Personal Finance

A summer reading list for young investors

Many teenagers are diving into their summer reading list with books about dragon slayers, storm chasers and the occult.

But what about those with a taste for titles about investing and the strictly nonfiction world of Wall Street?

While maybe not riveting reads, titles abound for young investors. The trick is to find books that will appeal to the beginner.

Recently, several readers asked me for recommendations on books that introduce teenagers — and even preteens — to investing. Here goes.

My favorite, and one that I always mention, is “The Richest Man in Babylon.” Though published nearly 90 years ago, the financial advice dispensed by author George S. Clason will always be relevant to a new generation of readers. The book is set in ancient Babylon. The characters learn simple lessons about money and investing throughout the collection of short stories.

Corny, well yeah, but it beats all the get-rich-quick books and other similar publishing pabulum.

Another teen-appropriate book on my short list is “The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens” by brothers David and Tom Gardner. It’s a worthy educational tool — and an entertaining one at that.

If you have a preteen showing interest in the stock market and you want a basic how-to book, two come to mind: “Stock Market Knowledge for All Ages” by Susan Vaccaro Hardeman and “Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids” by Gail Karlitz.

If these titles don’t stir much interest, here are a few more suggestions from several financial experts I reached out to.

• “Yes, You Can Achieve Financial Independence” by James E. Stowers, founder and former chairman of American Century Investments, a Kansas City-based mutual fund company.

“The book is thoughtful and creative with amusing cartoons and leads an individual toward mutual funds,” said Sam Renick, who runs It’s A Habit Co., a financial education firm.

Renick also recommended anything written by or about Warren Buffett, the Omaha investment guru. One suggestion is “The Warren Buffett Way” by Robert Hagstrom.

• “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

The authors mine reams of data to show the surprisingly frugal traits that millionaires have in common.

“The main lesson provided is that high income does not equal wealth,” said J.R. Rosskamp, managing director of Veritas Partners Inc., a business consulting firm.

Rosskamp calls “Millionaire Next Door” a “must-read, and the earlier the better.”

Rosskamp also suggested legendary investor Benjamin Graham’s classic, “The Intelligent Investor.” Rosskamp said the book, published in 1949 and updated and reprinted at least seven times, is relevant for young investors because it discusses the differences between investing and speculation.

“An investor is doomed to fail if he or she does not learn this distinction,” Rosskamp said.

• “Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens” by Robert Kiyosaki.

Kiyosaki’s goal is to “make sure teens understand that it’s important to invest in assets from as early an age as possible, preferably assets that produce cash flow like real estate,” said Elisabeth Donati, a financial educator who also wrote “Money Jars: Your Magical Money Management System.”

Donati’s second pick: “Learn to Earn: A Beginner’s Guide to the Basics of Investing and Business” by Peter Lynch, an investment manager who ran the highly successful Fidelity Magellan fund.

“There are tons of (books) that talk about investing in general,” said Donati, “but without the belief systems and the history, it all falls on a shaky foundation.”

That’s something for your teen to ponder while picking through the book rack.