Six of the best personal finance books you should read now

From getting out of debt to investing for the next 10 years, there are thought-provoking reads for everyone on our shortlist of new finance books

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When the going gets tough, the tough stop going to brunch. Or at the very least, they rethink their financial habits. Certainly, that seems to be the case here in the UAE, where 89 per cent of respondents in a recent Standard Chartered survey said the coronavirus pandemic had prompted them to take a more mindful approach to saving and, by extension, to financial matters.

But whether you are thinking of how the uncertain economy might affect your retirement plans or wondering how to finally take control of your finances, a book is a pretty good place to start.

While classics such as The Intelligent Investor and Think and Grow Rich are probably already on your bookshelf (or e-reader), perhaps it's time for a refresher course. Here are the best new personal finance books on the market right now.

Millennial Talks Money is a chatty compendium of advice on how to talk about money at work, with family, friends and partners.

Broke Millennial Talks Money by Erin Lowry

Money is a major cause of conflict in relationships of all kinds, partly because each person has such a different understanding of the subject. As the author of a popular blog and two other books in the Broke Millennial series, author Erin Lowry says she was often asked how to talk about money.

“People would ask specific questions about awkward interactions that were seemingly only made uncomfortable about money,” she writes in the introduction to her new book, published in December.

These included questions about travelling with friends where everyone was on a different budget, paying for a dinner they were invited to, or helping settle a partner’s student loans.

That got her thinking about creating a definitive guide to navigating these conversations. The result is a chatty compendium of advice on how to talk about money at work, with family, friends and romantic partners – complete with scripts and stories.

The New York-based finance writer covers a wide range of scenarios, including how to tell friends you can’t afford the kind of lifestyle they have, how to ask your parents what their retirement plans are and if they need your support, and how to negotiate money matters with your boss.

$16.00, penguinrandomhouse.com

The Good Retirement Guide 2021, edited by Jonquil Lowe

Retirement is traditionally a time to take it easy, travel and maybe pursue a lifelong hobby or two. But whether you get to do that or not depends on how much money you’ve saved.

The Good Retirement Guide helps you determine how you'd like to spend these years and create a roadmap to get there.

Although written for UK audiences, the book – which has been updated for 2021 – contains useful tips and insights that anyone thinking about their retirement will find useful, whether it is tax and healthcare matters, starting a business or looking after your elderly parents.

This book contains useful tips and insights that anyone thinking about their retirement will find useful, whether it is tax and healthcare matters, starting a business or looking after your elderly parents. Courtesy: Jonquil Lowe

"In The Good Retirement Guide, we prompt readers to research their options thoroughly, thinking about their sources of income – and their stability given exchange rate fluctuations, how their spending will change, the ins and outs of buying property abroad, and healthcare costs," editor Jonquil Lowe, an economist and personal finance writer, tells The National.

“Often, people overlook the tax aspect. Countries have different tax systems – outside the UK, for example, annual property taxes are common.”

£19.99, koganpage.com

Financial Feminism by Jessica Robinson

Women in the Middle East managed nearly $800 billion in assets, or about 13 per cent of the region’s total wealth, according to data from the consultants BCG. While that figure is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 9 per cent over the next three years, they have a long way to go before they achieve gender parity.

Dubai-based sustainable financial strategist Jessica Robinson believes a feminist approach can help women take charge of their finances.

A Woman's Guide to Investing for a Sustainable Future by Jessica Robinson. Courtesy Unbound

"There is a great deal of evidence now that many women do not feel very confident when it comes to money matters, compounded by feeling patronised by the financial industry. To overcome this, we need to get educated and take control. We can change the world through our investment decisions, and now is the time to be empowered," she tells The National.

Her new book, Financial Feminism: A Woman's Guide to Investing for a Sustainable Future, aims to help women use their finances to bring about a cleaner, fairer world.

“When it comes to investing, it is clear that many women are highly motivated to think about societal and environmental impacts in their investment decisions. At the same time, women feel disengaged from money decisions and the financial industry.

“I want to change this; I want to encourage women to be sustainable investors. These trends are happening globally but also here in the Middle East, especially in the UAE, where female investors want to use their decisions for positive change.”

Dh46, Amazon.com

2030 by Mauro F. Guillén

We’ve heard a lot about how the coronavirus pandemic accelerated technological and socioeconomic trends that have been slowly gathering momentum over the past few years, but what does that mean for a world bursting at the seams with 8.5 billion people, more grandparents than grandchildren and more robots than workers?

While not strictly a personal finance book, it serves as a big-picture view of how any investment decisions you make today might play out by the end of the decad

Wharton sociologist Mauro F Guillén explores the impact of those themes in his new book, 2030: How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything.

While not strictly a personal finance book, this roadmap to navigate the turbulence ahead, as Mr Guillén calls it, serves as a big-picture view of how any investment decisions you make today might play out by the end of the decade.

Should you invest in cryptocurrencies? Are sub-Saharan Africa’s middle classes on your radar yet? And what role will senior citizens play?

“All of us will need to approach this new world differently than we have in the past,” he writes. “The [book] offers principles and approaches we can use to make sense of this new reality – and prosper from the opportunities it creates. It’s all unfolding in our lifetime, and it’s right around the corner.”

$14.99, wsp.wharton.upenn.edu

The book is a psychological course in unpicking our attitudes to money and taking ownership of our actions.

Real Life Money: An Honest Guide to Taking Control of Your Finances by Clare Seal

Will 2021 be the year you finally learn to manage your money? Clare Seal’s account of her road to breaking free of debt may help.

A bonafide financial influencer, Ms Seal is the Instagrammer behind @MyFrugalYear, an account she set up anonymously in May 2019 to help her stay on the road to clearing a £25,000 mountain of debt.

Within the first year, the mum of two had gained 45,000 followers, and while she’s still in debt, the book is a psychological course in unpicking our attitudes to money (and other people) and taking ownership of our actions, while simultaneously acknowledging that our debt traps may not be entirely of our own making.

It’s a gentle, easy book with Ms Seal playing BFF, an attitude that helps the message hit home. As she writes, “Stop defining yourself by your financial situation. You are so much more than your debt.” A companion journal is also available.

£14.99, uk.bookshop.org

This book is more philosophical treatise than practical financial plan.

Die with Zero by Bill Perkins

If the pandemic has awakened you to your own mortality, you might want to reconsider your approach to money.

Energy trader Bill Perkins offers a counterintuitive look at traditional wisdom in Die with Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life.

More philosophical treatise than practical financial plan, the entire book is summed up in one question: “When does the ant ever get to play?” he asks at the start of the book, referencing Aesop’s tale of the ant and the grasshopper.

Inspired by Nobel-winning economist Franco Modigliani, he encourages us to think about the concept of net zero: where experiences matter more than accumulating wealth for the sake of it.

Mr Perkins introduces concepts such as time bucketing (a way to maximise memorable moments over your lifetime), as well as your “spend curve” and “personal interest rate”, which help you determine whether to invest in or delay potentially life-changing adventures. Similarly, rather than leave a financial legacy, he suggests giving away money in your lifetime.

Contrary to popular belief that we may have too little money as we age, he cites data showing that for heads of households between the ages of 70 and 74, the median net worth is $225,390. Actuarial tables and annuities are among the solutions he offers to get there – although they may not work for everyone. Still, it’s a concept worth thinking about if only to determine your own personal balance between the ant and grasshopper lifestyles.

$27, Amazon.com

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