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Weekend reading: Get a model education courtesy of Stanford University (for free)

Weekend reading

Good reading from around the Web.

I had no sooner published this week’s article questioning expensive university degrees when the emails and comments started to arrive.

That’s gratifying if you’re a writer, and most were very nice. One or two weren’t happy, and thought I was suggesting everyone had to start a business. (I’m not! I’m really not!)

Equally, it also turns out I have more entrepreneurial subscribers than I knew about before I wrote that article. Apparently more millionaires, too.

Several doubters asked where all this free learning I alluded to could be found.

I’m not quite sure how they managed to email me – what with them not having had access to a computer and the Internet since 1993, presumably 🙂 – but anyway, it’s out there, on the Web.

It’s everywhere!

Just this week I discovered (from the Simolean Sense blog) an upcoming free lecture course from the top table of US academia on model thinking.

This kind of model thinking isn’t: You can never be too rich or too thin.

Rather it refers to the mental frameworks extolled by Charlie Munger, the sidekick of Warren Buffett.

From the course outline:

We live in a complex world with diverse people, firms, and governments whose behaviors aggregate to produce novel, unexpected phenomena. We see political uprisings, market crashes, and a never ending array of social trends. How do we make sense of it?

Models. Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don’t. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one.

Why do models make us better thinkers?

Models help us to better organize information – to make sense of that fire hose or hairball of data (choose your metaphor) available on the Internet. Models improve our abilities to make accurate forecasts. They help us make better decisions and adopt more effective strategies. They even can improve our ability to design institutions and procedures.

The lectures come from Coursera, a new initiative from Stanford University.

Yes, that Stanford. I’ve already signed up.

I appreciate this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea on a Saturday morning – and that it’s not got much to do with saving for a rainy day.

But my point is this is the tip of the iceberg of what’s available on the Internet (it’s just one of many courses from Coursera alone) if you’re willing to do some self-directed learning.

(Or – as one wag lampooned the Internet to me – if you want to know a lot more about iPhones, naked women, and the funny things cats do 😉 ).

From the blogs

Deal of the week: In celebration of filthy lucre Valentine’s Day, Amazon is offering 20% off Kindle covers.

Mainstream media money and investing

  • The silliness of the Dow Jones Industrial Average – Roth / CBS
  • Why the Facebook IPO should not excite you – Swedroe / CBS
  • Is Facebook really a good business? – Slate
  • Hedge funds have grown too big and need pruning – FT
  • Same subject: Are hedge funds worthwhile investments? – Miyanville
  • Meet the ISA millionaires – Telegraph
  • Investors lose faith in equities [Silly billies!]Telegraph
  • The pension fund guaranteed to lose money – Telegraph
  • Financial advice could cost £500 per hour after commission is scrapped – FT
  • Buy small companies for long-term gains – FT
  • Merryn: Water has the potential for conflict and wealth – FT
  • Lee: Building links on the golf course – FT
  • Dirty tricks in divorce can cost you big time – Independent
  • Why I’ve quit buy-to-let – The Guardian
  • The future of books is the stream – The Atlantic

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • 1 The Investor February 4, 2012, 12:09 pm

    At £500 an hour, I might seriously have to consider becoming a financial adviser.

  • 2 ermine February 4, 2012, 2:10 pm

    > I might seriously have to consider becoming a financial adviser.

    Might actually be worth in this particular instance 😉 That Stanford course looks great, though the lip-synch bites something rotten for me! And do they really still use chalk and blackboards in Stanford? I thought the whiteboard might have taken over. Makes me all nostaligic for early 1980s Imperial….

  • 3 Damien February 4, 2012, 3:03 pm

    Great, I didn’t know this. I subscribed too + HIM course 😀

  • 4 Metodej February 4, 2012, 3:21 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think this is a must-see for anyone seriously interested in finance, asset allocation, equities.. but without the academic background. http://oyc.yale.edu/economics/financial-markets/content/sessions.html

    Robert Shiller with guests like David Swensen and Carl Icahn for free!

  • 5 Todd February 4, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Also check out Khan Academy on YouTube. Lots of great college level courses there — also free!

  • 6 teamdave February 4, 2012, 3:27 pm

    I’ve signed up to back to Skool. Well up for some more educashun.

  • 7 Ben February 5, 2012, 8:07 pm

    Has DNA let on what his company of billionaires does? My guess is hedge fund but hoping it’s something more off the beaten track. Maybe it’s Facebook – in which case I still wouldn t buy his securities even though I know he’s a monevator reader

  • 8 The Investor February 6, 2012, 1:39 pm

    @Ben — I suspect the clue is in his username? 😉

  • 9 Ben February 6, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Hmmm… 23andme.com?

  • 10 The Investor February 6, 2012, 9:41 pm

    @Ben – As an anonymous blogger, I am happy to respect his privacy, am glad he shared his facts, and will not probe* any further.

    *That’s not a clue! 😉

  • 11 Ben February 6, 2012, 10:59 pm

    I too shall respect his (or her) privacy (though I think I have worked it out)

  • 12 Rick Francis February 7, 2012, 9:05 pm

    Itunes has a specific section for university lectures called Itunes U, I’ve listened to courses from Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley- all are free. It begs the question- with such high quality content freely available, just why are university degrees so expensive?

    -Rick Francis

  • 13 Damien February 9, 2012, 1:15 pm

    “It begs the question- with such high quality content freely available, just why are university degrees so expensive?”

    Because you will still have to show some diploma when seeking a job. Corporate always want to see Master and so on before hiring you and won’t trust your knowledge if you don’t own one.

  • 14 The Investor February 9, 2012, 1:36 pm

    @Damien — I know what you’re saying, but I think the other poster was suggesting that the cost of education could come down by co-opting some of this free content. A cynical way of reading your take on why we need to get degrees is it’s pretty much a protection racket (“Learn what you like, but pay up for our official sanction or else!”).

  • 15 Rick Francis February 10, 2012, 9:08 pm


    Why not share the best lectures and exams among many many students dramatically lowing costs? A college could still provde TAs, exam proctors and grading but at a much lower cost than requiring the full time faculty, right?

    -Rick Francis

  • 16 The Investor February 11, 2012, 9:54 am

    @Rick — Agreed. If we’re going to ask poor kids and their families to spend £50,000 on an education, then it behooves us to try to find ways to bring the cost down of delivering an excellent education. I’m even less interested in maintaining dozens of third-rate educational facilities than in my arguments about university-attendance!

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