Saturday, January 01, 2011

Book Review: Debunkery

Having read and enjoyed Ken Fisher's "The only three questions that count", I picked up his latest offering "Debunkery" as something of an impulse buy to read on a long haul business trip I took in mid-December.

Fisher examines 50 of "Wall Street's Money Killing Myths" and rejects most or all of them either in whole or in part. A short chapter is devoted to each of the myths, explaining what each myth is, why people may believe it and why it is not correct (or, in a few cases, only partially correct). Devoting a short chapter (typically only about three pages) to each myth, combined with Fisher's (and co-author Lara Hoffmans') easy writing style made for easy reading and ready understanding.

That said, I didn't really get that much out of the book because:

1. I seriously doubt whether there are many people who actually believe some of the myths presented. As an example, is there anyone who expects to to achieve average returns (or anything close) in any given year? I hope not;

2. many of the myths have been well and truly debunked by a number of people or simply don't stand up to even the most basic scrutiny. Sell in May and go away? I can recall that one being rejected by brokers' reports in the 1980s. Low PEs mean low risk? Really? Again, the persistence and lack of resolution of the value v growth debate should be enough to contradict that myth. And so on.

Actually, there were only a few myths that I had not seen previously rejected. There were also a few that I hadn't heard of before.

In conclusion, while I personally didn't get that much out of the book, I still enjoyed reading it as a well written a succinct reminder that one should not accept anything passed off as common wisdom without careful examination. For relatively inexperienced investors, it would be a more valuable read.

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