Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Resources for personal finance and investing

I reader asked me about what resources I use to help with my finances. The short answer is a lot. In fact I spend far too much time surfing the internet and doing finance related reading when I could be doing more productive things. In any case, here is a list of my most frequent reads (or, if not read frequently, the ones I consider to be the most useful):

General personal finance - forums and aggregators

PFblogs. This site aggregates a very large number of personal finance and investment blogs. I tend to visit almost daily.

Bogleheads. This is for those who follow the John Bogle philosophy of keeping costs to a minimum and investing in a mix of low cost index funds with periodic rebalancing. I'd subscribe to this approach if I could access such funds from Hong Kong. Even with limited access to such products, this is still worth an almost daily visit.

Early Retirement. A forum for people who have or wish to retire early. Excellent reading for both motivational and more practical purposes. The retirement calculator is an excellent tool.

The only issues I have with these are (i) there is a lot of stuff which is of limited interest to me and (ii) they are (understandably) very US centric. All three sites are worth visiting often, but I frequently find myself spending too much time there.

A word of caution - while there are a lot of great blogs and other websites out there, there is also a lot of material which is either wrong or dangerous.

General personal finance - blogs

Millionaire Mommy Next Door. Written by Jen Smith, a self made millionaire who retired very early in spite of starting on a low income. Ms Smith's story and her postings cover many important personal finance issues in a clear no-nonsense style.

7Million7Years. Written by entrepreneur Adrian Cartwood, who went from having a negative net worth to more than seven million in the bank in the space of seven years. Very different from a lot of other writers, the author provides a very refreshing and welcome approach to achieving financial independence.

The Simple Dollar. If I had to pick one blog to recommend to people who were just beginning to manage their finances, this would be the one. Although I have outgrown a lot of the postings, it is worth visiting for the book reviews alone.

These are my three favourites. There are some other regular reads listed in my sidebar.

Hong Kong real estate

Centanet. I primarily use this for looking at transaction records when buying or negotiating lease terms

HSBC property valuation tool. A number of banks have these on-line valuation services. They tend to be conservative, but will generally give a good benchmark for calculating the maximum amount which a bank will lend against the property. I also use this for keeping track of the value of the portfolio

SCMP Property Post. A bit limited but it gives me an idea about what is going on in the market

Walking around and visiting show flats for new buildings. Having purchased from a Hong Kong property developer once, I have no intention of ever repeating the experience. The main point of these visits is to remind myself that the secondary market represents better value (and to get decorating ideas).

Taking the time to look at properties every few months. There is no better way to know the market than to get out there and look around.

Talking to investors (professional and private). Usually a worthwhile exercise (and generally more interesting than most of the other conversations that come up).

There are much better Chinese language sources - unfortunately, I do not read Chinese

Hong Kong stocks

Bloomberg. Although I do not have access to a Bloomberg terminal, I can get some of the feeds on a delayed basis through my bank. This is a good source of leads for stock research.

Reports provided by contacts at brokers and private banks. I view broker reports with a high degree of suspicion. Again, they are a useful source of leads for further research.

HKEX. This enables me to read recent announcements, annual and interim reports etc for all HK listed companies. Other stock exchanges provide similar services.

Finet. A HK financial portal. There is a reasonable amount of useful information on this site.

I tend to avoid talking to people about stocks or frequenting stock chat forums - it's too easy to get caught up in the herd and too much time is wasted reading rubbish.


Ten favourites are listed here .

Books on economic history. The more I read about this subject the more comfortable I am with my handling of my finances - probably a bad sign.

Newspapers and magazines

The Economist. The best magazine for global financial and economic commentary. We subscribe to this.

The Financial Times. It's a UK paper and I am neither from the UK nor do I have any substantive investments there. However, it rivals the economist as one of the best sources of commentary on global financial and economic issues. We recently decided to subscribe when access to a free copy got cut.

SCMP. Hong Kong's leading newspaper. SCMP contains good coverage of financial issues with (as you would expect), a focus on Hong Kong and greater China.


Fuller Money. Although predominantly chart focused, there is a huge amount of very useful material - enough to justify a subscription. Even if you do not want to subscribe, the free abbreviated comment of the day makes interesting reading.

Merrill Lynch Cap Gemini World Wealth Report. This report comes out once a year. Leaving aside the voyeuristic statistical data, the high level insights into how the wealthy manage their money makes this mandatory annual reading for me.

Barclays Wealth. The Insight reports make very good reading.

People - the most important category

My parents - who taught me that money does not grow on trees and exposed me to the financial world at an early age.

My long suffering wife - who shares many of my values and puts the breaks on some of my more reckless ideas.

A wide group of friends, colleagues and mentors who provide both ideas and informal brain storming sessions.

The people component has been the most incredibly valuable resource in my financial journey. I seriously doubt if I would be as close to achieving financial independence without them.

Other suggestions welcome.

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