This year, give a gift of financial wisdom — something they are unlikely to want to return. (bigstockphoto/bigstockphoto)

Is it okay to give a girlfriend a book on healthful eating if she’s been complaining that she needs to lose weight?

Would you offend a relative if you gave him a book about trimming his debt if you know it has been bothering him all year?

Such presents might not elicit an initial exclamation of glee, but a gift of knowledge is something a recipient won’t need to take back to the store.

So, as I’ve done in the past, rather than just one Color of Money Book Club selection this month, I’d like to recommend a list of personal-finance titles that would make good holiday gifts and possibly change lives for the better.

In a few weeks, many high school seniors who applied for early acceptance at colleges will learn they got in. And then they and their families will have to start thinking about how to pay for their education. Here are some recommendations that could help with the process:

●“It’s the Student Not the College: The Secrets of Succeeding at Any School — Without Going Broke or Crazy” by Kristin M. White. The first chapter is “Busting the Elite-College Mystique.”

●“CliffsNotes Parents’ Guide to Paying for College and Repaying Student Loans” by Reyna Gobel. “I wrote this book because I get emails from parents who are worried about whether or not they’ll be able to pay for their child’s education,” Gobel writes. “They’ll tell me they’re willing to cash out their 401(k) plans to do it, even if they’re unemployed. Don’t do that. I’m going to show you how to chip in what you can actually afford without sacrificing your own retirement.”

●The Princeton Review’s “Paying for College Without Going Broke” by Kalman A. Chany with Geoff Martz. In the foreword, former President Clinton writes: “A college education should never be considered unattainable by any American. There are many avenues for funding available, but knowing how to look for assistance, as well as where to find it, is critical.”

For someone looking for academic and career motivation, here are some books to inspire:

●“Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement” by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Hrabowski has long advocated for getting more students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. “How can we change our fundamental attitudes about who can succeed and at what?” he asks. “One way is to embrace struggle. We must teach children that not grasping a concept right away is not the same as being ‘bad’ at a particular subject.”

●“Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. “Passion and perseverance, it turns out, matter more than talent or intelligence when it comes to being successful,” the authors write.

Let’s jump to the opposite end of the life spectrum. A recent study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that most workers 50 and older (54 percent) plan to continue working, at least part time, after they retire. Here are some books to help someone in that stage of life:

●“50 Plus! Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life” by Robert L. Dilenschneider. “People my age — this is, folks over 50 — often look ahead with trepidation. And even when they understand the importance of starting anew, they don’t always know how to market themselves effectively,” Dilenschneider writes. “Let’s face it: Repositioning yourself can be difficult even in the best of times. In an era of economic turmoil, the challenge is more daunting than ever.”

●“Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies” by Kerry Hannon. Don’t let the “Dummies” brand deter you from giving this book to someone. It’s full of smart advice. “The fact that people are living longer, healthier lives opens the doors to possibilities of a variety of work you may want to pursue,” Hannon writes. “Think of it as a bonus chapter of your life.”

●“The 5 Years Before You Retire” by Emily Guy Birken. “Where retirement might have once signaled the beginning of old age, it is now the next exciting chapter in your life,” Birken writes.

●“You Can Retire Sooner than You Think: The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees” by Wes Moss. “Retiring early and happy isn’t only about the money in your accounts,” Moss writes. “It’s about using your money as the means to reach your purpose.”

It’s not just knowledge that is power, but the right knowledge. Give a gift that can empower someone.

Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.com.