Here are a few of our favorite books, periodicals, and web sites that provide a wealth of education on a range of personal finance and investment topics. Whether you are advanced in your knowledge of finance, or just starting out with your investment plan, we're sure you will find content here that meets your needs and interests.
- The AARP Survival Guide New!
Author Julie Jason touches on many aspects of financing retirement, but the real substance of this book is its coverage of retirement income sources and products. Several chapters focus on annuities, and she gives fair coverage to both the potential benefits and pit-falls that accompany these products. Of particular note are the chapters spent detailing the complexities and hazards of variable annuities with guaranteed living benefits. These include features such as lifetime income promises and guaranteed income benefit accumulations, both of which are usually accompanied by very high expenses. Ms. Jason also includes a good description of the people and professionals who provide investment advice and/or sell financial products, and how to select an "advisor" who best fits your unique needs.
- Living Trusts for Everyone New!
Ronald Farrington Sharp has written a book that a complete novice to estate planning can easily read and understand. Which says a lot given all the mediocre volumes out their on trusts and estate planning! Sharp's apparent mission, which he executes exceedingly well, is to educate people unfamiliar with the mechanics and features of Living Trusts. Although he does an excellent job at demonstrating how Living Trusts can be used to simplify estate settlement by avoiding probate, he does equally well describing instructions for trustees. He includes an entire chapter covering the required actions and responsibilities of a trustee after the death or disability of a beneficiary. For anyone who has been named trustee or personal representative of an estate, this book is an excellent starting point for understanding the duties of that role. It's also a great resource for anyone thinking about a Living Trust for their own estate plan.
- The Little Book of Main Street Money
If you've been a reader of the Wall Street Journal over the years, you're probably familiar with Jonathan Clements. He no longer writes as a personal finance columnist for the paper, which made me eager to read his new book. Clements has a gift for writing about personal finance matters in a clear, concise way that speaks to readers at all levels of experience. His "21 Simple Truths" hit the essential points of keeping investment costs low, saving for retirement, making your retirement income last, and many other practical aspects of managing your money.
- Bogle on Mutual Funds
- Common Sense on Mutual Funds
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing
These three books by Vanguard Group founder John Bogle will provide you with a no-nonsense introduction to the markets and investing, while making a strong case for the benefits of low-cost investing with index mutual funds. A longtime advocate for the individual investor, Bogle is compelling in his argument for the merits of low-cost investment products. Everyone from first-time investors to seasoned professionals will find these timeless tomes informative and persuasive.
- The Intelligent Asset Allocator
- The Four Pillars of Investing
Both of these books by William Bernstein will further you along the journey to low-cost investing through efficient investment products such as index mutual funds. However, Dr. Bernstein (an accomplished Neurologist as well as author and Financial Adviser) also introduces the "Efficient Frontier", where one's tolerance for risk determines an optimal asset allocation. While this is powerful reading, and best absorbed in small doses, the message on diversification, risk, and low-cost investing won't be lost on any reader.
- Winning the Loser's Game
For a more academic treatment of investing, check out this book by Charles Ellis. In one very concise, concentrated volume, Ellis espouses the importance of "investment policy", and how to win by not losing. This classic is most easily digested by those with intermediate to advanced interests and backgrounds in investing. But here again a common theme emerges for the benefit of all: it's tough to out-perform the market. The vast majority of investors will do better through a widely diversified approach than those who try to beat the market with individual stock selection.
The Only Guide to Alternative Investments You'll Ever Need
We should be skeptical of bold titles like this, but here's a pleasant exception. Larry Swedroe, author of several similar investment titles, does a fantastic job describing and dissecting a variety of alternative asset classes and products. He is articulate and often critical in his treatment of the "good", "bad", "flawed", and "ugly" options for investors looking to complement stock and bond portfolios. Some of what he describes as alternative investments is a bit surprising (eg. stable value funds, variable annuities). However, the reader is richer for the experience as Swedroe is sharply objective in his analysis of the promise or pitfalls of each product or asset class. Swedroe adds credibility to his opinions by citing independent performance studies from academics and industry watchers.
- Parlay Your IRA Into a Family Fortune
- The Retirement Savings Time Bomb
- Your Complete Retirement Planning Road Map
If you follow the financial press, you've likely come across author Ed Slott's name before. He is an often-quoted CPA and IRA expert accomplished in just about all things related to individual retirement accounts. In these volumes he focuses on the manifold advantages of investing in Roth IRAs, and especially the "stretch" feature that can lead to generations of tax advantaged wealth transfer. Even if this isn't your immediate concern for your retirement savings, Slott manages to hit just about everything related to IRAs, including withdrawal rules, tax consequences, and critical mistakes to avoid when integrating your IRA and estate plan. Each of these books probably could have been written in half the words, but Slott's witty delivery and use of examples makes them worth the read.
One Up on Wall Street
Beating the Street
Here are a couple of titles mostly for fun, but there are some good fundamental lessons presented as well. Author Peter Lynch was the legendary manager of Fidelity's Magellan Fund back in the 1980s. These were magical times for the fund, and Lynch's success at identifying promising young companies in the early stages of growth led to an incredible run of industry leading performance. His exploits on wandering shopping malls for the next great retailing investment are sure to inspire the stock picker lurking in all of us - caveat emptor!
- The Wall Street Journal - Sunday
With daily life so busy, it's hard to find time to read the local newspaper every day - let alone a densely packed financial publication like the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). However, if your personal finance information needs are modest, there's a great way to stay current by investing just 30 minutes or so each weekend. The WSJ Sunday is a supplement to the Sunday business section of hundreds of major newspapers across the country. In the Puget Sound region, it is published in the Tacoma News Tribune. It contains articles on the economy, investing basics, tax matters, insurance, and other topics important to a large cross section of people. It's a relaxing read, and we recommend it as a particularly good starting point for those just beginning their personal finance journey.
This weekly publication is loaded with market statistics, economic indicators, stock analysis, investment articles, and financial commentary. If you enjoy having your finger on the pulse of the investment world and global economy, this is your ticket. As a a bonus, the editorial content is often laced with wryly cynical opinion on high flying investments and personalities. The whole package makes for good education and entertainment. The quarterly mutual fund issue includes a nice compendium of fund performance, statistics, and trends.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
We generally recommend a light commitment to reading the mainstream monthly financial magazines - much of it is repetitive over time, and from journal to journal. But Kiplinger's does a nice job of covering a mix of common personal finance needs and topics. They maintain a largely objective perspective, and their focus on low-cost solutions aligns nicely with independent-minded consumers and financial planners. Many of the stories and columns in Kiplinger's will include links to great online sources for free information and handy financial tools.
A great "one-stop" site for business headlines, stock quotes, charts, links to personal finance columns, portfolio tracking, and more. Like many web portals, the advertisements can be distracting at first, but once you discover what information is most important to you, it's quick and easy to navigate.
Here is the site of the most well-known rating service for mutual funds, but they also cover exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and individual stocks as well. There is a a free membership level, and no membership is required at all to simply look up mutual fund ratings and a plethora of fund information. Hint: use the search function to identify the fund you are interested in researching, click on 'print' in the left hand column, and then 'full report' - this will give you nearly all the fund performance information that is accessible with paid membership!
If you're trying to decide between investing in a mutual fund that charges a "load" (typically a broker's sales fee) or a "no-load" fund, give this expense analyzer a try. Up to three funds can be compared simultaneously through easy to use drop down menus and entries. It's a fast check on what a fund investment will really cost you over time, including sales fees, management expenses, and 12b-1 fees. Just for fun, pick a popular no-load large cap index fund and compare the costs to the latest growth fund touted by your broker - it's an eye opener!
The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, or NAPFA, is an organization of "Fee-only" financial. These , like Gover Financial Planning, do not sell products or charge sales fees of any kind. Free from these potential conflicts of interest, fee-only serve in the best interest of their clients. As Registered Investment Advisors, they are legally bound to provide clients a fiduciary standard of performance. Follow the "Consumer Information" link on the home page to find out more about fee-only planning and the fiduciary standard to which our firm is committed.
The mission of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning. This site provides information with respect to the standard of ethics, objectivity, honesty, diligence, and competence required of a CFP® professional. Garold D. Gover, Principal Adviser of Gover Financial Planning, is currently pursuing the examination and experience required for CFP® certification.
The Vanguard Group is one of the largest no-load mutual fund companies. They offer a wide range of index and actively managed funds and ETF's (Exchange Traded Funds), all with expenses much lower than the industry average. Even if you don't invest with Vanguard, their website is packed with educational information on saving for retirement, college plans, estate planning, and more. To get there, follow the "Planning and Education" link.
Here is perhaps the best one-stop website for the answers to your college saving plan questions. Joseph Hurley, noted author on this topic, provides quick and easy links to every state's college saving plan details. He covers cost, tax advantages, investment selections, enrollment details, and many other aspects of 529 and pre-paid tuition plans. In addition, there is useful information on Coverdell Education Saving Accounts and providers - another very popular and effective way to save for higher education.