My 4 Major Takeaways From Reading ‘Napkin Finance’

The book Napkin Finance is photographed on a brown table with a pink highlighter and purple coffee mug.
Napkin Finance by Tina Hay uses visual infographics to make topics such as budgeting, debt, retirement, investing, entreprenerhip and cryptocurrency more digestible. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

As a bookworm and a personal finance nerd, I love reading a good book about money. That’s why I was so excited when The Penny Hoarder launched a virtual book club in January to read and discuss personal finance books.

Our first book club pick was “Napkin Finance: Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less” by Tina Hay.

This book uses visual infographics to break down a wide range of subject matter, including budgeting, debt, retirement, investing, entrepreneurship and cryptocurrency. Hay refers to “Napkin Finance” as a “visual guide to money and finance.”

Here are a few of my major takeaways from reading the book.

4 Things I Learned From ‘Napkin Finance’

“Napkin Finance” stood apart from other personal finance books I’ve read because of the way the material was packaged. In addition to learning more about topics like retirement and taxes, here are four things that resonated with me.

1. Visuals Aid In Comprehension

As I mentioned earlier, “Napkin Finance” is full of colorful infographics, which are drawn up as though they were doodled on the back of a napkin (hence the name).

Hay came up with the concept while attending Harvard Business School. She would sketch out different financial concepts to better understand them.

“Visual learning is a classic concept,” she said. “Mozart, DaVinci [and] Freud all used visual images and graphics to solve their biggest problems.”

Hay worked with a team of designers to create unique Napkin infographics for every chapter. She said the use of visuals helps make financial topics less intimidating and leads to higher comprehension and better retention of the subject matter.

If your eyes glaze over reading dense blocks of text about the stock market or macroeconomics, you might find the pictures and charts in “Napkin Finance” more enjoyable.

2. Repetition Helps Retain Information

One thing I quickly picked up on when reading “Napkin Finance” is the use of repetition.

Each chapter is broken into multiple sections, and each section leads with a Napkin infographic explaining a different financial concept. After the Napkin, there’s additional text expanding on the topic. At the end of each section are key takeaways — the most important things you should know. Then, each chapter concludes with a quiz to test your knowledge.

Reading — or viewing — something once isn’t always enough for it to stick in your head. When that material is presented over and over again, however, there’s a better chance you’ll retain the information.

3. It’s Okay to Be Lighthearted About Money

Too often, financial information is presented in a way that feels stuffy and boring. “Napkin Finance” deviates from that by incorporating humor and lightheartedness into the material.

“We actually have comedians that write for us and help us come up with these one-liners … kind of like fun sayings,” Hay said. “They just add some humor and lightness to a topic.”

The section on debt ends with the one-liner: “Not all debt is bad. Some is just misunderstood.”

The chapter on retirement includes this quote from author Jonathan Clements: “Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it to the fullest but not so fully that you run out of money.”

4. Learning a Little About a Lot Highlights Your Knowledge Gaps

“Napkin Finance” isn’t a book that hones in on one specific topic, like getting out of debt or paying for college. It covers those subjects but also touches on how to start a business, how to file taxes if you’re a gig worker, the difference between mutual funds and exchange-traded funds and so much more.

There are 12 chapters, and each is further broken up into four or more sections. You’ll get an introduction to a lot of different core concepts, but those introductions are pretty brief.

The benefit of knowing a little bit about a lot of things is that you’ll discover where you want to take a deeper dive. For example, reading “Napkin Finance” helped me realize I ought to do more research when it comes to cryptocurrency. Had the book stuck to topics I’m already very familiar with — like budgeting and saving money — I may not have come to that understanding.

Why I Recommend Reading ‘Napkin Finance’

If you’re a visual learner or someone looking for a fun approach to learning about money, “Napkin Finance” is a book you should check out.

It doesn’t take financial literacy too seriously but after reading the book, you’re likely to have learned a few new money concepts and come away with some topics you want to explore further.

“Napkin Finance” is an easy read. It’s a good coffee table book that you can pick up and flip to different sections. You don’t have to start from the very beginning and read it in chapter order. The book is an extension of, which includes even more infographics simplifying various financial topics.

If you’ve read “Napkin Finance,” please chime in your thoughts in The Penny Hoarder Community’s book club forum. We’d love to hear from you.

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Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.