Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Against the Gods" by Peter Bernstein

There are a great number of financial sages to be found in print and one of those with an extremely long track record of solid investment wisdom is Peter Bernstein, author of "Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk" among other books.

I first came across Bernstein in a 2004 Money Magazine interview which led me to read the aforementioned title.

The book itself is an interesting look at the concept of risk through the years and the Money Magainze interview had some fascinating nuggets from Bernstein about his approach to investing. Some highlights from the interview are listed below:

“Diversification is both recognition of ignorance and an aggressive strategy because it puts you in position to profit from wherever the next big hit might come.”

‘You can never be sure that today’s market is going to be a replay of the past.”

“Maximizing returns is an investment strategy that makes sense only in very specific circumstances. In general, survival is the only road to riches. You should try to maximize returns only if losses would not threaten your survival and if you have a compelling future need for the extra gains you might earn.”

This last concept around not simply attempting to "maximize returns" struck me the most in that it means you never will know the absolute highest point an investment will reach, so you never attempt to simply maximize, you always balance against risk.