Book Review: The Four Pillars of Investing

The Four Pillars of Investing Book CoverWhile A Random Walk Down Wall Street was more of a primer on investing in general, The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein focuses on forming your portfolio. The four pillars are investment theory, history, psychology, and finally investment business.

The book uses statistics and research to support it’s conclusions, which are (briefly and in my opinion) that:

1) Markets go up and down, but timing it is hard if not impossible, and any success one may have is basically luck.
2) As risk increases, so does the return. (Ex. Small-cap stocks vs. Large-cap stocks.)
3) Yes, many actively-managed mutuals fund beat the market every year, but there is no way that you could pick them ahead of time. This year’s winners are just as likely to be next year’s losers. Stick with index funds with the risk-return profile that you desire.
4) The stockbroker makes most of his money on commissions and spreads. Mutual fund companies are similar.
5) Proper diversification in low-expense ratio products can bring you the best chance to keep your money and make it grow.

The book is pretty easy to read, with minimal math. I also briefly browsed Bernstein’s previous book, The Intelligent Asset Allocator, which has a similar focus but is very heavy in the math department. I’d read this book first and see if you thirst for the mathematical underpinnings. I didn’t. I’m forming my asset allocation now and will post it soon.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars (ratings explained)


  1. I just started “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” Have you read any of John Bogle’s books? I found “Common Sense on Mutual Funds” to be pretty good. If you’re interested in indexing, that is. Nice site, by the way.

  2. Actually, that is the very book that I am reading next! I’m definitely interested in indexing, and I see that you are using Vanguard as well. I look forward to reading your blog in the future.

  3. thanks for sharing!


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    [...] Lastly, I’ll take a sentence to thank Jonathan of MyMoneyBlog for turning me onto this book.? It has been a real eye-opener.? I hope it is for everyone else too. [...]

  3. [...] Wait, How Does The Estimator Work? I originally saw this method in The Four Pillars of Investing (review). Let’s take the previous example again, but take away some zeros. You start with $100 at the beginning of the year, and at the end of the year you have $120. In the middle you contributed $10. So you earned $10, but compared to what? What’s the denominator? $100? $110? If you estimate by assuming it came in the middle, it’s $105. So you made the equivalent of $10 on $105. Figuring out that return is easy: [...]

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