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Ratehub’s Personal Finance Reading List

We here at live and breathe personal finance. Among our team, we constantly debate the merits of RRSPs vs TFSAs, compare our credit cards, and swap advice on choosing the best bank accounts.

So, when books on personal finance make their way into our office, they usually get passed around and discussed as well. We trade our favourite tips and how we plan on implementing the advice into our own financial lives.

These are some of our favourites.

Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry

Her book Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together (TarcherPerigee, $20) is a step-by-step guide for 20- and 30-somethings to establish their financial footing, written with empathetic authority: Lowry’s parents explicitly raised her to be financially responsible, but she’s deft at demystifying jargon and giving practical advice to those who weren’t so lucky.

The book covers a lot of ground, but is broken down into digestible chapters and can be flipped through at random. Lowry begins with basic financial concepts, working up to more complicated topics such as investing, home ownership, and retirement. She tackles millennial pain points such as student loans, saving when you have consumer debt, and all the thorniness that comes with money and relationships — moving back in with your parents, asking your boss for a raise, splitting the dinner bill with friends, and getting “financially naked” with your partner. Each chapter is punctuated with advice from personal finance experts and real-life examples, and closes with action checklists for readers to make the next move.

Canadians readers can skip over American-specific financial products you’ve probably heard mentioned in the media — 401(k) plans, Roth IRAs — but Lowry’s general advice about credit cards, banking, and investing is spot on.

Most importantly, she shows how fellow millennials actually can afford the important stuff: investing, hiring a certified financial planner, and yes, even retirement. “Money isn’t complicated,” Lowry writes. “Financial empowerment, does, however, require taking actionable steps toward improving your situation.”

Check out our Q & A with author Erin Lowry here.

The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan

In 2014, Chelsea Fagan decided to go on a diet. What started as a personal Tumblr to track her budget and hold herself accountable grew into The Financial Diet, a popular blog and YouTube channel with a millennial bent and confessional approach to discussing money.

The eponymous book The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money (Holt Paperbacks, $25) makes dense financial concepts palatable and delves into how your relationship with money intertwines with career, diet, friendships, and love. Designed by TFD co-founder Lauren Ver Hage, the book is an attractively illustrated crash course in sticking to a budget, dealing with debt, and charting a financial future.

Interspersed with stories of Fagan’s own redemption from being a financial hot mess are interviews with experts (mostly women) on everything from investing and renting vs. buying a home to side hustles and creating a professional wardrobe. The book acts as a financial lifestyle guide, with sections on budgeting and investing (“be your money’s asshole boss”), career (negotiating the raise you deserve), cooking (how to be your own Italian grandmother), home (creating a grown-up living space) and relationships (broaching awkward money talks).

Writing for a generation saddled with student debt, underemployment, and rising living costs, Fagan’s tone is reassuring and practical: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, it buys you the Lego kit for happiness. It buys you comfort, security, and options.”

Click here to read our conversation with Chelsea Fagan.

Worry-Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons

Shannon Lee Simmons’ office is basically a confessional. After thousands of conservations with clients over the last decade, the Toronto-based certified financial planner and founder of The New School of Finance found a commonality: Everyone, no matter their income, is worried about money.

Armed with financial expertise and first-hand exposure to how people relate to money, her debut book Worry-Free Money: The Guilt-Free Approach to Managing Your Money and Your Life (Collins, $21.99) gets to the heart of modern financial anxiety and guides readers toward feeling good about living within their means. Acknowledging that “life is messy and expensive and never follows the rules,” Simmons provides a liberating approach to personal finance that allows for saving and enjoying life without defaulting to the frugality mindset.

Addressing the underlying reasons why people feel pressure to spend, Simmons teaches readers to identify happy vs. unhappy spending, explains why traditional budgets make things worse (for real), and warns against comparing yourself to others (aka “the Beyoncé factor”). Making money management fun and interesting is a tall order, but Simmons’ book is a practical guide with a reassuring message: “It is possible to live within your means without hating your life.”

Read our interview with Shannon Lee Simmons here.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

In two years, Cait Flanders paid off $30,000 in consumer debt, lost 30 lbs., and quit drinking — and that’s just where her story starts. After the B.C.-based writer found herself sliding back into mindless spending and barely saving money, she took a hard look at her habits and asked herself, “Could I live on less?”

In 2014, Flanders – who happens to be the first ever managing editor of the blog — challenged herself to a year-long shopping ban where she could only buy gas, groceries, toiletries, gifts for others, and certain replacement clothing. Her memoir The Year of Less (Hay House, $25.99) is a month-by-month account of her quest to consume less of everything, including purging 70% of her belongings, learning how to repair instead of replace, realigning her budget with her values, and completing a month-long television ban.

Named one of the 7 Nonfiction Books to Change Your Life in 2018 by Vogue, the book is more than a self-help guide to weight loss, debt repayment, and sobriety. Undermining Flanders’ experiment is serious upheaval in her work, relationships, and family life, which forces her to confront her triggers instead of binging on alcohol, shopping, and food. “Whenever you’re thinking of binging, it’s usually because some part of you or your life feels like it’s lacking,” Flanders writes. “And nothing you eat, drink, or buy can fix it.”

For those inspired to try their own shopping ban, she includes a guide at the end of the book on taking inventory and decluttering, replacing costly habits by being resourceful, paying attention to spending triggers, and appreciating what you have.

Check out our Q & A with Cait Flanders here.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash