How to Praise the Right Way?

To share our sincere praise to someone is the best way to make them like us and listen and adhere to our requests. But delivering the praise has multiple aspects to it, that we are not normally taught. While it is of no need to mention a list of benefits of praising someone, delivering it incorrectly, can backfire badly. So let us look at various aspect of delivering praise.

How to Praise?

Praise Sincerely:

Like a fake smile, a fake praise is often easily deciphered by the person who it is addressed to. Even if it works in the short term and you derive benefits, in the long term, you are bound to be caught someday and it may really badly backfire.

Be Specific:

Some people are not very used to being praised and often get defensive when we praise.

Generic Praise: “Hey, Looking good !!”
Defender: “It’s nothing. I didn’t even get a hairdo. I look horrible”

Although it is really the ‘defender’s lack of confidence or fishing for more praise is the real problem here. We may be able to avoid it by being specific and personal about the praise.

Specific Praise: “You are looking great in this dress. The colour compliments your skin and makes you face glow

Disclaimer: This compliment is very contextual and personal. Please be sure the person and occasion of complimenting is appropriate.

Praise Effort over Results:

The contrast in the approach is most vivid while we praise children.

Praising Result: “You did the math homework all by yourself. You are really a smart kid.”

What the child thinks: “To be considered smart, I must do the work without seeking any help from anyone.” and as a result unintentionally jeopardizes his/her learning.

Yes!! You got it !!

Appreciating Effort: “I like it that you have put the work to understand your math concepts well. If you have any questions on the homework I’d be happy to review it with you. ”  If the child did not really had to put in a lot of work to get it done, you may even say “If the homework was too easy for you and you are not learning anything new by working on it, please let me know, I can give you a few more. I know that you love a good challenge.”

The statement emphasizes on the fact that focus here is on learning and getting better rather than outdoing anyone.

When to Praise

Praise ASAP:

Praise must be delivered instantly or at least in the next available opportunity. A delay in giving a deserved praise, may often make the other person feel isolated and not appreciated.

For Eg: “I loved the points in your presentation today. Your research was thorough and deliberate. The client definitely seemed impressed. And so were we. Good Job.”

Most often when we put it off, we either forget or the incident is long over by the time you do remember.

How Not to Praise:

Sarcasm:

“Finally one finished homework/report in time. Great Job”

Any sarcastic praises injure your long term credibility with the person. This is applicable universally except probably in Britain, where sarcasm seems to be their second language.

British and Sarcasm

Lowering standards:

“Oh, you took bath and got ready in time. Wonderful Job boy. You are such a sweetheart”

what the boy thinks: “Why is mom making it a big deal as if I never take bath !!”

What you can try instead: An Acknowledgement.

“Thank you for getting ready in time Son.  It makes mamma’s day so much easier”

For simple everyday things, acknowledge the effort made by your child, rather than going overboard. This applies to your work as well as, “Thank you for sending the payment by the due date.” etc

Inappropriate Praise:

If a manager compliments a subordinate on his/her looks rather than on his/her work, it can be deemed inappropriate. If you are in a position of power it may be even be considered as harassment. So make your praises contextual and appropriate.

Conditional Praise:

Women get this a lot. “For a women, you are very bold”

“Considering where you come from, you are very brainy”

You probably totally meant that as a compliment. But I promise you that no one in their right senses is going to take it that way. The insult in the ‘where you come from (which could be a reference to race, sex, ethnicity , geographical area) significantly over powers the compliment. So last time you tried to compliment someone and they walked away huffing and puffing, this is probably what you did.

Don’t mix it with criticism:

If your real intention to praise is only to follow it up with a criticism. This method is called the sandwich feedback and is effectively used in certain places. However, using praise to lower the blow of criticism often backfires in  many ways. The feedback received is often not effectively delivered due to the confused messaging.

Bad Example Eg: “You are a very sincere hard working person. But you have been coming late to work lately and I may have to issue a memo if this continues

Try Instead, Eg: “I notice that you have lately been having difficulties in your in time. Is there anything you want to tell me…”

Praise when you have to praise. Provide feedback when you have to do so. Try not to mix both.

Don’t make it about yourself:

“Your presentation was so good. So confident. If I had to present in front of so many people, I’d have been sweating and shivering. Last time when I had to present my report…”

This moment is not about you.  So don’t make it about yourself. Try Instead,

“I loved the way you presented confidently. I have loads to learn from you”

Conclusion:

A good praise can further a relationship and bring many desired results if done right. You can start practicing by leaving me a comment or response 🙂

Book Summary: Mindset – Carol Dweck

 

Title: Mindset, the new psychology of success
Author: Carol Dweck
Publisher: Random House
ISBN-10: 1400062756
ISBN-13: 978-1400062751
Buy from: Amazon.in | Amazon.com

This book has been the most embarrassing book for me to read ever, for it showed me the mirror. In effect it was deeply revealing, it gave me a perspective into how I had been looking at several things. Dr. Carol Dweck’s research has been the most revealing and explained many of my bizarre moments of life.

Personality Mindsets: Fixed Vs Growth

People with fixed mindsets believe that abilities are frozen in stone. Most of their efforts are spent in trying to prove themselves. People with Growth Mindsets believe that we can change and improve with practice.

Mindset - Growth Vs Fixed
Mindset – Growth Vs Fixed

Continue reading Book Summary: Mindset – Carol Dweck


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How to Retire early?

Retirement of the Earlier Generation:

In 1990, life expectancy in our country was at 58 years, while the retirement age was between 55 – 60 yrs in various state and central government jobs. Many people died before they retired. We had movies on withdrawal symptoms after retirement and how the erstwhile who’s who coped up with inactivity and lack of importance. Since that generation had steady pension and a huge Provident Fund, usually financial trouble was not one of the problems they faced post retirement. This was despite being predominantly a single income family with several dependents.

Retirement Funding
Retirement Funding

Continue reading How to Retire early?

The Fairy Tale Nightmare

Fairy Tales of my Childhood

The fairy tales I listened to in my childhood were  like ‘Snow White and Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Frog Prince’. In all cases the female protagonist was a beautiful young princess and her life mission was to find the man of her dreams. She succeeds in doing so and then they live happily ever after.

I found the stories sweet and adorable as a kid. But as an adult I can look back and see how each of these stories have ridiculously defined my life by one event – finding the (right) guy. I just have to look pretty and be patient to accomplish this life mission.

Snowwhite was in love with 'love' ??!!
Snowwhite was in love with ‘love’ ??!!

Continue reading The Fairy Tale Nightmare

Book Summary: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

 Click to Buy here in Amazon.in or Amazon.com

I had read this book a long time back and decided to re-read it now. It is surprising how many insights I received in the process. So I have decided to summarize this classic and follow it up with all the books in the series.

Only Rule For Getting Rich:

Know the difference between Assets and Liabilities. Buy Assets.

An Asset is something that puts money in my pocket.
A Liability is something that takes money out of my pocket.

As someone from an accounting background, for a long time I was resistant about the above definition. But now when I am training myself to think like an investor, this is the only definition that makes sense. The only practical way to evaluate opportunities.

Mind Your Business:

Your profession is not your business. While working your day job, work on a side hustle, a business that you can create an asset for you over the long term.

Learn from Mistake
Learn from Mistake

To Become Rich: Obtain Financial Intelligence

Financial IQ is made from four broad areas of expertise

  1. Accounting
  2. Investing
  3. Understanding Markets
  4. Law

Rich spend time understanding the above and use it to their advantage to retain the money earned by them.

Financial Literate but not Rich:

Five Reasons why a Financially Literate person is not Rich:

  1. Fear
  2. Cynicism
  3. Laziness
  4. Bad Habits
  5. Arrogance

Personally I think, it is just Fear, which wears different masks. Like the Fox that called the grapes sour, we express our Fear in different ways such as cynic (disbelief, to avoid taking action), Laziness (Fear of rejection disguised as Laziness), Bad Habits (Not following through), arrogance (Ego+Ignorance)

Rich Invent Money

Rich take calculated risks, where they have a big probability of winning with limited loss (Stocks/Options), or a small probability of winning with massive gains  (Eg: Venture Capital)

Work to Learn
Work to Learn

Work to Learn: Don’t work for money

Look at your Job as a place to learn and hone your skills, rather than a way to earn a living. Your focus will be how to make yourself a better version of you which would automatically make you a more valuable employee, if you are learning on the job skills.

Even if you have read the book before, I suggest you to read again. This is one of the books that grows on you and gives you new lessons as you step up your game.


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How to remember what you read?

We read that “Great Leaders are Great readers.” So we set up new year resolutions that say “I will read at least 10/20/50 books this year“.  Some of us even get to that number, but often we look back and can’t seem to remember any ideas from a book we really enjoyed reading and thought was great.

Most productivity Guru’s can’t list the ‘seven habits’ from the cult book, ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ although they have read it several times and even train others on them. So how do we ensure that we not just read a book, but actually remember what is in it and make an impact in our life.

What to read?

The discussion here is relevant to non-fiction reading.

(1) Read with Purpose

Do not pick a book, because it has less pages, available in kindle or your library for free or even for the reason it is popular. Read it because you wanted to learn something from the book, that is relevant to you right now or in the immediate future. A book about what makes an ideal CEO is not relevant to you now, when you are a desk clerk. You can read that book when you are vying for that job. A book is a commitment for your time, several hours, make the investment worthwhile.

Read with a Purpose - Read to Learn
Read with a Purpose – Read to Learn

(2) References and Suggestions:

References from books that you have read and liked are great places to find books that you want to read to deepen your understanding on the topic at hand. People in relevant industries can also be a great source for suggestions. Have a list handy, and never run out of books to read.

(3) Read the book reviews/summaries to determine whether the book is relevant to you before buying them. If you haven’t learnt anything in th first 50 pages, discard the book.

What to Avoid:

(1) Information Overload:

If you are looking to start a business say export or media, read a handful of highly recommended books to get a overview of the business and get into action when you think you have a fair idea. You will never be sufficiently prepared and you will make mistakes and learn on the go. But if you try to read every single book in the market on the subject before you take any action, you are probably just using additional information as a crutch to postpone taking real action. Start with what you have and improvise.

(2) Distraction:

Unlike spending time in a chatroom or social media, reading a book requires a fair bit of focus. Allocate a dedicated time of the day, even if it is just 10-20 mins to read without distractions.

(3) Multitasking:

Research says multi-taskers perform worse than drunk people on cognitive tasks. We have all been the kid (at least I have been) who insisted on writing the homework in front of the TV and ultimately finished it under the school desk when teacher comes checking. If you are serious about the topic, avoid multi tasking. Listening to audio books while driving is still okay because of this.

The myth of Multi-tasking
The myth of Multi-tasking

How to Read:

(1) Skim the Book:

To start with, skim the book, look at the index, read the intro, see the info graphics, quotes and get a fair idea of what the book is about.

(2) Question:

Read the Headings, sub-heading and write down the questions that arise in your mind on reading that. For Ex: Rule 1 of Rich Dad, Poor Dad is that “Rich Dad don’t work for Money”. Here the question in my mind is, “So what is it that they work for?” List down your questions from the activity of skimming.

(3) Read to answer the questions you have noted down. Skip topics that you are familiar with already. For eg, case studies, research conclusion, stories that you have already read in greater detail earlier.

(4) Highlight and annotate with symbols ( $ for value, “” for quotable quotes etc) relevant points that you will want to come back for reference.

(5) After finishing every chapter, spend 30 sec to mentally review its contents in your head. You may also write a 2 line summary.

(6) If you are unable to recollect any of the points during review, go back and read the relevant portion only.

(7) Write a short summary at the end of the book after finishing it.

How to Remember:

(1) Use Acronyms:

Dan and Chip Heath are great at using an acronym to put their ideas together. For their book ‘Made to Stick‘, they used the analogy, ‘SUCCESS’, for ‘Decisive’ they used ‘WRAP’. This makes it far easier to recollect the main points in the book.

In the movie, ‘Evan Almighty‘ the director even when all the way to make ‘random act of kindness’ into ‘Act of Random Kindness’ to fit the acronym of ARK. That’s how powerful an acronym is.

(2) Use Analogies:

We have studied the earth to be a sphere/ball, the electrons move around nucleus like planets revolving around sun etc. The analogies help us form a picture of what we don’t know through what we know and can be a great tool of understanding.

(3) Use Feynman technique:

Teach it to a 5 year old.  Remove all jargons and simplify the concept so much that you teach it to a 5 year old or even better babies 🙂

Feynman Technique
Feynman Technique – Teach it to the kids

(4) Think through and discuss:

When I thought of this or any topic to write, I usually find enough ammunition to write from just one article or a video. But when I refer multiple videos or articles  and combine them together into coherent post becomes a bigger task than transcribing one video. But this is the one way through which I am able to contribute to the post as well absorb the maximum about the topic at hand. So think through the topic after collecting various facts, opinions and discuss or write about it to imbibe understanding rather than just parrot what you heard.

(5) Implement:

Nothing makes you remember a topic, as much as when you implement the learning from it at the earliest. Since we have already picked a topic that is most relevant to us, it should not be too difficult. Is it a cook book, go try one recipe, Is it a book on Yoga, schedule your Yoga session, Is it a book on social conversations, ‘Say Hi to the stranger and try out some tips you just learnt.’

Conclusion:

It’s not what you get out of the book, its ultimately what the book gets out of you that matters. So read something that matters, think through it and get the ball rolling.

Inspired by John Spence, Proactive Thinker and Will Shroeder


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To Buy or To Rent? That is the Question !!

This could be a million rupee question based on what is it you intend to buy or rent? In this post I’ll try to cover various category of assets and both financial and non financial aspects of this question.

Rent Vs Buy
Rent Vs Buy

Immovable Assets :

For Most of us, the only immovable asset we will own is our home or utmost a piece of land. We have all been told stories of how somebodies grandfather bough a tiny piece of land several years ago for a tiny pittance, far away from the city and lo right now it is the heart of the expanded bustling city, fetching several crores.  We feel inspired by the story and go home hunting.

Pro’s of Buying/Con’s of Renting:

  1. EMI’s enable an automatic saving month on month. So if you are a spend thrift, this might just be the kind of commitment that you require.
  2. Appreciation of home prices is huge plus. We lock in on  the prices at time of booking and can enjoy the appreciation that comes with the property.  There are stories of people who pre-booked apartments in metros with a token amount of 1 Lakh, flipped it over during the time of possession and made several times their initial investment. Personally, I think times of such appreciation for real estate is long gone.
  3. Provides a sense of comfort to be able to choose the schools and offices/business nearby for long terms.
  4. Flexibility in decorating/modifying the house to exactly fit our needs.

Con’s of Buying/ Pro’s of Renting:

  1. The pressure of monthly EMI’s have killed many brilliant startups even before they started. So if you are planning on a change of career, starting up on your own, managing cash flows with huge EMI’s can be a big detriment.
  2. Land or property needs good maintenance over a period of time making it one of the most difficult assets to own remotely. Frequent Cleaning can cost as much as one time clean up cost of unmaintaned flats.
  3. Laws are fudgy and weak to implement. One can practically do little to evict delinquent renters from the property.
  4. Carry costs such as property maintenance, homeowners insurance, unexpected repairs are often ignored.
  5. Even though you may enjoy the appreciation in the property, interest paid is a huge opportunity cost. The increased square foot rate in the area may not translate into gains for older properties.
  6. Property appreciation is not guaranteed. New structures such as Flyover near the property or alternate highway cause the prices to fall down. Govt. acquisition for infrastructure or expansion projects can not be ruled out either.
Buy Vs Rent
Buy Vs Rent

Real Estate – My Opinion:

While increase in prices, may be a good plus for property, no non financial asset should be purchased solely for investment purpose. Would living in this house enhance the quality of your and your family members for the next foreseeable future(like till children finish school), if so go ahead and buy it. But moving out of the city, increasing the everyday commute time to work, increasing your financial burden solely to have your name board on a piece of property may not be a wise idea.

Remember most people, websites and experts that convince you that buying is unequivocally good are trying to sell you something.

Movable Property Aka Vehicles/Furniture:

In today’s era, it is very easy to rent a bike/car and even furniture and appliances. So if the supplier is making money by renting it out or we losing money by hiring it? In the long run, is it cheaper to buy or lease?

Pro’s of Buying/Con’s of Renting:

  1. Removal of dependency on some other service provider or person like a drop/travel in emergency.
  2. When Furniture/Car/Appliance is used for throughout its life time, it makes more economic sense to buy. For example, Fridge compressor come with a 10 year warranty, Teak Furniture like Beds, 20 year warranty mattress can last a very long time, even decades. To pay a fixed rent for such a long time makes  no sense. Classic limited edition cars even go up in value.
  3. While I can leave my car dented as long as I want to, I have to compulsorily pay a penalty for even cosmetic damages in a vehicle I have rented for a short while.

Con’s of Buying/ Pro’s of Renting:

  1. In Mumbai atleast, I have seen people change furniture every few years and want to be trendy, unlike south where most furniture only play a utilitarian role. So for the fashion conscious homes can consider renting rather than going through the hassle of buying and reselling furniture year on year. The same goes with the car too. It is easier to upgrade to higher end model when you are renting it.
  2. City commute is best in a hatchback, Sedan is useful on long trips and SUV’s are the go to for both family trips as well adventure trips. We do all of this in a year, and we can without having to compromise or own so many cars by renting all or buying the most frequently used and renting the others.
  3. Bike rentals have made commute possible in many places like Goa, Rishikesh,Manali and Leh in India. The bikes are well maintained and available with minimal documentation, allowing us the comfort of flying to our holiday destination as well as commuting on our own locally.
  4. In a temporary posting of two/three months, it is beneficial to rent all the furniture and appliances along with the house.
  5. Temporary needs like A/C or Air Cooler during peak summer may be more cost efficient than buying.
  6. Can be added quickly for temporary requirements like temporary live in guests for a few months.
Car - Buy Vs Rent
Car – Buy Vs Rent

Movable Assets – My Opinion:

In general, depreciable assets are best paid for on usage basis unless the pay as you go options are disproportionately costlier compared to their buy price or have heavy usage. With advent of numerous startups, everything is on hire at a reasonable price. We are lucky to live in era with so many options and we should make the best use of them.

Business Assets:

Any asset, or item that is bought with the view of making money from it or is central to the running of your business may be considered as a Business Asset. This could be a second home bought for rental income, a shop for own business, vehicles for the purpose  of renting out etc.

“An Asset is one that puts money in your pocket.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Does yours, even if not immediately, atleast soon enough.

Location dependent businesses like restaurant, salons where primarily your customers come to you because of proximity should either enter in long term leases or own their property to avoid sudden increase in costs. Elimination of fundamental risks to the existence of business warrants additional expenditure. However do not take this step in the initial days when your idea or business is still unproven.

Conclusion: Buy or Rent

The choice of buy vs rent depends on preferences and usage patterns. Buying is a high/medium impact decision, when compared to renting which is a low impact decision. The Startups that rent out these assets/services ensure optimum utilisation of the assets and is truly a Win/Win situation. Today’s thriving startups have filled our life with plenty of choices. Choose Well. Choose Wisely.

How well does Fundamental Analysis Work?

We have reviewed atleast three books on Fundamental analysis: One Upon Wall Street – Peter Lynch, Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and How to Avoid Loss and Earn Consistently in Stock Market by Prasanjit Paul . Hence I wanted to give you a neutral perspective and show you the other side of Fundamental Analysis. Continue reading How well does Fundamental Analysis Work?

Choices and Impact

Choice: This or That

When I was a child, No one just asked us “Who is your favourite actor?”. They always asked Do you like Rajinikanth or Kamalhassan? Our prime time debates with panels were of topics like: What is good: Nuclear Family or Joint Family? Or Who is the better warrior – Arjuna or Karna? We were expected to pick a stand and argue our best. We spent considerable time arguing over these topics without ever having one person to our side from the other.

In ancient times, the question was like – Who is the more powerful God – Shiva or Vishnu? Today the questions have just been modified and become – Who is a better cricketer – Dhoni or Kohli ? or Who is a bigger star – Sharukh or Salman? Continue reading Choices and Impact

Book Summary: Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham

Buy here in Amazon.com or Amazon.in

  • ISBN-10: 9780062312686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062312686

Warning: This book is an advanced read even for finance professionals. You must have basic knowledge on capital markets to be able to understand and appreciate the book. Like high echelons of Carnatic music, this book is a God send for those obsessed with return on and of their investment, but most others may be unable to appreciate the finesse of the mentioned points.

Graham on Risk Management
Graham on Risk Management

This book is one of Investment Classics vouched by none other than the most well-known investor of our times Mr. Warren Buffett. Most revelations in the field of investment lose relevance overtime and even prove dismal in succeeding cycles, as can be seen in some of the commentary by the supplementary author Jason Zweig (more on that later) but Graham’s principles have themselves have survived several market cycles. Infact these principles thrive on the market cyclicality. So let’s go about to explore the voluminous book.

Speculation Vs. Investment

A shareholder is a part owner of the company and has to study the business fundamentals thoroughly before deciding to put his money into it. The investor must be convinced that he is receiving more value of the company for the price he is paying. Purchasing shares with the hope that it would increase in price is speculation. A non-professional who is speculating on share prices is purely gambling.  It is an exciting past time worth being pursued with only a small portion considered as fun money which you are okay to loose.

Investor’s Biggest Enemy- Inflation

A good investment must deliver an inflation beating return with an acceptable level of risk. Graham considers bonds (debt securities) as one of the most important vehicle to achieve the same. Since secure return of principal is of prime importance, Graham prefers Govt.bonds over corporate bonds as there is nil risk of default by the Government and a few additional points from corporate bonds do not justify the additional risk. However, Graham recommends buying bonds of corporates when available at a steep discount in the secondary market due to temporary adverse conditions faced by the company or market.

Two Types of Investor – Defensive and Enterprising

Myth in investing world is that you have to take higher risks to obtain higher returns. According to Graham higher returns go to the investor who actively pursues it, i.e an enterprising investor while the passive or defensive investors get average returns.

Portfolio Allocation

Between stocks and bonds, Graham recommends a minimum of 25% and a maximum of 75% allocation on each of them. Only investors who are prepared for a huge draw down(notional loss on quoted price) should allocate 75% on stocks at any point in time. Conservative investors may be better off with maximum allocation on bonds.

Rules for Common stock Component

  1. There should be adequate but not excessive diversification. i.e a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 30 stocks.
  2. Each of the selected company should be large, prominent and conservatively financed.
  3. Each company should have a long record of continuous dividend payments of atleast 10 years.
  4. Set a limit to max price one would pay for the stock. Suggested: Trailing 12 months PE of 20 or average of 25.

Graham in general advices against picking stocks individually as he considers an individual cannot do a better job at stock picking than the professionals who seem to do a pretty average job themselves. His preferred way of investment in equity is through index funds.

For an enterprising investor who is willing to put in more efforts into stock picking he advises following guidelines:

  1. Financial Condition: (a) Current assets at least 1.5 times current liabilities and (b) debt not more than 110% of net current assets (for industrial companies)
  2. Earnings Stability: No deficit in the last five years.
  3. Dividend Record: some current dividend
  4. Earnings growth: Last year’s earnings more than of prev years
  5. Price: Less than 120% of net tangible assets.

Dollar(Rupee) Cost Averaging:

Such carefully selected stocks must be purchased through a monthly purchase plan of a fixed amount every month as long as the basis premise of selection holds good.

Graham on Dollar Cost Averaging
Graham on Dollar Cost Averaging

Portfolio Tracking and Updation:

The portfolio must be reviewed atleast once a year. But frequent urge to check the stock prices must be avoided.

Dividend Policy:

Graham is extremely critical of companies that retain more earnings than required for growth. For the company managers to believe that they are more qualified in growing the retained earnings than the shareholders is incorrect, unproven and misaligned incentives.

My Critic on the book: The commentary of the book by Jason Zweig adds number of recent examples. However, the commentary is dated only till 2003. So the book completely skips the 2008 crash and the lessons from it. Jason Zweig has also recommends investing in junk funds as he says risk has been significantly reduced due to diversification. Diversification does not do away with systemic risks which while adequately addressed by Graham need to continue to be adhered too.

This book is a great read if you want to understand more on Asset Allocation in capital markets.  For more in depth knowledge on picking stocks please read ‘Security Analysis‘ by Graham and Dodd.


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