Book Review – The Motley Fool Money Guide

There’s a lot of introductory places to find information about money management and investing out there. One of the most popular, particularly if you first got online using the power of AOL, is via the Motley Fool. As a place to find advice on choosing particular stocks in which to invest, it’s not bad, but what about general investment advice?

Motley Fool Money Guide seeks to provides such an introduction to investing in the Motley Fool style. Selena Maranjian attempts to provide answers to numerous personal finance questions, those related to saving, spending, and investing. How successful are those questions answered? Let’s read on and find out!

Summary

The Motley Fool Money Guide opens with a Foreword, sharing how the Motley Fool tricked its readers (or at least, the less informed ones) into thinking that 80% of mutual funds had beaten the market (when in fact the vast majority of such funds had not done better than the corresponding index). There’s a short Introduction sharing some of the basics of what will be covered in the book, as well as introducing the concept of ‘Foolishness’ as a positive as it is used throughout the rest of the book.

The rest of the chapters in the book, containing five hundred monetary questions, are divided into two main sections, personal finance and investing. Starting with personal finance, the first chapter of the book is about saving and budgeting, showing how to create a basic budget and then stick it. Chapter two discusses managing debt, particularly credit card debt, and otherwise keeping your credit cards under control. Chapter three shares the basics of insurance, from life insurance and health insurance to less vital (or useful) insurances, such as pet health insurance and funeral insurance.

The next several chapters are about some of the major expenditures you’ll encounter in your life. The fourth chapter talks about cars and how to purchase one in the best and least expensive manner possible. It emphasizes one particular method of minimizing your car expense, using the ‘Foolish Fax-a-Thon’ to get offers from numerous car dealerships. Chapter five is about buying a home, covering all the issues involved, describing the finer points of finding a broker (or going without one) as well as getting an appropriate mortgage. Chapter six is about paying for college, one of the biggest expenses you might have, if you wish to help your child(ren) pay for higher education.

There are a few chapters covering some of the other aspects of personal finance, such as the seventh chapter about banking, providing advice on choosing a good bank (or credit union) for your financial needs. Chapter eight provides some advice on living below your needs, giving a few dozen pieces of advice about cutting your expenses. The ninth chapter covers some of the basics of taxes in their many forms, from filling out income taxes to (fitting for an investment book) minimizing your capital gain taxes.

The last three chapters in the personal finance section mainly cover events in the future, starting with the tenth chapter on retirement. There’s discussion of all the types of retirement accounts, the 401(k)s and IRAs, as well as some talk of an appropriate retirement withdrawal rate. Chapter eleven looks at charitable donations, and how to find appropriate charities to donate your money or your appreciated stocks. Chapter twelve rounds out the future, with talk of death, funerals, and estate planning. Discussing how to save on funeral arrangements and how to prepare your will are included.

The second section of the book looks at investing, starting with chapter thirteen covering some of the basics of investing, such as definitions of stocks and bonds, the basics of reading stock listings, and the amount you can accumulate through such investments over time. Chapter fourteen looks closer at the ways of Wall Street, from how to read stock listings to finding an appropriate index (and knowing what an index is). The fifteenth chapter continues the focus on stocks, discussing the basics of stock investing and some of what can happen while you are holding stocks, from rises and falls to splits.

With the basics of investing covered, the next few chapters get more into the details of stock investing. The sixteenth chapter, one of the longest in the book, discussing how to research and evaluate companies as possible investments. Everything from reading annual reports to running calculations on their finances is discussed. A few more advanced calculation are discussed in chapter seventeen. The eighteenth chapter discusses some of the finer details of how to actually buy and sell stocks once you have found decent prospects through your research. If investing in individual stocks doesn’t quite meet your needs, chapter nineteen covers some of the basics of mutual fund investing, stressing index funds as the most ideal mutual funds to invest in.

The last four fairly short chapters of the book cover a variety of subjects, rounding out the discussion of investing. Chapter twenty looks at portfolio management, discussing how to evaluate your investment results and choose when to sell your investments. The twenty-first chapter looks at a fewer broader business and economic issues that affect stock prices, from recessions to hostile takeovers. Chapter twenty-two covers some un-Foolish (that is, un-recommended) investment ideas, such as day trading, penny stocks, options, futures, and lotteries. The twenty-third and final chapter covers numerous topics not previously discussed, such as other investments including REITs, and how to help younger people get into investing. The book rounds out with a few appendices, including a list of resources and a glossary of investment terms.

Pros

The Motley Fool Money Guide is a pretty good starter guide to handling money. The personal finance section covers most of the issues related to getting your money situation under control in a simple manner. The investment section covers stock investing in great detail, with plenty of advice on how to find a reasonable investment.

Cons

The numerous topics covered mean that most subjects don’t have many details included. The focus on stock investment, even in the personal finance section, makes it hard to follow at times. The book is over a decade old, making it a bit dated.

Overall

Motley Fool Money Guide is a pretty good guide to personal finance in general and stock investment in particular. While the focus on stocks and stock investment limit the versatility of the book, it is still an interesting read. If you are preparing for individual stock investment, it’s an excellent introduction.

4 Responses to Book Review – The Motley Fool Money Guide

  1. I have a special place in my heart for the Motley Fool. Their “Investment Guide for Teens” was the first personal finance book I ever read, and it definitely set me on the path I’m on now.

    I also had the pleasure of visiting their offices a few months ago – their offices are really nice, fun, and every single employee I met was super friendly. They have a really interesting “results only work environment” type of thing going, and a ton of awesome amenities.

    However, the reason I’ve always felt out-of-step with them is that focus on individual stock investing. I’ve never really agreed with them on that, and so I’m less than surprised to find out this book has a huge focus on that, and that it takes away from other parts of the book. I wish they’d update and improve this book – it sounds like a solid foundation. I would be interested to read a revised version, if they ever get to it!

    • I understand the feeling; you tend to have a bit of attachment to the first book that sets you on the right path monetarily. I have a special place in my heart for Rich Dad, Poor Dad, even though Robert Kiyosaki has certainly taken some hits lately. It also sounds like the Motley Fool has a pretty good work environment. Glad to hear that you had a wonderful visit. (Just for curiosity sake, why did you go?)

      The individual stock focus is a bit off-putting; it’s a bit risky of an investment method, particularly when most of your readers are just getting started with money management. A little less discussion of individual stocks, a bit more on mutual funds, and yes, a more revised version (being over a decade old means that a lot of the references are now out of date) would make this a pretty good money guide for beginners.

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