One of the great things about Amazon is their a reseller program, which means the most popular books often are sold (used) for very cheap.
For this article, I picked out five of the best personal finance books you can get for less than a buck.
I wouldn’t say these are necessarily the five best financial books written, but they are all very popular and have proved themselves to be worth something – well over the price of a buck!
Just a quick disclaimer, at the time of this writing you could buy any of these books used on Amazon for under a buck. Yes, in order to get them that cheap you will be buying used books and their prices do fluctuate, so one day you could get it for 75 cents and the next day it might be 83 cents.
But either way, I can assure you it will be worth the money. And, as always, using the library to get books is a great idea as well!
Poor Richard’s Almanac is the famous Benjamin Franklin classic. Because it was written hundreds of years ago, I assumed that most of the proverbs contained in it would no longer be relevant. I don’t think I could have been more wrong.
The beauty of this book is Ben Franklin distilled financial wit and wisdom into timeless proverbs that will continue to have value centuries from now.
While techniques and methods change, principles remain the same. This book focuses on the principles, which is why it has stood the test of time.
Learn more about Poor Richard’s Almanac.
This was one of the first financial books I read and it set me off on the journey to getting control of my money.
The book has been very controversial in the personal finance community because Kiyosaki, the author, more or less disagrees with all of the traditional views of “wise money management.” He has a very do-or-die mindset when it comes to finances.
Personally, I disagree with some key things that Kiyosaki preaches, but at the same time there are some lessons in this book that I think he hits the nail right on the head.
I mentioned in a recent book review that this one was one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. Part of that was because it was the first book of its kind that I read, and part of it was the message contained in it.
Because I’m a kid from a working-class family, this book was helpful to me in breaking out of the “I will always be poor” mindset.
Find out more about Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
This book was written by David Bach and is incredibly simple to understand. He did an excellent job of distilling the basics of investing for retirement into their simplest form.
The book occasionally gets criticized for being overly simplistic, but it was perfect for me when I was starting out, so I still have an affection for it.
The purpose of the book is to help the readers overcome the biggest challenge of reaching financial freedom – our lack of discipline. David lays out a good argument and gives simple step-by-step instructions on how to retire with a million dollars in the bank.
This was one of the books that made me realize this stuff really isn’t as difficult as some people make it seem.
Find out more about The Automatic Millionaire.
Just as David Bach simplified retirement investing in The Automatic Millionaire, Peter Lynch simplified stock picking in One Up on Wall Street.
Peter has become one of my investing heroes, alongside Warren Buffett. Both have had fantastic results with their funds.
In One Up on Wall Street, Peter lays out a convincing case as to why we everyday people have a better chance of beating the market than the “big boys” up on Wall Street. He talks about how some of his successful stock picks came from his wife’s suggestions after a trip to the grocery store.
I loved the book because it added a much needed element of common sense to the stock-picking process.
While he does lightly touch on some slightly more complex topics, the book is very readable, enjoyable, and worthwhile for the beginning stock investor.
The bummer about reading a bunch of books on the same topic is that they start to run together in your brain! This book is a case of that for me.
The thing I remember most (I think) is that the authors analyzed the habits of a bunch of millionaires to see what the common threads were between them. If I recall correctly, this book pointed out that most millionaires actually do not live in “rock star” extravagance, but actually watch their finances very closely.
The overriding point of the book is that the primary factor in building wealth is to spend less than you earn!
Find out more about The Millionaire Next Door.
Your Turn: What are your favorite books about personal finance?
Disclosure: We appreciate you letting us include affiliate links in this post. It helps keep the beer fridge stocked in the Penny Hoarder break room.
You aren’t, and neither am I.
But neither are the credit bureaus who compile your credit history or the creditors who report to those bureaus.
If you have some splotches on your credit report, the odds are at least some of those black marks are there by mistake.
The good news is, it’s not that difficult to repair a flawed credit report. While accurate, verifiable and complete data must stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, you can wipe clean a lot more negative data from your credit report than you might otherwise expect.
And you can do this yourself. You don’t have to hire anyone to do this for you or make this into a part-time job.
With a little study, diligence and determination, anyone can clean up and repair their credit report. Let’s go through the steps together.
Before trying to correct your credit report, take a minute to understand what you are up against.
There are four main participants in the credit world:
You are the first and most important, because you decide where and how to spend your money using credit. Most (but not all) of the information that’s in your credit report is there because of something you did or did not do.
The good news is you have the power to determine what your credit future is going to look like. And as you’ll see, you also have the power to clean up a lot of your ancient credit past.
The credit bureaus are the keepers of your history. They collect data from creditors, vendors and stores.
They record how punctual you’ve been paying your bills, among other things. And they have kept records about your transactions ever since you started using credit.
They also collect information from the local, state and federal government with regards to any liens, bankruptcies or criminal convictions against you.
There are many regional credit bureaus, but there are three large national credit bureaus, and they are the organizations you should focus on: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
These are tremendously large firms. They collect data on hundreds of millions of people, and each year they gather billions of data points.
As you’ll see, they often make mistakes. If you don’t catch those errors, you’ll be the one who ends up paying for it.
Your creditors are the next participants to consider. They tell the credit bureaus about their financial experiences with you. The tricky part of this is not all creditors report to all three bureaus and some don’t report at all.
Creditors are only human. They also report false negative information to the bureaus quite often. In fact, a recent study done by the Federal Trade Commission determined that one in five credit reports have material errors.
Again, it’s up to you to call attention to these mistakes and demand they be corrected.
The final player in your credit world are the people and organizations who use the information that the credit bureaus collect (and sell). Those organizations include potential creditors, would-be employers or business partners and insurance companies.
With so much on the line and so many opportunities for errors, it makes sense to do everything you can to make sure your credit report is as clean as possible.
We’re almost ready to start scrubbing your credit file.
But before we do, you’ll find it helpful to understand the laws that protect you against what credit bureaus and creditors do with and to your credit file. T
here are only a few statutes to take a look at, and you don’t have to be a legal genius in order to understand these laws.
The first and most important to consider is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Among other things, this law requires credit bureaus to provide a free credit report to you each year if you request it.
This same law mandates that the credit bureaus and creditors must correct any entry that is not accurate, verifiable and complete (more on that in a bit).
The next law is the Fair Credit Billing Act. This guards you against unfair billing practices.
For example, if you are charged for something you didn’t buy, are charged the wrong amount or never got what you paid for, the merchant must make the correction both to your bill and to your credit report if they reported negative information about you.
The next statute to understand is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This specifies what bill collectors are and are not allowed to do.
In a nutshell, collection agents are not permitted to harass you. In fact, if you write and tell them to leave you alone, they must do so.
Obviously, any blatant inaccuracies (detailed below) need to be corrected. But it goes far beyond that.
As I mentioned above, the information in your credit report must be verifiable and complete too. Let’s look a little closer to really understand what that means.
By law, creditors must be able to prove the negative information they report is true. If they can’t produce evidence, the information must be removed.
At first glance, this may seem like a small matter, but it’s actually one of your strongest weapons in getting the bureaucrats to remove false negatives.
As a matter of fact, this burden of proof becomes more and more difficult to satisfy over time. That’s because as the years pass, companies go out of business, merge with others and/or lose information as they update their data systems.
In other words, time is on your side.
You might consider disputing a negative item if you think the vendor won’t be able to prove their claim.
You might have a negative item on your credit report that while technically true, doesn’t tell the entire story. If that is the case, the item must be wiped clean.
What is “incomplete”? The best way to explain is by way of example. Let’s say you delayed paying a bill because the vendor sent you the wrong product.
Did you pay on time? No. But simply listing this as a late payment isn’t fair or complete.
You didn’t pay on time because you didn’t get what was promised. Because this data is incomplete, you can direct the credit bureaus to remove the negative item and they have to comply.
Now that you know how the game works and you are familiar with your rights, it’s time to order your credit reports and go through them with a fine-toothed comb.
I suggest you get all three reports at the same time, because not all credit bureaus have the same information. If you only order one but a mistake only shows up on one of the others, you won’t know about it, yet it will pull your score down.
As I said earlier, there is a 20% chance that your credit report contains material errors, so look through your reports carefully. Here’s what to look for:
Of course there are other justifications for disputing credit report history but this gives you a sense of what to look for. Inspect all three of your reports and mark those items you want to dispute.
Now it’s time to build your paper trail. Get any documentation you can that proves your argument. It might be difficult to corroborate all of your claims but just do the best you can and don’t be deterred by lack of evidence.
Remember that the bureaus and creditors are responsible to prove their case against you -- not the other way around.
Contest the misinformation with both the creditor and the credit bureaus. Much of the information you read about the dispute process suggests that you first contact the bureau and reach out to the creditor if that fails.
I disagree with that advice. You are better off if you contact both parties at the same time. There is no downside to doing so, and it saves you lots of time and frustration as you don’t have to put up with the credit bureau run around.
Send them a registered return letter with your request that they fix the items you dispute. Include your reasons for your demand and a copy of your evidence (including a snapshot of the credit report that contains the mistake). End the letter by telling them what you want them to do -- remove the item from your credit file.
Some creditors allow you to dispute claims by telephone or online, but I suggest you stick with snail mail. That’s because if you contact the other party via internet or phone you might surrender some of your legal rights.
Some of the rights you maintain by writing a letter include the right to see a copy of the other party’s evidence backing up their claim against you and the right to be treated fairly by collection agencies. If you don’t write, you could give up those protections and more.
And while we are on the subject of letter writing, please use your own words rather than using a template you download from the internet. The bureaus get lots of requests all day long. You have a higher chance of being taken seriously if you compose your own letter.
You can use templates to get an idea of what your letter should look like, but don’t copy them word-for-word.
As long as the credit bureaus think your case has merit, they will investigate your claim within 30 days. If they think your claim has no merit, they won’t even look into it. This is another reason why it’s so important to be thorough when you make your claim.
If the bureau takes you seriously, they’ll forward your grievance to the creditor. If the creditor admits they made a mistake, they have to tell the bureau and the bureau must repair the information on your credit report.
If the creditor simply tells the bureau that their negative data is accurate, the bureau will close the case on the creditor’s word alone. Then they inform you of the results of their investigation.
This is why it’s so important to file your complaint with both the bureau and creditor at the same time. If you do, you can force the creditor to show proof. The credit bureau doesn’t push the creditor as far as you can.
Once you write a letter to the creditor and ask for proof of their claim against you, they have to provide it. The creditor will also copy the bureau on the results of their investigation. Then, if the bureau changes your history as a result of the inquiry, they must send you a copy of the results and a new copy of your fixed credit report.
In addition to sharing the good news with you, the bureaus have to send a letter to anyone who inspected your credit file over the last six months. The letter must explain that the change was made. And if you ask, the bureau has to send a similar letter to any potential employer who saw your report over the last two years.
Even if the negative item stays on your report, you win. That’s because the bureau has to include a note on your report showing that you dispute the item. And that notation must be on the report when people review your credit history in the future.
They also have to inform anyone who saw your credit information in the recent past and tell them that you dispute the item. You may have to pay to have them do this but it could be well worth it.
Of course, you don’t have to accept defeat, either. You can either sue the creditor or credit bureau or you can hire a reputable firm that specializes in fixing consumer credit reports and they will take the fight up a notch.
Credit bureaus and creditors process billions of transactions each month. They are bound to make mistakes. Unfortunately, when they do, you pay the price -- unless you force them to do the right thing.
Keep in mind that the law is in your favor. Demand that any information on your credit report be accurate, verifiable and complete. If the information doesn’t pass any of these tests, you have the legal right to demand that the negative information be removed.
Familiarize yourself with the rules that govern consumer credit information and follow the process. Be calm and patient but persistent. It’s well worth it.
Your Turn: Have you ever disputed items on your credit report? Are you going to take these steps to make sure yours is accurate?