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Bogle on Mutual Funds, An Investment Classic Book Review #TBT

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Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the amount of noise coming at me through my computer screens, I read a book. When the new books on my desk don’t impress, I find an old book. That is how I came to buy a used, first edition of Bogle on Mutual Funds last year from Amazon for a penny + $3.99 shipping. John Bogle is best known as the founder of Vanguard who brought index funds to retail investors and changed the entire industry. Since most people just know him as the Index Fund Guy, I feel that he is under constant pressure to stay “on message” and only promote buy-and-hold passive investing.

But you know what? Even though many would prefer the world to be black and white, it isn’t. For a very long time, Bogle also ran and owned low-cost actively-managed funds like the Vanguard Wellington and Wellesley funds. To this day, a big chunk of Vanguard assets are actively-managed. Even recently, he has expressed skepticism about the trend towards holding more non-US international stocks.

When you read the circa-1993 material in Bogle on Mutual Funds, I feel like you get more of the “grey” Bogle. There is advice on how to pick a good stock mutual fund, even amongst actively-managed funds. There are some practical considerations for picking amongst asset classes. Of course, the main takeaways are still there:

  • Index funds are a great invention for long-term investors.
  • Low costs are very, very important.
  • Low portfolio turnover and minimizing taxes are very important.

But the book also includes a lot of little nuggets like comparing dividend yield relative to interest rates. First, here is a chart from the book showing how S&P 500 dividends have grown steadily with inflation. Meanwhile, the yield from a bond may start out higher, but would remain be constant until maturity.

divinflation

Unfortunately, defining what constitutes too high a price for dividends is a fallible exercise, one that must take into account not only the average historical valuations for stocks but the current valuations for other investment alternatives as well. History suggests that stocks are relatively expensive when the price paid for $1 of dividends is above $30 (i.e., a yield of 3.3%) and relatively cheap when the price paid is less than $20 (a yield of 5%). However, stocks may well be attractive at a yield of, say, 3.5% if there are compelling reasons to assume that their dividends will increase rapidly or if yields on other classes of financial assets are relatively unattractive.

In the example shown in Figure 2-5, buying a portfolio of stocks at a 3% yield rather than a bond at a 7% yield might not be a sensible investment, especially considering the incremental risk incurred in holding stocks. When stocks yield 4.5% and bonds yield 6%, that may be quite another story.

As of mid-2015, the S&P 500 dividend yield is ~2% and 30-year Treasury bonds are ~3%. The relative difference between the stock yield and the bond yield only 1%, even less than the 1.5% gap that he calls “quite another story”. This would suggest that (long-term) the S&P 500 is expensive historically, but still attractive relatively when compared to bonds at this point.

Anyhow, I bring this up is because Bogle on Mutual funds has just been republished as part of the “Wiley Investment Classics” series. (#TBT = Throwback Thursday.) It’s a great book and you could buy it to have it in Kindle format or to support Bogle, but you can also buy a used, 1st edition hardcover for $4 shipped. (Or borrow it from a library, but this is going in my permanent collection.) Unfortunately it is not a “revised” edition where the charts are updated or there is new investment commentary based on current market conditions. The only difference that I could find between my 1993 version and my 2015 review copy is a new 17-page introduction which mostly talks about the history of the book itself.

If you’re going to buy something new, I’d recommend their other Bogle classic – John Bogle on Investing: The First 50 Years – which is a compilation of his best speeches over the years going back all the way to his 1951 undergraduate senior thesis. I haven’t read that one yet, but I really enjoyed a similar compilation of Charlie Munger speeches.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Bogleheads Guide To Investing Book Review Project

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JLP of AllFinancialMatters has started his Bogleheads’ October Project, in which every day in October a different person will review a chapter from the book The Bogleheads? Guide to Investing. Hey, if someone reviews every single chapter well enough, maybe you won’t even have to read the actual book! Too bad I already bought a copy (hardcover even!) months ago. 😉 I’m doing Chapter 19: Tune Out the ?Noise?, which is funny, as I’m just now writing something about doing just that.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Official Warren Buffett / Berkshire Hathaway Book Reading List 2019

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At every annual shareholder meeting, Berkshire Hathaway publishes an official reading list and sells discounted copies through a local Omaha bookstore called The Bookworm. Both Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have consistently attributed a significant part of their success to their constant reading:

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” – Warren Buffett

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none. Zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads—and how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.” – Charlie Munger

Here is the 2019 annual meeting handout. Since they don’t archive these handouts and books are removed each year, I decided to track the changes here. I just bought a used copy of the Lowenstein biography of Warren Buffett and a copy of the Secret Millionaire’s Club (For Kids) from Amazon and the 50th anniversary book direct from Berkshire.

New additions for 2019

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates. From the Amazon page: For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down. In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book?to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.”

Letters to Doris – One Woman’s Quest to Help Those with Nowhere Else to Turn. From the Amazon page: The Letters Foundation is a foundation of last resort that provides humanitarian grants to people experiencing a crisis when no other options exist. These one-time grants provide a hand-up to individuals as they work to stabilize their lives. Established by siblings Warren and Doris Buffett, the Letters Foundation reads and replies to letters from individuals living within the United States.

The Future Is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century by Parag Khanna. (Charlie’s Pick) From the Amazon page: There is no more important region of the world for us to better understand than Asia – and thus we cannot afford to keep getting Asia so wrong. Asia’s complexity has led to common misdiagnoses: Western thinking on Asia conflates the entire region with China, predicts imminent World War III around every corner, and regularly forecasts debt-driven collapse for the region’s major economies. But in reality, the region is experiencing a confident new wave of growth led by younger societies from India to the Philippines, nationalist leaders have put aside territorial disputes in favor of integration, and today’s infrastructure investments are the platform for the next generation of digital innovation.

Saudi America: The Truth about Fracking and How It’s Changing the World by Bethany McLean. (Charlie’s Pick) From the Amazon page: Investigative journalist Bethany McLean digs deep into the cycles of boom and bust that have plagued the American oil industry for the past decade, from the financial wizardry and mysterious death of fracking pioneer Aubrey McClendon, to the investors who are questioning the very economics of shale itself. McLean finds that fracking is a business built on attracting ever-more gigantic amounts of capital investment, while promises of huge returns have yet to bear out. Saudi America tells a remarkable story that will persuade you to think about the power of oil in a new way.

Berkshire 50th Anniversary

About Warren Buffett

About Charlie Munger

On Investing

General Interest

Books from past lists, likely removed due to space constraints.

Here are my own posts related to the books listed above:

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Thank You, John C. Bogle

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Vanguard announced on January 16, 2019 that its founder, John C. Bogle, passed away on at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania at 89 years old. There will no doubt be many tributes; here are a few same-day articles from WSJ, Bloomberg, Reuters, and great tweet from Morgan Housel.

Jack Bogle was a champion of thrift, simplicity, and keeping investing costs low. While he reached the popularity level where people would write entire columns about “Why Bogle is Wrong about This or That”, I was always annoyed when people would pick at one little thing he said. I felt that his strongest message was that of common sense. Sometimes it took multiple readings and time, but he really offered a lot of valuable, reasoned knowledge in his books. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about my Jack Bogle Appreciation curve:

boglecurve

My first mutual fund investment was in the Janus Mercury fund in the very early 2000s. I was chasing performance and Morningstar ratings, and the fund was actively managed with high turnover and high expenses. Thanks to reading his books, my subsequent investments were in low-cost Vanguard funds that were available to a DIY investor. You can now buy ultra-cheap commission-free ETFs from nearly every brokerage account. New investors may take this for granted, but I’m old enough to remember that this was not always the case! This was solely due to Vanguard’s success:

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He created a unique structure where the unnecessary “Helper” fees stayed in the pockets of the people who invested with Vanguard (and indirectly anyone who invests in a low-cost index fund today). This has resulted in an estimated $1 trillion saved by average everyday investors.

Today, my family is financially secure and we have a pretty clear plan for the future as well. The majority of my net worth is held at Vanguard. My life was materially improved by a man that I never got the honor to meet. The best I could do was to win a personally-signed book from a charity auction for his foundation.

Thank you, Mr. Bogle. I will try my best to heed your advice.

p.s. If you do not know that I am talking about, please do yourself a favor and read The Little Book of Common Sense Investing from the library or buy a copy. It is very short and a good place to start.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Jack Bogle Profile & Vanguard Historical Chart in Barron’s Magazine

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barr_boglecoverThe Barron’s magazine cover article* this week is a profile of Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard. It covers a lot of things that Bogle fans may already know (origin story, dislike of ETFs), but there were several bits that were new to me. I look forward to reading his last book that includes an “anecdote-rich history of Vanguard” and personal reflections.

(*Barron’s has a paywall, but usually allows limited access to Google search visitors. Try searching “Jack Bogle’s Battle” in a private window.)

Here’s a chart of how Vanguard has changed since 1974:

vanguardbarr

The article brings up the argument that index funds are becoming too popular and now bad for the world. I don’t worry about this at all. If inefficiencies become easy to take advantage of, things will naturally swing back. The loudest complainers always seem to be high-fee managers who are getting paid less lavishly for their services:

His favorite punching bag remains the mutual-fund industry. He likes to point out that closet indexing is pervasive with actively managed funds, and that traditional funds haven’t passed along economies of scale until pressured by Vanguard’s fees. There have been few casualties yet among asset managers, even as active stock funds suffered outflows nine of the past 10 years. And the industry has surely improved: Investor outcomes are better, costs are lower, information is better, thanks in part to Bogle.

Says Bogle, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr., “the arc of fiduciary duty is long, but moving in the right direction.” Bogle intends to see that it keeps doing so. “I have no corporate power,” he continues. “But I believe I still have more ethical and intellectual power. And that is good enough for me.”

Bogle is one of those rare authentic voices who say what they think and don’t care if others agree (even the rich and powerful). The adjective “cantankerous” is used – I hope to be called that eventually!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Jack Bogle Appreciation Curve

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commonsenseJack Bogle is rightfully respected and there are probably over a hundred mentions of his name on this site. His message of common sense, simple, low-cost investing continues to spread since he first opened the Vanguard 500 Index fund to the public in 1975. Yet, he still has to keep pounding his drum because there is so much other noise out there. Similar to the sketches of NYT journalist Carl Richards, I present to you what I call the Bogle Appreciation Curve.

boglecurve

The overall shape of this curve can probably be applied to any field where there are classic fundamentals and then a bunch of fancy stuff on top. It definitely applies to investing, where there is an insatiable desire for something newer, better, and more complex.

Beginner Investor. You’re just starting out, and you read some recommended business books. There’s the classic Bogle on Mutual Funds and the much shorter one called The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (which you picked) by Bogle that really made sense and sounded reasonable. You see why low-costs and passive investing are based on common sense and basic mathematics. You understand why you should avoid high-cost, high-turnover funds sold by brokers.

Investor Who “Knows Things”. You read more about investing, learning about correlations and factors and portfolio optimization. This stuff is pretty interesting! Historically, if I bought a nice slug of “small-cap value” stocks, a bit of commodities, a sprinkle of gold, I would have higher returns with less volatility? I’d do even better with a momentum-following strategy, and now there is a smart beta ETF that will do it for me? It seems so easy to do better than a “vanilla” portfolio.

Jack Bogle says “smart beta is dumb”. Hmm, maybe he’s just not with the modern times anymore.

Older, Humbled Investor. Well, that was exhausting. The historically optimal portfolio in 1990 wasn’t the same as the historically optimal portfolio in 2000, and that was again true in 2010 and will be again in 2020. I missed out on part of the 2008-2016 surge because people told me the market was overvalued due to CAPE and PE10 and many other metrics. If I had just stayed the course through it all, I’d have done pretty good. I think someone told me to keep it simple. Who was it? Oh yeah, Jack Bogle. I need to re-read his books.

You can also keep up with John C. Bogle’s media appearances on his personal website. The updates serve as a nice, regular dose of Bogle wisdom.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Amazon.com: Extra 25% Off Another Print Book

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New code so you can get 25% off again. Good through 12/13 Midnight Pacific. Take an extra 25% off any book at Amazon.com with promo code 25OFFBOOK. Print books only, max $10 off, must by sold and shipped by Amazon.com. Valid until December 14, 2015 at 02:59am EST. This is a different code than the previous 30% off and 25% off coupons, so you can use it again.

Stack with your $15 off $60 at Amazon from American Express, 10% off Amazon from Chase Freedom, and 5% off Amazon from Discover (10% with Double Promotion).

Here are some recommendations for those looking to give or receive some financial inspiration:

Here are all my book reviews in reverse-chronological order.

My favorite book of 2014 was Dinner A Love Story. It has some inspirational material to help you cook for yourself and your family, along with the best compilation of weeknight dinner recipes I’ve read in a cookbook. They taste special enough (not bland or boring), but they also take 30 minutes. I still use it to this day.

My favorite book of 2015… I looked back at my book reviews and didn’t really have a strong favorite. I would say one trend is that I have become a fan of re-reading Vanguard founder Jack Bogle’s classic books. His old stuff has a lot of common sense reasoning that doesn’t always fit with today’s “one-size-fits-all” advice.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Berkshire Hathaway Official Reading List 2015: Approved Books by Buffett and Munger

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tapdaceAmong the many booths at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2015 Annual Meeting was one run by a local bookstore. Each year, BRK approves a list of books, many of which have been mentioned in shareholder letters or other speeches by Warren Buffett and/or Charlie Munger. I always see media articles referring to this list (ex. 11 Picks from Warren Buffett’s Bookshelf), but here is the entire official list from The Bookworm.

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” – Warren Buffett

Besides the well-known Buffett biographies and classic investing books, it still manages to include several investing books I’d never heard of before, as well as some intriguing non-investing books by Buffett’s siblings and children. There is even a comic book and a separate section for kids. Here’s the Amazon-linkified list, sorted by category in alphabetical order.

About Warren Buffett

About Charlie Munger

On Investing

General Interest

Family and Children’s Interests

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Elements of Investing – Book Review (Updated Edition)

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There are two major types of investing books for beginner investors: “Instructional to-do list” books basically tell you what you should do. “Inspirational big-picture” focus more on the philosophical reasons why you should do those things. Both can be equally important and useful.

The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor by Burton G. Malkiel and Charles D. Ellis falls more into the former “list” category. Malkiel is a noted academic and wrote the classic bestseller A Random Walk Down Wall Street. Ellis is a former director of Vanguard Group and wrote the classic bestseller Winning the Loser’s Game.

Basically, two pillars of the investment world got together and tried to whittle down their 80 years of experience into 200 pages and roughly 2-3 hours of reading time. The pages aren’t even big, as the hardcover version is only 7 inches tall. You could read the entire thing in an afternoon or in snippets before going to bed within a week.

In opinion, they did a pretty good job. Topics are covered in a brief, straighforward manner. If you’ve read your share of personal finance material, none of it will be new to you, but they remain critically important. The key takeaways are clearly laid out and repeated over and over to drill them into your head. Things like:

  • Save regularly and never take on credit card debt (most important).
  • Utilize any available tax-advantaged plans like IRAs, 401ks, 403bs.
  • Keep a safe, liquid emergency fund.
  • Diversification, rebalancing, dollar-cost averaging, and low-cost indexing are the keys to investing success.

There are also a lot of little nuggets of wisdom in the book. My two favorite quotes:

The real purpose of saving is to empower you to keep your priorities—not to make you sacrifice. Your goal in saving is not to “squeeze orange juice from a turnip” or to make you feel deprived. Not at all! Your goal is to enable you to feel better and better about your life and the way you are living it by making your own best-for-you choices. Savings can give you an opportunity to take advantage of attractive future opportunities that are important to you.

As in so many human endeavors, the secrets to success are patience, persistence, and minimizing mistakes.

The updated 2013 edition of the book (original edition was 2009) includes some interesting (controversial?) suggestions for dealing with the current low-interest environment for bonds. Since the current yield for US Treasury bonds is so low, and thus the future expected return just as low, they offer up tax-exempt municipal bonds, emerging markets bonds, and even blue-chip dividend stocks.

It was sort of weird to be told “stay the course!” and then in the next chapter be told “here’s how to change course!”. I actually appreciate that they express their honest opinions, even if it appears to contradict passive-investing dogma. Jack Bogle himself does it from time to time. (I personally choose to hold muni bonds instead of US Treasuries as well.)

Bottom line: This investing primer would make a very good gift for a recent college graduate or young worker if they are ready to start getting serious about investing. If they aren’t, the book may be a bit dry. I will be adding it to my recommended books list, once I get around to updating it…

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Kindle Unlimited Review: Personal Finance and Investing Books

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kindleu2Amazon has just announced Amazon Unlimited, an eBook and audiobook subscription service that costs $9.99 a month (30-day free trial) and not included in Amazon Prime. They claim over 600,000 titles in their library, although that number is padded by a lot of little-known self-published eBooks. “Thousands” of those books come with free audiobook versions. You can read unlimited books (max 10 out at once) and on any Kindle app (Windows, Mac, web browser, iPhone/iPad, Android, etc).

It’s a library card with 24/7 instant availability, but how well-stocked is this virtual library?

My personal reading habits include mainly business, personal improvement, and finance books. I compiled a list of notable books that I have read or want to read first, and then checked if Amazon Unlimited had it. I’m also including the findings from my Oyster review (a competing eBook app) for comparison purposes.

Book Oyster.com Amazon Unlimited
William Bernstein’s Recommended Reading List for Young Investors
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. Yes No
Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Jack Bogle. Yes No
Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation by Edward Chancellor. No No
The Great Depression: A Diary by Benjamin Roth. Yes No
Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig. Yes No
How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street by Allan Roth. Yes No
All About Asset Allocation by Rick Ferri. No No
5 Recent Bestsellers
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis. No Yes
Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olen. No No
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. No No
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. No Yes
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. No No
5 Personal Favorite Financial Books
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. No No
Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement by Robert Clyatt. Yes No
The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. No No
The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein. No No
A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel. No No

 
* Oyster catalog checked June 2014 and Amazon Unlimited checked July 2014.

Recap

In the “major publisher, popular, well-reviewed” category, Oyster wins hands-down. AmazonUnlimited reportedly does not have any of the major “Big 5” publishers (they are not BFFs right now). In the “recent business bestseller” category, neither is great but Amazon actually has a slightly better showing. Many of Michael Lewis’s other books are also on AmazonUnlimited (The Big Short, Liar’s Poker, The Blind Side). In the “niche DIY early retirement personal finance nerd” category, again neither does great although Oyster technically wins by a nose.

Bottom line: Amazon Unlimited has a relatively limited catalog for personal finance enthusiasts.

Keep in mind that the Amazon Kindle Owner’s Lending Library still exists (at least for now) and boasts 500,000+ titles (again padded by self-published eBooks). The Kindle Lending Library is free if you already have both a Kindle (any model) and an Amazon Prime subscription. You can only read on a Kindle device though, and you only get one title per month.

There are some promising titles available if you dig around, for example I noticed that William Bernstein’s “Investing for Adults” series of books (The Ages of the Investor, Skating Where the Puck Was, Deep Risk, and Rational Expectations so far) are all available with both Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library.

Personally, I might sign-up for the free trial and read whatever books I can during that window and maybe it’ll spill over for a month (though you can cancel now and still enjoy you free month without worry of auto-bill), but I can’t see myself paying $120 a year for a limited selection of books (that interest me) that I can’t keep forever.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Oyster App Review: Personal Finance and Investing Books

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

oysterssWouldn’t a Netflix for books be neat? You could borrow all the books that you wanted to read and then return them when you’re done. Oh wait, they already invented it and called it a library.

But seriously, what if you wanted it all available 24/7 on your iPhone or iPad, and you don’t want to wait if someone else has checked it out already. Enter the new eBook subscription app Oyster. For $10 a month (first month free, iPhone/iPad + Android app added as of 6/17/14) they’ll let you read all the books you want from their catalog of 500,000+ books. That sounds good me as I buy about a book per month on Amazon as it is. The question is if Oyster’s library is big enough for my personal reading habits. I couldn’t find a way to search through their entire collection without an active subscription, so I signed up for a trial (credit card required).

As I mainly read business, personal improvement, and personal finance books these days, that is going to be the focus of my review. I decided to compile a list of notable books that I have read or want to read first, and then check Oyster to see if they have it in their library.

William Bernstein’s Recommended Reading List for Young Investors

5 Recent Bestsellers

5 Personal Favorite Financial Books

Conclusion

Oyster has been steadily increasing the publishers participating in their service, but it looks like they still have a way to go. They do have a pretty good showing in older, popular, well-reviewed books. The problem is that these are exactly the type of books that are readily available in most libraries. On the other hand, they are weak in recent business bestsellers, which is where they could provide me with the most value and convenience (I’d like to just browse and skim many of these first). I read that they will not have it if the book was released within the last 3 months. They also don’t have enough depth to carry some of the better books in the early retirement niche.

I won’t be paying $10 a month for this as I only read about a book a month (cost $10-$15) and Oyster probably won’t have it in their library. I will note that on a user-experience basis, actually reading the books and navigating around the app has been pretty easy.

Alternatives to Oyster include Scribd and the Amazon Kindle Lending Library which boasts 350,000+ titles. The latter is free if you already have both a Kindle (any model) and an Amazon Prime subscription.

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Free eBook on Small Business Tax Deductions (Expired)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

(Update: Free promo is expired, it’s back at $9.99.) Just a quick note that there is a Kindle eBook about tax deductions for small businesses, including self-employed people, that is currently free called Small Business Tax Deduction Secrets by Stephen Nelson, CPA. The author participates in the Bogleheads investment forum under the username SeattleCPA.

I downloaded and skimmed the book briefly, and it does have helpful information for those looking to maximize qualified business expenses and deductions (as you should!). Free for a limited time, so as usual my advice is download now and read later! You can download software to read Kindle books on PC, Mac, smartphones, and tablets.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.