Photograph by Shayla Hunter
By Elizabeth O'Brien
December 21, 2016

Cash might top the holiday wish list for the teens and young adults in your life. But do they know what to do with it, besides blowing it at the mall or their favorite online retailer?

Financial literacy isn’t a standard part of most middle and high school curriculums, and it shows. A study last year found that 20-somethings had trouble answering basic questions about investing, interest rates and inflation. And lacking a solid foundation, many adults have trouble building a secure financial life. A startling report by the Federal Reserve Board found that 46% of adults say they could not cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 –or would have to cover it by selling something or borrowing money.

With the holidays around the corner, MONEY asked financial literacy experts, educators, and a few financially savvy parents to recommend some books that could help. Here is a list you can use to teach the teens and young adults you know about both personal and global financial topics — hopefully without feeling like you’ve assigned homework.

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5. The Money Savvy Student

Photograph by Shayla Hunter
  • Author: Adam Carroll
  • Publisher: BookPress Publishing, 2016

Think of money in sports terms: Your offensive strategy is your ability to make money, while your defense is the ability to keep expenses low, Carroll writes. The first chapter of this book invites readers to tally up the cost of being them — from clothes to orthodontia to cell phone plans — to reinforce that life is expensive. The rest of the book empowers readers to get ahead of their expenses through savvy money management and entrepreneurship.

Find it here.


4. Not Your Parents' Money Book

Photograph by Shayla Hunter
  • Author: Jean Chatzky
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2010

Geared to tweens and younger teens, this book explains how the economy works by walking readers through terms like “the deficit” and “GDP.” The lively text features questions and money reflections from real teens. While some of the references are a bit dated, there’s plenty of solid information that will never go out of style.

Find it here.


3. Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind

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  • Author: Sarah Newcomb
  • Publisher: (John Wiley & Sons, 2016)

Sophisticated young people will appreciate how Newcomb plumbs the origins of individuals’ money beliefs. The first part of her book helps readers identify their own relationship to money, and the second helps them build a “human-centered” money management plan that explains some important financial basics (good debt vs. bad debt, for instance) while challenging certain conventions of the genre (wants vs. needs).

Find it here.


2. The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting and Running a Business

Photograph by Shayla Hunter
  • Author: Steve Mariotti
  • Publisher: National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, 2014

This 1996 classic has been updated to include advice on Internet marketing, social networking, and apps to track your carbon footprint. While marketed to young people, it covers business plans and other topics in enough detail to be appropriate for budding entrepreneurs of any age.

Find it here.


1. What All Kids Should Know About Saving and Investing

Photograph by Shayla Hunter
  • Author:Rob Pivnick
  • Self-published, 2011

This comprehensive guide takes young readers through a range of financial topics, from the importance of saving to portfolio diversification. The writing is clear and interspersed with graphics, delivering an engaging mix for beginners — but may also be of use to parents who need a refresher on efficient market hypothesis or the effects of inflation.

Find it here.

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