Few things are more inspiring than the day you decide to get your finances in order. You start planning and plotting on how you will save more money and spend more wisely. You begin to set short and long-term goals and take visible steps toward reaching them. Before long, you’ve squeezed all the advice you can from newspaper columns and free web articles. You’re ready to advance your personal finance education to the next level. But where do you turn? Bookstore shelves groan beneath the weight of untold dozens of personal finance books, each promising to be the only one you need to achieve financial freedom. It’s no wonder you can’t decide which one(s) to buy!
Luckily, you don’t have to; at least, not yet. The Internet is bursting with personal finance e-books which you can read right on your computer screen – for free. We took the liberty of tracking down the top 25 free personal finance e-books that are actually worth your time. Read the descriptions below and investigate any books that pique your interest!
Personal Finance 101 (The Basics)
The following books are aimed at educating you on the basics of personal finance. The mentality of saving money, learning to prioritize your spending decisions, and other foundational concepts are covered here. If you are just starting to get your finances in order, consider these books an excellent place to start!
- Money Matters: Your Guide for Financial Security. This free guide serves as a primer on such personal finance basics as coming up with good financial goals, devising plans to reach them, getting organized, selecting the right financial advisor or accountant, and the basics of stock and bond investing. The book also touches upon debt and how to borrow money intelligently (as opposed to the unintelligent borrowing engaged in by many people.)
- Taking Control of Your Finances. Ask any personal finance expert when the best time to begin saving and planning for the future is and they will reply “the younger, the better.” And while it is never too late to start taking control of your money, this is absolutely correct advice. With that inn mind, the FDIC whipped up this helpful report aimed at young people who want to get a head start on financial freedom. Read it and you’ll learn some of the most common money management mistakes to avoid, as well as several tips on how to start saving and managing the money you already make.
- Banking Basics. No personal finance education would be complete without learning the ins and outs of the banking system, and who better to educate you than he Federal Reserve? While this e-book is somewhat broad and conceptual (explaining what banks are and how they operate), this knowledge is invaluable. You need to understand the nature of the institutions you are entrusting your money to and how you fit into their plans. Consider this required reading before learning about more advanced topics in personal finance.
- Pathways to Getting Ahead. One thing that separates financially successful people from everyone else is how they prioritize asset-building. Rather than allowing money to flow in and out of their lives with no discretion or priorities, they spend on assets (savings accounts, investments, homes, even businesses) that will grow and put money in their pocket day after day, month after month, year after year, like clockwork. This excellent guide will introduce you to this thought process and get you thinking about assets you might build for yourself.
- Simple Strategies for Managing Your Money We realize the information in these e-books are somewhat abstract and hard to wrap your head around at first. This FDIC report reduces all of the concepts and principles you just learned to quick checklists that you can run down to ensure you’re doing the most important things right. Everything from avoiding scams to saving money to dealing effectively with banks is covered. We advise reading some of the above 4 books first and “washing it all down” with this one.
Asset Building 101 (Saving & Investing)
Once you know the basics of personal finance, you are ready to begin building assets – savings and investments – that will compound and build your wealth over time. This is the cornerstone of financial freedom, because a healthy savings account and a diverse portfolio of well-performing investments eliminates worries about sudden financial disaster. The following 5 e-books will introduce you to asset building by offering various practical tips, strategies, and suggestions.
- How SIPC Protects You. The old adage “safety first” applies to savings and investing as much as anything else. Accordingly, this e-book educates you on what to do if your stock brokerage firm closes or goes under and how the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) tries to recover the money you invested with the broker. You will also learn the critical distinctions between that the SIPC does and does not protect against. Read this before investing any amount of money in anything!
- 66 Ways to Save Money. The most common rationalization for not saving money is “I don’t make enough to save any of it.” The answer offered by the authors of this e-book is “bull!” In it, you’ll learn 66 practical ways to cut your expenses, get better deals on everything from financial services to transportation to grocery shopping, and re-direct all or most of the saved money to your savings or investments. If you’ve ever found yourself saying that you don’t make enough to save, or are just interested in new ways to save more money than you currently do, check this e-book out!
- All About The Foreign Exchange Market in the US. A somewhat more advanced topic, which is discussed in this NewYorkFed.org e-book, is the U.S. segment of the global foreign exchange market. If you are already set up with a savings account and US investments and want to learn more about getting into foreign investing, this e-book is a terrific place to start.
- Get The Facts on Saving and Investing. If you have been wanting to start saving and investing but didn’t know where to begin, this report is here to help. In addition to getting a broad overview of saving and investing in general, you will learn several specific tips and receive worksheets you can use to quickly calculate your expenses, net worth, and income. These will come in handy time and time again as ways of checking on the progress you are making toward your goals.
- Tools of the Trade: A Basic Guide to Financial Derivatives. Another advanced but worthwhile savings and investment topic is the nature and advantages of financial derivatives. Here, you will learn how various derivatives can be employed as tools for managing your financial risks (such as inflation or unemployment.) You will also learn important questions to ask anyone trying to get you to invest in derivatives, allowing you to know, for sure, whether doing so will truly advance your goals.
Debt 101 (Credit Cards)
Credit cards allow you to spend money you don’t have. This is the area of personal finance where many people start to have trouble, taking on more debt than they can afford and digging an ever-deeper hole that becomes nearly impossible to get out of. The 5 e-books below will educate you on how to get out of that hole (if you are currently in it) and then proceed to establishing good credit and sound debt practices.
- Credit Repair Guide. Many people need to clean up their existing credit report before they can work on improving it. If you’re one of those people, this free Credit Repair Guide will be immensely helpful. You’ll learn the essentials of how credit scores are determined (including yours), and how the e-book author improved his own credit score from 616 to a pristine 742! You can’t afford not to know the tips and principles discussed in this free guide.
- Building a Better Credit Report. This e-book clues you in on credit-related scams, how to quickly pay down your debts, and legal vs. illegal ways to improve your credit report. If you’ve already read the Credit Repair Guide and want to learn some additional tips not discussed there, check out the Building a Better Credit Report guide!
- A Consumer’s Guide to Credit Cards. If you’re like most people, you arrive home each day to find your mailbox stuffed with “pre-approved” credit card offers and solicitations. Maybe you’ve wondered “how do I cut through all this clutter and find the one, right credit card for me?” This free e-book will help you answer that question, as well as avoid being ripped off by credit card companies who have their own best interests at heart. Don’t even think about applying for a credit card before you read this guide. In fact, you should probably read it even if you do have a credit card already, to see if it’s the best one for you!
- SHOP: The Credit Card You Pick Can Save You Money Every credit card offer you receive tells you it’s the right one for you. The gleaming headlines and testimonials from happy customers make it seem like you’d be a fool to look anywhere else. But the exact opposite is true: only a fool would apply for a credit card without looking anywhere else. To that end, this e-book offers helpful guidelines and criteria for choosing the right card for you, based on an assessment of your spending habits. You will also learn the importance (or unimportance) of APR, cash advance fees, grace periods for interest-free repayment, annual fees, and more.
- Healthy Credit. If all of this seems overwhelming and you are thinking about skipping it, this e-book will motivate you not to do that by explaining how profoundly your credit report and score affects your financial life as a whole. Your credit score could literally be the difference between getting a loan or not getting it (and, if you get it, how high your interest rate is.) You will also learn how to stay financially secure once you are.
Financial Security 101 (Privacy & ID Theft)
No matter how financially intelligent you are, how much money you save, or how high your credit score is, it can all vanish in the blink of an eye – if you don’t know how to protect yourself from security risks. Identity theft is on the rise, e-mail hoaxes abound, and you can never be too safe from threats to your private financial records. Following are 5 free e-books that will educate you on the most prevalent risks and how to protect yourself from them.
- Identity Theft. If all you know about identity theft is that there are an awful lot of newspaper stories and TV news reports about it, this e-book is required reading. It will tell you exactly what identity theft is, the many ways in which ID theives can impersonate you out in the world, how to stop them from doing so, and what to do if you are indeed the victim of identity theft. Think of this guide as “Identity Theft Prevention 101.”
- Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number. As you will learn from the e-book above, many identity theft plots center around a person’s Social Security number. This e-book delves deeper into that topic by explaining why and how someone who has your Social Security number can completely destroy your finances, doing everything from opening credit cards in your name to making huge purchases on your dime. Fortunately, the tips in this e-book also explain how to prevent this from happening and how to report it if you think you have been victimized by it already.
- ID Theft: What It’s All About. This e-book offers another eye-opening overview of identity theft, straight from the Federal Trade Commission. Since the FTC deals with and responds to thousands of identity theft cases every day, it stands to reason that they are an excellent source of information for how to spot and avoid such scams yourself. This 36 page pamphlet is one you wont want to miss!
- Phishing and Pharming: Helping Consumers Avoid Internet Fraud. Never heard of phishing? Okay – ever hear of those bogus e-mails from Nigerian “royalty” begging to transfer a multi-million dollar fortune into your bank account? Now you’ve heard of phishing. Unfortunately, phishing scams can be much more complex and convincing than the Nigerian royalty ones most of us know to avoid. This guide will help educate you on how to spot a phishing scam before it’s too late, saving you precious time and money each time you successfully spot one.
- Privacy Choices for Your Personal Financial Information. This e-book explains, in a tidy 6 pages, how you can opt out of sharing personal information with the companies you do business with, as well as which information banks and financial companies are entitled to share about you. Tragically few people know this information, and so they are left guessing. Don’t be one of them! This could be the best 30 minutes of reading you embark upon in this entire article.
Wise Consumerism 101 (Consumer Awareness)
Do you know someone who always seems to somehow, miraculously, get good deals on everything they buy? Have you ever wished you could do the same? You can! With practice and reading, you can become a wise consumer, one who carefully researches and plans every major purchase in order to ensure getting the best possible deal. While this will take time, the following 5 resources will get you a nice running start.
- The Consumer Handbook. The Consumer Handbook is bar none the best place to start learning how to be a wise consumer. By the time you’re done, you’ll know how to get the best deals on everything from cars to credit cards to insurance to vacations, as well as how and whom to complain to when something goes wrong. Don’t be scared off by the hefty (for an e-book) 178 pagecount! There’s valuable information on every page and you’ll be glad you invested (there’s that word again!) the time in sucking it all up.
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a Financial Planner. Picking a financial planner isn’t always easy. Between worries about conflicts of interest (many planners get paid a percentage of anything they sell you) and fears of overpaying, it’s easy to let analysis-paralysis prevent you from making a decision. That’s why this super-helpful guide from the Certified Financial Planners offers 10 essential questions to ask anyone trying to sell you financial advice. Armed with these questions, you’ll feel confident about whomever you choose to put in charge of your long-term finances and know with a reasonable degree of certainty that they are competent to do the job.
- Consumer’s Almanac. The Consumer’s Almanac offers a number of “cheat sheets” and checklists for tying together all the concepts and principles you’ve learned, such as monthly calendars and worksheets for tracking your expenses and progress toward your savings/investment goals. Use them often for the best results!
- What You Should Know About Buying Life Insurance. Many people assume you cannot get a good deal on life insurance. They assume that a policy from one company is essentially the same as any other. Wrong! Insurance policies are not commodities, but sophisticated risk management tools that can be tailored to your exact needs, net worth, and risk preference. This e-book explains how to get the best deal on life insurance by ensuring you research multiple companies and different types of policies based on your own needs, rather than accepting the first cookie-cutter policy you are offered.
- Know Before You Go… To Get a Mortgage. Part of being a wise consumer is knowing what risks are out there and how to intelligently manage or avoid them. This e-book helps educate you on that with regard to getting a mortgage. Like insurance policies, mortgages can and should be tailored to your exact needs and resources. You will learn how to do that, as well as which types of mortgages may and may not be suited for someone of your financial standing. Don’t apply for a mortgage without consulting this trim 16 page booklet!
We realize that you probably don’t have the time to read all 25 of these e-books. That’s okay – what is important is that you read the ones most relevant to your decision making, especially those aimed at alerting you to risks and mistakes that are commonly made. With enough reading and dedication to applying what you’ve read. you will no doubt reach financial success sooner than most. Good luck!
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