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The 50 Best Investing Insights of 2015

behavioral-finance

If you're in search of holiday reading, these were 50 of my favorite posts from 2015.


With each passing year, the quality of investing-related content seems to increase (though there’s a lot of garbage out there as well). During the past year I came across too many great pieces to count. 

Below are 50 posts from 2015 that I especially enjoyed. Most of them are short and relatively straightforward. A few (such as #16) are a bit more complex. The common thread is that all made me a bit smarter, more thoughtful, or better informed (and a few had the added bonus of making me laugh).

This list is broken into eight sections; posts within each section are listed in alphabetical order, by author (or site) first name:

Psychology of Investing

These articles touched on a subject that fascinates me: the role of human emotions in the investing process.

  1. The First Barrier to Becoming Wealthy: The first in a series of excellent posts from Alan Steel on how the brain stands in the way of investing success (others in the series here and here).
  2. We Eat Dollar Weighted Returns: David Merkel (continuing a series) on information lumps, analyst ratings, and the returns that really matter.
  3. Focus on the Addition by the Elimination of Subtraction: Gary Carmell on Paul McCulley, future millennial millionaires, and not losing.
  4. Investment Wisdom May Increase With Age, Dance Skills Don’t: Meredith Jones on Ferris Bueller, surf camp, and truths to guide the investment process.
  5. The Truth About Investing: A post on Holy Grails, human error, and understanding feelings and emotions.
  6. Fooled By Randomness: Shane Parrish (reviewing Nassim Taleb’s book) on probability, fragility, and luck.

Portfolio Management

These articles offered specific thoughts on various aspects of portfolio management, from keeping cash in your portfolio to the outlook for emerging markets.

  1. Some investing lessons from Julius Caesar: Anthony Isola on Rome’s worst nightmares, true allies, and building a financial empire.
  2. Diversification Means Always Having To Say You’re Sorry: Brian Portnoy on modern portfolio theory, the science of regret, and “the investor’s paradox.”
  3. Cheap or expensive? The one thing about equity valuation that few talk about: Cam Hui’s thoughts on valuation, overvaluation, and the next bear market.
  4. Why Retirees Should Never Invest In Annuities: Charles Sizemore on LIFO, lump sums, and (really large) loads.
  5. Investing versus Flipping: Chris Brightman on emerging markets, rental property in Atlanta, and long-term returns.
  6. In Defense of Cash: Elliot Turner on robo-advisor wars and why Warren Buffett “thinks of cash differently than the conventional investors.”
  7. Mean Reversion & Asset Allocation: James Osborne (with the help of a great chart) on REITs, BRICs, and predicting what happens next.
  8. Why Emerging Markets Won’t Crash: Mark Dow on emerging markets’ Original Sin and overstating past parallels.
  9. How Safe Withdrawal Rates Work: A post on average returns, lazy portfolios, and planning for a long retirement.
  10. Market risk; model smash: Salil Mehta on orange stars, brown arrows, and patterns in market crashes.

Keeping Perspective

This group of articles serves as a reminder to not believe everything you hear, and keep a focus on the long term.

  1. Update: Predicting the Next Recession: Bill McBride’s update to a 2013 piece, touching on yellow journalism, stock market forecasts, and causes of the next recession.
  2. There Are no Holy Grails: Cullen Roche on gold, hedge funds, and sticking to your strategy.
  3. Looking for the best market parallel? Try the 40′s: Erik Swarts on Milton Friedman and the market once again making its own distinct path.
  4. The stock market is not the economy: Isaac Presley of Cordant Wealth on growth/return incongruence and the home country bias.
  5. Yesterday’s Stock Market Slide In Historical Context: James Picerno on digging bunkers, gum on New York sidewalks, and keeping the Dow in perspective.
  6. Fact-Checking William D. Cohan; Or, Paul Is Not Dead: Jeff Matthews on Dodd-Frank, Paul McCartney, and not believing everything you hear.

Comic Relief

These pieces were both insightful and hilarious.

  1. Things People Say During a Market Correction: Ben Carlson on barber shops, falling knives, and dealing with downturns (to complement his equally entertaining Things People Say During a Bull Market).
  2. and now, a brief rant about historic valuation: Josh Brown on horse dentists, Google, and historical context.

Avoiding Mistakes

These articles touched on some of the common mistakes many investors make, and how they might be avoided.

  1. Everybody Plays the Fool (Sometimes): Bob Searwight on Cuba Gooding, Sr., April Fools, and the ways many of us are foolish with our finances.
  2. The Worst Investment Strategy Ever: Michael Batnick on risk, loss, and waiting for clarity.
  3. The Overconfidence Gap: Michael James on coaching baseball, flipping coins, and keeping confidence in check.
  4. Simple Is Better: Roger Nusbaum on avoiding catastrophes, earnings peaks, and human factors in retirement planning.

Getting (Good) Financial Advice

The following articles give some excellent ideas for seeking out good, unbiased financial advice.

  1. The Perfect Financial Advisor: Jim Dahle on fiduciaries, the many roads to Dublin, and the financial advisors he recommends.
  2. The Unreliable Experts: getting in the way of outstanding performance: Jim O’Shaughnessy on H.L Mencken, the 1972 presidential campaign, and seeing the long term.
  3. The Characteristics of Good Financial Advice: Kris Venne on toothbrushes, Google searches, and finding good financial advice.
  4. Moving Beyond Sound-Bite Investing Wisdom: Mike Piper on diversification, costs, and asking the wrong questions.
  5. Confessions of a Jaded Hedge Fund Manager: Robin Powell (and Andrew Feinberg) on insider trading, active management, and money managers’ insecurity.
  6. Three Ways Advisors Hurt Their Clients: Sam Lee on kickbacks, pensions, and how advisors sometimes subtract value.

Quality of Life

These pieces made me stop and think about the way we spend our days and the trade-offs we always make.

  1. The remarkable life and lessons of the $8 million janitor: Barry Ritholtz on patience, taxes, and a remarkable road to becoming a millionaire.
  2. The Last Thing I Would Want to Do: Gunnar Peterson on miner’s helmets, Mac and Cheese, and quality of life.
  3. A Letter to My Unborn Grandchildren: Jason Zweig on simpler times, Roy Rogers, and investments in real estate.
  4. When Did You Know You Were Rich?: A short piece from Meb Faber about Buffett and a new pair of blue jeans at Christmas.
  5. Financial Advice for My New Son: Morgan Housel on fancy watches, being poor, and how much we spend.
  6. Ideal self vs. financial self: Tadas Viskanta on financial plans, the long term, and a life full of trade-offs.
  7. Slowing down: Long-term investing and lessons from a Stovetop coffee maker: A post from The Thought Factory on walking more, talking less, and bringing clarity to the investment process.

Random Bits

Finally, these articles weren’t easily categorized but offered up some great lessons and thought experiments.

  1. Measure Investment Success Like a Golfer: Brendan Mullooly on quadruple bogeys, the NBA playoffs, and the impact of negative numbers.
  2. Let’s Try this Market Metaphor: The always entertaining Eddy Elfenbein on a stock price committee, outliers, and fear premiums.
  3. It’s A New Information Age in Financial Markets: Jeff Carter on Eugene Fama, hog futures, and access to information.
  4. Big Raises And Lifestyle Creep – Why It’s Crucial To Establish Good Spending Habits Early: Michael Kitces on career trajectories, new cars, and financial planning for 50-year olds.
  5. What do we ‘know’ about investing – but can’t prove with stats?: Michael Santoli (with a bit of help) on acceptance of elitism, mom & pop investors, and 21-sigma events.
  6. Lessons from Market Extremes: Patrick O’Shaughnessy on glamour stocks, lottery tickets, and the case for value investing.
  7. 10 Non-Investing Quotes With Great Investing Lessons: Todd Wenning with words of wisdom from Ecclesiastes, Albert Einstein, and Roger Sterling.
  8. look in the fridge: Tom Brakke on asking the questions others don’t and evaluating asset managers.
  9. Top 10 most questionable Wall Street sayings: Peter Boockvar on David Letterman, buyers vs. sellers, and questioning conventional wisdom.

Have a post from 2015 that you particularly enjoyed? Please share in the comments below.

About the Author: Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston is senior analyst for Fund Reference, and also serves as COO of parent company Poseidon Financial. His investment expertise has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and USA Today, among other publications. He resides in Chicago.

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