The internet has transformed the way we learn about money. It’s easy to compare and switch savings accounts, follow stock markets and buy and sell shares with a few clicks of the mouse. There are all sorts of tools and articles online that can help you master different aspects of personal finance. However, there is still an important place for books in a broad financial eduction – with their hundreds of pages, they have scope for breadth and thoroughness unavailable elsewhere.
Here are six titles that, depending on your financial situation and interests, you should read at least two or three of. The first four are classics that won’t date, but readers should keep an eye out for revised editions of the others, which contain details of rules and taxes that are subject to change.
1. The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham
HarperBusiness, revised edition, 14.99
Iconic fund manager Warren Buffett has called this 1949 classic “by far the best book on investing ever written” – an opinion widely shared by financial experts. Graham, who lectured at Columbia Business School, explains his strategies for “Value Investing“, or buying shares in solid companies when price is below the true value. He believes in investing for the long-term, sitting tight through market turmoil, which can provide buying opportunties.
2. The Essays of Warren Buffett
John Wiley & Sons, 4th edition, 13.50
These are Buffett’s annual reports for his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, in which he explains his investing strategy in a lively, anecdotal style. Buffett was a student of Graham’s at Columbia and the essays show how he has used his old teacher’s principles to make big returns in 20th and 21st century markets.
3. The Little Book of Commonsense Investing, by John C Bogle
John Wiley & Sons, 16.99
Jack Bogle is the founder of Vanguard Group, which sells low-cost index-tracker funds. This is his well-argued case for passive investing. He says that trying to beat the market is a zero-sum game – for every winner, there’s a loser. After transaction charges, it’s a loser’s game. Most actively managed funds perform less well than index-trackers. The lesson, he believes, is: “Don’t look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack.”
4. The Ascent of Money, by Niall Ferguson
This is a wide-ranging history of the global financial system, from the first currencies to the development of stock markets and our fixation with property prices. It’s a fast-paced, entertaining read and useful because it will leave you with a better grasp of how and why things work they way they do today – and long-enduring risks.
5. Money Made Easy, 2015-2016
by Mark King and Laura Whitcombe, Harriman House, 11.88
This provides a broad, concise overview of all the main areas of personal finance, from investing to buying and selling property, clearing debt and paying tax. There is up-to-date advice on pension-saving and retirement, taking into account the pension freedoms brought in by the Chancellor. Other topics covered include setting goals and getting organised for life events, such as getting married and having children.
6. Successful Property Letting, by David Lawrenson
This is the UK’s bestselling property investment book and a must-read for anyone interested or involved in buy-to-let. The author has been a landlord and investor for almost 30 years. He provides plenty of practical advice and is realistic about fluctuating prices and rents.
All these books are available for prices below the RRP at major online retailers. They are also held by some public libraries.