8 Money Must-Reads for Students

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College students aren’t known for their financial planning. In fact, some college seniors are graduating with enough credit card and student loan debt to consider selling their diploma on eBay. In an attempt to help the next generation of college students avoid this pitfall, MainStreet has come up with a summer reading list that will help ensure a debt-free future.

So, instead of trying to cram in some classics (which you should have read already) or overdose on popular fiction (which isn’t going anywhere) this summer, incoming freshmen can pick up these tomes to help them balance their new life and their bank account.

Financial Basics: Money-Management Guide for Students by Susan Knox

Knox, a certified public account, financial planner and former university administrator, uses stories from past college students as a platform to dole out advice to prospective or current ones. The book, which has a five-star rating on Amazon, addresses your standard financial issues, such as credit card debt, student loans and post-college financial planning. It also discusses some often-ignored subjects such as how to keep up with friends who are richer than you, develop a personal philosophy on finances and prevent identity theft.

“Everyone interviewed for the book had differing financial situations and education from the financially clueless to the overly stingy and everywhere in between,” one reviewer says on Amazon. “Instead of trying to fit everyone into one black-and-white financial solution, [Knox] gave easy-to-follow, general tips on money management, credit card responsibility and savings.”

Overall, the book will help to prevent a solid foundation for a college student’s financial planning.

How to Survive Your Freshman Year by Hundreds of Heads Survival Guides

Hundreds of Heads’ annual guide advises students on more than just financial planning so readers looking for a more comprehensive view of college life should purchase the 2010 version and get reading. The book contains more than 1,000 pieces of real-life knowledge from hundreds of students who attended more than 100 colleges across the country. (There are words of wisdom from college counselors as well.)

Chapter 16 focuses exclusively on financial planning, so, in addition to information on dorm-life, college parties and extracurricular activities, prospective students can learn about loans, credit and money management. Overall, as one Amazon reviewer puts it, “the book contains little snippets of advice that can make a difference in your college life.”

The Student’s Guide to Financial Literacy by Robert E. Lawless

Recently released in March and currently available in hardcover only, this guide is a bit pricey (it’ll cost you anywhere from $68 to $85, depending on the retailer). However, it’s a virtual encyclopedia of terms for, well, the financially illiterate. Lawless addresses every type of money issue you could imagine: equities, real estate, diversification, liability insurance, homeowners’ insurance, inflation, fixed income … the list goes on and on.

According to Amazon’s description, the book “is designed to convey financial wisdom in terms that are easy to understand with suggestions that are easy to apply. Readers will learn about the importance of budgeting and saving, the compounding of money and how to create a diversified portfolio of investments.”

In other words, students who have exhibited even a modicum of interest in creating an early financial plan should get started over their summer vacation.

The Debt-Free Graduate: How to Survive College Without Going Broke by Murray Baker

In the current economic environment, college graduates aren’t guaranteed immediate employment. This makes it even more imperative that they leave school without debt up to their eyeballs. Baker, coordinator of First-Year Programs at the University of Western Ontario, attempts to help students avoid graduating in the red. He gives tips on how to find well-paying summer jobs, locate affordable student housing and (according to the book’s introduction) “avoid being gouged by those who prey on students’ financial inexperience.” He does so with humor and levity.

“Unlike so many other money saving books I have attempted to plod through, I really found The Debt Free Grad fun to read,” Susan Doherty says in her Amazon review. “If I enjoyed my course work reading as much as this book, I would be an English major instead!”

Who Moved My Cheese For Teens? by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard

This spin-off of the popular self-help book “Who Moved My Cheese?” attempts to teach a younger audience how to deal with change and adapt to new environments. (The subtitle of the book, after all, is “an amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life.”)

In the book, two mice and two miniature humans navigate a maze to find happiness and success, in the form of (you guessed it) cheese. At only 96 pages, the parable is quick summer read for incoming freshmen who are, in fact, about to enter a completely new community. Prospective college students turned off by the “for teens” in the title can read the original, which contains the exact same parable, but a different frame (adults at a high school reunion versus students in a cafeteria.) Even though this book isn’t specifically about money issues, the theme of dealing with change can be applied to the new financial situation all students find themselves in.

Money Management for College Students by Karin R. O’Callaghan

Another five-star Amazon seller, Fell’s guide talks about  financial aid, overdraft situations, credit balances and even investments.
It also includes investment worksheets and numerous samples of important document like credit applications, bank statements and tax forms so prospective students can familiarize themselves with important financial processes.

“This is a thorough look at financial basics for high school and college students,” one customer writers on Amazon. “(The book is) a great high school graduation gift.”

The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen

Another comprehensive how-to-survive college guide, Cohen, an advice columnist and college speaker, uses humor to dole out practical advice on 108 issues (including the naked roommate)  to prospective college students. The book’s tone and unabashedness have made it a favorite of students since its initial release in 2005.

According to one reviewer on Amazon, where the book is rated at four and half stars, “The book is very well written, easy to read and follow. It's engaging and truthful without being patronizing to the reader. [Cohen] gives great tips on how to handle, approach and deal with most everything one can and will encounter during their years in college.”

In Addition to Tuition: The Parent’s Survival Guide to Freshman Year by Marian Edelman Borden, Mary Anne Burlinson and Elsie R. Kearns

OK, so technically, this isn’t a book for the student’s reading list. Nevertheless, we thought we’d suggest this guide for parents as it attempts to break down common problems families face when a child goes off to college. The book strives to make parents more empathetic to a new student’s needs by mixing practical advice with amusing anecdotes. The point, it seems, is to remind parents what college can be like so they are more inclined to pay all the expenses that come along with it.

Sounds like a good gift for Father’s Day.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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