In a review for CityWireUSA, Alex Rosenberg maintains that A Random Walk Down Wall Street, written by Burton Malkiel and first published in 1973, is still “the best investing primer” that he knows. 40 years ago, index funds didn’t even exist, but Malkiel was advising his readers to buy and hold them—advice that was years ahead of its time.
Malkiel believed that markets are unpredictable, and trying to beat the market is a waste of time. But rather than blithely hand out easy-to-follow advice, Malkiel went further; he denounced technical analysts, writing that “…almost every technical system involves some degree of in-and-out trading. Trading generates commission, and commissions are the lifeblood of many brokerage houses.” Though he’s relied on technical analysts in much of his work, Rosenberg finds it hard to disagree with Malkiel’s point in his review, but gets to the heart of the book when he writes that the reason he is always lending Malkiel’s book to his friends is because he’s trying to save their money.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street contains much practical advice on a wide range of topics, from dollar-cost averaging, to annuities and investing in diamonds—advice that would be worthwhile for newer investors. But its main message is that picking stocks—then, now, and probably forever—is a difficult thing to do, and inexperienced investors are more likely to get scammed by those claiming to have the elusive stock-picking skills. In fact, Malkiel writes on the very first page of the book that individual investors “can do as well as the experts—perhaps even better” and then uses the rest of the book to show how those words are more of a warning than a challenge.