We sat down with Robin Powell, co-author of Invest Your Way to Financial Freedom to ask him a few questions about his book and the process of writing it.
What made you decide to write a book?
As a parent, educating young people about investing and personal finance is a cause that really resonates with me.
It’s easier to trade financial assets today than it has ever been, and young people with no experience whatsoever are being persuaded to try it. A lucky few will win big, but some will lose most or all of their money. The vast majority will underperform a simple low-cost index fund.
The GameStop saga showed what happens when amateurs take on the pros at their own game: there can only be one winner.
Ben and I wanted to write a book that explained to young people, in simple terms, the steps they need to take to get their financial house in order and set themselves up for long-term investment success. And it has nothing to do with trading stocks or cryptocurrencies.
What is the most unexpected thing you learned when writing your book?
Writing a book is much harder than you think! This is actually my first book, and I have a second coming out in a few months’ time.
I’m a journalist, and one of the advantages of journalism is that you’re always writing something new: you finish one article or news report and then straight away start on another, then another and so on. With a book, however, you’re very conscious that, once it’s printed, that’s it. So the temptation for a perfectionist like me is to keep on trying to improve it. I found the process much more demanding than I expected.
How would you describe your book to someone in 30 seconds?
The book encapsulates, in a simple and engaging way, what people in their 20s and 30s need to know about saving and investing. Yes, there are quicker ways to becoming a millionaire. But the one that Ben and I set out in Invest Your Way to Financial Freedomis by far the most realistic and reliable. Take our advice and you’ll put yourself on track for investment success — and save yourself a great deal of stress, and a fortune in fees, in the process.
What is the best financial advice you have ever received?
Live within your means. Remember the words of Mr Micawber in David Copperfield: “Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 [pounds] 19 [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds ought and six, result misery.”
Do you have any mentors or role models in your industry, or outside of your industry?
Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, was a huge inspiration to me. I had the privilege of interviewing him twice. No one has done more than he did for ordinary investors. I’m also a huge fan of Warren Buffett, whose wisdom features heavily in Invest Your Way to Financial Freedom. My own investment philosophy is very much in line with the one that Buffett prescribes: develop good habits, keep it simple, use index funds, diversify broadly, think long term and keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.long term and keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.
What’s your best investment of all time, and your worst (doesn’t have to be the stock market)?
Long ago I acted on a “hot tip” from a relative and bought shares in a firm that burned through large amounts of investors’ money drilling for oil in the Caspian Sea and finding none; I lost my entire stake. My best investment was marrying my wife.
What is your main interest/hobby outside of your work?
I love reading and walking, and I follow the fortunes of the England cricket team. I’m also a long-standing season ticket holder at Aston Villa, which almost qualifies as my worst investment as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering writing a book?
Ask yourself: Do I really want to? Do I have the time and the patience? And, crucially, Do I have something to say that others haven’t said better than I can before? If you can honestly answer Yes to all three questions, then go for it.
Robin Powell is a journalist and is the founding editor of the popular personal finance and investing blog The Evidence-Based Investor. He also campaigns for a fairer, more transparent investing industry.
Invest Your Way to Financial Freedom
A Simple Guide to Everything You Need To Know
by Ben Carlson and Robin Powell
Hardback / ebook / audiobook
Available now – directly from Harriman House or from any good bookshop