Some of my favorite books on personal finance

Last week, this dood booked an appointment with me to discuss whether whole life insurance made sense for him. Once the video chat meeting began, it became clear to me that this wasn’t going to end well. 

This was someone who, about a year ago, booked an appointment with me and then never showed up for that meeting. No call to cancel, no heads up… he just ghosted me. 

I didn’t recognize him until a few minutes into our conversation when he started barking orders at me, demanding I give him a bunch of information, including a bunch of book recommendations. 

I relented and told him that I though he should read The Economics Of Life Insurance. 

It’s the best book on life insurance ever written, period. 

That recommendation still stands, but I thought I’d share a few other recommendations with you that I refused to share with him (he’s no longer on this email list, so it’s probably safe to tell you). You may or may not find these helpful. Either way, I hope you learn something.

Anyway, here they are, in no particular order:

1) The Richest Man In Babylon — People ask me all the time for personal finance book recommendations… This is it. This is THE book on personal finance. 

Get the original version published in 1926 (it’s hard as h-e- double hockey sticks to find… but contains mucho important information that later editions do not). It helped me better understand the process of saving and was the first book to explain certain key investment concepts that (oddly) aren’t taught in other finance books.

2)  Economics In One Lesson — It’s a classic by Henry Hazlitt. The book explained to me some important economic principles that I’ve found invaluable. Unlike most books on economics, this one is actually understandable.

4) Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics — This one is a good compliment to Hazlitt’s book. It’s written by John Tamny who is the editor of RealClearMarkets. John and I have conversed via email for years now. He’s a swell guy, and really understands free market economics. So, if you want to understand how economics works, and how it can work for you in everyday life (and not read some esoteric, dull, boring, academic lecture), then go read this book. It’s about as clear and concise as it gets. 

5) Who Needs the Fed?: What Taylor Swift, Uber, and Robots Tell Us About Money, Credit, and Why We Should Abolish America’s Central Bank — I have to admit, the author (John Tamny, the same guy who wrote Popular Economics) surprised me with this one. It’s unusually clear and simple. This book exposes the utter ridiculousness of the idea that the central bank controls interest rates, stock market prices, or the economy. The Fed is almost totally feckless in that regard. He really opened my mind to the idea that I could safely live my entire life ignoring the economists at the Fed, most economists in general, pundits, and the news media that yap on and on about how the sky is falling and that the Fed is the cause of it all. Prepare to have your mind blown.

6) What’s Your Future Worth?: Using Present Value to Make Better Decisions — This book is all about using the concept of “present value” to make better financial decisions. The author, Peter Neuwirth, is a retired actuary (a professional mathematician who designs insurance contracts) whom I’ve had a few brief encounters with on the Interwebs. Being an actuary, he knows how to think about the future value of decisions. Being retired, he knows how well various decisions have panned out over the very long-term. Want to know whether you should buy a new fridge or keep your current one for a little while longer? Thinking of buying that thing that’s on sale (even though you don’t need it just yet)? Not sure whether your car is worth repairing? Is investing in your 401(k) worth it? This book will help you answer any financial question, and evaluate all possible outcomes of any scenario, where you have two (or more) choices.

7) Mutually Beneficial: The Guardian and Life Insurance In America — The title makes it sound like it’s all about The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, and a large part of the book is, but it’s also about the life insurance industry as a whole, how mutual life insurance companies “think” about investing and risk management, where they invest policyholder money and why, how they view surplus and dividends to policyholders, and how they run their life insurance business. It’s a fascinating book if you want to better understand one of the major financial pillars of America’s economy. Unlike other books on this topic, it’s not a corporate puff piece. It was written by two academics who studied the company inside and out, and were given access to the company’s vault of information about how its business operates. Then, they were essentially told to do with the information what they wanted.

And last, but not least, my quirky little book on budgeting called Cash Flow Kickstart, which you can grab here:

David Lewis, AKA The Rogue Agent, has been a life insurance agent since 2004, and has worked with some of the oldest and most respected mutual life insurance companies in the U.S. during that time. To learn more about him and his business, go here.