Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three books offer fundamentals of investing

Three books on the fundamentals of investing offer advice and wisdom from those experienced in the art of finance.


Aside from professional traders, speculators and hobbyists, I think most people invest only when they have to. But for many of us with disappearing or nonexistent pensions, or ''self-directed'' retirement accounts, it has been necessary to take a more active role in saving and allocating funds to either supplement our current earnings or help us get through the days when we will be unable (or unwilling) to work.

Here are three books that offer general investment advice.

The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received: Priceless Wisdom from Warren Buffett, Jim Cramer, Suze Orman, Steve Forbes, and Dozens of Other Top Financial Experts
The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received: Priceless Wisdom from Warren Buffett, Jim Cramer, Suze Orman, Steve Forbes and Dozens of Other Top Financial Experts. Liz Claman. Warner Books. 240 pages.

I must admit that I rarely watch CNBC, which the late Neil Rogers called ''The Gambling Channel.'' That wacky, noisy, wildly gesticulating Cramer fellow seems to be on the tube most times I cruise by, but without Jerry, George or Elaine, he's just not that entertaining. Author Liz Claman is a news anchor on that channel, but since I don't recall seeing her there, it's probably easier to judge this book on its content rather than on anything else.

That said, it's pretty good. The contributors are either corporate executives or financial experts and managers. She might have had a bigger seller if she'd solicited input from Dancing with the Stars-type celebrities, but she opted instead to provide something of substance, which is commendable. Oh, she's got a few ringers in here, like oddly coiffed TV host Donald Trump and the aforementioned Crazy Cramer, but she also has AutoNation's Mike Jackson, Warren Buffett, Suze Orman, John C. Bogle, Alexandra Lebenthal and others who know what the heck they're talking about. You may not instantly become a smarter investor after reading this book, but you will certainly benefit from the bits and pieces of experience and knowledge offered in the aggregate.

The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read : The Simple, Stress-Free Way to Reach Your Investment Goals 
The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read: The Simple, Stress-Free Way to Reach Your Investment Goals. Daniel R. Solin. Penguin. 179 pages.

I really like Andrew Tobias' book of a similar title, The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, which takes a sober and comprehensive approach to the subject. Tobias updates it regularly, too, so it's usually as timely as it is timeless. You can also go to his very useful website: www.andrewtobiascom/ -- which is another way to share his wealth of information.

Solin's book is more of a how-to investing book, covering stocks and bonds and such. His nuts and bolts approach to the subject is quite good, especially for those of us who have to manage our own 401(k) plans, savings and investments but have little enthusiasm and inborn abilities to do so. It's tightly written, always on-point and not weighed down with anecdotes and aphorisms, and could be just the instruction book that you were looking for, but never received with that thick pension package from your company's HR department.

The Little Book of Value Investing (Little Books. Big Profits)
The Little Book of Value Investing. Christopher H. Browne. Wiley, John & Son. 180 pages.

I quite liked Browne's The Little Book that Beats the Market, and this one is a worthy sequel, as he provides more information and support for his notion that investing in good, profitable companies can be more lucrative than going for the short money and the quick scores.

There's a bit more fluff here, but Browne is an engaging and self-effacing writer, so it's not too painful and never boring. If you read his previous little book, this one is a worthy and useful companion.

Originally published 11/27/06 in The Miami Herald

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