I am often asked what books I have read that have influenced me as a financial planner. The very fact that you are reading this column right now probably suggests that you have an interest in furthering your understanding of investing, finances, and planning. The following books are a small selection of available material out there that may be of interest to you. There are elements of each book that I may not fully agree with, but each of these books provides valuable and insightful contributions to those looking to expand their own financial education.
The Intelligent Investor
This masterpiece of an apologetic for "value investing" was the largest influence on a young Warren Buffett. Graham argues that fundamentally, stocks are discounting mechanisms for the future earnings of a company. When a company returns some of its profit to its shareholders, and when stocks are fairly (or cheaply) valued, they represent a compelling investment. This is an excellent choice for those looking to understand how stock investors make money.
Stocks for the Long Run
Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel provides extensive data in this highly regarded book on the long-term performance of various asset classes. He looks at the long-term effects of inflation and makes the case that over the last 100 years, the best way to keep up with inflation has been a diversified equity portfolio.
The Art of Asset Allocation
This book focuses on the importance of including multiple asset classes in a portfolio and argues that investors generate the best results when they focus on both risk and reward. He goes past an analysis of the traditional asset classes (stocks, bonds, and cash) and argues for an asset allocation strategy that will include some exposure to things like real estate, commodities, managed futures, precious metals, and other "alternative" investments.
Bull's Eye Investing
Mauldin argues that robust bull markets, followed by ugly bear markets, often result in a period of "flat" returns. He argues for a "muddle through economy" in America over the next 10 years and makes the case for active management of port-folios, vs. passive "index" investing. A very thought--provoking book, indeed.
The Total Money Makeover
Few people in the Christian community have done more to argue for a debt-free lifestyle than Dave Ramsey. The highly popular radio talk show host has a knack for hard-hitting, practical advice. No one ever went broke following Dave Ramsey's advice!
There are, of course, scores of good books out there. These five, though, are a pretty good place to start. Smart financial decisions require a good knowledge of the subject, and making the time for a little reading on the subject is a very commendable decision.