Finance

6 Must-Read Books to Jumpstart (Or Advance) Your Finance Career

6 Must-Read Books to Jumpstart (Or Advance) Your Finance Career
Industry professionals need a clear understanding of the best strategies for raising and investing capital—and, in the odd case, what to do when the Treasury Secretary says, “No more bailouts, guys. We’re serious this time." Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly November 26, 2019

“Read 500 pages…every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest." — Warren Buffett

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Whether you’re considering a career in finance or looking to give a new sector a shot, you likely know how deep the rabbit hole of the industry can go. After all, the world of risk and return has provided the backdrop for endless and often legendary stories, from the breadlines of the Great Depression to Jordan Belfort’s penny-stock scams. And who can forget 2008? Thanks, Lehman Brothers.

Finance covers a lot of ground, spanning money management to the process of how funds are acquired. The field is often broken down into three subcategories: Personal, corporate, and public finance. While each requires a different skillset, their core principals remain similar from one subcategory to the next. Almost every role requires familiarity with certain aspects of accounting. Industry professionals also need a clear understanding of the best strategies for raising and investing capital—and in the odd case, what to do when the Treasury Secretary says, “No more bailouts, guys. We’re serious this time.”

Typical areas for work in finance include corporate finance, real estate, financial planning, and investment banking, among a vast array of highly specialized, multifaceted occupations. Aside from hard skills in financial management and technological expertise, your career will also require you to possess a degree of interpersonal skills and professional insight that go beyond a firm handshake.

So, how can you predict your potential for success in the field? In many ways, through research. By looking deep into possible career paths and the experiences of professionals who’ve spent time in them, you’ll be better equipped to pin down the job that’s most compatible with your skills and interests. Not to mention, you may also save time that otherwise would go towards a role that doesn’t quite fit in the long run.

Fortunately, there are countless books for students, career changers, and current financial professionals to better understand the finance world and improve their practice in it. From behavioral economics to dart-throwing monkeys and the New York Stock Exchange, let these book recommendations drop some industry knowledge.

The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin__

G. Edward Griffin is an American author, filmmaker, and—you guessed it—conspiracy theorist. While is his views on cancer, chemtrails, and the historical accuracy of Noah’s Ark have us picturing tinfoil headwear, this book finds praise for its in-depth, detailed coverage of the early 20th-century American financial world. More specifically, a time he describes in which the manipulation of money started to dictate the nation’s wealth instead of money itself.

“Almost all of history is an unbroken trail of one conspiracy after another, ” he writes. “Conspiracies are the norm, not the exception.” Throughout 608 pages, he offers bold claims and jarring conclusions that will either resonate with you as a fascinating narrative on global power and money—or one that requires a suspension of disbelief.

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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman__

Princeton University Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his groundbreaking research applying psychological insights to economic theory, particularly in the areas of judgment and decision-making when faced with uncertainty. Like his life’s work, human irrationality is an overarching theme in this book, which takes readers on an exploration of the two types of thought processes that drive the way we think. The first process is fast, intuitive, and emotional. The second is slower, more deliberate, and logical.

Kahneman exposes the capabilities and also the faults of fast thinking and overconfidence on corporate strategies and explores the impact of cognitive biases on as behavior as varied as investors playing the stock market to someone picking up groceries. His central message? That when left to our own devices, humans are inclined to engage with all kinds of misconceptions and systematic errors. If we want to make better decisions—whether in our personal lives or careers—we need to not only be aware of our biases but find ways to work around them.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton Malkiel__

Princeton Economist Burton Malkiel published this classic in 1973. More than forty years later, readers have pursued 12 editions of the book and purchased over 1.5 million copies. While many economists, professors, and investors believe that the market is somewhat predictable, Malkiel uses his writing to support the random walk hypothesis, a financial theory stating that stock market activity can be as random as flipping a coin and, ultimately, cannot be predicted.

To support the theory, Malkiel examines popular investing and market examination techniques like technical and fundamental analysis. He notes significant flaws in both, finding that many investors who follow either method run the risk of producing inferior results compared to passive analysis strategies that maximize returns by minimizing buying and selling.

Somewhat notoriously, he writes, “A blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.” He stands by his claim that trying to find inefficiencies to exploit is a waste of time while offering the entertaining yet troublesome history of market bubbles, panics, and delusions surrounding economic prophecy, from the Dutch tulip mania to the hoodwinking Beardstown Ladies.

The Alchemy of Finance by George Soros__

Born in Budapest in 1930, George Soros survived Nazi-occupied Hungary and emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1947. Here, he attended the London School of Economics, completing a bachelor’s and, eventually, a master’s degree in philosophy. After starting two consecutively successful hedge funds, he went on to become one of the world’s most successful financiers, most notably for the billion-dollar profit he reaped after speculating against the British pound in 1992. Today, he remains active enough in the global financial community to earn the nickname, “the Man who Moves Markets.”

While a challenging read, “The Alchemy of Finance” is often referred to as a classic lesson in investment, one Soros uses to explain his theory of comprehensive reflexivity, which refers to when investors’ observations of the market affect the market itself. He goes on to validate the concept by using it to explain historical events, documenting his investment decisions based on the idea, and later, suggesting applications of the concept to make the market work for you. Soros is both frank and humble in his approach and doesn’t claim forecasting mastery. Instead, he maintains a deep-rooted commitment to understanding the market’s history, most significantly as a means of predicting its future.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee__

Now more than ever, artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to bring about what many experts consider will be the most disruptive changes to banking and insurance, as well as capital markets. So, who will benefit from these changes—and who will most likely lose? Enter Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, a Taiwanese-born American computer scientist and businessman who invites readers to join in on a discussion detailing the evolution of AI technology and its impact on the global marketplace.

As the former President of Google China, Dr. Lee uses his years of experience straddling U.S. and China business practices to create a compelling explanation of the impact of intelligent machines and programs on medicine, transportation, finance, and other data-intensive industries.

In many ways, Dr. Lee calls for compassion, asking readers to see AI as a tool that benefits humanity rather than as the agent of a dystopian society rife with economic inequality and global unrest. “AI will do the analytical thinking, while humans will wrap that analysis in warmth and compassion,” he writes. In doing so, he encourages us to look deep within ourselves and to each other as a means of rediscovering what it is that makes us human.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

Gino Wickman is the founder of EOS Worldwide, a leadership team development company aimed at the small business and entrepreneurial community. He’s also the creator of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a method to help professionals run better businesses with their entire organization advancing together as a healthy, functional, and cohesive team.

This book introduces readers to EOS early on, offering a detailed and methodical explanation of the system and how it can be implemented to avoid issues like slow growth, profit concerns, and even personnel conflict. The system’s six major components include vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction. Through various tools and practices, Wickman defines how to establish an inspiring business vision, implement a robust process for addressing issues, streamline day-to-day operations, nurture the “why” of the business, and build a team in which everyone contributes to success.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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