Call me a tightwad, but I like really good things that are free. If you do too, you’re in the right place.
Today I’m going to recommend three financial books you can get free. Each one is worth a lot if you take it seriously and act on it.
I’ll point you to video lectures for young people (my 11-year-old grandson loves some of these), parents and teachers.
Adults interested in retiring early can tap into resources that a lot of smart people find very helpful.
One way or another, you’ve already paid for a U.S. government site filled with good information and tips that investment scammers don’t really want you to learn.
Finally, for some college-level insight into finance and investing, you can take a free seven-week course from a Yale professor.
Let’s start with If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly by William Bernstein. Bill is one of the smartest people I know of: a retired neurologist and investment adviser whose The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio has been one of the most frequently recommended investment books for the past 20 years.
If You Can is Bernstein’s recommendation for an investment plan that a 7-year-old can understand, using just three mutual funds. Bernstein says it’s likely to outperform 90% of financial professionals in the long run.
Bernstein identifies five major hurdles facing young investors and tells how to overcome them. For serious students, he includes a good reading list.
The price: Free.
Financial Fysics is another free book, this one available in the Apple Bookstore and written by my friend Don McDonald. These pages are filled with common sense.
One of my favorite parts is his frank discussion of how to make money. There are only three ways, he says: luck, hard work and crime.
Don wants us to unlearn a lesson on “how the stock market works” that’s still taught in some schools: Choose a stock, then follow its price for a week or two to see how successful you were.
That may take some of the mystery out of the market, but it leaves students with at least four awful lessons:
- Investing is a gamble;
- It’s all about individual stocks;
- Winning or losing takes only weeks;
- No knowledge or understanding is required.
Don says his book is for people who are “ready to invest like grown-ups.”
The price: Free.
Late last year, Richard Buck and I finished We’re Talking Millions! 12 Simple Ways to Supercharge Your Retirement.
This book, available without charge to anyone who wants it, outlines a dozen million-dollar decisions that every first-time investor makes — then prescribes a two-fund solution that makes most of those choices for you, correctly and automatically.
The book is aimed at investors in their 20s and 30s, but its “two funds for life” formula can beef up any portfolio.
Get an education
A university education costs a lot these days, but it’s amazing what you can get online. At www.coursera.org, you’ll find more than 1,700 free courses from prestigious institutions such as Stanford, Duke, University of London, Vanderbilt, University of Chicago and many more.
The site’s most popular investment course is Financial Markets, full of college-level material and taught by Yale economics professor Robert Shiller.
More than 900,000 people are enrolled in this (so don’t expect a lot of personal attention). The course focuses on behavioral economics, the study of how psychology influences what we do, say, and think regarding money.
The course includes 127 videos, a few reading assignments and a few quizzes. It’s organized into seven modules, each designed to be done in about a week.
For younger folks, take my grandson’s word about the video education provided by Scott Alan Turner. “He’s wacky, he’s funny, and kids will think he is really cool.”
For example, here’s a three-hour course that’s designed for students in Grades 3 through 6 that covers topics like saving, spending, emergencies, jobs, and careers.
Turner also offers a class on planning for college.
Lots of young investors are eager to achieve financial independence — and saving and investing with the goal of retiring in their 40s and 50s.
The United States government has put together an impressive collection of resources and tools at www.investor.gov.
Here you can check up on a financial adviser, get help in understanding fees and scams, determine your required minimum distribution in a flash, calculate how your savings will grow, learn about 529 college savings plans. And much more.
Price: “Free” (You already paid for this.)
I want to also call your attention to an online treasure chest for anybody who’s teaching young people about money and investing.
The resources available at www.ngpf.org are available to the public at no charge.
The organization, founded and funded by Tim Ranzetta and Jessica
Endlich, has one overriding goal: Establish at least one semester of personal finance instruction as a universal requirement for high school graduation — and do it by 2030.
All these resources are free, but there’s another cost: your time.
Your time is valuable. But even if you believe you’re worth 10 times the minimum wage (I’m not disputing that, by the way), the payoff for a good financial education can be tremendous.
As a special reward to readers who’ve made it this far, here’s a freebie I can personally vouch for: a recording of a talk I gave to college students at Western Washington University in which I discuss the 12 million-dollar decisions in one of the free books I mentioned earlier.
Richard Buck contributed to this article.
Paul Merriman and Richard Buck are the authors of We’re Talking Millions! 12 Simple Ways To Supercharge Your Retirement.