Executive Summary: My preferred sources of weekly information flow, I use to take care of my 21 principal asset pillars; and some pointers on how to set up your own.
NB: if you are a day trader, none of this is relevant.
NB2: if you are looking for basic information on investment psychology, mindset and methodology check out my Required Reading.
NB3: nothing in this post works as instructions for creating or maintaining detailed sell side level financial accounts research. Here, however is a primer I made some time ago.
First, decide why you want to inform yourself
- Exactly what is your purpose? Better investments? More fun? Both? Aim for a balanced diet, including some fun – but keep work and play somewhat separate.
Second, decide how to stay up to date:
- Have it your way. Make sure you find your own favorites, you’ll need have a strong internal motivation to keep at it
- Be pragmatic. Choose what actually works, rather than try to appear clever.
- Don’t aim to digest it all (but do create a framework that automatically puts you in study mode a certain amount of time every week). I always aim low.
Why do you read?
Don’t waste your time studying without a defined purpose; choose your sites and shows carefully and strategically from a clearly defined utility perspective.
Ask yourself how you expect your life to improve by absorbing certain information. To perform better and be promoted at work, to be a better salesman, better trader, better investor, appear clever, witty… Is it money, status, fame, girls or something else that drives you?
Don’t mix reading for fun and for pleasure too much, lest you risk confusing when and why you spend time on a certain activity.
The reason I personally choose to stay up to date is to be ready to act when and if the authorities make something truly deranged. In addition, I want to learn new things just for the sake of exercising my brain (staying healthy). I also want to be entertained in thoughtful and inspiring ways.
My focus, regarding financial and economic information, is mainly on downside risk factors, since I don’t really need an upside to sustain my lifestyle. Your choice of sources should reflect your particular situation in terms of wealth, lifestyle and available time.
For comparison, my current asset portfolio consists more or less of the following 21 items:
A short stock index position, unlisted Canadian gold assets, a Swedish biotech start-up, a gaming platform company, an algae w-3 oil company, a nuclear facilities consultancy, a place to live, lent out money to several friends and business associates, several unlisted investments (a credit rating company, clothes and jewellery, HR software; and 5 other small start-ups in insect protein, venture capital, algorithmic investing, the sharing economy, my blog & podcast assets in my own nano-scale company), a book publisher that I and my partner are winding down, cash, various pension funds (mostly multi strategy hedge funds), some Russian art and a, possibly defaulted (update: about to be acquired for scrap value), convertible loan to a medtech company.
I have no income and no loans.
No, there is no room for 22 pillars
Update, November 8, 2016: I’m investing in another start-up. The new Pillar 21, replacing the medtech co. It’s secret for now, but all will be revealed in due time (within a year)
Deciding on what to read
Don’t let availability bias and technology get the best of you.
Control your time and information intake by going off-line, by frequent periods of deep work, by only using a limited number of information and social media apps (well-filtered to avoid irrelevant noise such as cute animal videos and beautiful pictures), by leaving your phone at home.
Systematically go through recommended and popular information sources every year, and assess whether to add them to your flow of information, and whether to discard some of your old sources at the same time.
Avoid keeping sources in the loop if you don’t actively use them. Just keeping them there takes mental energy and can cause a bad conscience. However, don’t be afraid to build a repository of non-urgent material to read or listen to when stuck on, e.g., a long haul flight.
Pay attention to your keystone habits and the general shape they render to your days and weeks, and make sure they create room and impetus for reviewing the information you have set out to digest.
Do What Works
If not, it will all just pile up as so much bad conscience which would amount to a net negative.
Don’t go there.
Nobody will reward you for the amount of information you process, and definitely not for the amount you just let pile up. The only judge is yourself (and your wallet). Do what works and no more than that.
Inspiration – what I’m reading
I start every week (Sunday night or Monday morning) with Hussman’s Weekly Market Comment. Dr John P. Hussman combines a beautiful financial prose with deep insights about macro economy and stock market behavior. Be prepared to read at least a dozen of his most recent newsletters before you start to fully understand what he is saying. Also, keep in mind that he is playing a long game; look elsewhere if you think 5 years = long-term.
This week, Hussman noted that the technical support for the market is dropping away:
“Last week, on the most reliable measures we identify, that floor quietly dropped away.”
He also commented on the irrelevance of the US Federal Reserve:
“Whatever policy error the Fed might make by raising, or not raising, interest rates here pales in comparison to what activist Fed policy has already baked in the cake.”
…and managed to squeeze in some useful teachings about the Phillips curve (emphasis mine):
“See, Phillips studied a century of British wage data during a period when the U.K. was on the gold standard, when general prices were quite stable. So the wage inflation that Phillips observed during periods of low unemployment was actually real wage inflation.”
I make sure to listen to Erik Townsend’s podcast MacroVoices every week. It features Erik’s own up to date thoughts on stocks, gold, oil, interest rates and other useful investment stuff, but the main event every week is an interview with a prominent financial or economic thinker.
The latest MV interview was a great one with Raoul Pal about Brexit contagion, the USD, the business cycle, gold and much more.
In addition, every week MacroVoices presents a RealVision encore; a replay of a previous interview made on RealVision TV. The most recent encore was a conversation, recorded April 4, 2016, between Grant Williams and Michael Schneider.
Wait, there is more; register and get the MacroVoices weekly research roundup letter, with tons of free research every week.
This really sucks, but as much as I hate to say it, Goldman’s podcast is actually interesting and somewhat useful; by the vampire squid and Most Imperial Company in the world. Get ready to tune in every second week for a little less than half an hour.
You can call me a permabear all you want, but ZeroHedge is the most up to date, readable and entertaining financial site there is.
If it’s news, it’s at ZeroHedge – always with their own unique spin on the matter.
Don’t try to read it all, there is just too much material, but click ZH whenever you want a quick, insightful comment on an event you don’t quite grasp. Just make sure you understand ZH mostly provides the downside persepective to everything, as a counterweight to the rest of the media landscape’s pollyannaish spin
In addition to visiting the site every now and then, I subscribe to the “ZeroHedge Frontrunning” daily newsletter to get a quick feel for what’s currently going on (down) every morning
Every quarter, Howard Marks sends out an important memo with musings about the economy and the financial markets. I read it as soon as it appears in the inbox. The most recent one, “Political Reality” was posted on August 17, 2016.
Various blogs, pods and newsletters
The Felder Report (short, easy to read market thoughts by the hedge fund manager Jesse Felder)
Chris Bailey (lots of charts on stocks and the economy from a long time fund manager and strategist)
HORAN (more charts, including the recent Dogs Of Dow September 9, 2016 update below)
Cornucopia (Swedish site with deep and interesting insights about [Swedish] housing and the economy, and way too much information about the military. Check in and browse a few days’ worth of posts to find what you’re looking for at the moment)
Mauldin (newsletters: Thoughts from the frontline, and Outside the box – but to be fair, I rarely read these anymore, even if I usually think they are interesting when I do)
Barry Ritholtz (very frequent newsletter – I seldom read it or visit his site, Big Picture. It’s still good stuff though, if you have the time)
The Economist (more or less personalized newsletters with less biased and superficial news than from most sources, except 60 minutes)
Financial Times (Newsletters: Breaking News, Essential Daily Briefing, and The latest Companies by Sector news and analysis, FT Exclusive)
The New York Times (Today’s Headlines newsletter)
Börspodden (Swedish podcast about investing)
Technology (futuristic developments in energy, materials, nanotech, AI etc.):
Abundance Insider (newsletter)
KurzweilAI.net (Daily Newsletter)
Singularity Hub (newsletters: daily, weekly)
Fun and hobbies:
Wall Street Playboys (no-nonsense advice on financial careers and income)
The RSA (Educational YouTube channel)
Minute Earth (Educational YT channel)
Start Gaining Momentum (self improvement site by Ludvig Sunström)
Disclaimer- there is much more
My full list of people, newsletters and sites that I have bookmarked is of course much, much longer. I’ll just might publish it in a comprehensive format later.
Bonus: The best book discovery list I’ve ever come across; by Tren Griffin (check out his site here, including his 12 ideas from Howard Marks’ “The Most Important Thing” – one of the best investment mindset books there is)
Bonus 2: My own list of recommendations isn’t all bad either. A tip: take notes when reading a book, review the notes periodically, and re-read the best books every few years.
Summary and conclusions
Schedule your daily and weekly habits with room and impetus for focused reading or listening
Clearly define and state your purpose of learning
Decide how and through which information sources to achieve that purpose
Aim for depth and pragmatism, rather than quantity or showing off
Update the list of sources every now and then, keep it manageable
If you are into investing, you have to read the books by Schiff, Marks and Klarman, which you can find here, before setting up your framework of daily information flow. After that I suggest Hussman and Macro Voices.
And, last, never, ever take recommendations on investments from anybody. Never. Ever. See for yourself, do your own work. Genji Gambashi