Conclusion Out of the Shadows

To many people, investing is a shadow world, unknowable, dangerous, best shunned. The Wall Street that existed before the 1929 crash was indeed such a stygian place, where clans of professionals labored to fleece the uninitiated. Many of the shady practices that Wall Street employed pre-1929 are now illegal, but snares still exist.

Benjamin Graham first shined a light into this dark place. In the midst of the Depression, which had savaged his own personal wealth, he wrote a masterpiece that still allows ordinary investors to navigate the financial terrain with confidence and skill. Since Graham’s day, there has been an explosion of financial information that anyone with an Internet connection can access. Incisive magazines and books devoted to investing are legion. Successful investing doesn’t require a fancy MBA from an expensive university. It does require intelligence and diligence.

Investing success does not come in one flavor. Many strategies must be explored to get to that blessed state where you can say, “I’ve got plenty of money to sustain me, thank God.” Modern-day investors confront far more choices than Graham had to contend with. That translates to far more opportunities, and more pitfalls.

The new approaches to investing that have sprung up each have devoted adherents. The trick is to be sufficiently flexible to dip into any or all of them, but by the same token, to know their limitations.

Graham’s greatest idea was security analysis ...

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