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Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment Hardcover – August 1, 2005
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-- John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO, The Vanguard Group
"Swensen is the best. Always a pioneer, his new book presents an approach to investing that is both brilliant and practical."
-- Barton Biggs, former Chief Global Strategist, Morgan Stanley
"A legendary institutional investor reveals the conflicts of interest that induce most financial services companies to provide inadequate products for the individual investor. Swensen's wise solution: Low cost, tax efficient, market-mimicking funds available either through Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) or from not-for-profit mutual fund companies. Unconventional Success does for the individual investor what Swensen's Pioneering Portfolio Management did for the institutional investor."
-- Burton G. Malkiel, author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street
"David Swensen is one of today's best endowment managers, if not the best. Unconventional Success is a perfect summary of what is wrong with a very important industry. This book should lead the reader to better investment decisions."
-- Michael F. Price, Managing Partner, MFP Investors
"Unfortunately, at the bottom of our industry -- money management -- there is a rather thick layer of muck, and Swensen's Unconventional Success rakes through this muck in spectacular fashion and great detail. It is the truth, the whole truth, and the very ugly truth. If you want to avoid the snares that lurk in money management, and save yourself lots of money, you must read it."
-- Jeremy Grantham, Chairman of GMO
- Publisher : Free Press; 1st edition (August 1, 2005)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 403 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0743228383
- ISBN-13 : 978-0743228381
- Item Weight : 1.34 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #25,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book gives you general ideas for a framework in evaluating assets to be included in your portfolio but, despite giving some general recommendations as to the portfolio composition, doesn't give a lot of specific advice. This seemingly disappoints some. However, if you understand why you have one asset or another it shouldn't be hard to decide what works best for your situation. For example, there has been a lot of discussion as to what duration treasury bonds the author suggests. If you understand that the bonds are designed to protect against deflation and panic, then you should be able to determine for yourself what the duration should be (e.g., if you're 85 years old you shouldn't be concerned about purchasing power in 30 years). Likewise, if you're 85 years old you probably want to have more bonds that the recommended portfolio since you shouldn't be as concerned about returns over the next 50 years. Managing a retirement account for an individual is different than managing a portfolio for a university with an almost unlimited time horizon. The author makes this clear in numerous ways, though the language may be more academic than most investing guides.
In this regard, some may find William Bernstein or Ric Edelman more accessible. David Swensen may be more insightful in parsing the various asset classes but they have a more folksy approach using more examples -- people often find induction works better than deduction. My advice would be to start with Edelman, move to Bernstein, and then read this book. The message isn't all that different, but ultimately your investing is a personal journey and the more ways of understanding the issues the better prepared you will be for tackling the job. Plus repetition never hurts!
This book provides the knowledge necessary for investors to choose their asset allocations, and most importantly, to be able to justify their asset allocations to themselves. The author details which investments belong in a portfolio, and which do not, using a variety of factors. Understanding the justifications for their investment choices asset allocations will give investors the conviction to stay the course during bear markets, rather than sell in a panic.
The book is written from the US American perspective. People from other places can still derive sufficient value from the content as the basic principles apply universally. The only parts that don't work elsewhere are where US tax rules play a critical role.
Top reviews from other countries
Swensen has an outstanding record as chief investment officer for the Yale endowment, which has shown strong returns from sophisticated investments. However, Swensen strongly advises that private investors take a very different approach, concentrating on core asset classes and using low cost passive funds. It's a convincing case, but one which is put much better in Tim Hale's book "Smarter Investing".
Swensen puts strong emphasis on alignment of interests between investors and those who sell or manage investments. It's an important point, and one that does apply to private investors as well as to sophisticated institutional investors.
The second half of the book is really a damning critique of the financial services industry. It's an eye-opener for the private investor. The abuses are pervasive and deeply embedded, and Swensen clearly believes that the financial services industry will always have the upper hand when it comes to exploiting private investors. Whilst the book focuses on the US, and the abuses might be different in the UK, it seems naive to think that the UK is really substantially better.
Overall this is not an easy read, though Swensen's mounting derision of the financial services industry does become amusing towards the end.
If you're after a guide to investing read Tim Hale's book instead - it's covers the same investment principles, and much more besides, in a much more readable style. If you know the basics and you want to go into investing with your eyes open to the exploitation you will face, read this.