5 books, 4 movies to learn more about personal finance
Writes about personal finance, health care and other topics.
Managing your money or teaching your kids how to handle their own can be daunting. There’s so much advice out there. Where to start?
We posed that question to five experts, asking them to recommend their favorite books and movies about personal finance. From an Academy Award-winning Hollywood blockbuster that shows how to tackle entrepreneurial challenges to a children’s picture book about the importance of saving, there’s a little bit of advice for everyone in your family.
Read on for our experts’ recommendations.
“The Automatic Millionaire,” by David Bach
Recommended by: Tiffany Aliche, also known as the Budgetnista. Aliche runs a blog devoted to helping women manage their money, and a business that advises corporations on financial literacy education.
Read this book if: You're looking for a straightforward approach to saving money and building wealth.
Aliche calls David Bach, author of the 2003 book “The Automatic Millionaire,” “my financial crush.” The premise of his plan is simple – pay yourself first. Meaning, before you spend money on a drink after work, or even rent, make sure you’ve set up automatic deductions into your retirement and other savings accounts.
“This is the first finance book I read where the tone didn’t make me feel ashamed of myself,” Aliche said.
“The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho
Recommended by: Tiffany Aliche.
Read this book if: You’re looking for entrepreneurial inspiration – or inspiration of any kind.
Another recommendation from Aliche is “The Alchemist, ” a Brazilian novel from 1998. A classic that’s been translated into 70 languages, it tells the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago, who dreams of seeing the world. As described by Publisher’s Weekly, Santiago “journeys from Spain to Morocco in search of worldly success, and eventually to Egypt, where a fateful encounter with an alchemist brings him at last to self-understanding and spiritual enlightenment.”
Aliche found the book comforting as she built her own business from scratch. “It tells you ‘OK, you have this big dream, and the road is not going to be easy, but it’s supposed to look like that,’” she said.
“Confessions of a Shopaholic,” directed by P.J. Hogan
Recommended by: MaryBeth Bailey, who teaches financial literacy to middle schoolers in Bryant, Arkansas.
Watch this movie if: You want to share with your family a fictional lesson about the reality of credit card debt.
Bailey illustrates the perils of credit card spending by showing her seventh-graders excerpts from the 2009 movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
The film, based on a pair of books by author Sophie Kinsella, tells the story of a magazine writer who can’t manage to stop shopping, even though she’s drowning in debt. Her habit threatens her job and her love interest. Eventually, she ends up attending Shopaholics Anonymous meetings, and figuring out creative ways to pay back the money she owes.
Bailey wrote in an email: “The movie puts a humorous spin on the seriousness of overspending, but also shows the real-life consequences that people can face.”
“Broke, Busted & Disgusted,” directed by Calvin Johannsen
Recommended by: Brian Brandow, who started his blog Debt Discipline in 2010, so he and his family of five could publicly chronicle their way out of $109,000 in debt.
Watch this film if: You want to jump-start a family discussion about how to plan and pay for college.
The 2016 film explores the growing crisis of student loan debt and its impact on the graduates – and dropouts – of American higher education. “It will help set the stage for an open and honest conversation on the cost of higher education,” said Brandow.
“The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy,” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Recommended by: Brian Brandow.
Read this book if: You want to learn about how most wealthy Americans make their money – and how you could be one of them.
The authors of this perennial favorite (it was first published in 1996) hold that the average person can become rich by dint of hard work and virtuous thrift.
Brandow wrote in an email: “It’s a book that will make you think differently about how you are handling your own money.”
“Annie,” directed by John Huston
Recommended by: Ron Lieber, who writes the Your Money column for The New York Times, and is the author of “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money.”
Watch this movie if: You want to invite your family to consider what money can buy – and what it can’t.
For those who find the whole subject of money intimidating – or who would like to find a way to discuss finance with their children – Lieber offers a couple of family-friendly options that should ease even the most anxiety-ridden into the subject.
Asked via email what personal finance movie he recommended, Lieber wrote back: “Annie!”
The classic musical from 1982, set in the depths of the Depression, tells the story of a poor orphan girl who charms her way into the heart of a hitherto-cold industrialist, Oliver Warbucks. He agrees to help her find her long-lost parents by offering a reward if they can prove their identity. But a cast of misguided, greedy characters, led by the orphanage’s mistress Miss Hannigan, try to claim the cash for themselves, putting red-headed Annie in danger.
The movie, Lieber wrote, is “a great opportunity to talk about how much is too much – and how much (and how much of what) is enough.”
“A Chair for My Mother,” by Vera B. Williams
Recommended by: Ron Lieber.
Read this book if: You're looking for a simple, charming lesson about patience, resilience and the importance of saving.
In this picture book, a girl, her diner-waitress mom and a grandmother lose all their furniture in a house fire. They get a new apartment and donations of pots and pans and dishes, even a kitchen table and chairs. But there’s no comfy furniture to rest on after a long day. So into a big jar go all their extra coins – change from tips at the restaurant, money left over from the grandmother’s bargain shopping. When the jar is full, they head to the furniture store.
Lieber wrote: “The final shopping sequence is glorious and reminds me of watching my older daughter make her first big purchase with all of the money she had slowly saved over time.”
“The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness,” by Dave Ramsey
Read this book if: You want to learn the basics about how to get out of debt and provide for your future.
Hayes recommends launching your financial education with the 2003 bestseller “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.” It guides readers through a financial plan in seven steps that, said Hayes, “are easy to digest and implement in your daily life.”
“The Social Network,” directed by Aaron Sorkin
Recommended by: Deacon Hayes.
Watch this movie if: You want to get a taste of the entrepreneurial life.
“The Social Network,” a 2010 movie about how Facebook got started, spoke to the businessman in Hayes. He liked how director Aaron Sorkin walked the viewer through the thought process of founder Mark Zuckerberg, describing how the business began and the steps Zuckerberg and others took to get Facebook to where it is today.
“This shows you – if you’ve got an idea, do something with it,” Hayes said.
Want more recommendations? Check out our selection of eight novels that show how credit cards appear in fiction and our top 10 Hollywood credit card movies.
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