5 Books About Money Singaporeans Should Read This Weekend

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 23 September, 2016

Whether you're an intrepid investor or a new graduate, Singaporeans will get better at managing money after reading these books.

It's called personal finance for a reason, so why not pick up these five books and enrich yourself? Whether you're looking to dive into the property market, intimidated by obscure and complex finance strategies, or curious about your spending habits, we've got you covered.

the index card

The Index Card by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

During an interview, finance journalist Helaine Olen challenged the idea that personal finance must be complicated. He suggested that everything you need to know about managing your money could be written onto a single index card - and proceeded to do just that. When a photo of the index card went viral, the seemingly far-fetched idea flared into life.

Serving to explain and expand on the original list of rules that populated its namesake,  The Index Card demonstrates how managing your finances need not be an enormously complex affair. In fact, it argues that in finance applying and sticking to simple truths will create better outcomes than pursuing more obscure and complicated strategies.  

Praised for its conversational style and simple writing, the book also contains an easy-to-follow action plan and other tools which give you the confidence to take charge of your financial future.  

Recommended for: Anyone seeking simple, effective personal finance strategies.

buying in

Buying In: What We Buy And Who We Are by Rob Walker

We know that “the clothes maketh the man”, but why? What is the relationship between what we buy and who we are? Drawing from the fields of marketing and cultural anthropology, this book examines the fascinating idea that we never really buy stuff. Instead, every time we make a purchase, we are buying into the personal narrative running in each of our heads.

Walker makes a compelling case that the apparent failure of advertisements and marketing masks the emergence of what he terms “murketing”. That instead of rejecting brands, we are embracing them at an even more intimate level. By studying the relationships between consumers and commercial giants such as RedBull, Apple, American Apparel and Timberland, Walker demonstrates that increasingly, we are adopting brands as an expression of our personal identity.

Buying In is undoubtedly appealing for students of marketing, sociology, popular culture and anthropology. As a tool for personal finance, this title is recommended for gaining a deep understanding of who we are as consumers, and how we can make better, more satisfying choices when spending money.

Recommended for: Anyone who wants to understand why they can't quit their favourite brand.

real estate investment

The Ultimate Guide to Real Estate Investment in Singapore by Ismail Gafoor

Yes, we know the title sounds bombastic and the cover looks a little cheesy. But don't pass up this book yet, because the author is none other than the CEO of PropNex, a leading real estate services firm in Singapore.

The advantage this title offers over many other similar publications is the in-depth local knowledge that Gafoor injects. Written based on decades of experience at the helm, The Ultimate Guide brings investors up to speed on the various policy changes and rules arising from the government's efforts to corral the market. This is a step-by-step guide that even beginners will find easy to read and understand.

With its high barrier to entry, and unique risks such as low liquidity, property investment is not for everyone. Nonetheless, anyone looking to capitalise on the vibrant real estate scene would do well to bring along a trusted guide.

Recommended for: Those who want a piece of the action in high-rise Singapore.


The Behaviour Gap by Carl Richards

As any guru, coach or guide will tell you, it is our habits that determine the outcome of our lives. What we think, feel, say and do on a daily basis determine the direction that our days take. When it comes to money, finance experts stress the importance of positive habits (think saving regularly, sticking to a budget, not overloading your credit facilities, etc.).

When we fail to reach our money goals, it's because we've failed to observe our good habits. Yet why does this happen? The Behaviour Gap posits that when smart people fail to do (or not do) what they know they should do (or shouldn't), it is because they have let emotion get in the way of smart financial decisions.

Through humorous, simple-to-understand examples, Richards – himself a certified financial planner – illustrates the many scenarios in which we experience a disconnect between what we should do, and what we actually do. By identifying and understanding the Behaviour Gap, we can better appreciate (and avoid!) the pitfalls that lie in the way of personal finance success.

Recommended for: That one friend who can't seem to stop making bad decisions. (If you don't know anyone like that, it's probably you.)

generation debt

Generation Debt by Carmen Wong Ulrich

Did you know that there were more than 100,000 delinquent debtors in Singapore last year, with the highest amount of credit card debt standing at a heart-stopping $1.5 million?

Debt has a nasty little habit of multiplying, so the sooner we learn how to manage debt, the better. For better or worse, young people inherit an increasingly complicated world, with ever more sophisticated financial tools insinuating themselves into everyday life.

Written for the 20-somethings, Generation Debt seeks to educate those just entering the workforce on how to avoid the pitfalls of credit card debt, and how to pay off loans. This book not only lays out what debt is and how to overcome it, is also maps out an overall spending plan that younger readers can use to build a healthy and stable financial life.

Recommended for: 20-somethings determined to start off right, or anyone looking to get a grip on mounting debt.

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Alevin ChanBy Alevin Chan

A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimize happiness and enjoyment in his life.


An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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