What Personal Finance Books Will NOT Do for Your Money‏

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personal finance books

I’m a big advocate of reading and educating one’s self in the area of personal finance. I especially enjoy reading the many great personal finance books out there. I’ve learned a lot from them and they’ve helped me on my journey to becoming debt free. However, sometimes I think people overestimate what personal finance books can do for them and for their finances.

Having read dozens of personal finance books myself, I’ve gleaned lots of wisdom from them. And I’m not done learning yet. There is still much for me to learn in the area of money management. However, I’ve learned that there are a few things that even the best personal finance books in the world will not do for you and your money.

Personal Finance Books Can’t Force You to Be Responsible


Personal finance books can’t force you to take responsibility for your money mistakes. You can read all of the books in the world, but if, as Dave Ramsey says, you’re not willing to face the person in the mirror and own up to your past and present money mistakes, those PF books aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans when it comes to changing your financial situation and getting you on the road to financial fitness. It’s vitally important that you recognize and take responsibility for the money mistakes you’ve made that have caused the financial mess that you might be in today.

Personal Finance Books Won’t Make You Change


Personal finance books can’t force you to change your financial habits. I can’t tell you how many times, when discussing a great personal finance book with someone, I’ve heard them say, “I just can’t do the budget thing.” or “There’s no money available for me to save.” or “Really – I don’t spend that much on entertainment groceries / shopping so I don’t need to track my spending.”

My husband and I fell prey to those lies too before we started on our road to financial freedom. We thought we were only spending A, B or C on certain categories, however, when we went back and tracked the previous years’ spending and categorized it all, we woke up to quite a surprise. It turned out that we were spending a lot more than we thought we were in many of the categories that we thought we had under control.

When you’re not tracking your spending, it’s very easy to forget those little trips to the grocery store and through the restaurant drive-thru. Financial experts are called experts for the very reason that they’ve tried and lived by the advice given in their books. However, if you’re insisting that you don’t need to take the advice that they give, you can’t expect to get the results that the financial experts get.

Personal Finance Books Can’t Make You Stick To Your Budget for the Long Haul


PF books won’t do the hard work for you of putting in the time/effort to complete the steps. The journey to debt freedom or financial independence is, for many people, a long one. For most, a six-month program of simply socking 10% of income into savings just isn’t going to get the job done.

Instead, for many people, the journey out of debt and into wealth-building is going to require some long-term time and effort. However, if you’re not willing to put in that time and effort, you can’t expect to reach your dreams of financial freedom.

Living a life of financial freedom is a dream that many aspire to, but few reach, many times for the reasons listed above. What about you? What’s stopping you from reaching your dream of being financially independent?


What’s your favorite personal finance book? What’s the most recent PF book you’ve read lately? Where do you think personal finance books fall short? Which one stands out to you as worth reading?



Photo courtesy of: John Liu

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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

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  • I agree that you are the one that has to face up to your money issues if you ever want to change. When I was in debt, I read a lot of books and knew the basics of personal finance, but that didn’t stop me from repeating the cycle of paying down debt and then overspending again. The only thing that worked was to admit I had an issue and go from there. It wasn’t easy or fun to admit it, but it was the only way to get control of things.

    • Laurie says:

      Jon, we went through the same thing! I could tout every great piece of financial advice to everyone off the top of my head. We knew it all, but were a mess, until we learned to control our spending and get things straight. Great comment!

  • A few years ago I read “The Millionaire Next Door” and that had a pretty big impact on me. It’s a very easy read and the message is simple to understand.

    • Laurie says:

      Thomas, I would say that that book is likely my favorite of all time. It shatters every false image we have of true millionaires, doesn’t it?

  • That’s so true. PF books can only do so much- you have to take action! =)

  • Exactly right. I think sometimes the marketing of PF books and products prey on people’s penchant for “instant gratification” or “get rich quick” or something like that. (Sometimes it feels like a “get skinny in 3 days” type of promotion.) But it always comes down to the same bottom-line, personal effort!

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Al!! I used to look for those get rich quick books all the time, until I learned that we really are going to have to work at this whole FI thing. 🙂

  • LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, did I mention that I LOVE this?? 🙂 I couldn’t agree more and I think that sometimes people think that there is a cure-all miracle pill that you can take for everything in life. There isn’t and a book can’t make you do anything, self-disciple is the key to making anything work. Great post Lori! I always love your stuff!

    • Laurie says:

      And I love yours, Jessi!!! You know first hand that it takes WORK to get out of debt – this is why you’ve been so successful on your journey. 🙂

  • Liz says:

    I agree with you Laurie. The PF books can teach you how to reach financial freedom but we all need to put the work to get there. Walking the walk is the hardest part of the journey!

  • Amy says:

    I’ve read a lot of them over the last few months, and you’re so right! Reading them is one thing, but putting the lessons into action is quite another! I really liked “The Millionaire Next Door”, too. Also, I just read and reviewed “Build a Budget the Works”, which has lots of really helpful worksheets, to start putting the concepts into action.

    • Laurie says:

      Amy, not sure if you’ve read Hayley from Disease Called Debt’s book or Shannon from Financially Blonde’s new book, but I think you’d love them both. They’re different and motivating, just like Millionaire Next Door was. I haven’t read Build a Budget that Works: I’ll have to read your review on that one!

  • Miriam Kearney says:

    Years ago I would buy any magazine at the checkout counter that said (on the cover) anything about how to save money or spend less. It took a while until I realized that one of the easiest ways to save money was to stop buying the magazines!

  • Great article, Laurie. You definitely have to be ready to change before you’ll actually take advice from personal finance books.

    However, I think reading the books before you’re ready still allows for the idea to simmer and emerge when the time is right.

    I found Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich really helpful as a beginner. Once I had the basics, I found Early Retirement Extreme to be very useful.

  • CielBelle says:

    The one book that made an impact for me was Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I have a lot more – Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, David Bach and I carry them as an audiobook on my ipod to keep reminding myself… it usually helps

  • PF books are only there to show you how you can do it, but it can’t do it for you. PF books opened my eyes about my finances, but I was the one who had to take the steps to change my situation.

  • Even Steven says:

    I love reading the PF books that have some sort of story behind them like the Richest Man in Babylon. The book I read most recently is Early Retirement Extreme, I’m hoping to write up a review shortly, I liked it makes you think about your philosophy.

    PF books for me are more of a reminder that I need to save money and cut costs, not as much a ground breaking look into what I need to do.

  • One of my favorite books is Your Money or Your Life. I have to admit though that I didn’t do the steps they recommended in the book. But I did take away a lot of info from it and I think by the time I read it I was well on my way to being financially responsible. But it’s like any self help book. If you read it but aren’t ready to do the work-any work, then there was probably not a huge point to reading it in the first place. I think sometimes people just aren’t ready and have to find their own time and place to be ready.

  • I haven’t read a lot of PF books yet – actually I’ve only finished one ever – but I do read a LOT of PF blogs. I would say the same things about reading PF blogs. Yes it’s helpful to see/hear what others have done in terms of finances, and you can learn a lot, but reading and learning alone won’t make you make the financial changes you need to make. Great post Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      Great point, Kayla!! The thing I really love about the PF blogging world is that it’s totally free advice. Since joining and reading around the PF blogging world, I feel like I’ve gained a degree in personal finance. 🙂

  • Autumn says:

    I think my favorite would have to be The Millionaire Next Door. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say anything bad about it. I like it because it’s not preachy and there isn’t the “my way is the only way” message that a lot of other PF books have. Second favorite is Your Money or Your Life – really puts things in perspective.

  • Kim says:

    I really liked your book Laurie! It is so true that all the books in the world can’t do much for you until you’re willing to make changes. One of the first PF books I read was The Automatic Millionaire. I try to give a copy to all the graduating college students I know.

  • Myles Money says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Laurie. No matter how much you read, if you don’t act it won’t make any difference. One of my favourite PF books is Rich Dad Poor Dad which talks about understanding the value of work, time and money.

  • The only thing that a book can do for you is help you gain the knowledge necessary to be informed about making a change. They aren’t going to change your life or your finances single handedly, you’re right.

  • Alexis says:

    I’ve read a ton of Personal Finance books but I always had trouble truly applying to everything in real life.

  • Michelle says:

    This is so true. For a long time, I would read books about being more financially smart, but it would not change any of my spending habits.

  • Lance @ HWI says:

    There is a bookstore near my work and for lunch I will go over and read for an hour. Over the years I have finished off almost all of the finance section. There is always something new coming out, but advice is only advice at the end of the day. Personal finances books are only guaranteed to make the author rich if all you do is read and decide to not do anything about it. You are in charge of you.

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