I don't know about you, but most of the retirees have only one requirement for their investments: Make some money and try not to lose any... Come to think of it, I think many of us now have that same investing mindset. Most investment managers -- particularly, mutual fund managers who judge their performance against an arbitrary benchmark -- are subject to the whims of the market. Sure, they'd like to limit losses but if they're an emerging market find manager and the BRICs get slammed, the fund is going to get slammed. For do-it-yourself investors who practice buy-and-hold, the theory is that by manning the hatches during poor investment periods and holding tight, returns will be better than if we attempted to buy and sell our way through the investing storm. That may be true but the trip is really nauseating, as we ride the ups and downs of the market. This year's best book on retirement planning plots a different course.
Investment philosophyLee Hull is an investment advisor in Texas and has been investing retirement money for years. And he's put together a very impressive performance record (averaged 8+% net of inflation from 1990-2010) . By the way, you can learn more about the process in my interview with the author of Less Risk, More Return, Lee Hull. Over the years, Hull observed that his clients, many approaching or actually in retirement, all wanted steady gains and very little losses. See, whether we admit it or not, many of us are satisfied giving up big gains in return for slow, steady -- and somewhat predictable -- gains.
The best retirement book of 2011Less Risk, More Return is a book about protecting our capital and picking our spots for limited gains. Instead of swinging for the investment return fences, Hull's book is about patiently waiting for your pitch until you get a good one.
A little on the techniqueHull's investment techniques center around what's called mean reversion -- a strategy based upon behavioral psychology. Investors are a finicky bunch and tend to oversell stocks when bad news hits. Hull scans the market for investment candidates that have been thrown to the mat, buys them and holds them for short periods of time. As they bounce back a bit ("reverting to the mean"), he unloads 'em. That's it, anyway, in really broad strokes. The real art of it is that it means that investor money typically sits around in cash until high probability opportunities arise. Hull does a really good job describing his strategy in the book.
Why I liked the book
- Not run-of-the-mill advice. I like that. It doesn't mean his advice is any better, per se, but I typically like analysts/researchers/entrepreneurs who think outside the box.
- High bar for advisors: Hull writes bluntly that if your advisor can't perform better than the index funds he's investing in, you shouldn't bother to pay his fees. Sheesh, y'all.
- Professional strategy for individuals: We're seeing a new era of access to professional money management strategies for individual investors. This is like a hedge fund without the hedge.
- Retirement goals first: Hull's book -- well, his whole investment strategy -- began with an end goal in mind (make money and don't lose). He then fashioned a strategy to get there. That's the inverse of how many fund managers approach their trade.