I was 19 and browsing a bookstore when I stumbled across a personal finance book. I had never seen such a thing. I curiously browsed the pages. But it was $17. And we were worst off than flat broke. We were 50k in debt. Mr. Mt was earning a whopping $1,000 a month and I was unemployed. $17 was a LOT of money. And then I was given the worst advice of my life. “Oh, sweety, don’t waste your money on that book. Just ask your uncle, he can tell you anything you need to know about that kind of stuff.” And I hesitated. $17 was a lot of money. Maybe I could get this info somewhere else. Maybe my uncle could teach me. I really didn’t want to waste $17. So with all the gumption I could muster, I pulled out my cash, took a huge leap of faith, and bought the book.
Now it was a really simple personal finance book. Budgeting, saving, emergency funds, investing for retirement. But it was life-changing for me. I have been buying books ever since.
I think reading books (even if you have to pay full price) is absolutely the best investment a person can make.
1. Opportunity of a lifetime
Imagine you settle into your seat on an airplane. You get your bag tucked away, and start flipping through the in-flight magazine. Then your seatmate sits down. They seem oddly familiar. And it hits you…it’s (Seth Godin, Dave Ramsey, Brene Brown, Tim Ferris, or any person who has written a book on a subject that interests you.) And you can barely swallow. Why the hell are they flying commercial to Detroit? Who cares. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. So you boldly ask, “Would you distill all your best knowledge in a concise and organized way that could help me over the next 2.5 hours?” That’s an enormous request. They think about your question for what seems like an eternity then respond, “Ok, I’ll do that. But you will have to pay me for my time.” Holy crap, you think, what could this cost? Sensing your internal question they answer, “$12.”
Come on now. Would you use the next 2.5 hours to hear their best advice all for a measly $12? But that is exactly what they have done in their book. Except instead of shooting from the hip, they spent months organizing, editing for readability and clarity, researching and preparing the most useful compilation of their knowledge on the subject.
I can’t imagine a better value. Even if you pay full price!
2. Best ROI
The average net worth of a 34-year-old is $17,351, according to The College Investor. Our combined net worth is $580,000. So if I divide that by two, my half would be $290,000. Looking back at myself at 19 years old and $50k in debt, the only difference between me and the average is I read about 500 books. 500 books created a $272,649 difference. Or about $545 dollars a book read.
I read about 50 books a year (for roughly the last 10 years). Now a day’s I get about 25 from the library for free (that number use to be much higher), I buy about 10-15 new. And about 10 used off Amazon, or with credit from the used book store.
25 from library=free
10 new average price $11= $110
15 used average price $5= $75
5 as gifts = free
Average book price = $3.36
So each 2.5-hour commitment and $3.36 investment has equaled $545 in net worth. But let’s be honest. If Mr. Mt wouldn’t have married me, he wouldn’t have a $290,00 net worth! So really each $3.36 book earned $1090.
That’s a damn good ROI.
But I don’t just read personal finance books. It’s harder to measure ROI in many areas of my life. I basically read every form of nonfiction written. To include:
And every self-help genre known to man
I basically walk one end of the nonfiction section of the library to the other and grab a book or two off each shelf. From beekeeping, building a passive solar home, baroque church architecture in western Europe, power of habits, real estate investing, eating superfoods, the life of St. Augustine, or the art of apology (I had to read that one a few times because I am SO bad at it). I’ve read it all. And all of it has had a positive return in my life.
3. Leaders are Readers and Readers are Leaders
If I were to list the top 100 influences in my life, I would be shocked if even 2 or 3 didn’t consistently read. Or listen to podcasts. Or audiobooks. Or blogs.
See we don’t have to come up with every great idea.
We just need to read how someone else clearly explained it.
We don’t have to figure out every method or skill. I can read about how someone else dedicated their life to the art of building dry-set stone walls and glean that wisdom without making it my life’s work (I read that one twice it was so good!)
Plus, it’s just weird to not read. I’m always a little freaked out when people tell me that.
Like no other time in history we have more access to information. Historical documents, great thought leaders, and all kinds of knowledge conveniently packaged. In audiobooks, podcasts, hardcover, digital, and internet content. And someone is like, “Yeah, but…no thanks! I’m good.” It makes my brain short circuit just a bit. I get this weird nervous twitch. I try to act all nonchalant like, “Oh, yeah, who has time for books?” (insert nervous laughter)
I putting together a book/resource page. I had always planned to do book reviews when I started this blog because books are just a powerful influencer for me. I plan to tuck those into the Friday slot occasionally. But the book page will have my list of recommendations in a few categories. Plus what I am currently reading. You’ll notice I read about 5-8 books at once. With 5 little kids, I have to be creative with how I fit reading into my life. Part of my strategy is in small piles of books. I keep a small pile of 2-3 books by my couch. 1-2 on the table in our book room. 3-4 on my bed stand. And one in each car, just in case I get someplace early and have a few minutes to read before an appointment. At least 2 of those are books I have already read once. I have a saying, “Any book worth reading, is worth reading twice.” The second time I read a book my brain is better able to sort, and store the most important information in the book and translate that into needed action steps.
Find them at the library, buy them used, or request them as a gift. (Books are the best birthday gifts. How else can you spend $10 on a gift and buy something as significant?) But even if you spend $200-$300 on books this year, it will be the best money you could spend. (As long as you read them!)
Are you a reader, other than of the awesome MMA blog?
Any book that was the “ah-ha” moment for you in personal finance?
My short/short list of favorites:
Every other topic:
The One Thing (free with Kindle Prime!)
Ah, picking 10, ok 12 books out of my 150 favorites is impossible! It’s like saying which pastry is my favorite…all of them!