There’s a quote I have hanging on my office wall that perfectly summarizes one of the core tenants of my life, and it’s this:
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Reading has opened up so many doors for me, and because of that, I try to share its importance with others (it’s one reason I’m building a Little Free Library in our neighborhood.) As with any occupation, there are certain books that are beneficial to everyone who reads them. When I decided to become a Financial Planner, I sought out every resource I could to improve my knowledge on the subject. I did the same thing when I decided to focus my efforts on helping federal employees.
I’m certainly not the first person to discover the magic in reading either. If we look at nearly every great person in history, we see that they read, a lot. One of my favorite men in history is Theodore Roosevelt who would read a book after every breakfast and carried dozens with him on his trips across the Americas. Abraham Lincoln was said to have read everything he could find, and Mother Teresa made it one of her missions to improve the reading comprehension of all her students.
The point is this: Successful people read. You don’t have to strive to do out of this world things to aid from it either. Reading can help you do a better job at your work, improve your skills with co-workers, teach you how to manage your benefits better, and show you how to invest in the TSP.
These are the books that I feel every Federal Employee would benefit from reading. Some deal directly with federal employees, while others are topical and would certainly be beneficial. Good luck and good reading (also, be aware that many of the links are affiliate links that go to support the site. If you purchase through them, we will receive a small commission that does not affect your purchase price, but does help us run the site for free. Thank you!)
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko
Far and away this is the most gifted book I’ve given to clients. I remember the first time I read it and nearly every page brought out another surprise. The basic idea is that the wealthy people in America are not those who have the highest income, but rather those who are the best at spending and saving their money. I harp on this topic often (see How to Retire Early as a Federal Employee) because it’s the easiest way for Federal Employees to retire at the age they’d like and live the life they’d like. Prepare to be blown away by this awesome book.
The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael LeBoeuf
Jack Bogle is the founder of Vanguard and one of the pioneers of low-cost, index investing (basically what you do in the Thrift Savings Plan.) The Bogleheads Guide to Investing is designed to show you that you don’t need to focus on “timing” the market, but rather on simply keeping up with the market. One of the principal tenants of Bogleheads’ (people who really like Jack Bogle) is to keep your costs low. There are few lower costing retirement programs than the TSP.
The One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards
Carl Richards is a Financial Planner who is currently a columnist for the New York Times. In his book the One-Page Financial Plan, Richards shows you how it’s better to simplify your financial life than over-complicate. The books help show you what you find important in life and then matching your money up to those things you find important. The financial industry is often trying to scare you into thinking things have to be complicated in order for you to succeed. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve used various details in the book to help clients, and I’m sure it could help you as well.
The Simple Path to Wealth by J L Collins
This is actually one of the most recent books I’ve read (it was recommended by a reader, thanks Chad!) and it is PACKED with information for anyone trying to achieve financial independence. Financial independence is simply not having to work for a living if you don’t want to. The Simple Path to Wealth details how if you save more than you make, you can retire much earlier than you’d ever think possible, even as a federal employee. I truly believe federal employees have the opportunity to retire early if they choose and this book is a great resource on how to make it happen.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit illustrates why we do the things we do and how to control the cycle rather than it control us. The biggest takeaway I had from the book is that you’re either feeding or starving habits, but you must determine which habits those are. For instance, rather than having your anxiety increase every time the market takes a dip, start focusing on other areas of your finances. The market will come back whether you worry about it or not so stop feeding that habit cycle. This is a book I highly recommend for federal employees and just about everyone.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Although The Millionaire Next Door is the book I give most often to clients, this is the book I give to friends. When I was 16, I was really selfish. I remember always wanting to talk about myself and feeling the need to make sure others knew I was something special; then I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. I realized that it’s important to care about others and focus on them versus myself during our conversations. This COMPLETELY changed my life. How to Win Friends and Influence People will make you a better employee and therefore give you more opportunities for promotions; if you haven’t read it yet, get it now.
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey is a polarizing financial “expert” that hosts a popular radio show. I will be the first to say that I disagree with a lot of what Dave Ramsey says, but I agree with even more of his opinions. If you’re looking for the basics on finances including getting out of debt and starting towards retirement, The Total Money Makeover is a book you should read. Just be careful following all of his recommendations.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
A Random Walk Down Wall Street has been around for some time and is an absolute classic. If you’re unsure of whether you should be investing in funds like what’s offered in the TSP or investing in individual companies, you need to read this book. Burton blows the doors off the idea of beating the market consistently, and although it can be dry in sections, it is truly worth its cost.
The First 90 Days in Government by Peter Daly & Michael Watkins
A highly suggested book for new federal employees who will be in some sort of management position. This book helps to provide a roadmap to help leaders new to public service to overcome challenges and maximize their time in their new position. The First 90 Days is a book that is one of the best sellers of all time in Organization Change and this adapted version for federal employees is perfect for those reading this.
Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra
Everyone strives to be a leader in some capacity, and this is especially true for federal employees where there are so many ranks of employees. Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader helps to show why you can’t just focus on today to get to where you want to go, you must also focus on the future. Including lots of actionable advice and information that federal employee leaders in all capacities can benefit from.
If We Can Put a Man on the Moon… by William Eggers & John O’Leary
It can get pretty easy to forget in your day-to-day life as a federal employee that government has accomplished a lot of things for humankind. Authors Eggers and O’Leary look at the problems can keep leaders in government from success and what can be done to change it. Their practical advice will help you identify and overcome common pitfalls of leaders in government like overconfidence, complacency, and project management failures as well as many others.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Staying motivated as an employee in any industry is not just difficult but insanely important. If you want to continue succeeding in your agency as well as climbing up the GS ladder, then your motivation for working needs to be high. Drive by Daniel Pink illustrates what actually motivates us (and it’s not just money) and how you can use that knowledge to improve your performance as well as your fellow co-workers.
FERS Retirement Planning Guide by FEDweek
To be utterly frank, a majority of the books written specifically for federal employees are entirely underwhelming (don’t worry, I’m working on a book now!) The FERS Retirement Planning Guide by FEDweek is the only specific book of its type that I ever recommend to federal employees. The information it contains can all be found online for free, but the book does a good job of summarizing your benefits. If you feel the need to purchase a book of all your benefits, this is the one to get.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
I am somewhat of a GTD fanboy, and it’s largely due to the methods presented in the book helping me maximize my output like never before. Ever wonder how I operate this blog, youtube channel, social sites, my financial planning firm, as well as other entrepreneurial pursuits as a one man band? Probably not, but I’ve wondered it, and I owe quite a bit of my extra free time due to Allen. This book helped me come a long way in overcoming the struggles of running out of time, and I know it could help you, as a federal employee as well.
Engaging Government Employees by Robert Lavigna
Engaging Government Employees is one of the highest rated books written specifically for federal employees. Lavigna goes through detailed examples of how to get the most out of your co-workers and employees including how to assess engagement, increase engagement, and why it’s so important that federal employees, as well as any employee, be invested in their work. If you lead anyone within your job, then this is a book that could benefit you.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
This book is an absolute personal development classic and one I often recommend to friends and family. Covey details what separates effective people from those that are not and how you can become the best version of yourself. An issue federal employees face is becoming complacent in their career, but just because you’re happy where you are, does not mean you stop working on yourself. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will change anyone who receives and acts on the information. If you haven’t, you need to read this book.
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
Do you ever have trouble getting out of bed and ready for work? You’re not the only one, in fact, the majority of America runs out of the door to barely make it to the office on time (one reason America ‘Runs’ on Dunkins Donuts.) What if waking up even an hour earlier than normal could completely transform your life? That’s what Hal illustrates in the Miracle Morning, and it WORKS! I read this book a couple of years ago and my morning, and therefore my day, have been completely changed for the better.
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
There are two ways to get retire early; spending less or making more. Although I often talk about spending less, mainly because it’s easier, it’s also possible to make more, and one way that can be accomplished is through a side job. I’m constantly telling my clients that having multiple sources of income is important, and The $100 Startup shows not only that it’s possible, but that it may not be as difficult as you might think. If you’re struggling with how to make some side income, this book is a great place to start.
The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason
The Richest Man in Babylon was one of the first finance books I ever read, and I’m glad I did. This is one of the best books for beginners to begin to understand how to make your money work for you versus you working for it. There’s a reason this book has stood the test of time, and it’s because of the timeless advice that is beneficial for those of any age or place in their career. If you’re just getting started on taking control of your money, give this book a read.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This may be a bit of an unusual choice for a book federal employees should read, but just like everyone else, you lose motivation. The Alchemist is a fiction book that reminds you to keep pushing after your goals and never stop no matter what is going on around you. It’s one of my favorite fiction books and not only will you enjoy reading it, but you’ll also be pushed to continue pursuing your dreams.
The Optimistic Workplace by Shawn Murphy
Do you not enjoy your work environment? Does it seem like nobody gets along and it’s simply not a fun place to work? I’ve met many federal employees that fit this bill and a book that addresses this situation is The Optimistic Workplace. If you don’t like how your workplace is, then change it! Become an optimist and change the culture around you. Murphy shows through research that a positive workplace produces the best work, and the first place to start for change is within yourself.