“The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.” This quote is attributed to General James “Mad Dog” Mattis and can be applicable to everything you do in life. If asked how someone should start investing money, I always respond with an answer that revolves around educating themselves.
I firmly believe that serving in the United States military right out of high school is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success in life regarding experience and finances. Where else can you find a job that will cover expenses such as housing, food, medical/dental, and travel? Additionally, they pay you a competitive salary and give you multiple opportunities to earn college degrees for free. While this advice is sound, it does nothing if you have no idea what books to read. Unfortunately, there are not a ton of military-specific finance books floating around online and there is no clear “ah, this is exactly what I was looking for” book out there.
That is why I wanted to put this list of books together for you. These are the books I recommend to service members about personal finance and investing and, when applied, they will absolutely help you get rich in the military!
Doug Nordman, The Military Guide to Financial Independence & Retirement
Doug Nordman is a legend amongst military bloggers and financial independence communities. He retired from the military nearly 20 years ago. Since then, he has never had to work again, is living entirely off his pension and investments, and lives on the expensive island of Oahu, HI. Doug’s book not only covers basic finance and investing concepts but digs into some unique decisions that service members will have to make throughout their career and transition from the military.
Doug was one of the first people I met in the military finance space and his book has proven to be an extremely beneficial resource for me and can be for others. In fact, I can attribute my decision to transfer into the reserves and pursue financial freedom on my own terms to Doug and his book!
Scott Trench, Set for Life: Dominate Life, Money, and the American Dream
Scott Trench is now the CEO of BiggerPockets.com, the largest real estate investing forum in the world. Set for Life is my favorite personal finance book in existence because it takes an amazingly simple, commonsense approach to everything. Scott walks through things in a way that flow naturally, will help you get your finances in order and save a ton of money without having to sacrifice your quality of life!
On top of all the great personal finance ideas in this book, it also makes a pleasant introduction to some basic real estate investing ideas that can help you decrease (or erase) your housing expenses, which I absolutely love! The genuine beauty of this book lies in how simple it is to read. Even the most crayon-eater of a Marine could easily finish this book and comprehend exactly what they need to do in order to set themselves up for success financially!
JL Collins, The Simple Path to Wealth: You Road Map to Financial Independence and A Rich, Free Life
This is the book I recommend to anybody who invests in their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). If you are active duty, that should be you. JL Collins does an incredible job breaking down why and how to invest in index funds. Index funds are what the different funds in your TSP comprise. This book will help you understand the best investment strategy for building wealth using these vessels. It will also help you understand the different funds, their expense ratios/fees, and why all this matters. On top of that, you will make a much more informed decision about which TSP fund best fits your personal style of investing and risk tolerance levels to ensure you are set up for success for the long-term.
I wish I had read this book many years earlier because it taught me about which allocation(s) I should use in my TSP. These changes have already made me tens of thousands of dollars over the last few years!
Craig Curelop, The House Hacking Strategy
House hacking is without a doubt my favorite real estate investing strategy for first-time homebuyers and investors. Long story short, house hacking is a variety of simple strategies that allow you to live for free in a home that you own, while your tenants pay off your mortgage for you! I have used these strategies two different times and wish I had done it even more frequently. House hacking is without a doubt the best way to skyrocket your net worth if done correctly. Not only can you live for free in an appreciating asset, but you can then save your entire housing allowance to pay off any personal debt or reinvest it into more assets! On top of that, as a service member, you can do this with the VA loan and buy these homes with literally no money out of pocket!
Seriously, you owe it to yourself to read this book before you buy your first home. And if your family is cool with it, absolutely house hack your first purchase or two to build a solid financial foundation.
Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad
I like to tell people that Rich Dad Poor Dad is less of a book full of financial advice and more of a mindset book. There is some solid financial advice in this book and many fresh ideas and strategies to help you learn about investing and building wealth. However, it does a much better job of helping change your mentality to think in terms of opportunities and help you build wealth. Not only that, but the book takes a subject that is ordinarily perceived to be extremely boring—personal finance—and compiles it into an easy-to-read story that anybody can finish.
This book is the one that I credit for completely turning my life around and I will forever be in the person’s debt who handed it to me. If you dislike reading—as I did not when I was handed this book—you owe it to yourself to at least listen to the audiobook during your commute to/from work!
Brandon Turner and Josh Dorkin, How to Invest in Real Estate
Josh Dorkin is the founder of Bigger Pockets and Brandon Turner was the first employee. Brandon helped bring the platform into the limelight because of his work on their YouTube channel, podcast, and blog content. These two are the original host and co-host of the Bigger Pockets Podcast and have written several best-selling real estate books.
I highly recommend reading this book if you have any desire to learn about real estate investing (which you should). Brandon and Josh know what they are talking about and have been instrumental in my journey to financial freedom through real estate investing. In fact, outside of Robert Kiyosaki, Brandon wrote the first few real estate books I ever read.
They do a great job of breaking this seemingly complicated topic into simple, actionable steps that will help you get started the right way. Read this book before jumping into real estate investing, as it will help you avoid a ton of common mistakes that new investors make.
Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8AM
This book really helped me get my crap together in the morning. I read this book in early 2018 when I first started a blog and YouTube channel. When I finished reading this book, I started waking up at 0400 every day to spend some time focusing on my goals, journaling, reading, thinking, and being productive before going to the gym/work.
More than three years later I wake up at 0430 every day and attribute this routine to a great deal of what I have been able to accomplish over the last few years. Let me break down how powerful this can be for you! Let us say you decide to wake up just one hour earlier every day for the next year. At the end of that year, you will have had 365 more productive hours in your day. Assuming you could work for twelve hours a day, this is an extra thirty days’ worth of productive time every year! Yes, by simply waking up an hour early and being productive, you can give yourself an extra month to work on whatever you choose to work on every year. I cannot speak to what you would choose to do with this extra time, but I have been able to build an entire business in part because of this time in the mornings!
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
This book should be a mandatory read for any salary employee, and well…everyone else too. The 4-Hour Work Week is chock full of advice on how to work more efficiently. As salary employees, people fall into this trap of doing the least amount of work while accomplishing enough to avoid getting fired. This book will change that mentality. It will also have you realize how to become more efficient and start thinking, “How can I get the most amount accomplished, in the least amount of time?”. This mentality is powerful to have while working a W-2 job and could absolutely result in promotions and a more successful career trajectory. It is even more powerful as an investor or entrepreneur.
I have read this book three to four times now and continue to find new strategies that I can implement to increase my efficiency. And I can accomplish more tasks in the limited time that I (we all) have. Couple this power of efficiency with The Miracle Morning and you will be cookin’ with grease in no time!
Phil Capron, Your VA Loan: And How it Can Make You a Millionaire
My friend Phil wrote this book about the VA loan in 2019 as a guide to help service members and veterans understand this powerful benefit we have. I believe he did a good job of keeping this book easy to understand while giving you a basic understanding of how to use the VA loan to your benefit.
The VA loan is one of those products that change frequently. You should absolutely ensure you are reading the most up-to-date information about this loan product and speak with a quality lender to get the best possible result. As an example, in January 2020 the limit was erased for how much purchasing power you had on the first time you used the VA loan. That is a pretty big change to the previous history of the VA loan and has helped some of my friends buy million- dollar house hacks they can live in for free! Make sure you are getting the most up-to-date information when using the VA loan and know that not all lenders are created equal.
All that being said, this book is a significant starting point!
David Pere, The No B.S. Guide to Military Life: How to Build Wealth, Get Promoted, and Achieve Greatness
Alright, alright, I admit it, this is a shameful plug.
However, I wrote this book because I was frustrated by the lack of military-specific financial books out in existence. Also, I intended on providing a guide with all the information I wish I had known when I joined the military in 2008.
It makes me cringe when I think about how much further along my financial situation would be right now with even just a few small tweaks when I first joined the military. For example, my TSP would easily have double, if not triple, the amount of money that it does now if I had just allocated the money into the correct funds. Never mind if I had increased the amount I contributed and really focused on pumping cash into that account at a young age—when it is most impactful!
Nonetheless, I wrote this book with the hope that it would be the book you could hand to a high school student who is thinking about joining the military or a service member in their first year of service. It would serve as a simple financial and career guide to set them up for success going forward!
TL; DR Reading Will Change Your Life!
I am a shining example of somebody who did everything wrong and was still able to figure things out through simple, consistent action. In fact, there is even a podcast I was on that titled the show that way, haha.
If you commit to listening to an audiobook on your commute to/from work, or spending a little time reading every day, you will absolutely be able to change the trajectory of your life.
I cannot recommend this enough to you and I look forward to hearing about your successes after you read the first book on this list, and then the next one, and the next. And (eventually) you can achieve financial freedom and pursue the life of your dreams!
David Pere is an active duty Marine, real estate investor, author, podcaster, entrepreneur, husband, and father who has achieved complete financial freedom in the last five years. In 2015, a single book—Rich Dad Poor Dad—changed the trajectory of his life, when he realized how disheveled his personal finances were, and decided to fix it. Five years later, David and his wife have replaced their salary through passive income from their rental portfolio of more than 90- units, and he is planning to transition into the reserves to focus on helping service members, veterans, and their families learn how to build wealth through real estate investing entrepreneurship, and personal finance!
Author of The No B.S. Guide to Military Life: How to Build Wealth, Get Promoted, and Achieve Greatness
Recognized for inspiring service members to create a better financial future for themselves. Passionate about finances, investing, hiking, traveling, and helping service members grow into their full potential!
Associate of Arts in Real Estate Studies, licensed real estate agent, amongst other random certifications that nobody actually cares about.