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On the Bookshelf

and actionable advice is given in the updated edition of “The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor” (John Wiley & Sons, 2013). Authors Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis walk investors through the entire investment process, from saving at a young age to investing in retirement. The book is full of hands-on advice, including suggested funds.

Both authors took concepts from their respective well-known, but lengthy books and whittled the text down to a short format. At just 182 pages and small in physical size, this is a very quick read. Fortunately, the authors chose their topics and examples carefully. They also made smart use of tables to convey key concepts, such as suggested portfolio allocations. Readers will walk away from this book feeling like they learned something.

This updated version includes a new chapter entitled, “Timeless Lessons for Troubled Times.” The chapter includes a discussion about bonds and suggests holding dividend-paying stocks and emerging market bonds as a surrogate for traditional bonds.

Reto Gallati takes a different approach in his book, “Investment Discipline: Making Errors Is OK, Repeating Errors Is Not OK” (Balboa Press, 2012). Gallati lists common errors and then offers suggestions on how to avoid making them. The idea is good, though parts of the book left us disappointed.

In his chapter about diversification, Gallati notes that many institutional investors focus more on how much they allocate to each stock than individual investors do. He warns individual investors not to put too much money into any one stock, but then says not to diversify too much. It’s good advice, but the author gives conflicting signals. He says professionals consider a 5% position in one investment to be “gun slinging” and six pages later tells readers they can put up to 5% of their portfolio into one investment.

We also found his guidance for buying stocks to be very restrictive. He advises seeking stocks of larger companies with a price-earnings ratio no higher than 9.0, an apparent dividend of 5% and a current ratio of 2.0. When we ran a screen on the criteria, we only found one passing stock, Strayer Education Inc. (STRA).


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