High finance for low people
April 30, 2006 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I need help finding a basic, introductory book surveying financial concepts.

I am looking for recommendations for a book on finance. Ideally, it would be something that lays out all the basics, clearly and concisely, like this is what a bond is, here are the variations, and this is the process by which they are created. I am not interested in the math or anything complex, I just want to have a fuller understanding of financial instruments, organizations, and processes. A bonus would be a book that also focused on the related legal issues and regulations.

In any event, I am not looking for a text book or an investment guide, just an introductory survey written for an intelligent layman.
posted by Falconetti to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've been reading personal finance books for a couple of years now, and haven't found anything like this yet. (To be fair, I haven't actually looked for anything like this, either.) The closest I've come is Andrew Tobias' The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, but, as the title suggests, it's more of an investment guide than an introductory survey. Still, it's a good book, and worth borrowing from the library to see if it'll fit your needs. I'll keep my eyes out for books like this to review on my new personal finance blog — I hope to use the site to review all sorts of personal finance books (though I've yet to review a single one).

Have you tried brokerage web sites? Motley Fool? CNNMoney?

Good luck!
posted by jdroth at 10:20 AM on April 30, 2006

It's not a book, but The Motley Fools answer questions like What is a bond?, and do so quite reasonably.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:24 AM on April 30, 2006

This WSJ guide may be aimed at the average layperson, rather than an intelligent one, but it's not bad.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:36 AM on April 30, 2006

The Executive Education department at the Harvard Business School uses Analysis for Financial Management by Robert Higgins for their finance for non-finance people classes. The book covers both the basic concepts, as well as more advanced issues, and is phenomenally well written.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:57 AM on April 30, 2006

More recommendations in this AskMe thread, but I'd definitely avoid the Rich Dad Poor Dad stuff after reading this MeFi thread.
posted by mediareport at 1:08 PM on April 30, 2006

I'd definitely avoid the Rich Dad Poor Dad stuff after reading this MeFi thread.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad offers no information on investing at all: no definitions, no plans, no anything. It basically lays out a philosophy, or a way of thinking about money. It's not a great book, but it has it's place. It's certainly doesn't explain what bonds are!
posted by jdroth at 1:29 PM on April 30, 2006

The Higgins book is a great book, but it presents corporate finance from a corporate perspective, rather than from a market/investor perspective. Figuring out an optimal capital structure, while important and useful, is of little use for a lay investor.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:01 PM on April 30, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. To clarify, I am not remotely interested in learning about investing per se. I'd prefer to learn financial concepts from a market or corporate perspective, but not at all from a individual investor perspective.

jdroth-thanks for clueing me in on your blog, it is great reading.

I am going to check out the Higgins book and the WSJ Guide, they both sound close to what I am looking for. Thanks.
posted by Falconetti at 7:35 PM on April 30, 2006

Wall Street by Doug Henwood is a good overview of financial markets from a liberal perspective. And you can download the whole book for free.
posted by afu at 8:58 PM on April 30, 2006

It's great that you might've found what you're looking for, Falconetti, but the perspective of the market and the perspective of the investor are more or less the same thing. Pehaps you could explain how you think that they differ?

A corporate finance textbook (like Higgins') will walk you through how to build a DCF model with financial statements, how to calculate a WACC, et cetera. It's investment banking stuff, not investment stuff. Which may be what you're looking for, but that's not really how I read the question.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:01 PM on April 30, 2006

Response by poster: Perhaps after I read some of the recommended books, I can make better sense. Basically, I am going to be summering at a law firm that has a lot of Wall Street and investment banking clients like Goldman. So although I was unclear in my question, investment banking information would be useful, but you are correct that I am not particularly interested in that per se. I just want to be able to not sound like an idiot when financial concepts come up. When someone says, "blah blah debenture," I want to be able to know what that is.

Your WSJ suggestion seems to fit the bill pretty well and then something like Higgins would be a follow up.
posted by Falconetti at 10:27 PM on April 30, 2006

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