So you’ve graduated from university or college, found a job, and are finally making some real money. But how do you make smart financial decisions that will pay off later? Or, how do you balance paying off student loan debt with living your life?
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of financial-advice books to help you along the way. To make it easier, however, we’ve assembled a list of ten best money books for college grads that will get you on the road to wealth and success. Read below for our picks (in no particular order):
Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez (Penguin Random House)
Since its original publication over 25 years ago, Vicki Robin and Joe Diminguez's Your Money or Your Life has been a timeless source of financial advice, making readers whip-smart about everything from budgeting and saving to investment strategy through their 9-step program. One of the book’s key takeaways is that who you are should be more important than what you do, and that the daily transaction of our time and energy for money is one that deserves more thought. For recent grads flying headfirst into the working world, its ideas around work/life balance and the importance of having a job you enjoy versus one that simply pays more will resonate. This newest edition includes a foreword from Mr. Money Mustache (a Canadian credited with starting the FIRE movement) and also tackles up-to-date topics such as index funds, freelancing, and online money management.
Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together
Erin Lowry (TarcherPerigee)
While millennials struggle through economic hardship and a lack of understanding from older generations, Erin Lowry’s Broke Millennial speaks to young people from a place of empathy and tongue-in-cheek humour, smashing barriers by de-mystifying jargon and explaining both basic and complex financial concepts with a refreshing clarity that should inspire a ton of “a-ha!” moments. While you can easily read the book cover-to-cover, chapters about how to treat your money like marriage material instead of a Tinder date, soothing the existential dread of student loans, or getting “financially naked” with your partner also work great as standalone lessons. Featuring tons of advice from experienced professionals, Lowry’s book seeks to provide recent graduates with the tools needed for financial independence and peace of mind.
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The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
Cait Flanders (Hay House Inc.)
In 2014, B.C. writer (and former managing editor of the Ratehub blog) Cait Flanders decided to make some serious life changes. Feeling trapped by compulsive behaviours and overspending, she challenged herself to a “shopping ban” for the next year, restricting her spending to gas, groceries, toiletries, gifts, and necessary clothing. The results of her experiment? She dropped 30 lbs, quit drinking, and paid off an impressive $30,000 in debt. Her journey is documented in The Year of Less, a fascinating account of Flanders’ road to health, sobriety, and financial well-being. For recent graduates on a tight budget, the book’s focus on the benefits of minimalism over materialism will inspire new ideas to live lean, rid yourself of debt, and get mentally and physically healthier in the process.
I Will Teach You to Be Rich
Ramit Sethi (Workman Publishing Co.)
Ramit Sethi famously wants you to “buy as many lattes as you want”, and his modern classic I Will Teach You to Be Rich will show you how. Sethi places great emphasis on “automating” your finances - that is, setting up your money in reliable, passive income-generating investments and savings accounts, letting it steadily grow while you buy things you enjoy. His slash-and-burn consumer philosophy of spending more on things you care about (while cutting out things you don’t) will also resonate with those struggling to prioritize their spending. Whether you’re interested in smashing your student debt for good, talking your way into a bigger salary at work, or preparing for big (and expensive) life events, the revised 2nd edition of this New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller will give you the tools and insights needed to achieve your goals. And for those living with a partner, his new podcast of the same name helps couples through their financial issues using real-life stories and advice.
Worry-Free Money: The Guilt-Free Approach to Managing Your Money and Your Life
Shannon Lee Simmons (Harper Collins Canada)
New School of Finance founder Shannon Lee Simmons is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Investment Manager (CIM), and one of the most exciting new voices in financial advice today. Her book, Worry-Free Money, rejects rigid budgeting in favour of a more balanced approach, allowing you to keep all your essential expenses covered while still having the odd moment of pure, impulse-purchasing bliss. Tackling issues like FOMO (“fear of missing out”), feeling pressure to keep up with wealthier friends, and more, Simmons explores the psychology behind overspending, revealing why we buy things we don’t need and how to curb the habit. While her book may not be as useful for those on super-strict budgets, young professionals looking for day-to-day guidance on smart saving and spending will find lots to appreciate and relate to here.
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Wealthing Like Rabbits
Robert R. Brown (Lightning Source Inc.)
A refreshingly unique guide to money management and responsible spending, Robert R. Brown’s Wealthing Like Rabbits provides a campy-yet-practical look at why so many Canadians are buried in debt, and what you can do to avoid it. With a light, conversational tone, Brown uses charmingly geeky themes such as Star Trek and Mario Bros. to advise on everything from credit card debt to applying for a mortgage (“asking your bank how much you are allowed to spend is a bit like asking Ronald McDonald if you are allowed to supersize your Big Mac and fries”). While Brown’s ideas are backed up by cold, hard math, his approach is relatable and playful. If you’re a recent grad looking to get out of debt and be smarter with your money, read this one.
Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together
Gaby Dunn (Atria Books)
Writer/comedian/podcaster Gaby Dunn’s Bad with Money is less hard financial advice and more entertaining memoir/investigative journalism, but that doesn’t mean students and recent grads won’t learn a thing or two while laughing along the way. Dunn’s book (and podcast of the same name) explores why so many of us are not only bad with money, but resistant to talking about it as well. Learned behaviours, socio-economic disparity, and the frustratingly-cryptic language of finance all come into play here as Dunn navigates the post-grad world of unpaid internships, freelance work, and the effect of financial woes on your mental health, contributing plenty of her own anecdotes as well as opinions from friends, relatives, and financial experts. While Bad with Money functions better as a casual read, it’s still an entertaining and cathartic ride through the early years of financial independence that many 20-something readers will find relatable.
The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack (Portfolio)
The main idea behind The Index Card is that everything you need to know about personal finance can fit on...you guessed it: an index card. Inspired by a comment made by University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack during an interview with financial journalist Helaine Olen, the book outlines ten simple rules that form an action plan you can return to again and again, no matter your financial situation. While the simplicity of Olen and Pollack’s advice here should definitely be supplemented by further research (there may be a few terms in its pages that require Googling), it’s solid and practical nonetheless. Unlike other personal finance books, The Index Card doesn’t shy away from addressing systematic imbalances that act as barriers to wealth for so many people - instead offering sane, everyday advice that, if followed, can provide recurring benefits to those just beginning their personal finance journey.
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Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford
Kristin Wong (Hachette)
Kristin Wong’s Get Money features a “game-ified” approach to learning about personal finance, taking the reader through different challenges and exercises designed to move you ahead to the next level. Those who love to learn this way will find Wong’s teaching methods fun and captivating as she imparts expert advice on defeating student debt, escaping a paycheque-to-paycheque existence, how to start a successful side-hustle, and how to optimize your credit score. For those interested in leveling up their personal finance game, scoring big, and winning on their own terms, Wong’s brilliantly tiered approach to financial literacy will have much to offer.
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing
John C. Bogle (Wiley)
Long considered to be an investment “bible”, John C. Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is still one of the most valuable resources for new investors just dipping their toes into the market. The founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group (one of the largest index fund managers on the planet), Bogle is a legend in the world of investment, and there’s few people with his level of knowledge on the subject. Promoting diverse, low-cost investment portfolios, he’s helped millions grow their money by following his common-sense investment philosophy. For recently-employed graduates eager to see their money mature into wealth, this book is chock full of sound advice and priceless market education.
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The bottom line
Hopefully you’ll find a book for you in our list, but there’s no shortage of options to choose from. It’s even likely we may have missed a few good ones, so leave a comment below and tell us about your favourite financial guide.