The Investment Zoo by Stephen Jarislowsky

by Mr. Cheap

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It always bugs me having junk around in my life. In my youth I was quite a “book horder”, and have forced myself to keep the number of books I own to a minimum (my new trick is unless I *LOVE* a book, I try to give it away to someone who’ll enjoy it). I find it hard to get rid of books that were given to me as a gift, but I definitely accumulate them if I let myself.

I just got a Toronto library card and am kicking myself for not having got one sooner. It’s a perfect compromise of being able to get books I want to read, for a low price (Mr. Cheap likes free!) and I can give it back to the library and get it out of my life after I’ve read it. I’m pretty sure there’s even a way to get the library to bring in books you want to read (I haven’t figured out this process for the Toronto library yet, but I’m sure it’s there).

I’ve been meaning to read Investment Zoo since a few of my fellow PF bloggers made reference to it, and I finally bit the bullet, got a library card, and tore through this very readable book.

Overall the book was interesting, although I found it unfortunately a little light on specifics. A big chunk is devoted to Jarislowsky’s life, which while interesting, seemed to go beyond his stated purpose of “why the reader should listen to him”. I think a page or two would have been enough for that, and he could have written up his recollections of doing well in school and whatnot in a separate biography.

Another chunk which was interesting, but of limited value to me, was advocating getting to know senior management in the companies you invest in. Unfortunately, I think the chance of Rothman’s giving me a personal tour and answering my questions when I was debating putting $5K into their stock is pretty slim. I think if I was to do this every time I was thinking about purchasing stock it would become VERY hard for me to have any diversification at all. I think he could have put this into a another separate book targeting money managers.

I think he had some excellent thoughts on financial planners and mutual funds. I liked what he had to say about dividend paying, blue-chip stocks (it certainly reassured me about my strategy). I was also happy that he gave a nod to tobacco and explained why litigation worries were unfounded (his thinking is that any legal expense will be passed along to the consumer – since tobacco is an inelastic good).

Jarislowsky’s thinking about living below your means and intelligently giving money away were both interesting. I loved his idea of purchasing university chairs and getting matching funds from the university and the government as the best “bang for your buck” with charitable giving. One of the things that has kept me away from charitable giving is that I really feel the only “value for money” is that I’d feel good about myself for giving (and the non-profit would promptly squander whatever I’d given them on administrative costs). I’ve been VERY unimpressed with everyone I’ve ever met who works in the non-profit sector, they’re definitely not the type of people I want to give money too (bloody socialists). Education, however, is something I passionately believe in. A friend is hoping to go to Africa and set up a school in a few years time, and that seems like something I could get behind (and would be more affordable then a $1M university chair which is a little out of my budget right now).

I’m reading (and enjoying) “The Intelligent Investor” right now. Investment Zoo was a FAR easier and faster read. If you’re looking for light PF reading, I’d recommend it.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous

Yeah, I’ve ordered a bunch of books from the system to be delivered to my local library too! Really great!!!

I’m *sure* there’s a way to request new books (my mother does it at our small town library all the time). If anyone figures out how to do it for the Toronto library system, please post a comment here!

2 Anonymous

Mike: In terms of book reviews, I think its probably a good exercise to “cement” what you’ve learned from the book. If someone can’t write up a few thoughts about the central ideas of the book and his own thoughts based on those, he probably hasn’t read thoughtful enough to retain much of what its saying.

3 Anonymous

Whenever someone posts a book review to Slashdot, some of the nimrods there start arguing about whether its actually a review or not.

My feeling is that whether you provide a synopsis of the book, paraphrase a few of the key concepts, or even just write about some of the ideas you had while you read the book its all good.

Maybe people will avoid my reviews too, oh-well :-).

4

Thanks for the review, I’ll check out that book.

I like doing book reviews (and love reading them) but I get the feeling that most of my readers probably ignore them. Oh well, their loss!

I just got a library card as well about a month ago – a rather amazing invention.
You can order any book you want in their system – not sure if you can request a book they don’t have. They will deliver it to your requested branch or put you on a waiting list. You can check the status of the request online and you’ll receive an automated phone call letting you know when the book is at your branch. I haven’t done it myself but my wife does it all the time.

Mike

5

Good point.

So far I’ve found book reviews to be quite difficult to put together, not sure why. I think if I really analyze a book, I might end up with a 5000 word post. If I just look at a few ideas in the book I feel like I’m not necessarily covering that well.

The last book I read/reviewed, I put stickies in the book during the reading which contained important points. I found that helped a lot when doing the review.

Mike

6

About Toronto Public Library: go to http://www.tpl.toronto.on.ca/, login with your card # and your password (usually the last 4 digits of you phone number) and go to My Account. You can put a hold on a book, to be delivered (when available) to a specified branch. Because for popular items there is usually a waiting list, you will get a phone call when the book is waiting for you on the shelf :) I’m not sure if you can “order” new books in the library, it would be really nice for the readers but expensive for the library.

7 John

For charitable giving, how about giving to the Toronto Public Library?

8 Mr. Cheap

John: That’s certainly a thought. I no longer live in Toronto, but giving to my local library might be something I could get behind.

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