Name the best personal finance books and resources

March 25 2012 by Ellen Roseman

I’m getting ready to teach my course at the University of Toronto, The Facts of Life about Your Finances. All I need is a reading list.

Here’s the problem: I can’t find many current books by Canadian authors that cover the landscape in an authoritative and engaging way.

I love The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton, but it’s far from comprehensive. I think of it as a funny rant about credit and investing, told in Dave’s distinctive voice, with lots of personal anecdotes thrown in.

I also like The Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam, but it has a narrow focus on low-cost investing with index funds. Ditto for Alison Griffiths’ new book, Count on Yourself.

I end up picking three books that complement each other:

397 Ways to Save Money by Kerry Taylor. In my view, saving money is the key to building your net worth. Most personal finance authors skim over this part of the equation, while Taylor dives into it in depth — and with great enthusiasm. (Check out her frugal living website, Squawkfox)

Never Too Late: Take Control of Your Retirement and Your Future by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. The R word (retirement) can be a turnoff, but Vaz-Oxlade’s passionate and colloquial writing style makes even younger readers sit up and take notice. I also like Gordon Pape’s book, Retirement’s Harsh New Realities, but it’s not for novices.

Your Money Milestones by Moshe Milevsky. He’s a finance professor who often takes a contrarian stance on money matters. I like the way he examines the major decisions you make during a lifetime. His upcoming book looks fascinating, but alas, it won’t be published in time for my course.

Books go out of date quickly, but luckily, we have a wealth of great online resources in Canada. Gail Vaz-Oxlade gets a huge response to her blog, where she writes about things like coupons and emergency funds.

Moneysense magazine puts all its articles online, which is really helpful. It also has a bunch of bloggers who will grab your attention.

Finally, I can’t avoid recommending Moneyville, my new home at the Toronto Star. You might enjoy visiting the blogs of some contributors, such as Boomer and Echo, Give Me Back My Five Bucks and Marc Saltzman’s Sync blog.

Where are the best places to go for personal finance tips, advice and strategies? Name your favourites. Tell me what I missed. Let’s expand the list.


  1. Andy Vitch

    Mar 25 2012

    I think your husband Edward published a book on finance at one point! Hmmm… Heck, where’s Money 101 on this list? Why do you need to have any books anyway? You are an encyclopedia on personal finance if anyone is. Last question; why are you limiting your question of books to Canadian Authors. Aren’t we long past that? Among my personal favorites is The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley. Good luck, Andy

  2. Ellen Roseman

    Mar 25 2012

    Thanks, Andy. Money 101 isn’t current, since it came out in 2003. My husband Edward’s book about investing in technology stocks came out in 1999.

    I like The Millionaire Next Door, but many US books go into detail about tax saving strategies that don’t work in Canada or retirement plans we don’t have here (401K, Roth IRA). US Social Security is different from our OAS and CPP. And we have tax-free capital gains on a principal residence, while Americans can write off interest on their mortgage payments.

    When it comes to consumer publications, I love Consumer Reports and The Consumerist blog (both from the US). Wish Canadians had more things like that.

  3. Frank Wiginton

    Mar 26 2012

    I wrote a book that I launched January of this year, called How to Eat an Elephant – One Day a Month to Financial Success .

    It’s a current, comprehensive, step-by-step guide to financial planning for Canadians. The premise of the book is to break down your personal finances into bite sized pieces.

    I ask the reader to take less than four hours during one day each month to read a chapter and log into the website, to use the almost fill in the blank tools and get their report. This is the book you are looking for.

  4. Echo

    Mar 26 2012

    Thanks for the mention, Ellen! I just read a review copy of Rob Carrick’s new book, How NOT To Move Back In With Your Parents. This book is a must read for young Canadians (and parents), and would be a great fit for your class.

    It hits the bookshelf tomorrow (March 27th). Also, Rob has one of the most engaging Facebook groups around, with new questions and discussion every day on personal finance, investing and real estate.

  5. JJ

    Mar 28 2012

    I keep returning to …I like the way information is organized and it is current.

  6. MeasurementMan

    Jan 23 2013

    Canadian Personal Finance for Dummies is quite good becasue it is not from a vendor of financial services.

    And Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen, published in 2012 and recently reviewed in Economist, Jan. 5, 2013.

    I read through the chapters on saving pennies and housing in Chapters and bought the book to finish reading rest of it.

    Well written by a financial journalist from Los Angeles. She has a very sceptical attitude of the financial services industry, which appeals to me.