This tour of the insides of a quant fund is well-structured, with an almost mathematical style. Terms are well defined. There is no fake razzle-dazzle, which I appreciate. It uses examples well, to show what the parts do (alpha, risk, transaction costs, and execution modules, and various tasks such as research and testing models), and how they have worked and failed in particular instances. It is not a book of specific "tips" or "strategies" to pursue going forward, for the manager or investor. It is introductory; obviously, there are further details and more specific tools and implementations one would need to learn to bolt together a state-of-the-art quant fund. After this, I could intelligently question a fund manager about most any aspects of the operations. The narrator's voice fits the material ideally. I will definitely listen through this one again.
I like the coverage of a few recent years month by month in the mind of a nimble-thinking fund manager, "thinking aloud." I could compare his real-time thoughts to the actual market and other events of the time, with the ability to benchmark him (alongside my own remembered thoughts and investment calls) against the way things actually turned out. His thinking is peppered with useful little phrases and concepts that doubtless will find their place in my thinking. Too many first-person books are so heavily edited after the fact that we miss the flawed, oh-so-humanly-imperfect (if well spoken) thinking process (of any person trying to guess the future) in all its glory. Mr Biggs was consistently very hedging in his thinking and remarks, and his commitments of funds, so there is no earth-shaking oracular proclamation or "killing" made here (as in the darts thrown at boards, and sheer noise-trading luck, a less tutored investor might wish to hear and be thrilled by). It is more the deliberations of a prudent man and fiduciary, concerned with intelligently balancing a portfolio of his own and other peoples' money in the face of uncertainties we can well remember. I don't feel so dumb after reading this (compared to whatever I may have held of an internal fake image of the world-beating fund manager). His was a wise voice and I regret his passing.
I am satisfied this author has had a good look at this law, as well as its surrounding players, history and influences. He makes a very accessible summary of all these things. I don't have to agree with every opinion, to acknowledge he has done interested persons a service. A person who followed the whole story systematically in the press, and did some good long thinking, might arrive at similar knowledge. But I am happy to pay Mr Skeel to do so much of the heavy lifting. Of course, the story is unfolding as I write this, not least in the substantial additional regulations under consideration.
I have business degrees from Wharton (BS) and Stanford (MBA), but like most Americans from middle class backgrounds, I never got much training in personal finance and always felt bewildered by it. I recently listed to The Total Money Makeover for the third time and it clicked. The first two times, I was still in school and had no income, so felt powerless to act on its lessons. Now, with a steady income (and some monstrous student loans) the lessons are relevant, actionable, and empowering.
Before, I always felt at a loss when it came to budgeting. After re-listening to The Total Money Makeover, I got a second savings account to hold my emergency fund and long-term savings, making it easier to separate between current accounts and short-term savings. Now, I have an Excel spreadsheet with a separate column for each upcoming pay check. I know how much of each paycheck will get immediately transferred into long-term savings (e.g. for a wedding in the fall), how much will go to short-term savings (e.g. for next month's rent), and how much disposable income I have in my current checking account.
Furthermore, I have a better plan for paying down my debts. If I were to approach this according to the pure net present value financial principles taught in school, I would start with my big student loan (highest interest rate), then my smaller student loan, then my car loan (lowest interest rate). After listening to Ramsey, I'm going to do it in the opposite order. Although that will cost me some in NPV, it means I can pay off my car loan in a few months (freeing up $250 per month in cash flow), and can pay off my smaller student loan in a few years. My larger student loan is the size and duration of a mortgage, and I'll treat it like it's one. If I tried to pay it off first, I wouldn't see any impact on my cash flow for probably 14 years, making it discouraging to try to find extra dollars to put towards paying down debt. Trying this the Ramsey way, I already feel like I'm making progress and am motivated to do more.
Dave Ramsey is an inspiring speaker. Although his message may come across as simple, in my opinion it does a far better job taking into account human nature than any of the sophisticated financial and economic models I spent so much money learning. I can't recommend this book enough.