Looking for books on personal finance? Know what to look for first!

Published: April 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Last Updated on April 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm

“I am beginner. What books should I read to learn the basics of personal finance and money management?”, is a standard question asked in most forums.

The answer is not a list of books! The answer is not ‘Rich Grandma. Poor Grandma!’

I love books. I love buying them, collecting them, being among them, smelling them, shelving them. Pretty much everything except reading them! Many who interact with me assume that I am well read and find it strange when I tell them I simply can’t focus hard enough to read. So how did I manage? (assuming I do!).

I think asking for books, before knowing what to look for, is a waste of time.  Books are informative, yes, but only those who know how to process that information can convert it into knowledge.

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Process meaning, recognizing context, limitations, assumptions etc.

It is all about the key word!

Some say Google is a source of knowledge. Some say it is a source of information. It is primarily a source of noise which their bots cough up in under 0.5 seconds in response to your search terms.  To quickly narrow down on the most relevant links the quality of the key words used in the search matter. If you type in too general keywords, the real gems would be obscured by pages who use ‘SEO techniques’ to figure higher in the search pages.

So it all about the key word. The right key word could get us the pages with right information and with luck it would pre-processed with useful perspective.

The question is, how do I know the right keyword? How do I know what to look for? What book do I read for figuring out what books I ought to read?!

My experience is that this happens by accident. In fact I suggest you create such accidents!

Don’t ask vague questions, like what do I read!

Be specific when you post in online forums: I have XXX requirement and am looking for YYY. Ask a specific questions, you will get a specific answer (from at least a few people!).

Specific answers would be ripe with key words, which you can explore further.

If you don’t know what you need, there are enough ‘getting started’ articles available online. These give you a list of requirements which can be modified to personal circumstances.

Sometimes specific opinionated comments to blog posts help!

Many years ago, when Jagoinvestor was a blog for DIY investors, Manish had written a post on retirement planning. I had made a comment (don’t remember what I said).

Subra(money.com) responded (first interaction!) angrily. He said unless a person knows about building a retirement basket, laddered annuities, income laddering, they cannot claim to know about retirement planning.

I still have that comment stored in my old computer. For a person trying to find out more about retirement planning, Subra’s comment was literally gold. It had all the keywords I needed to make specific searches. Practically the post-retirement strategy posts that you see today (bucket method, inflation protected income etc.) originate from Subra’s comment.

That is the power of the right key word. That is the power of knowing what to look for.

My search led me to Jim Otar’s book: Unveiling the Retirement Myth

It practically gave me everything I was looking for. All the formulae for compounding and annuities. Understanding risk, volatility, importance of back-testing, asset allocation and much more. It was my one stop shop, as they say.

The same is true with creating Excel sheets. People ask me for books from which they can learn Excel from and I tell them I just Google. I knew what exactly I was looking for and hence could find it easily.

When it comes to personal finance, a desire to plan meticulously will tell you what needs to be done. That in turn will lead you to resources as to how that should be done. You implement, plan for the next step. Rinse and repeat.

As simple as that.

I think books ought to be treated as a means to an end. Be it pleasure or unprocessed information.


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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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