Software developers should understand the basics of finance not only to manage their own money but also to understand how businesses' software projects are funded.
Understanding how other people who work in accounting, finance and project management think about business and finance in particular can help you make better architectural decisions when trying to build maintainable systems. Code is only one aspect of a large software project so working with others and viewing the world through their discipline will help you immensely as you advance your career.
The fastest way to take a first step in improving your financial literacy is to subscribe to a few free newsletters that regularly hit your inbox, or a podcast if listening better fits your daily routine. I read and listen to each of the following newsletters and podcasts to pick up on unfamiliar topics then do more of my own research if I do not understand what they are talking or writing about.
Money Stuff by Matt Levine of Bloomberg (newsletter sign up form) is a hilarious must-read daily newsletter that covers the world of finance and breaks down many absurd situations such as financial fraud, insider trading, or competing interests in credit default swaps. Amazingly, the author stays out of political topics, which I find very refreshing because many other journalists seem to force their own biases about finance down your throat even if you do not want their opinions.
Endless Metrics explains financial topics in a way that's easy for anyone without a finance background to understand. For example, what the heck is GDP and how do you read a GDP chart?. What I love most about this newsletter is that the author will often venture into finance-related topics he's interested in and then explain those subjects while grounding them with useful charts and data. This analytic approach closely matches how my developer brain processes information!
Points of Return by John Auther (newsletter sign up form). This author is incredibly knowledgeable about finance and typically provides a solid grounding in long-term fundamentals rather than the short-term hyperbole that is pervasive in cable television financial journalism.
Odd Lots covers kind of whatever topics the hosts find interesting such as pandemic bonds, repo market disruption, sovereign debt restructuring and emerging markets. That's why it's so good - the hosts bring on an expert in that topic and ask a ton of great questions because they want to learn what's going on for themselves. You follow along with them as they try to understand some of the oft-esoteric subject areas of finance.
Newsletters and podcasts are great for prodding you into discovering topics you did not know you needed to learn. When you discover something that you want to go deeper on in finance, here are a few of my favorite books and websites that range from the very basics of finance to broader macroeconomic data trends.
I learned most of my basic finance knowledge when I read Financial Intelligence for IT Professionals in graduate school (go Hoos!). The book is well-written, straightforward and accessible, particularly because it clearly targets its software developer audience.
Don't Quit Your Day Job uses a ton of metrics and statistics to ground their articles on financial topics that are often relevant specifically to software developers. For example, the article on How Many Developers are There in America, and Where Do They Live? is fascinating and especially useful because they explain their data sources and analysis methodology.
Money Magazine can be useful to pick up in paper edition for a few months to understand personal finance basics. After a few months you'll discover the articles and topics tend to recycle so there are diminishing returns to reading it after you have familiarized yourself with most of the topics.
Longtermtrends aggregates long term high-level financial data and displays it. I find looking at these charts gets me away from the day-to-day "oh the stock market is down" and towards thinking about what happens when you invest money over many years or decades.
The following individual articles I have found to be both well-written and extremely useful for specific scenarios such as evaluating stock-based equity compensation, or negotiating your salary.