I was at Chapters (a large bookstore) in the personal finance section and I struck up a conversation with a lady who was looking for a book. She explained that she was retired, but had become unhappy with her investment advisor. She has decided to learn how to handle her investments herself, since she can lose money without having to pay a fee for it.
As I looked around, I realized that a lot of the books were aimed at readers who are young and are just starting to handle money. Richard Chilton, Gail Vaz-Oxlade and David Bach (and many others) have books on how to spend less, save more and get out of debt. Those are really important messages, but they weren’t suitable for the woman I was trying to help.
She looked at books by Andrew Hallam, Derek Foster and Ken Fischer. Each of those books have a pretty similar theme, as I understand. Get some good investments (where “good” means “everyone owns these”), set it and forget it. I’m sure any of those books would have worked for her.
Unfortunately, she didn’t seem satisfied. I wonder if maybe she had the impression that investing is supposed to be hard. Benjamin Graham’s tome “The Intelligent Investor” was available, but it’s definitely daunting. I wonder how much work she’d have to put into learning in order to find the happy medium between getting discouraged and feeling inadequately prepared.
The problem with trying to find a good book about investing is that the book can never really respond to my own personal needs and situation. I may need to understand a certain amount of how investment choices should be made, but the book may provide too much or too little detail. I may need to understand how to construct a diversified portfolio, but the book may recommend an index, or it may have a different view of how diversification works (or how much is enough).
It’s lucky there are so many books to choose from. I tend to visit the library, choose a large selection of books, then skim until I find what I need. It may be just a couple pages, it may be a few chapters, or I may find a book that provides exactly what I need. As for the lady in the bookshop, I suggested she visit the library. I think she went home with the Ken Fischer book.