Magazine article Financial History

The Einstein of Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

Magazine article Financial History

The Einstein of Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

Article excerpt

This is a welcome work in many ways. For the millions who know Graham only through his seminal work, The Intelligent Investor, the story of the man behind the Bible of value investing adds depth and camaraderie to the shrewd calculus of the spread sheet. For the more casual reader with an interest in history or business there is plenty here too, spanning the bulk of the 20th century. And for the investor keen for an edge but not quite willing to undertake Graham's original tome at a solid 600 pages, this volume, half the volume, serves as sufficient summary.

Carlen takes a casual, even chatty tone. For the most part that helps take the edge offthe drearier aspects of the dismal science. Occasionally it seems a bit gratuitous, as if the author were just gossiping with the reader about a mutual friend. Perhaps that is the peril of every biographer, to resist being enthralled by the subject.

The interesting and effective technique that Carlen takes is alternating chapters between one that is mostly biography followed by another that is mostly a synopsis of a key point of Graham's investment philosophy, usually as expressed in The Intelligent Investor.

The edition Carlen quotes most often is the 2003 revision with commentary from Jason Zweig, a financial journalist and columnist of perspicacity and wit, and a member of the Museum's editorial board. Carlen includes several quotes from Zweig on Graham, a powerful triangulation on the subject.

Two points about the book jump to the fore. On the technical side, Carlen does a thorough job of summarizing the key points of Graham's philosophy of value investing. It might not be enough for an investor to finish the book and open a brokerage account, but it certainly conveys the guts of value investing.

On the personal side the revelation is that for a life crowned with financial success and a legacy unblemished, Graham's life was afflicted with tragedy. Most notably the illness and death of many close family members. The sudden passing of his grandfather and his father in his youth meant the demise of the family's house wares business and dropped the survivors to near destitution. It was an annealing experience for the young Graham.

That Graham persevered against repeated setbacks, serious ones, is a testament to his character and to the strength of his approach to investment. …

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