4 Influential Personal Finance Books That Aren’t About Personal Finance
You ever read something that deeply shapes you in such a way that it changes how you think about everything, even your finances? These books have all had such a deep impact on me that I want to share them in hope that they have the same impact on you. Though none of these highly influential personal finance books are actually about managing money, they have all positively affected my finances and allowed me to become closer to the person I want to be and live a life closer to the one I want to live. Part of why they’re relevant to my FIRE journey is the often cited tenet of “building the life you want” prior to FIRE-ing. Several of them have also taught me valuable skills that I’ve incorporated into my career and leadership philosophy.
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie, 1936
This one is a classic for a reason. I read this in my early twenties just as my career was starting, and I am so glad I did. There is something wonderful and beautiful about every person and Carnegie reminds us that there is something we can learn from everyone.
He shares a lot of highly effective strategies for developing real connections with people and creating win-win situations. One of the key tips I learned from this book that I still use as often as I can is to remember and actually say people’s names. As Carnegie says, your name is the most important word in the world to you. Another strategy is to spend more time asking people questions about themselves than talking about yourself when you’re getting to know someone. Sounds basic, sure. But, how many people actually do that?
Acting like you are actually interested in getting to know the human being you are communicating with is the easiest way to convey that you care. Implementing these teachings and many others from Carnegie has honestly been a major component in how I’ve developed as a person in the past 10 years. This book taught me to create rich, beautiful relationships and how to make a lot of people’s days just a little bit better out of situations that would otherwise have been like two passing ships in the night. I could not possibly recommend this book more as one of my favorite influential personal finance books.
Becoming- Michelle Obama, 2018
While reading this book, at one point Mrs. Obama pens that she was searching for “more joy and meaning” in her career. This comes from an author who had humble beginnings in Southside Chicago and rose to an Ivy League education and, as we all know, a prominent, influential position in the White House. And, she used her platform to undeniably inspire many many people to live healthier lives, pursue education, and make a positive impact on society all while exuding an air of grace and dignity.
I wrote the words “more joy and meaning” down on a post-it note in my office and look at them everyday. They struck a chord in me and have inspired me to search for both joy and meaning in my own life. They’ve challenged me to think of what kind of impact I want to have on the world.
Ideally, you could have your desired impact on the world AND make money at the same time. But, early retirees have the superpower of having a second act in their career where money is no longer part of the equation. Once I reach FI, I will have even more time to create meaning and a legacy of impact on the world.
What kind of legacy could you leave if you no longer had to worry about money and were able to dedicate your time to causes you thought were important?
Grit- Angela Duckworth, 2016
A lot of what’s required to be diligent enough to save and invest a massive amount of money is discipline, endurance, passion, and perseverance. Or, as Duckworth puts it more simply, grit. The fact of the matter is people fail at their lofty goals all the time.
People with potential.
People who are deeply interested in the cause.
So what is it about those who succeed that set them apart? Well, they show up. And then, they keep showing up. Over, and over, and over, and over again.
Duckworth dives deep into her decades of scientific research on what comprises grit. She even includes a self-exam you can take to find out how gritty you actually are. Finishing this book made me realize that grit is a huge defining factor in what determines who accomplishes their financial goals and who makes excuses. Whether you want to be an Olympic swimmer or pay off your student loan debt, missing just one practice or just one payment milestone won’t stop you. But giving up on your goal altogether will.
Duckworth’s words stuck with me and gave me a massive dose of motivation to show up and hit my financial goals just a little harder.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma- Michael Pollan, 2006
This one’s a bit more personal. I read this book when I was 18 and at a very transitional time in my life. Pollan takes a closer look at where our food actually comes from and what the processes within modern farming entail.
This might be a stretch. But, on reflection, his investigative process into agriculture reminds me of the investigative process taken into evaluating expenses and budgets. We look at each line item on our expenses and think why is this here, where did it come from, did this purchase align with my values, and is this something I actually want to purchase again?
Pollan doesn’t necessarily advocate for any particular type of diet. But, reading this inspired me to experiment with being plant-based at the time. Which ultimately resulted in my mostly-plant based-but-technically-lacto-ovo-pescatarian diet (in case you’re interested, I really only eat seafood a couple of times a year). Disclaimer, I absolutely do not argue that this is a diet that is the right choice, the healthy choice, the only choice, or even available to everyone. I also don’t maintain that it will be my choice for the rest of my life. But, it has been the right choice for me every day for the past 12 years for deeply personal reasons including spiritual, environmental, and health reasons.
I’m sure you’re probably aware of this, but most (no, not all) edible plants are pretty cheap! I am very confident that my dietary choices have saved me buckets of money throughout my life (yup, buckets). In another regard, waking up and choosing to live in a way that most other people do not live everyday for 12 years has made it a lot easier for me to make other choices that most people don’t make. Including, living as a frugal weirdo, maxing all my retirement accounts, and saving a bunch of money when the average person saves very little a year.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 4 influential personal finance books that actually aren’t about personal finance!
Have any of these books made an impact on your life? Are there any non-FI books that you would recommend to someone pursuing this goal?