A friend of mine in his mid-50s recently asked me whether he should move all his savings into a bank CD. I thought it was a bad idea -- but he got that advice from his financial advisor. Perhaps he should have been reading the same book I was: The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read. Author Dan Solin provides a simple approach for creating a diversified portfolio, though his advice isn't exactly perfect.
Solin is a licensed attorney with extensive experience in securities arbitration cases. He's also represented major corporate clients GE
Short and (mostly) sweet
At 138 pages, Solin's book is fairly short, but it's an ideal length for his target audience: neophytes who want a basic financial plan. The book essentially argues that investors should avoid market-timing and stockpicking. Solin backs up this opinion with a huge amount of academic support, including nine pages of citations at the end of the book.
Instead of active trading, Solin sets forth a simple plan he thinks should take 90 minutes per year to carry out. The plan involves four easy steps, and the book provides useful questionnaires and charts to help readers work through them. He then recommends that investors focus on exchange-traded funds or low-cost index mutual funds from big names like Vanguard and Fidelity.
Along the way, Solin talks about important concepts like risk, diversification, and fees. Some of his explanations are quite creative. For instance, he compares total return statistics to blood test results: "I don't really need to understand how the lab arrived at the numbers, but I do need to know what is within normal range."
It's really hard to argue with this, but I think Solin's approach may be too simplistic. For example, what if you inherit a portfolio of diversified stocks? Should you sell them and switch to an index fund? Solin provides no guidance on such common issues.
In addition, index investing can be undeniably dull. Isn't it kind of fun to take a flyer on a stock and try to find the next Starbucks
To bulk up the book, Solin goes on and on about the evils of the financial system. One easy target is financial advisors, whom he mostly considers fee-grubbers. Solin writes that if you submit yourself to such fees, it's "like digging your own grave before the firing squad mows you down."
Solin also hates me, apparently, and my fellow peers in the financial media. He says that we're mostly interested in hyping things, and should be deemed "financial pornographers." And what does he think about Wall Street analysts? Go on, take a wild guess.
While I agree that there are problems with the financial system, I think Solin goes too far with his proposed remedies. All his points would have fit in a single chapter, although that would've made the book even shorter. What's more, you could have received much of the same information from the financial pornographers at The Motley Fool's Personal Finance section -- while saving the $19.95 you'd pay for Solin's book.
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Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, does not own shares mentioned in this article. Starbucks is a Stock Advisor recommendation, while Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. He is currently ranked 5,691 out of more than 65,000 total participants in CAPS. The Fool's disclosure policy keeps its financial advice strictly G-rated, thank you.