Book Reviews

This book reviews page highlights the various books I have come across that have helped me on my journey towards financial independence.

I’ve read at least 100 books now on the subject of personal finance and building wealth. Many books contain the same message. Often, each book will only have one golden gem with the rest of the pages serving as filler.

Below are my top 5. I plan to add more to this section when I have time as I am missing some other great books on here. If you have a favorite yourself, feel free to email me or comment below.

The Way to Wealth

My favorite summary of financial advice (or even general advice) comes from Ben Franklin’s Way to Wealth. This essay is a 15-20 minute read (pdf link) or you can listen via this Youtube link. Here’s the amazon link for a hard copy. Ben Franklin’s writing is extremely tough to understand the first time because of the old language, so my advise would be to read or listen at least a few times. You’ll notice tons of short quotes that truly resonate.

In many ways, Franklin represented the first American entrepreneur and businessman, or “tradesman”, as they were called back in the day. He lived as a badass printer, working long hours, spending far below his means, and retiring at the age of 42. His early retirement included accomplishments like taming lightning with the invention of the lightning rod and creating one of the greatest start ups of all time – the United States of America.

The Way to Wealth is regarded by many to be Franklin’s highest literary and philosophical achievement. Franklin himself sums up the essay quite well: “These proverbs, which contained the wisdom of many ages and nations, I assembled and form’d into a connected discourse prefix’d to the Almanac of 1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people attending an auction…”

Millionaire Next Door

A classic. This book taught me the importance of having a strong financial defense in terms of spending habits. For spending habits, I primarily mean the largest purchases such as cars and a house.

I also walked away with a greater understanding of the importance of lowering our taxable rate each year by maximizing our tax efficient investments (401k, Traditional IRA, etc.).

This book contains a lot more useful information than what I mentioned above and everyone can find at least one useful piece of information from this book. I would recommend reading the 2010 edition which includes a 2 page preface from the author. If you come across an older edition, you can always click here and “look inside” to read the 2 page preface.

William Bernstein

If you’re a financial newbie, then this 16 page ebook, If You Can, by William Bernstein is a great start.

In case you wanted to read more by him, Bernstein wrote The Four Pillars of Investing: Lesson for Building a Winning Portfolio. Personally, I don’t approve of his methodology on to allocate such a large portion of our portfolio into bonds, but the book will still take someone from A to Z in terms of your investments.

The Lean Startup

In the today’s world, everyone needs to consider themselves an entrepreneur. Job security is a myth created from older generations. The reality is we need to constantly be learning & developing our skills so that we remain valuable to our employers and to the market. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, tackles how to best approach continuous innovation and development within ourselves and our teams.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Lastly, I’ll add Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This was a great 4 to 5 hour book which opened my eyes to truly understanding the impact of cash flows. Another critical takeaway was understanding how we can progress from employee, to self-employed, to business owner and ultimately to investor. If I could, I would add a 5th position to Kiyosaki’s book of philanthropist, or someone capable and willing to give back to society.

Anyway, that’s a ‘quick recap’ of some books that were highly informative and important to my development. As I mentioned above, if you have a recommendation you think would be helpful, feel free to email me or comment below.

I hope you find these books as useful as I did.

Master Distiller

6 comments… add one
  • Rudy SMT May 17, 2016, 1:49 am

    Hi Matt,

    Great list of books. I will buy the “Way to Wealth” as per your recommendation.

    Did you read “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” written by the founder of Vanguard – John C. Bogle?

    He explains why ETFs are the best investment vehicle to wealth.

    • Distilled Dollar May 17, 2016, 6:39 am

      Way to Wealth is still my favorite! An incredible amount of knowledge packed into a short essay.

      I haven’t read The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, but I did read Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Bogle. You can check out a lot of my favorite quotes from that book here.

      I’ll do a post on my asset allocation in the future, but in short, I have at least 95% in Vanguard index funds. I prefer equities over bonds given a high risk tolerance and an expected long runway.

      • Rudy SMT May 31, 2016, 6:57 am

        That is great! You preach low cost investing.

        Did you ever think to use a bond ratio in your portfolio to take advantage of the drops of the stock market to give some steroid to your stock portfolio?

        If you are interested, I can send you the article where I explain my rebalancing strategy.

        • Distilled Dollar Jun 2, 2016, 5:49 pm

          Hi Rudy, it sounds like you’re talking about moving down the efficient frontier curve to receive a higher return relative to risk. For me, I’m comfortable holding equities for at least twenty years, so I can stomach the market downturns.

          Given the long run returns expected to be higher for equities, than with bonds, this is why I am allocated to nearly 100% equities with a small portion saved in cash (emergency fund + saving for a house).

          This is just my approach given my risk tolerance, so I know it goes against more traditional asset allocation methods such as having ~15-30% in bonds at this stage in my life. I’m happy to talk more about this strategy if you have any follow up questions.

          I’ve added ‘My personal asset allocation method’ to the long list of blog drafts now so I hope I can summarize everything I believe within in one post…down the line. Thanks for commenting!

  • Anthony Jun 22, 2016, 7:25 am

    Where would you put Tobias, “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need”? It has helped me a lot. Agree with you on Bogle, MND, etc.

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 26, 2016, 2:26 pm

      I’ve heard great things about that book, but I have not read it. What would you say your key takeaways from the book were?

      From what I’ve heard from friends, he talks about dollar cost averaging and even mentions Vanguard index funds. That is my exact approach as well when it comes to investing, as you could tell from mentioning Bogle.

Leave a Comment