Schools today just aren’t doing enough to teach young people the facts of financial life. If you don’t believe it, just ask the young people. In a 2021 Junior Achievement survey (via CNBC), over 60% of teens said they hadn’t taken any financial literacy classes in school.
Parents can step in to fill this gap for their kids. One good way to do that: introducing them to great books on financial topics. The best personal finance books can teach teens and tweens how to develop a healthy relationship with money — now and for their financial future.
The Best Personal Finance Books for Young Adults (Teens and Tweens)
Some of the best money books for teens aren’t actually written with young readers in mind. They’re aimed at young adults, but their advice and writing style is also useful for the under-20 set. Our top teen money book, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” is one example.
But there are also plenty of good personal finance books written specifically for teens and tweens. They use casual language and real-world examples to teach young people how to save money, use bank accounts and credit cards wisely, start investing, and set financial goals.
These are the best money books we’ve found to prepare young people for financial success.
Best Overall: “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi
Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” isn’t aimed at teens. It’s written as a complete money guide for young adults seeking to build wealth without pinching pennies. However, many reviewers say Sethi’s advice is just as useful for older teens starting or preparing for college.
In 13 chapters, Sethi provides a complete road map to financial independence. Topics include:
Sethi’s writing style can seem a little harsh at times. He spends a lot of time attacking people who complain rather than taking financial responsibility. But behind the criticisms are simple, actionable steps for money management that anyone can use.
Best for Financial Literacy: “I Want More Pizza” by Steve Burkholder
As a teenager, Steve Burkholder saved up $5,000 for college…and lost it through unwise investment. Years later, he wrote “I Want More Pizza” to help other teens avoid similar mistakes.
The book is organized into four “slices” covering different aspects of money management:
- “You” covers your relationship with money, including behavior, priorities, and goals
- “Saving” explains how to track expenses and save for goals like a car or college tuition
- “Growing Your Savings” covers compound interest and investment
- “Debt” explains all forms of debt, including credit cards and student loans
Burkholder’s style is clear and entertaining. He uses relatable examples and anecdotes and never talks down to his young readers.
This comprehensive financial literacy book is ideal for high school students. However, it’s appropriate for teens as young as 13.
Best for Personal Finance: “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?” by Cary Siegel
Another teen-friendly, big-picture guide to managing your money is Cary Siegel’s “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?” Aimed at slightly older teens than “I Want More Pizza,” this bestseller makes an appropriate gift for both high school and college graduates.
This book covers the whole gamut of personal finance. Siegel organizes it into eight broad “lessons, each covering several specific, bite-sized “principles” of financial health. Topics include:
- Setting realistic financial goals
- Making and following a budget
- Getting the best value when you shop
- Getting (or staying) out of debt
- Recognizing good investments
- Renting versus buying a home
Together, these lessons add up to a crash course in making sound financial decisions. Teens can read the book straight through or skip straight to a specific lesson, as they choose.
Best for Money Mindset: “Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens” by Robert Kiyosaki
Robert Kiyosaki is a controversial figure. Some critics think his bestseller, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” puts too much emphasis on real estate investing and too little value on education. He had a corporate bankruptcy in 2012. And he took a lot of heat in 2020 over a purportedly racist tweet.
Nonetheless, the book remains hugely popular for its perspective on the mentality of wealth. His “Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens” offers the same insight for a younger set. It focuses on the money habits of the rich and teaches how to make money work for you, rather than vice versa.
The book covers principles key to financial success, like goal setting, entrepreneurship, and finding your own path to wealth. It includes sidebars and quizzes to help young readers make sure they’re grasping the material.
Best for Investing: “The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens” by David and Tom Gardner
David and Tom Gardner are the founders of The Motley Fool, an investment website. In “The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens,” they provide the same useful advice for junior high and high school students, in the same humorous and readable style.
The book is in two parts. Part I, “Eight Steps to Wealth,” covers the basics of personal finance, including budgeting, saving, and spending. Part II, “The Search for Greatness,” covers the details of investing, such as finding the best stock market picks and managing your portfolio.
Part of the book’s appeal for young people is its focus on financial freedom. It shows how money can help them gain control of their own lives — something teens are always eager to learn.
Best for Tweens: “How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000” by James McKenna
Many of these money books aren’t ideal for tweens. Either their writing style or their material isn’t appropriate for pre-high-school kids. If you’re looking for a complete personal finance book suitable for ages 10 to 14, look no further than “How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000.”
James McKenna is one of the people behind BizKid$, a show and educational website for young entrepreneurs. In this humorous and practical guide, he teaches kids how to do three basic things with their money:
- Make it: Get a first job or start a business
- Save it: Learn why saving matters and how to do it
- Grow it: Put the power of compound interest to work
Best for Older Teens: “Broke Millennial” by Erin Lowry
By now, the millennial generation has left its teen years behind. Yet the advice in Erin Lowry’s “Broke Millennial” continues to have relevance for the high school and college students of Generation Z.
Lowry offers a comprehensive, entertaining, step-by-step guide to money management for young adults who want to stop — or never start — living paycheck to paycheck. Besides the basics of budgeting and credit cards, it covers topics relevant to young adults, such as:
Lowry’s style is casual, cheeky, and youthful. Her use of funny anecdotes and humorous hashtags (such as #GYFLT for “get your financial life together”) will resonate with Gen-Z readers. And her advice can help them avoid starting adulthood broke like her generation.
Books are an important tool for teaching teens and tweens about money. But there’s one more part of your kids’ financial education that’s even more crucial: you.
The lessons teens and tweens learn from books will sink in better if you reinforce them by exposing them to the same ideas in real life. As your kids grow older, involve them more in discussions about your household finances.
When you take them shopping, let them know what your budget is for the trip. Have them observe as you work on your household budget or pay bills. And discuss the trade-offs you make with money, like spending less on a vacation to save for their college costs.
Personal finance books aren’t a substitute for real-world lessons about money matters. Rather, the two go hand in hand. Together, they prepare your teen to start adulthood on a sound financial footing.