Book Review: The little book of common sense investing

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The little book of common sense investing book cover

Since I started to pay closer attention to my finance, I’ve read a few books about investing and finance. I’m going to review them on this blog.

The first book I have read is “The little book of Common Sense investing”, by John C. Bogle. It is coming from the founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group. A lot of people in the bogleheads community are recommending this book, so I decided to give it a try.

The book

The idea of the book is simple: You should only invest in low-cost, no-load, mutual funds that replicate the entire market (index funds) and you should buy-and-hold these funds for as long as you don’t need the underlying money (no market timing). Most of the chapters are  showing, using strong facts, that most active funds cannot beat the market. Therefore, index funds are better for indexing, since over a long time, your returns will the same as those of the market. Moreover, the costs of passive index funds are generally significantly lower than active funds. The costs of the funds is actually one of the few things you have control over, therefore you should always minimize them.

The author advice mutual funds over than Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). However, the author states that ETFs are a good alternative as long-term as long as you don’t trade them but buy them and hold them.

What I liked

This is a good book, with sound basis. Everything is well supported by evidence with graph and plots. Moreover, this book is quite well written. The style is simple and easy to read. The organization of the book is also quite good.

Plus, I completely agree with the message of the book. Index investing is key. And this is well supported over the entire book. Since we can’t beat the market, we should prefer funds with low-cost. This also makes a lot of sense.

What I didn’t like

As with almost everything, this book is not perfect. The main flaw of this book for me is that it insists upon itself. Almost every chapter is simply showing that index investing beats active investing. If you are convinced after two chapters, the next seven or height chapters will be pretty boring. Yes, the message is great, but this could have been much shorter.

Another thing that is lacking in this book is the lack of actual practical advice. It should go into more details on how much bond you should have. Or how much you should allocate to international stocks. Finally, it is very focused on the United States. Several things won’t be applicable to foreigners.

Summary

Let’s review the main points of the book:

  • Prefer passive index funds rather than active funds
  • Use index funds that replicate the entire stock market or the entire bond portfolio
  • Choose the funds with the lowest costs (no-load, low TER)
  • Buy and hold for long-term
  • Don’t time the market
  • You can use ETFs but not trade them (buy-and-hold)
  • Minimize taxes

Overall, it’s a good book. If you already think that passive index funds are better than active funds or stock selection, then, you probably won’t learn anything new in this book. If you prefer active funds or prefer to hold individual stocks, you should probably read this book to get a different point of view. On the other hand, it lacks in practical advice on exactly how to perform this strategy. By the end of the book, you’ll know that you should use index investing. However, you won’t know how. But there are other books that are more practical.

If you are interested, you can buy it on Amazon: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits)

If you already read that book, I’d be glad to hear your point of view. Also, if you have more recommendations for books 🙂

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