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Adult Education: 50 Best PF Books for Recent College Grads

Posted on Monday January 24, 2011 by Staff Writers

By Lauren Bailey

No matter how much you learned in school or from classes at online colleges, nothing will prepare you to live in the real world besides actually doing it. When you start prioritizing toilet paper and dishwashing detergent ahead of pizza and beer on your grocery list, you know you’re growing up. But understanding and managing your finances — including a new salary, college loan payments, and heftier living costs — is still complicated, even if you think you’ve become incredibly responsible. To help you become a more efficient earner, saver, budgeter and investor, take a look at these personal finance books, before getting deeper into a financial mess.

Organization and General Guidebooks

These guidebooks will teach you how to manage your money day by day, and also plan for the future.

  1. Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties, by Beth Kobliner: Before you start investing and saving, find how what that really means. Kobliner decodes everything from 401(k)s to tax-deferred savings plans and the dangers of ATMs.
  2. On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance, by Manisha Thakor, Sharon Kedar: Guys just starting out in the working world can be counseled by this book, too, which helps you calculate how much of your income to save, how to avoid credit card debt, and how to set up a sensible budget.
  3. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke, Suze Orman: Before you reach the age when you should know better, straight-talking Suze Orman helps 20-somethings set financial goals and learn how to avoid debt, giving them money management strategies for a lifetime.
  4. The Motley Fool Personal Finance Workbook : A Foolproof Guide to Organizing Your Cash and Building Wealth, David Gardner, Tom Gardner, Dayana Yochim, Robert Brokamp: This PF and investment guide offers more "pedestrian" money management tips that are painless to digest for overwhelmed graduates. Charts, graphs and checklists make organizing your finances even easier.
  5. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s, Sarah Young Fisher, Susan Shelly: This guide brings general money issues to the twenty- and thirtysomething’s level, discussing home ownership in terms of townhomes and budgeting in terms of managing food and gas bills.
  6. For Richer Not Poorer: They Newlywed’s Financial Survival Guide, Deborah Wilburn: If you’re already on track to getting married, learn how to plan a wedding without going over budget with this guide. It’s also a good reference for talking about money with your significant other — an honest, civil manner.
  7. Personal Finance, E. Thomas Garman: This book was written for students and recent grads who want an introduction to PF topics and strategies, including student loans, tax filing, credit card debt, and more.
  8. The Budget Kit: The Common Cents Money Management Workbook, Judy Lawrence: Use the budget and repayment worksheets, plus the expense and spending records to start taking control of your finances. Author Terry Savage also praises the book because "it really explains the hows and whys."
  9. Financial Basics: Money-Management Guide for Students, Susan Knox: Called a "timeless" guide for students and recent graduates, this book will get you started to responsible money management practices. Told through stories and easy-to-follow tips, it’s a fast read, too.
  10. Enjoy Your Money!: How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It, J. Steve Miller: Considered a lively guide to personal finance, this book paves the way for financial independence.
  11. Your Money, Day One: How to Start Right and End Rich, Michael J. Wagner: Learn how to take control of your money, instead of the other way around.
  12. Please Send Money, 2E: A Financial Survival Guide for Young Adults on Their Own, Dara Duguay: College students, grad students and recent graduates will learn how to avoid easy credit and prioritize spending, as well as manage car payments and student loans responsibly.
  13. I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Ramit Sethi: Sethi’s popular guidebook is "for a generation that’s materially ambitious yet financially clueless," and includes an interactive website feature to drill the lessons in even deeper.
  14. The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content, Timothy Ferriss: Tim Ferriss’ now iconic guide introduced the idea of mobile working, which is now a common lifestyle for much of the country. Read it to learn how to make your money work for you and how to be a more efficient human being.
  15. Financial Planning for Your First Job, Matthew Brandeburg: This book walks you through the looming financial questions you’re starting to ask yourself as you graduate and start a new job.
  16. The Young Adult’s Guide to Financial Success, Edward M. Wolpert: You’ll find all sorts of tips for living within your means here.
  17. The Money Answer Book, Dave Ramsey: In-demand author and financial expert Dave Ramsey has collected his answers to your money problems here, in an easy-to-read guide full of tips on goal-setting, budgeting, and more.
  18. Your Money: The Missing Manual, J.D. Roth:’s J.D. Roth pares down the basics to money management: saving, spending, investing, goal-setting, tracking expenses, and more.
  19. Your Money and Your Life: A Lifetime Approach to Money Management, Robert Aliber: This book by University of Chicago Booth School of Business professor emeritus Robert Aliber is recommended for younger readers who need to make smart financial decisions regarding renting or buying, insurance, raising a credit score, and more.
  20. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill: One of the most celebrated money guides in America, Napoleon Hill’s book is for everyone, especially those with time to work through his formula to thinking like the wealthy, and then becoming rich yourself.
  21. The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs, Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan: As the economy reinvents itself, more jobs are outsourced. You’ll need to prepare yourself to work as a freelancer or independent contractor if you want to take advantage of the new marketplace, and this book will show you how to do it without going broke.

Credit and Debt

These books offer information on loan payments, credit card debt, credit score, and more.

  1. Pay It Down!: Debt Free on $10 a Day, Jean Chatzky: PF writer Jean Chatzky helps you face the realities of debt, credit scores and credit cards in this book, which should inspire you to start payments immediately.
  2. Debt is Slavery: and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money, Michael Mihalik: Mihalik will train you to change the way you think about money, and he shares 10 steps for gaining financial independence.
  3. Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money–A How-to Guide, Carmen Wong Ulrich: Discover smart ways to pay off student loans and budget your expenses in order to pay off debt.
  4. Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead, Tamara Draut: Draut’s analysis on how inflated education costs and bad policies have kept today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings earning less than they did 30 years ago is provocative and informative.
  5. Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Deal With Your Debt, Laura D. Adams: Money Girl podcast host Laura Adams has written this book to educate people on how to prioritize payments, negotiate with creditors, and free yourself from debt.
  6. Master Your Debt: Slash Your Monthly Payments and Become Debt Free, Joran E. Goodman, Bill Westrom: This book will help you understand your options for paying off debt after the economic stimulus package and post-credit crisis.
  7. Your Credit Score, Your Money and What’s at Stake: How to Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future, Liz Pulliam Weston: Find out why your credit score is so important.
  8. The Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises: It may not be a fast read, but this book is still lauded by economists as a comprehensive lesson on monetary theory, and you’ll have a much better understanding of purchasing power, exchange value, banking, and the value of money after reading it.
  9. Perfect Credit: 7 Steps to a Great Credit Rating, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox: Get on the right track as soon as possible with this guide to perfect credit.

Investing and Retirement

Here you’ll learn the basics of investing, including the right moves to make when you’re still young.

  1. Rich by Thirty: A Young Adult’s Guide to Financial Success, Lesley Scorgie: Scorgie was 23 when she wrote this book, an almost a millionaire. She opened her first bank account when she was 10, and here she offers advice for getting smart about finances as early as possible.
  2. The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel, Benjamin Graham, Jason Zweig, Warren E. Buffett: If you plan on being a serious investor, read this book to learn how it all works. The focus is on loss minimization and breaks down the fundamentals of smart investing and discipline.
  3. The Neatest Little Book on Stock Market Investing, Jason Kelly: This book is in its 4th edition and features an innovative new core portfolio technique, and tips on timing your investments.
  4. Stocks for the Long Run : The Definitive Guide to Financial Market Returns and Long-Term Investment Strategies, Jeremy J. Siegel: Here’s a solid introduction to long-term investing, with tips on calculating risk, allowing for market fluctuations, and more.
  5. Saving for Retirement without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery, Gail MarksJarvis: This book makes retirement saving more accessible and less scary, so you’re more likely to start early.
  6. Street Wise: A Guide for Teen Investors, Janet Bamford: This is a great book for anyone starting out in investing, even if you’re older than a teenager. It explains mutual funds, stocks, and other introductory but practical principles.
  7. How to Invest $50-$5,000: The Small Investor’s Step-By-Step Plan for Low-Risk, High-Value Investing, 9th Edition, Nancy Dunnan: Learn how to keep up with investments when you lose your job, recognize scams, and manage small investments as you get started.
  8. Your Money Milestones: A Guide to Making the 9 Most Important Financial Decisions of Your Life, Moshe A. Milevsky: Milevsky’s broken down the fundamentals of asset evaluation and investing for a post-economic downturn world, using simple explanations and language.
  9. SENSIBLE STOCK INVESTING: How to Pick, Value, and Manage Stocks, David Van Knapp: This book will help you evaluate companies and value stocks before even making your first investment.
  10. Never Buy Another Stock Again: The Investing Portfolio that Will Preserve Your Wealth and Your Sanity, David Gaffen: If you’re not sure you want to play the stock market, read this book to learn how you can set up a portfolio that handles savings, retirement funds, and other types of investments.

Frugal Living

Learn how to live within your means — and why it’s so important to do so.

  1. City Chic: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Living Large on Less, Nina Willdorf: This fun but practical guide helps women in their 20s and 30s live fabulously without charging their paychecks away.
  2. Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century, Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, Monique Tilford: Here’s a book that challenges you to rethink your priorities so that you can get buy with less, live a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle, and use and save money more responsibly.
  3. The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money, Carmen Wong Ulrich: Learn how to calculate the cost of real-life decisions you make, like going to college, starting your own business and indulging in bad habits.
  4. To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop, April Benson: Written to help overshoppers, this book can help anyone take control of their spending before they get into debt or surround yourself with waste.
  5. One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good, Regina Leeds: Being more efficient with your time and your belongings also leads to financial freedom and less waste.
  6. Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less, Leah Ingram: Find out how to evaluate your lifestyle so that you can "trim the fat" where it matters the most.
  7. The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Amy Dacyczyn: This popular book educates readers on how to be a savvy shopper, recycle products to save money, and make your own versions of overpriced store-bought items. It comes with an index so that you can look up specific items as you go.
  8. Be Thrifty: How to Live Better With Less, Pia Catton and Califia Suntree: Learn how to be more self-sufficient so that you can save more money.
  9. Money Can Buy Happiness, MP Dunleavey: This book will help you re-evaluate your expectations for a high salary and high rolling lifestyle right out of college.
  10. Not Buying It, Judith Levine: Whether you’re in need of a consumer cleanse, are seriously cash-strapped, or are up for a challenge after graduation, read this book by Judith Levine, who, with her partner, vowed to buy only the necessities for a year. Even Q-tips are considered a luxury.