by Tim Isbell

This page contains some of the people and resources whom I find helpful. I continue adding to this page as I find more, high quality, writers. In general, this list starts with two easily readable authors. As you continue down the list, the material is more challenging.


My favorite "experts"

While all of these people are well worth reading, an easy place to start is with Daniel Solin's latest book: The Smartest Portfolio You'll Ever Own. These are right on target for my investment strategy. You can implement the strategy without going any deeper than these two.

For more depth, move on to Wade Pfau, William Bernstein's Investing for Adults, Jeremy Siegel's Stocks for the Long Run, and Robert Shiller's Finance and the Good Society.

Finally, for a taste of a graduate school education in finance, watch the videos of Robert Shiller's on-line Yale course: Financial Markets.

Here's my list:

Dan Solin authored The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read (2006) and The Smartest Portfolio You'll Ever Own (2011). I read the first one soon after it was published, and it gave me the confidence to keep invested through the 2008 crash. I read the second book as soon as it was published. It was so engaging and easy to read that I finished it in one day. It extends the thinking in his first book in ways that Robin and I are now implementing. He is a financial blogger for The Huffington Post and U.S. News and World Report. Here's a link to one of his blog posts that provides his suggested readings: A Bogus - and a Good - List of Good Financial Sites. (It's where I learned about William Bernstein.)

Jonathan Clements

Clements was the personal finance columnist for the Wall Street Journal for twenty years. His material is simply outstanding and very readable. For one example of his work, check out this web page on my site: The Ten Most Important Financial Decisions Ever. You can also subscribe to his (approximately) bi-weekly email newsletter at Or check out some of his books, such as Jonathan Clements Money Guide 2016, for far-ranging insight into personal finance. Also, check out his most recent offering (September 1, 2016) is How to Think About Money.

Wade Pfau

He holds a doctorate in economics from Princeton University, and he has published research on retirement planning in a wide variety of academic and practitioner research journals. He is also an active blogger on retirement research, maintains the educational Retirement Researcher website, and is a monthly columnist for Advisor Perspectives, a RetireMentor for MarketWatch, and an Expert Panelist for the Wall Street Journal. His research has been discussed in outlets including the print editions of The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and SmartMoney. Here are three of my favorite, recent posts from him:

He is a Ph.D., MD, neurologist (in his first career), founder of an investment management firm, and the editor of an asset allocation journal. He writes for Money magazine, Barons, Mutual Funds magazine, and others.

He authored several investment books, including The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything In Between, and four e-books in a series: Investing for Adults:

  1. The Ages of the Investor (investment principles for the different seasons of life)

  2. Skating where the Puck Was (the problem of "chasing returns")

  3. Deep Risk (surviving those financial meltdowns that occur in everyone's investment life)

  4. Rational Expectations, Asset Allocation for Investing Adults (an update and consolidation of the material in the first three books)

Bernstein's books are invaluable, but they do include a bit of math, so they are harder than reading Solin - but a bit easier than Robert Shiller.

He is a professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, author, and frequent columnist in financial publications. He wrote the classic: Stocks for the Long Run, which includes material on the efficient frontier. I don't think he writes a blog; instead he writes a regular page, Going Long, in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For a flavor of his thinking, read his article in Kiplinger's: Why Stocks Beat Bonds. Whenever you see his name on something written for the general audience, read it!

He is a professor at Yale and the author of Irrational Exuberance and also a wonderful overview book describing the good (and the moral hazards) of careers in finance and economics: Finance and the Good Society. If you wonder where the moral compass is in finance, read this book. He's frequently quoted in the financial media and sometimes interviewed by CNN and others. He is behind the Case-Shiller housing index and also the Shiller P/E (aka CAPE, Cyclically Adjusted Price/Earnings ratio), both highly regarded in the financial community. Yale offers on-line videos of his entire Yale graduate class: Financial Markets. It is superb, but it is not an easy read. That's okay since you don't need to do the homework or take the tests, and you'll never get graded. He makes it a point to encourage students to use their financial expertise to help others - especially the under-resourced. He does this himself, which comes out in the video of his class. His investing style is cautious. For an example of his posts, read Wealth Effects Revisited.

My favorite periodicals

Keeping current on the financial news is NOT essential to my investment strategy, but it is helpful for the other dimensions of Personal Finance. For example, these sources tend to inform me of things like when to trigger Medicare or Social Security, long-term-care insurance, changes in the tax code, estate planning, and so on.

But here's a caution: the investment strategies that come through some of these channels tend to encourage market timing and the use of managed funds. My investment strategy is the opposite of market timing and costly managers. So be discerning about what to keep and what to throw away regarding the investment advice you find in the personal finance press.

Given all that, here are some of my sources for personal finance and business news:

A superb business weekly news magazine covering business, finance, economics. and current topics of general interest which also have a significant economic impact.

This respected personal finance publisher offers a broad range of periodicals. The place to start is the "Kiplinger's Personal Finance" monthly magazine. It's a great overview of money topics, including tax changes and implications. In my opinion, Kiplinger's gives too much space to stock picking and market timing. My advice - ignore this. But there is plenty more to like about Kiplinger's publications. Jeremy Siegel often writes for it.

See also the Newsletter section below.

My favorite Podcasts, Blogs, and e-Newsletters

This is an entertaining and free offering from the BBC. Each delightful episode is under 10 minutes and tells the story behind the important parts of today's world economies. Some of the topics: Light bulb (ever wonder about the economic impact of having electric lights?), Banking (curious about the roots of banking, especially investment banking), Barcode (so common today, but here's the story behind the technology and it's financial impact), iPhone (this is a look at its economic impact outside of Apple), Shipping Container (this one made and makes a much bigger impact on the world's economy than I ever imagined), Paper (yep, paper), Diesel Engine, Haber-Bosch Process (ever wonder what's the big deal about fertilizer?), Concrete, Google, and more.

Planet Money (podcast)

This National Public Radio (NPR) is a somewhat light-hearted offering of titles that often don't sound like economics or finance, but they are! Episodes are usually under 20 minutes and cover a wide range of topics, such as, Strong Feelings about Dodd-Frank, Dear Economist - I need a date, The Thing about that Border Tax, The Bees Go to California, If Economists Controlled the Borders, Eagles vs Chickens, and so on.

This is another engaging channel from NPR. Each episode runs about 42 minutes, and new ones seem to come out about every 2 weeks. Some recent titles: Did China Eat America's Jobs?, Is the American Dream Really Dead?, How to Make a Bad Decision, Professor Hendryx vs Big Coal, and so on.

Robert Shiller Feeds (occasional blogs)

Robert Shiller (see above for bio) offers an academic view on the financial markets and the economy, in general. He's my favorite finance academic. My most recent read is his blog post on Narrative Economics, which offers some new insight into the impact of financial narratives in the current press impacts the markets. Shiller models this using some of the same mathematics used to model the spread of flu and other viruses. So this one's especially engaging for anyone with a strong high school math background.

This weekly blog a great source of short, readable resources. It helps personal investors understand their investments in the context of the broader economy in categories of Economy & Markets, Personal Investing, Investing, Retirement, College.

The Kiplinger Letter (e-newsletter)

Kiplinger's publishes a selection of periodicals (see above) and some electronic (and paper) newsletters. The core one is the 4-page "The Kiplinger Letter," which comes every Friday in my email inbox (and a few days later in paper form). It's excellent and covers the entire economy (not just investments). It's the best quick summary of what's important for right now.

If you are near or in retirement, also consider "Kiplinger's Retirement Report." It is a monthly newsletter full of solid advice for this season of life.

McLean's Weekly Roundup (e-newsletter)

This one comes from Canada and is a curation of good articles by a range of people. It includes practical investment advice and retirement planning. Click here to set up a subscription.

My favorite financial tracking software


I've used Quicken software for 20+ years. Currently, I use the Quicken Premier version, and I keep it current with the latest revision. For more on this take a look at Tracking Your Finances.

Other Interesting Links

If you are just starting in personal finance and are a bit overwhelmed about all the "moving parts", take a look at Financial Literacy. It's a great review for experienced people, too. The link offers an easy-to-read guide covering all the important areas, including setting a budget, using credit, planning for retirement, and more.

A very simple Returns Calculator for estimating the internal rate of return. I like this one because it allows you also to handle periodic additions and withdrawals from the portfolio.

Joshua Kennon's Stocks vs. Bonds vs. Gold Returns for the Past 200 Years.

CNN Money article on What's my risk tolerance...? by Walter Updegrave.

Vanguard's Principles on Investing Success

Mutual Funds Dividends is a primer on the taxation of capital gains and dividends from stock and bond mutual funds.

My favorite investment custodian

By "custodian" I mean the company that holds our money. It's where I buy and sell funds.

We moved some of our investments to Vanguard somewhere around 2002. In 2005, we moved virtually everything to Vanguard and we couldn't be happier. Vanguard's fees are the lowest in the industry, their service is superb, and their educational resources are outstanding (blogs, articles, and webinars). Their corporate strategy, called Vanguarding, is exactly in line with the investing philosophy in this website.

John Bogle founded Vanguard in 1974 based on the strategy of offering very low-cost index funds to investors. One of Vanguard's keys to keeping costs low is their unique ownership structure. The Vanguard company is owned by their own Vanguard funds. And these funds are owned by people just like you and me. So management is not torn between doing what's best for their owners and what's best for their clients; the Vanguard fund owners are the owners! Along with this comes the benefit that distributions that other investment companies must pay their shareholders, at Vanguard they go into their funds (which we own!). So far as I know Vanguard is the only investment company structured like this, so we can expect their fees to remain the lowest in the industry. For more on this dimension of Vanguard check out this Kiplinger's Article: Vanguard's Fad-Free, Low Fee Approach.

We do have one small 401B retirement account at Fidelity because that is the custodian that my "employer" uses. Fidelity seems like an excellent company, and they offer an adequate range of investments to support my investment strategy. They are a bit too inclined to market their managed funds, but you can find a good supply of index funds there, too.

There are other good companies in this field, and many of them probably offer low-cost index funds to fit my investment strategy. But since I don't have any recent experience with these, I've left them out of this resource list. I can tell you, though, that Daniel Solin's books refer extensively to Vanguard, Fidelity, and T. Rowe Price. And William Bernstein puts Vanguard at the top of his list.

All the best,

Tim Isbell