An illustration of a piggy bank on top of a small pile of books, with large coins raining down around it.
An illustration of a piggy bank on top of a small pile of books, with large coins raining down around it.

At the start of a new year, big questions and good intentions are par for the course, whether it's a desire to pursue a new hobby, improve fitness, or cut down on those vices. Budgeting is always high on the list too, which begs the question: if you didn't have to work for a living, what would your life look like? This question lies at the heart of a personal finance movement that has been gaining momentum in recent years.

Financially Independent / Retire Early, or FIRE, is all about getting smart with your money by building up savings and investments that can, in theory, generate enough income to allow you to live life on your own terms. 

There’s a simple framework to follow: create (and stick to!) a budget, reduce outgoings where you can, pay off debts, and once that’s done, increase your income and siphon off a percentage of your earnings into high-yield savings and investments.

Of course, financial freedom is a privileged pursuit and not everyone has the option to save each month but learning the basics of money management and putting away what you can is a great start because, as the saying goes, every little helps.

These days, FIRE has gained a broader definition that puts the emphasis on “financial independence”, so it's really up to you whether you want to retire early to pursue new passions or keep your job but move to a more flexible way of working. Either way, we've gathered a selection of books to help you find purpose, redesign your life and, of course, get smarter with your money so you can gain control of your life.

Change your mindset

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937)

A growth mindset – an internal belief that intelligence and talent aren’t finite, and can be developed throughout life – plays a significant role in how we work towards our goals and face life’s challenges.

After two decades of interviewing some of the wealthiest people of his time, Napoleon Hill came to the conclusion that taking cues from their way of thinking could help us along our own path to affluence. In this timeless classic, you’ll find 13 simple steps to help you change your life, achieve your goals and join the ranks of the rich.

How to Change by Katy Milkman (2021)

Have your previous attempts at budgeting or saving failed? What's blocking your path to success?

With How to Change, behavioural scientist Katy Milkman argues that the key to lasting change is figuring out a strategy that will work for you, and harnessing impulsive or problem behaviours to work in your favour. Whether it’s building a better way to manage your money or changing other aspects of your life, this book will take you from where you are now to where you want to be.


Skip the Line by James Altucher (2021)

He’s an entrepreneur, angel investor and bestselling author now but James Altucher has been in the position that many of us sometimes find ourselves in – struggling to make personal, financial or creative dreams come true.

Using the techniques in this book, Altucher’s insightful advice can help you shape your own life in the way you want, whether that involves a building strategy for financial freedom, changing careers, starting a new business or learning a new skill.

Nuture your finances

Money Lessons by Lisa Conway-Hughes (2019)

Ditching debt, budgeting and saving for the future might sound like a daunting task but what if you dedicated just one hour per month to facing up to your finances? What if you did this for the next twelve months, starting now? 

Whether you've got a big savings goal in mind, or want to give your day-to-day spending a closer look, financial expert Lisa Conway-Hughes is full of dependable knowledge that will help you get started on your own FIRE journey.

How to Save It by Bola Sol (2021)

Saving is possibly the most important part of the FIRE movement and there are a number of ways of doing it, from reassessing and reducing your outgoings to channeling a proportion of your disposable income into savings. 

In this short, accessible guide, financial wellness guru Bola Sol shares practical tips and straightforward advice that will help you save, get started with investing and, ultimately, change your relationship with money for the better.

Investing to Save the Planet by Alice Ross (2020)

Investments are a great way to generate a passive income, meaning your money continues to work for you even after you've earned it – and what's better than growing your capital and helping to save the world at the same time? 

In one of the first books of its kind, Financial Times journalist Alice Ross has put together an essential introduction to green investing, showing you how you can turn your savings – however big or small – into a force for change that has the power to address the climate crisis while giving you a return on your investment.

Increase your income

Get Promoted by Niamh O'Keeffe (2020)

So you've budgeted and you've paid off debts but now you're wondering how to move forward with the next stage of your journey to financial independence – increasing your income.

Asking for a promotion is an obvious place to start but sometimes it's easier said than done, so it's no wonder this seemingly-simple task ranks high on the list of life's most anxiety-inducing activities. But worry not, this short guide will give you everything you need to know before having the big conversation with your boss.

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss (2007)

The FIRE movement is not about taking the traditional approach to working and retirement, and neither is Tim Ferriss' bestselling manual, The 4-Hour Work Week. 

Featuring a step-by-step guide, this book reveals how Ferriss went from earning $40,000/year by working 80 hours/week to earning $40,000/month by working 4 hours/week.

Whatever your dream life looks like, this is the blueprint for increasing your income while reducing your workload.  

The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick J. McGinnis

According to a 2018 study, a quarter of adults in the UK have a side hustle in addition to their main job – and 73% of these people do so to follow a passion or explore a new challenge. While financial gain is a huge benefit, a side hustle can also give you more freedom to try something you always wanted without giving up the security of your main job. 

In The 10% Entrepreneur, you'll learn how to use the skills and wealth you've already accumulated to create another income stream and inject more meaning into your life.

Design your dream life

Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson (2014)

Once all your pennies have a purpose and you're a personal finance pro, it's time to go back to the question we started with: if you didn't have to work for a living, what would you do? 

In this enlightening and practical read, Ken Robinson – speaker of the most-watched TED Talk of all time – shares all the resources you need to discover your natural talent and unlock your potential. 

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (2009)

Featuring a framework to understanding yourself better, uncovering and manifesting your goals, reaching your full potential and helpful techniques that allow you to change negative habits and live in the moment, this book will help you harness the power of mindfulness to change your life.

Whether or not you see yourself as a spiritual person, Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth is well worth a read if you're thinking about how to create a better life.

Ikigai by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles (2017)

Ikigai is the Japanese word for “a reason to live”. It's that overlapping part of the Venn diagram where your needs, desires, ambitions and satisfactions all meet. It makes sense, then, that finding your ikigai has been closely linked to living longer. 

Your background, skills, interests and desires combined together make you perfect for something, and this book will help you find that purpose so you can truly start making the most of the financial independence you've worked hard to achieve. 

Image: Ryan MacEachern / Penguin

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