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Weekend reading: Stocking up on investing wisdom

Weekend reading: Stocking up on investing wisdom post image

What caught my eye this week.

Let’s be honest, if there was ever a year for spending foolishly on ephemeral nonsense at Christmas, it’s 2020.

Traditionally this is the time of the year when we at Monevator flag up some good money and investing related books to buy for Christmas.

The idea is you give the gift of financial savviness to a special person in your life, instead of a pair of socks.

After that, who knows?

Maybe in ten years they’ll come over to tell you they’ve achieved financial independence like my co-blogger The Accumulator did a few months ago.

Buy yourself something nice

However all that seems rather worthy this particular December.

Scurrying through the plague-lands, masked-up and fearfully visiting aged relatives – or younger potential carriers – for a few festive days that seem destined to spike the infection rate, just ahead of the Great British Brexit belly flop…

Who wouldn’t want to indulge instead?

So if you want to treat yourself to the latest Apple Watch, a bottle of Chanel No 5, or an inflatable french maid, you get a pass this year.

Just don’t go into debt to do it!

Best money and investing books for Christmas

Still with us on the straight and narrow? Then here’s a few old and new books to consider giving this Christmas.

The Psychology of Money

We’ve been reading and linking to Morgan Housel’s articles for a decade so we knew his first book would be a classic. If you’ve ever wondered why some people do dumb stuff with money – while others effortlessly make great decisions – then this is a must-read. Better yet, give it to one of the former. You might just turn them into one of the latter.

Investing Demystified

The second edition of Lars Kroijer’s guide to passive investing in tracker funds came out on 2017, and it’s still winning lots of fans. A frequent contributor to Monevator over the years, ex-hedge fund manager Kroijer convincingly explains why most of us don’t have an edge in the markets – and then explains why that doesn’t matter when you invest in global index funds and risk-free bonds.

The Man Who Solved The Market

Gregory Zuckerman’s diligent journalism pulls back the curtain (a bit) on Renaissance Capital, the most mysterious market-smashing hedge fund of all-time. The book got good reviews and was short-listed for several awards, but I was disappointed to be honest. I didn’t expect revelatory investing secrets, but I’d hoped for more than a catalogue of job hirings and firings. Okay, that’s too harsh, and as I say, others raved. Consider it for that investing nerd in your life.

More Money than God

I think this older book (2011) is a better primer on hedge funds. Sebastian Malby mostly devotes each chapter to a different fund’s time in the sun, so no particular characters outstay their welcome. It’s a good way to understand how – fleetingly – various people have found ways to achieve truly outsized returns from investing.

Smarter Investing

Even this third edition is pretty old now (2013) but Tim Hale’s Smarter Investing is still my co-blogger’s top recommendation for passive investors. He even reviewed it on Monevator, so take a gander at that if you want to learn more before buying for your mum, dad, great Aunt, or wayward nephew. (Controversy alert: the book didn’t click for me. But then I long ago went rogue!)

You Can Be A Stock Market Genius

Despite being published 20 years ago, Joel Greenblatt’s primer on how he got annualized returns of 50% is still my best recommendation for that naughty active investor in your life. Almost everything specific in this book is out-of-date, and it’s more relevant for the American market, too. Doesn’t matter. What this book might just give a reader is the right mindset to beat the market. (Still a long shot, of course!)

The Snowball

Another oldie (2009), I’ve given this book to a couple of people who couldn’t care less about investing but were curious about Warren Buffett. To my astonishment, they enjoyed most of its 832 pages. Buffett himself didn’t, apparently, which is probably an endorsement, if you believe biographies should be warts and all.

The Art of Execution

I’ve read several dozen money and investing books over the years, so this idiosyncratic list could go on indefinitely. Few stick in the mind though. Lee Freeman-Shor’s survey of how some of the world’s best investors managed their portfolios is a rare exception. Only the other day I heard a clued-up investing pundit complain there are no books that talk about when to sell shares. Well, this overlooked classic does, and much else. Still, it’s one for committed stock pickers only.

Reading through the list, I see they’re mostly devoted to investing rather than personal finance. Maybe I’m forgetting something obvious, but it feels like a long time since a primer like Your Money or Your Life made waves.

Perhaps that’s what the second Monevator book should be all about? (For those who have kindly inquired, the first was 95% finished a year ago. The delays since have been mostly down to me. We now hope to have it out in the first half of 2021…)

Finally if you’ve had enough of money and the markets for now, check out Bill Gates’ top five books of 2020.

Have a great weekend, and see you next week for our final posts of year.

From Monevator

Free financial advice: where to get help when you need it – Monevator

Don’t waste money buying expensive gifts – Monevator

From the archive-ator: ten reasons why houses are a better investment than shares – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Average house price up £15,000 since June, dwarfing average stamp duty saving – ThisIsMoney

£14bn Mastercard class action gets go-ahead from court – Guardian

Government urged to impose ‘wealth tax’ on millionaire households – ThisIsMoney

The Essex Boys: How nine traders hit a gusher with negative oil – Bloomberg

Bank of England explores easier options for getting a mortgage – Guardian

Pandemic or no pandemic, Vanguard investors are well-behaved to the point of indolence [From ‘How America Invests’, a US but relevant PDF]Vanguard

Products and services

How will the EU travel ban affect Britons who have booked holidays? – Guardian

The Big Exchange launches a sustainable Junior stocks and shares Isa – Which

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

Starling and Monzo eclipse high street giants in the Which? current account survey 2020 – Which

Fixer-upper homes for sale, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

How millenials became the burnout generation – Vox

The Swiss cheese model: avoiding single points of failure in a pandemic and life – Abnormal Returns

The singularity isn’t near, but why take the chance? – Finumus

Boredwalk – Humble Dollar

How to invest when you’ve already won the game – A Wealth of Common Sense

Five lessons from three years of early retirement – Can I Retire Yet?

Custom Indexing: The Next Evolution of Index Investing [Paper]Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Billion Dollar Loser: a potted history of the rise and fall of WeWork – Value and Opportunity

Who can investors listen to when everybody is wrong? – Bloomberg Newswire

Independent Women: Investing in British Railways, 1870-1922 [Research]Alpha Architect

Missing bill payments can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s [Research]Jama [via Abnormal Returns]

Inflation mini-special

Treasury market expects higher inflation. Will hard data follow? – Capital Spectator

Grab your gold: inflation is coming – MoneyWeek

Though UK shops are offering early festive discounts in battle for survival… – BBC

…while supermarket prices just fell into deflation for first time in 14 months – The Grocer

Can the energy and resources sectors protect against inflation? – What Investment

Exxon: inflation hedge plus an 8% payout – Forbes

Naughty corner: Active antics

Timeless advice for stock market speculators from the early 1900s – Novel Investor

Are you a permabear? 12 questions to ask yourself – All Star Charts

It’s a party – The Irrelevant Investor

Coronavirus corner

We had the vaccine the whole time – The New Yorker

Scientists warn against Christmas gatherings in UK, despite relaxed rules – Guardian

The FDA’s green light for the Pfizer vaccine might tank trials of alternatives – Wired

Oxford vaccine to be combined with Sputnik jab for a trial – Guardian

Broken Britain’s Bonkers Brexit

On Brexit, the Tories have fallen prey to magical thinking [Search result]FT

A reminder that Brexit as-sold was always a laughably delusional fantasy: Day 3 in the Big Brexit House [From 2016]Monevator

Ex Australian PM warns ‘Australia deal’ is not what Britain would want [It’s just no-deal rebranded, anyway]Guardian

Boris Johnson’s ‘charm’, like a trolley in a supermarket car park, has its limits – Guardian

Kindle book bargains

Don’t have a Kindle? Buy one – they’re great!

Amazon FBA Step-By-Step: A Beginners Guide To Selling On Amazon£0.99 on Kindle

Make Your Bed: 10 Life Lessons from a Navy SEAL by William McRaven – £1.99 on Kindle

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – £1.99 on Kindle

Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and How They Broke Capitalism by Richard Brooks – £1.19 on Kindle

Off our beat

If Proust ate Pringles – on memory, loss, and the persistence of Heineken – Good Beer Hunting

Bob Dylan has sold the rights to all his songs to Universal Music for at least $200m – BBC

The modern world has finally become too complicated for any of us to understand – One Zero

How we met: ‘I’d hear the noise of the fax machine and be excited to see if it was her’Guardian

And finally…

“Money makes money. And the money that money makes, makes money.”
– Benjamin Franklin, An American Life2

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday! Like these links? Note this list includes affiliate links, such as from Amazon, Unbiased, and Freetrade. We may be compensated if you pursue these offers – that will not affect the price you pay.

  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
  2. Note: This quote doesn’t come from this excellent biography. []
{ 12 comments… add one }
  • 1 Ian Holliday December 12, 2020, 12:26 am

    “…the second Monevator book should be all about? (For those who have kindly inquired, the first was 95% finished a year ago…”

    WTF? LMAO. Guys. Pull the trigger on this for goodness sake .

  • 2 C December 12, 2020, 6:20 am

    Humble Bundle have a bunch of discounted personal finance books at the moment.
    Have not read so cannot vouch for any of them, but might be something of interest?

  • 3 Gentleman's Family Finances December 12, 2020, 9:17 am

    Consumer things are looked down upon but consuming experiences (or food) is seen as ok???
    This year I am trying to be more generous (on a cost / benefit basis it pays for itself in kudos & karma).
    And treating ourselves? I have got take away from our struggling local independent restaurants – a local luxury.

  • 4 Vanguardfan December 12, 2020, 10:01 am

    Good bunch of links this week – ‘can I retire yet’ seems particularly pertinent to the discussion we had recently about FIRE ‘not working out’.
    Wherever you go, there you are…

  • 5 BillD December 12, 2020, 10:09 am

    Thanks for the links. Does anyone else find the GatesNotes blog site does not work on an iPad? The irony of it, the page just won’t scroll properly. On the other hand, finding his podcast with Rashida Jones an interesting listen https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bill-gates-and-rashida-jones-ask-big-questions/id1538630420

  • 6 Moggers December 12, 2020, 10:25 am

    The problem I’m having is to try and buy the discretionary luxuries I’d be interested in. I can’t get the graphics card (3080) or CPU (5900x) I’m interested in for love nor money at the moment

    The very definition of a non problem I admit (especially when considering what’s already in the PC ‍♀️).

  • 7 xxd09 December 12, 2020, 11:16 am

    The link to the Vox article on Millennial Burnout struck a chord with me
    We have 3 -40ish kids-2 girls and 1 boy
    All married with kids
    Everybody at work but the girls work part time now having been off work having children 3,3 and 2( 8 grand kids)
    I said from birth to the girls (no doubt the boy overheard) that feminism (which I agree with) was not- having kids, having a job and looking after a husband- that’s burn out!
    Men are mostly good for work only -get one with a good job and keep him at the “coalface”.
    Not popular advice amongst my contemporaries raising kids at the same time!
    Seems to have worked so far
    You will never work harder than when you have young kids-you have to make it possible
    I can understand that a rational and financially viable decision is not to have children at all
    This seems to be happening

  • 8 The Rhino December 13, 2020, 12:05 am
  • 9 Richard December 13, 2020, 11:46 am

    2009 feels like yesterday. Makes me feel my age when books from then are called oldies.

  • 10 Zero Gravitas December 13, 2020, 11:15 pm

    Just to say thanks for such an excellent website.

    These posts and the diverse linked articles have rapidly become a must-read and fun part of my Sundays.

  • 11 The Investor December 14, 2020, 6:25 pm

    @Zero — Cheers for that, and to everyone who keeps coming back for more. 🙂

  • 12 SemiPassive December 16, 2020, 1:53 pm

    Re the ‘What Investment’ article, I topped up on BlackRock Energy and Resources Income Trust in March when it was getting absolutely hammered.
    After lagging global equities/US stocks for a while it has really started motoring in the last few weeks and started to outperform in large part due to the recovery in oil and metals prices. Nice yield of around 5% even after the latest gains.
    I had been pondering adding a mixed commodity ETF, such as iShares ROLL but what with FTSE100 and the Blackrock trust exposure I already have more oil and miner exposure than a global tracker.
    Anyway, as well as being an inflation hedge, it does look like the commodities sector is one of the most undervalued relative to everything else, whether you get exposure from something like the iShares commodity futures-based ETFs or shares in the producers.
    Be warned though, BlackRock Energy and Resources Income Trust is extremely volatile.

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