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Customer Review

on June 3, 2008
In the crowded space of personal investment books, this one distinguishes itself with some unconventional and intriguing advice. Here are some highlights I found eye-opening:

- Rebalancing is a bad idea! Rebalancing back to your 'target allocations' is effectively making a contrarian 'bet' that some assets have become overvalued and others undervalued. Such a bet against the market doesn't fit with the EMH.
- Small/value tilt isn't worth it; Midcap growth may be better! This was a shocker, as almost every asset allocation book out there advises tilting toward small/value, in keeping with the Fama/French research. But if you believe that overall market risk is the only kind worth taking, then the only 'tilt' worth making is toward asset classes with high correlation to the market and higher volatility than the market (e.g., higher 'beta'). Which, as it turns out, is Midcap growth! (and smallcap growth too, to a lesser extent)
- REITS, emerging markets, commodities -- not worth it. Again, some surprising advice. Emerging markets aren't well correlated with the overall market, so why bother with higher expenses when you can get your beta elsewhere? Ditto for REITs, which are really 1) a sector bet 2) a sector which is implicitly included in equities (all companies own real estate) and 3) a sector you're already overexposed to if you own a home. Finally, commodities -- I hardly need convincing there -- they're not a return-generating asset class at all.

So what should you focus on? Expenses, for one! The author makes a powerful case for choosing your asset classes with full awareness of the expenses of each. Again, get your beta the cheapest way you can, even if it means dropping an asset class. The foregone diversification benefit pales in comparison to the difference in expenses, in most cases. The author demonstrates this numerically.

Bottom line: this is probably the smartest book I've read in personal investing space. Although it's left me with plenty of questions to ponder, the final advice given is hard to beat.
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