New personal finance titles address readers across age groups and income levels, answering the teeth-grinding money questions—about debt, investment, and retirement planning—that accompany every stage of career and life.

Drowning in student debt?

Americans owe $1.6 trillion in student loans, and overall household debt, according to a 2019 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, stands at nearly 10 times that figure. Debt 101 (Adams, Jan. 2020) by Michele Cagan, a CPA, seeks to alleviate borrowers’ stress by breaking down repayment strategies, different kinds of debt, interest rates, and credit scores, among other topics. Cagan’s previous books include Investing 101, which has sold 66,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan.

Just got a debit card?

Those only beginning to learn about money management might be put off by the mind-blanking language of finance. What’s a bull market and what’s a bear? How does one calculate compound interest, and why is it, as Albert Einstein is dubiously quoted as saying, “the most powerful force in the universe”? Napkin Finance (Dey Street, Jan. 2020) by Tina Hay, who operates a money education site of the same name, explains financial concepts using easy-to-digest and cheeky napkin doodles. One addresses the positives and negatives of inflation, for instance, while another explains the Rule of 72 (yeah, we didn’t know either).

Have a little to spare?

First-time investors tend to look at familiar options: stocks, bonds, IRAs, 401(k)s, mutual funds. In Put Your Money Where Your Life Is (Berrett-Koehler, June 2020), Michael H. Shuman, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, lays out another option: investing locally. He describes how readers can use two vehicles—self-directed IRAs and solo 401(k)s—to exert more control over their investments and direct their money toward their communities rather than Wall Street.

Thinking about retirement—eventually?

Retirement, for those new to the workforce or still climbing out of debt, may seem like a faraway fantasy, but planning for it, experts say, should begin early. Retirement 101 (Adams, Feb. 2020) by Debt 101’s Cagan, answers questions about retirement age, offers advice on saving, and helps readers determine how much to have on hand before sending the “I’m out of here” all-staff email.

Ready to buy up some Monopoly squares?

Prospective real estate investors might be wary of the commitment such an outlay entails. In The Hands-Off Investor (BiggerPockets, May 2020), Brian Burke, CEO of real estate development company Praxis Capital, guides readers through the process of investing in real estate passively, through a strategy called syndication. The book is aimed at high–net worth individuals and speaks their language: sponsor fees, profit splits, and investor waterfalls are among the topics addressed.

Hope to actually enjoy the money?

Work hard, save meticulously—and then never spend anything? For many, a saver’s mentality makes it difficult to have fun with painstakingly amassed earnings. In Die with Zero (HMH, May 2020), Bill Perkins, CEO of consulting firm BrisaMax Holdings, urges readers to live larger than they might be inclined to. Dropping coinages such as “experience bucketing,” “spend curve,” and “personal interest rate,” and drawing on psychology and behavioral finance, the book makes an argument for living over scrimping.

Return to main feature.