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"Hardship and Hope" by Victoria Sherrow - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Hardship and Hope- America and the Great Depression walks you through day to day life as the stock market collapses, jobs are lost, welfare runs out, the government throws out experimental programs, the programs bring hope, economic hardship persists, productivity jumps to support the war, and we remember the legacy. It addresses topics on many levels such as individual entertainment, racism, unions, ideological shifts, and survival methods.

Where I found it:
I found this book while browsing the very limited financial section of my local library.

What I learned:
Hardship and Hope was a very interesting read for me for several reasons. First, I think we are headed towards another severe depression. It was encouraging to see the human endurance. That when your surviving off the coal dropped from trains and eating mostly cabbage, you can still survive. It made me realize that humans can do anything.

Secondly, I learned accounts where government welfare saved people’s lives. Many New Deal programs were unconstitutional, funded by debt, and not terminated after the crisis subsided or set a bad precedent for future government programs. In the moment, Americans felt that capitalism and democracy had failed and allowed the legislative and executive branches beat out the judicial branch and have destroyed much (or even most!) of the intent of the constitution.

Despite my hard feelings for how Roosevelt dealt with the crisis by sacrificing what America is, a Harry Hopkins quote really stood out to me “People don't eat in the long run, they eat every day”. When faced with the Great Depression, the New Dealers weren’t thinking about the long run, they were trying to save the lives of families all across the nation. I guess this book helped me remember both sides of the story so that I can be better balanced when faced with proposed welfare programs that violate what America stands for.

Recommendations:
I have a few problems with this book. For one, math people will be driven a little crazy because it compares sums to percentages and hourly wages to weekly wages. Without looking up population data or labor statistics of the day, many of their numbers are useless. Even the appropriately stated numbers are hard to put into comparison because we have no baseline for how much things were worth prior to the depression. The other problem that some of the points are presented in ways I disagree with, such as praising unions for ensuring that as profits are increased, wages are increased etc. The libertarian inside of me was definitely rubbed the wrong way at times. I thought it was healthy to see it from a new angle though. Overall, I was actually impressed at the presentation of facts without a political message. Sherrow did a pretty good job at staying neutral.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick (only 110 easy print pages) glimpse into the past so that they can live a better future. I don’t know that this particular book is any better than others on the topic though. If your library doesn’t have it, try a different one or look up some research papers. I just like that it is short and walks you through the depression fairly chronologically.

More Financial Book Reviews by Milly

"The Big Short" by Micheal Lewis - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 12:48 pm

The Big Short is more like a biographical novel. It follows the stories of several people who spotted the signs of the oncoming 2008 financial crisis before there was any stress in the system. You get to experience their minds as they spot the absurdity, as the uncover immense moral hazards, as they struggle to find a profitable way to trade on the information, as they fight with investors who want out, as they make the victory, and how they deal with the aftermath of having bet on the demise of the financial world as they knew it. Some of the characters are very amusing, some are irritating, and some are foul. As backwards as it sounds this book captures the human element completely while at the same time discussing something as analytical as financial trading.

Where I found it:
I found this book while browsing the very limited financial section of my library.

What I learned:
The Big Short taught me how corrupt the system can get when moral hazards are present and how blind the big companies can be.

I was amazed by the clearly immoral tricks the loan originators and repackagers played to get their pools of mortgages an AAA rating. AAA! That’s the highest rating possible and better than our current US Treasuries (S&P downgraded US Treasuries to AA+ due to the debt ceiling crisis of 2011). They took a lot of low FICO loans who would most likely default and threw them in with the loans of immigrant workers who don’t have enough history for a low FICO score and only reported the average number, which was high enough to ensure no default. They didn’t care if the pools actually went bad or not because once the pool is sold off, the risk is on the new owner. All they cared about was volume. The more mortgages they sold, the more money they made. They made so many bad mortgages that one originator company had 20% of the mortgages default AT THE FIRST PAYMENT and had to take the loss themselves.

On the other hand, the rating agencies were lost. They didn’t have a model for these mortgages, so they accepted the model they were handed by the packagers. They loved it because rating agencies get paid per security rated. With companies buying up these AAA products in a feeding frenzy, they got a lot of things to rate.

Investment banks were just as lost. They didn’t really care what gave something an AAA rating, they just knew if they filled themselves up with something that wouldn’t default and had a good return, they’d make a ton of money. They snatched these up even faster than they could be produced, so paper mortgage backed securities got invented. The paper securities were not even backed by mortgages, just construed to mimic them financially.

Basically, there was a moral hazard at the beginning of a system as originators learned to game the system. They did it so well and the people later down the chain were so blind and poorly managed that it resulted in a massive financial bloom and rot on such a scale that it put the entire global financial system out of whack.

Recommendations:
I loved seeing into the crisis. There were so many things to discover that I actually talked to people about it a lot while I was reading. Normally people aren’t interested in my random financial obsessions, but this one actually got some engagement. The discoveries were just so appalling that they had to be voiced and people are willing to hear reasons to blame. Not to mention, there were some pretty funny moments.

There aren’t many people I would recommend this book to. The beginning was boring, but the second half made up for it. A few parts are confusingly technical, but you can get the gist of it and move on. You don’t actually have to follow the author’s explanation of the paper mortgage securities, just know that they were cleverly construed. The biggest problem is that a few of the characters use the F word in every thought.

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"Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 12:37 pm

If you are in debt, this is the first place to start to get motivated and organized. It breaks down the process of going from sinking in a paycheck to paycheck (or worse) life to taking your extended family out on a cruise. The “baby steps” go as follows:

1. Save $1,000 for a rainy day
2. Pay off all debt (except your house) using the debt snowball technique
3. Finish off your emergency savings by saving up 3-6 months’ worth of expenses
4. Invest 15% of your household income in the S&P 500 (I’d put it elsewhere)
5. Set up a tax exempt college fund for your kids
6. Pay off your house
7. Give!

As you knock out each baby step, the next baby steps get easier because you’ve eliminated the drag of debt or at least have the savings to avoid putting on more debt. If you ever slip a step (you had to use your emergency savings for a broken car), just pause the step you are on and go back. You’ll find yourself getting to the later steps faster and faster each time.

Where I Found It:
I think most people looking at finances have come across this book. Dave Ramsey is the recognized lead for getting out of debt. I figured I couldn’t write about finances unless I’ve read it, so I picked it up off the shelf at the library and read it in an RV on a stormy beach.

What I learned:
There was very little in this book that I didn’t already know. It had a few things in the later baby steps about taxes that I had never stopped and considered, but I’m not there yet anyways. What I LOVE about this book is how motivating it is. It made me almost wish I had more debts just for the adventure of getting out of them. He made it that exciting.

I also learned that Dave Ramsey’s method isn’t perfect. He really doesn’t have much a clue when it comes to the later steps. That’s okay though because when he tells a broke person that you can expect to get a 12% return in the S&P 500 (try 4% or less!) they’ve probably got years before it matters. Maybe it is helpful in motivating them to get out of debt faster and maybe it doesn’t matter since investing 15% is the commonly accepted responsible thing to do anyways.

Recommendations:
This book is amazing at getting you motivated and there is a ton of wisdom in the baby steps. I got a little bored with the stories, but they are in boxes and easy to skip. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone in baby steps 1-3. There are some major problems with the later steps though.

One thing to note is the 12% he claims you should expect from the stock market is completely absurd. Get through the other baby steps first, but do more research when you get to the investment part. Please read why the S&P 500 is not a great investment.

Actually, don’t trust any of Dave Ramsey’s numbers. Even his $1,000 emergency savings in baby step #1 is off. I don’t disagree with $1,000, but $1,000 in 2003 (when the Total Money Makeover was first written) is equivalent to $1,362 in 2018 if you believe government published inflation data. If you want to assume a 5% inflation (like I do), that $1,000 is actually $2,079. I’m not saying that you have to have $2k in the bank before you should look at paying down you debts. I’m saying that you have to choose for yourself what number will keep you and your family from bouncing back to the credit card with every unexpected expense. Write that number down and work towards it. Then, even though you’re only sitting on a thin cushion, start attacking that debt aggressively.

I also disagree with the children’s college saving as step #5. Sure, it would be great to have money set aside for education, but my oldest is only 5 and there is a lot of uncertainty shrouding the topic.

Ramsey talks about state programs where you pay for college early so you don’t have to worry about future price increases. What if you move across the country? Now your kid has to move far away just to go to a state college. What if state colleges are overly politicized or immorally overly politically correct by then? Speaking of politics, tuition itself has become a huge political issue. I think it is just as likely that state colleges are free in 15 years.

Looking at the last 15 years and assuming things only accelerate, I’ve decided to pay my house off and get myself financially secure first so that I can afford whatever tuition at whatever school I’m asked in the future. Maybe that is silly since the money is very transferable and if I decide I’m really not going to use it, I can even withdraw it (taxes will apply). I just want to focus on the known first. If I have solid footing, the rest won’t matter as much.

Note: My husband actually sent money home to his family while in college and I only received financial help from mine the first year. We both graduated from college debt free.

I recommend Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” to just about anyone and especially those who don’t see how they can make it financially or are in the early “baby steps”.

More Financial Book Reviews by Milly

"If you Can -How Millennials can get Rick Slowly" by Bernstein - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 12:26 pm

This is a FREE PDF!! Read it Now! If you want to learn the 2 step lazy man's way to invest with better returns than professional investors, this one is for you. It is only 16 pages long and only takes about 20 min annually to execute. The PDF will take you through the theory, the steps, the pitfalls, and how to overcome your obstacles.

Basically, it teaches you to invest like this: Set up 3 investment funds (US stocks, foreign stocks, bonds) and fund it with a certain percentage in each (typically 1/3rd in each). Every year rebalance the ratios between your funds so that they are back to what you intended (such as 1/3rd in each). You can choose different percentages based on your aggression/risk tolerance or even have it shift towards bonds as you age. The percentages are up to you, just leave it alone except for tweaking it annually and you will do fine.

Where I found it:
I came across the PDF while surfing the BogleHeads website.

What I learned:
I finally understand why balancing portfolios increases your returns. If something is going up, it is probably becoming more overvalued so you sell some off while it is high and put that money into something that still has growth ahead of it. If something goes down, it is probably becoming discounted, so sell some of your higher valued positions and put that money into scooping up the discounts. If you maintain a specific percentage of your portfolio in each category you decide to invest in (US stocks, precious metals, foreign stocks, bonds, etc.), you will naturally adjust more optimally. It just takes guts to stay the course. Don’t leave your money to grow longer in any category just because it is hot right now and don’t be afraid to “buy the dip” when things go down.

Recommendations:
Anyone who is interested enough to have read this far is definitely interested enough to benefit. Seriously, just click the link. It’s short and it’s right here.

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"Who Moved my Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Although not strictly a financial book, I see Who Moved my Cheese? as the number one most important thing to master in times of financial change, which we will all experience in some form or another.
The book is very short. The audio is only an hour and forty minutes long, so I imagine reading it is even quicker.

Who Moved my Cheese? tells the parable of two mouse sized men in a maze. After years of working through the maze, they have learned that cheese is deposited daily within a certain section of the maze. They moved near the cheese. They based their social life on the cheese. They measured their success in life by their cheese findings. Life was centered on that cheese and it was good. Then one day, it was gone.
The two men reacted very differently.

One man continued visiting the now cheeseless site daily only to find it repeatedly empty. He would sit and complain that life had cheated him. Every day he would ask “who moved my cheese?” Every day, he was miserable.

The other man tried for a few days, but quickly deduced that the cheese they had taken for granted all of those years had moved on so he did too. He wandered the maze for days discovering things he never knew existed. He found little bits of cheese here and there, but had to keep moving on.

Eventually, after a long hunt, he found the new cheese depository. From then on, he made sure the cheese would not catch him off guard. He continued to explore and was always ready in case the cheese moved again.

Where I found it:
My husband checked out the audio version from his work’s library.

What I learned:
Success takes both hard work and some luck. Maybe God put you in the path of a wise mentor. Maybe you got great deal. Maybe you were given a chance that people don’t normally get. Whatever it is, it is never really your efforts alone. Sometimes luck moves the other way. You might get unexpectedly laid off. You might have a medical disaster. So many possibilities are out there that it would be foolish to think any occupational or financial success will last the remainder of your life. When that happens, don’t get caught up on the injustice. Instead thank God for the gift you had, then embrace the new adventure. Choose to by happy, not miserable, and keep trying.

Recommendations:
Well, I pretty much gave you the entire book, so if you are satisfied, maybe you don’t need to read it. Although, it is more powerfully told in the book. If you can afford an hour or so worth of your time to make the lessons stick, check it out. I recommend this book to anyone old enough to have cheese or seek after cheese. Mid to late teens and older? I especially recommend it to anyone who is currently in troubled times between occupations or job positions.

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"Beating the Street" by Peter Lynch - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 11:57 am

Beating the Street should be required reading to all who wish to pick stocks. The author, Peter Lynch, was the widely successful manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund averaging about 30% returns for 13 years. Despite his success as a mutual fund manager, he strongly believes that individuals can outperform Wall Street fund managers if they are dedicated enough to be thorough and follow some common sense rules (numbered and in bold throughout the chapters and on this website).

One thing that makes Lynch unique in his investment strategy is that there is no overarching strategy. He searches for undervalued companies in ANY sector and therefore had to become somewhat of an expert in all of them. Each chapter tackles a different type of investment (mutual funds, commodities, retail, financial, etc) and gives the formulas and sample numbers specific to that sector.

Where I found it:
It was one of the recommended readings at the end of the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. I requested the book from my local library. I then went to browse the for sale books, turned around and canceled my request when I saw it sitting right there for $0.25.

What I learned:
The main thing I learned from this book is that I am not interested in stock picking. I simply do not have the time to do anything in depth consistently. I could research a few companies here and there, but not with enough depth to make solid comparisons or enough regularity to be nimble in my investments. I am very glad I learned that before working from the other direction for a few years first.

However, if I were to start stock picking, I would use this book daily. Every chapter is so well put together and despite having never read about the stock market before, I felt like I could see the picture.

Recommendations:
I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit. For a technical book on stock market analysis it had me laughing out loud quite a few times. It is full of stories and examples, some entertaining enough to share with your spouse and friends.

It is also important that you know this is a somewhat advanced book. I read it very early in my financial journey and it was extremely difficult for me to understand many parts. I didn’t even really understand what a stock was when I started. I read several sections at the computer so I could Google terms that he seemed to think were common that I had never heard before. It is impossible for me to know if I would still feel that way had I read it a few years later, but I imagine the book would be easier for someone with more prior exposure to the stock market.

That being said, I still gave the book away to my 14 year old nephew because he had the same determination I had to read it and understand it. Interest has a lot more to do with who I recommend the book to than age. If you ever consider stock picking, read Beating the Street first!

More Financial Book Reviews by Milly

"How to Retire the Cheapskate Way" by Jeff Yeager - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 11:31 am

How to Retire the Cheapskate Way takes the opposite end to retirement planning. Instead of learning hot investing tricks or even old school strategies to maximize your nest egg, this book is all about reducing expenses. As discussed in another post, a penny saved is 1.57 pennies earned! In it you learn to focus on what you actually want from retirement and find the cheapskate version, which can be achieved with very little money.

How to Retire the Cheapskate Way covers everything from fulfilling side jobs that can supplement retirement, to where to get less expensive medical care and how to navigate Medicare, to extreme frugal living. It is filled with cheapskate strategies ranging from the normal brown bagging your work lunch to the extremes of saving discarded calendars and giving them out as Christmas gifts when the dates line up again.

Where I found it:
I found this one while browsing the very limited financial section of my local library.

My takeaways:
I am a cheapskate. My poor husband has to beg me to throw out everything from old underwear to tangled embroidery thread. Many sections of this book were like candy for me as I got glimpses of people doing things that I would totally do. It gave me more confidence in my cheapskateness and assurance that it is really okay to never spend money on things.

It also helped me feel much more at peace about retirement. Between a social security check and some type of “selfish” employment, I can survive without any retirement fund. It would be way nicer to have more money in retirement, but if I don’t need to have money, money gets a lot less stressful.

Don’t let a financial planner tell you what you need (unless, like Yeager, your potted plant needs a stack of papers to catch the runoff water). You have control of your spending and you don’t have to be conventional.

Recommendations:
I recommend How to Retire the Cheapskate Way to anyone who has thought about retirement and worried if they will have enough to make it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go to the extremes to benefit from this book.

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"The Mandibles" by Lionel Shriver - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 11:11 am

The Mandibles is actually a novel. It starts a few years after a major financial shock, but before the final blow to the financial system. The family of interest is one with a humble circumstance, but with extended family in richer circumstances. The financial collapse follows much of Jim Rickard’s theories, but I think it is way off on a few details. I have hope and faith that America will be better than this book predicts.

Where I found it:
I listened to an interview with Jim Rickards on Youtube and he said “If you want to know what life is going to be like in 20 years, read The Mandibles”. That peaked my interest because Rickards has such a sensational view of what will happen in the next global financial crisis. I wanted to know what life actually looked like if Rickards were right. Also, it had been so long since I’d read a real novel that I couldn’t resist a financial excuse. I checked it out from my library a week or so later after requesting it.

My takeaways:
If things are headed south with no hints of relief, act before you are desperate. As this book dove into the hypothetical lives of people living in the times that I am preparing for, it gave me many details to ponder. What struggles would I have? How would I deal with the toilet paper crisis? What services could I provide that will always be valuable to support my family? What locations would fare better than my current home?

Recommendations:
Since this book is actually a novel, it is more digestible to many people, that is if they can handle a 432 page novel. If you think you might struggle reading Crash Course 2.0 or Road to Ruin, pick this one up. It doesn’t really convince you that there will be a collapse, but at least if one happens you won’t be nearly as lost as everyone else and you will be able to act.

The big negative I have with this book is the language and immorality. If you struggle with casual cursing, you’ll need someone to censor this book first (buy your own copy before editing the library’s). It doesn’t really focus on sex, but the mother figure lives with her boyfriend, there is a prostitute cousin, and the second half of the book briefly discusses that sex is no longer a private thing, just biology and recreation. There is also a heroic suicide where a character sacrifices for the better chance of family survival and a kid turns to criminal actions for food.

Not exactly a children’s bedtime adventure, but definitely an adventure.

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"The Road to Ruin" by Jim Rickards - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 10:57 am

The Road to Ruin is written by the head lawyer for the LTCM hedge fund that was hours away from shutting down the global financial system in 1998. He saw everything as it happened and negotiated the response. While everyone else dismissed the occurrence as a once in the lifetime of the sun experience, he wasn't convinced and developed entirely different models using "complexity theory" and captured the financial world as a complex system (physics term).

The Road to Ruin lines out a very dark conspiracy theory laden future for the world. It is written with a lot of scare tactic, but the strategy laid out to protect yourself is relevant regardless of whether all of his predictions play out.

His predictions go something like this: our current economic models are like using Newtonian physics. It all seems nice and relevant until you get near light speed and your math inexplicably ends up an order of magnitude off. We are living in an increasingly unstable complex system, but the current models don’t have a clue how much risk there really is. It doesn’t really matter what the initial trigger is. It may be a gold shortage, debt going bad, or geopolitical tensions. What does matter is that when the trigger happens, all of the other dynamically unstable systems will move, violently.

In order to halt the carnage, the government will be forced to freeze all electronic money and assets (stocks, bank accounts, money markets, etc.) in what Rickards has designated as a financial “ice-9”. Our current militarized police force will keep riots down at all cost. All of the laws and protocols are already set, it is just a matter of waiting for the appropriate market shock.

Eventually, the IMF (International Money Fund) will print its own form of currency (SDRs or Special Drawing Rights) and re-liquidate the frozen assets. That liquidation will come at a heavy cost for the United States as we will lose our global reserve currency status. All of these seemingly necessary actions will play out to the “global elite’s” overarching goals of “world money, world taxation, world order”. There really isn’t anything we can do to stop it, but there is a way to protect yourself. Buy the things that last: precious metals, undeveloped land, and fine art (museum quality only).

Where I found it:
I got a spam email from Rich Dad World with an extremely compelling sales pitch for the book. It looked like information I wanted, so I forked out the $4.95 for a hardcover copy sent to my home. I can’t imagine that being anything more than printing/mailing cost. What they were really selling were subscriptions to their newsletter, but I opted out before the end of the trial period to avoid paying the $99 annual subscription. Here is a link to the deal I used to get a hard back hard copy for only $4.95. Just make sure to CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION before the end of the free trial.

My takeaways:
Jim Rickards laid out the domino effect of each crisis very nicely: Wall Street bailed out a hedge fund in 1998, the Federal Reserve bailed out Wall Street in 2008, the IMF is the only one who can bail out the Federal Reserve in 20??. It is hard to believe anything other than a crisis will occur and that the dollar, and dollar denominated assets such as bonds, will be the ones in trouble.

My money isn’t what I thought it was. I don’t have any money in stocks, bonds, money market accounts, or even bank accounts. What I have are the liabilities of other organizations. If those organizations fail, my money is at the mercy of a bailout that may or may not happen. After reading The Road to Ruin, both digital and paper money feels so fake. It all can be made worthless or seized very quickly.

I actually feel quite liberated by this fact. If money is fake, I don’t need to worry so much about it. If I lose everything (financially) and have to start over, it is really just a blessing that I got to live comfortably on play money in the first place. Only the things that actually matter in life are real.

Finally, if I want to preserve what I have, I need to invest it in things that will always be: land and resources.

Recommendations:
I think this one is an important read. Do I think it will all play out to the sensational language of Jim Rickards? No. In fact, I really wished he’d write in less dramatic terms so that he would sound more credible. I think it is important to understand his view so that you can see trends and make your moves accordingly. This book will open your eyes to the larger political forces that I hadn’t seen before.
Much of it was over my head and I had to look up quite a few terms, but it was worth it.

Further knowledge:
I highly recommend listening to Rickards on Youtube (James Rickards Project). He isn’t nearly as sensational or technically heavy in person. Only Rickards has the ability to tell you your money that you’ve spend your whole life trying to accumulate will disappear and still leave you feeling peaceful and fuzzy. His voice is so resonant and calm.

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"The Big Drop" by Jim Rickards - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 10:37 am

The Big Drop is all about preparing your portfolio with a looming financial crisis. First, it convinces you in mathematical, historical, and allegorical terms that it would be surprising NOT to have a crisis. Then, it talks about why investing today (2016) is harder than it has ever been: deflation is the driving force, but inflation is soon to come. Both forces are investigated thoroughly.

Where I found it:
After reading The Road to Ruin and listening to several Jim Rickards interviews, I was hungry for more. I placed a hold on this book in my local library.

My takeaways:
I felt that this book had even stronger evidence of a coming crisis than either Crash Proof 2.0 or even Road to Ruin (Jim Rickard’s later book) had. It also gave more clear advice on setting up your portfolio. Jim Rickards explains the thoughts and methods behind a "barbell" strategy that is loaded up on the ends as a protection against inflation AND deflation, with cash in the middle ready to pivot positions as needed. So if you put 35% of your investments in hedge funds, private ventures, angel funds, and the like for your deflation hedge, leave 30% cash (and treasury bills) in the middle, you have 35% to diversify into an inflation hedge with precious metals, undeveloped land, and fine art (museum quality only). Both Crash Proof and Road to Ruin spend just a few pages on an possible personal solution.

Recommendations:
In about 2.5 years, Jim Rickards wrote 4 books. This one is not the star. It seemed very rushed as if he was just trying to finish it so he could move on to “A New Case for Gold” before the crisis hit and gold prices break out. I found grammar, spelling, and even math typos. If you look at his website, it is sometimes even omitted.

It is also outdated. Yes, it is only 3 years old, but situations have been developing rapidly since it was published. For example, there is a section about the massive oil price drops seen in 2015, but oil prices are now on the rise. All of the principles are true, but you’ll have to hit up Google for current data.

That being said, this book is the best I’ve seen thus far in terms of understanding and setting up a portfolio for today’s dynamic situation.
I recommend it to someone who has already been introduced to Jim Rickards and knows he is brilliant but is looking for more guidance and insight. Otherwise, it won’t have nearly as much authority with the errors. It also should only be read by someone who is willing to fact check as some of the arguments have changed in the last few years.

Further Knowledge:
Look up his videos on Youtube (James Rickards Project) with the key words you are interested in. There are quite a few informative interviews.

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Financial Book Reviews by Milly

January 7th, 2019 at 10:16 am

Over the last few years, I've been reading a ton of financial books. See below for my summaries, takeaways, and recommendations on over 3,500 pages of reading.

Understanding Money
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Economical Forecasts
Crash Proof 2.0 by Peter Schiff
The Road to Ruin by James Rickards
The Big Drop by James Rickards
The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver

Conservative Strategies
The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach
How to Retire the Cheapskate Way by Jeff Yeager
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Stock Market Strategies
Beating the Street by Peter Lynch
If you Can - How Millennials can get Rich Slowly by William Bernstein

Financial History
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Hardship and Hope - America and the Great Depression by Victoria Sherrow

Developing your Life Calling
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Who Moved my Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

"Crash Proof 2.0" by Peter Schiff - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 10:14 am

Here begins my more controversial financial journey. Crash Proof, by Peter Schiff, was originally published in early 2007 as a warning bell for the coming subprime mortgage meltdown. Since the meltdown, it has been republished as Crash Proof 2.0 to also include the actual data from the financial crisis and updates for the larger crisis to come. In Crash Proof 2.0 (and its earlier version), Schiff correctly identifies the housing bubble, correctly predicts that the Federal Reserve will print money to buy ourselves out of the crisis, and also predicts that it will cause even larger problems that the Federal Reserve cannot solve by printing. The next crisis is a US dollar crisis.

Crash Proof 2.0 also explains some strategies to protect yourself from the effects and discredits some traditional strategies people think will protect them from the effects.

Where I found it:
I had heard the title several times in live online events with Robert Kiyosaki. When I was fruitlessly looking for a different financial book at the library and came across it, it was an easy choice to pick up. I am so glad I did!

My takeaways:
This book had a large effect on me. Since reading Crash Proof 2.0, it is has become my blog’s primary mission to get people thinking about these types of things and prepare.

I learned a ton from both this book and from the author's podcasts about the Federal Reserve and how the macro and political financial systems work. I now know what I am looking for, where the truth is hidden and where the lies are broadcasted. The logic is very sound that we are headed for a crisis, but I differ from Schiff in my opinions of the outcome.

One hope is that although we are pedaling as fast as we can towards a financial cliff, we will see the cliff just before we go over it and will do the painful but necessary things to swerve. If we don’t swerve, I hope that Americans will see the inauthenticity and vote the leaders out. Regardless of what Trump has actually accomplished, just the fact that he was voted in proves that Americans are willing to fight the system. The other hope is that we will adapt and prosper after a major setback just like Americans have in the past. Humans are persevering creatures.

Schiff is much more cynical and who can blame him. His father refused to pay an illegal income tax and died in prison without the medical attention he needed. Schiff knows the hunger of a powerful, oppressive government and fears that hardships will follow the historical precedent, that is, to lead to a larger, more burdensome government.

In any case, it has been exhilarating and simultaneously chilling to watch so many of these predicted dominoes fall at an increasing speed. I initially read this book in 2016 and it is only becoming more and more clear that we are on the path described. If you haven’t already, it is time to move to non-dollar denominated assets such as foreign stocks and precious metals.

Recommendations:
This is a deeper book. I read it earlier in my quest for financial knowledge so I looked up quite a few things as I read it to understand more fully. I think most financially interested adults could get the points just fine without looking things up, but to truly understand they might need some research.

Despite everything I just said, it is actually a fairly easy read with stories and analogies to help you understand.

I recommend this book to anyone who has money they want to protect or who doesn’t like feeling lost in a storm of politicized finance. You probably have to be interested in this type of stuff to enjoy it though.

Further Knowledge:
Peter also has a website with frequent podcasts. They are pretty bold, contain occasional explicit language, and are very libertarian, but worth considering. These podcasts give you up to date data with current market moves, job numbers, and political speeches.

I'm afraid if you listen to the podcast before the book, you'll think he is either a raving doom and gloom forecaster or a whiner. You will also think he is an egotistical narcissist, but you might be correct on that account.

Please take some things he says (especially the non-economical things) with a grain of salt.

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"Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 09:33 am

Think and Grow Rich is based on the concept that thought creates physical reality. It outlines a formula to teach yourself to accomplish any mission you choose. The focus is how to become extraordinarily rich, but you can apply the principles to any deep desire you have whether it be to raise your children well, overcome illness (not necessarily fix it, but overcome it), create an organization, become more patient, or have the marriage you want. If your mission is to become very wealthy, it also has many helpful tips on where to look, and how to get organized.

Think and Grow Rich has a lot of mystic elements to it (sending vibrations to the infinite, etc.), and sometimes makes it sound like you can recite a mantra every day and wish yourself to riches. The vast majority of the book is sound and based on studies of over 500 people who were successful in many different ways.

This book falls into the self-help and motivational categories. It leaves you pumped to accomplish something grand.

Where I found it:
It caught my attention on my father-in-law’s bookshelf. I borrowed it for about a year before finally reading it.

My takeaways:
If I want to accomplish something extra special (such as getting rich, or founding something amazing), I need to train my brain to ponder it in all of my spare moments. I don’t have to know almost anything, that’s what teams are for. I do need to overcome fear, organize a team, and be obsessed.
This book also helped me realize that I don’t actually want to become rich. It would be nice, but not worth devoting my mind to it. I would rather accomplish other great things.

Recommendations:
This is a great read for people who have large focused goal in life, especially if it is wealth. You have to be able to enjoy or look past the mystic aspects. If you dismiss the book the first time Napoleon tells you thoughts transmutate into their physical reality, you’re not going to make it past the first chapter.

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"The Automatic Millionaire" by David Bach - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 09:24 am

The Automatic Millionaire lays out a plan to easily accumulate an egg nest larger and faster than normal, even on a normal or low salary. Strategies include things like decreasing your "latte factor" and putting your extra paycheck on 3 pay check months (if you are paid bi-weekly) into debt reduction,

The best part is, once it is set up, it is nearly fool proof. If you use the tool kit presented in this book, you can automate your saving plan, tip the scales and start building your financial base.

Where I found it:
After discussing some topics I learned from “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” with my sister-in-law, she thought I would enjoy this book. She was so right. She had read the book as required reading for a college home economics class.

My takeaways:
The most boring retirement strategy is actually a REALLY good strategy. Take a turtle approach by getting something consistent and automated, then just glance at it every few years.

There was only one strategy in the whole book that I wasn’t already doing. That also made me very excited for two reasons. 1. It showed me that I am on track to be the millionaires described in the book. 2. I organized my thoughts so I have a resource that I can share with others.

Recommendations:
There is nothing in this book that I disagree with. It comes closer to my spending/saving philosophies than any other I have read. This is one of the very few books that you can go all out on. I recommend this book to anyone who manages their own finances (or part of their finances). Get it to them and read as soon as possible!

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