s finances—enter Cary Siegel’s title, “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?” Siegel, a retired business executive, divides the book into 99 principles and eight money lessons that you should have learned by high school or college but didn’t. This book was initially intended for his five children when he realized they didn’t learn important personal finance principles before entering the real world, but it grew into a well-reviewed read full of money lessons, as well as firsthand experience and advice from Siegel. This easy-to-read book is ideal for new grads or anyone looking to start off their personal finance journey on the right foot.
Best Memoir: Rich Dad Poor Dad
You’ve probably heard of Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad," but there’s a reason it’s stuck around for more than two decades. In one of the most popular personal finance books of all time, Kiyosaki shares what he learned growing up from his father and his friend’s father, the latter of which is the “rich dad” in the title. Those lessons include how you don’t need to make a lot of money to get rich, defines assets and liabilities, and explains to parents why schools won’t teach your kids what they need to know about personal finance. This 20th-anniversary edition includes an update from the author on all things money, the economy, and investing.
Best for Debt Management: The Total Money Makeover
Debt management plays a major role in the state of your personal finances. Need a little help in that area? Take a look at Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover.” This New York Times bestseller explains, without mincing words, how to get out of debt and improve your financial picture by avoiding common pitfalls like rent-to-own, cash advances, or using credit. It also offers solid advice on starting an emergency fund, saving for college and retirement, and how to succeed at Ramsey’s famed “Snowball Method” for debt payoff. Our advice? Don’t read this unless you want a swift reality check on the state of your finances.
"This is one of my favorite finance books for beginners," says Hana Maeda, Commerce Editor for The Balance. "It's a simple, no-nonsense approach to debt management and budgeting with great real-life examples."
Best for Building Wealth: The Automatic Millionaire
Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? David Bach’s “The Automatic Millionaire,” a New York Times, USA Today, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Wall Street Journal business bestseller, shows you how to do just that. The book kicks off with the story of a couple earning $55,000 combined annually, and how they achieved their financial dreams. Think: owning two homes, putting their children through college, and retiring at 55 with a $1 million retirement nest egg. The secret? Setting up a financial system that not only pays yourself first but one that is automatic. Bach has also written "Smart Women Finish Rich," "Smart Couples Finish Rich," and "Start Late, Finish Rich."
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Best for Beginners: Broke Millennial
If you can decipher #GYFLT, then this is the personal finance book for you. (Hint: #GYFLT stands for “get your financial life together” in social media speak.) Erin Lowry’s “Broke Millennial” explains in her signature conversational style how 20-somethings can get in control of their personal finances. From understanding your relationship with money to managing student loans to sharing the details of your finances with a partner, this book covers the biggest money challenges facing millennials today.
Runner-Up, Best for Beginners: The One-Page Financial Plan
Confused when it comes to your money, whether it’s how to properly invest or how to deal with unexpected financial challenges? Carl Richards’ “The One-Page Financial Plan” takes the mystery out of how to effectively manage your finances. This book helps you not only figure out what your financial goals are, but also how to get there in a simple, one-page plan. Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for The New York Times.
Best for Spenders: I Will Teach You to Be Rich
Being rich isn’t about not spending money at all. In "I Will Teach You to Be Rich," a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, financial expert Ramit Sethi explains that you can spend your money, guilt-free, as long as you have it invested and allocated properly. This title talks about how to deal with all the common money pitfalls, from paying off student loans to how to save every month, and even how to talk your way out of late fees. This 10th-anniversary edition includes updated views on technology, money, and psychology, as well as some success stories of readers who have actually gotten rich from reading—you guessed it—Sethi’s book.
Related: The Best Self-Help Books
Best for Women: Clever Girl Finance
Women still earn just 82 cents to a man’s dollar, while mothers earn just 71 cents for every dollar that fathers earn, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In short, women still have to work harder when it comes to their money. Bola Sokunbi’s “Clever Girl Finance” aims to empower and educate a whole new generation of women, sounding off on things like how to keep an eye on expenses, create and stick to a budget, manage your credit, build a nest egg, and take responsibility for your own financial well-being. Sokunbi is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and the founder and CEO of the website Clever Girl Finance.
Best Psychology: The Psychology of Money
This read is an interesting delve into the psychology of money and how your ego, preconceived notions, and even your pride can affect your decisions around money. As expected, this isn’t exactly the best way to manage your investment portfolio, and Morgan Housel’s “The Psychology of Money'' gives readers tips and tools for combating these biases in the form of 19 short stories that focus on the same topic. Housel is a partner at The Collaborative Fund and has worked as a columnist at The Wall Street Journal.
Best for Budgeting: Your Money or Your Life
With more than a million copies sold, Vicki Robin’s “Your Money or Your Life” lays out an easy-to-follow, nine-step plan to help readers change their relationship with money. Whether it’s how to get out of debt, get started investing, how to build wealth, or even save money by practicing Robin’s signature mindfulness technique, this read has you covered.
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Meet the Expert
Rachel Morgan Cautero has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and more than a decade of journalism experience, most in the personal finance sector. Most recently, she was the managing editor of DailyWorth, a finance-based media destination for women. She’s been published in SmartAsset, The Balance, The Atlantic, Life & Money, Parents, WealthRocket, and Yahoo Finance.