In this journey to debt-freedom and (eventually) financial independence, I’ve learned about, read, and used quite a few resources. Most of them were free courtesy of my public library, or through free accounts online. I encourage you use free resources that are available to you. Public libraries are phenomenally efficient and probably have more books, movies, audiobooks, digital books, and database access than you ever remembered from growing up (or using the library in your school with a card catalog and possibly one computer terminal running on a decade old technology). That said, sometimes it’s worth owning something because we come back to it again and again and we find it sparks joy in our lives. Other resources are now entirely digital but require payment of some type of fee. Whatever the case, you can find a link to take you to the resources I’ve find helpful on my journey. I recommend these regardless of whether I get any kickback for you clicking my link. If, however, I am part of an affiliate program for a particular link, I have so indicated.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki
This is the first book that started changing my relationship with money. I picked it up by chance at the public library because I felt like I should know more about personal finance than I did, which at the time was basically nothing. The book starts with a compelling narrative about the author growing up hearing different financial advice from two different fathers. The first, his natural father, was a highly intelligent college professor who spent most of his career working to improve conditions for union members. His natural father was not successful financially. The second, a friend’s father, was a highly successful entrepreneur, who had an entirely different take on money than his father. The author distills the basic principles his “rich dad” taught him. Although some have questioned Mr. Kiyosaki’s integrity based on some questionable later advice/transactions, this book remains a classic and is still full of valuable information. (Affiliate link.)
Your Money Or Your Life, by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, & Monique Tilford
This book builds on the principles from Rich Dad, Poor Dad and provides a comprehensive path for changing your relationship with money. This site’s True Wage Calculator is derived from one of the chapters in this book. The best part about this book is that it doesn’t ask you to feel bad about your current lifestyle. Instead, it asks you to think about how you are spending your money, which the authors say is a proxy of your life energy (because you spend your time to earn it). By thinking more carefully about whether your spending aligns with what you value using your life energy for, you slowly, methodically teach yourself to bring your life into harmony. It’s a beautifully simple book. (Affiliate link.)
America’s Cheapest Family, by Steve Economides & Annette Economides
Despite its hokey name, this book has same really great nuts and bolts advice about leading a more thrifty lifestyle after you’re already married. Many of the personal finance/early retirement books I’ve read either assume you have no debt or are starting your journey without children. This book proceeds essentially from the opposite assumptions, i.e., you have debt and children, and helps you think about how to rearrange your life when you feel like you’re sinking. The authors have several children and only Steve worked for a modest $50,000 salary, yet they were able to pay off their mortgage in 11 years, send their children to college, and save an incredible amount of money. This book has one of the best personal budgeting chapters I’ve found, and helps you break down your regular expenses so you can predict and budget for them. They have advice for trimming your expenses on clothing, food, water, electricity, and just about every other area of your life. (Affiliate link.)
Early Retirement Extreme, by Jacob Lund Fisker
This book contains some high level thought on what it takes to achieve early retirement in 5–10 years instead of the typical 30+ that most people anticipate. The author retired at 30. It contains many helpful formulas for evaluating your spending, calculating when you can retire, and runs through a variety of ways of talking to yourself about various cost-cutting activities in a way that you can be thankful for your cost-cutting measures, rather than feeling deprived. It is extreme in its thinking and methodology, as the title suggests, so you may want to hold off on reading this one until your personal awareness of your own finances has developed a bit. (Affiliate link.)
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
This isn’t really a book about personal finance, per se, but it has the potential to have a profound effect upon them if you follow its principles. Using a different methodology, the book essentially proceeds from the premise that Money Is For Freedom (Not Stuff) and teaches you to think about and evaluate how much value the stuff in your home currently gives you. The whole book can be summarized quickly—decide which things in your home spark joy, and remove the rest—but it has loads and loads of practical advice about how to think about your relationship with the things you have, how to remove the excess, and how to organize what remains so you don’t feel the need to fill up your space with more meaningless stuff. (Affiliate link.)
I use Simple for my online checking account for a variety of reasons. What has become the most important reason is the ability to create “goals” and fund them with various amounts either immediately or have Simple automatically transfer money into the goal at regular intervals until a set date. You still have access to all the money instantly if you need it—but it helps you avoid miscellaneous expenses because you can see exactly how much unallocated money you have. Essentially, it lets you use a great budgeting system so that you when you login to your bank account to check your funds, you don’t have to guess at how much is available for bicycle repair, groceries, or home maintenance. It’s a really beautiful way of keeping track of everything at a glance. Additionally, Simple charges almost no fees (including no overdraft fees), has 20,000 ATMs around the country, and has the single greatest customer service for any bank account I’ve ever had. Additionally, I can transfer money to my wife instantly with just a few clicks on the mobile app, which has come in handy for a few surprise expenses where the store didn’t accept our high rewards credit card.
It’s hard for me to say enough good things about this company, especially since they helped me refinance my federal loans which had a breathtakingly high 7.4% weighted average interest rate. These are for loans that can’t even be discharged in bankruptcy, and loans directly from the government! That interest rate was ridiculous. SoFi thought that was ridiculous too, and is helping qualified graduates get out from under the madness of federal loan interest rates. As I’ve detailed elsewhere, I was able to use SoFi’s student loan refinancing service to cut both my minimum payment and interest rate so low that even if I pay only the minimums, I will pay off my loans ten years sooner and for a lifetime savings of over $125,000! (Of course, I plan to pay them off even sooner, thus saving many tens of thousands more.) Additionally, as someone who is married, one of the features of their loans is that if you die they will forgive the balance of your loan. Other student loan refinancing companies took the more sinister approach that my wife would have to sign something taking on equal responsibility for the loan, meaning that if I died unexpectedly she would have been stuck with a mound of new debt. If you qualify, I highly recommend you give SoFi a chance. Their customer service is top flight. (Affiliate link.)
Personal Capital is a great and free tool for measuring your cash flow for the past month, six months, or year, seeing where your spending is going, seeing how your assets are performing, and now even includes a great retirement readiness calculator. You can add virtually any account to your dashboard, enabling you to get an incredible, instant overview of all your money in just a few minutes. It provides a wealth of information at a glance. Before I started using Personal Capital, I had to piece together all this information by hand. Once your net worth goes above a certain level, they will start asking you about providing investment advice at a (comparatively) extremely low cost.
I’ve been using Lumosity for quite a few years now. It’s a brain training app which takes advantage of your neuroplasticity (yes, you still have it!) to help you become smarter—i.e., it helps you exercise your brain in key cognitive areas, such as flexibility, problem solving, attention, and speed. The games are quite fun and most last just under a minute. You can get your daily dose of brain training done in under 10 minutes and significantly protect yourself against the really scary long term risks of cognitive decline that are incredibly difficult for your loved ones to handle. There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but this is probably the best preventive medicine out there. And it’s remarkably cheap and fun. You can buy a forever pass for only $300—nothing to sneeze at, but the longterm benefits of cognitive training will far eclipse this comparatively minor cost. (Affiliate link.)
I dabbled in meditation for a long time, without a whole lot of good guidance, before I finally found Headspace. This great app gives you expert guidance (from a former Tibetan monk who has reentered secular life) on starting and continuing meditation practice, and begins with the very basics and walks you step by step through the process. The first 10 days of their course are free, so you can see what it’s like before deciding to subscribe. The month to month option is a bit expensive, but their yearly subscriptions are quite reasonable. The “Forever” package at $420 is quite expensive, but the myriad health benefits—cognitive, physical, emotional—that a burgeoning body of research has found stem from regular meditation make this one of the best healthcare purchases you can make. In fact, it’s dirt cheap compared to damn near any traditional medical purchase you’ll make.