This is by no means a definitive list. It is just a way to jump-start your journey to fixing your finances or provide inspiration so that you can make better choices.
Let’s start with two books I recommend for everyone:
The life of the rich and famous you see on social media does not reflect the everyday millionaire who may be sitting in the next cubicle.
The number of employees able to reach millionaire status in their workplace retirement plans has hit record levels, according to Fidelity Investments. And these are not people running in the social circles of the Kardashian clan, who are known for their conspicuous consumption.
You do not have to win on a game show or hit the lottery to join the millionaire club. Many people simply work and invest their money over two or three decades to achieve a net worth with two commas.
In this book, first published 23 years ago, two academics used research to redefine what it means to be wealthy. The Great Recession pulled the curtain back, exposing many rich pretenders. These folks had a lot of stuff, including highly mortgaged homes, but little to no savings.
“Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America,” Danko and Stanley write. “Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.”
This book asks a terrific question: How much money do you really need to feel rich?
To be liberated from the “work-and-spend treadmill” the authors say that financial independence starts with getting rid of the illusion that more stuff will make you happy.
“This program works for anyone who earns or spends money — not because anyone can be rich, but because everyone can discover for themselves how much is enough,” Robin writes in the latest edition of this book, which was first published in 1992.
If you’re a young adult:
●“Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties” by Beth Kobliner. This is a great guide for financial rookies, covering dealing with debt, basic banking and investing.
For those stressing about paying for college — most likely with loans:
●“Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania” by Frank Bruni. Before you commit to decades of student loans, get this book. Bruni restores some sanity to the college selection process.
“The nature of a student’s college experience — the work that he or she puts into it, the skills that he or she picks up, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed — matters more than the name of the institution,” he writes.
If you are a natural-born spender, here are two books that should help break that stranglehold:
●“Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter” by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler. The authors take behavioral economics and make it accessible.
There are a lot of mind games that savvy businesses play with consumers. For example, retailers exploit Americans’ love affair with sales. However, you never save when you spend.
“Buying a $60 shirt marked down from $100 isn’t ‘saving $40,’ ” Ariely and Kreisler write. “It is spending $60. Discounts are a potion for stupidity. They simply dumb down our decision-making process.”
If you want to spend less next holiday season:
●“Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas” by Bill McKibben. “The point is not to stop giving,” the author says. “The point is to give the things that matter. Give things that are rare — time, attention, memory, whimsy. We run short on these things in our lives, even as we have an endless supply of software, hardware, ready-to-wear.”
If your goal is better money management in 2020, these books will help you become more mindful about the financial decisions you make.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or email@example.com. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.