11 Best Personal Finance Books of 2020

Photo to accompany best money books of 2020 list.

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The year 2020 was arguably the best and worst time to release a book about money.

On the one hand, we’re officially in a recession, and there’s an intense need for advice on navigating the financial downturn. At the same time, everyone’s growing a bit skeptical of traditional money rules — like prioritizing debt and never tapping your 401(k) early — that were linchpins in good times but are now proving harder to follow.

These new money-minded books cut through the noise and feel more urgent than ever. Whether you’re looking to earn more, talk to your kids about money, or simply get inspired to revamp your financial life, these books can help you get there.

Stock market making you nervous this year? You’re not alone. If you’re uncertain whether to invest during a volatile moment, Bola Sokunbi’s new book, Grow Your Money, can help you gain confidence and walk you through the process.

The latest addition to her Clever Girl Finance series is all about prioritizing investing and wealth-building, with Sokunbi highlighting the gender investment gap. At the end of the day, she wants everyone to overcome the fear barrier. “It’s basically a step-by-step guide for new or beginner investors,” says Sokunbi. “It breaks down the complexities of investing and helps [readers] understand how the stock market works in order to create a well-diversified and long term investing portfolio to achieve their financial goals.”

Mom, why can’t we buy this?

Dad, why are you home all the time?

Now that we’re living under the cloud of a recession, talking about money with kids is trickier than ever. Parents are feeling additional pressure to address why the family might be cutting back on costs or the consequences of a parent losing their job. It’s normal for kids to be curious, but if you’re not sure how to have these talks, consider Raising Your Money-Savvy Family for Next Generation Financial Independence by father-daughter duo Doug Nordman and Carol Pittner. Part personal stories, part practical advice, this guide will teach you how to instill financial values in kids starting as early as kindergarten (or, as the authors say, “after they stop eating money”) all the way to discussing the cost of college with your teenager. 

The wealth disparity in the U.S. goes far beyond the term “racial wealth gap.” It’s more of a chasm. As a certified public accountant and mother of three girls, Anne-Lyse Wealth wants to bridge this divide by inspiring Black people to take control of their finances and build generational wealth.

Her new book, Dream of Legacy: Raising Strong and Financially Secure Black Kids weaves together money fundamentals with a larger discussion of racial inequality as a whole. An important first step: understanding Black history and the narrative of Black ancestors, which can lead to more self-confidence in money matters. “We need to embrace our origins, struggles, successes, and challenges as a Community. All of those characteristics are part of our heritage,” she writes. “We should teach our kids pride in who they are, their rich heritage as part of the Black community. If we diligently do that, their self-worth will not be attached to how well they are doing financially or be affected by material possessions.”

Arian Simone knows what it’s like to experience financial highs and lows. She went from being abruptly fired, forced to live in her car, and living off food stamps to becoming a philanthropist and running her own venture capital fund. Her book, The Fearless Money Mindset, is like a booster shot of optimism and can help transform how you look at your finances.

“Many people have more fear in being broke, rather than faith in having abundance,” says Simone. Her journey is one of perseverance, business savvy, and faith. And it’s a testament to believing that when your luck is down, it’s only temporary — which is an essential reminder this year.

It may feel like a weird time to ask for a raise at work, but maybe that’s just because you haven’t figured out the best way to ask? In her book Ask For More, Columbia University professor and speaker Alexandra Carter shares tips on how to become an effective negotiator and see immediate results at work and in life. Her book is aimed at women, an audience she says has been sorely underserved on the topic. In fact, while Carter goes by ‘Alex’ in her daily life, she intentionally used her full name ‘Alexandra’ on the cover so everyone would know it was written by a woman. As more women are pushed out of the workforce during the pandemic, a book on how to ask for more — and get it — couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

If you’re game to break some money rules this year, you might enjoy Perkins’ book, which shatters the long-running advice to always try to leave an inheritance to your kids. For me, this book was a personal game-changer and inspired me to rethink the concept of leaving a financial legacy. After reading the book, I’m now planning to allocate all of my money while I’m still alive and able to witness the impact of my giving and spending.

Perkins, who built his wealth as a hedge fund manager, encourages us to switch off “auto-pilot” when it comes to our money. Even though it’s widely accepted to leave children and loved ones our remaining assets in a will, he simply asks, “Why?” Instead, he purports that a life well-lived is one where you intentionally spend all your money while you’re alive, rather than accumulating for the sake of accumulating. This financial philosophy has been embraced by the privileged and super rich, but in Die with Zero, Perkins makes it understandable and accessible to everyone else.

If there’s a single mantra that can be applied to everyone this year, it’s this: Save, save, and save some more. As the founder of financial planning firm Aptus Financial and the breadwinner in her family, Sarah Catherine Guitterez experienced firsthand the struggles many women can have with money, particularly when it comes to saving and investing. But First, Save 10, encourages saving at least 10% of every paycheck before doing anything else. It’s another way of saying “pay yourself first,” which is one bit of financial advice that Guitterez says she can’t preach enough. “I realized we have got to demystify this … because women don’t engage with financial services in confident ways. There is a lot of avoidance when it comes to signing up for that retirement plan,” she told me. “My life’s career is going to be in being this translator. This person who can bring women to the table and actually say, ‘Hey, it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds. We make it hard, but it’s really not.’”

Now, for a slightly different money angle, let’s talk about…the intense paper trail that comes with it. Clutter — specifically, paper clutter — can complicate life in more ways than one. Not only is it harder to find what you need, but clutter can lead to wasted time, missed opportunities, and actually losing money in the long run. In her book The Paper Solution, organization expert Lisa Woodruff explains exactly how to minimize the many paper piles in our lives, while optimizing ourselves for success. Imagine knowing exactly where your essential documents are for any situation. Tax time just got a lot easier.

Early into 2020, many of our goals vanished. Whether the plan was to save more money or start a business, buy a home or start a family, the pandemic and ensuing recession squashed a lot (OK, all) of our motivation. And while it’s not exactly a financial book, Do It For Yourself is one of the year’s best motivational journals to help you get back on your feet and in the headspace to follow through on your biggest desires. Through helpful prompts and advice, writer and NextAdvisor contributor Kara Cutruzzula helps readers identify what they want and how to get there.

In the third book of her popular Broke Millennial series, financial expert and NextAdvisor contributor Erin Lowry shares advice on having hard but important conversations about money with people in your inner circle. She covers all the bases, from preparing a prenup with your significant other to discussing retirement with your aging parents to chatting with friends who want to spend more money on shared experiences than you do. The book arrives on Dec. 29 — perfect for kicking off 2021 with a set of scripts and talking points to help you navigate every awkward money conversation.

Alright, let’s big-picture it for a second: what even is money? From the co-host of acclaimed NPR podcast Planet Money comes Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing, which questions the existence of the currency that directs all our lives, calling it “fiction.” Jacob Goldstein goes back in time to unearth the origins of money, how and why it was invented, and what it represents. It even zooms into the modern world to break down the 2008 financial crisis and the founding of bitcoin. This book offers a captivating and thought-provoking history lesson into the world of money. And if nothing else, it’ll help you impress your family at your socially-distanced Thanksgiving with some unbelievable and interesting money factoids.