What to read if you want to go into Finance
I often get asked by young students or recent graduates what books they should be reading to succeed. I was a Computer Science major from an emerging market country. I started at an Investment Bank in a quant role in 1999, and eventually made Managing Director in Sales at age 34. These are the books I wish I had read when starting out.
The first set are all about general life skills. If you want to learn about modeling skills than there are a lot of websites out there that can teach you that, but that isn’t going to change your life’s trajectory.
My view is that Finance is about people not numbers, the sooner you realize that, the faster your career will progress. So here’s the list I would have liked to have given my 20 year old self:
The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful(Michael Ellsberg) – this book is all about shifting your mind set. It will help you think a whole lot bigger than you are now. Filled with extensive interviews with millionaires and billionaires to discover their secrets. It doesn’t matter whether you want to go into Finance or another field – the most important issue is one of mind set. If you like this book, then you will also enjoy The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz.
Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time(Keith Ferrazi) – a masterpiece for an introvert like me. Made me realize how important friends and a network are. This is the only book on networking you need to read. I didn’t read this until I was 31, and it changed my life once I did.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition (Robert Cialdini) – one of most important books in social psychology. Required reading for every sales person, investor, and any one who ever needs to convince another human being to do something. I didn’t discover this one till I was 33, and I made MD the year after !
All of the above are about human nature, which is at its core what finance is about.
If you want to know more about the nuances of Investment Banking and Finance than I would start with some historical perspective. Required reading for my analysts (more detailed list here):
Liar’s Poker (Norton Paperback)(Michael Lewis) – the book that defines the 80’s and gives you a fairly accurate perspective of trading floor life even today.
Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle (John Rolfe and Peter Troob) – like Liar’s Poker but more about the 90’s world of Investment Banking & M&A.
The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing)(Howard Marks) – if you want to be an investor, this is a must read by one of the best investors alive, and you can sign up for his monthly letters at:
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto) (Nassim Taleb) – Nassim Taleb used to be a trader, made a bunch of money and now reads and writes books. The book is all about understanding the role of chance, options, serendipity and how to not be fooled by numbers.
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In addition to all of these books you should also read the FT, the Wall St Journal, Fortune, Forbes, the Economist daily / weekly. Blogs that are must reads are: Farnam Street and Four Hour Work Week.
The above reading list is by no means exhaustive, you should aim to read 2-3 books per month on subjects that interest you. Succeeding in life is all about being a life long learner. If you can keep improving & learning every day you will succeed no matter what you decide to do.
A more detailed investing list is here.
Go ahead, see what you’ve been missing.
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