What the Industry Is Reading and Recommending

Retirement industry experts recommend some titles and share their own fall reading lists.

Even people who aren’t going back to school think of fall as a time to brush up on the industry. Others might like to return to an old favorite. Along with plenty of reading recommendations for advisers are titles for those advisers who want to give recommendations to their plan sponsor clients.

Our survey found that most (75%) are looking forward to fall reading, 17% said it’s a “maybe, if they have the time” and 8% are too busy. One survey participant was looking forward to reading “anything but business.” Work-related titles get the nod (55%) over “something I’ve always meant to get around to” (36%).

On the readings lists are: “Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It” by Mitch Joel; Certified Financial Planner (CFP) coursework; “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles Mann; and Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.”

Bob Doll, senior portfolio manager and chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management, mixes it up with a fall reading list that has some thoughtful, ambitious titles: “The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System” by James Rickards and “Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture” by J. Paul Nyquist and David Jeremiah. John Grisham’s “The Racketeer” provides balance.

Tim Noonan, managing director, capital markets insights, Russell Investments, says he sees a lot of people reading “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown, which he describes as “an amazing story about teamwork and grit, which is indirectly a morality tale about how spoiled we’ve all become.”

NEXT: Tales of inspiration. Pressing issues. Also, how Americans learned to spend compulsively.

Edmund F. Murphy III, president of Empower Retirement, calls “The Boys in the Boat” a really inspiring story about determination, team work, and what it takes to win. Also on his fall list: “The Heart and the Fist" by Eric Greitens (a great read that underscores the value and importance of service) and Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” which Murphy says is an epic tale of survival against incredible odds.

Noonan encourages advisers to make time for three titles. Joseph Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality” addresses a top political, economic and sociological challenge that modern capitalist societies must now confront. For some interesting insights into longevity, Noonan’s pick is “A Long Bright Future” by Laura Carstensen. “It’s a fantastic treatise on the incredible gift of long life written by the head of Stanford’s Center on Longevity—a must-read for those approaching a long retirement through a glass half-full mentality,” he says.

Jim MacDonald, president of Workplace Investing at Fidelity Investments, recommends “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” by Walter Isaacson. “It’s the fascinating story of the digital revolution from 1850 to today,” he says. “What I found especially interesting were the stories of the unsung innovators, such as Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace, that dramatically shaped modern computing and the Internet.”

MacDonald also cites Tom Brokaw’s memoir “A Lucky Life Interrupted,” about Brokaw’s recent battle with cancer. “The book provides interesting insight on Brokaw’s career highlights and how he approached his condition, as well as context for other cancer patients and their families,” MacDonald says.

On the subject of how people spend money, Noonan says “The Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture” by William Leach is a must. “Americans weren’t always addicted to consumption,” he says. “We had to be trained. This is the story of how the department store taught Americans that there is no such thing as enough.” Leach’s book is for anyone who wants to understand and combat compulsive spending, Noonan says.

NEXT: Fun with behavioral economics

Plan sponsors that want to gain a better understanding of the typical behaviors and emotions of plan participants might enjoy “Save More Tomorrow” by Shlomo Benartzi or “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness “ by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Both books provide useful steps to consider when determining plan design and plan communication strategies, says Dan Peluse, director of corporate plan services at Wintrust Wealth Management, and a 2015 PLANADVISER Top 100 Adviser.

Another fan of Thaler, Fredrik Axsater, global head of State Street Global Advisors in defined contribution, is reading “Misbehaving,” Thaler’s latest book. “He summarizes his insights and research over many years in this book, which directly applies both to plan sponsors and advisers,” Axsater says.

Brendan Curran, a portfolio manager with State Street Global Advisors, is enjoying “The Ingenious Mr. Pyke” by Henry Hemming. “It’s a fun, light read about a British inventor (and possibly Soviet spy) during WW2. His approach to innovation and outside-the-box thinking apply directly to the level of innovation and idea creation needed by DC sponsors and asset managers today,” Curran says. 

Fall can be a good time to turn back to perennial favorites. “I just re-read the very first financial book I read as an adviser,” says Jason Chepenik, managing partner at Chepenik Financial. According to Chepenik, George Samuel Clason’s classic “The Richest Man in Babylon” is more of a pamphlet than a book, but it drills down on the basics. “I still use the term “10% of what you earn is yours to keep,” Chepenik says. “It’s interesting that our entire industry is focused on the 10% number today, when I read this pamphlet 17 years ago. It’s great!” The 1926 book uses parables and anecdotes from the ancient world with herdsmen, tradesmen and merchants to deliver financial advice.

NEXT: The crash of ’20. That’s 1720.

Those interested in more vintage wisdom should take a look at recommendations from Mark Hebner, founder and president of Index Fund Advisors, and a serious collector and connoisseur of financial history. Nothing like a nearly 300-year-old market crash to give a reader some perspective. Hebner likes “The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Crash of 1720,” a deep dive into the first global stock market crash, which left investors in London, Paris and Amsterdam shattered practically overnight. A discussion of a 1720 book, it’s “significant because it discusses the world's first global financial crisis, the first mention of stock market bubbles and it reminds investors that not much has changed in financial markets,” Hebner says. 

For quick reading, Hebner recommends Jack Bogle’s “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns” as a quick summary of the upside of index funds. The length (about 240 pages) makes it perfect for a cross-country flight, he says.

Seriously pressed for time and need some perspective on lifetime income? Jamie Kalamarides, head of institutional investment solutions for Prudential Retirement, recommends an 8-page article from the Benefits Law Journal. “In light of the fiduciary rules, this article gives the blueprint for adding lifetime income to DC plans,” he says.

Every fall, Noonan re-reads Hemingway and is now deep into “Islands in the Spring,” which contains an incredible quote that he says perfectly sums up the August market crashes: “… the true hurricane months have fine weather when there are no storms.”