Eight personal finance classics every saver must read

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when it comes to learning about finances, these books are priceless. Here is a list of eight financial must-reads. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Students going into fourth grade at Harvard Kent Elementary School attend summer school, on August 1, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.

A surprising 21% of Americans think that winning the lottery is the most practical way to accumulate several hundred thousands of dollars. The problem with this financial plan is that the odds are against you. You're more likely to be killed by a shark (one in 3.7 million chance) than hitting the jackpot of the Mega Millions (one in 259 million chance).

The key to financial stability is learning the essential concepts and skills necessary to make smart choices. To help you steer in the right direction, here are eight more classic personal finance books that are still worth reading. (See also: The 8 Classic Personal Finance Books You Must Read)

1. The Great Crash

"The four most dangerous words in investing are 'This time it's different.'" This is not only one of the coolest sayings about investing, but also one that stands the test of time. First published in 1954, John Kenneth Galbraith's The Great Crash 1929 provides a great review of the rampant speculation and record trading volume of the stock market in the 1920s, leading to the Wall Street crash of 1929.

You could easily swap the dates and numbers of The Great Crash and describe about any other market bubble, be it the Black Monday of 1987 or the dot-com bubble of 2000. Learn the signs of an economic bubble so that when somebody promises you a quick-rich investing scheme, you can reply with a quick "no."

2. Total Money Makeover

You may know Dave Ramsey from his popular radio show, The Dave Ramsey Show, touching on life's tough money questions. Whether you're already a fan or haven't ever heard from him, you should read his 2003 book, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, which is a complete guide for financial prosperity.

The main appeal of The Total Money Makeover is its down-to-earth and down-to-business approach to managing your finances. Those struggling with debt or finding it difficult to build an emergency fund can find step-by-step guides, often including worksheet templates to track progress.

3. One Up on Wall Street

Superstar investor Peter Lynch seems to be able to do it all. He turned $18 million in assets into more than $14 billion, personally hired some of the most successful investors you've never heard of, and penned several bestsellers.

Written in 1989, One Up on Wall Street: How to Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market is a great guide on how to spot investment opportunities. Lynch offers easy-to-follow advice on how to review a company's financial statements and what numbers to focus on. A major draw to this book is Lynch's guidelines on how to find a "tenbagger" (Wall Street slang for a stock that makes you ten times your money).

4. Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits

There are very few investors with better returns than Warren Buffett. However, the Oracle of Omaha is well known for giving credit where credit is due. He credits 85% of his investment philosophy to Ben Graham and the remaining 15% to Phil Fisher. "I am an eager reader of whatever Phil has to say, and I recommend him to you," said Buffett about Fisher's work.

First published in 1958, Fisher's Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits was the first investment book to become a New York Times bestseller. The growth stock investing advice of Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits is as relevant today as it was back in 1958. Just ask Buffett.

5. A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Ask any group of money experts about their top 10 list of financial books and you're bound to run into Burton G. Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing often.

First published in 1973, A Random Walk Down Wall Street is a great primer for novice investors to understand their full range of investment opportunities when starting a portfolio. While some stock-picking pros may disagree with Malkiel's random walk theory (the idea that stocks take a random and unpredictable path), the empirical evidence shows that only 20% to 35% of active fund managers beat the benchmark for their category. This fact is why A Random Walk Down Wall Street is still relevant today.

6. The Millionaire Next Door

Just like Napoleon Hill was trying to figure out "what makes a winner?" back in 1937 inThink and Grow Rich (included in my other list of classic personal finance books you must read), Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko were trying to find out "What makes a millionaire?" in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy in 1996.

Through their 20-year study of wealthy individuals and their habits, Stanley and Danko were able to identify the seven common traits that show up again and again among those who have accumulated wealth. Those traits can give anybody a much needed wake-up call on how to run his or her finances!

7. The Four Pillars of Investing

"A TRIUMPH! Bill Bernstein's new book offers sound principles, unvarnished history, and unmatched understanding of the process of successful investing. It is my candidate for the best investment book of 2002." This was praise from John C. Bogle about The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio.

What's good for the founder and retired CEO of The Vanguard Group should be good for you as well. In this book, author William Bernstein lays down a commonsense investor's guide built on four pillars: the relationship of risk and reward, the history of the market, the psychology of the investor and the market, and the folly of taking financial advice from investment salespeople.

8. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

There are very few books, such as The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money from John Maynard Keynes, that have influenced so much economic and fiscal policy around the globe.

Even today, Lord Keynes' ideas are relevant when discussing economic events. Whether you're planning to vote Republican or Democrat in this upcoming election, there is a good chance that some of the economic advisors of your candidate are influenced by Keynes. While The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money can be a book hard to digest, it provides good insight into what your candidate is planning to do in times of booms and recessions. Also, this book increases your understanding of foreign government policies, which are important for assessing risk of investments abroad.

To avoid missing the best parts, just make sure to look for editions that include the footnotes.

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

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