A neophyte investor shares his experiences and insights as he learns to navigate the world of financial investment by using a fantasy portfolio.
Slauter lays the groundwork for his investment “diary” in his book’s first section, “The Set Up,” a vivid, engaging account of the emotional and financial effects of his aging parents’ decline and his father’s death. During this time, the author says, he first realized just how expensive getting older could be, so he became determined to take responsibility for his mother’s security by finding out as much as he could about investing. He came up with a fail-safe way to learn without losing—he set up a fantasy investment plan, followed it for a year, and compared it with his mother’s existing investments. His next steps were to keep careful records and share his results with other would-be investors. In 14 subsequent chapters, the author details his fantasy stock portfolio and offers a month-by-month accounting of their activity, including spreadsheet charts of gains and losses. Each chapter ends with a “Lessons Learned” section; at other points, he includes definitions of important terms, among other useful notes. Slauter’s book is packed with information, and he’s clearly a methodical problem-solver with the patience, energy, and skills to do the extensive research needed to develop an investment portfolio. Unfortunately, the promise of the first, compelling chapter isn’t realized in the rest of the book. Readers who don’t share Slauter’s attention to detail may find it hard to stick with his meticulous approach—and perhaps such readers aren’t temperamentally suited to managing their own stocks. Still, the author does a good job of conveying the frustrations of dealing with bureaucratic institutions and email scammers, and he points out repeatedly that investing is hard, confusing, and emotional. Debut illustrator Fuchs’ color images are well-drawn and often appealing. However, some of their captions, such as “You know you’re a novice investor when…you think DOW is a kind of boat,” fall a little flat, and the only investor they depict is white and male.
A concrete and practical, if sometimes-repetitive, guide to the stock market for the beginner.