Big Changes at My
Investing for Beginners Site

Although it may seem like I haven’t been around much lately, reality is far different.  I’ve been quietly publishing more than I have in years, it’s just hidden.  Kind of.

As part of the upgrades to the Investing for Beginners site that are happening, I’ve been putting my focus there in the midst of everything else going on, often releasing 10,000+ words per month in new and updated content.  The problem with the updated content: Some of it has no major notification anywhere because I’m still moving pieces around in the administrative section and I haven’t, yet, gotten around to reflecting this in the working draft directory I published of my content over at About.com.  I’m going back to old pieces and transforming them into much better versions of their former iterations.

An example is an older article I wrote called How a Family Limited Partnership Can Lower Gift Taxes and Estate Taxes.  It was originally 876 words and offered a brief introduction to the topic.  On February 28th, I sat down and tore it apart, expanded it, moved pieces around, and ultimately turned it into a 2,948 word essay that dives much more in-depth into the use of of things such as the applicable Federal rate for intra-family loans, gift tax exemptions, and liquidity discounts.  Then, on March 1st, a new feature was rolled out on the site that allows the system to intelligently figure out related pieces and let the reader scroll through them, one picking up right after the other as you make your way down the page.  There’s largely been no notice of those kinds of changes anywhere, even though they are now showing up on the live site.

I’m even working on overhauling introductory pieces.  For example, I’ve recently started diving into more rudimentary articles such as What Is a Bond?.  It was originally 508 words but now is much more comprehensive, better organized, and expanded to 1,799 words with links to related content for those who want to study specific sub-areas of bond investing.

All in all, I published four new pieces and updated twenty five old ones in the past thirty days.  So far this year, I’ve completed more than 50 updates and published 8 new pieces.

If everything goes according to plan, the whole thing should take 12 to 36 months (and is one of the reasons the update and design on this blog have fallen behind schedule as I have to prioritize my contractual commitments before my hobbies), but when it’s done, I hope – to the extent I can control things, which is much more limited than it was in the earlier days – to have a much better organized, structured, and easy-to-navigate treasure trove of the content I’ve penned in the fifteen years between 2001 and 2016.  The process is definitely exhausting, and sometimes messy, but I think, in the end, it will be worth it.

If you have anything you’d like to see me cover, specifically, in 2016 and beyond, either here on this blog or at the About site, let me know and I’ll consider adding it to my future schedules.  Do you want me to spend more focus on things like 529 college plans?  Derivative techniques?  Understanding the minutia in index fund prospectus disclosures?  Tax strategies?  General life and business philosophy about how we run our own operations?  Whatever it is, feel free to leave a comment letting me know.

  • rgb

    I work with a lot of students who are trying to decide between paying off student loans and investing in 403(b) or 401(k) retirement plans. Could you show them some financial numbers as to which would be better in the long term?

  • Tuzanor

    I always loved it when you review companies in long posts. Your ones on Colgate, Clorox, Coca-Cola, etc are epic.

  • Ang

    My vote is for “General life and business philosophy about how we run our own operations”

    You can find derivative and tax strategies in most places, explored by many people, and fairly straight forward (though I’m 110% confident you will be able to explain it in a way that’s, relatively speaking, much clearer to beginners). But life and business philosophy, while widely available, is only quality when the right person, who has the right outlook, experiences, and mental framework in place, writes about and discusses it.

    It does strike me that this request, though a choice that you offered in the article above ; ), is a backdoor way of getting you to write about your “hobbies”. However, beggars can’t be choosers, and I (and I’m sure many of the other readers here) will take the exclusive content anyway I can get it. Thanks for thinking of us!

    • Ang

      P.S. I was going to suggest writing about evaluating life through the lens of opportunity cost, and start linking to it from other “lifestyle” articles. I think this concept is so important when it comes to decision making, not just in investing, but also career path, personal projects, and relationships. Not enough individuals supplement their thinking through this mental framework and I think it would help a lot of people if someone with your voice and your reach are able to illustrate this

      Then I decided to do a quick search before I hit Post and found you already wrote extensively about this on the about website at http://beginnersinvest.about.com/od/Opportunity-Cost/a/What-Is-Opportunity-Cost.htm and http://beginnersinvest.about.com/od/Opportunity-Cost/a/There-Is-No-Such-Thing-As-A-Free-Lunch-Opportunity-Cost.htm – shows how elementary my thinking is!

    • Matt

      I’m going to second this one – the posts on general life and business philosophy about how you run your operations are the ones that I find the most valuable, insightful, and unique. (Your posts on law/politics are a close second in my opinion – your post on Scalia was quite the gem).

      There just aren’t very many writers out there who have both a deep understanding of the nuances of their subject matter and a willingness to engage in rational, educated, and civilized discussions in the comments. Anyone can offer information, and a lot of articles out there have some fairly generic advice, but I love how all of your posts have personality and give a window into your thought process. And given that your process and philosophy is far superior to most, that just makes those posts a joy to read.

      Keep up the good work.

  • Roundball

    As always, thanks for being so generous with your knowledge

    1. General life and business philosophy about how we run our own operations
    2. How do you find good advisors? For example, I’m very interested in your family limited partnership articles but don’t know how to go about implementing it and whether I’m at a point in my life where it would be worth the cost of setting one up. I feel like I’m having trouble finding a suitable attorney/ CPA. Maybe it’s a lack of personal network on my part.
    3. Tax strategies- how do I pay the most tax dollars at the least effective tax rate?
    4. A basic review of options and how to do due diligence- would be really interested in how to set up covered calls and cash secured puts.
    5. As another commentor said, your Business case studies are my favorites. I could read those all day long

    I’m sure I’ll think of others, but that’s at the top of the list.

    • Roundball

      1a. How to analyze the Cash Flow Statement, Statement of Comprehensive Income, and Statement of Changes in Shareholder Equity- this should have been at the very top of the list

  • Hai Nguyen

    I have read your blog over the years and love your insight. I would like to see the sample of how to research the stock as details as possible.

  • Dave

    So here’s one that I would love to see. A series of resources to help parents teach their kids about investing at a level that the kids can understand. I realize that is a WIDE swath I’m describing there.

    Over the last couple years, we’ve been working on educating our kids by having a “money night” with them once every 2-3 weeks, and using the curriculum from bankit.com to help guide the discussions. It’s pretty simple, but it’s been useful for covering the basics of personal finance. They do have a lesson on investing, but my kids are getting older (young teens), and it would be nice to have something with a little more teeth to it, but without going overboard on things like corporate valuations, tax strategies, and other things that would still be over their heads a bit.

    I don’t know where the balance is there, nor if it’s even in the scope of anything you’d ever try (though with nieces and nephews of your own, I suspect this may have crossed your mind in some fashion already), but I think there’s a need out there and more parents need to be proactive about teaching their kids about money, finances, and investing at a pace they can understand and take interest in.

  • JD Arney

    Curious why you still write these articles at About. I know they pay ok, but if you set up an investing site and put all this out there under your own umbrella you’d almost certainly make far more. Many personal finance sites have sold for millions of dollars. (Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, others)

  • Charlie

    As a beginner, I am still practicing how to value a company. Can you do something along the lines of an operating model or a stock pitch kind of thing?

    • stegner

      I’d love to read a really deep dive on a fictional (or composite) company. Trawling through Pacer for red flags, pulling apart the statements, the qualitative dimension – conceptualising the business model, evaluating management, how to think about flags that pop up (are there more cockroaches in the kitchen, or is this an isolated incident?) etc.

      It’s a giant ask though.

  • I actually liked some of the quizzes and tests to check accounting and finance knowledge that you used to make on About.com.

  • undercover

    More of your “Case Study Files” ones, please. I primarily enjoy your full analysis of the very wealthy. The dolly one was grand.

    Keep putting up anything you get easily excited over too. I have you to blame for introducing me to the crack-cocaine that is Korean drama.

    Also, as the others have said your overall breakdowns & full thoughts on any of the large billion dollar companies is always a welcome surprise.

  • Adrian Burns

    Another vote for case studies (companies and individuals), I agree with undercover in enjoying the Dolly Parton one.

  • 2 things that come to mind:

    1. General philosophy topics and how you think through issues. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts and thought process on topics like animal rights, climate change… all those tricky and problematic philosophical of today.

    2. More advanced and in-depth take on accounting issues. In your owner earnings calculation, would like to know how you go about and find some of the “Accounting Adjustments That Obfuscate Reality.” Also, a closer at each of those variables on breaking down owner earnings. Perhaps through case studies?

  • Don Hilario

    Hi Joshua!
    I genuinely enjoy all that you write, be it here, or via About.com- and it’s come to be one of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings. Your 20 yr case studies, dividend income, cost opportunity analysis for major purchases including home or car are thoroughly informative as they are inspiring.

    What I’m currently reading is your ‘how to read’ the annual reports of companies – your step by step approach is incredibly clear as it is admirable.

    Re the forever changing landscape of your evolving blog; I love the topics mentioned above; and I would be curious learning what your thoughts are about financial planning and behavior finance.

    Aside from that, best wishes for all that you do!

    one of many loyal readers,

    Don =)

  • Scott

    Thanks for the update. I read and share your articles on general investment analysis, tax strategies and business philosophy.

    I’m getting much more interested in how to properly structure and receive pay (dividends?) from a business as my business is now at a point where it makes sense to start getting payments but I still have a relatively high paying job so I’d like to avoid taxes. I guess it would be easier to say I like reading articles that go into the numbers whether its investment, tax or business.

  • John

    I generally enjoy your pieces discussing how your run your business(es), as that’s a somewhat mysterious topic to us W-2 employees, as well as some of your tear-downs of different business sectors. The latter are interesting not primarily because of the FV calculations of $COMPANY stock but more understanding the underlying economics of a business and the history of how participating companies came to be.

  • TomZ

    I must admit I haven’t read a lot of your About.com work, I find that site hard to navigate. There’s also too much clutter on the page, which makes articles hard to read, and it’s a shame they don’t offer a single page view for multi-page articles. I realize you can’t change much about it but I think the format does your work a disservice.

    I would like to see more articles about how you identify great businesses vs businesses that are just good or mediocre. I have read your pieces about companies like Nestle, Lindt, Hershey, Diageo, Tiffany and others but would love to see in-depth looks explaining why you rate these companies as superior versus other businesses and their biggest competitors.

    By the way, would you recommend reading the book (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Investing 3E) you co-wrote or is it getting a bit outdated in certain chapters given it was published 10 years ago?

  • Joshua Myers

    Nice to hear that you haven’t abandoned this project!! I’ll have to go back and read the About.com articles again. For this site I always love your profiles, both positive and negative examples, as well as the overarching business philosophy. It’s relatively easy to sort out specifics once I’ve seen the overarching ideas.

  • Long time fan/lurker here. Just to let you know, I’ve already added About.com Investing for Beginners to my Feedly, and have been seeing the updated posts. I really liked the Family Limited Partnership post. Although I’m an attorney, I actually came away learning a thing or two from that article! I wonder if your other readers will appreciate how much research and work went into that article. Rest assured that quality posts like that are appreciated.

    As to what I’d personally like to see, I really enjoyed the business profiles you’ve written on this site. The main one I’m thinking of is the one about Dolly Parton. There are lots of different ways to make money in this world, and I think your business profiles help people realize you can generate massive wealth by doing something you love. So I vote for more posts like that one!

  • Eric Vaughn

    My favorites are the company case studies. Learning about companies and what makes them special. Being wowed by the results of a 20 year investment. Thinking about how it can change lives.

  • Hey buddy…

    My favorite thins you cover are

    1. Biz/Life philosophy to become a better investor.

    2. Dividend investing

    3. Company Case Studies (Disney ones, Exxon, Chlorox, etc)

    4. Complex things (trusts, taxes, partnerships, real estate, etc)

    In that order. I love all of em pretty equally but that would be my personal preference.

    One thing I think would be neat is to see you break down a 10k for a company you own and walk through how you analyze it…sort of the “80/20 principle of 10k research” since some of them can be pretty dense.

    I know you’ve mentioned that you read the report annually to make sure nothing’s changed and that’s it…I think it would be cool to see what you look for in the “details” since we all know the devil’s in the details.

    Anyhow…hope you’re doing great and having a great 2016 so far. Happy, healthy, and having a blast 🙂

    Take care!

    Brad

  • Dan Callinan

    Joshua-
    Personally, I can’t seem to get enough of your posts and I find myself revisiting older ones to soak in the information. So in that sense, whatever you feel the need to share, I am interested in. If I were to be more specific, I would agree with the rest of the group…I thoroughly enjoy your case studies. I am also very curious about the derivative contracts you mentioned in your Christmas post. I believe that providing insight on a method for boosting cash income would be of interest to many.
    Thanks for all that you do!
    Dan

  • robweeve

    over and over i’ve heard that index funds are the way to go. in your opinion is there a better investment vehicle, especially for the person who needs to invest for the future but really has no interest in the mechanics of investing. a short story on a bet between warren buffet who chose an index fund and a hedge fund investor. goal: over time which will outperform the other? http://www.npr.org/2016/03/10/469897691/armed-with-an-index-fund-warren-buffett-is-on-track-to-win-hedge-fund-bet

  • Mr.owenr

    How about creating a list of recommended books? I find it kind of odd that books such as “The Millionaire in the Mirror” do not show up when one clicks your recommended reading button.

    Or a video of you tap dancing to work…because you know…real people don’t do that and all…

  • My favorite things you write are the deep dives and case studies of companies and people.

    As a small business owner (in addition to my day job), an area that I don’t see enough writing about, are the best strategies to structure yourself legally in order to protect isolate and protect your assets and maximize tax savings (especially with the combo of day job 401ks, personal IRA’s, then business options all combined). Basically that amounts to trusts, tax shelters, partnership and other legal agreements, etc.

    This seems an area you have a lot of expertise in from your various other business interests and I think you could add a lot to the topic just discussing how you handle your own businesses.

  • Preston Nelson

    Derivative techniques; General life and business philosophy and about how you run our operations, including- without putting anything at risk- the technology solutions you use to simplify; real estate: required reading; Wednesday roundups;…

    The randomness here is refreshing.

  • Matthew

    Long time lurker fan here, Mr. Kennon. I second Roundball’s suggestion about the financial statement quizzes; and I’m writing my own comment to emphasize my feelings about it. Taking those quizzes back in 2011 helped me nail down my life plan. Five years later, I now have humble but growing equity portfolios in two geographical markets (will be three by April).

    Please revamp and expand those quizzes for the sake of future aspiring investors/business people. It did a lot for my confidence, and I will forever be grateful for your work.

  • Kaitlynn Young

    Tax strategies

  • Garfield Seccon

    More talk about mental models would be appreciated. Every time I read about mental models from your site it makes my brain smarter.

  • Andrew Wu

    Hi Joshua,

    First off, I just wanted to say that I recently stumbled across your blog and have been absolutely smitten with the quality of your posts. I find both your professional and personal life to be inspiring, and hope to trace some of your footsteps while forging my own path.

    I haven’t yet had the time to search through all your blog posts. That said, as an aspiring grad student in conservation finance, I would appreciate your input on impact investing, and strategies for socially/environmentally minded investors to incorporate social impact considerations into their portfolios. What are your thoughts on modifying alphas for social/envr impact? Or setting up a weighted utility function for investors with financial, social, and envr. components?

    Many thanks!

  • RPS Gahlaut

    I am a lay investor from India. I read your wonderful articles on analysing Balance Sheet with keen interest. I wish to give feedback that I found few articles missing. These articles are listed in index, but it points to different article. Like few articles as below, all ( 35,36,37) point to article No 34.- Analysing a Sample Balance Sheet – Microsoft Part I
    35. Analysing a sample Balance Sheet – Microsoft Part II
    36. Analysing a sample balance sheet – Simon Transportation Services
    37. Epilogue for Simon Transportation
    Kindly correct the pointer so that we can enjoy and learn from it. I am unable to find any Quiz also listed at the end of articles. Thanks

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