With time on their side, young investors can more easily withstand the ups and downs that come with investing. And with some education to help them invest wisely, they can have a better chance of seeing their retirement savings grow than by just relying on extra time. Whether you are a college student who wants to dive into this world or you're simply curious and want to learn more, reading a book on investing is the best place to start.
There are many common mistakes beginners can make when they begin to invest that are easy to avoid with a little research.
Here are five of the best investing books that are more than worth their price:
1. The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias ($15.95)
Tobias’s book has been regularly updated since it was first published in 1978. Don’t let its age fool you — it covers a wide range of important topics with a good sense of humor.
The book isn’t for people who want to get rich, but for those who want long-term success.
Investing books can help millennials and others learn how to become smart investors.
As Barnes & Noble's review put it, “Some of Tobias's recommendations will sound familiar and comfortable — pay off your credit cards on time, conserve energy, do research online before you buy, save money whenever you can — while others, like his belief that you should trust no one when it comes to your money, come across as somewhat more hard-nosed; however, they are all worth reading about and, more important, putting into practice.”
2. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America ($32)
First published in 1997, Warren Buffet’s book is another oldie full of reliable advice. If you’re going to be a long-term investor, Buffett is the best person to learn from.
One of the most successful investors in modern history, Buffett gives new investors a peek into how a company can increase its value and how management can interact with shareholders.
He details how his company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., shares the interests of its shareholders, and how he buys shares of businesses that are trading at a discount from their inherent value. Buffett is the ultimate buy-and-hold investor, and he’s worth studying for his long-term strategy.
3. Investing for Dummies by Eric Tyson ($23)
Part of the “Dummies” series, this book is in its seventh edition. If you’ve ever read any of the “Dummies” books, then you already know how easy they are to read. This book really breaks down the basics of investing for beginners.
This book is meant as a primer on all aspects of investing, from managing a portfolio to investing in individual stocks, opening a small business, and understanding the tax implications of your investing decisions.
The book makes it easy to skip parts that you already know well, and to jump to areas you want to read more about. Don’t eliminate it just because of the simple title. It has more heft to it than you might think.
4. A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel ($19.95)
This is another classic that was first published in 1973. More than 1.3 million copies have been sold since it was first published.
It’s a how-to guide to building a balanced, diversified portfolio, mostly with low-cost index funds. Malkiel makes the case that stock prices are difficult to predict just by looking at past moves or at a company’s balance sheets. If people could use such information to predict how a stock will perform, he argues, then other investors would have already done it, and the price would reflect that.
Random Walk also explains how investors shouldn't accept high fees from a mutual fund manager. If markets are largely efficient, then managers shouldn’t be able to beat the market consistently; and their fees don’t make sense because they don’t beat low-cost index funds. And that’s where Malkiel recommends investing: index funds that anyone can do reasonably well in, since it’s so hard to get an edge in trading.
He does warn, however, that the markets may not always be efficient, and that his recommendations shouldn’t cause you to forget risky conditions. From the Dutch tulip craze to tech and real estate booms, there are plenty of examples of how markets can be irrational and speculative.
5. The Dhandho Investor by Mohnish Pabrai ($34.95)
The Dhandho Investor is a break from the investing jargon that pops up in some of the aforementioned books. (Though those books are still easy to read.)
Pabrai gives a contemporary look at value investing in plain English through the experience of the Patels — a group of ethnic Indians who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s after Uganda’s dictator Idi Amin pushed them out of the country.
The Patels came to America with little capital and not much formal education. But they built a hotel empire, and today, they own around a quarter of the roadside motels in the U.S.
They have a “coin toss” rule of thumb that leads to investing when risk is low and the upside is high:
Heads, I win.
Tails, I don’t lose much.
The book will train you to think like a contrarian as a value investor who invests in undervalued stocks.
And if you can’t find the time to read any of these books aimed at new investors, then read the famous three-by-five index card by UC Chicago social scientist Harold Pollack. It lists just about all the financial advice you’ll ever need, and it’s a lot cheaper and easier than many books.