Santa's Reading List

What are you putting under your clients' trees thi

The holiday shopping season is upon us. Whether you have a hefty list of clients to buy for, or just a few special ones, you might want to consider books as gifts. We spoke with some advisors to find out their favorite gift choices.

Susan John, in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, gives her clients a varied selection of books that includes How to Care for Your Parents: A Practical Guide to Eldercare by Nora Jean Levin, and The Wall Street Journal Guide to Understanding Money and Investing by Kenneth M. Morris, Virginia B. Morris, and Alan M. Siegel. The latter, she points out, "is updated every year. It explains what stocks and bonds really are and what they do on the most basic level."

Cicily Maton of Aequus Wealth Management Resources in Chicago gives books "all the time." She has some favorites, including her own, (Financial Passages: For Women By Women, 2001), Karen Ramsey's Everything You Know About Money Is Wrong (1999) and Susan Bradley's Sudden Money (2000), as well as George Kinder's Seven Stages of Money Maturity (2000) and Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilgovich (2000).

Maton, a self-confessed fan of behavioral finance, points out that quite often clients make decisions about money based on feelings and ideas that are completely separate from their financial health. "We've gone through a terrible period these last 18 months," she says, "with all kinds of things coming to the fore. One man called me up--he's a brand-new investor, and we're heading into a recession. I sympathized with him [about the timing] and he said, 'You know Cicily, this isn't about the account or about you. It's just hitting me so much harder because I just found out I've got cancer.' Investment performance and everything else is totally different [under those circumstances]. It's totally colored by what clients are going through." Books on behavioral finance can help them, Maton argues. "I suggest clients get this book [Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes], or I give it to them. This particular client really got it. That helped him and relieved his anxieties."

While not necessarily suggesting them for holiday presents, she also gives situation-specific books. "For some of the women clients I work with, whether divorcees or widows, I might give them a book of affirmations of some sort--prayers or from that direction--or psychological help books. Anything along the lines of 'people have been through this before and you'll get through this too' kinds of books."

Harold Evensky has some thoughts on the subject, too.

"We do occasionally give books, not just for holidays. One we've given to many people is an investment philosophy book, Winning the Loser's Game: Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing, by Charles D. Ellis (1998). Also, Peter Bernstein's books--Capital Ideas (1993), Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (1998), and The Power of Gold (2000). Then there's my book, Wealth Management (1997), for clients who have indicated a pretty deep interest in investments." Other titles his practice will present to clients, although not necessarily for the holidays, are Mary Rowland's A Common Sense Guide to Mutual Funds (1998), Judith Viorst's Necessary Losses (1997) and for clients who are grieving, Melba Colgrove's How to Survive the Loss of a Love (1993) and Antoine St.-Exup?ry's The Little Prince (2000).

Ross Levin of Accredited Investors in Edina, Minnesota, also has some suggestions. "Our view of financial planning is to integrate all the client's resources," says Levin. His firm's clients are not generally concerned with having enough money to get by, he says; it's more a question of trying to integrate their values with their lives. "Most of our clients have meaning issues, and it's a matter of trying to figure out how they can make decisions consistent with their values," so the books he suggests are a truly eclectic mix. Such titles as The Overspent American (1999) by Juliet Schor, Luxury Fever (2000) by Robert H. Frank, For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples (1999) by Ruth L. Hayden, Siddhartha (1971) by Hermann Hesse, and Man's Search for Meaning (1976) by Victor Frankl, cover everything from wanting too much in the way of material goods to the quest for finding your way through life.

Some further suggestions from Susan John: To go from the sublime to the visually captivating, you might want to try The Art of the Market (1999), by Bob Tamarkin. Art from two centuries' worth of stock certificates graces the pages of this book. Historically minded, feminist-oriented clients might also be interested in Other Powers (1998), by Barbara Goldsmith. And the scientifically inclined might welcome Beyond Einstein (1995), by Machio Kaku, a look at string theory and other scientific esoterica.

Keep in mind this advice from Maton: "We found that if you really have a message you want the client to get, don't expect them to read the book from cover to cover," she says. "Put a little card in it, and say, 'You might want to read chapter such and such.' Everybody's busy. Handing them a book that might have a message might be a little overwhelming, and marking it can make it easier."

We wish you all a peaceful and joyous holiday season. Happy reading!

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