Every year, someone asks me which financial books I recommend as holiday gifts to teach children or young adults about money, to help somebody prepare for retirement — or to give someone who is trifling with his or her money.
Let’s be honest: Not many people are going to exclaim great joy when they unwrap a personal finance book. They will probably respond as I did years ago when my husband gave me exercise clothing. I was not a happy camper, even though I had been telling him I wanted to get in better shape.
Give a personal finance book, and despite your good intentions, you might get a similar response — with the recipient left feeling financially unfit. Still, I think it’s worth the risk. In fact, pair the book with an offer to go out to dinner to talk about it. This is one way to ensure the book doesn’t end up on the shelf unopened.
So for you risk-takers out there, instead of a Color of Money Book Club selection this month, here are my top picks in several categories for financial books to buy this holiday season.
Oldies but goodies: “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason; “Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence,” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez with Monique Tilford; “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.
There are some financial books I think everyone should have on their bookshelf or in an e-reader. Think of these books as food staples you keep in your pantry. Follow the advice, and you can live a rich life. And by that, I don’t mean having a lot of stuff. I mean understanding that you can live well following the concept of living within your means or curtailing your sense of entitlement.
Books to help raise financially savvy kids: “O.M.G. Official Money Guide For Teenagers” By Susan P. Beacham and Michael L. Beacham; “Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know About Money — And How to Tell Them” By Janet Bodnar; and “The Giving Book” by Ellen Sabin.
The book by the Beachams came out this year. It’s a slim, colorful, graphic-filled work that’s a great conversation-starter with teens. It’s written for them. I could see you giving this 48-page book and then talking through some of the topics covered — good budgeting choices, how to handle credit cards, and the importance of charitable giving. Upon receiving the book, your child may roll her eyes — my 14-year-old did — but don’t be daunted. It did result in a discussion about why she needed to know how to handle her money before bad habits could sink in.
The Bodnar and Sabin books were published a while ago, but I still pull them down when I’m looking to reinforce information I’m giving parents. I love the nonjudgmental way the authors convey their advice.
Books on retirement/aging parents: “The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together” by Roberta K. Taylor and Dorian Mintzer; “How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire” by Stan Hinden; “The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions” by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz with Joanne Cuthbertson; “They’re Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy” by Francine Russo.
All the books in this category address issues people often put off or don’t want to talk about, including long-term care for a parent and the conversations couples need to have before retiring.
Be sure to get the newest editions of “The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle” and “How to Retire Happy.” Both books have expanded and updated sections. It’s because of these two books that my husband and I didn’t panic when we got the news that there may be major changes to my pension. Russo’s book was so helpful when my husband’s father came to live with us. My husband sent a copy to all his siblings.
Color of Money Book Club favorites: “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life” by Crystal Paine; “The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life” by Kimberly Palmer; “Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made” by Beverly Harzog; “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.
The books that fall into this last category tackle issues such as managing your time, creating multiple streams of income, getting rid of a debtor’s mentality and making your spending really count for something.
Your gift of financial knowledge may not be greeted with glee, but I hope the people who receive the books will realize that the advice and wisdom are priceless.
Write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.