The best books on financial independence and retirement

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a veteran semi-retired Canadian financial journalist who has long made a distinction between the terms “Retirement” and “Financial Independence.” I  recently turned 70 and have been financially independent since my early 60s BUT I am not yet retired. I coined the term Findependence in my financial novel Findependence Day, and since 2014 have been running the Financial Independence Hub blog, with new blogs every business day.

I wrote...

Findependence Day

By Jonathan Chevreau,

Book cover of Findependence Day

What is my book about?

Findependence Day is a financial novel first published in a North American/Canadian edition in 2008, with US editions published by Trafford in 2013 and Best Books Media in 2021. It’s available in paperback and hardcover as well as in the standard e-book formats. The plot tells the story of a young Millennial married couple who have divergent views on spending and saving and gradually learn the lessons of Financial Independence through a financial planner who introduces them to the concept of setting a target for financial freedom he calls Findependence Day.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Jonathan Chevreau Why did I love this book?

Probably first for most other proponents of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement is this classic, subtitled Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence.

Joe Dominguez was a successful financial analyst on Wall Street before retiring at the age of 31, and passed away in January 1997. The part that really resonated with me when I first read it was its representation of money as essentially life energy. While the average consumer may not fret about wasting a bit of money on some frivolous item, when you consider that you’re also wasting precious – and finite! – life energy, that may make you think twice about a purchase.

Drawing on 50 years of combined experience, Dominguez and Robin founded the New Road Map Foundation, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that promotes a human, sustainable future for our world. The book tells the stories and life experiences and lessons of people who followed their nine-step program for finding financial independence.

They define Financial Independence simply as having an income sufficient for your basic needs and comforts from a source other than paid employment. It’s not about being classically “rich” but of realizing you have “enough.” 

By Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Your Money or Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Have Enough Money for a Rich Life-Without Winning the Lottery
How much money is enough? Vicki Robin has made it her life's work to explore this question. Her remarkable discovery: money is energy-and conscious awareness is the key to finding its real value. On Your Money or Your Life Robin shares the nine-step program originally created with her teaching partner Joe Dominguez, which has helped nearly three quarters of a million people worldwide reach new levels of comfort, competence, and consciousness around their personal finances. Updated for the 21st century, this two-CD program offers hands-on tools and practical insights to…

Book cover of Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life

Jonathan Chevreau Why did I love this book?

The late Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group, published this excellent book in 2009.

Consider the following apophyrical tale related in Chapter 10 of Enough: “Too Much Success, Not Enough Character.” It concerns an old greyhound who spent his days at a race track chasing a mechanical rabbit. Over the years, the dog had won over a million dollars for his owner but ultimately decided to quit: not because he was mistreated or had become disabled but because “I found out that the rabbit I was chasing wasn’t even real.”

Those who accumulate more money than they need in life and end up as the richest denizen in the cemetery would do well to reflect on the main premises of Enough. Remember, financial independence is about having income exceed expenses, no matter how modest those expenses might be. It’s about working only because you want to, not because you have to. There’s nothing so depressing as that old bumper sticker that declares “I owe. I owe. It’s off to work I go.”

As Henry David Thoreau found, if you value freedom over stuff, it helps to keep your wants — and therefore expenses—to a minimum. If your wish list of stuff includes multiple properties, flashy baubles and fast-depreciating luxury cars and technological gadgets, you may want to verify whether the rabbit you’re chasing is real.

By John C. Bogle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Enough as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John Bogle puts our obsession with financial success in perspective Throughout his legendary career, John C. Bogle-founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group and creator of the first index mutual fund-has helped investors build wealth the right way and led a tireless campaign to restore common sense to the investment world. Along the way, he's seen how destructive an obsession with financial success can be. Now, with Enough., he puts this dilemma in perspective. Inspired in large measure by the hundreds of lectures Bogle has delivered to professional groups and college students in recent years, Enough. seeks, paraphrasing Kurt Vonnegut,…

Book cover of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor

Jonathan Chevreau Why did I love this book?

Edmonton-based author Ernie Zelinski is probably best known for this self-published international bestseller.

Zelinski semi-retired at 30 after being fired from an engineering job. One of his first books was called The Joy of Not Working, and he later published The Joy of Being Retired: 365 Reasons Why Retirement Rocks—and Work Sucks!. But the one that really struck a nerve for FIRE proponents was How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free, subtitled “Retirement wisdom that you won’t get from your financial advisor”.

Zelinski sugar-coats the content with pull-out quotes and a few cartoons. As the back-cover blurb of my 2014 edition proclaims, “Retirement is the beginning of life, not the end.” It follows that Zelinski believes that the earlier you take Early Retirement, the better, and encourages readers to pluck up the courage to do just that.

To that end, his focus on frugality allows him to declare “you don’t need a million dollars to retire.” By following your own dreams, not those of others, the book shows how to make one’s retirement years the best time of your life. Zelinski’s books all recap what drives the FIRE movement: freedom from bosses, meetings, and commuting, with blessed time and freedom to do whatever you want.

But, as I have pondered elsewhere, is it really about retirement or financial independence? Zelinski covers them both with his latest book, The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success: Financial Independence and Personal Freedom Too! While Zelinski admits straight up in this volume that he is “lazy,” I have joked before that if so, he’s the hardest-working lazy person I’ve ever encountered!

His tips include working less and thinking more, tapping your creativity, and using money to buy time. When I was a columnist for Canada’s National Post, my review of Zelinski’s book was picked up as a back-cover blurb: “To be sure, retirement books are a glutted field, but most focus on money and financial planning. They view the finish line as the last day of employment. That’s where Zelinski’s begins.”

By Ernie J. Zelinski,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free offers inspirational advice on how to enjoy life to its fullest. The key to achieving an active and satisfying retirement involves a great deal more than having adequate financial resources; it also encompasses all other aspects of life -- interesting leisure activities, creative pursuits, physical well-being, mental well-being, and solid social support.

World-class author and innovator Ernie J. Zelinski guides you to:

Gain courage to take early retirement; in fact, the earlier the better. Put money in proper perspective so that you don't need a million dollars to retire. Generate purpose in your…

Book cover of Pensionize Your Nest Egg: How to Use Product Allocation to Create a Guaranteed Income for Life

Jonathan Chevreau Why did I love this book?

Pensionize Your Nest Egg, or PYNE as some readers call it, is a classic Canadian financial book by famed finance professor Moshe Milevsky and certified financial planner Alexandra Macqueen.

Its audience is primarily anxious would-be retirees who do not have the luxury of having an inflation-indexed, guaranteed-for-life Defined Benefit pension plan offered by an employer. In fact, the headline when I first reviewed the book, was “A Cure for Pension Envy.” Instead, its core reader may have lots of money in group RRSPs, Defined Contribution plans or 401(k)s that rise and fall with financial markets. Hence the subtitle of the second edition, published in 2015, is How to Use Product Allocation to Create a Guaranteed Income for Life.

In practice, this involves using a particular product – the life annuity – to make your nest egg more like a true DB pension. The authors go into some depth on Longevity and managing the risk of outliving your money, and also devotes a chapter that’s timely today: Inflation and “the great money illusion.”

The book surveys various kinds of Retirement products, chiefly life annuities but also traditional investments (stocks, bonds, ETFs, etc.) and tries to take the reader from mere Asset Allocation to what they call Product Allocation. 

Whether this succeeds in curing Pension Envy remains to be seen, but it’s a thought-provoking tome nonetheless and an essential part of a complete FIRE library. 

By Moshe A. Milevsky, Alexandra C. Macqueen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pensionize Your Nest Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pensionize Verb. 1. To convert money into income you can't outlive. 2. To create your own personal pension, a monthly income that lasts for the rest of your natural life. With the subpar performance of the markets, record-high personal debt levels, and shockingly low savings rates, it's clear that many Canadians expecting to retire in the next decade simply don't have a sufficient nest egg to ensure a worry-free retirement. Making matters worse, only about one-third of Canadians currently belong to a formal, or registered, pension plan; and even a large number of that "lucky third" will not retire with…

Book cover of Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way

Jonathan Chevreau Why did I love this book?

I’ve always like the phrase “Work Optional” to describe the state of being financially independent enough that you don’t have to work for money anymore, but nevertheless choose to for reasons like having a purpose, or structure.

Work Optional is also the title of another fine American book on Financial Independence, bearing the subtitle Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way. The author is an American woman, Tanja Hester, who “retired” early at age 38, along with her husband Mark, who was then 41. I put the word “retired” in quotes because, as is usually the case with advocates of the so-called FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early), Hester didn’t actually retire to do nothing.

Generally, I find that when FIRE proponents say they “retired” at 30 or 40, what they really mean is they quit working as salaried employees for a corporation, to launch what amounts to an encore career built upon self-employment. Often, their new work consists of blogging, writing books, and public speaking, with the content—as in Hester’s case—focussed on their own experience of how they were able to retire so early in life.

Work Optional is organized into three sections, with the biggest being the middle one about the financial mechanics of early retirement. The money part is no revelation. As Hester summarizes, it’s about spending less than you earn, investing the difference until it generates enough money to support your forever, then waving goodbye to mandatory work.

In one chart, Hester provides three Full Early Retirement scenarios with ballpark magic numbers ranging from US$1 million (to fund an annual spending goal of US$40,000), US$1.62 million (to fund US$50,000 a year), and US$2.7 million (to fund US75,000 a year). One thing I liked is Hester’s depiction of the gradations of Retirement. There’s traditional and full early retirement, career intermission, and Semi-retirement.

Obviously, in semi-retirement, you can still work a bit for money, which is where Work Optional comes into it. But, Hester writes, “We are still planning to act fully retired one of these days and like knowing that any work we do now is entirely optional and our financial plan doesn’t rely on earning another penny.” I view that sentence as the gist of the whole book and indeed the entire FIRE movement articulated by these and many similar books.

By Tanja Hester,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Work Optional as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A practical action guide for financial independence and early retirement from the popular Our Next Life blogger.

In today's work culture, we're expected to hustle around the clock. But what if you could escape the traditional path and get on one that doesn't require working full-time until age 65? What if you could wake up every day without an alarm clock and do the things you love most?

Tanja Hester and her husband Mark left their crazed careerist lifestyle to live their dream life in Lake Tahoe, retiring early from high-stress careers. Now Tanja will help you map out a…

You might also like...

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in personal finance, pensions, and investment?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about personal finance, pensions, and investment.

Personal Finance Explore 88 books about personal finance
Pensions Explore 7 books about pensions
Investment Explore 66 books about investment