In my early 20s, I was always been careful with money. I didn’t buy the latest gadgets or fashion and, growing up in a poor household, was a saver by default. I thought I was good with money.
But last year, found myself in an apartment in a foreign country crying on the floor because I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. One disaster, and then another had hit and I was out of options. I felt trapped.
A friend told me that to get more money in my bank account, I have two options: earn more, or spend less – and ideally, both. I knew that I couldn’t control earning more immediately – I was waiting to hear back on more work, but I couldn’t control that.
But I could control how much I was spending. I looked at what I spent every day and anything that wasn’t critical to my survival, I cut.
Dinner with friends? Let’s cook at my place instead. Taxis? Nope, gotta be more organised than that! Coffee in a cafe? A thermos in the park is just as nice.
I survived that time. I learned a lot about how to be organised in order to live on a low budget and I got through until more work came through.
But I was determined to never be in that situation again. So, I started learning about personal finance by reading at the library. The lessons were simple, but I never learned these lessons growing up because my parents had never learned about financial management, either.
There are three books I read that changed the way I will approach money for the rest of my life. Here’s what they are and how they impacted me.
The Barefoot Investor | Scott Pape
When I was eighteen, I asked my Dad “What’s super? Is that a thing I need to worry about?”
He said, “No, you don’t need to worry about that until you retire.”
He was wrong. So, so wrong. It’s too late for him to fix his financial future. But it’s not too late for me. Because time is still on my side.
I wish he had the opportunity to gain greater financial literacy when he was younger so he could have learned what it means to save, how to budget, what super is, and how credit cards work, so now that he’s older, he has something to live off.
I’m only learning about money for the first time now. But its better than in thirty years’ time.
I really enjoyed The Barefoot Investor because it explained the basics of how money works across our lifetime. And, bonus, it’s from an Australian perspective. While I haven’t done “al the steps” in the book, it really is the financial education I wish I’d received in school.
Worth It | Amanda Steinberg
Did you know that the largest growing number of homeless people are women over 55? So, like, your mum, basically. Or your aunt. You know why? Well, there are plenty of reasons in our society that contribute. Women leave jobs to raise kids so there are years they aren’t working. They get paid less for the same job. Women aren’t taught how to manage money in the same way as men. They are taught that ‘boys are good at math, girls are good at English’ in school, so let their husbands manage money. Over decades, it all adds up.
So now, a growing group of women suddenly find themselves without any money when they retire at 50. And they become homeless. This is a problem our society needs to fix. But for myself, this isn’t a future I want for my mum, my aunts or myself. Or you.
The book Worth It is about women view money and how we view ourselves. It’s about looking at the systems and structures that make it harder for us to learn about money. It’s an amazing book.
The reason I love Worth It is that is is a good kick in the backside about how important it is for women to take control of our money. Waiting for Prince Charming to swoop in with the cash is foolish when your life depends on having a strong financial foundation for you. And, you can start with making better changes today.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad | Robert Kiyosaki
When I was at university, I made friends with someone whose parents were, like, super rich. One night on Messenger, he told me that he planned to be a millionaire by age 30. “He had”, he told me, “it all planned out”.
This did not compute for me. It was obvious his upbringing had taught him something different about money than what I’d learnt. I was working three jobs at the time and I was happy to make it to the end of the month, let alone be able to plan ahead what I could do with that money to become a millionaire.
When I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I understood what my friend had been taught about money that I hadn’t. It explained the difference between money and wealth. He’s learnt this by being surrounded by a family that learned different things about money than mine.
The book changed the way I thought about money from ‘something that comes in on a paycheck each month’, to a ‘resource’ that can be used in different ways to grow over time.
Do I have plans to be a millionaire now? Nah. But I understand a lot more about how building wealth works. I have a lot more information about how it works – and education gives us control to make better decisions.
These books changed the way I see, plan for and use money. They aren’t gospel, of course. And these aren’t the only books on money. This is the bit where I make the financial disclaimer that you need to make the money calls that work for you. But these are three books gave me an understanding of money that I didn’t have before.
Having financial literacy is so important. I feel like many of us have been sent out into the world with money, and it’s like having been given a car without any driving lessons. You can fumble along, but the mistakes you make can be very costly over time.
These books are fun and interesting reads, all with great storytelling in them. I totally recommend getting into them because they will set you up with a great base of financial literacy.
Your local library should have these books – mine did! Or, ask around and see if your friends have them on a bookshelf and borrow them!