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7 books that helped millionaires build wealth

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  • John, who runs personal finance blog ESI Money and doesn’t share his last name online, has spent the past few years interviewing millionaires.

 

 

  • He asked those 100 millionaires about their favorite books, and found the seven titles that came up repeatedly included classics like “The Millionaire Next Door” and “Your Money or Your Life.”

Today we continue reviewing information from my first 100 millionaire interviews.

We’ve already covered several topics including the numbers detailing their successes, 13 surprising facts about millionaires, millionaire wealth stories, and millionaire investing strategies.

We’re going to add to these by discussing books that have had the most impact on millionaires.

To reiterate from past posts, this is NOT a scientific survey of what millionaires read and I’m not pretending it is. It’s a summary from millionaires I’ve interviewed.

It’s no surprise that millionaires read a lot. If our own interviews were not enough to confirm this, a quick trip around the web confirms it.

Since reading seems to be a (vital?) part of their success, wouldn’t it be great to know the money books they like best?

I certainly think so.

There’s only one problem: I didn’t ask my first 100 millionaires what books they love (something I’m rectifying in future interviews). I know. Ugh.

That said, starting with interview #38 I inserted the following question that did generate some book mentions:

How did you learn about finances and at what age did it ‘click’? Was it from family, books, forced to learn as wealth grew, etc.?

In addition, many millionaires volunteered books they liked as they told their stories.

But this was still not enough information. So what did I do? I sent the millionaires an email, asking for the top three money books that made a difference in their life, and how. If there weren’t any books, I wanted to know that, too.

And I received a lot of great responses!

So between the emails and the original interviews, I now have a wealth of information (pun intended) on what millionaires read.

Before we get into the books themselves, let me state that there were many comments like “I read Dave Ramsey books” or “I like books from the Rich Dad series.”

Unless a book was mentioned by name, I did not count these in the results below. They were just too vague. I only included responses where a specific book was named.

I also want to note that while I might simply say “books” below, we are talking about money books specifically. I’m not really interested if they read Jane Eyre or Batman novels.

Here are the findings …

1. Millionaires have wide-ranging tastes in what they read

Overall, there were 56 different books mentioned by the group.

The grand total mentions was 114 (not all responded, but those who did often mentioned several books, many of which over-lapped.)

It’s no surprise that they read broadly and have various interests. Their stories illustrate different paths to a million dollars. The same diversity is realized in their favorite money books.

2. Millionaires love certain books disproportionately

While there’s a wide range of books listed, seven of the books received over half the mentions.

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Here are the top seven books listed in order, along with my thoughts and quotes from millionaires:

#1: The Millionaire Next Door

Is this a surprise to anyone?

The Millionaire Next Door is the money book that made the largest impact on my life, a book that I’ve reviewed highly, one I’ve included in my list of the only five money books anyone needs to read.

Millionaires like it as much as I do.

While their votes demonstrate this, their comments add even more love.

Here’s one that summarizes many others I received:

Like many others, the Millionaire Next Door would be by far number 1 and have re-read it multiple times throughout the years. It reinforced that there were multiple ways to accumulate wealth, to always live below your means, that you didn’t necessarily have make a high income to be a millionaire and that many millionaires were “hidden” living middle class lifestyles. I think your blog is the current version on the Millionaire Next Door and one of the reasons I was open to sharing my family’s story.

How kind. It’s hard to imagine being put in the same group with such a book.

Here’s another one:

I didn’t read The Millionaire Next Door until I was solidly on the path to financial independence. However, before I read this, I considered us to be the cheap people in our neighborhood. This book helped me to understand that the folks who are buying all the fancy stuff are usually the folks that really don’t have any money. The wealthy are generally the folks living frugally and not worrying about trying to keep up with the Joneses and just show off their material crap. It actually gave me

comfort to understand that we’re on the right path and doing things the right way.

And a similar comment:

The Millionaire Next Door is a very fundamentally important book. It displaces so many untrue but commonly held beliefs that surround how wealth is created. I think it’s message is incredibly empowering. It shows you that mostly everyone can achieve significant wealth if you are willing to make basis, smart decisions. I have actually read this cover to cover twice about 15 years apart.

Finally, here’s a thought about the book being the granddaddy of the financial independence movement:

The Millionaire Next Door This is a classic. I read it when I was in high school and it really opened my eyes. It is not about how much you spent but how much you saved. This book set me on the “FI” path before I knew what FI was.

This was my personal experience as well. I read it when the book first came out and tell people, “I did what it advises and I became wealthy as a result.” Pretty simple really.

#2: Your Money or Your Life

Another of my top five books and contender for starter of the FIRE movement.

Here’s a representative comment:

Your Money or Your Life takes frugality to the next level. I learned from this book that a penny saved is worth a lot more than a penny earned. You pay taxes on the penny earned. You need transportation in order to earn the penny. Earning the penny can be stressful, etc.

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This one offers a bit more detail:

The fundamental message in this book is so profound. Some of the sections come across a bit “hippy” but the message is so deep. Whether you realize it or not, you are trading your life energy every day. You need to do so mindfully or you will get to the end of this wonderful life disappointed.

And another:

I loved the mindset change this book gave me. The idea that my time was too precious to waste on anything but things that made me feel happy and uplifted, was liberating. It helped me focus more on what I was running to vs. what I was running from.

One more:

It gave me a great perspective on how to measure success in my life, and not just net worth.

You get the point. The book does an awesome job of relating time and money and showing that you spend your life (time) on so many worthless things. It’s a great perspective-builder!

#3: Rich Dad Poor Dad

This one was a surprise for me.

I’ve read it (of course) but it didn’t really do much for me (and thus didn’t make my top five list).

In addition, there’s been a lot of less-than-positive chatter from money bloggers about the book — is it a real story or made up, is the author legitimate or just a great salesman, etc.

One millionaire addressed these issues head on:

You can put down Robert Kiyosaki and say that he’s a fraud or that he makes more money from his seminars than his real estate. However, this was the book that was the light bulb for me. This was the book that made me realize that it’s possible for the everyday person to attain wealth. Although this was more of a motivational book than a step-by-step guide, it became the inspiration for me to get off my butt and try different things to get out of the rat race like real estate and starting my own businesses.

There’s no doubt this book has more of a focus on the accumulation of assets than many other money books. One millionaire noted this:

This book really taught me the importance of accumulating income producing assets. I never did get into real estate but I did get into the stock market. In my mind a stock paying a dividend is a lot less work than an apartment paying dividend. I read this in high school as well. Because of this book in addition to others I opened a Roth IRA at the ripe old age of 16.

Here’s one with a different takeaway:

Rich Dad, Poor Dad was one of the 1st books that I read when I started to get really serious about personal finance. I think that fundamental message that I took away from this work is how important it is to work smarter than harder. Working hard is important and fundamental but if you do not work wisely you are making it very challenging to succeed. You need to make sacrifices so that your money can work hard for you. It the 1st personal finance book that I had my oldest son read while in college.

Again, a surprise for me but there’s no doubt this book has had a major impact on millionaires.

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#4 (tie): The Automatic Millionaire

This book didn’t make my top five list but made the honorable mentions.

My main issue with this one is that it can be summarized in one sentence — so why do we need a whole book?

But millionaires disagreed and found tons of value — many loving its simple yet powerful message.

Here’s a comment that encapsulates the general sentiment:

I loved David Bach’s simplicity on how to build wealth. The good news is that I was automating our savings at this time. However, I loved this book so much, I gave my copy away to a friend trying to get on the right track and have been recommending it to others as well. This is the perfect “starter” book for everyone struggling to get their finances moving in the right direction.

#5 (tie): The Richest Man in Babylon

Another one from my list and actually the book I recommend most these days.

I suggest it often because it’s simple in content, a quick read, and is written as a story which makes it easier to swallow for folks newer to money concepts.)

Interestingly enough, while so many people mentioned it, no one sent me comments.

#6 (tie): The Simple Path to Wealth

This one was a surprise for me as well.

Not because it’s a bad book — it’s a very good book, in fact.

But it’s so new compared to the others. They have had many decades to become well-known and popular while this book was published only a few years ago.

My guess is that this book will become the standard investing book for the FIRE community and replace the popularity of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investingone day.

For millionaires, looks like that day has already come.

#7 (tie): Think and Grow Rich

A classic for sure.

It’s been a few decades since I’ve read this book, but millionaires had a lot of great things to say about it.

For example:

Think and Grow Rich is a very good read on how one should think about money. The big take away is to have the right “millionaire mindset,” and some how, you will start to attract money, and also the right people will come to help you achieve financial success.

And another:

Just positive messages to influence and grow your abilities and riches will come.

I remember it being just what they said — positive and inspirational.

I’m not going to comment on every book millionaires listed (or else this post would be the size of a book!)

Source: ESI Money/Business insider

 

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