I’d like to start with a confession I’ve wanted to make for a while. When I write a column, I intentionally leave out information. It’s not that I have a burning desire to lead you astray but rather I have a limited amount of space to convey my message.
I am not alone with this limitation as every columnist has similar restrictions. I wonder if you would really want to read a 5,000-word article on the intricacies of tax law changes. To spare you that task, I’d like to help you discover how to be a better consumer of financial information.
First, don’t rely on the first article you read (or the third if it’s a really important topic to you). Most articles cover the broad concepts but your situation may be different than the average reader’s so it may require several perspectives to find what’s relevant to you. Go ahead and start with a Google search to get a sense of what information is available. The “retirement planning” key word currently lists “about 346,000,000” results.
How do you refine the search since I wouldn’t even want to read 346 million results? If it’s a tax-related question, I’d focus on the date the source was posted since tax laws frequently change. Anything written more than a couple of years ago is suspect as to whether it’s still applicable or relevant.
My favorite articles are usually written by people who have also written a book on the topic. In fact, many times the article leads me to the author’s book to learn more. Since articles tend to be shorter, books provide depth and nuances often missing from articles on the topic.
What are some of my favorite books? For anyone contemplating retirement, I encourage them to read Mitch Anthony’s “The New Retirementality” (currently in its 5th edition). A great introduction to investing is “The Elements of Investing” by Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis who conveniently have also each written more thorough investing books for those wanting a deeper dive. Finally, if the concept of financial planning is too vague or seems overwhelming, start with Carl Richards’ “The One-Page Financial Plan”.
For those voracious readers out there, remember all information you consume is only as good as what you put into practice. You can drown yourself in articles and books but if it doesn’t move you closer to achieving your goals, what’s the point?