Money at 30: 5 Personal Finance Books That Would Make Great Gifts
Earlier this year, I set out to both read and review more books. Specifically, I wanted to look at books that explored the many facets of money — from how to have and use it to what it actually means. On the whole, I’d say I accomplished that goal (aside from the reality that I was supposed to do another book review today but have yet to finish reading). So, to both celebrate that fact and acknowledge the shopping season upon us, I thought I’d highlight five of my favorite personal finance books I’ve reviewed in the past year or so and share why I think it would make a great gift for the right person.
The Psychology of Money
As it turns out, one of my favorite books of the year was also one I read fairly recently: The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel. Consisting of 20 relatively short chapters each dedicated to a different idea or concept, the book proves endlessly fascinating and approachable despite its potential to be a (pardon the pun) heady read. The book also stands apart from others on this list as, instead of offering specific financial tips, it often looks at how we approach money and why our opinions about such topics can vary.
I also really liked how Housel put terms we may have taken for granted in a new light. For example, he draws distinctions between riches and wealth; rational and reasonable; and fees versus fines — with each of his explanations proving quite enlightening. Another great taste of this book comes from just one quote he shares: “When most people say they want to be a millionaire, what they might actually mean is ‘I’d like to spend a million dollars.’ And this is literally the opposite of being a millionaire.” It’s gems like this that made The Psychology of Money such a fun read for me and lead me to suspect that those on your shopping list might just feel the same way.
Quit Like a Millionaire
In full disclosure, the next three picks on my list all cover similar territory but do so in their own ways. Therefore, it’s really up to you to determine which financial independence/early retirement book is right for your gift recipient. Personally, my favorite of the bunch was Quit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung.
Among the aspects I liked most about this book was Shen’s unique story, which starts with her growing up in poverty in China. With this background, she’s able to share money lessons she learned from being poor as well as those she obtained from being, well, rich. Further adding to my enjoyment was the humor and light tone that the authors inject into the book. Plus, it also has a strong emphasis on things such as travel hacking and geo arbitrage.
By the way, with Shen and Leung being based out of Canada, they include detailed info for both Americans and our northern neighbors — so if you happen to know any Canucks, this may be the one for them. Overall, while it may not be the best book for, say, a co-worker (at least not if the boss is around), Quit Like a Millionaire may be a good fit for those interested in early retirement and/or the digital nomad life.
For those interested in the FIRE concept and looking for a “how-to,” Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need may be the perfect holiday gift. Throughout the book, author and Millennial Money founder Grant Sabatier breaks down the math and methods for achieving financial independence. This is accompanied by useful charts and tables that illustrate Sabatier’s points and make the material more palatable for laymen who might not be as well-versed in the financial details just yet.
Financial Freedom is also filled with intriguing insights, such as a chapter where Sabatier walks readers through calculating how much they really make per hour. Armed with this info, consumers may be inspired to make different decisions about how they spend their very hard-earned money (and value their time more). With smaller lessons like this joining larger concepts that make up the tenets of FIRE, Financial Freedom makes for a good starting point — and, in turn, doubles as a great gift for those seeking more from their money.
Closing out the FIRE section of out list is Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. This one takes a slightly different approach in that, in addition to being penned by Chris Mamula along with podcast hosts Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa, Choose FI also features short excerpts from some of the many interviews the duo have conducted on their show of the same name. Therefore, while it of course includes many of the same points as the previous entrants, it also provides a variety of opinions and tips.
As I noted in my review, I’d say that Choose FI ends up being a bit less in-depth than Financial Freedom or some others. However, this could actually be to its benefit when it comes to gifting the title. In my view, those who may have a passing curiosity in the FIRE movement may well be drawn more to this book’s use of multiple voices and frequent illustrations they can enjoy while navigating the titular blueprint to FI. For that reason, Choose FI easily earns a spot on my list.
The More of Less
There’s something a bit ironic about buying a physical copy of a book about minimalism but, hey, here we are. It was earlier this year that I first came across Joshua Becker’s site Becoming Minimalist. After reading a few posts, I came to discover that he also wrote several books — including one titled The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, published back in 2018. Not only did I end up reading the book over a weekend but also started the process of downsizing our possessions by tackling some specific projects.
Given the Marie Kondo craze of recent years, I suspect that the audience for the message in The More of Less is growing. That said, those who may be turned off by the idea of thanking their t-shirts or determining whether individual items spark joy may actually prefer Becker’s approach. Sure, the author does discuss the various ways in which minimalism — or at least leading a more minimalistic life — can be beneficial but also offers some useful tips for getting started. I should note that Becker also has a follow-up titled The Minimalist Home that apparently goes more in-depth with a room-by-room tidying plan.
Obviously, given my reaction to reading The More of Less, I found Becker’s work to be motivating while also being preemptively reassuring. Because of this, if you know someone that could stand some downsizing, this book may give them the subtle push they need to make some changes.
Bonus: Utopia for Realists
I put Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World as a bonus sixth pick on this list not because I like it any less than the other five but because it’s not really a personal finance book. Instead, while Bregman does write a lot about financial issues such as universal basic income, he also covers all kinds of other big ideas while explaining why they might not be so crazy after all. While it was published back in 2017, I only discovered this book a few months ago and absolutely loved it. Therefore, if your gift recipient is ready to keep an open mind and perhaps challenge their preconceived notions, I’d definitely recommend Utopia for Realists as well as Bregman’s more recent book, Humankind.
While there are many financial books — including some well-worn classics — there are several I’ve read in the past year that I honestly think could make beneficial and practical holiday gifts. Whether your loved one is interested in the concept of money, has a taste for the many flavors of FIRE, or has a passing interested in minimalism, these five (well, six) picks could serve them well. Happy gift giving!