December is rolling along, and we are edging ever closer to the Holiday. I am starting to talk to some folks who are in a dead panic about what to get from old Uncle Fred or Joe in the office for Christmas this year. I find it somewhat silly that we celebrate what was originally a pagan holiday to have one last party before the worst of winter set in has become the biggest shopping season of the year and pretty much keeps retail alive in the developed world. The Catholic Church adopted the winter celebration of Christmas to keep newly converted pagans in the fold. The December blowout was the chance to get in on the last party before winter, what with its hungry wolves, low food supplies and snowstorms bought a good chance that some of you would not be for the big Spring blowout and the pagans wisely refused to give up the good times.
Today wolves are pretty much banished to a few remote part of the country and what with grocery stores and furnaces Winter is nowhere near as life threatening as before. In spite of that, we still refuse to give up the party. Now, I hate winter as much, if not more than the next guy. Winter is one the big reasons I live in Florida. I love a good party, and we have a big one every Christmas Eve. However one of the smartest decisions we ever made was to stop the gift exchange between adults. We are very fortunate in that most of our family and circle of friends is doing pretty well in life and if we need or want something during the year, we buy it. This one decision took 90% of the stress out of the holidays. We ship for the kids, but kids are easy. Just ask them what they want. They will tell you. It takes a while but they can rattle off their whole list in a heartbeat. We enjoy the parties, the dinners, the lights and everything about the season but we skip the stress of pointless gift giving.
I am well aware that some people just cannot do that and will be running around looking for just the right gift for some relative or acquaintance they rarely even speak to so let me make a suggestion. Give books. You can find a book to fit just about any preference, hobby or interest.
For the investor in your life, you might consider the classics lie The Intelligent Investor, The Aggressive Conservative Investor, or James Montier’s Value Investing. If they have never read it, Victor Neiderhoffer’s Education of A Speculator changed the way I look at markets and life and is a fantastic read. I don’t trade short term like Victor does but the book is thought to provoke. I am currently reading The Class Clown about investors attempts to profit by changing our ineffective education system, and it is a great book. I recently finished The Big Rich about the large Texas oil fortunes, and unless you are willing to adapt a life plan of borrowing a ton of money and hoping to hit oil there are not any lessons here, but it sure was fun to read.
Any of the books by Tobias Carlisle are a solid choice for investors. So is the new book by his co-author on Quantitative value Wesley Gray. His new Quantitative Momentum is a solid choice. Letter to the Chairman tells the tale of several activist campaigns and is a fun, educational read. Howard Marks The Most Important Thing is a fantastic book on investing in a complicated world. Joe Carlans The Einstein of Money, a biography of Ben Graham, is another solid choice for the investor on your list.
For the high school senior or college student, I would suggest Louis l’Amours Education of a Wandering Man. He talks bout his lifelong love of reading and learning, and I found it inspirational. There is enough material about his days as a cowboy, hobo, prizefighter and merchant seaman to keep it interesting but he talks at great lengths about all the books he read along the way that he considered important. While you are it, give them the full set of L’Amours Sackett Series about the opening of the American West. If you spend a lot of time reading about honest, brave, determined, honorable adventurous people some of it just way rub off on you. It helps that they are great stories.
There are books about just about every imaginable topic. There are fiction genres that will amuse just about anyone. Bes of all you can jump on Amazon without ever looking for a parking spot, sitting in a traffic jam or having to talk yourself out of punching some rude guy who just stopped on your feet in the mall. I am a huge fan of taking as much stress out of life so buying books and having them delivered right to your door seems like an easy solution to Christmas shopping. Plus as Dr. Suess told us ““The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
What does that have to do with the markets? Not much but there are only so many times and ways to say keep most of what you have and resist the urge to buy any more. The current rally in stocks has pretty much removed any incentive to buy, and the fear of higher rates has not weighed on REITS or closed end bond funds enough to make them an intelligent purchase. Keep what you have and don’t do anything. Nothing. Read a book. Take the dog for a walk. Work on proving or disproving the Beal Conjecture. Just avoid the urge to jump into the market at current levels.
Have a great week
Sir back and enjoy watching the stock you own go
but resist the urge to buy any more just yet