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222 of 224 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, But Powerful
William Bernstein presents the readers of his latest book with the distilled essence of investment wisdom. He laments that his previous works may not have connected with the broad audience he had hoped to reach, but the events of the past year encouraged him to give it one more try. There is little in the way of mathematics or complex graphs to confuse the unwary...
Published on November 8, 2009 by Philip Stein

versus
93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun read, interesting... but his previous book was better
Two or three years ago, I decided to read William Bernstein's 'Four Pillars of Investing', after a favorable review in the Wall Street Journal. I wasn't disappointed. The book covered the basics of the history and psychology of investing, presented a balanced description of the market, the marketing, and the marketeers, providing convincing evidence to make me think...
Published on January 28, 2010 by Alvaro Alonso


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222 of 224 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, But Powerful, November 8, 2009
By 
Philip Stein (Centennial, CO USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
William Bernstein presents the readers of his latest book with the distilled essence of investment wisdom. He laments that his previous works may not have connected with the broad audience he had hoped to reach, but the events of the past year encouraged him to give it one more try. There is little in the way of mathematics or complex graphs to confuse the unwary. Sounding like a caring uncle dispensing advice with tough love, Dr. Bernstein drives his points home with laser-like precision. You will not find his narrative peppered with wishy-washy words like maybe, possibly, perhaps, or "kinda like." Note how he expresses himself in the following examples:

On the importance of saving: "Save as much as you can, and do not stop saving until you die."

On risk versus return: "[I]n the course of earning those higher returns, your portfolio is going to lose a truckload of money from time to time. If you desire perfect safety, then resign yourself to low returns. It really cannot be any other way."

On glib explanations of market behavior: "The reason that 'guru' is such a popular word is because 'charlatan' is so hard to spell."

On buying low: "[M]ost grizzled veterans will tell you that the best purchases are often made when they feel they are about to throw up."

On bad behavior: "Our emotions define our humanity...but in the world of finance, they are death itself."

On performance chasing: "Alas, small investors incessantly chase returns the same way that dogs chase seagulls up and down the beach."

On overconfidence: "In the investment world, you are not above average. You are likely not even close."

Clearly, Dr. Bernstein does not consider it his mission to massage your ego. His goal is to make you a better investor, and I find his direct, no nonsense approach very effective. Even experienced investors who feel they have already learned the basics can benefit from this book. In the cacophony of news and opinion we face every day, it is necessary to take a step back every once in a while and convince yourself that you are not getting caught up in the moment and doing foolish things.

In a chapter devoted to building a portfolio, we are reminded that our investments must be tailored to our personal circumstances. To illustrate this, Bernstein introduces us to four hypothetical investors named Young Yvonne, Sheltered Sam, Taxable Ted, and in-Between Ida. As he constructs an appropriate portfolio for each of these individuals with distinctly different ages and backgrounds, we can see how fundamental principles are put to work in the real world. I found this chapter to be the most insightful in the book.

Be forewarned. The author advocates a long-term perspective and the use of low cost index funds. This book does not discuss stock picking tips or options strategies. If you are looking to beat the market, you will be disappointed. Indeed, the author will try to ween you away from what he considers harmful behavior. He will remind you that the goal of investing is not to get rich - it is to not die poor. The danger here is that you may give up your dream of making the big stock market score and spending the rest of your days sipping Mai Tai's on a beach somewhere. This is not so bad since the odds are that you would have ended up serving Mai Tai's on a beach somewhere.

Readers of Bernstein's previous books as well as the works of other investment luminaries like John Bogle, Jason Zweig, and Jonathan Clements, will not find anything here that they haven't read before. But the presentation is so concise, direct, and effective that it can't help but reinforce your understanding of those basic investing truths which we too often forget when immersed in bear market events. Of all the investments I have made over the years, I consider the purchase of this book one of my better ones.
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148 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent short investment primer, November 22, 2009
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
A little background on myself since it affects my review. I have read over 200 books on investing. My conclusion is that investing in a diversified portfolio of low cost index funds is the way to build and maintain wealth. I am a member of the Internet Forum Bogleheads dot Org, whose members are disciples of Jack Bogle's passive investing strategies. William Bernstein occasionally posts on this forum. I am also the author of the book Index Mutual Funds: How to Simplify Your Financial Life and Beat the Pros. I am also a contributing author to the Bogleheads 2nd book on investing titled The Bogleheads Guide to Retirement Planning. I recently met Bill Bernstein at the Boglehead's 8th annual convention in Fort Worth in October 2009. I heard Bernstein answer questions and give a 20 minute lecture on the four lessons he learned from the Crash of 2008.

I have enjoyed Bernstein's previous books, and I really like his Retirement Calculator from Hell story posted on his Efficient Frontier web site. I looked forward to reading the Investor's Manifesto.

Bernstein correctly points out that every few years we experience a Bear Market in stocks, but nobody knows when to predict when the next one will begin. If you examine history from WWII, you will find we have experienced about 13 Bear Markets in 65 years.....or roughly a Bear Market about every 5 years. Bernstein's solution to the dilemma of not knowing when the next Bear Market will begin is to hold a diversified portfolio of low cost index funds, including both stocks and bonds. Bernstein's recommendation is not new with regards to holding a portfolio of both stocks and bonds. Benjamin Graham back in his 1934 book Security Analysis recommended roughly a 50:50 split between stocks and bonds.

At first, I was a little surprised that Bernstein said the field of finance (and investing) is a relatively small one compared to other fields. He said the number of major ideas is small compared to medicine, engineering, or the social sciences. After I thought about it, I realized Bernstein is right. A while back I was doing research for a short story on investing. My research showed very few major ideas and most of them were just within the last 20 years or so. For example, it took until 1994 for William Bengen (engineer turned financial advisor) to study past stock market returns and conclude that retirees should not withdraw more than an inflation adjusted 4% of their initial portfolio during retirement. Up until that point, many people suggested you could withdraw 10% annually, the historic return of the stock market. In 1998, the famous Trinity Study was published with findings similar to Bengen's. Fama and French's 3-factor study identifying small value stocks as giving the highest returns was published in 1992. Monte Carlo analysis of retirement withdrawals did not start until 1997.

In recent years, the financial planning profession has started to recommend SPIA's (single premium immediate annuities) for retirement. There are pros and cons of SPIA's including giving up control of your money to an insurance company for 20 or 30 years. In most states, there is a State Insurance Guaranty Association which is a group of insurance companies which are supposed to pitch in and maintain annuity payments to policy holders if the issuing insurance company goes bankrupt. As the Sub-Prime Crash of 2008 pointed out, many insurance companies (think AIG) participated in the mortgage security shenanigans and almost went bankrupt. Because of the risk of insurance company bankruptcy, Bernstein is recommending avoiding SPIA's. He speculates that maybe the Federal Government will issue SPIA's in the future.

Bernstein correctly points out that the best annuity you can buy....is to wait until age 70 to start drawing Social Security.

Bernstein also correctly points out that very few people can be their own financial advisors. To be your own effective financial advisor, you have the following four traits: 1) interested in investing, 2) math skills, 3) knowledge of history, 4) understand and control your own behavioral finance tendencies.

Bernstein believes the Gordon equation should be used to predict the future returns of stocks. When the book was written, the Gordon equation predicted future stock market returns of 4-8% in inflation adjusted terms.

Bernstein says Markowitz's mean variance optimization is a great teaching tool, but it should never actually be used in the real world of investing.

Bernstein also recommends not investing in the countries with the fastest growing economies. Most studies have found an inverse relationship between economic growth rate and stock market returns.

In regards to asset allocation, Bernstein suggests the starting point of the Rule of 100 (100 minus your age is your suggested stock allocation). Jack Bogle calls this rule "your age in bonds".

Bernstein cites Benjamin Graham's 1934 classic The Intelligent Investor with regards to asset allocation. Graham recommended a 50:50 stock to bond allocation..."We have suggested as a fundamental guiding rule that the investor should never have less than 25% or more than 75% of his funds in common stocks, with a converse inverse range of between 75% and 25% in bonds. There is an implication here that the standard division should be an equal one, or 50-50 between the two major investment mediums."

Bernstein is ok with tilting your portfolio towards small-value per the Fama-French 3-factor study, but correctly points out it might take 20-30 years for small cap value to show its out-performance.

In this book, Bernstein recommends including your Social Security and pension as a bond in your asset allocation. When I recently heard Bernstein speak, he said it was much simpler not to include these two items in your asset allocation. In my experience, there is no harm at figuring your asset allocation both ways (with and without SS and pensions).

Bernstein also generally agrees with the current financial planning industry rule of thumb of not withdrawing more than an inflation adjusted 4% of your retirement portfolio. His modification is...2% SWR is bulletproof, 3% ok, 4% you are taking some risk, and 5% you are destined to eating Alpo.

Bernstein believes in the role of behavioral finance impacting investor's decisions. He includes some reference to behavioral finance issues in this book. Separately, I have heard him recommend reading Jason Zweig's book Your Money and Your Brain. I have read Zweig's book, but would instead recommend Pompian's book Behavioral Finance and Wealth Management.

I found Bernstein's story about Venice in the 1300-1500 period very interesting. Venice forced wealthy people to buy government bonds yielding 5%. A secondary market arose where these bonds traded anywhere from 20% to 90% of face value, depending on the condition of the country. Given the U.S. huge deficits, maybe our Federal Government will institute the same law as Venice did.

All-in-all an easy read which covers the basics of investing very well. This book is shorter than most, so hopefully more people will actually read the book. I think Bernstein accomplished his objective of making a shorter and simpler book that more people will read and understand. I'm going to buy a copy for my son to read.
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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun read, interesting... but his previous book was better, January 28, 2010
By 
Alvaro Alonso (St Paul, MN, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
Two or three years ago, I decided to read William Bernstein's 'Four Pillars of Investing', after a favorable review in the Wall Street Journal. I wasn't disappointed. The book covered the basics of the history and psychology of investing, presented a balanced description of the market, the marketing, and the marketeers, providing convincing evidence to make me think that, for the average Joe, the easy but boring path of the low-cost index investing and keeping the cool while the market is going crazy is the safest one. I though that, after the market meltdown of 2008-early 2009, 'The Investor's Manifesto' would provide interesting insights and a summary of new evidence coming from the serious finance literature. Instead, I found a book that was basically a brief summary of 'Four Pillars...', without most of the 'hard' data that helped Bernstein to make his case. If I had to give a recommendation, I would say forget about this one and read his 'Four Pillars of Investing'. Still, 'the Investors Manifesto' makes a fun and interesting read and could be an excellent primer for a person who has not read anything on the topic.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great investment books are rare- here is one, November 2, 2009
By 
bbdude (Huntington Beach, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
There are many books on investments. This is one of the great ones in my opinion. It is my favorite since Swenson's Unconventional Success,
and is much better written that that one.

The points are somewhat familiar. Trying to pick stocks or pick managers is useless, so stick to low cost index funds. Allocate assets to
minimize risk based on your own personal risk tolerance. Beware of the whole financial industry, which is designed primarily to extract as much
money as possible from you, thus working directly against your financial interest.

This advice will not appeal to many people. It is the old "get rich slow" advice. I suspect many people are far more interested in titles that
supposedly tell you how to make 1 million dollars a year through day trading. Good luck to them. I don't believe it'll happen, Bernstein does not
believe it'll happen either. He thinks stocks going forward may promise 4 to 8 percent per year over the long long term.

His points are strongly supported through reasoned arguments. There is much discussion of the recent turmoil in the financial markets and the good
advice that people should always understand the risks they are taking.

For people who can understand and follow the advice in this book, it could well change their future, particularly young people with long saving times
ahead of them. There are no sure things in the investment world, all you can do is improve your probability for success and decrease your probability
for loss. In my opinion, the strategies espoused in this book are the most sensible and historically successful at putting the odds in your favor. This
goes on my short list of great and highly recommended investment books.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I might have a new favorite., November 16, 2009
By 
Mike Piper (Manitou Springs, CO) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
It's always fun to hear that one of your favorite authors has released a new book. Given that William Bernstein's The Four Pillars of Investing is quite literally my favorite book on investing, you can imagine how eager I was to read his newest release.

End result: I might have a new favorite.

The Investor's Manifesto seeks to make a "teaching moment" of the volatility of the markets in 2008 and 2009. It does a great job, highlighting the benefits (and limitations) of diversification, the inescapable link between risk and expected returns, and the need to be suspicious of any claims from the financial services industry.

Added bonus: A chapter on the behavioral/psychological shortcomings of humans as investors is an absolute treat when written by a man who practiced as a neurologist (and therefore knows a thing or two about how our brains work).
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a short & entertaining guide to personal finance, December 5, 2009
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
Bernstein remains about the best personal finance adevice writer around. He uses the recent financial market situation to update his financial planning strategies. The strong points in his latest book includes a review of why people are not very good at making financial decisions. And his overarching goal-- to avoid ending up poor-- is a different and very useful strategy from most financial books.

His strengths include the ability to crank out some reasonable models of financial returns and risks, as well as addressing the "Black Swan" in the room. That is the fact that there are all too often disrupting events that are not predictable based on trends or traditional models.

Some of the things that I learned in this book were that ETFs are not necessarily the best way to go for your portfolio; some of the best mutual funds (Vanguard) are about as low cost. I will also change my allocation more towards bonds than it had been, but as I am getting closer to retirement age, I would have done that in any case. I didn't give this book 5 stars; I liked his earlier books better, but it is definitely worth reading today.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A distillation of his previous books with new lessons from 2008, April 24, 2010
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
As a longtime fan of Dr. Bernstein's writing, I have to say that this is the most accessible version of his pro-indexing asset allocation philosophy available. No anecdotes, voodoo, or blackbox formulas here. Just solid, common sense advice backed up by data, data, and more data. Bernstein is a physician who also has a PhD so he's no lightweight academically. Of course, those credentials don't automatically translate into financial acumen so you also need to know that he is a published economic historian and well-read student of global markets and finance as well. I have read both of his previous investment books ("The Intelligent Asset Allocator" and "The Four Pillars of Investing") and while they are both superb they tend toward more technical and detailed explanations of the same concepts packaged much more concisely in "The Investor's Manifesto." If you're new to his ideas and writing, this is the place to start (and end, if that's as far as your interest goes). Having said in the title of this review that the current book includes lessons from the 2008 market crash, the basic investment principles outlined in his previous books remain unchanged, since 2008 was only the latest in the depressing history of market booms and busts. This book is an absolute goldmine of investment wisdom and fairly focused asset allocation recommendations. It's also full of witty asides. One of my favorites (referring to financial advisors) goes something like this: "I think that the word 'guru' has become popular because charlatan is so hard to spell." If you have even half a brain and a little bit of discipline you can use the principles outlined in this book to profitably manage your own investment portfolio without expense-laden "help" from a professional advisor or broker. Current events in government and on Wall Street make this book even more essential reading.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ENJOYABLE AND TOTALLY INDICATED READ., November 30, 2009
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
I concede that I purchased every book that Dr. Bernstein has written, The Investor's Manifesto....being my latest purchase from amazon! Let's put it this way, this book is NOT "Fama" and it is NOT "Fabozzi", nor should it be! However, add this book to, for example, Bogle's Common Sense on Mutual Funds, 10th Anniveresary (I ordered this from amazon today!) and, say, The Little Book on Main Street Money, by Jonathan Clements, and, I think, the lion's share of us pretty much have all we (rationally!) need! Everything else that can be said about this neat book has been said in the previous reviews as far as I am concerned. Pure and simple, if you invest in mutual funds or stocks, buy this book. The price is exceptionally reasonable and it will, I trust, clearly be of enormous benefit.
Now, this is not being critical, please! The book has two (minor) typos, one that may drive some readers bonkers if they try to run the equation that is on page 31. Let me back into the two typos this way: Anyone can make a mistake, "even me"! (I edited my HP-based real estate finance books to the point of exhaustion, but I still had 4 typos in my HP-12C book! No book seems to be edited to sheer perfection!)
In the equation on page 31, the component in question more or less reads like this: D(1 + g^n)/(1 + r)^n ....
It should be: D(1 + g)^n/(1 + r)^n ....This is not a big deal as most readers will simply skip this math tid-bit. The few that might actually give it some thought may be driven up a wall, at least until they think out the equation and catch the typo.
On page 41, last line on the page, the word "investor" needs to be deleted. Obviously something went a bit haywire in the editing process.
So, we have two minor typos! It is irrelevant! The book is truly great, extremely accurate. Clearly, Dr. Bernstein is not only a gifted finance writer but as well I sincerely believe that he--like John Bogle--has the interests of his readers, clients, etc, totally at heart! Yes, I am humbled by the works of this successful/gifted author. Thanks Doctor Bernstein for all of your work in this field!
John A. Tirone
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written with superb advice!, October 27, 2009
By 
Allan S. Roth "dare_to_be_dull" (Colorado Springs, CO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
William Bernstein is a brilliant guy so it's no surprise that this book is brilliantly written. It provides the one "guarantee" I actually believe, and that is that following his advice will not make the reader fabulously wealthy. What following his advice will do, is maximize consumers' chances of living comfortably in retirement and minimize chances of living their final years in poverty.

This book isn't just about investment philosophy; it's about getting down to brass tacks. This is a practical book that goes into specific recommendations to construct portfolios. What asset classes does he recommend? Why, all of them, with different mixes for different goals. He notes, "When you minimize your expenses and diversify, you forgo bragging rights with neighbors and in-laws, but you will also minimize the chances of impoverishing yourself and the ones you love." He rightfully observes that this is "one fair trade."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked It Better When . . ., September 18, 2011
This review is from: The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between (Hardcover)
. . . it was entitled The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio and was about three times as dense. Let's face facts here: this little book is a diminutive reconstruction of the four pillars Bernstein erected so prominently there. Investing theory, history, psychology, and business all rise from these pages, and atop are Bernstein's model portfolios. But other than an additional peak into the neuroscience of investing (which is a small addition to his take on investing psychology), there isn't much you can see in this manifesto that Bernstein hasn't put on display before.

On another note, Bernstein's dry sense of humor and pithy approach to investing--like his admonition that you can't win the game unless you don't play it--are still a refreshing approach to the otherwise banal stack of investing literature you'll find on your library's bookshelf. The four pillars are sturdy as well. And repackaging a 300-page original into a volume less than half its size will appeal to many looking for a short primer on the financial markets and an investor's discontents. Fans of the original, though, will want more.

Perhaps updating his original work and repackaging it for an audience shaken up by the 2008-09 financial crisis was a good idea at the time. As the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have roared back, though, much of what was then a fresh perspective now feels a bit stale. As for this reader, I'm still a fan as the content, even in its abbreviated version, still provides the best waypoints for navigating a treacherous financial landscape. It is just not that original.
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