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Stocking stuffers: Financial media for every age and stage

By John R. Berry, CFP® and Beth H. Watson, CFP®


Season’s Greetings!

Delivered at the right time, a spot-on piece of financial information can alter a loved one’s perspective on money. We all know folks who struggle with their finances, whether they started out in poverty, had a run of terrible fortune, or suffer from the dread disease affluenza.

If you are more advanced in your financial journey, it may be easy to forget the early, hard lessons. The challenge is to meet people where they are today.

In this article, we briefly summarize some personal finance classics in hopes you or your loved ones may glean from them as much as we have. While each book and film has something to offer everyone, suggestions are divided into relevant experience levels to help you better target any holiday gifting.

Is there a book, article, or documentary that’s changed your perspective on finances? Let us know!


For beginners of all ages


Set for Life, by Scott Trench

Set for Life is great for new high school or college grads, and anyone else who doesn’t yet have dependents or a big lifestyle. Using his personal experience as a repeatable template, Trench urges a combination of frugality and hustle toward a financial stash that provides adequate “runway” toward financial freedom at an early age.


The Richest Man in Babylon, by George S. Clason

The parables of this 94-year-old classic gently chide us toward wisdom such as “For every ten coins thou placest within thy purse take out for use but nine.” It’s a long-winded way of saying “pay yourself first,” but this slim volume can be read or listened to in just a few hours. Clason’s faux-Biblical language was outdated at the time, of course, but the message isn’t hard to catch.


The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is your tough-love uncle of financial peace. His work engages millions through books and weekly shows. We give the famous “baby steps” high marks for repeatability, and the humor helps lighten the mood in such gems as “work is a sure-fire money-making scheme.”


The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, by Thomas Stanley and William Danko


Stanley and Danko’s academic research into affluent families lays out characteristics that millionaire families tend to share, right down to vehicles, shopping habits, and attitudes toward supporting adult children (in this book called “economic outpatient care”). This work and its offspring, such as The Millionaire Mind, provide affirmation that one does not have to start or look wealthy to gain economic security.

A breezy step-child of Stanley and Danko’s contribution is Everyday Millionaires, by Chris Hogan. Everyday Millionaires is filled with anecdotes drawn from the largest study ever done on American millionaires, which was funded by Dave Ramsey’s company.


For those ready to make a change


Get Smart with Money, Netflix documentary directed by Stephanie Soechtig (2022)


Get Smart with Money covers four diverse individuals/couples who get financial coaching for a year. From an aspiring artist to an NFL player who’s blown most of his signing bonus (and then gets cut), most of us can identify with one of the scenarios presented. It’s inspiring how repeated follow-up provides accountability and nudges the participants to improve their situations.


Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence (2018 edition), by Vicki Robin with Joe Dominguez

As far as we know the authors popularized the idea of “FI thinking” (financial independence) back in the 1990s, and their work provides a 9-step program of practical activities to push the open-minded reader toward recasting relationships with money, career, and possessions.


The message here works especially well for someone with an anti-consumerism bent or who is burned out of the rat race.


A snippet: “The dreams we had of finding meaning and fulfillment through our jobs have faded into the reality of professional politics, burnout, boredom and intense competition.”


The Psychology of Money, by Morgan Housel


Beth did a full review of this fun book earlier this year. The Psychology of Money is the opposite of a step program, instead promoting reasonableness around the use of your financial resources. Housel wants you to be able to sleep well at night, and how you do that is personal.


The Psychology of Money hammers home life’s unpredictability, earnestly pushing the reader to be ready for the unknown.


This is apt advice for financial planning. “A plan is only useful if it can survive reality,” Housel writes. “The more you need specific elements of a plan to be true, the more fragile your financial life becomes.” He gives the example of hoping the market returns 8 percent over a time period, but being ok if it returns 4 percent.


For those building their legacy


The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, by Ron Lieber

Lieber writes the “Your Money” column for The New York Times, so he’s positioned to hear stories about families and money from around the country. He advocates age-appropriate transparency about the household’s income and expenses–children, after all, are stakeholders–and offers up common-sense solutions to engage children with work, allowance, charity, and social situations.

This is a great book for anyone raising a child they fear might become spoiled!


Entrusted: Building a Legacy that Lasts, by David R. York and Andrew L. Howell


These estate planning attorneys have first-hand, intimate knowledge of how wealthy clients dispose of their assets. They argue that it’s usually done in a manner that often undermines the ability of future generations to steward and grow the founders’ wealth.


York and Howell promote strategic use of resources as “flint” and “kindling” to help subsequent generations get started, as opposed to just showering them with gifts with no strings. An example of flint would be education, while kindling might be a business loan.


Interspersed throughout this quick read are memorable anecdotes from the money adventures (and mis-adventures) of well-known families.


The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall


Both Entrusted and The Opposite of Spoiled pair well with The Ultimate Gift, a short novel about the hoops a wise uncle makes his great nephew jump through to receive a large inheritance. The Ultimate Gift was also made into a feel-good movie starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin that viewers rate very highly. It’s available for free on YouTube or with your Amazon Prime Video account.


We are always interested in your story! Let us know where you learned your money lessons!



CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional John R. Berry is owner of Corner Post Financial Planning, Beth H. Watson is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional at Corner Post Financial Planning.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through ICA Group Wealth Management LLC, a registered investment advisor. ICA Group Wealth Management LLC and Corner Post Financial Planning are separate entities from LPL Financial. 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.