Book Review: The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received


If you’ve done much reading in the financial sector, you’re probably aware that there are many, many experts out there, all offering advice.  Many of them have published books or written numerous magazine articles to express their opinions, but you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all that information.  What if there was a book that enabled you to get the most pertinent information from dozens of investment and money-management experts all in one place?

That’s the general concept behind The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received compiled by Liz Claman.  She has assembled a collection of essays from some of the most famous financial advisers currently working (Orman, Cramer, Kiyosaki, Forbes, etc.) as well as numerous professional money managers (most famously, Warren Buffet).  Their collective investing advice is boiled down to simple essays ranging from five words (‘”Buy Low, Sell High”-Unknown’, contributed by C. John Wilder) to several pages long.  Does cutting down on the length still leave you with good and pertinent advice?  Let’s read on and see!

Pros

-Short, concise segments: Each article in the books is fairly short, but in general, they get across the major points the writers tend to stress in their other work.  John Bogle’s article, for example, stresses the benefits of index investing (and the costs of market timing), while Steven Forbes emphasizes diversification and sticking to your investment plan.  You won’t get all the detail found in the individual authors’ works, but as a broad, quick guide, this books serves rather well.

-Good Advice (Mostly): Even though there are sixty-six different contributors to this book, the same advice keeps coming up, time and time again: diversify, plan for the long term, do lots of research, and regard your stock broker’s (or other financial adviser’s) suggestions with a grain of salt, as they might be trying to benefit themselves more than you.  Hearing the same advice from so many different commentators, stated in a variety of ways, helps to reinforce it as well as highlighting just how many people believe in the advice.

-Genuinely Entertaining: Too many personal finance books tend to get bogged down in the math and research needed to manage your money or do well in investing, and tend to be a bit dry as a result.  The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received manages to avoid that fate, in part by having virtually no math content, and also because most of the writers tell stories rather than make lists of facts.  The structure of the book has many authors relaying stories from their childhood or younger adult life, giving the book an overall feel of a group of people gathered to share stories, rather than a usual personal finance book.  All of which makes for a much easier and more entertaining read.

Cons

-Some Unhelpful Advice: As with any book that attempts to gather so many different voices, there’s going to be some that aren’t as useful as the others.  Some of the ‘best investment advice’ the writers rely was highly situational and wouldn’t be as helpful now.  The most glaring example is from John W. Brown, chairman of the Stryker Corporation, who notes that the best financial advice he ever got was… to join the Stryker Corporation.  Not exactly something that’s easy for the average investor to apply to their portfolio.

-Lack of Detail: The disadvantage of having so many different perspectives packed into a single book is that there’s little room for the contributors to flesh out their comments.  If you’re seeking specific investment recommendations, or even a detailed procedure for investigating and determining your own financial plan, this isn’t the book for you.

-A Bit Overwhelming: Let me be frank: this should not be the first investment book that you read.  If you’ve got a basic understanding of investing and a handle on the general concept, you should be able to follow the suggestions easily enough, but if you are still learning, it could prove a bit tricky to understand what these advisers are discussing.  Trying to sort through the advice from over sixty people, to determine which ones are giving you good advice and which ones are not, is something a bit beyond the skills of the average would-be investor just getting his or her feet wet.  Save this book for when you have a basic financial plan and want some second opinions.

Overall

best-investment-adviceI like this book in general.  It’s definitely an easy read, and the advice given by (most of) the included writers is helpful and entertaining.  That said, I would treat this book as more a collection of mini-biographies of famous financial people, rather than a guide to investing.  As mentioned in the ‘Cons’ section, trying to develop an investment plan just from the information in this book would prove quite difficult, if not impossible.  If you have an investment plan already, the tips included in the book might help you to refine and improve it, but building from scratch is a much different story.  In any event, it does make for a decent read, so pick it up and enjoy some of the commentary from the financial professionals included.

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