Finance guru Noel Whittaker's book picks for Christmas

CHRISTMAS is fast approaching and with it, the usual challenge of finding a gift that will be of lasting value to the recipient.

As usual, I've done the rounds and found some titles that would be welcome in any Christmas stocking, as well as adding value to the recipient.

My first choice is The Broken Ladder by psychologist Keith Payne. Don't let the title put you off - it's one of my favourite books of the year.

It is subtitled How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die, and it takes a thought-provoking look at the psychology behind status and inequality, but it's far more than that. It's chock-full of details of experiments that explain the reasons for our behaviour.

Having read the book I now understand why a good golf shot, rare though that may be, triggers the same reaction in my brain as a glass of wine, or winning a game of penny poker. It also explains the flip-side - that feeling poor leads to poor choices.

If you are trying to encourage a young person to get a foothold on the road to financial freedom, the obvious choice is my just-released, totally revised Making Money Made Simple. It combines age-old wisdom with all the new products available today to make the savings journey easier.

But is still based around the old principle: a part of all you earn is yours to keep. The earlier you start the easier it is, and what could be a better Christmas present than putting someone on track for financial independence for life?

I now understand why a good golf shot, rare though that may be, triggers the same reaction in my brain as a glass of wine, or winning a game ...

This leads me to my next recommendation, which was a major influence in writing the new version of Making Money Made Simple. The book is The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness, by management consultant Jeff Olsen.

The author points out that the difference between success and failure is typically not due to one single action but to thousands of small actions, positive or negative, that are repeated over the long term.

This applies in every facet of our lives. In finance it is especially applicable to the miracle of compound interest, which can take ages to show results, but delivers surprising wealth for those who persevere with it. I now use the term "slight edge" in my own self talk.

For example, if I'm having a low carbohydrate day and am tempted by a cake, I just murmur "slight edge" - that reminder of the impact of all the little choices chases my desire for cake away.

The number of older people in our society is growing rapidly but far too often age is seen as a liability. Those who give in to ageing are the first to feel its effects. This is why Bolder: Making the Most of Our Longer Lives, by Canadian journalist Carl Honoré, is such an inspiring read. His premise is that we should embrace getting older.

The book is full of examples, but the one I like particularly is about Robert Marsh, a retired French firefighter, who set a world record for the over-hundreds by cycling 14.2 miles in one hour. Two years later, at the age of one hundred and two, he set a new record by riding 16.7 miles in the same time.

He gives a long list of things to keep us older folk happy and well, and extols exercise as the closest thing there is to a magic bullet. Again, the concepts are age-old - way back in 400 BC Hippocrates said exercise is the best medicine there is - but Honoré's application of the thinking to our modern lives is exciting.

So whatever ages your friends and families are, give them gifts that will last far, far longer than a single read.

  • Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance.
This story Books that keep giving long after the Christmas season first appeared on The Senior.