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Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment Hardcover – August 9, 2005
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Swensen, CIO of Yale University and the author of Pioneering Portfolio Management, reveals why the mutual fund industry as a whole does a disservice to the individual investor. Soft money, 12b-1 fees, overtrading, market timing, and other management practices lower performance and virtually guarantee that most mutual fund returns will fall short of their benchmark, such as the S&P 500. Furthermore, for-profit mutual fund companies have a fiduciary obligation to their stockholders, not to their investors, and this relationship "inevitably resolves in favor of the bottom line." Swensen is also highly critical of the Morningstar rating system, which only causes investors to chase hot performing funds and managers. He advises considering alternatives to the for-profit mutual fund industry, including Exchange Traded Funds and not-for-profit financial institutions such as Vanguard and TIAA-CREF. He highly recommends that as an individual, you should play a more active role in your financial future. This includes periodic portfolio evaluation and rebalancing, to ensure that your asset allocation remains diversified and suits your investment time line. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Mutual fund managers and marketers are not going to like David Swensen's thoughtful and intelligently opinionated analysis of their 'colossal failure' resulting from the fund industry's 'systemic exploitation of investors.' Coming from the mind and heart of one of America's most successful and integrity-laden money managers, this is a book that will change the way you think about mutual funds. It's high time for you to follow the elegantly simple advice he presents in this wonderful book."
-- 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
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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.
This is the perfect book for a person with two critical attributes:
1) You have already read Burton Malkiel's "A Random Walk Down Wall Street"
2) You are looking to go beyond a employer-sponsored defined contribution plan and would like some help determining who gets your money.
I say read Malkiel first because having an understanding of the Efficient Market Hypothesis will help you get a lot more out of reading this book. While Swensen presents an excellent work, it is a bit dry and academic. If, however, you can commit to reading it carefully, I am confident you will be a better money manager for it.
Since an individual employee has little control over the firm chosen to administer the company 401(k), I believe this book to be less helpful than "A Random Walk" if you are simply seeking guidance for selecting investments in a defined plan. If, however, you are about to open your own IRA or a standard, taxable account, this book will serve as an invaluable guide.
Stick with it, and happy investing!
Swensen's advice is sound, based on proven portfolio management principles, battle-tested via Yale's global endowment, one of the largest and most sophisticated investors of our time. The chapters on the proper use of ETFs- exchange traded funds- in a personal investment portfolio are worth the purchase price alone.
Of course, most investors will never take the time to read and reflect on a book like this--but you should! Just don't count on your mutual fund company to tell you about it!
I would recommend this book to anyone who values his or her money and wants to retain the most of it when investing it in the "MARKET".
Agency conflicts are the focus of under-performance, and this can only be reconciled by managers who demonstrate clearly that they choose to act in the interests of their clients, even to the detriment of their own business.
Given this intensely rigid standard, almost no going concern in the money management game would pass the test.
Swensen's disdain for corporate debt is revisted here. With the informational assymetry existing between investor and issuer, it is very hard to win on a risk adjsuted basis, he claims. Ratings more often go down than up, and there is no where to go from AAA.
A worthwile read, but something of a rehash of previous work.