★ Rockstar 360 Report: Best Financial Books as Ranked by Personal Finance Bloggers
What’s up, everyone! We got a special treat for y’all today :)
The Rockstar Finance team has been thinking about ways we can harness our network of bloggers and experts here to create even more value for the community, and we think we hit on something SUPER interesting (and helpful) that we’re excited to share with you today.
We’re all so open and honest on our own blogs about stuff we love and hate in the financial world, so why not take that same concept in aggregate and focus the community on *ONE* main topic a month to get an overall “360” view from the people who live and breathe this stuff? A deep dive into finance from those who are truly passionate about it?
Introducing Our New Rockstar “360” Series!
Each month, we’ll be picking a new financial topic to dive into, then sending surveys to our entire database of financial bloggers in order to get a comprehensive view of what our community thinks about it. The good, the bad, and most especially the ugly (the best part, right? ;) ).
Then after gathering everything, we’ll digest it, pluck out the insight, and then push it out in a full report at the start of the next month. Just like we’re doing today with finance books.
Here are the four angles we’ll be hitting:
- Quantitative (statistics)
- Qualitative (opinions)
- Creative (fun questions)
- Community (interactivity)
If you’re a blogger, you’re going to want to participate, because the more you do, the more chance of being featured not only in this report, but in any sub-creations that come from it as well ;) Plus it all goes to help strengthen our monthly results!
A Few Notes Before We Get to Our First Report…
#1. You can always see the polls we send out for each month’s report. Today’s poll on financial books can be found here: Poll: Favorite Financial Books. (If you’re a blogger and haven’t taken it yet, make sure to do so!)
#2. Every report will come with a live “stats” page where we make all numbers public! This page is automatically updated as new bloggers take the poll, thereby getting it as close to being well rounded as possible. You can find this live stats page to today’s topic here: Live Stats: Books
#3. We’ll be using many of these polls to build out new sections of the Directory. Making this series a triple win for everyone as it produces a *resource* as well as interesting stats. You can find the new “books directory” we just added up based on this report, here: Rockstar Directory: Personal Finance Books
One really cool thing to note with this particular sub-directory: not only did we tie in the popularity of these books by finance bloggers and linked to any reviews we’ve done here at Rockstar Finance, but we also took their opinions, verbatim, and shared them on each book’s “profile page” so you can get even more insight on them when you click most of the listed titles. So kinda like what you’d find on Amazon, only better because it comes from our financial blogging community :)
Our hope is that by presenting the directory in this way you’ll be able to better determine which books to pick up next (or not), thereby making your life a tad bit easier. And we greatly thank everyone who participated in this so far to make this happen!
Okay, now on to the report…
Rockstar 360 Report: Personal Finance Books
Here is our inaugural report after two hundred of you ridiculously good-looking bloggers took this poll last month. Click on the image to go directly to our live stats page, or any of the icons there to visit the bloggers’ profile pages themselves!
Now let’s get to the analysis…
The Top 3 Most Popular Books
We started off with the biggest question we wanted answered. We wanted to know what book, as a whole, the personal finance community would recommend without hesitation?
And you know what that answer was? The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko! (By an overwhelming margin too, we might add). If you click the link you’ll find our detailed profile page on the book and see exactly which bloggers recommend it and why. As well as those who don’t!
We asked our resident book expert, Hélène Massicotte, to weigh in on why she thought it was the runaway favorite, and here’s what she had to say:
The Millionaire Next Door book is a winner for a number of reasons:
- It’s based on SOLID information, including a TON of statistics. It’s really hard to hate on solid data. I mean the guy did his homework and then some.
- It shows that getting to the big “M” has more to do with lifestyle, partnership in marriage (for those who are married) and entrepreneurship than it has to do with fast money or high income earners.
- It presents evidence that there are far more millionaires milling about, and that they’re not likely to be flashing the McMansions or fancy cars and couture items. It’s the only book I know that made a Toyota Camry, a Timex watch and suits from Sears sound badass.
- It offers evidence that net worth creation and preservation has A LOT to do with building it ourselves as opposed to receiving it as a windfall (inheritance or winnings of some sort). Case in point: very few millionaires in this book are willing to just give money to their kin/children if they deem it unearned because it might “ruin” their ability to create it for themselves.
If you want to read Hélène’s full review of the book, you can find it here.
Reviews from other bloggers:
“I love this book for reinforcing all my frugal tendencies. The basic premise is that wealth isn’t about spending up a storm and owning loads of fancy possessions. Instead, even people on average incomes can become wealthy, if they cut back on consumption to stash some cash and start investing. Sounds eminently sensible to me, and a lot more likely than winning a lottery jackpot!”
— Faith Archer @ Much More With Less
“It dispels the preconceived notions and fantasies we all have in our minds about wealth. It promotes the steady and honest building of wealth through hard work, productivity, a plan, and simplicity.”
— Right Hand Money Man
And in Second Place…
Your Money Or Your Life, which also had a strong showing among financial bloggers, with a few dozen positive reviews and only one negative review!
That one negative review, however, was a decimating critique on the current oversaturated state of the personal finance environment and the collapse of our national dialogue on the topic:
“My Goodreads account shows that I did not finish this book. I almost never do that, even for books I don’t like. That tells me that I really had little use for this book. Don’t ask me why, though. My memory is terrible.”
Um… okay. Thank you for your contribution.
Third Place Goes to…
Rich Dad Poor Dad. This book, as you’ll see in the next section, was a little confusing. It made a showing in the Top 3 rankings of both “Favorite” and “Overrated” personal finance books.
At any rate, here’s a typical response from someone who liked it:
“It was one of the first financial books I read, and it really got my mind working and wheels turning about improving my finances and creating passive income. It helped me shift my thought process about money and what is truly an asset.” — Mr. Jamie Griffin
Speaking of confusing responses, we did see a number of books making the Favorites list that had us scratching our heads. If anyone can tell us what personal finance niche these selections fill, please let us know:
- The Pumpkin Plan
- Shoe Dog
- The Way of All Flesh
- The Winter of Our Discontent
- The Rational Animal
- More-With-Less Cookbook
- Triumph of The Optimists
- Various Short Works by Borges
- Tap Dancing To Work
- Wealth of Nations
- The Legend of The Monk and the Merchant
- The Secret
- Confessions of An Economic Hit Man
- Down and Out in Paris and London
- Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
- My Maid Invests In The Stock Market
- How Come That Idiot’s Rich And I Am Not
The Top 10 Finance Books
Here is a snapshot of the Top 10 most popular financial books, as chosen by hundreds of members of the personal finance blogging community. If you want to see the entire list, just head on over to our Directory of Best Money Books!
The Top 3 Most “Overrated” Finance Books
The most-mentioned overrated book by far (and it wasn’t even close) was Rich Dad, Poor Dad. What’s really interesting, though, is that it had roughly the same number of “favorite” votes, and so finished near the top of that list as well, as you saw before.
Of all the books we’ve seen, this is the one that sits squarely in the “you love it or you hate it” category.
Here’s Hélène again with her take on why:
“There are questions regarding the veracity of some of Kiyosaki’s content and his writing does lead one to believe some of it, if not most of it, is made up. Granted, an author can use quite a bit of artistic license to deliver story-based learning. It also stinks of infomercial, which is reinforced when we watch him deliver one of his presentations online or look at his website richdad.com (coaching, courses, radio show…smells of, wait for it, RAMSEY!).”
You may be wondering why she added that capitalized bit at the end about Dave Ramsey. Well….
It’s because we got so many unsolicited “anything by Dave Ramsey” answers to this question as well. I mean, we never even asked for an author in the poll, we were asking for a specific book, but many of you were super excited to jump right in and condemn his entire body of work, haha…
But that’s fair too, because when that kind of thing happens, we think it’s valuable information and want to report it back to you. It turns out that if you add up all the “Ramsey himself just as a person who probably hates puppies”-type comments, he would finish in a clear second place on the overrated list.
We asked Hélène for this reasoning as well, and here’s what she posits:
- He’s loud and obnoxious, and that leads people to either love him or hate him.
- He’s irreverent of the opinions and beliefs of others (his penchant for flippant writing and his harsh rebukes on his radio show when a caller wants to deviate from his advice, even when s/he has solid grounds to do so).
- He can come off sketchy, in that he suggests that his listeners/readers use companies/agents from his list of “authorized service providers” with the suggestion they are heavily vetted and that they can deliver sustained, superior returns to the tune of 12%. First, they’re not and second, he gets a kickback, including from brokers who are charging high fees to his listeners to place them in “good, solid, superior-return” investments.
- He can come off sketchy because he touts his Christian values but seems to have hit up Churches only because of the win/win: he preaches that 10% of earnings should go to tithing and that makes churches want to push his book and Financial Peace University program. No question he’s doing a lot of good, but he’s also making a killing in the name of being a good Christian, being of service to others.
The Second Most Overrated Book…
Hey look, it’s Dave Ramsey again with The Total Money Makeover! Never would’ve expected him to show up on this list ;) Many people love this book as well, but turns out a good number of folks also don’t. Here’s a sample review:
“It’s not that I don’t think this is a solid book to learn about finances, it’s just that I don’t really like Dave Ramsey’s approach. I found it repetitive and very preachy in parts and I got sick of all the personal stories and ended up skipping over most of them. His concepts are good but I’d rather read the bullet point version.”
— Sarah @ Smile & Conquer
The Third Most Overrated Book…
And then there’s Ramit, from the book and blog of the same name: I Will Teach You To Be Rich. You knew he’d show up on this page at some point :)
And you know what’s funny? He’s so confident in his work (and his success rate proves it) that he won’t even care that he’s on this overrated list, haha… Or that he has a review like this:
“I think he had some great tips in his book and I still follow many of them to this day. But, I could not get through the book because he comes off like an asshole. So I had to stop.” — Jasmine Watts @ missmillmag.com
The Top 10 Most Overrated Finance Books
Here is a snapshot of the rest of the books that showed up on our list:
Where Finance Bloggers Get Most of Their Books From
In this part of the survey we asked our community a simple binary question about how they obtain most of their financial books:
This answer was right in line with the national average, so nothing too exciting with this one…
(That was a lie – we have no f*cking clue where this falls in terms of the national average, because after 15 minutes of searching online we couldn’t find ANY STATS whatsoever on the percentage breakdowns! The best we could do is the *cough* highly scientific *cough* method of looking at all the comments on this reddit thread asking the same question and doing a Ctrl-F “find on page” for the two terms, which gave us “buy = 63” and “borrow = 32” which is probably close enough to both our poll results and the national average, so we just called it a day…)
How Bloggers Read Most of Their Books
This one was a little more interesting, because we wanted to see how everyone tends to consume their financial books, and the results were just a little bit surprising:
We would have thought that, since we were interviewing financial bloggers, the results would have skewed higher on the digital side, especially since a number of people rated some of their cohorts’ books as their favorite, a few of which are only available in eBook format.
Not only did they not skew higher digitally, they actually skewed higher towards physical books than the national average from a couple years ago! (2015 was the most recent year we could find data for)
The national average for physical books is 63%, our community is 71%. National average for eBooks, 27%, our community 21%. National average for audio books, 12%, our community 8%.
Why is a tech-focused group of consumers so heavily weighted against tech when it comes to reading books???
Could it be that the question wasn’t phrased or interpreted properly, or that since we’re talking about financial books and not reading for entertainment, there are fewer of them available digitally overall? Do many from our community have finance backgrounds, and they’re referencing many of the educational books on their shelves they’ve accumulated over time?
Obviously there are a lot of variables here, and we are far from true scientists, so you’ll have to take any results on this page with a grain of salt. Still, these are the numbers we’ve collected, and it’s all super interesting to think about :)
The Most Important Types of Finance Books
We gave our members ten choices to rank in terms of which they felt were the most important topics covered by financial books. It was a virtual tie for the top four categories of Money Management, Mindset, Self Improvement, and Investing, and then a significant dropoff to the rest of the pack.
Here are the full results:
What we think is astounding here is the fact that “Debt” comes in dead last, at just 7%. It’s very surprising considering how much debt affects our lives, as well as that there are countless books and personal finance blogs dedicated to the subject alone. Yet it gets beat out by literally every other topic on the list in terms of importance?!? Probably the most surprising statistic in this entire survey…
The Total Number of Finance Books Owned By the Financial Community
The average number of personal finance books owned by the personal finance bloggers in this community is 29 apiece. That seemed pretty legit, though maybe a bit high. We then did a search for the highest number of books owned by a single person, and it was… 510!!! At first we thought maybe that number was skewing the average, and we could maybe throw it out, but upon more sorting we found dozens of other responses in the triple digits too.
Obviously some of you are financial book hoarders!
We decided to reach out to a couple of the bloggers who claimed to own over 400 books each to get a little more detail from them. Here’s what they told us:
A good number of the total I mentioned were combo money/finance/business. I started a business in 96, bootstrapped, and grew it (sold in 2014). I had to learn a lot on my own, so read a ton. Learning the power of P&Ls, Balance Sheets, Cash Flow Planning, Project Budgeting, etc. is actually what got me started researching similar topics for personal finance. So the books I’ve read on the topic have spanned almost 20 years.
— Brad Kingsley, www.MaximizeYourMoney.com
Now here’s where it gets good, folks. When Keith Schroeder of The Wealthy Accountant responded to the email, his answers were so interesting that we did an extended Q&A with him. We think it’s worth recording in its entirety below, with pictures! Enjoy…
How many books do you own, and how many of those are financial books?
I estimate I own somewhere around 2,000 books. About 1700-1800 are in my home with another 200-250 at the office.
A quarter to a third of my books are somehow connected with finance. Some connections are tenuous. For example, science or sociology books can teach a lot about how the world around us works and that is helpful in a financial sense. History books frequently include a discussion on money as people understood it centuries ago. A larger percentage of the books I borrow from the library are personal finance related.
The books at the office are more hardcore. Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch themed books are at the office along with accounting and business books. Some are college textbooks from my truncated college days. Included with the hardcore books at the office are tax reference guides and training manuals purchased as part of my required CPE or for reference. (Yes, I read tax books for pleasure.)
Are all these books like, legit printed books, or are you including a bunch of e-books by bloggers, or stuff on e-readers, etc?
I read few if any (none come to mind) books on an e-reader. Until you asked here I did not consider a handful of books I’ve read online, et cetera, from bloggers or other sources.
How long has it taken you to amass this many?
I started buying books late in high school at a local five and dime store. I grew up in a small town so books were hard to come by outside the school and public library, which were small. As an aside, I was a late starter as a reader. I read my first book cover-to-cover my junior or senior year of high school. It was like crack cocaine to me and I’ve never shaken the addiction. Out of high school I traveled about an hour to the closest Waldenbooks at a mall. Barnes & Noble came later with a much larger store and it was my favorite destination. Now I buy most books from Amazon. I am 53 so I’ve been adding to the heap for about 35 years.
How much do you read otherwise?
Two hours would be a short day of reading and it happens more often during tax season. Now, during the summer, I usually read an hour or two in the morning and four to six hours at night. I rarely watch TV and when it is on it is background noise only. I read during the day online a lot. News and other shorter pieces of material dominate these reading sessions. I also read The Economist and National Geographic in hardcopy.
What are the pros and cons of having so many books?
The biggest benefit is having quality books is information at my fingertips. Sure the internet has everything if you can find it after sifting through the crap. Also, I like reading long form in hardcopy. Many of my books are highlighted as I read. The highlighting process helps me better remember certain things I read and it’s a great way to find what I consider important when researching a writing assignment. The one drawback of owning so many books is also a benefit. Lots of books make it harder to move to a new residence. Moving is a waste of time and money so I plant my tail in one spot and refuse to move because moving all those books would be a chore. Cleaning around the books and storing them can be an issue at times.
Do you feel massively ahead of other people in terms of knowledge, or do you hit some kind of limit?
No. It also sounds arrogant to think that way. Even if I felt ahead of “other” people, identify the “other”. There are people smarter than me by a mile. That’s why I keep learning. Well, that and for the love of it. There is no limit to learning; you can always increase your knowledge or at least refresh it.
Keith’s Ridiculous Stacks of Books in Every Nook and Cranny of his Life:
Our Final Question: “Would You Rather Have All The Knowledge From Every Financial Book in the World -OR – $100,000 in Cash Money?”
This was such a great question to see everybody answer!
Getting the knowledge barely won out over taking the cash, by a margin of 52% to 48%. So basically, in our unscientific poll with a decent margin of error, it’s essentially a tie.
We won’t comment on which one we think is more valuable; we’ll just show you some of our favorite responses :)
The “Gimmie the Knowledge!” Learners:
“If I had the knowledge of every financial book in the world, I think I could make the $100,000 quickly plus make it grow faster than taking the $100,000 and sticking it in a broad market fund. Plus, if I already had all the knowledge from the financial books, I wouldn’t have to spend more time learning about finance (it’s every finance book IN THE WORLD, I think I would be covered). I could use that time to learn about other things and turn my current net worth into fat stacks of well diversified assets throwing off obscene amounts of income.” — Married and Harried
“While an extra 100k would certainly be nice… I already have money. What I clearly don’t have is ALL the knowledge. Though, if I had ALL the financial knowledge, I would probably come to the conclusion that happiness, not money is what’s really important and I’ve spent way too much time worrying about money.” — The Dividend Pig
“With all the knowledge you can make real money. $100,000 ain’t shit. Let’s play in the big leagues.”
— Fifty Week Vacation
The “I Want The Cash!” Hustlers:
“If the knowledge from financial books were that easily turned into money then it would be the readers making the money already and not the people publishing them. It’s about mindset, behavior, and ability to ACT on knowledge that will make money. Unless someone has a secret in that book that will convince me to quit my job and move my family to rural Nebraska to get a job that doubles my income, it’s unlikely that anything in those books will make me $100k. My biggest opportunity to make money is to cut expenses and raise income, and I don’t need a book for that, and any money I do make will likely just get invested anyway. So I’d rather just get the money straightaway and invest it.”
— Rogue Dad, M.D.
“After reading over 100 books on self development and finance, I would take the cash at this point. There are not too many books that actually give you the step by step tools to create wealth. Most are conceptual and ways to improve yourself to create wealth, which is the God’s honest truth on creating wealth. So knowing what I know now, I would take the $100k to use these concepts to create what I would want and how I would want it. If I have not read all that I have read, I would still take the $100k and spend about $1,000 on the top 100 books and read them on how to use the $90k left over.”
— Success Pirate
“While it’s tempting to have all the knowledge from every financial book in the world, a bunch of it is going to be contradictory. Much of it is going to be inapplicable to my personal situation, and the really complex stuff would be a huge time suck to implement. Could it make me lots of money over time? I would hope so. However, give me $100,000 today with just the level of knowledge I’ve been able to glean from the amazing personal finance community, and I’ll have a big head start on bringing in the bucks!” — I Dream of FIRE
Hopefully you enjoyed our first deep dive in this 360 series! You’ll have to let us know what you liked, what you didn’t, what you want more of, etc. And if you did like this one, you’re in luck, because we’re about to roll out another in just a few weeks ;)
Three last things before we go:
- Make sure to check out our new directory of finance books!! It features breakdowns of all books shown here in this report, as well as 50+ others recommended by both personal finance bloggers as well as our team here at Rockstar Finance.
- If you haven’t checked it out yet, click over to our master “stats” page where these stats will be updated automatically every day! –> Book Stats
- If you’re a finance blogger in our Directory and haven’t taken the poll yet, do so here! (And if you’re not in our Directory yet, make sure to do that first so it connects to your profile: submit your blog) We’ll be emailing y’all the next poll in a few days…
Lastly, THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this endeavor! There’s no way we could have done any of this without your support, and we hope all the cross linking to your blog and Directory page we’ve done throughout this new sub-directory helps you. It’ll most definitely help everyone else reading this every day going forward :)
We have to give special thanks to the core team here at Rockstar Finance for making this happen as well. Specifically Steve Adcock from ThinkSaveRetire.com for building out the infrastructure for the poll and sub-directory, Hélène Massicotte from FreeToPursue.com for the insight on all books featured here and in the Directory itself (she hand-wrote all book blurbs from her years of experience!), and last but not least – Nate St. Pierre from ValuableAndRare.com (a blog documenting his journey to build out a rare book collector directory!) for helping with overall strategy and putting together the bulk of the analysis on this page.
We hope you liked it! Please share it around if you did!
– J. Money & Team