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10 of the Best Foundational Books for Aspiring Investors

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My investing journey started with a single book: The Intelligent Asset Allocator by William Bernstein. Investing in literature is a great way to dip your toes into the water without receiving ‘recency bias’ from financial advisors and commentators.

All the great minds of investing come from a solid foundation in literature. That’s why they are quick to recommend books as a first step for their fans and proteges. Warren Buffett is famously noted for recommending book #4 to those who ask: ‘how do I get started?’

My list today has ten books for aspiring investors that massively changed my life. Pick one – or two – and begin your journey towards successful investing today.

#1 The Index Card – Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsI couldn’t think of a better way to start your personal finance journey. Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack lay out the basics and they keep it simple. From this literature flows everything else: budgets, retirement, passive investing, and real estate are all covered. As one of the books for aspiring investors, 85 percent of your questions will be answered here.

The original concept was ten simple rules that can be written on an index card. Each chapter corresponds to a rule. The beauty, simplicity, and thorough treatment of each topic is its own reward.

#2 A Random Walk Down Wall Street – Burton Malkiel

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsThis is Burton Malkiel’s great and much-cited treatise on publicly traded markets. Like The Index Card, Malkiel encourages nearly all investors to keep it simple. Indexing, modern portfolio theory, diversification, and even some more uncommon assets are covered. The book adds an additional dose of history and context relating specifically to the stock market. A must for anyone considering stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs.

Malkiel is a great and funny writer. Some of my colleagues have described this as dry; but investment reading will take more concentration than fiction or exciting nonfiction. Let’s face it, this is reality.

#3 The Intelligent Asset Allocator – William J. Bernstein

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsThe book that started it all for me. A less common read, but a notable homage to Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor (#4). Bernstein, a neurologist by trade, is a self-taught practitioner of modern portfolio theory. Bernstein provides the most concise methodology and examples for asset allocation. Today, his wisdom is treated as common sense in the world of index investing and robo advising.

In Bernstein’s own experience, he gives great credence to a DIY model of investing. He is a smart and talented person, truly self-taught, and an inspiration for my own writing and investing experience.

#4 The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring Investors“By far the best book on investing ever written” – Warren Buffett.

Benjamin Graham was Warren Buffett’s mentor. The Intelligent Investor is the granddaddy of all books for aspiring investors on the public markets. First published over sixty years ago, Graham’s wisdom on portfolio management is timeless as ever. Even if you decide you don’t like this book, you have to read it just to check this box. Forget technical analysis, stick with the fundamentals.

#5 Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsNot an investing book you say? True, Getting Things Done is all about task management and understanding how to conquer the various, competing concerns of your life. Here’s why it matters: investors need time and task management more than anyone. What do you plan to invest? Money. Well, how do you plan to get some? I thought so.

We all need a little help when it comes to getting our lives in order. No matter the sport, every athlete needs a good fitness regimen. Getting Things Done will get you into shape for hard work and productivity.

#6 The Millionaire Next Door – Tom Stanley

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsMoving away from technicals. What exactly is the picture of wealth in the United States? What does a wealthy person look like? How did they arrive where they are?

Tom Stanley’s seminal classic is a must for anyone walking the path toward financial wisdom. American millionaires are much different than what we expect from the media. Stanley’s research provides a clear picture of the myriad of characteristics and behaviors you will see in the wealthy majority. Stanley takes time and effort to note the differences between flashy consumption-oriented pho-wealth, and actual wealth.

The Millionaire Next Door is a recent history lesson on the culture of means in America. A must-read for small business owners and aspiring investors with plans to build their fortunes the old-fashioned way.

#7 Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring Investors

I may get some flack for this one, but I don’t care, it’s a great read.

Peter Thiel opened my perspective on what kind of value new entrants in business can and do add to a marketplace. Do you realize that owning a business is a form of investment? Seems obvious to people who know it, but many business owners do not always see themselves as investors.

Thiel confronts the nature of innovation and how it should be assessed in relation to the world as it exists. He also provides great cultural context for change, progress, and prevailing sentiment. A must read for any aspiring entrepreneur, and a useful read for investors in new and emerging markets.

#8 The Age of Deleveraging – A. Gary Shilling

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsNormally, I shy away from predictors determined to assess the future via crystal ball or otherwise. Gary Shilling is a truly great commentator that had his hand on the direction of the post-recession economy. Many of his predictions did come to fruition in the past six years. Moreover, he provides great perspective on what to do, and how to be un-stuck.

Reading the book in 2016 is a bit of a trip, because it’s almost six years old. Despite that, it’s a nice lesson in assessing attitudes and prevailing sentiment to craft a view of the near-term economy and one fo the best books for aspiring investors .

#9 Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsYou probably expected this one. Even if you’re not interested in landlording, flipping, or commercial real-estate, I still recommend giving this a read. Robert Kiyosaki magically taught a generation of investors to understand that a home is a liability and not an investment. That may be all you get out of it, but it’s worth the cost of the book.

With his focus on income, action, good deals, and creativity, there is so much you can learn. Real estate investors have a scrappiness and closeness with their assets. You see this in few other sectors aside from small business. Learn from them, and even if you don’t take the bait, it’s a great and eyeopening experience.

#10 The Science of Getting Rich (A Thrifty Book) – Wallace Wattles

Best Foundational Books for Aspiring InvestorsAn admittedly strange and old-timey book. This book advocates a state of mind focused on creating value, working with others, and avoiding unnecessary conflict.

In a world where division and excuses are all too common, Wattles suggests that business people and investors are the ones to bring people together. Investors create value and we seek to avoid conflict, apathy, and the meddling that so often destroys the best laid plans and intentions. A great treatise on the practical philosophy and the social good of average investors.

 

Getting started is usually the hardest part.

Investment and responsible personal finance is no exception. But by reading these books for aspiring investors like yourself, you can start immediately and for a very low cost. You may even be free with the help of your local library.

My only request is send a Tweet to the author if you like their book. These writers love to hear from their readers, and will be grateful for the support.