I have always traveled light during my years as a foreign correspondent. To get in and out of war zones with speed, I carried one small bag stuffed with clothes, an old portable typewriter, replaced in later years by an even smaller laptop - and a book. Only the book changed. My worst choice probably was Hugh Thomas's "Spanish Civil War", which I had with me during my stay in Cuba's Secret Police headquarters during the 1963 missile crisis. I could hear the firing squad at dawn from my cell. With light from a tiny vent in the ceiling, I could just make out the stone walls last letters written in blood to wives and children. It was not a good place to read Thomas' horrific accounts of the massacres and senseless killings in Spain's civil war.
I have been reading another Thomas - Merritt Island resident Al Thomas - during my recent travels through Southeast Asia. His book, "If It Doesn't Go Up, Don't Buy It!", is much more fun. To give a sense of what's in store for the reader, it carries a warning label on the front cover -"Following instructions herein will cause reader to become rich. If you have an allergy to large sums of money, Do Not Read!"
Thomas was a member and floor trader on the Chicago Open Board of Trade until 1981 when he sold his membership so he and his wife, Carolyn, could sail the seas for 2 years aboard their 41' ketch, the Aumakua (which means guardian angel in Hawaiian). Afterwards he founded World Trading Group which grew to be the seventh largest introducing commodity brokerage firm in the U.S., with 35 branch offices from coast to coast. He is now president of Williamsburg Investment Company, trading stocks, options and mutual funds. His book sets out to distill the best of what he has learned from trading in the financial markets for more than 30 years and offers advice on how to make money in mutual funds, stocks, futures and options.
It has been written, he says, for the little guys with a few thousand dollars or more to invest who want to make a good return on their money with maximum safety; a slow, steady 30% to 50% annually over any five-year period.
Along the way, Thomas trashes brokers, mutual fund managers, money managers, and just about every analyst who ever drew a breath. And to all those who have watched their portfolios shrink in the recent market downturn, he warns: Watch out for those brokers who push the "you-are-in-for-the-long-haul" and "the-market-always-comes-back." Retired folk in particular, he says, don't have the luxury of waiting out a decade for bear markets to end.
"If It Doesn't Go Up, Don't Buy It!" was written before this year's spectacular crash in the tech stocks. He believes more than anything else his book will help investors not to do most of the dumb things experts want you to do. He constantly reminds readers that while their brokers may be really nice, honest folk, investors must always remember that their first loyalty is not to any broker, fund manager or family of funds, it's to their own money. That reminder alone is worth the purchase price of the book. I will be carrying it with me when I set off on my next assignment.