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The 5 books that helped me get on track to achieve financial independence in my 40s

Kevin Panitch is the founder of Just Start Investing.
Photo by Suzy Hampson

I have never been a big reader. Picking up a book and blazing through 100 pages never came naturally to me. But there is one topic that interests me more than anything else: personal finance. 

Personal finance and investing books have been my go-to genre for the past couple of years now, and there are a few books that have helped me develop the wealth-building strategies that have put me on track to retire as early as my 40s.

These books also inspired me to create my personal finance website, Just Start Investing. Reading the insights of these experts set me straight when it came to investing and outlined some great tips on improving your personal finances that I continue to use today.

Here are my five favorite personal finance books.

1. 'The Little Book of Common Sense Investing' by John C. Bogle

The first book on this list is arguably one of my favorite books of all time. It's one of the first investing and personal finance books that I read.

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"The Little Book of Common Sense Investing" was written by John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and of the first index fund. The book is mainly a guide to index investing. It outlines why this strategy is great for a majority of Americans, mainly because it will keep your cost of investing very low.

I'm not in bad company in loving this book either, as it was also a recommended book by Warren Buffett in his annual shareholder letter in 2014.

This book was one of the main influences for my approach to investing, as it showed me how easy and effective it can be to invest in index funds.

2. 'A Random Walk Down Wall Street' by Burton Malkiel

Burton Malkiel is a Princeton economist and advocate of the random walk theory (that stock prices change at random and cannot be predicted). Not surprisingly, Malkiel also supports the idea of index investing and matching the market instead of trying to beat it, since trying to beat it is not sustainable over the long run, according to his research.

The insight from this book is one of the reasons that instead of trading individual stocks, I opt to invest in index funds and ETFs.

If "The Little Book of Common Sense Investing" is a 101 course in investing, I would say that "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" is the 201 course that takes things a small step further and gets into the complicated details a bit more.

3. 'The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need' by Andrew Tobias

Rounding out my three favorite investment books is "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need" by Andrew Tobias.

A bold title that, in my opinion, lives up to its name. The book is more than just a pure investment guide: It covers topics such as budgeting as well as stock markets, retirement planning, taxes, and estate planning.

Specifically, I found his approach to budgeting very interesting. Andrew points out that an extra dollar saved is much more valuable than an extra dollar earned. That's because you need to pay taxes on an extra dollar earned, whereas on the dollar saved you get to keep the full thing. It was a good reminder that saving money and spending wisely can be even more impactful than making more money at times.

The best part is that Tobias is a natural writer with a degree in literature. The book is fast paced and has hints of wit and humor throughout. It's definitely the easiest read of these first three.

4. 'I Will Teach You to Be Rich' by Ramit Sethi

A few years back, I was reading "I Will Teach You to Be Rich" on my morning commute. Since I was only reading for my 10-15 minute ride to work once a day, it took me a long time to finish a book, usually a month or two.

After a few weeks, one early morning on the train platform, a woman asked me, "So, how's it going?"

Confused and half asleep, I answered, "Fine?" She clarified, "I mean, are you rich yet? I've seen you reading that book for a few weeks now and want to know the secret!" Turns out, we had been taking the same exact train and sitting in the same exact car most days.

While you will not learn how to become rich overnight, the books does teach you how to build a rich life.

Ramit Sethi on why controlling your own money can be harmful
Ramit Sethi on why controlling your own money can be harmful

Video by Ian Wolsten

Living a rich life means many things, but my biggest takeaway from the book is that you can spend money on things you enjoy. That's right, a personal finance book recommends that you spend money. The flip side of the recommendation is that you need to cut back aggressively on spending that doesn't bring you value.

For me, it was refreshing to hear that I can spend money on travel, food, and outdoor activities — as long as I balanced that out by not spending on things that didn't bring me value.

5. 'The 4-Hour Workweek' by Tim Ferriss

While "The 4-Hour Workweek" isn't necessarily a personal finance book, I do think the principles that Tim Ferriss outlines in this book can help improve your overall life, including your personal finances.

One of the biggest themes of the book is automation. To automate things in your life is to make them easier and to free up more time.

When it comes to personal finance, automation can not only do both of those things, but it can also help you achieve your goals. If you are struggling to save, setting up automatic transfers to move money to a high-yield savings account or investment account every month will ensure you actually take action.

Up next on my list

Currently, I'm reading "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas J. Stanley. It's an interesting book about how most of America's millionaires are not professional athletes or movie stars. Instead, they are people who worked hard, saved diligently, and created a sizable nest egg to live on.

Next on my list to read is "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki. I've been getting more interested in real estate, which I know is a tenet of this book, and am eager to learn more.

Writing this list made me realize I really need to go back and reread some of the classics. "The 4-Hour Workweek" will likely resonate with me more since starting Just Start Investing. And it's been awhile since I read that first trio of investment books, and they are for sure worth another look. I hope you enjoy them too.

Kevin Panitch is an experienced personal finance writer and founder of Just Start Investing, a personal finance website that makes managing your money easy. Just Start Investing has been featured on Business Insider, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report, among other major publications, for its easy-to-follow writing and informative articles. You can follow Kevin and Just Start Investing on Twitter at @juststartinvest.

The article "5 Books That Helped Me Get on Track to Achieve Financial Independence in My 40s" originally published on Grow+Acorns.

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