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How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street: Golden Rules Any Investor Can Learn Hardcover – March 9, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Investing is simple, but never easy. We carry a lot of investment baggage, including hot tips from friends and the financial media, as well as complicated financial recommendations from Wall Street "experts." Yet, the biggest obstacle we face is the tendency to outsmart ourselves.

In order to overcome that obstacle, you need to follow straightforward strategies that will consistently push your portfolio ahead of the pack by an additional 3 to 4 percent annually. These are strategies that work in up markets, and especially in times of market crisis and panic. Most importantly, these strategies are basic enough for even a kid to understand.

In How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street, you'll follow the story of Kevin Roth—an eight-year-old who was schooled in simple approaches to sound investing by his father, seasoned financial planner Allan Roth—and discover exactly how simple it can be to become a successful investor. Page by page, you'll learn how to create a portfolio with the widest diversification and lowest costs; one that can move up your financial freedom by a decade and dramatically increase your spending rate during retirement. And all this can be accomplished by using some commonsense techniques.

Along the way, Kevin and his dad discuss fresh new approaches to investing, and detail some tried-and-true but lesser-known approaches. They also take the time to debunk the financial myths and legends that many of us accept as true and show you what it really takes to build long-term wealth with less risk. You'll also learn how not to confuse the unlikely with the impossible.

Whether you're young or young-at-heart, the straight-talking advice found here will help you:

  • Design a portfolio composed of a few basic building blocks that can be "tweaked" to fit your personal needs
  • Go beyond indexing, which owns the entire market, and actually beat the market
  • Reengineer your portfolio to stop needlessly paying taxes
  • Increase your return, regardless of which direction the market goes, by picking the "low-hanging fruit" we all have in our portfolios

Engaging and insightful, How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street takes you through Kevin Roth's real-life story, while driving home key strategies and tools you can implement in your own portfolio. With just a little time and a little work, you can become a better investor. With this book as your guide, you'll discover how a simpler approach to today's markets can put you on the path to financial independence.

10 Dumb Things Adults Do With Their Money

By second grade, we all learn some simple and truthful lessons about the world around us and how to navigate it. As life goes on, however, what we continue to learn is less about making us smart and more about making us outsmart ourselves in investing.

Adulthood apparently brings with it the feeling that important matters, such as our money, are too important to deal with simply. Why go back to the basics when there is the sophisticated, complex path to take? Sure, continuing on such a path offers a 99.9% certainty of underperforming simplicity, and will also set our retirement goals back by a couple of decades, but isn’t that how grownups invest? Unfortunately, yes. There are many dumb things that adults do...

  1. They love to buy high and sell low. They buy after the market is up and then panic and sell when the market falls.
  2. They play important games without understanding the rules. Any kid knows that if you don’t understand how a game is played, you can’t win at it. Same goes for buying a product that has a 471 page disclosure document no one can understand.
  3. They believe anything they want to believe. Why would sophisticated people give Madoff $50 billion without knowing what he was doing with the money?
  4. They pass over the low hanging fruit in favor of the fruit that is way out of reach, if it is reachable at all. They are so busy chasing their tails and trying to find that mythical person who will beat the market, that they miss the easy stuff right in front of them that will make them money, no matter what the market does.
  5. They think strangers want to help them. We teach our children the dangers of talking to strangers, then turn around as adults and hand over our nest egg to strangers that claim they want to help us. They’re helpful alright, helpful in transferring our money to them.
  6. They constantly complain about taxes, but pay more than they need to. It’s so easy to lower taxes when it comes to investing, why do adults go out of their way to pay more? Though with our current deficit spending, this may be okay.
  7. They lend money to people who they know can’t pay it back. Like a really bad chain letter, they sell the loans to other adults who think they are going to get their money back.
  8. They follow the herd. Like heat-seeking missiles, they go after whatever has been hot. They get into markets like China and India just in time to see them collapse. Remember the rule “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket?”
  9. They watch too much financial TV. Conventional wisdom tells us that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but so is too much information. Especially when it comes from the screaming, sound effect guy. Believing that the gurus on TV actually have a good track record and are giving good advice, is folly with a capital “F.”
  10. They spend their investing lives in a futile attempt to disprove second grade arithmetic. They think 10 - 2 = 12, as in if the market earns 10% and they pay helpers 2% of that return, then they will get 12%. Anyone knows 10 - 2 = 8.

Adults seem to love to overcomplicate things. Only really smart adults seem to get it. As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply enough, you don’t understand it well enough.” This book will show you how to simply profit from those sophisticated investors who will never again understand the simplicity of truth they once knew when they were in second grade.


'...one financial insider's efforts to create another financial insider from scratch. This book has charm and intelligence in spades.' (Accounting Technician, January 2011).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470375949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470375945
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an easy read, but not an afternoon read.

Each chapter begins with a pertinent, topical, and usually humorous short quote and the chapter expands to explain in easy-to-understand detail, the tenants of the philosophy. Kevin, the second-grader, learns a basic life lesson on investing. This model provides an excellent motif for the quite knowledegable author (an accountant and financial advisor) to expalins the basics without "talking down" to the reader. There is truly something here for all levels of investing experience. And it's a fun read.

I am an experienced investor. I had read a short article regarding the portfolio and had replicated it in a pretend-buy-and-hold portfolio in mid-2006.
Later that year, I used "real funds" and opened an equal-dollar amount in actual accounts with a fee-only broker to manage and a sepaarte brokerage account that I actively managed. After three years, which included the market downturn of 2008 and the rebound in 2009, the set-it-and-forget-it portfolio beat myself and the broker. (I did come in a respectable second, however.)

Knowing "the answer" and "the trick" ahead of time did not ruin the story-line. I had often had an inner debate about how to best "beat the market." The above experiment was but one trial. I initially bought the book as a basic primer for a college-aged nephew who asked some very good questions about beginning investing. Not wanting to see him waste money on brokerage fees or see his initial investments underperform, I felt that index funds would be the best route for him and this book would explain why ... and provide some investment basics. It certainly does both.

My own "aha" experience came in Chapter 3.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was quite disappointed by this book. Read the reviews and found mostly positive reviews and didnt make much of the negative ones because I thought it would still provide plenty of insight.

Long story short, condensed into a sentence this is the book: Wall Street takes two percent of your money, instead buy US Total Index Fund, US Total Bond fund and Total International Index Fund and they will only take ~0.2 percent of your money and you are "guaranteed to beat the market".

In addition to repeating the same messages over and over, the author CONSTANTLY refers us to "stories" about lessons he helped his son learn that we too should learn in such a simple, dumbed down manner that it is virtually insulting.

Overall the book seems to have sound advice, but there is no reason it should have taken 224 pages to give it. Save yourself the time and go to [...], view the secondgrader portfolio and see if it is for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Only read this book if you are willing to 1) learn something new, and 2) let go of old habits. I met Allan Roth when he taught a behavioral finance class for CPAs and attorneys at the University of Denver. I was so impressed by his presentation that I emailed him and asked if I could hire him as my financial advisor. I bought the book, which was pretty much the same as the class materials, but easier to carry around. I read the book several times and I still keep it out in my home office. His ideas are simple, logical, and completely contrary to everything I had ever heard about investing. Could this be why investing never made any sense to me? I used to think I was a weird CPA because I had no interest in finance. I wasn't interested because it made no logical sense to me, ever. I keep wonderfully detailed and useful spreadsheets (ask Allan, he'll agree) but I couldn't figure out what to do with this information. One thing I could certainly see was that...I kept losing lots and lots of money!! Suddenly, I didn't feel so dumb. I was right. Investing, as we know it, is a giant marketing scam. I turned my portfolio around and retired, as planned. I hope to never look back. I still find that I cannot discuss Allan's ideas with anyone because no one wants to listen to something so radical, so simple, and so logical.
I am following this up 2 years later, it is now Nov. 2011. I have kept all my investments as Allan designed them. Through all the chaos of the financial markets, my portfolio has held strong. I am still retired. What more could you want? I seek my thrills somewhere other than my financial portfolio.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent, common-sense guide that demystifies investing and offers a practical approach for building wealth. Allan offers a fun balance of entertaining family anecdotes and professional expertise to craft a book that's an insightful and enjoyable read. Most finance/investing books I read feel like homework; this is an enjoyable journey down a clearly marked path to navigate Wall Street.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read a lot of finance books through the years. One thing I notice is - generally, at some point in most or all of these books, I become confused. Sometimes the language is confusing, the recommendations too complex to follow, or the concepts don't make sense to me. I always try to take notes, create graphs, google all the concepts - and usually toss the book into a corner in frustration. My portfolio remains the same and I turn back to Amazon and my on-line library to search again. I also get the sense that the author either is trying to sell me something or is intent on proving him or herself as a wall street "wizard."

Then, a few weeks ago, I picked up Allan Roth's book. Mr. Roth has a engaging writing style - this book tells the story of his son, who received some money from a relative, and how he used this gift to teach him lessons about building a solid portfolio.

In How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street, Mr. Roth walks us through those same lessons: finding solid but reliable returns through no load mutual funds, keeping an eye on taxes while investing and staying the course by not jumping in and out of investments. Keep it simple, he says.

And so, for the first time, I discovered a book that made sense to me. I finished this small guide and was able to develop a very simple outline of what I could do with my savings and retirement funds. I feel comfortable with my decisions and now know the steps I needed to take to get my funds in the right places. I will be putting that plan into place this upcoming week and look forward to "staying the course."

If you are someone who is tired of trying to interpret thousands of financial "experts" recommendations into a simple and effective plan for your money, whether you have $1000 to spare or $10,000, buy this book. I think you won't regret it.
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