I resisted getting this book when it first came out. Much as I enjoy Ken Fisher as a writer, and appreciate the interaction that I have had with him over the years, the title turned me away. “Three questions? Only three? Investing is far more complex than that.” I would say that to myself.
After reviewing his most recent book, I said to myself, “Well, you’ve reviewed all of his books but one; you may as well do it.” So, I borrowed the book from a friend.
I wish I had read it sooner. The three questions are simple ones, and they have been mentioned elsewhere on the internet, so here they are:
- What do you believe that is actually false?
- What can you fathom that others find unfathomable?
- What the heck is my brain doing to blindside me now?
The idea is to get us to think more deeply. Test the received wisdom to see if it is really true. Look for unusual areas of competitive advantage that you have that are possessed by few. Your emotions will often lead you astray: look for opportunity amid fear; look for shelter amid wild abandon.
Competitive advantage in investing is an elusive thing. The clever idea that you might discover is just one journal article away from an academic toiling in obscurity, but will go to a hedge fund two years from now.
Patterns that work in one market should work in most markets. If your discovery seems to work in most places, it might work well, until it is discovered and used heavily.
I found a number of insights useful. Like me, he uses E/P relative to bond yields to try to estimate whether markets are rich or cheap. I also found his insights about how the yield curve affects style investing to be useful. I do something like that through my industry rotation.
Now, in the intermediate-run, most things that people are scared about don’t affect the market much. Government deficits seem to be a positive for stocks in the short run. Trade deficit? Little effect on stocks. Weak dollar? Little effect. This book debunks a number of common worries, though I would say that if the problem got significantly bigger, perhaps the result would be different.
Ken Fisher offers what I would deem to be good advice on Asset Allocation, and how to make sell decisions, amid many other issues. I enjoyed the book a lot, and would recommend it to my readers.
Occasionally, the book seems disjointed. Ken Fisher is covering a lot of ground, and he takes a decent number of “side trips” to explain concepts. The flip side of that is that the book covers many areas of the equity markets, and helps to explain what drives them.
Now, sometimes I wonder if multivariate approaches might reveal different conclusions than what Ken Fisher comes to.
Who would benefit from the book: Investors with moderate experience in investing who are finding the going harder than they expected. This book will help them take a step back, and think twice about investment decisions.
If you want to buy the book, you can buy it here: The Only Three Questions That Count: Investing by Knowing What Others Don’t (Fisher Investments Press)
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