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Top 10 Books Financial Advisors Should Read in 2021

There are several probable reasons why you’ve clicked on this article:

  • You’re a financial advisor who knows that the difference between professionals and amateurs is that professionals work to stay on top of their game—and that includes reading the words of other successful professionals.
  • You want some guidance to help you wade through the huge number of books for, by, and about financial advisors to find the “must-reads.”
  • You got hooked on Top 10 lists watching Late Show with David Letterman and need a fix.

What follows delivers on all three motives, but you don’t have to take my word for it. You’ll find some of these same titles on our recommended list from last year, and on lists from years past collected by a variety of knowledgeable compilers. That fact alone speaks to the staying power of their advice and wisdom.

The 10 books below, in no particular order, will help you serve your clients in ways that distinguish you from your competition, assist you to create more opportunities to help more clients, and challenge you to become a more well-rounded, thoughtful sales professional.

#1 Storyselling for Financial Advisors: How Top Producers Sell

by Scott West and Mitch AnthonyBook cover with the title Story Selling for Financial Advisors

Being able to tell stories is fundamental to our humanity—storytelling is found in all cultures, at all times, across all parts of the world—and for good reason. Stories help us make sense of events, teach us right from wrong, and make the complicated facts and statistics about finances easier for clients to understand. Using real stories (many provided by Warren Buffet), this book will help you gain the trust of your clients by showing you how to explain intangible numbers in ways that will connect with their feelings, values, and desires and move them toward their financial goals.

Reader review: As a certified financial planner, president of a securities firm, and industry veteran of fifteen years, I immediately recognized the tremendous value of this book. I ordered Storyselling for every investment representative in our company and for each executive in our financial services group.

#2 The Million Dollar Financial Advisor: Powerful Lessons and Proven Strategies from Top Producers

by David J. Mullen, Jr.Book cover with the title, The Million Dollar Financial Advisor

It happens to many of us . . . we get comfortable doing things our own way. We may convince ourselves we’re okay with the way things are and that we’re fine with getting by. Some get complacent and forget why they got into this profession in the first place. That’s when it’s time to revisit the fundamentals, get reacquainted with our goals, and follow the example of those who have come before us and made it. Mullen lays out 13 lessons learned from the experiences of top financial analysts and provides two case studies, one about an inspiring career turnaround, that make this book a must read for new advisors and a good reminder for veterans who want more.

Reader review: The book has helped me become focused and revisit my business plan so I can start building the practice I have envisioned when I started rather than what it has become. I have built my confidence, raised the bar for the clients I am looking for, and implementing strategies to grow my business to what I dreamed of…This is a must read [sic] if you have not yet acheived [sic] the success for your practice which you desire. 

#3 Principles: Life and Work

by Ray DalioBook cover with the title, Principles:

By all accounts, Principles is not a casual read, nor is it a conventional “business book,” but it is worth taking the time and effort to read for the transformative wisdom it contains. Applying concepts like rule-driven decisions, idea meritocracy, radical transparency, and radical truth may seem beyond the practical limitations of some organizations, but to stop there is to miss the broader value and applicability of these ideas.

Reader review: It’s not-essential for successful happy living. You can make it through your day and probably your life without this book. But, you’ll probably never know where you could’ve ended up had you planned out your life more methodically and created a system of principles to orient your visions and time. All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone that’s looking to take their life to the next level or for the next 10 levels. One of the longest, densest books I’ve read, but also one of the more transformative books.

#4 The 10X Financial Advisor: Your Blueprint for Massive and Sustainable Growth

by Scott WintersBook cover with the title, The 10 X Financial Advisor

On Stay Paid, a podcast produced by ReminderMedia, we often say there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The smart approach is to identify the successful people who have come before you and do what they do. It’s this piece of efficient and sage advice that grounds the content of this highly practical book. In it, you’ll find a clear, easy to follow, formulaic approach (hence, the word “blueprint” in the title) to growing and scaling your financial services business to a scale you may have thought was out of your reach.

Reader review: Scott has brilliantly created a systematized approach [to] helping financial advisors build an ultra-successful business. His eight-step process is equally relevant to newbies as it is to the million-dollar advisor that wants to double or triple their business. Anyone that is serious about competing in this uber-competitive business should be equipped with the knowledge so beautifully illustrated within this book.

#5 Your Money and Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich

by Jason ZweigBook cover with the title Your Money and Your Brain

Zweig is the editor and contributor to the revised edition of The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing: A Book of Practical Counsel published in 2006. I’ve included Zweig’s own book because, while written for the investor and not the advisor, it helps for advisors to understand how their investor-clients are likely to be thinking when they are on the verge of making a bad decision regarding their money. It is easy to read, understandable, and engaging with stories and examples, as you would expect from a noted financial journalist. And because it is the book often referenced by others, I believe it is worth getting the full story from the proverbial horse’s mouth.

Reader review: This book is fully enlightening and will leave you with an improved awareness of the proper rationale for making money. Zweig has an exceptional grasp of the human intellect as well as a strong ability to present the material coherently and effectively. The result is a masterpiece that any investor should read.

#6 Communication Essentials for Financial Planners: Strategies and Techniques

By John E. Grable and Joseph W. GoetzBook cover with the title Communication Essentials for Financial Planners

If you’ll forgive the pun, our relationship with money is only one side of the coin. The other is the relationship we have with the people we entrust with it—our financial advisors. There are few other professions in which having a relationship with your clients where they know, like, and trust you are as paramount to your success. An academic treatment of verbal and nonverbal behavior, you’ll easily discover within this book’s pages the practical consequences of cultural norms and communicative behaviors like active listening, office arrangement, the type of questions you pose, and even taking notes during a conversation. It’s a book that will equally help in your professional and personal lives.

Reader review: All in all, the book is a great resource guide and introductory book for those in any client-facing position to begin delving into the world of improved communication.

#7 UnMarketing: Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different

By Scott Stratten and Alison StrattenBook cover with the title, Unmarketing

A lot of people get it, but a lot more have still to learn that when it comes to marketing—especially online—you can’t simply push your message onto an audience and hope it sticks. An extension of the first book, UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging, the authors show you how to implement what we on Stay Paid are always preaching—listen to and engage with your audience as a way of creating lasting relationships where clients come to you. For financial advisors, especially in light of the SEC’s new marketing rule and the flexibility it grants regarding advertising, it’s a reminder that trust is built when you listen and engage.

Reader review: Used to work at a speaker bureau and had the honor of meeting Scott and his wife in person – both totally amazing people and SERIOUSLY know what they’re talking about. Best marketing book I’ve read, definitely would recommend to everyone and anyone.

#8 The Gen-Savvy Financial Advisor: Advising the Generations in the New Age of Uncertainty

by Cam MarstonBook cover with the title, The Gen-Savvy Financial Advisor

As the title suggests, this book examines investing by the different generations, especially as wealth is transferred from Baby Boomers, to Gen X, and eventually to millennials. Each of these generations has a very different perspective and attitude about investing and the value that financial advisors might play in the management of their assets. As an advisor trying to develop a financial plan and advise your clients, it’s in your best interest to understand these different views. In a time of commission-free trading and the advent of index funds, the advice you provide is your value

Reader review: Wow — did this book ever deliver! Best yet, it does it in well under 100 pages, and it is an interesting, informative read as well as a fast read. You’ll get a lot of actionable information–the book SHOWS you what to do instead of merely telling you what to do. Best of all, you’ll get key phrases that you can use to help prospects understand that you know what they need. Boomers, Xers and Mils all see the world differently, and they respond better to key phrases developed with their needs in mind. The phrasing isn’t hype. Instead, it provides a way for an advisor to speak to someone in a caring and more communicative way. You’ll also learn how each type thinks, sees the world, and why. If you want to attract more clients and find more comfortable ways of doing so, this book is for you.

#9 Advice That Sticks: How to Give Financial Advice That People Will Follow

by Dr. Moira SomersBook cover with the title, Advice that Sticks

They come to you, the expert, for help and advice. You give them that help. They pay for that help. Then they don’t follow it. What’s up with that? Dr. Somers is a neuropsychologist and financial change expert who takes you through some of the more familiar reasons why clients of financial advisors don’t comply with the advice they’re given: individual psychology; environmental, social, and cultural influences; the general characteristics of advice that sometimes make it hard to take; and, of course, the emotional maelstrom that is money. But she also discusses the extent to which financial advisors themselves can keep their clients from implementing and sticking to a plan—and practical advice for how to stop it.

Reader review: My only fault with this book is that Dr. Somers undersells it. This book has [a] much broader scope than only offering financial advice that is useful and acted on by clients. With clever humor and easy to digest [sic] clarity[,] Dr. Somers provides the reader with important ideas and tools they can use to increase the value and significance of their client engagements. If you want to distinguish your financial planning practice to be known in your market as something special, this book is for you. If you want your practice to be less vulnerable to market or economic forces beyond your control, this book is for you. If you think you would prefer having more personal or meaningful engagements with clients beyond their ledger sheets, this book is for you. Do you want to have a practice that offers clients and their families something robo systems can’t? Then this book is for you. When you are ready to take your practice to a higher, more fulfilling level, you will want this book.

#10 Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales, 3rd edition

By Bob BurgBook cover with the title, Endless Referrals

Networking is often thought of as a salesy, self-serving behavior with an end goal of getting referrals. It’s all about me, me, me, no matter how often you ask, “How’s the family?” No wonder sales professionals, including financial advisors, have such a hard time asking for referrals. But Burg changes the me, me, me mindset into one that first looks to provide value and service to others. And while it doesn’t say so in the title, this book is all about relationship marketing—something ReminderMedia does exceptionally well.

Reader review: The absolute best book to jump start a sales career. If paying it forward isn’t already second nature, this book shows the road map of just how it works in the business world. If you could only read one book on networking, this IS THE BOOK. Three years after I read this book, I have a steady stream of referrals to keep my business growing, but it only works if you’re willing to give the same to others first. Its [sic] mandatory reading for new employees now! Bob Burg rocks! After this book, read “Go-Givers,” then “It’s Not About You.” Life changing!

Continuous learning, and particularly reading within your field, is essential to remaining relevant. Self-improvement, new models of client service, cutting edge marketing strategies—you read about these topics and more so that you can contribute to your clients’ success, the success of your company, and, ultimately, your own.

Written by Gabrielle King

I’ve spent my 30-year career making complex and unfamiliar ideas easy to understand (although you wouldn’t think it based on my dissertation). Today I routinely write 2,500 words or less to help entrepreneurs like real estate agents, RIAs, insurance agents, and others better understand marketing and feel renewed confidence in their ability to close more deals and retain more business.