qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

The Way We Save Now

Book Review: Empire of the Fund - The Way We Save Now, by William A Birdthistle
I picked this up recently in a work book sale. At a glance I wondered at its American bias, but thought it would probably be readable nonetheless, which turned out to be right; whenever the text refers to 401(k)s or IRAs, a British reader might as well substitute SIPP or more general defined contribution pension scheme. (Both are used to provide for retirement; at least in this book, there's no concept that maps to an ISA). There's quite a technical section on how funds are structured, and then something of a lecture on fees. Later chapters describe some dubious and/or unlawful practices (late trading, market timing and selective disclosure).

The author seems to have an agenda that fund managers typically do everything they can to maximise the fund size, because that is the driving force behind their own revenue, and that sometimes this creates a conflict of interest for the fund manager between their own revenue and the interests of some or all of their investors. It's a fair point to some extent: not all fund management expenses increase in proportion to the fund size, and typically institutional investors get a better deal than retail ones in buying the same goods and services. But it does feel as though he goes on about it a bit, when the alternative for retail investors, of doing everything themselves, is generally impractical, and his solution seems to be mostly around better education, which is a worthy but I fear impractical aim, though one to which this book contributes.
Tags: books, economics, money
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