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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!)
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.
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.
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
Who can investors listen to when everybody is wrong? – Bloomberg Newswire
Independent Women: Investing in British Railways, 1870-1922 [Research] – Alpha Architect
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
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
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- Note: This quote doesn’t come from this excellent biography.