An investment reading list

If you’ve read Scott Adams’ financial advice and my financial tips in case you win a startup lottery, then you might be interested in a few more pointers to good resources. Some web pages and books:

Don’t Play the Losers’ Game, by Henry Blodget. This is a short, accessible piece that explains why picking individual stocks on Wall Street is a bad idea for almost anyone.

– Website: the Bogleheads forum. An incredibly smart group of people who like to discuss investing, finance, and money. Their investment philosophy page is pure financial wisdom distilled.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street, by Burton Malkiel. This book is remarkably readable, though it can be dense at times. If you believe you can pick individual stocks with enough success to beat a diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds, this is the book you should read to throw a wet blanket on that belief.

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing, by Paul B. Farrell. This book will show you how to outperform the majority of active money managers in just 15 minutes a year. This book is seriously good. If I had to recommend only a single book, this book might win: it’s a breeze to read, but it imparts nearly as much wisdom as much denser tomes.

– This is a great description of how Google tried to educate and protect its employees before Google’s IPO. You’ll get most of the idea from the first page. How can you not love an article where a financial advisor admits “We work in the most overcompensated industry in the country”?

The Wall Street Self-Defense Manual, by Henry Blodget. In many ways, this book is a deeper version of Blodget’s article that I linked to above. This book is short, readable, and packed with most of the advice that you need to know.

– If you’re ready to go deeper, consider The Four Pillars of Investing, by William Bernstein. You might also check out Bernstein’s The Intelligent Asset Allocator.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. This book has its flaws, but it’s very readable and could be good for teenagers or college students. The book uses stories to discuss the goal of financial independence via assets that produce money. I grew up in a family focused on academia, so this book was a good wake-up call that a lot of people care about money, not just getting a Ph.D.

Money and Wall Street stories, color, and culture

– Realistically, I’d recommend almost anything that Michael Lewis has ever written. His most recent book is Flash Boys and I enjoyed that story. But I also enjoyed Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, and Boomerang.

A few more to consider:
– Perfectly Legal (rich people get away with lots of tax loopholes)
– Confessions of a Tax Collector (a tale from inside the IRS when the IRS had more teeth)

There’s also a whole sub-genre of books about rich people:
– Richistan (pretty entertaining)
– The Millionaire Next Door (most millionaires are cheap!)
– Rich Like Them (mostly a bunch of anecdotes from interviews)

Stock Options

Consider Your Options, by Kaye A. Thomas. If you’re joining a startup that offers stock options, I strongly recommend that you study this book from cover to cover. It can help you avoid a lot of treacherous mistakes. If you don’t put in the time to understand your stock options, you might regret it later. Thomas also has a good book called Capital Gains, Minimal Taxes that covers the mechanics of a lot of tax issues and logistics for investors.

– I really recommend Consider Your Options as the definitive work, but An Engineer’s Guide to Silicon Valley Startups, by Piaw Na is very accessible. This book also covers a wide range of skills that you might need if you want to join a startup. Disclosure: I know Piaw from his time at Google.

– I have used Stock Options: An Authoritative Guide to Incentive and Nonqualified Stock Options as a reference for at least one complicated situation.

– Want to understand stock options at a basic level? Stock Options for Dummies isn’t too bad.

Anti-recommendations

– This won’t be popular, but I just don’t find John C. Bogle’s books very readable. I agree with him about lots of things, but his books like Don’t Count on it! just didn’t grab me.

– Hedgehogging, by Barton Biggs. I’m not even going to link to this book–that’s how angry this book made me. Biggs actually writes stuff like this: “My real theory is that the investment superstars have some special magic with markets that enables them almost intuitively to do the right things most of the time.” What hogwash.

Elsewhere in the book (which lists a copyright date of 2006), Biggs quotes someone who accurately identifies the housing bubble: “another bubble is about to burst. Existing home prices have been rising 7% to 8% a year, financed by Fannie and Freddie.” Then Biggs goes on scoff at the guy, like “Look at this dork, predicting a major depression due to a housing bubble in the next three years.” The Wikipedia page on Biggs reports that Biggs’ hedge fund was blindsided by the subsequent global financial crisis. If you want a snapshot of how Wall Street can suck, then you might want to read this book.

– I’m not a big fan of Jim Cramer. If you want to watch Cramer for entertainment that’s great, but exercise caution on his advice.

– Beating the Street, by Peter Lynch. I just don’t think this book has aged very well. You can pick up most of what you need from other books. The advice to “invest in what you know” can be good. However, it also risks becoming “invest in what’s familiar” instead of doing your homework.

So those are some books and websites that I’ve liked or disliked. How about you–what books about investing, money, or finance would you add to the list?

New 30 day challenge: “hermit mode”

I’ve been spending more time surfing the web on my laptop than I’d like to. I’ve also noticed more emails that lure me into short tasks, but eventually eat up a large chunk of my day.

I’d prefer to be spending more time working on projects, reading, and unplugging. So my new 30 day challenge will be to enter a sort of “hermit mode” where I don’t spend more than an hour a day on my laptop. I’m also going to try to say “no” more often. My hope is that if I turn down a few meetings for a while, I’ll end up working more on projects that I want to tackle. I don’t know whether that will work, but I’m going to try it. I might still write a few blog posts or say something on Twitter, but I want that to be a conscious choice, not just something I back into.

This challenge will be a hard one to judge for success, but my hope is that at the end of the month, I’ll be making more active choices about how I spend my time, and tackling more things that I want to do.

30 day challenge wrap-up: writing

So how did I do on my 30 day writing challenge? Well, the picture tells the story:

Completed calendar

Not too bad! I did miss one day, but here’s a secret about 30 day challenges: if you miss a day or two, you can just keep doing the challenge for another day or so at the end. Or don’t worry about it: you’re trying out something new, and you only have to answer to yourself.

What went well this time? Well, I finally wrote down a few things that I’ve been meaning to publish for years, from Scott Adams’ financial advice to my own hard-won financial tips, and from a piece about a level playing field to how to buy viagra online. Some posts were like hairballs that I just needed to get out of my system.

I also liked my running tips post, my post about dial tone moments, and my tips to protect your account security. I even got to pick on active.com for their Active Advantage membership program. I also enjoyed loosening up a little bit (“fuck Columbus Day”). It’s so much more fun to write when you don’t put as much pressure on yourself.

What didn’t go well? Well, I meant to do some journaling, short stories, and private writing, but somehow this challenge morphed into a public blogging exercise. That’s okay. I like that I wrote a bunch of new things. I still put too much emphasis on polish (or at least correct spelling/grammar) in my writing. Part of my goal was to lower my bar a little bit so that I could knock out a quick blog post whenever the mood strikes. I partly met that goal. Overall, I’m glad that I did this challenge.

Buy Viagra online?

Working in webspam, we sometimes use the phrase “buy Viagra online” as an example of a search query that might be spammy. That’s why I noticed and remembered the 2013 announcement that you can officially buy Viagra online.

As this Time article points out, you’ve actually been able to buy Viagra online through legitimate pharmacy websites for quite some time. In May of 2013, Pfizer announced the process would become more direct through a collaboration with CVS.

What about “generic Viagra”?

To the best of my knowledge, some patents on Viagra haven’t expired in the US. Consequently, a generic version of Viagra has not yet been approved in the US. So I believe there’s no exact thing as “generic viagra” in the United States.

Interestingly, there is a drug called Revatio which is also sildenafil. The patent for Revatio expired in 2012 and so there are generic versions of Revatio. Revatio is intended to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, but your doctor could legally prescribe generic Revatio for an “off label” usage.

It’s even more interesting to read about generic Viagra in other countries. For example, Canada invalidated Pfizer’s patent on Viagra, so there is a generic version of Viagra in Canada. Likewise, the patent on Viagra has expired in many countries in Europe. It also looks like India makes a generic version of Viagra. However, at least in the US it appears that there’s still not a generic version.

What about “herbal Viagra”?

I believe “Viagra” is a brand name, so it’s not correct to refer to “herbal Viagra.” The term may be internet slang for wide variety of different things, but it’s not Viagra as such. As a result, you should do your research and exercise caution with anything that claims to be “herbal Viagra.”

What about Cialis?

As long as I was doing this research, I was curious about the situation with Cialis, which is a similar drug to Viagra. In case you were wondering about how to buy cialis online, you can find official information about that here. It looks like if you get a prescription, then you can order official Cialis from legitimate online pharmacies.

If you see something that I got wrong, please let me know.

Thanksgiving turkey hat

Because not every blog post has to be serious:

Me wearing a Thanksgiving turkey hat!

Special thanks to my friend Amy who crocheted this masterpiece! Amy also works with an awesome group of volunteers that crochets dolls for kids fighting cancer and other illnesses.

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