I’ve listed them under some broad headings, and put each link or book into only one area, although several fit into more than one. I’ve also written a brief review or description of each. It’s only my opinion and I’m not saying that other books/sites aren’t really good, but I think these are especially worth looking at if you are interested in the particular area.
You can scan down the page (it is quite big, and growing all the time!) or click on the headings that appeal:
Values and Symbols (what people want from life, being happy, finding out what you want, what you use money for).
Changing behaviour (goal setting, planning, changing behaviour).
Psychology of finance (how we handle money, financial psychology, behavioural economics).
Evolutionary Psychology (how we got the way we are, intuitive and natural processes).
Decision making (natural decisions, maths and statistics, reason).
Practical financial stuff (how to budget, keeping records, sorting out debts).
Couples (understanding differences, avoiding common misperceptions).
Children (learning about money, differences between children and adults)
The Psychology of Money
It’s the best overview of the psychology of money that I know. It can come over as academic because it is fully referenced, but it covers all the research really well.
It’s a very moving book, and has some great insights about finding meaning and living a worthwhile life. It’s also one of the best selling, most influential books about the mind and the meaning of life ever written.
The book to read if you are interested in understanding happiness and the difference between that and the pursuit of money. It’s also an interesting history of the development of positive psychology.
If you want to look at the work Seligman and his colleagues are doing, here is the site, in particular it has a questionnaire which you can (at the moment) do for free. This is the Values in Action (VIA) questionnaire.
There’s also a UK based “positive psychology” site that is very good and has some questionnaires that are interesting.
One of several books that Csikszentmihaly has written about the “flow” experience, where you’re totally engaged with what you’re doing. If the challenge is too great, you tend to be stressed, if it is too little, you tend to be bored. But in flow, things go well.
There is a U-tube clip of Csikszentmihaly discussing flow and how it can connect with the VIA strengths (as above).
There is another book by Seligman that has come into the “happiness index” debate since it concerns optimism – with one radio programme asking “can optimism be taught?” I think the title of this book answers that question, and it is a great book.
Diener is widely regarded as the world’s leading authority on the science of happiness, so we’re not talking about some vague utopian “wouldn’t it be nice if being kind to people made you happy and money was not a factor” visions; we’re talking about established scientific facts. His son, Biswas-Diener spent several months in “Slumdog Millionaire” territory researching his PhD among some of the poorest people in the world (many of whom are perfectly happy)!
What I find interesting is how much of the nine things that the longest lived, most productive people have in common do also overlap with the happiness research. It looks like the same actions can not only help you live longer, but keep you productive and happy in those extra years.
My personal favourite of all time on values and happiness. It gives a great example and shows how learning to control your mind and your thinking can lead to happiness. It’s backed up not just by example but scientific research since the author is not only a Buddhist monk but a scientist with a PhD from the Institut Pasteur!
Don’t be confused by the title, you don’t have to be depressed to read it! It’s actually a very good book on learning to lead a happier life. It uses mindfulness, a way to live “now” instead of regretting or gloating over the past, or fearing the future.
The GROW model of coaching, and the “trans-personal”, the elements beyond yourself, are big features of the book. It is intended for coaches, but if you want to work on your own goals, tie in the values you have with the goals you want to pursue and particularly if you want to work with your partner and coach one another, it is really useful.
The best book on how to deal with addictive behaviour (like shopping), I’ve ever seen. It is written for “self help” and is really easy to follow, although what it says isn’t necessarily easy to do!
One of two books that I think are really good on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that were written for self-help. I believe this is the best selling one ever, and it’s success in helping people who followed the actions set out to change their behaviour and attitude in life is phenomenal.
The other book I think is really good on CBT – I’ll admit some bias since the authors were taught by Windy Dryden, who was one of my MSc lecturers. Even allowing for that, if you want to understand how to apply the techniques to yourself, this is a really good and easy to follow book.
Everybody has motivation, but it may not be motivation to do what we say we want to do! It is written for the counsellor or coach helping others, but you can apply the principles to yourself to help you to find your real drivers to change behaviour.
The same authors also wrote this, which again is aimed at those helping others. However, it explains motivation very well and helps the reader understand why we often seem to be driven to do things we know are bad for us and, importantly, what can be done about it.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of CBT that has been shown to be very effective in dealing with feelings, perceptions and anxieties about all sorts of issues, including money. This is a good, accessible book that gives you the basics and that can help you learn the principles of dealing with issues like “putting off saving”, or failing to change your spending habits because you feel anxious about doing it.
Another book, intended for self help, about ACT. It is more of a practical guide with exercises to do etc. It was recommended to me by one of my friends who is qualified in Clinical and Counselling Psychology, as well as Occupational Psychology, so since this area “crosses over” into the field of mindfullness (as in one of the books in the “values” section, above) it is a very good read if you are looking to change your behaviour and enjoy your life more.
The only book I’ve seen (apart from mine!) that is about the psychology of personal finance as distinct from “economics” and national or international finance. It is also practical, rather than being all theory. I don’t understand why nobody has produced a UK version (or updated it in the US).
Simply the best, most sensible book on investing I’ve read. It doesn’t pretend that the author has a sure-fire scheme, it just explains the way to invest sensibly and – very important, explains how markets and investments work very clearly for the “normally intelligent” reader who isn’t a finance professional.
The book that many people (including the Conservative Party) think invented the whole field of controlling the environment to effect how decisions are made. The fact it isn’t new and that marketers and sales people have used psychology like this for half a century isn’t the authors’ fault, and it is a great book.
If you want a fairly scary read on how the “experts” might know lots about money but know nothing about their own minds, this is it. It can be quite heavy going unless you are really into finance and behavioural economics, but it is very thorough and well researched.
Right up there with the best books on finance ever written, I think. I cannot understand why it hasn’t stayed on best-seller lists, since it does what nobody else has done and actually makes sense of complexity and chaos in terms of markets and how unpredictable things are.
The sort of economics I think is useful, it describes real people making real decisions – not daft, airy fairy theories about how people who have never existed would make decisions on a totally different planet!
Another book that is about real decisions, and which understands that the true motivations of people (psychology influenced by economic facts) are more important than the economic theory or an idealised representation of what “ought” to happen.
A great book about how and why our intuitions work really well in many situations. It is a fantastic antidote to the procession of books that claim that “logic” and hours of careful consideration of every decision from investment to what colour socks to wear is either practical, or likely to end up with a better result than using your time and your brain sensibly.
I think it is the best “popular science” book to read to understand how people came to be the way they are. It’s more accessible than a lot of others, but really well researched and covers an astonishing range of human behaviour.
If you want to know how astonishing your mind really is, and how much smarter you are than you can possibly imagine – but you can still make laughably simple errors every day, read this.
It might be a bit academic for you, because it is a series of articles that are fully referenced and aimed at the serious student. But if you can get past that it is absolutely fascinating for the insight it gives into the evolution of everything from social exchange, gossip and colour vision to gender differences in spatial sense that can all be seen in how we behave with one another and with money today.
Basically, anything by Malcolm Gladwell is a good read, (I’ve got all his books) but this is particularly relevant to money since it shows how fast we make decisions, how accurate many of those decisions are and how impossible it is not to make them the way we do. So it is a good balance to the school of thought that suggests that all you have to do to handle money well is to stop and think for several days about each decision.
If you want to know why it is impossible to “buy low and sell high”, which sounds so easy, read this. It also gives a great explanation of how people get confused about the nature of unpredictability. I love the joke he makes of people asking him, “what will be the next 10 black swans”, not understanding that they’ve missed the point, if you could predict them, they wouldn’t be black swans.
There are lots of books about maths, this is one that is actually fun and practical. If you want to understand how to calculate your risk and to avoid being fooled by scare stories and con games run by people selling products, newspapers and policies, this is worth reading.
It’s astonishing how many people still think that their favorite expert (possibly themself!) knows more than everybody else put together. If you use the information available correctly, you can do some amazing things, but people still fall for the cult of the “expert” and ignore all the expertise that everybody else has. And it shows how a team with “cognitive diversity”, with different world views, produce better decisions than a happy, cohesive and like-minded group.
A great book on the way maths, risk and perception really work. It also has some real insight into how to make decisions when faced with uncertainty.
A really good, practical, work based book on decision making. Klein has spent years looking at how experts in many areas really make decisions, rather than having lots of theories about it that he can’t test. The results are here and if you’re in business, or need to make decisions in a work context, following this will almost certainly improve your decision making.
Another book by Klein, who really has nailed a lot of the myths about what decision making is and how it works in real life. This one is more basic, but it is probably more generalisable, so it is a good place to start if you still think that analysing things to death is the best way to make decisions.
The book to read if you want to understand why people are not Vulcans and not logical – and how if they were totally logical, they’d fail to operate in the human world!
A really good history of how “risk management” developed.
There are several good sources of information about debt. I’ve given a lot of places to get help and advice under the debt section of “finding help”.
If you want general background on what official bodies are around or where you might get help (although it might be smothered in red tape) try the official site of the UK Government.
There’s also a great site with all sorts of useful data and ideas called Money made clear
There’s also one book that I think is particularly good.
It is getting a bit old now, but this short and simple book is a really good guide to dealing with debt and has a simple system for arranging finances.
If you want a good “budget planner”, I’d suggest using one of the two below. As a first step, however, look at your values and what you really want in life and then work out your financial goals. Then you can budget to get the things you want. If you start with the budget, you could end up including things that you don’t really need, and fail to find the money to achieve what you really want.
The other good, free, site is Moneysaving expert. That has got great tips on money saving on all sorts of things. Again, I’d suggest making sure what you are trying to save the money for first, otherwise you can end up saving £2,000 a year on switching energy suppliers, a new phone contract, better broadband deal etc. and ending up with loads of stuff you don’t use fully and not having any of the money you’ve saved to spend on what you really want. When you know what you’re switching suppliers etc. to achieve, then this budget planner is really good.
If you are worried about your finances as a couple, you’re in plenty of company. Financial worries are the number one reason for families to seek help from Relate, a charity that provides relationship help. But is the money the real issue, or is the relationship the issue and the money guilt, shame, anger etc. just an obvious way to focus all your doubts? Relate or some other guidance or counselling might help.
If you simply want a better understanding of what is going on between you, these books might be interesting.
Really well researched but very readable, it’s probably the book I’ve recommended more people read than any other. It shows gender differences don’t really apply in terms of abilities, only motivations. So it isn’t altogether surprising that a business world that is designed by and for men, with male ideas of “how things work” and rewards geared to things that motivate men doesn’t appeal to a lot of women. There’s a lot more to the book than that, but it is a real eye opener for most people.
A really readable account of the results of about a quarter of a century of research into differences between men and women, based on research into the autistic spectrum. It’s well worth reading if you want to understand why men and women can seem to have the same objectives and money goals, but actually be seeing things from slightly different angles and not quite agreeing as much as they think they are.
An amazing free resource for children’s finance is the charity MyBnk. It’s got all sorts of useful, practical ideas for children to lean about handling money, use it sensibly, deal with debt – they’ve even got a savings scheme and a jargon buster (that most adults would find useful!)
There’s also a part of Relate that deals with families and children – so if you need some help in opening lines of communication, they are a good first stop. You may also want some specific help, and counselling may be what you need.
If you want to find out more about children and their perceptions of money and finance, these books might help.
It might be too academic for you but it is the last word on how children acquire their money attitudes. It’s also got a fantastic list of other books (nearly all American in style and, more importantly, in dealing with tax and financial systems) that give information about children’s understanding of finance.
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