Money for the Rest of Us

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How much would you spend to peer into the mind of an investment strategist who once managed billions of dollars for private institutions?  The mind of an expert on how to value different asset classes?  The mind of a teacher who loves to teach others how to think about and manage their investments?

While that insight retails for $28.00, I was able to find Money for the Rest of Us for $16.99 on Amazon.  Seems like a pretty good deal to me.  The cost/benefit ratio of buying high-quality books never ceases to amaze me, and today I’m sharing with you my thoughts on a book that you may find value in reading.

Today, a book review of Money For The Rest Of Us, a new book which peers into the thinking of a professional investment strategist, @jdstein Click To Tweet


Money for the Rest of Us

J. David Stein has long been one of my favorite podcast hosts.  His podcast, Money for the Rest of Us is “about money, how it works, how to invest it and how to live without worrying about it.”  It’s the best podcast I’ve found if you’re interested in valuations of various asset classes and enjoy managing your own investments.  His first podcast came out in 2014 and I’ve been listening ever since.

David was Chief Investment Strategist and Chief Portfolio Strategist at Fund Evaluation Group, where he co-headed a 21 person research group.  He spent years analyzing various investment classes and advised corporate clients on how to allocate large endowment funds between various asset classes.  He’s also a natural teacher and his explanations on how to think about valuations are an excellent source of food for the mind of individual investors.

If you prefer reading books to listening to podcasts, you’re in luck!

David Stein has recently published his first book, Money for the Rest of Us, and it’s worth a read.  His goal of “demystifying investing for nonprofessionals, so they can invest more confidently” was accomplished in a style that’s uniquely his.  It is, indeed, as the inside of the jacket cover states, like “having your own mentor showing you how to avoid big mistakes and increase your odds at profiting from successful investments.”


10 Questions to Master Successful Investing

David structures the book around 10 questions everyone should ask as they think about various asset classes.  The Ten Questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. Is it investing, speculating, or gambling?
  3. What is the upside?
  4. What is the downside?
  5. Who is on the other side of the trade?
  6. What is the investment vehicle?
  7. What does it take to be successful?
  8. Who is getting a cut?
  9. How does it impact your portfolio?
  10. Should you invest?

Each question is structured into a chapter, opening with a clear introduction and closing with a solid chapter summary which highlights the key points made in the preceding pages.  I found these chapter summaries very effective in reiterating the key messages and a useful test to ensure I’d captured the principles for each of the ten questions.


My Key Takeaways From The Book

In spite of three decades as an investor, I learned some new things in Money for the Rest of Us.  The book is clearly focused on the “do it yourself” investor, and most applicable to those seeking to educate themselves on valuations and things to think about as you’re considering new investments and asset allocation.  A few of the highlights which resonated with me:

Investment vs. Speculation vs. Gambling:  You must understand the difference and recognize which camp the product you’re considering purchasing falls into.  There’s a difference, and it matters.

The danger of using historical returns:  It’s the present and the future that matter, not the past.  One of the things I most enjoy about David’s approach is his discussion on his podcast about the future outlook for different asset classes.  He always focuses on the present and the future, for good reason.

The three drivers of asset class performance:  Perhaps the section of the book I most enjoyed was David’s explanation of cash flow, cash flow growth and change in valuation, and how each impacts the future price of an asset class.  While I’ve been an “investor” for more than three decades, I learned more in this section of the book than any other and felt the price of the book was justified for this lesson alone.

Bond yields to maturity:  A good overview of bonds, the impact of maturity periods, and how to include potential default risk into your analysis.

Maximum Drawdown Risk:  Some good analysis of drawdown risk and historical months to recover, and the importance of understanding your personal exposure and impact.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis:  What it is, and why it’s flawed.  A good overview of the Adaptive Market Hypothesis, and how it differs from the efficient market hypothesis.

Evaluating Investment Vehicles:  A good overview of liquidity, costs, structure and pricing, including some insightful discussion on closed-end funds and ETF’s. 

Wayfinding:  This was a new one to me, and an interesting alternative to traditional rebalancing of asset allocation.  Using current market conditions to help evaluate where you should increase/decrease your exposure.

Modern Portfolio Theory:  What it is, and why it doesn’t work.  Instead, David uses “The Asset Garden Approach” when adjusting his asset allocation, focused on diversification between return drivers.  An interesting insight into David’s portfolio (very different than traditional asset allocation). Worth a read.

Dollar-Cost Averaging vs. Lump Sum Investing:  I was happy to see David’s recognition of the psychological factors that should be considered.

Glossary of Terms:  The book includes an exhaustive (15 page) glossary of terms, a great resource for any level of investor.

As you can tell by the topics above, Money for the Rest of Us is aimed at intermediate investors and is best suited to individuals with a basic understanding of investing.  Even if you’re a beginning investor, however, you will learn more in this book than you could in decades of investing on your own.  If you’re a more advanced investor, there are certain topics in the book that will add to your knowledge.  The topics covered will make you think, as they often clash with accepted principles in personal investing.  For that reason alone, the book is worth your time.


Conclusion

In spite of being an individual investor for more than three decades, I learned a lot while reading Money for the Rest of us.  It’s a difficult task to write a book that is beneficial to both the beginning investor and the more seasoned personal finance hobbyist, but David has achieved that with this book.  If you enjoy managing your own investments and are a person who enjoys expanding your knowledge by reading the words from an expert, I’d recommend you consider adding this book to your reading list.  It’s earned 4.5 stars (of 5) in 31 reviews on Amazon and 4.3 (of 5) on Goodreads, so it appears others have found it a good read, as well. Here’s the Amazon link if you’re interested in ordering a copy.

Your Turn:  Read any good books lately?  I’m reading more now that I’m retired, and always interesting in your recommendations.  Let’s chat in the comments…

11 comments

  1. I’ll pick up the book as well – my latest two personal finance books I’ve read in the last 3 months we’re Choose FI and The Legacy Journey by Dave Ramsey, both good reads. I’m interested in the dollar cost averaging vs lump sum investing chapter in the book you reviewed plus the way finding (which I’ve never heard of) .
    Thanks again for the review!

  2. Great review and I concur. I have also read the book and found a lot of insights into understanding why I was investing a certain way, and how to think differently about asset classes. You summed it up very nicely!

  3. Hi, I listen to David’s podcast. He is spot on with his “guidance”. His book is now on to read list.

  4. I read “The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money” by Jill Schlesinger in 2019 and found it to be insightful and interesting. Jill is on my short list of podcasts that I regularly check for nuggets.

    I’ve listened so several of David’s podcasts and look forward to reading the book.

  5. Thank you for the review Fritz and sharing your insights!

    It’s easy to get overwhelmed with investment information and this sounds like a “must read” book. What most catches my interest is the “Danger of using historical returns”. Most investment advise is based on past data which may not be a realistic indicator of future performance. In the famous words of Wayne Gretzky “skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”. I’m also interested in catching his podcasts.

  6. Haha! Another book added to my to-read list. Thanks, Fritz. I’m currently reading “Lifespan” by David Sinclair. I’m determined to see the Tricentennial.

  7. Thanks for the recommendation Fritz. Getting the book today. Also adding the podcast to listen to on my daily walks. Always great to get another!

  8. I’ve been reading Song of the Dodo, which is not about financial survival. It is about species survival and adaptation on islands. Very interesting read if you want a perspective on biodiversity. Although I suppose it could be extended to finances, since we know and adapt to only what is in our immediate universe. When an outsider comes in, things might be shaken up and new adaptations will be needed. Ok, that is a stretch. But the book is still good.

  9. Last night I met a young man in his early 30’s who I initially thought was a musician.

    As we talked, I came to know that he is in construction business – his day job is laying tiles for a commercial company.

    I asked him if music is his passion – without missing a beat, his eyes lit up and responded with a resounding “Yes”.

    Then I proceeded to ask him – will you be happy laying tiles for the next 30 years to support yourself and the music passion remains a passion without any chance of financial reward?

    He took a solid minute to think of an answer – and it came back with another “Yes”, but this time it came with a keen observation.

    He said that some of his friends who succeeded with their music passion and the money came. The passion died because the art of making music became a job – he does not want to mix money with his passion.

    Since my retirement at the age of 42, I scaled back my effort to dig deep into the world of investing and explored my own passion. I discovered as the young man confirmed – money and passion are two different things and it is best to keep them separate.

    I was going to depart the young man with the Financial Independence gift of knowledge, but, he seemed to be happy with his current arrangement – I just thanked him for the wisdom he did not directly gave it to me, but by living it.

  10. Starting reading “Money for the Rest of Us” on a recent business trip and am enjoying it, despite not understanding some parts (futures trading).

    I recently read “Retirement Fail” by Greg Sullivan. Highly recommend for those still w/children at home or aging parents. Greg provides a lot of insight on mistakes to avoid as doting parents and writes about an 8 year plan for asset protection (bucket strategy). Thanks for keeping up the good work Fritz!

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