The Best Investment Book I Read This Year

Okay, it is the only investment book I read this year, but I read it twice! And while I have never read another investment book, and so I have nothing to compare it to, but it is called The ONLY Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need and I am hoping it lives up to its name, because I certainly have no plans to read another one.

I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to the stock market and personal finance. It’s been around for over 30 years (and been updated many times!) and explains concepts like short-selling stock and annuities and why you shouldn’t invest in commodities (except lumber, apparently, since trees grow back) in terms that are both not condescending and easy for a person with no business or finance background to totally understand.

My favorite part of the book is well, one that it is genuinely hilarious in the most unexpected places (i.e., anywhere, in a book like this) and two, that a big part of the book is pointing out what you don’t need to know, or don’t need to waste your time learning about or keeping up with, unless you want to make the stock market a hobby or an obsession. It’s also about a lot more than investment — the whole first half is about ways to save money so that you have some money to invest in the first place.

I think part of why I love this book so much is that it was assigned to me to read under the most bizarre and wonderful circumstances. My friend’s dad is an independent investment adviser and writes a paid, monthly newsletter about Vanguard stocks. My friend is a writer who works in publishing and has no idea about any of that stuff, so he offered (cajoled?) to sit down with her and her best friend one Sunday afternoon and explain all the money basics they had missed out on learning about as English majors at a liberal arts college. I got a last-minute invitation, which meant spending a weekend cram-reading this book and trying to hide it in my lap on the subway.

This book honestly helped me wrap my head around a million things I had dismissed as not something a person like me needs to know about, and things I had pretended to know, or never bothered really trying to figure out beyond the abstract (like, say, BONDS).

So cut to the three of us women in a cab on the way to my friend’s childhood home, a Park Slope brownstone, where over bagels and lox we all got to know each other and talked about IRA’s and the benefits and downfalls of investing in real estate. This was all pretty foreign to my Southern gothic lower middle class English major self, but her family is warm and wonderful and my friend is hilarious and we joked our way through and felt a little thrill as we discussed all these far-off, grown-up, rich-ish person things. Eventually we went upstairs to her dad’s office and over peanut M&M’s and Diet Cokes he explained all the different kinds of bonds, and compound interest, and quizzed us on the spot. I choked so many times when he pointed to me and asked me something about a fixed interest rate. IT WAS AMAZING. And bizarre. But now I know!

It’s hard for me to imagine having a dad like this, or actually learning about any of this stuff in school, but it’s nice to know there are always other peoples’ parents, or books out there like this one, who will sit down with you and make you feel like it’s not too late to figure out just enough of this stuff to make informed decisions about your life and feel like a competent human. And for that, this year, I am grateful!

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