A Fool and His Money – a Book Review and a Challenge

In 1988, John Rothchild penned what might be the only legitimately funny finance book ever written: A Fool and His Money.

I’ve easily read more than 300 finance books, and despite enjoying many of them, none of them made me laugh.

Until I read this one.

The author went on an odyssey to invest his own money.  Speaking to investment professionals (and detailing the hilariousness of those conversations) he put his own money on the line in the name of self-sacrificing journalism.

He ventured out to interview brokers and investment advisors.  And he gave many of them his own money to invest.

The stories he tells—especially if you read them slowly, and carefully—will have you laughing out loud:

“I happened to see an article about psychics and astrologers who give investment advice….  Mostly out of curiosity, I decided to contact at least one psychic…I had called Ms. Jayson-Koerber, intending to set up an appointment, but something about our conversation made me change my mind.  It may have been the dogs barking in the background, or it may have been her telling me that she was terrific at finding bodies for police departments.”

That might sound like a stretch, to call on a psychic for investment advice, but most of the book’s funniest parts dealt with advice from real brokers and advisors.

Rothchild is a great writer.  And his book should be savoured for the literary masterpiece it is.  He pokes fun at the industry, but remains in character: showing the careful reader how ridiculous it all is, while maintaining an honest open-mindedness (some would say purposeful naiveté) which makes it even funnier.

How about a sequel?

At some point, I think somebody should try the same thing with their own personal money and write a sequel.   Interview advisors, write about what they say, select a handful of advisors to handle $10,000 of your own hard-earned money, and write about the feedback they give you when you ask for a quarterly report on your investments, and on the economy in general.

These could be the rules:

1.  At the possible expense of alienating a friend, you’d have to pick an advisor/broker that somebody recommended.

2.  You’d have to put your own money on the line

3.  You’d need to keep it going for at least eight years, while tracking results with a benchmark of stock and bond index funds

4.  And you’d have to pick one of those astrologer advisors that Rothchild himself wouldn’t dare.  (You might not know it, but you do know someone who’s into this kind of thing—source them out and fulfil criteria #1 and #4)

Then write your book.

I’d buy a copy.

Anyone interested in writing it?

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Mich @BTI says:

    Andrew, I haven't read the book and will surely consider it for 2011. However, I can't help but notice that John visited all the "bad neighborhoods" interacting with every person who had an interest in grabbing a share of his money. It's like a child walking into a pedophiles' convention, what do you think the most likely outcome will be?

    We need books like that out there because of all the gullible people who get "Served" by the financial professionals out there…"abused" would be a more suited term….

  2. 101 Centavos says:

    Andrew / it's a great idea, but regretfully I don't have $10,000 to spare. I have entertained the idea though of visiting the local Edward Jones guy, and seeing what the average Joe Schmo retail investor gets served in the way of financial advice.

    @ Mich —- a child at a pedophiles convention? Where are the parents?!!

  3. Hey Mich,

    I just picked the juicy part that made me laugh. But it would be a fun idea if somebody tried this experiment, wouldn't it?

    Hey 101 Centavos,

    You could always raise the money in the name of research. I'd buy your book. That would give you at least a $1 profit on royalties, and Mich would buy a copy too, right Mich?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.