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"It's a sure thing."
on November 1, 2012
Ben Stein uses reverse psychology to share the benefit of his experience with novice investors. He conveys the message that prudence may not be exciting, but it helps keeps us solvent. In "How to Really Ruin Your Financial Life and Portfolio," Stein, an economist, actor, journalist, and comedian, provides handy tips to help the reckless and impulsive empty out their retirement accounts, enrich brokers, and shrink their beneficiaries' future inheritance. If you follow Stein's advice to the letter, you can have fun riding a financial roller coaster to disaster.
This slim, informative, and sarcastic volume has brief chapters outlining paths to self-destruction. A few examples: Use your gut instinct/and or clairvoyance to pick stocks; get into hedge funds, currency trading, and commodities in a big way; buy on margin and sell short; and follow the celebrity financial gurus' advice slavishly. What could go wrong? In addition to his monetary advice, Stein includes useful recommendations for destroying your career, sometimes before it even gets started.
Stein's father, Herbert, was "a famous economist," his mother was a savvy investor who left behind a solid portfolio, and he has friends (including Warren Buffett) who are knowledgeable and wealthy. So why has Stein made so many stupid mistakes over the years? It must be that he is human; when the siren song of speculation called to him, he was powerless to resist. Investing, like gambling, can be addictive, and we all know how successful most gamblers and addicts are over time.
"How to Really Ruin Your Financial Life" is a light and fast-paced primer about the basic principles we need to follow to keep us from making ill-advised and poorly timed decisions. If you take nothing else away from this book, know that "great investors are not swayed by fads and fancies." "The ones who make money over their lifetimes are steadfast of purpose, well informed, [and] listen to wise guidance." Ben Stein is a spoil-sport who takes all the fun out of living on the edge. Although much of what he says is common sense, we all know that common sense is uncommon.