Hey homefries! After confessing recently to having spearheaded an overhaul of our family saving and investment plan, I’ve gotten a few queries about exactly what I read to prepare. So today I’m gonna share that info with you.
The usual caveat: I am not a financial expert. Rather, I am a medieval art historian. Thus, the only thing I am an expert in is medieval art. Just keep that in mind, mmmkay? As long as you do that, we should be good to go.
Also, a few general notes:
- These are just the blogs and books I like(d) the best / found to be most helpful / found to be generally current in their advice.
- Pretty much all of them advocate common things — namely, debt avoidance, spending less than you make, having a solid cushion in the form of an emergency or rainy-day fund, maxing out what are known as “pre-tax” investments (like 401ks and 403bs, as well as certain IRAs), and cheerfully funneling what’s left into taxable investment accounts, which you will more or less leave alone for, say, twenty to thirty years. If you have kids, most experts also recommend setting up 529 accounts (some of which have state-tax benefits).
- They believe that saving and investing is not rocket science. That is, these homies feel like the average person, with some due diligence, should be able to manage their own money, saving big bucks over time by avoiding unscrupulous brokers and advisors, as well as the fee structures associated with most managed funds. (Not to knock the many legit advisors and planners out there… I’m just repeating their general wisdom, which is to DIY).
- These dudes and dudettes also differ on a lot, though, and you should note before diving in headlong that what one expert says will at times differ from others. Home-ownership is a classic example. Some experts will tell you your home is a significant asset and a major building block to creating wealth. Others will argue that homes should be thought of as liabilities. Some believe that owning rental properties helps diversify one’s portfolio and has the potential to generate passive wealth. Others feel that owning rentals comes with hassle and puts one at the mercy of an inherently unpredictable housing market. Another example has to do with investing in domestic vs. international stocks indexes. Some love international funds, some hate ’em. Ultimately, you have to do your homework and decide for yourself what your risk tolerance is.
- The common end goal is to get to a place where you don’t worry about money. So even if you’re just starting out on your financial independence journey and cannot imagine automatically shuffling, say, 20% of your (pre-tax) salary into your 401k, don’t fret. Start somewhere, and set incremental goals with a solid long-term vision. In other words, there are two keys here: “start somewhere” and “long-term.”
Okay, enough summary from me. You get the gist. So here is my reading list! I’ve separated it into “financial independence” or (F.I.) blogs and books…
Mister Money Mustache: The O.G. The gold standard. My guru. Beware: He swears a lot. But I like it, and I like his no-B.S. approach to saving and investing. I’ve read his entire corpus of posts from front to back. Twice. Which maybe means I have too much time on my hands. But don’t worry; I’ll have twins soon and then I won’t even have time to shower…
Frugalwoods: The Frugalwoods are the cutest; but don’t let that fool you. These people are pros. They are hardcore savers and homesteaders. Another thing I love about their site is that Mrs. Frugalwood does most of the posting. Read around the F.I.-blogosphere long enough and you’ll learn that the VAST majority of F.I. bloggers are  men, and  retired engineers. As both a woman and a former non-profit employee, Mrs. F is neither. But she’s a whip. #loveher
Go Curry Cracker: Their family motto is: “Retire early. Travel the World.” And they want to tell you how to do that.
Mad Fientist: Not only does he blog about F.I. from an advanced perspective, he also has a podcast and a lot of tools on his website to help you get started. Not to miss.
***I include affiliate links — but do yourself a favor and check for these at your local library!
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley: This was, for me, probably the most significant book I read because it addresses the cognitive shift that takes place when you stop thinking of money as something to spend. Heavy on research, it’s an inspiring and insightful look at what habits really lead to wealth.
The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins: You can get a lot of this info on Collins’ website, mentioned above. But I sprang for the book, and I’m glad I did. Written as a guide to his daughter as she sets off on her own financial journey, it should be required reading of all new grads.
The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor by Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis: Two big names; Malkiel, for instance, is the author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street, an F.I. classic text. In this joint venture, the authors focus on explaining, in basic terms, how the market works. They spend a good deal of time and energy exploring index funds in particular, which makes this a solid read for newbies who have long found the stock market to be a strange, foreign territory.
Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore: A good complement to Collins’ book, this is an even more focused look at investing in index funds, inspired by Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group. There’s also an online forum populated by his devotees, as I noted above.
Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach: I read *a lot* of Bach’s books, and more or less recommend them. This one was my favorite, though, and if you’re a woman — particularly if you’re a woman who is married or partnered — this is a must-read. Why? As Bach points out, women have a tendency to sit back when it comes to making financial decisions in their households. But you need to know where your family’s money is! Where are your partner’s retirement and investment accounts? Are you named as the beneficiary? Are you both transparent about spending? Do you make financial decisions together? This is a solid and important book.
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder: This is a biography of good old Mr. B. I recommend it not so much for its financial advice — in fact, part of his mystique is how insanely hard it is to replicate his investing record — but for its insight into his philosophies about wealth and money. It’s a doozy of a book, but a really good read if you like both money and biographies.
The Best Way to Save for College: A Complete Guide to 529 Plans by Joseph F Hurley: Look, if you have kiddos, or are planning to have them soon, this is an meaningful book. It is also, I think, the most comprehensive and easy to understand guide to college savings accounts available. Read it cover to cover. And check out the website that inspired and supports it: savingforcollege.com.
Also, a note on two F.I. books I read but did not like.  Skip Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. There are a lot of questions surrounding the book and Kiyosaki himself.  Skip Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez et al. While beloved by many an F.I. guru out there, and widely touted as one of the best books on the philosophy of money, this book is, in my opinion, an unhelpful, virtually unreadable rant. I really hated it.
Okay! If anyone has any other recommendations they’d add to these lists, feel free to share in the comments section!