Last updated in September 2020
The best books on financial independence retire early (FIRE) can teach us a lot. For example, how to retire at age 30 or 40 (or even earlier). But finding the gems amongst the wealth of literature out there can be a huge challenge.
If you are aware of any good books on financial independence or financial independence retire early (FIRE) that should be on this list, please let me know. Reading is a good habit to expand your horizon.
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The best books on financial independence retire early (FIRE)
Your Money or Your Life by V. Robin & J. Dominguez
Your Money or Your Life was first published in 1992 but has been updated in 2018. It is largely regarded as one of the best books on financial independence retire early. The 2018 version even features a foreword from Mr. Money Mustache.
Going into the content, Your Money or Your Life aims to help the reader to improve their relationship with money and reach financial independence in nine steps. This means the target group are people at the beginning of their journey to financial independence and are new to the concept of FIRE. People well into their FIRE journey may want to pass on this book. For everyone else, it provides a great roadmap and starting point.
An important selling point of the book is that people who complete the nine steps outlined in Your Money or Your Life reduce their spending by, on average, 25%. Notably, they also feel happier and have better relationships with others.
Playing with FIRE by S. Rieckens
Playing with FIRE was written by Scott Rieckens, a successful entrepreneur living in Southern California. While he was living what many think of as the dream life with a wife, young child, a fancy house and a posh car, he was also depressed and overworked. The turning point of Scott’s life came when he listened to a FIRE podcast and decided to change his life. In the process of his journey, Scott also created a movie with the same title (Playing with FIRE trailer).
Scott was able to turn his life around by following the seven steps to FIRE. Playing with FIRE will show you how he quit his job and halved his expenses.
Playing with FIRE is written with humour and provides excellent case studies. It is more targeted towards beginners on their FIRE journey but is also suitable for those further down on their journey due to its emphasis on living frugally and happily.
The Simple Path to Wealth by J. L. Collins
The Simple Path to Wealth was written by Jim Collins as a result of failed attempts to educate his daughter about money. Like many people, his daughter knew about the importance of money but just could not be bothered to spend too much time thinking about it. Thus, Jim thought of a way to convey his lectures in an easily understandable, concise manner.
And indeed, the core concept of The Simple Path to Wealth is very simple and easy to understand. Avoid debt, save half of your income and invest it in low-cost index funds. The chatty style of the book is appealing to the masses who are not interested in the details of investing but still want to build wealth. As a result, Jim is a strong advocate for index trackers which are widely used in the FIRE community to provide a sustainable long-term income.
The Simple Path to Wealth is geared towards a younger audience. However, it is also an interesting read for those lacking financial education (which probably means 90% of the population).
Quit Like A Millionaire by K. Shen & B. Leung
Quit like a Millionaire was written by Kirsty Shen who retired at the ripe age of 31 with a million-dollar portfolio. Kirsty did not achieve this by winning the lottery or other professional success but by slowly building sustainable wealth.
Kirsty writes about FIRE from an interesting perspective, that of a woman with an Asian background. We tend to perceive FIRE as an area dominated by white males, but Kirsty highlights that FIRE can be for everyone.
Quit like a Millionaire aims to make FIRE accessible to people who do not feel the can identify with the typical early retiree. Thus, its principles can be applied even if you do not have any savings at the moment or if your finances are a mess. It is a useful tool for those starting out on their FIRE journey and because of its unique perspective, it is interesting even to those aware of the FIRE core principles.
The millionaire next door By T. J. Stanley and W. D. Danko
Thomas Stanley and William Danko researched the lives of America’s upper society. They were surprised to find out how little information was available. Looking further into this, the authors discovered that many wealthy people actually lived in modest housing situations.
It is very interesting to find out that the profile of the average millionaire is not as glamorous as we may think. Instead, they are ordinary people living frugally and happily.
From their findings, Thomas and William break down the habits of these millionaires. Unsurprisingly, these perfectly align with those generally found in the FIRE community, most importantly the notion of putting financial independence above societal status.
At first, I was critical towards The Millionaire next Door thinking it would be “too American”. However, the FIRE concept is the same for anyone around the world and thus, the book is an interesting read for anyone.
You Need a Budget BY J. Mecham
You Need a Budget is not a FIRE book and stands out on this list. The reason I still included it is because budgeting is a major struggle for many interesting in pursuing financial independence. Everyone wants to retire early but few want to sit down and mull over their expenses.
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is also available as budgeting software. This is especially helpful for those struggle with dealing spreadsheets. However, note that you will have to pay $7 a month to use the software, whereas the book is a one-off cost.
Financial Freedom: A Proven Path To All The Money You Will Ever Need By G. Sabatier
Grant Sabatier wrote Financial Freedom after finding out that he was completely broke. Five years later he was a millionaire. How did he achieve this? By throwing himself into personal finance, reading and learning about budgeting, investing and side hustling.
In Financial Freedom, he provides a step-by-step plan aiming to help others reaching FIRE. Unlike the other books, this is very much focused on side hustling. Grant managed to make $300,000 from side hustling alongside his regular job.
Despite this, Grant does not go crazy about money and emphasises that time is the crucial factor. Time that should be spent doing what you love rather than working a soulless desk job.
Meet The Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living By E. Willard Thames
Elizabeth Willard Thames is another early retiree who achieved financial independence at age 32. Like so many others, Elizabeth and her husband started out as nine-to-five workers. Unlike their peers, however, they were able to save 70% of their income by living frugally.
Meet the Frugalwoods is not a manual that will provide you with a step-by-step roadmap. Instead, it follows Elizabeth’s life, almost like an autobiography. However, that does not mean Meet the Frugalwoods is a boring read. It is written in an easy-to-read style and provides much food for thought.
Work Optional: Retire Early The Non-Penny-Pinching Way By T. Hester
Work Optional by Tanja Hester wins the prize for the nicest cover (in my opinion). On a more serious note, Work Optional is written by yet another early retiree, Tanja Hester.
When I am telling people about my plans to retire early, half of them will respond with words like “retiring is so boring” and “why don’t you just look for a job you enjoy more?”. And to be honest, I actually like my job. This is where I really felt Work Optional understood me. Tanja emphasises that being financially independent does not mean you have to spend the rest of your days watching TV.
The steps to reach FIRE are very much written for people based in the US. While the concepts will still be the same for you, irrespective of your location, readers expecting a simple guide may be more satisfied with the selection of books presented above.
The best books on financial independence retire early summary
If you are interested in the best books on financial independence retire early, I recommend you try the following:
- Your Money Or Your Life
- Playing with FIRE
- The Simple Path to Wealth
- Quit like a Millionaire
- The Millionaire Next Door
- You Need a Budget
- Financial Freedom
- Meet the Frugalwoods
- Work Optional
Before spending money on buying these books, visit your local library to see if you can borrow them for free instead. Alternatively, you may be interested in listening to the best financial independence podcasts or blogs.
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