Dollar Signs

"For at least the first 3 days, I would wake to my alarm as usual and get all dressed up in my work attire. Right before exiting the front door, I would rip off my clothes, run and slip my pajamas on again, and dive right back into bed."

"My parents both died while in was young, so I would dedicate my life to helping orphans because I know what it is like."

"I would move to a different country until I learned to speak the language fluently, then I would move to another country and repeat the process." 

These are just a few of the possible answers to the million-dollar question, "What would you do with your time if you didn't have to work for money?" For some, the serious pondering of this question has actually resulted in a million dollars saved because the answers often reveal true passions. True passions can fuel the emotional spark needed to propel a person to build wealth at a faster pace. 

Financial Independence: the point at which your assets (cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) earn enough income to pay for your expenses and you no longer have to work for a paycheck.  

The achievement of financial independence has no age requirement. You reach it as fast as you can build it! The 2 main ways through which you can achieve financial independence are financial literacy and planning. This article focuses on the financial literacy part of the equation by introducing 3 books that will jump start you onto your path to wealth and includes the result I achieved by applying what I learned in each book.  

Reading even just one of these books can change the trajectory of your financial life forever! If you are just starting on your wealth journey, I would recommend reading them in the order they appear. Each one goes a little deeper into wealth-building principles and the necessary mindsets to implement them successfully.

1. The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth by Richard Paul Evans

Richard Paul Evans is known for his novels, but in 2004 he wrote this witty and motivational guidebook to becoming wealthy. He shares a personal account of a multi-millionaire who came and taught his youth group 5 principles that profoundly changed his life. His novel-writing expertise makes this a quick and entertaining read for a beginning wealth-builder.

Result: This book was a $15 gift from my grandmother.  The 2 hours that it took me to read it will equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in my lifetime. Before I started reading this book, I had no money saved. Shortly after reading it, I paid cash for a wedding ring (she said "yes") and paid off my fiance's car loan.  

2. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

This is a great read for those have no idea where to start in getting their financial life in order. It not only outlines simple, specific action steps towards reaching financial independence, but also motivates you through humor and real-life case studies. You feel like you're getting a good old-fashioned talkin' to by your wise, wealthy grandpa. It also points out common financial myths and mindsets that cause us to go backwards in our financial progress and end up like the Jones's: with a ton of fancy stuff and a ton of debt.

Result: I saved up a 3-month emergency fund, paid off all debt except for the mortgage, and increased my 401k contributions to 13% (a total of 15.5% if you count the company match).

3. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin

This one claims to "transform your relationship" with money and it delivers. It causes you to re-think the very meaning of money in your life. Going through the 9 steps fosters a healthy, intelligent perspective on money. The new perspective causes you to align your spending with what you truly value and also to be more focused and ingenuitive in your career to make more money in the time you must spend at work.

Result: I set some goals at work to increase my commission (I have almost doubled it), spent less money on things that don't matter which decreased my overall spending, and got my mortgage onto a 7-year payment plan.

In school we learn how to work for money, but don't often learn how to make money work for us. Those who spend time learning and applying the principles that govern money management and wealth-building spend significantly less time worrying about money then those those don't. Less time worrying about money means more time for the things that truly matter such as family relationships, learning new skills, and serving in the community. I challenge you to read one of these books by the end of the year and apply any principles that you think would help you in your journey to financial independence.  

Have you read any other books that you think should be required reading for someone interested in building wealth or reaching early financial independence?