If you’re hunting for a book or two for your teenager about money and investing that just might flip his or her switch, there are plenty of titles to sift through.
The challenge is to find books that a young reader will actually crack open or that won’t cause eyes to glaze over by the second reference to debits, credits and compound interest.
The start of a new year is when I seem to get the most requests from readers for books that will help teach kids some of the basics of finances, stocks and investing. I chalk it up to kids being flush with holiday cash, and parents wanting them to develop good spending and savings habits.
I do have some favorites, and I’ve added a couple recommended by financial education experts. While these suggestions may not include any classics, they fit my criteria of being both educational and entertaining.
At the top of my list is “The Richest Man in Babylon,” a compact collection of short stories written by Missouri native George Clason. I first heard about this book early in my newspaper career and have occasionally handed out copies of the paperback in high school classes I’ve visited.
Despite being published in 1926, its common-sense financial advice about saving money and financial success — using ancient Babylon as a setting to cement points — is still relevant to today’s teens. Clason’s basic principles include the importance of saving and investing, insuring your assets and controlling expenses.
What’s more, “Richest Man” can be read cover to cover in a couple of hours.
One of the problems with books about money, personal finance or economics is that many read like textbooks. They’re dull with a capital D. But a teen shouldn’t need any energy drinks to get through “Money Secrets of the Rich and Famous” by Michael Reynard.
The intriguing title says it all, as Reynard chronicled the spending habits and financial fortunes and misfortunes of the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth and Marilyn Monroe.
In similar fashion, but with heavier doses of data, is “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy.” Here’s another book — written by Thomas Stanley and William Danko 20 years ago — that has story lines that ring true today.
What the authors’ exhaustive research found is that the typical millionaire shuns fancy cars, fashionable wardrobes and mansions on the hill. Instead, millionaires are more likely to live in relatively modest homes, wear inexpensive clothes and drive older cars with lots of miles. The underlying money messages deal with wants and needs, personal values and the beauty of compound interest.
The takeaway for a 16-year-old? You too can be that quietly successful millionaire.
If you’re looking for personal finance textbooks, the Lightbulb Press has two offerings. The “Guide to Money & Investing,” and the “Guide to Personal Finance” provide basic introductions to topics such as banking, taxes, the financial markets and investing.
While books are great, social media can also offer ways for teens and young adults to develop financial smarts. Check out author and financial journalist Farnoosh Torabi, who has a growing following through her regular podcasts geared to 20-somethings with money issues. And websites such The Mint.com are full of helpful how-tos for younger people in search of financial self-sufficiency.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879