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5 Best Books on Wealth, Success, and Financial Independence

I’ve been approached at social gatherings or in casual conversation and asked about the best books to read, if a person wants to learn about personal finance or successful business planning. Everyone has a different financial outlook. Everyone has a different economic outlook. Each small business own is facing their own unique set of challenges. No single book covers every single consumer’s life situation. There is no single I Ching of financial literacy.

My first impulse is to say, “Oh, gee…every situation is different.”

That’s a truthful answer, but it’s not the correct answer to give. To avoid offering too many good answers, I risk offering none. Over time, I’ve learned to offer one or two excellent books that might get the ball rolling, hopefully on a topic or subject close to what my friend or acquaintance wants or needs.

With that in mind, today I’d like to offer a handful of great suggestions on financial books. While all of these books might not apply to each person, I think everyone (who doesn’t have an economics or finance degree) should find one or two that will change their life…at least their financial life.

On this list, I cover average workaday people, parents, homeowners, business professionals, spouses, company planners, and anyone who wants to succeed. Follow this advice and you’ll do well in money matters, at least if you can convince your spouse to do the same. Follow the spirit of this advice and you’ll be successful in life itself. To avoid the risk of overselling, I’ll start the list.

Best Books on Attaining Wealth

William Stanley - The Millionaire Next Door

The Late William Stanley Wrote a Brilliant Book on American Wealth.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko – This is the best book, if you want to know what it is that makes millionaires different in Modern America. I’ve written about Stanley and Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door before, but reading this book might cause a seismic shift in the way you look at personal finance.

One of the best-kept secrets of being a millionaire is that most people of wealth don’t live like they’re wealthy.

Instead, they have understated lifestyles which don’t project the outward displays of wealth and riches. The point is, people of means don’t have to flaunt their worldly goods to their neighbors–or at least sensible ones don’t.

Instead, they keep the materialism to a minimum, instead investing that excess cash in industries, fields, projects, or stocks they know about personally. Successful millionaires put their money to work for them, instead of spending it to impress others.

The Wealthy Barber: Everyone’s Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent by Dave Chilton – The Wealthy Barber is a good way to start learning the basics of personal finance. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to get out of debt and start saving money for your future, you could do a lot worse than reading Dave Chilton. The Wealthy Barber takes a fictional character and a good bit of humor and shows average people how they can pay off loans, start saving money, and build wealth. This is an easy, fun read, but it’s solid enough on theory that I’ve heard of it being assigned for master’s students.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey – This book isn’t about personal finance per se, but if you apply “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” to your self-economy or household budget, you can’t go wrong. Learn how to be successful and effective in life, love, and money matters. Effectiveness seems so elusive, but this book teaches you how to be proactive, how to plan for success, how to visualize succeeding, how to reach agreement, how to communicate, how to achieve synergy, and how to plan and renew your effectiveness once you’ve succeeded in the first place.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins – I place this entry into the category of “though-provoking”. Good to Great was one of the core books of the 1990s for finance and business growth studies. Jim Collins takes 11 different corporations which were only “good” at one time and showed why they became “great”. The eleven businesses studied were: Wells Fargo, Philip Morris, Kimberly-Clark, Walgreens, Nucor, Pitney Bowes, Abbott Laboratories, Kroger, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette.

While the information was somewhat dated at the time, it’s become vastly so in the year 2012. Both Fannie Mae and Circuit City went bankrupt, while Proctor & Gamble bought Gillette. Still, you can’t bind the future and what applies in the 1990s shouldn’t be wiped away in 2000’s (though that “culture of greatness” argument probably takes a beating in any estimation). For those who want a short synopsis, some of the conclusions were that strong leaders with a certain amount of humility, but with the will to eliminate weak employees, is important. Using latest technology to improve production and simple facts to build improvements are important, while creating a culture of discipine in the organization may be the most important development.

These are ideas to think about, so Good to Great gets a person mulling over how to improve. This is a must-read for entrepreneurs, small business owners, mid-business CEOs, and first-time CEOs of the great companies. While it doesn’t have all the answers it suggests it does, this book analyzes greatness and gets high-level managers and executives thinking.

The Family CFO: The Couple’s Business Plan for Love and Money by Mary Claire Allvine and Christine Larson – If you’re in a marriage and you have trouble building a family budget or the two of you argue about finances all the time, you should read this 2004 book. If you’re about to get married and they two of you can’t figure out how to merge your finances, this is a must-read. If you know exactly how you want to merge your finance (or not), but you don’t know how to introduce the subject without seeming to put up walls between the two of you, suggest the two of you read this book together. Once you start talking, you should find plenty of things to talk about, agree about, and maybe read a consensus about.

Good Books on Economic Planning and Individual Finance

Anyway, that should get you started reading good material on personal finance, individual economic planning, effective entrepreneurship, and corporate growth. Once again, if you follow what I’m talking about here, you should be able to be proactive, productive, effective, and successful. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s not a miracle, either. All it takes is good planning, hard work, a little bit of humility, and discipline.

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