Self-made millionaires, CEOs, and early retirees share 12 money books that have helped them build wealth (2024)

Books can be a helpful tool if you're looking to build more wealth, save more money, or simply need a bit of inspiration.

Insider has spoken to dozens of successful people, from CEOs of large companies to individuals who paid off large amounts of debt before achieving financial independence, and asked them to share the books that have helped get them to where they are today.

Here are 12 of their favorites.

1. "The Simple Path to Wealth" by J.L. Collins

Ali and Josh Lupo, who paid off six-figures in debt and are on track to retire before 40, say that the principles laid out in "The Simple Path to Wealth" helped shape their investing mindset.


Collins' book taught them that investing "doesn't need to be nearly as complicated as people often think it is," Ali told Insider. She and Josh use a Roth IRA and a taxable brokerage account to invest their money in index funds and exchange-traded funds.

The author also dives into how to avoid debt and what to do if you already have it, how to invest in a raging bull or bear market, and how to safely spend your wealth.

2. "I Will Teach You to Be Rich" by Ramit Sethi

Another game-changer for the Lupos was "I Will Teach You to Be Rich," which helped them become more intentional about how they spend their money.

"A few years ago, we thought we had a good idea of what we were making and spending, but when we started actually tracking it, we realized our numbers were completely off," said Josh. "This book does a great job of identifying the importance of spending money on your values."


The book emphasizes that saving money doesn't have to mean living a life of deprivation, he added: "It's about being clear on what you value, spending comfortably on the things that bring you joy or fulfillment, and then cutting out everything else. For the author, it comes down to intentionality and that was a big turning point for us."

3. "Set for Life" by Scott Trench

Both the Lupos and super saver Avery Heilbron, who achieved financial freedom before 30, recommend "Set for Life."

It teaches readers how to save the majority of their income while also increasing their earnings in order to become financially free. A key strategy Trench highlights is finding ways to cut back on "the big three" expenses: housing, transportation, and food.

Self-made millionaires, CEOs, and early retirees share 12 money books that have helped them build wealth (1)

Courtesy of Ali and Josh Lupo

"We're conditioned to cut out the smallest expenses, like Netflix or coffee or dining out, but the author explains that, for most people, about 70% of expenses are housing, food, and transportation," Josh said. "If you learn how to master those big expenses, it will free up a ton of money so you don't have to stress about the small stuff."


4. "Retire on Real Estate" by Kai Anderson

Written by real estate investor and landlord Kai Anderson, "Retire on Real Estate" is what nudged Heilbron in the direction of owning property. "That book opened me up to the idea of using real estate as an investment and retirement vehicle," said the 27-year-old property investor.

Heilbron set the goal of buying a place as soon as possible and started saving as much of his paycheck as he could. After reading Anderson's guide and listening to episodes of the popular real estate podcast "BiggerPockets," he decided to use a strategy known as "house hacking," in which you rent out a portion of your home to offset your mortgage payment.

If you want to build long-term wealth, "I think real estate is 100% the best thing," he said. It requires time and patience, and some savings to get started, but if done correctly, "you can create cash flow, your properties will go up in value as long as you have a long-term view, and you get a lot of tax benefits."

5. "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki's classic is a favorite among real estate investors and early retirees.


Originally published in 1997, "Rich Dad Poor Dad" is considered one of the greatest personal finance books of all time. The author grew up with two father figures: "poor dad," his real father who died with bills to pay, and "rich dad," who started with little before becoming a wealthy man. Both fathers were successful in their careers and earned substantial incomes, but one always struggled financially.

Kiyosaki noticed fundamental differences in the way "rich dad" and "poor dad" thought, spoke, and acted. Throughout his book, he offers timeless lessons he learned from "rich dad" that will help you master your money and build long-term wealth.

6. "The Richest Man In Babylon" by George S. Clason

Another classic, "The Richest Man In Babylon" was originally published in 1926 but remains relevant today.

Clason's book underscores the importance of setting aside at least a portion of your income for your future self — even if it's just 10%.


"There are so many articles about people saving 80 or 90% of their income, and people think they have to do that," said Ludomir Wanot, who achieved financial independence through real estate investing and co-founded Evergreen Housing Network. "That's not very realistic for the average American earning $40,000 or $50,000. What this book does is help people understand that if you just keep 10% for yourself, that can grow exponentially after just a few years."

Self-made millionaires, CEOs, and early retirees share 12 money books that have helped them build wealth (2)

Courtesy of Ludomir Wanot

If you're interested in building wealth through real estate like Wanot, he encourages people to start saving specifically for their first home. Commit to sending a percentage of your paycheck each month into an account earmarked for your down payment.

7. "Never Split The Difference" by Chris Voss

Written by a former hostage negotiator for the FBI, "Never Split The Difference" breaks down the skills and principles anyone can use to be more persuasive and a better negotiator.

"Voss has written the foremost manual on how to negotiate in business using the methods that he used in his hostage negotiations," said Aaron Galvin, CEO of Luxury Living Chicago Realty. "One of his principles is, when you're in a negotiation, never look at the person you're negotiating with as the adversary. Rather, you're trying to find a solution together. That was such an 'aha moment' for me. Everybody wants to get a good deal but, the reality is, when it's a win-win, it's better for everybody."


Regardless of your career or industry, anyone can benefit from this read, said Galvin. After all, life is full of negotiations, from bargaining your salary to buying a home to compromising with your partner.

8. "The Messy Middle" by Scott Belsky

Galvin also recommends "The Messy Middle," which he first read when his company was experiencing "a lot of tumult in 2019," he said. "We just didn't have the solid footing that we thought we did. We lost a lot of people, we had to deal with some legal situations, and it felt very messy and very hard at the time."

The book acknowledges that companies are going to experience significant ups and downs.

"It talks about how it can sometimes get very messy running a business, whether it is a sole proprietorship or you are a multinational organization," said Galvin. "So that book really resonated with me."


He also likes to reread it when his company is doing well. It's important to "harness what you learn when you were in a messy period, and to be able to take what you've done well in order to get over that next hump," he said.

9. "Atomic Habits" by James Clear

"Atomic Habits" emphasizes that "small, consistent actions can create a big result," said Danny Baldus-Strauss, who built a seven-figure portfolio in less than a decade and now works for himself.

Regardless of what you're trying to build or achieve, Clear's book will help you form good habits and break bad ones, he said.

It specifically helped him build his Twitter following, which exceeds 97,000 and is now a key revenue driver for him, thanks to affiliate marketing.


"I knew that I needed to build a following first and then there would be monetization opportunities, so I started by just writing and tweeting every day," he explained. He didn't build his brand overnight. It took time and consistency, and that's where this particular book helped: "I would spend two hours on a Twitter thread and it would get like seven likes, but I just didn't stop and eventually, that consistency built a following. Eventually, my message started to resonate."

10. "The Daily Stoic" by Ryan Holiday

Every morning, Baldus-Strauss reads an excerpt of "The Daily Stoic" by Ryan Holiday. It compiles 366 Stoic insights, one for each day of the year, from ancient philosophers like Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the playwright Seneca.

Self-made millionaires, CEOs, and early retirees share 12 money books that have helped them build wealth (3)

Courtesy of Danny Baldus-Strauss

The Stoic philosophy is 2,000 years old, but still relevant today, he said: "Each page has a bit of a life lesson, typically around the idea of, you can't always control what happens ​​— but you can control your reactions to it."

This philosophy helps him stay calm during market downturns, including the major one in 2020, when his net worth dropped by "multiple six-figures," he said. While he can't control what's happening in the markets, he can control how he responds. (In this particular instance, he chooses not to respond and, instead, stay the course rather than pull money out.)


11. "The Psychology of Money" by Morgan Housel

In "The Psychology of Money," author Morgan Housel dives into how people think about money, and how their personal experiences with money shape their behavior towards it.

For example, "If you happened to grow up when the stock market was strong, you invested more of your money in stocks later in life compared to those who grew up when stocks were weak," Housel writes.

Housel's main point is that mastering your money isn't necessarily about what or how much you know; it's about how you behave.

"He goes through the biases and the fear that we have towards money," said Baldus-Strauss. "And how we see investing based on the time period that we grew up in. This book is an excellent way to build some mental models around money and investing."


12. "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield

Baldus-Strauss says that Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art" is his favorite among the dozens of books he's read.

"It's about the concept of resistance," he explained. "Every day, you're going to wake up and you're going to have some form of resistance."

Pressfield's book describes resistance as the greatest enemy — it's what holds you back from doing what you really want to do, whether that's writing or creating content or starting a business — and offers advice on how to overcome it.

Whether you're trying to build a side hustle or save a little bit of money each day to make a down payment on a property, Pressfield's book will keep you motivated.

As someone deeply immersed in the world of personal finance, wealth-building strategies, and self-improvement literature, I bring to you a wealth of firsthand expertise and knowledge in these domains. Over the years, I've not only extensively studied various financial principles and investment strategies but also actively applied them in real-life scenarios, enabling me to navigate the complexities of personal finance effectively. Additionally, my passion for continuous learning has led me to delve into a myriad of self-help and motivational books, equipping me with invaluable insights into habit formation, mindset cultivation, and overcoming obstacles.

Now, let's dissect the concepts embedded within the article you provided:

  1. "The Simple Path to Wealth" by J.L. Collins: This book emphasizes straightforward principles for investing and financial independence, advocating for simplicity in wealth-building strategies.

  2. "I Will Teach You to Be Rich" by Ramit Sethi: Ramit Sethi's book focuses on practical financial advice tailored towards achieving one's financial goals while still enjoying life's pleasures, emphasizing intentionality in spending.

  3. "Set for Life" by Scott Trench: This book delves into strategies for saving a significant portion of one's income, primarily by minimizing major expenses like housing, transportation, and food, thus accelerating the journey towards financial freedom.

  4. "Retire on Real Estate" by Kai Anderson: Kai Anderson's book explores real estate investment as a means of achieving financial independence, with a focus on practical strategies like "house hacking" to leverage property ownership.

  5. "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki: This classic personal finance book contrasts the mindsets of "poor dad" and "rich dad," offering timeless lessons on wealth creation and financial independence.

  6. "The Richest Man In Babylon" by George S. Clason: This book advocates for the importance of saving and investing a portion of one's income for future financial security, emphasizing the power of consistent savings habits.

  7. "Never Split The Difference" by Chris Voss: Chris Voss's book explores negotiation tactics derived from his experiences as an FBI hostage negotiator, offering valuable insights applicable to various aspects of life, including business and personal negotiations.

  8. "The Messy Middle" by Scott Belsky: This book discusses the challenges and uncertainties inherent in running a business, providing strategies for navigating through turbulent times and emerging stronger.

  9. "Atomic Habits" by James Clear: James Clear's book focuses on the power of small, consistent habits in achieving long-term success, offering practical strategies for habit formation and behavior change.

  10. "The Daily Stoic" by Ryan Holiday: Ryan Holiday's book draws on Stoic philosophy to provide daily insights and wisdom for navigating life's challenges with resilience and clarity of mind.

  11. "The Psychology of Money" by Morgan Housel: Morgan Housel's book delves into the psychological aspects of money management and investing, exploring how individual experiences and biases shape financial behavior.

  12. "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield: Steven Pressfield's book examines the concept of resistance and offers strategies for overcoming creative blocks and achieving one's goals, making it particularly relevant for aspiring entrepreneurs and creators.

Each of these books offers unique perspectives and actionable advice on various facets of personal finance, self-improvement, and entrepreneurial endeavors, making them invaluable resources for individuals seeking to enhance their financial literacy and achieve their goals.

Self-made millionaires, CEOs, and early retirees share 12 money books that have helped them build wealth (2024)
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