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Ask Money

Bookshelf recommendations

Chris Farrell Dec 29, 2011

Question: What’s a good book to give to a loved one in his late 20s who just doesn’t get personal finances? I keep suggesting that he listen to Marketplace Money, but I think maybe I’d do better getting him a book. Any suggestions? Marion, Philadelphia, PA

Answer: Well, since I love books, I certainly have a couple of suggestions for you to consider. I tend to like books for 20-somethings and 30-somethings that deal with the basics of good money management over a lifetime. When you go through the list I would think about which book suggestion best meets his temperament and interests.

I’m currently reading two personal finance books: Risk Less and Prosper: Your Safer Guide to Investing by Zvi Bodie and Rachelle Taqqu, and All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending by Laura Vanderkam. They both look good. I’ll let you know in more detail my reactions when I’ve finished reading them.

Here’s the perspective that I take on managing money over a lifetime. When it comes to personal finance (or any other aspect of life), the only thing we can be certain about is uncertainty. The way to deal with it is to delve deeply into what it is you really want out of life, what it is you truly value and where your passions lie. “Managing uncertainty is really about managing yourself,” Ross Levin, a certified financial planner and head of Accredited Investors, recently told me. “If you can discover what you want out of life — the why — then there are a number of ways to get there — the how.”

He’s right. The rest is calculation.

A classic recommendation on the calculation side of the ledger for young adults is Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties, by Beth Kobliner. The advice is sensible and geared toward young adults launching their careers.

One of the first books on money and investing I read out of college was The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Andrew Tobias. It came out years ago — 1978. It has been revised many times since then. Tobias is a good storyteller. It’s an easy read. A lot of what he offers is common sense, but as we all know, that’s often the most important counsel to take.

For anyone wrestling with money and meaning, a good book to give is Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The book has a cult following. Though there are aspects of the book I don’t like, I often recommend it because reading it makes you think.

The single best short book on how to invest over a lifetime is The Random Walk Guide to Investing, by Burton Malkiel.

I am a long-time fan of Jane Bryant Quinn. You can’t go wrong with the Queen of Money. The title of her latest book says it all, Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People.

My own book, The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better, focuses on savings and sustainability. Being green and being frugal isn’t about pinching pennies — far from it. It’s about wasting less and getting more out of each day and dollar.

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