2017 Favorites

2017 Favorites

I’ve been on a blog post hiatus since mid-year but I haven’t stopped exploring all the other great content being shared around the Interweb.  Throughout the year, when I read, listen or watch something that I think is uniquely good, I add it to my “Best of the Year” bookmarks folder.  Of the hundreds of pieces of content I consumed this year, around 50 made it into my Best Of folder.

I spent the least few days further narrowing down this list I shared below.  To repeat what I said last year, we live in amazing times.  The amount of good content available at our fingertips is virtually limitless.  20 years ago, access to such wide-ranging, diverse ideas would have been nearly impossible.  Today, finding a new (or old) idea is always few keystrokes aways.  Pretty awesome.  There are countless ways to learn.

Here are my favorite books, articles and podcast episodes of 2017.  The content may or may not have been published in 2017, but 2017 is the year I found the piece influential.  The picks are divided into two lists: Best of Finance and Best of the Rest.  Enjoy…

Best of Finance

Books

+ Index Revolution (Charley Ellis) – Nothing particularly unique about this easy read from legendary investor Charley Ellis, but I think the points are worth repeating and extremely helpful to average investors.  “Some people say that if you accept market returns (as you do with indexing), you are accepting mediocrity. You’re not; you’re accepting superiority.”

+ Organizational Alpha (Ben Carlson) – Organizational strength is highly undervalued.  Ben drives home his timeless mantra: “Complex problems don’t always require complex solutions.”  This is a quick read that any organization (or person) can take a lot away from.  Focus on your structure and process…good results will likely follow.

+ Family Wealth – Keeping it in the Family (James Hughes Jr.) – Another organizationally themed book focused on structuring family offices in a way to preserve multi-generational value.  Even if you aren’t part of a ultra-wealthly family, the creative ideas presented by Hughes are universally applicable and can help strengthen not only finances, but foster a deeper understanding of our goals and values.

Podcast Episodes

Interview with Ed Thorp (Masters in Business) – “Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz interviews Ed Thorp, one of the most storied people in finance. A math professor at MIT and UC Ivine, Thorp figured out how to beat Las Vegas at blackjack and baccarat, created statistical arbitrage, and ran a hedge fund that not only beat the market by a wide margin, but never had a losing quarter.”  Barry Ritholtz blazed a trail when he started his Masters in Business podcast.  He brought “Market Wizards” to podcast form and inspired many other great podcasts.  This interview with Thorp is second to none.

+ Hash Power (Invest Like the Best) – I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy Pat’s Invest Like the Best Podcast.  This three part audio documentary (a novel format) is the perfect introduction to blockchains and cryptocurrencies for anybody interested in exploring the space.  Anytime somebody asks me about this subject, the first thing I do is forward a link to these episodes.

+ Interview with Wes Grey (Invest Like the Best) – Did I mention I liked Pat?  There was little doubt that his interview with a person who has been one of the largest influences on my own investment philosophy would turn into a kick-ass episode.  I highly recommend this interview to anybody who enjoys geeking out on quantitative value investing and “informed capital”.  “Stop cutting your blue meth with baby powder.”

Articles (non-geeky)

+ It’s Not About the Money (Nick Maggiulli) – Nick is pretty much the unanimous winner of Rookie of the Year in finance blogging.”  So even when you do get the financial status you crave, you will probably get anxious about losing it. In other words, you are screwed on both ends. Either you feel too poor, or you feel wealthy and you worry about being poor again. You never win.  It’s far better to not focus on the money and enjoy life for what it brings.

+ Waiting for a Market Crash is a Terrible Strategy (Sam Lee) – Sam tackles a tendency (and strategy) I see more and more frequently.  The “I’m just waiting for the market to crash so I can invest” strategy.  I get it.  It is understandable.  The market has been rising for quite some time and you don’t want to get caught at the top.  But by fighting the FOMO you are likely missing opportunity.  Should I be all in or all out?  The right answer is probably somewhere in the gray area.

+ Innovation, Disruption, and the Illusion of Value (Lawrence Hamtil) – Lawrence is one of my favorite investment researchers out there.  His writing style is approachable for non-professionals but technical enough to pique the interest of geeks.  “[Value investing] requires both opportunism and skepticism.  Metrics and models can tell an investor only so much.  Investors should be well-acquainted with history in order to understand that innovation and change not only create opportunities, but also destroy capital.”

Articles (geeky)

+ Factors Are Not Commodities (Chris Meredith) – Awesome and necessary research from OSAM.  Not all factor strategies are created equal.  “Factors are not commodities — rather, they are unique expressions of investment themes. The uniqueness of one Value strategy from another can lead to very different results, and there are many places that factor-based portfolios can diverge. So the difficulty for asset allocators is identifying exactly where and how these factor strategies differ one from another, even when they all claim to use the same themes of Value, Momentum, and Quality.”

+ Alternative Facts About Formulaic Value Investing (Wes Gray) – “We also believe that more sophisticated systematic value strategies will likely earn a marginal premium over the simplest value strategies over the next 50 years. But let’s not fool ourselves, the bulk of the excess expected returns that may be realized by these “sophisticated” value strategies will be driven by the fact that these portfolios will own cheap companies the world hates, not from the “sophistication.””

+ Ultimate Guide to Safe Withdrawal Rates (Early Retirement Now) – “Assets should serve a purpose—to fund a lifetime of financial goals. At the highest level, goals can be categorized as either consumption or gifts. Outside of consumption and gifts (including planned and unplanned bequests), assets serve no purpose other than funding taxes and expenses. Therefore, a rational and informed investor should identify lifetime goals and intentionally allocate assets to fund them efficiently. If assets serve the purpose of funding lifetime goals, it naturally follows that optimal lifetime asset allocation should be goals-based and multiperiod.”

+ Factors & Financial Planning (Corey Hoffstein) – We need more research like this.  Portfolios cannot be designed in walled gardens.  The huge differences between asset management and financial planning are too often overlooked.  Corey’s thoughtful approach to factor allocation acknowledges the reality that these are two very different industries with very different goals.

Best of the Rest

Books

+ How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie) – Warren Buffet called this the best book he’s ever read so I figured I should give it a read.  The lessons are timeless.  It is about self-growth, career growth and becoming more intuitive about how you interact with others.  I read it twice and I imagine I’ll pick it up to at least read through my notes once every couple of years.  There will always be something to relearn or remind myself of.

+ The Fish that Ate the Whale (Rich Cohen) – The real story of Banana Republics.  May be one of my favorite books ever.  I had a hard time putting it down.  The story of Sam Zemurray and the United Fruit Company is one that will leave your jaw on the floor.  What did Sam do when the U.S. intervened in his Central American banana trade?  “Don’t get involved?  How about I overthrow the fucking government?  Is that too involved?” 

+ Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Robert Corham) – If you don’t know who John Boyd is, you probably should.  Some would call him the greatest fighter pilot in history but his biggest accomplishments were those that reshaped the strategy of our military forever.  Boyd was obsessive about decision making and his OODA Loop concept has been widely adopted by industries outside the armed forces.  He was brash and certainly not a subscriber to Dale Carnegie’s philosophy but it worked for him.

+ The Wisdom of Life (Arthur Schopenhauer) – I was amazed how the lessons of this 19th century essay rang so true today.  Short read but there was a lot to unpack.  I really, really loved this.  If you commit to the density and want to think a lot about what your reading, I highly encourage you to give Schopenhauer a try. “It is useless to complain against your enemies; for they can never become your friends, if your whole being is a standing reproach to them.”

Honorable Mentions: The Wright Brothers (David McCullough), Shoe Dog (Phil Knight)

Podcast Episodes

+ Interview with Naval Ravikant (The Knowledge Project) – I’ll try not to be hyperbolic here.  Personally, this is the best podcast episode I’ve ever listened to.  Naval is one of the most insightful and thoughtful thinkers in the world today.  Just listen to it.

+ Marie Kondo – The Japanese Tidying Master (Tim Ferris Show) – Want to read a book that sparks immediate action in your life, try reading Marie Kondo.  Since listening to her interview with Tim Ferris, I’ve been sparking joy all over my house.

+ The Art of Tracking with Boyd Vardy (Invest Like the Best) – Pat O’Shaughnessy gets the hat-trick this year with his third mention on my list.  Just an awesome interview with Boyd Vardy, an animal tracker from South Africa.  I listened to it a couple of times just for his tracking story.  “Be relentless in life.”

Articles

+ On Being Nosey (Mike Dariano) – “Sometimes curiosity is messy. People will get a whiff of what you’re rolling in and walk away. They’ll look at your curiosity and wonder what the hell you are doing. These people don’t know there are secrets to find. And if they do, they might wrongly believe that they are hidden just under the surface. Stories have tricked them.”  Stay curious.   Dariano is one of my favorite content curators, podcasters and bloggers.  He excels at all phases of the sharing game.  Check out his blog, The Waiter’s Pad.  You’ll learn a lot.

+ The World Turned Upside Down (Russ Roberts) – Russ’s take on the increasingly angry and tribal conversations we’re having about seemingly everything.  So we manage to convince ourselves that the evidence speaks so loudly, so emphatically, that we have no choice but to declare our allegiance to a particular tribe as a result of that evidence. The red tribe. Or the blue one. Or the white one. Or the black one. It rarely crosses our minds to notice that causation is probably going the opposite direction — the tribe we are in determines the evidence we notice and accept.”

+ Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life (Hunter S. Thompson) – Incredibly thoughtful letter from a 22-year old Hunter Thompson.  What kinds of advice were you giving friends as a 22 year old?

Honorable Mention: Live Unoffended (Alex Edmans)


Tim Brennan

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