How to Find the Best Personal Finance Books for Your Family

Learn how to find the best personal finance book for you and your family!

Best Personal Finance Books for Your Journey

One of the things I love and appreciate about books is how accessible they are and affordable for a lot of people. When you're starting the beginning of your financial journey, chances are your finances aren't in a good spot.

It’s not always clear what your first steps should be or even what type of budget would work for you. Naturally you’re going to want to see what’s out there. 

If you’re grabbing a ton of them, like when you’re trying to do a deep dive especially with money, your local library can be a treasure trove.

But then there’s this other challenge, how do you find the right book for you? That can be a struggle because there's always a new book coming out.

Today we’re all about finding that personal finance book that lights a fire and gets that spark going for improving your finances.

Which is why I’m thrilled Kate Moody is joining in today’s episode. She’s a personal financial educator and coach and former librarian.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • A way to scan and hone in on helpful personal finance books
  • The three different types of experts to consider when choosing your books
  • Tips on vetting personal finance podcast and videos

I hope you enjoy! 

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Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Finding the Best Personal Finance Books for Families

Elle Martinez: One of the things I like about books and we were talking about this just a little bit ago was how accessible they are and affordable. I remember when I had that wake up call that was tens of thousands of dollars of debt and I needed some kind of plan.

I felt like books were so helpful at that stage but how do you find the right book? I think that can be a struggle because there's always a new book coming out.

I wanted to talk to you first off. I saw a video on your channel. I think that really spoke to me and I loved was how you first made that connection with personal finance and books and an interesting book. Could you get into how that all has happened and what motivated you to get into personal finance?

Kate Moody: Yes. Yes. So I graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa. If I can see right there, that's the Phi Beta Kappa at fancy pants honor society. The fanciest of honor societies, as a matter of fact.

I got home from graduation. My mom is a public school teacher and she often buys a lot of materials for her classes and then she brings them home over the summer and I'm looking through her books.

Elle Martinez: Same. I remember that.

Kate Moody: [Ok], wasn't just my household then. I'm looking through her books and I found this book that looked like it could unlock the secrets of the universe kind of in a way. I was like, ‘Ooh' and I pull it out of the box, go sneak in my room and go to read it.

And let me, I have it for you here. Cause when she retired, I made her send me the book. It's called growing money, a complete investing guide.

Elle Martinez: It's a complete investing guide and you can hold it in your hands. What more can you ask for?

Kate Moody: Yeah, I mean, it's written for eight year olds and mind you again, this is like a week after earning a pretty good honors award from my undergraduate degree.

I like to point that out because I always want to tell people that the right book for you is the book that will meet you where you are right now.

Because if I were to jump into a regular personal finance book for adults, it probably would have been really scary for me at the time. But this, because it was written for kids, it was super approachable.

Yeah. I think if an eight year old. I can get it too. And it really did it finally like, oh, that's what a stock is. Oh, that's what a bond is. Oh, that's what trading is. Okay. Interest rate, like all that stuff where if you don't have that basic foundational knowledge, you really can't go any further. Yeah, understanding how money works.

This gave me that foundational knowledge, which gave me enough confidence to then go on and to like upgrade to personal finance for dummies, you know, like and then up and up and up and up. Yeah.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. You got to start somewhere, but I think you bring up a couple of good points.

The first one is just because you're an expert in one area doesn't mean you automatically know about finances because that had been my experience. It was a great student, love learning, but when it came to personal finance, that just wasn't automatic.

Also too, I would say on the personal finance side, there were a lot of books. It was just very intimidating. I don't know who they were trying to serve with with the financial terms, especially if they claim that they were going to be for people just starting out with finances. I feel like there were two kinds of problems butting up against each other.

So how do you cut through that? Like say. I don't know what I don't know. I know the basics of a budget, but I'm not keeping up with it. How do you sort through all the personal finance books that are out there and find one that kind of clicks? Any tips?

Kate Moody: Any tips,please…any tips, former librarian. I've got notes in my multi-colored notebook here, color coded and everything.

Okay. So my professional librarian tips and all of these, I'm going to give with a grain of salt because although I'm going to give you a bunch of good things to look for in books, it is 100% possible that a perfectly good book might have these what I'll call sort of a red flag sort of sniff tests.

Like not sure, 100% possible that really good books would fail. Some of these and terrible books would pass. That's just sort of the nature of the beast of anything.

And honestly, these suggestions are anytime you're looking for a source of authority on any subject, these are actually really useful. I did not come up with these myself. These are librarian rules of thumb.

Some of them are actually created by the association of college and research libraries and they're what I used to teach in libraries about how to figure out who is in authority and who to listen to, and when not to.

First off just the things to look for is when I pick up a book, I don't even have to open it up. Like I can basically just look at the front and the back cover and maybe the copyright page and then that's kind of it and I'll know whether or not I should read it or not.

The first thing I look for is who is the publisher? There are five major publishing houses in the United States like Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins like big names that people would probably recognize.

So if it's a big name publishing company that produced this book, that means. That one, a lot of eyes have been on the book. A lot of eyes have been through the material. They've checked it. They've made sure that the information is accurate.

As of the time of publication, they made sure that everything that is in there is true and useful and probably somewhat entertaining or interesting, or well-written because they've got copy editors going through it. So there's that kind of publishing company. Generally a good sign.

Other publishing companies, you would see our university presses. Those are for academic works. Although the information would be the highest quality, actually, it is not meant for a standard audience. So. But you don't want to read a university

Elle Martinez: press, not your first book,

Kate Moody: new, new and then there's let me get into self publishing and vanity presses, which are used when people want to just publish really fast very often.

Cause it is a big process getting published by a major publishing house is going to take possibly two years. And so a lot of people are like, I'm not going to deal with that. I'm just going to go and have it done in three months at this other thing. But the problem with that is that you don't have all those eyes the material.

So when I see that it was a vanity press or self-publishing, those two terms are interchangeable. Like that's just like, okay, and red flag, a little one, like I said, everything here is with a grain of salt, but that's the first thing I look for who is the publishing company?

The second thing I look for is the author. So usually they'll have their credentials. Somewhere on the publication, usually on the back cover, maybe on the inside back cover.

There are three different types of credentials that convey authority on somebody.

One is if they've done research or they have an academic background in this material. These are like PhDs, there's a lot of Nobel laureates have written books, probably all of them actually. Or if they have certifications like a certified financial planner or an accredited financial counselor, CFP and AFC, those are the two biggest ones that I look for. So there's those credentials.

The second one that conveys authority their work or their station in life. What kind of authority does that bring them? So there's journalists like financial journalists out there are often write great books.

There's people like Michelle Singletary, Beth Kobliner oh, and for academic people or people with good certifications.

I wanted to mention Jill Schlesinger. She's a CFP. And she's, and she spent like 20 or 30 years as a trader and helping people with their portfolios. She has both types of that authority, one, her job, and also the certification.

Lastly is personal experience. Those are the ones that are really inspiring to hear how other people got through the same thing that you're getting through right now.

With them I think the best thing about those is the inspirational, because it makes you feel like you can do this too. When somebody comes at it from the outsider's perspective, sometimes it doesn't make it feel possible.

People like Tiffany Aliche, Tanja Hester, and I'm just naming a few names that were the first ones to come to mind. I'm sure that you could name a bunch of people.

Elle Martinez: I think you bring up some really good tips and advice and something I would add listening to you is whenever I'm trying to purchase something new, whether it's finance or anything is if it's a subject, I want to understand, I try to get two to three books.

I don't rely on one book and I like how you have kind of the three different expertise and that can get you covered where you get that inspiration. Then if you want a little more financial technical knowledge, you have that in there too.

Some people are really good at piecing everything together.I do love those tips. I know you've got more.

Kate Moody: I managed to limit myself to this three and only one of them has three subgroups. So you already went through the three subgroups, so, all right. Just like in social media. Like whenever you're buying something from Amazon, you look for social proof.

You probably read the reviews before you buy something from Amazon. Same thing with personal finance books.

They'll have, if there, if there are good reviews, they will blurb them on the back of the book on the inside cover, maybe on the first page or something. So one of the books that I love is millionaire next door and not even so much, the quality of the blurb is what I'm looking for.

I mean, of course you want it to say something good, but who did it? So on the back they have Forbes and the Washington post. And then if you look on the inside, they've got USA today, Boston globe, San Francisco business times like dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, all these major publications, read this book and liked it.

So that's important. The awards, like I mentioned, if somebody won a Nobel prize in economics, I bet you, their book is pretty good. It might be hard to get through, but I bet you it's pretty speaking as an irrational exuberance back behind me was written by [Robert J.] Shiller. I believe he did win Nobel prize. I have not read it. I need to get to that.

Elle Martinez: But you said yet.

Kate Moody: Yes, yes. I have not gotten to it yet. And I did want to note that just because a book is a bestseller does not mean it is good.

Elle Martinez: I agree. I agree. Or it's helpful for you, you and your situation. I've been there too. I've had some books recommended to me and I started. And I did not finish it.

I should put that there. You don't have to finish the book if it's not working for you.

Kate Moody: Yes. Yes. 100% librarian stamped approved. If you don't like the books, stop reading it. Move on. Yeah.

Elle Martinez: I know being a daughter of a teacher, like part of me is like, I got to finish. I got a completed. No, you don't.

Kate Moody: Yeah. So those were my sort of big things just to look for immediately. That's what I look for before I grab a book. And then, I read about, well, what is the book cover? Is it something I'm interested in?

If it is great, I'll read the first chapter, so, and see if I like it. And I love that you mentioned about picking up a few books.

Because there's a lot of great information out there. Don't limit yourself to just one and you don't have to read the whole book.

You can skip through books. I mean, ideally you would read the whole book, but if there's only three chapters that you want to read, read those three chapters. Great. Give yourself a gold star. Move on.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I think also when we talk about books, a lot of it's going to be the same. Like if you're doing a personal finance book many of them are going to have overlapping advice.

When you're reading several of them, you're going to see where overlaps and hopefully, they're all giving you good, solid financial advice.

The key is also to find that perspective speaks to you. I think we got into this a little bit before she hit record was, they're coming from personal experience, their journey.

For example, when I wrote my book, that was the perspective of I wanted to help newlyweds or couples that had been married.

They're in this marriage, they're ready to go, but they have no idea how to work together on finances. And so that advice, 80% of it is going to be very similar to what you hear for, a single person.

I mean, you need to have some kind of goal. You need to have a spending plan, but you're going to have that unique situation perspective. So I'm going to say, well, these are discussions you need to have, and this wouldn't apply to someone else outside here in this situation.

It takes practice. But when you read, understanding, okay, they're writing from their perspective, then it's easier to kind of grab the nuggets that you need and then, oh, okay. Well, that's nice to know, maybe in the future, I might need to know that, but today I'll just skip that chapter because that's not what I'm working on at this point in my season of life or this point in my financial life.

Kate Moody: Yeah and there are a lot of people out there who have written those kinds of books.

I like to tell people, if you find somebody that you drive with you, like the way they write, you find them entertaining and engaging, read that person's book.

Just because they're all saying the quote unquote like same thing or very similar things. That's not bad. That means that it's time tested advice.

It's like trying to get healthy. If you're trying to get physically healthy eat right and exercise. That's what you should do that we all know eat right.

Elle Martinez: That's bestseller advice right there.

Kate Moody: But unfortunately the bestseller advice is eat grapefruits all day long.

I feel like just find whoever, if you engaged in the material. And there are so many really great personal finance, authors and speakers right now, who you can find online and you can just find anywhere they probably have a book.

Elle Martinez: Before we wrap up, I do want to talk about, you know, we love books, I enjoy books. They were so incredibly helpful. I still read them to learn something new, get a different perspective, but that's not the only way you can learn about finances.

I was curious, do you have any recommendations about other things like YouTube channels or podcasts?

Kate Moody: I don't know if you want specific recommendations, but everybody learns differently by the way to like, so if you're visual, probably something more like YouTube, but if you're need the audio input yeah. Always listened to, as I mentioned, Jill Schlesinger.

Again, because I like her because she's very engaging. She's interesting to listen to. Plus she has decades of experience and the certified financial planner credential.

There's another person on her shows who is also a certified financial planner. So like they talk it out between them and sometimes they disagree and that's fine.

It's important to understand that when it comes to money, there is no one size fits all.

Elle Martinez: Yeah I know there's some guard rails, but there's a lot of leeway and it also depends where you're going, what your financial goals are too. Maybe you don't want a traditional retirement. Maybe you want something different.

Kate Moody: Oh yeah. And like I know a few people who really don't have much in the stock market, but they own a lot of property. Yeah. And they're like, that's my retirement. Okay. Great. If it works for you. Perfect.

As far as YouTube goes, that one, anything online, because it's so unregulated and same with like that book publisher, but there's no other eyes on it. Massive grain of salt and You use your noggin.

There's a lot of people who are fantastic at media and marketing and getting their face out there, whether or not there are any good at financial stuff is kind of something else entirely.

When it comes to YouTube, there are great people like you. I also like the financial diet on YouTube is probably my favorite financial channel. I think they've got a lot of really, really high quality videos, always solid advice on YouTube.

If you're online, the same rules apply that I mentioned with books. What are the qualifications of whoever is writing it? Academic, work, or personal experience?

A giant red flag and most of my red flags, I say grain of salt, this one, no grain of salt. Just go run is if somebody specifically says go buy this stock or bond right now,

Elle Martinez: I think that's also something that we should mention whether it's a book, YouTube channel, if you're doing a podcast. They don't know your personal situation and your financial circumstances, because if you're like most people it's complex, it is full of layers so it's not a one size fits all advice. You really have to do your homework with that.

Kate Moody: Oh yeah. Yeah. Like if you have a multi-million dollar portfolio and most of it is in like index funds and bonds and some real estate, it's very well diversified.

And then you say put in a hundred thousand dollars on crypto. Well, for you that wouldn't be much. If you've got a multi-million dollar portfolio that is a small, small portion of your portfolio. Sure. You can lose it.

But if you then go out and say, well, I just bought a hundred thousand dollars in crypto. You should too. But somebody who maybe is making 30 grand a year and who doesn't have that kind of wealth. I mean, I don't think that there's any certified financial planner out there who would think that that's a good idea to get into something so risky.

Elle Martinez: I think it all comes back to when you're educating yourself, you want to go with trusted sources.

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Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio.

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