Top critical review
217 people found this helpful
A great starting point, but not the endgame
on September 5, 2005
I loved the book! I hated the book! And I have recommended it to many and continue to do so, but with caveats and frustrations.
First, if you haven't watched Cramer's `Mad Money' program at least once on CNBC, you need to do so. One show will give you more insight into Cramer's emotional make up and give you more of what to expect from his writings than any review! He is, at once, informative, opinionated, contradictory and entertaining. Well, my wife would disagree about the latter!
Second, like him or not, he is one of those rare investment book writers whose track record is quite public. And he has practiced what he preaches to make (and lose and make again) millions in the market, mostly using other peoples money! To ignore someone with his success is not smart, but to take anyone's investment opinion as the `only truth' is equally risky.
So, let's get to why I stated that I loved this book. Because I do strongly recommend this book to people relatively new to managing their own investments. I especially appreciate his `buy and homework' mentality since many people try to manage their investments without accepting that there is indeed work to be done. He does a good job of explaining why fundamentals are important and how to utilize basic measurements. He does a very good job in explaining market cycles, especially the major ones that cause `big money' (pension funds, mutuals, etc.) to move in and out of various sectors. In general, this is an excellent first read for people new to investing and a reminder of some basics for the rest of us.
Okay, so why did I sometimes feel that I hated the book. Well, first let's acknowledge that there is no perfect investing book or system. There are too many variables, especially those that include each investor's personal status - time available to do the work, time horizon before retiring, money available, etc. Every writer brings their own background and bias into their writings and, in turn, tends to become dismissive of other thoughts. But if you read many differing investment books by successful traders, you will find that the methods that they use differ and are at odds with each other. While I generally like Cramer's honesty, I find that sometimes he dismisses some investing methods out of hand which, since this books and programs are targeted to the average investor, serves to bias people based on his own personal biases. Some examples:
a) Jim is a `fundamental' investor - he relies on more traditional analysis of a companies balance sheet and earnings to determine whether to invest in a stock. That is fine, but he goes on to essentially dismiss people who trade predominantly on technical analysis, with a portion of his book essentially saying "nobody has ever made any money trading that way." This is simply not true. Technical trading is simply a different type and method of trading and, indeed, many people have made significant money trading based upon technicals and combined fundamental + technical strategies. While Jim may not use technicals, his wife does, and quite successfully according to him. So dismissing anyone using or promoting technical analysis in the book does not serve the reader. It simply supports his bias.
b) While not in the book, you will find if you read more from him or watch his program that he dismisses alternative investments like options. Again, it is not that the average investor should jump into options without having clear knowledge and understanding of the risks, but to simply dismiss other investment area is to do a disservice to investors who wish to advance and learn more about various markets. (Options, for example, are as risky as stocks - no more so. Their risks, however are different and the knowledge needed is greater than for straight stocks, but given the investor's willingness to learn and understand options BEFORE beginning to trade them, options can actually REDUCE the risks of stock investing.)
Cramer strongly advises against simply following any advisors opinion to guide stock investments, yet sometimes his dismissals without substantiation serve the same purpose for those who may `believe' only Jim Cramer.
So, I highly recommend this book, especially for people who are relatively new to managing their own investments. Even people who only have a 401k can learn a great deal that can help them do a far better job managing the limited options most 401ks offer and improve their results. This is a great starting point for the average investor. But don't become so enamored with Cramer's forceful style that you stop thinking for yourself. Take his advice - learn from his experience - put it into practice = become comfortable that you can implement it and make money from it. And then, when ready, keep your mind open to the many other investment methods and markets that exist. Each requires study and work, but if your temperament, time and dedication allow you to, you may find it even more profitable to move beyond this first step.