The Thrifty Kiwi

The 10 Personal Finance TED Talks and Books That Will Change Your Life

The 10 Personal Finance TED Talks and Books That Will Change Your Life

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Growing up, I wasn’t exactly what you consider a financial genius. The single memory I have of proactively saving money was when I was 9. My mom had bought my sister and I each a doggy bank. She wanted us to save the money we received from birthdays and special holidays for well, college.

To me, college was far off so what was the point in saving now? And though I have no recollection of the event, I very much believe I was the culprit in the persuasive breaking of our doggy banks a few years later. The money left us (mainly me), as quickly as the ceramic banks shattered.

My sister and I grew up and went on to work part-time jobs throughout high school and college. She was naturally frugal. I, on the other hand, never understood the point of saving.

As an adult, I racked up credit card debt and student loans. Meanwhile, my younger sister worked to pay off her credit card in full every month.

It finally dawned on me last year that I was deathly sick of paying off my credit cards. It was a monthly battle to even put a dent in my balance. And every month, the interest continued piling on, making me lose sight of the minimal progress I had made.

My heart hammered threateningly in my chest every night as I laid thinking, calculating and overanalyzing when I would be debt free. I was bothered by the fact that I was 5 digits deep in debt with nonexistent digits in my checking, much less my savings account.

I’d realized I’d hit rock bottom. I was no longer living life. I was living to pay off debt.

And though I had started to be more mindful about my spending, I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.

Desperate and beaten down, I began to look for answers.

Financial Illiteracy is a National Disease – and No One is Safe

It’s funny when it comes to the trait of frugality, either we have it or we don’t. While my sister’s personal finance education wasn’t much different from mine, she was a natural saver. She was careful and smart with her money like she was in all aspects of her life. She’s a Virgo, a perfectionist. I’m an Aries, carefree and careless.

But astrology aside, I came to realize that traits we don’t have, we can learn.

It’s a shame personal finance isn’t taught in schools. Old-fashioned advice from our parents was not doing anything to keep us out of financial trouble.

What shocked me was the recent study that a whopping 28 million people believed the new iPhones was worth going into debt for. That’s insanity to me. But it wouldn’t have been a few months ago.

During my search for answers, hope, and motivation, I came across a ton of amazing resources, most of which were free and readily accessible.

I spent days scouring YouTube for personal finance videos. I eagerly devoured 3 personal finance books in the span of 2 weeks. I learned more money smarts in a few days than I had in a lifetime of experience – at a much less expensive price.

If you’re struggling with your monthly bills and the stress of finances is wrecking havoc on your health, I highly recommend reviewing these 10 personal finance TED Talks and books. Take notes and most importantly, TAKE ACTION.

One Life-Changing Class You Never Took

In her TED Talk, Alexa von Tobel explores the lack of personal finance education in the United States. She reveals 76% of Americans feel out of control about their financial situation and a striking 61% live paycheck to paycheck. Alexa strives to break through barriers to talk about this touchy subject, one she equates to obesity and weight issues. She paints a vibrant and intensely familiar story about Jessica, a typical college student who amasses financial troubles throughout her life because she had had no guidance. Here’s why:

  1. Firstly, she has no budget.
    • The average person should put aside 50% of their budget for essentials, 30% for lifestyle, and 20% for future savings.
  2. Secondly, Jessica makes only the minimum payment on her credit cards.
  3. She has no emergency savings.
  4. She doesn’t try to negotiate her savings.
  5. She doesn’t think about retirement in her 20s (i.e. a Roth IRA or 401K).

Alexa goes on to explain Americans are in an astonishing 2.5 trillion dollars in debt. And the domino effect will trickle down to our children and grandchildren making matters exponentially worse. She ends with the 5 money principles that are crucial to our financial future as a nation.

“Money isn’t about being rich, it’s about enriching your life.”

How I learned to read — and trade stocks — in prison


Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll’s TED Talk is one that will undoubtedly stick with you. From a past of poverty and illiteracy, he transformed his life when he taught himself to read as an adult while incarcerated. I’m amazed at his ability to eloquently move his audience with his speech and moreover, his story is nothing short of amazing.

From his days in prison, he realized the disadvantages that financial literacy placed on low-income individuals, and he desperately desired to close the gap. Curtis eventually founded FEEL or Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy to improve the standing for incarcerated men once released from prison by teaching them:

  1. How to save
  2. How to control the cost of living
  3. How to borrow money effectively
  4. How to diversify their money and make it work for them

While there isn’t a lot of specific actions to take from his speech, he brings up the same point Alexa had – we as a country are poor when it comes to financial education. So how can we expect to help those that are incarcerated and in worse situations than us when we can’t even manage our own finances?

Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.

Adam Baker had brought home his baby girl when he wanted to discuss something important with his wife.

He wanted to discuss the issue of freedom.

What was on the surface a simple question became a major turning point in this young couple’s lives. Adam’s talk will have you question what freedom means to YOU. He also makes us realize how much we as individuals are caught in a consumer script, an endless cycle of consumerism until that’s all we are – TIED to our things.

Discover how Adam and his wife broke the script, let go of unhealthy money habits and a lot of crap and pursued what freedom truly meant to them.

When money isn’t real: the $10,000 experiment

Adam Carrol sheds light on an important concept, that the world is being taken over by financial abstraction – the ever-fleeting disparity between cash and less tangible forms of money such as credit cards.

With less physical forms of money, we spend 12-18% more because well, cash disappears and a credit card doesn’t.

Adam discusses the need for kids to have financial guidance early on in their lives so that the mistakes they make are not magnified when they get older. And not only do children need it in the way of guidance, they also need it in practice.

This TED Talk is a must-see for parents as well as those who have an unhealthy reliance on credit cards.

Personal finance books I recommend reading:

These books provide actionable advice. Motivation and a change of outlook are great after watching TED Talks, but what I found was that in reading these books, I became more mindful. There were certain things in the books that stuck with me. I find myself consciously thinking about whether buying another toy for my dog was going to do us any good when he already had more than enough toys at home. Is that latte going to make me happy an hour later? What will that $5 latte provide me for my future if I put it into my Roth IRA account?

These were the questions that kept popping up in my head. I recommend having a notebook handy when reading through these books and taking notes of ideas that resonate with you. Here are a couple things that I have written down in my notebook:

  • Be an owner, not a consumer.
  • Compound interest is a very powerful thing.
  • If you can’t pay full, you can’t afford it.
  • You remain rich by living like you’re poor. You remain poor by living like you’re rich.
  • Buy assets, not liabilities.
  • Use assets (instead of money) to buy what you want.
  • Make your money work for you, not the other way around.
  • Think “How can I put that dollar to better use?”
  • Your partner’s frugality has a large impact on how successful you are at accumulating wealth.
  • Good debt is okay. Get rid of bad debt immediately.
  • We all have the ability to become millionaires if we start proactively investing early in our lives.
  • Wealth is blind – it doesn’t recognize an education or college degree.
    • A doctor can have a net worth less than an auctioneer because he has to spend money in order to present himself as rich. An auctioneer lives frugally and is a PAW or prodigious accumulator of wealth.

The 10 Personal Finance TED Talks and Books That Will Change Your Life

The more you immerse yourself in personal finance, the more interesting it becomes.

The person you are now will change. Pat yourself on the back when you find yourself admiring the latest collection of shoes or handbags and happily pass on by. You’ll soon be yearning to save for your millionaire retirement (super cool!).

And remember, learning never ends. After absorbing what you can from these TED Talks and books, seek out other resources to further expand your knowledge.

Review your notes regularly to keep them fresh in your mind.

Please leave a comment if you have any life-changing financial advice or resources you’d like to share.

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