Magazines 2024 May - Jun The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed and Happiness

The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed and Happiness

19 April 2024 By Lori Guenther Reesor

An extended Reading the Bestsellers review of a 2020 book by Morgan Housel

Note: Our print issue contains a shorter version of this review. Faith Today welcomes your thoughts on any of our reviews. We also welcome suggestions of other Canadian Christian books to review: Contact us.

Book by Morgan Housel. Harriman House, 2020. 256 pages. $17 (e-book $15, audio $22)

What was your grandfather like? Mine was a Prairie farmer who came of age during the Dirty 30s, a time of crippling drought. Frugal? How’d you guess? He used to say, “It’s not what you earn, it what’s you spend.” Basically, Don’t live beyond your means.

My grandfather and author Morgan Housel would agree on many do’s and don’ts. Do:

Think long-term and save up enough to deal with unexpected expenses. Don’t:

Compare yourself to others or buy stuff to impress people.

Housel’s book shows he understands money and finances. He writes well, and each chapter works on its own. If you are a married couple with a stable income, looking to invest some money, this book could be helpful.

Could be helpful? Why such conditional praise? I belong to the target audience for this book. Not only that, as a fundraiser and theologian, I have a shelf full of books on money. I’ve written one myself. None of them have sold millions of copies like The Psychology of Money has.

The books on my shelf – I’m looking at them as I write – have words like faith, God, Jesus, money, Mammon, tithing and giving in their titles. Generosity, church, offering and plate appear often too. Spiritual content is what’s lacking for me in Housel’s book. How do God’s people respond to economic injustice? How we live in grateful obedience to our generous God?

I don’t think Housel is wrong or ill-informed. Books about being richer appeal to more folks than books about being more generous. Some might argue they would be more generous, if only they were richer! That’s true to a point, but people who are generous with much were once generous with little. Talk to your grandfather.

Before this book review slides into a rant, I’ll share my favourite parts and then make some “you might also like” suggestions.

If you know someone taking uncomfortable risks thinking they can beat the stock market, Housel cites investors like Warren Buffet to make his points on risk and timing.

Housel’s explanation of why low-income people purchase more lottery tickets was poignant. In the voice of the purchasers, he writes: “Buying a lottery ticket is the only time in our lives we can hold a tangible dream of getting the good stuff that you already have and take for granted.” There’s a sermon on gratitude buried in there!

The financial playing field is not level: “The economy works better for some people than others.” Housel cites a study showing that:

“incomes among brothers are more correlated than height or weight. If you are rich and tall, your brother is more likely to also be rich than he is tall. I think most of us intuitively know this is true…. But find me two rich brothers and I’ll show you two men who do not think this study’s findings apply to them.”

Like the two rich brothers, Christians are not immune to thinking we’ve earned everything we have. When we think it’s our hard-earned money, it becomes more difficult to gratefully share what God has given us. As Housel explains, having enough money (I’d add, “having enough money to be generous”) becomes a moving target we never attain.

If you are in debt, unemployed or otherwise struggling, this probably isn’t the book for you. I like Gail Vaz-Oxlade who writes with a tough-love (secular) practical approach to money. If your debt is keeping you up at night, contact Credit Counselling Canada. For financial coaching from a Christian perspective, check out my friends David and Rebecca van Noppen at

My book recommendation is the More-with-Less Cookbook. Cookbook? It is a prayerful, Scriptural book on how to live simply and generously. You need not be Mennonite to benefit from its wisdom (and recipes!). Proceeds from book sales support relief, development and peace work. I’ve memorized the granola recipe after 35 years of continuous service (there’s an updated edition, I have the original).

I’ll end as I began. Talk to your grandparent, or another faithful steward. How did they learn to be generous? Do they remember the first time they gave money away? What did they do with their first paycheque?

Follow in their faithful footsteps. Pray, “Lord, help me to be generous.” Choose an amount you can afford and a cause you love. Give regularly and see what happens. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” is a timeless lesson on money.

Editor's note: We love our reviewers, but we don’t always agree. You won’t either, maybe especially in the Bestsellers and Roundup sections. Do let us know what you think. Sample chapters of most books can be viewed at and Faith Today earns a small commission when people make purchases using our links to

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