When I was 22, I was the kind of youngster who buys an iPhone just because the other people in the office have one and I needed to fit in. The kind of person who spends their weekend shopping at the mall for things they don’t need. That has a maxed out credit card to get designer clothes. I had nightmares and worries that I can’t repay my debts.
I’ll be 30 in a week. I have no debt; I live on a boat that I bought with cash and this year I’m spending my holidays in Hawaii. I invest for my retirement, and I consider money an employee that needs to work and multiply. I live simply by choice, not because I can’t afford more. And I sleep very well at night.
I came a long way, and I have some wonderful people to thank. They wrote books that I read and learned a lot from. But knowledge is only potential power – you have to act to make things happen.
So today I’m sharing with you the books that made my financial life what it is now, the order I read them in and the most important takeaways.
Level 1 – “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey
This is the book you need when you have no idea what you’re doing. When there’s too much month left at the end of your money, you have loans or credit card debt, and you don’t even know what you’re spending on and how much, the Total Money Makeover can get you back on the right path.
That’s why this is Level 1. It’s useful to be read in your early 20s because that’s when we tend to have no sense of responsibility or interest in the future of our financial life. But if you’re past this age and need help, I recommend you get yourself a copy anyway.
The biggest lesson from the book is that you’re fully responsible for your life and finances so you’d better have a plan and stop blaming the government, your boss or your neighbour for your spending. No one forces your hand to tap or slide the bank card at the checkout counter.
The system described in the book is based on seven steps to financial freedom:
- Save your first $1000 emergency fund (I have a blog post about this here)
- Get rid of debt
- Increase your emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses
- Start saving 15% of your income for retirement
- College fund for the kids
- Pay off your mortgage
- Build wealth and give
With no mortgage and no kids, after I reached step 4, I started researching how can I improve my financial situation further. Saving was boring, and the interest on my account was so low, that it felt like I’m not going anywhere. And this is how the next book came into my life.
Check it out on Amazon: The Total Money Makeover
Level 2 – “Rich dad poor dad” by Robert Kiyosaki
“Rich dad poor dad” is the story of how the author grew up surrounded by 2 very different parental figures:
- the poor dad – his father, who was working for the government and had great work ethics but no business skills and lived hoping that his job will provide a good pension and benefits for life;
- and the rich dad – his best friend’s father, who had a business and understood how money moves around and how to make more of it. I think we can both guess who he listened to since he’s filthy rich.
The book has two main lessons, and they immediately have an impact on you.
1. Financial education is mandatory. Learn how the rich make their money
Let’s be honest here – how much do you know about cashflow, taxes, inflation, interest rates, different type of loans or how different legal entities handle money?
I didn’t know much. And it’s easy to hide behind bullsh!t excuses like “I’m not good with money”, or “my partner handles the taxes”.
My a-ha moment was when Robert laid out the simple cashflow of regular employee versus a company.
- Regular employee: Income -> Pay taxes first -> Pay your bills from the rest -> Enjoy if there’s anything left over
- Company: Income -> Pay the bills (and the trip to Hawaii because it’s a business meeting) -> Pay taxes for the rest -> Enjoy the leftover
Throughout the book, the author gives you insights into how rich people make and handle their money, and I truly enjoyed learning about it.
2. Don’t save to save, save to invest. Make money your employee
There’s a huge step to take from being just a consumer to being an investor, no matter what type of investment we’re talking about. And that is getting over your fear of losing money. There’s a special chapter in the book about this, and it changed how I look at my bank account.
When you have a savings account and put 1000 in, in a year, you’ll have maybe 1010, but the market will grow so your money won’t have the same value. You’re losing money. Plus, it’s unrealistic to think that by saving 15% of your income for 30 years, you’ll then have enough to live for another 30 having the same lifestyle.
So you need to multiply that 15%. Treat your money as an employee and have it make more money! Thankfully, there are tons of opportunities out there, and they don’t need to be risky to be successful.
Check it out on Amazon: Rich Dad Poor Dad
Level 3 – “Money – Master the game” by Tony Robbins
Once you’re ready to invest, you need to learn all the possible options and how to diversify to create a portfolio that not only will handle any market drop but will give you an income for life, no matter when you decide that it’s time to retire.
Wow, that sounds awesome, doesn’t it? If you live in the US, Tony gives such specific details that by the end of the book you’ll have the perfect formula for financial freedom. If you don’t live in the US (I don’t!), you’ll have to search for local alternatives for some of the financial products, but it’s not that hard, and it’s worth it.
Just a heads-up: the book has 600 pages. It’s a monster, but it gives details and makes complex things easy to understand. Here are a few things that you can learn from the book:
- understand how taxes and fees impact your final income
- active vs passive investing, when to join the market and when to sell
- different types of investments and how to allocate and diversify them to handle market ups and downs
- how to find help when you need it
If you need more convincing, here’s the exact type of investment that had me hooked: Index Funds. It’s a form of passive investing. Instead of picking individual stocks to buy and sell, you invest in an index (a group) or stocks, diversified across industries. It takes the guesswork out of it and more importantly, you avoid the emotional roller coaster that buying and selling stocks can be.
It’s completely automated and designed to make you money long term through compounding of interest. Here’s a simple calculation. If you save 200 per month for 40 years at 9% annual return, you’ll have approx 940k at the end. Saving this money without investing it will only take you as far as 96k – that’s a very small piece of the million you could have by using an index fund.
That’s some math you can get on board with, I bet! You can learn about that and so much more in the book.
Check it out on Amazon: Money: Master The Game
I hope this will help you move further with your finances, no matter what level you’re at. And if you have more book suggestions, please leave them in the comments. Did you read any of the above? What was your main take away?
And before you go, tell me, what’s your biggest struggle when it comes to money?
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