The ability to manage debt and make good financial decisions can have a lasting impact on our lives, and yet many Americans struggle with financial literacy. Each stage of life, from starting a new career, to beginning life with a new baby or contemplating retirement can take a different financial toll. For that reason, financial literacy is something we have to work on throughout our lives. April is designated as Financial Literacy Month in this country and would be a good time to visit the library for a wide variety of books on the topic that can help no matter what stage you’re at financially.
Author John Bryant acknowledges that building financial stability when you start in an impoverished state can seem impossible. He shares the lessons he learned on his own journey out of poverty in “The Memo: Five Rules for Your Economic Liberation.” Bryant explores how a person’s inner capital works in combination with their life’s outer situation to bring them to financial success or failure. Inner capital includes your own knowledge, personal relationships and drive, and it can ultimately shape how you handle situations. Bryant advises readers on how to build inner capital to work through roadblocks that life and society can place in our way.
Human emotion plays a big role in how we handle money, and it doesn’t always work to our benefit. In “Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter,” Dan Ariely explores the “pain” factor of spending, specifically in the use of credit cards, which separate purchases from the actual pain of paying for the cost. He also explains how we perceive the fairness of a price and the ways we can be manipulated by marketers. Ariely helps readers sort through their feelings and use basic financial rules to find ways to build better spending and saving habits.
The Millennial generation, which has been shaped so much by the changing technology that has permeated society so rapidly over the past few decades, has its own financial troubles. Erin Lowry provides insightful financial advice to this generation in her book “Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together.” Lowry’s book offers occasionally humorous tips on things like managing student loans, understanding your personal relationship to your money and dealing with finances when it comes to friendships and relationships. Blogger Chelsea Fagan regularly discusses how millennials can live financially healthy lives and has recently written “The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good With Money.” This is a good book for anyone who is new to the idea of saving money and planning for the future, but doesn’t know where to start. Fagan’s style is very reader-friendly; she makes finances relatable by exploring how they ultimately affect multiple aspects of our lives from health to relationships. She also addresses how much social media can affect financial decisions and how to avoid that pitfall.
Sometimes the path to better finances starts with introspection and figuring out how to consume less. In her memoir, “The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in A Store,” Cait Flanders set about trying to change her life by consuming only what she actually needed. Although she had finally gotten out of debt, Flanders found herself still involved in the same destructive cycles that lead to her debt accumulation in the first place. Her book explores how she learned to cut out waste, declutter her life and find balance over the course of a year.
It’s not a reach to say that gaining financial literacy skills in your younger years is an easy way to get and stay on track financially for the rest of your life. Teenagers who are new to the topic can find a variety of books at the library that make the topic more accessible. “The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance: A Visual Reference for Everything You Need to Know” by Michele Cagan offers a visual guide to financial literacy. Her book uses colorful infographics that can help readers visualize in tangible ways the more complex issues of financial literacy. “Making Money Work: The Teens’ Guide to Saving, Investing, and Building Wealth” by Kara McGuire is another book that explains how to save money in language that makes complex terms like IRAs and the stock market easier to understand. The book also addresses student financial aid, one of the major financial struggles for today’s college and university students.