It seems to me that in the world of personal finance/investment blogs you have two traditional camps. One is that of the natural-born saver who has it programmed in his/her DNA to save money. This behavior comes natural and is no more challenging than breathing. The second group is at the opposite end of the scale and is where I spent a large portion of my life, the non-saver and overspender. This group usually has survived their wars with financial mismanagement, but not without their share of casualties. When I began my road to financial independence via fiscal responsibility I did so with over twenty years of overspending and over leveraging to overcome. Changing such a basic part one’s personality does not come without serious effort, but where does this change come from and how is it reinforced? Today I’m going to share three books that I consider foundational reading for anyone contemplating a change to their financial behavior. If you’re going to change the way you do anything in life you need a good example of not only the principles required for change, but examples of what will replace past behavior. These books offer just that.
I. Your Money Or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin
This is a really great book for both the information it contains and the entertaining stories. If you’re new to the financial independence idea or how to go about simplifying your life and developing a plan for how to attain financial independence this is a great place to start. The book is made up of nine steps designed to reshape your relationship with money. If you are careless with money like I was these steps are invaluable, but you have to do the exercises in the book if you really want to gain the value that it contains. Come on, I know I’m not the only person who usually just reads the exercises, but fails to actually do them.
II. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
You can’t go wrong with Thoreau. It was after reading this that I really started questioning my wants and what I actually needed. Granted Thoreau can be a bit dry in places, but the story of his two years at Walden Pond are incredible and the commentary he gives on the superfluous nature of man when he wrote this some 150 years ago could be an accurate description of us today. Actually it’s quite interesting to see how the nature of mankind has not changed much in the past 2000 years. I’ve just finished reading Letters from a Stoic by Seneca and he has the same complaint. At any rate, Thoreau makes a good mentor for the newly frugal.
III. Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker
If you have read the first two books you are ready for the treatise of achieving financial independence in record time. This is not a quick read nor easy. You will want to set aside some quiet time and put your thinking cap on. This book reads like a work in philosophy. It is jam-packed with information and will take a while to digest. The first half of the book questions the current consumer society we live in and offers viable alternatives. The second half of the books is a how to manual.
I would read Your Money or Your Life First. This will set you up for a new way of thinking and give some entertaining stories to keep you interested. Jacobs book would be a great choice when you’re ready to replace your psychological furniture versus just rearranging it. When you get to the second half of the book I would pick one item and work on it for a while. If you try to apply everything that is suggested you will probably get discouraged and give up before you have even started. Remember, changing your orientation to money and how you use it takes time. It’s not a sprint that you endure until it’s over, it is a fundamental change of how you live your life.
What books have you read that you think should be added to this list? Have you read any of the ones listed here? What did you think?