Want to get smarter about investing? Check out some of these books.
Learning about financial concepts can feel intimidating. Even finding a starting spot can prove challenging. If you search for an investment term on the Internet, you often end up with an alphabet soup of complex financial terms.
A better entry point can be picking up a book by an expert who thoughtfully and sequentially presents and explains financial concepts and investing topics. Resources like these can help you realize that investing doesn’t have to be intimidating or complicated. Here are seven books that are great places to get started.
- The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing, by Benjamin Graham
Benjamin Graham is known as the father of value investing. He taught Warren Buffett, a modern investing icon. His book lays a framework for evaluating a business’ worth based on financial value, not short-term trading techniques. In his book, Graham defined many important investing concepts such as “margin of safety,” which is an important input in the Morningstar Rating for stocks.
The revised edition includes commentary from The Wall Street Journal’s personal-finance columnist Jason Zweig that contextualizes and modernizes the text. With Zweig’s commentary on every chapter, the book is north of 500 pages, which is a lot; however, it’s a thorough introduction to investing. If getting through means skimming a few chapters, no judgment here.
- A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing, by Burton Malkiel
If Graham teaches you how to evaluate a business, Burton Malkiel explains why that might not help you. The Princeton economist argues that markets demonstrate efficiency because people are analyzing a company’s value. (Efficiency means a company’s share price reflects its current worth, and its price will change when new information alters a business’ worth.) Malkiel recommends earning the market’s return instead of beating it, which he compellingly argues is good enough.
The book was first published in 1973, but updated editions have added contemporary topics. These include exchange-traded funds and investment techniques like smart beta (which Morningstar prefers to call “strategic beta,” but I digress).
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns, by John Bogle
Investing icon John Bogle died on Jan. 16, 2019, but he left behind an impressive legacy: He revolutionized the mutual fund industry and was a tireless advocate for investors. He pioneered the index fund, which allowed investors to gain diversified exposure to the stock market at a very low cost, helping them keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets. His book explains why low fees significantly affect returns. It also addresses topics like mean-reversion and tax costs.
The text is accessible and shorter than many other investing books, and it includes quotes from many prominent financial figures who support Bogle’s claims.
- Morningstar’s 30-Minute Money Solutions: A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Your Finances, by Christine Benz
Even if you understand investing basics, you might struggle to incorporate them into your personal finances. Executing them in manageable steps can prove even more challenging.
That’s the beauty of this book. Christine Benz, Morningstar’s director of personal finance, breaks financial planning down into bite-size chunks that anyone can handle. You start with basics like assessing your net worth and creating an organization system, and you progressively conquer more advanced topics including retirement investing, college savings, and estate planning.
If you want to meld investment basics with tangible advice, this book is a great option.
- The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, by Warren Buffett
Many consider Warren Buffett to be the best modern investor. He has risen to fame as Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO, a position he’s held for over 50 years. Berkshire Hathaway invests in high-quality businesses with strong growth potential. But Buffett only buys such companies when they’re selling at an attractive margin of safety (hat tip to his mentor, Benjamin Graham). This makes Buffett an extreme stock-picker. Under his reign, Berkshire Hathaway’s growth has far surpassed that of the S&P 500, a testament to the success of his approach.
Each year, Buffett writes an annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, and all of them are published on the company’s website, so anyone can read them. Buffett writes in a straightforward style that is accessible to investors of all skill levels, and he’s often very funny to boot. “The Essays of Warren Buffett” weaves together Buffett’s essays into a sequential, cohesive book.
- The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing, by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael LeBoeuf
The advice of The Vanguard Group founder John Bogle is echoed in this comprehensive guide for investors of all experience levels. Packaged into 23 short, light-hearted chapters, this book contains practical advice and explores many aspects of investing, from how to choose the financial lifestyle that fits you to how to balance your emotions to truly master your investments. This guide also provides external resources and other information for readers who want to dive deeper into any of the topics that the longtime Bogleheads cover. A second edition of the book was released in 2014 and includes updated chapters on tax law changes, 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans, and backdoor Roth IRAs.
The Bogleheads are investing enthusiasts who honor Bogle and his advice, living by a philosophy to “emphasize starting early, living below one’s means, regular saving, broad diversification, simplicity, and sticking to one’s investment plan regardless of market conditions.” Members actively discuss financial news and theory in a forum.
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich, by Ramit Sethi
Advisor and The New York Times best-selling author Ramit Sethi outlines a six-week program for 20- to 35-year-olds to learn the four pillars of personal finance–banking, saving, budgeting, and investing. Sethi shares his strategies for eliminating student loans and debt; finding a balance with saving and spending every month; and preparing to purchase a house or car. In the newest edition, he includes stories from readers and insights on the psychology of investing. Sethi strives to demonstrate to investors how to make investments that grow with them and their goals, and how they can spend their money on the things they want without feeling guilty.