A smart consumer should always ask about motivation and methodology. Here is exactly how I decide what books to read and what I’m looking for:
1. I seek out recommendations from:
1a. People who work in the field of personal finance education often have a wide knowledge of what books resonate with their students and what books have the most reliable information – – – two characteristics that don’t line up as much as they should.
1b. People who may not work in personal finance, but who I trust to be critical consumers of information. It is unknown whether or not strangers on Amazon or Goodreads have much background in the subject or capacity to judge a book, the only thing I do know is that they have an opinion. Journalists are some of the most informed consumers of information working today. If a journalist from a reputable organization recommends a book, I will follow their recommendation.
2. Criteria for the work itself:
2a. Age of book: As laws change and more data is created, most personal finance books become outdated. All books with a grounding in current law or research must have a copyright date of, at most, ten years before the date of my review. This does not apply for books considered personal finance classics, like “The Richest Man in Babylon,” which is a (more or less) timeless allegory.
2b. Expertise of writer/s: I give much more credence to authors who have a mix of the following qualifications in the field they are writing about – formal education, experience helping others (preferably professional experience), have worked in financial fields (bankers, brokers, CPAs, CFPs, AFCs, etc.), personal experience of surmounting financial hardships (although there are situations where this is very valuable, this has the least amount of credence with me, especially if they have no other education or experience, because it is so singular to their situation and personality), and/or they have conducted peer-reviewed research.
Reviews are my personal and professional opinion. I am human and, as such, not perfect. Please excuse any errors or omissions and know that they are non-malicious mistakes. If you’ve read a book and it made a difference in your life, I’d love to know! Please leave a comment in the post.