004-2020 South African Economy

Title: Everyone’s Guide to the South African Economy

Author: Andre Roux

One topic that I regard highly is economics. And what is better than reading how the economy of your own home country works, because you learn the theory, and real-life application thereof. You can ‘see’ and understand how that theory works in your economy because you live the daily life in that country and notice these forces playing around you.

When I browsed through the book shelves in the book store before I left my home for an assignment in a new country, I found this book, and thought it may be interesting to see how economics was applied into my home country in the past and present. And that is also what the book wishes to teach the reader, to give the reader a look into the jargon and world of the economists and others of a country.

The topics the book discussed ranged from:

  • What is economics?
  • National Accounts (used to measure a GDP and GNI of a country)
  • Economic growth and development
  • Unemployment
  • Inflation
  • Money
  • Monetary Policy and Interest rates (vs Fiscal Policy)
  • The Balance of Payments
  • Exchange rates
  • Government Spending and taxes
  • South Africa in an international context
  • Africa
  • Economic challenges in South Africa

I will admit I did have economics as a subject in high school and university for two semesters. Therefore i had been pre-disposed to the science. However, the book delved more into how economics applied to South Africa at present and its past, and therefore the book was much better in that regard.

For any reader, if you wish to get a slightly better understanding in how your country’s economy works, get a book that gives you this intro.

Rating:

The book is well written, achieves the objective it set out for the South African, and any foreign readers. Rating i give is 4.4/5

003-2020 Fake

Title: Fake (The truth of Fake-Money, Fake-Teachers and Fake-Assets)

Author: Robert Koyosaki

This was the second book that I took to read from the author Robert Kiyosaki. The first book he published, and which has sold world-wide is ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ of which I have also previously written a review.

When I stood in the book store to look at a new book to read, my thoughts were with investing and whether there was a book that could explain how we can distinguish useful and true information/news in the media from the fake news, and thus use the true news to assist with making proper and informed investment decisions. That’s where I came across this book, which I believed to have just that.

However, it may not have held the information I was looking for at the time, it did give me valuable insight in another respect, which I am glad to have obtained from this accidental selection.

In the beginning he makes it clear that he wishes to teach the reader about three big lessons: 1) Fake Money, 2) Fake Teachers and 3) Fake Assets. The book breaks those lessons into the different chapters, but reference is made to those lessons continuously, that all three should be taken together to assist in the attainment of financial wealth.

1..Fake Money – He introduces you to the three forms of money that we currently have in the world today : Gold (God’s money), Currency (Government money) and Cryptocurrency (People’s money). The lesson he holds is that the government’s money is only worth so much as much the people have faith in the government. That the government is able to print more and more money (which could have severe economic consequences). If people (or the world economy) loses faith in the government, the demand for the currency drops, and the abundant supply in circulation makes it less valuable. This is all in the hands of the government, whereas God’s Money (Gold, Silver) is in your hands, and cannot be printed in more quantities by the government if it is in a difficult situation (as with paper money for Quantitative Easing or Troubled Asset Relief Programs).

2. Fake Teachers – He criticizes that the education that is taught in schools is only to produce people to become active members of the working society. This is definitely essential, of course, for a modern economy to function. However, it doesn’t teach anyone about financial education, which is also essential in any economy, which is mostly a driving force into a better age. Also, he distinguishes between true teachers and fake teachers, those who teach what they have experienced from the real world, and those that teach the theoretical aspect without having applied it themselves in the real world.

3. Fake Assets – Here he makes a clear distinction between what is an Asset and what is a Liability to your pocket. Not just that, but also what constitutes real Assets (tangible), and fake Assets (paper investments).

I have given the briefest of explanations of what was covered in the book for the three lessons, but there are many more in the book. Therefore, I would say that should you wish to get the true benefit of the lessons that he wishes to teach his readers, buy yourself a copy of the book instead of reading my short review. It has more, and explains it much better.

Three other things I wish to share with you, which I didn’t mention above, but thought truly fascinating to share were:

  • 1971 when Nixon took the Dollar off the Gold Standard (ie. a currency’s strength is not determined by the volume of gold reserves that are held in the country), and the government money was no longer backed by tangible Gold reserves. Government money was now only debt.
  • That one should use debt (with Government Money) only to buy real Assets, which generate recurring income
  • Tax should not just be seen from the perspective of the government taking money away to fund its activities, but also from the perspective that it provides incentives to individuals that take on projects for society, which benefits the people, thereby the incentive is tax deductible

Therefore, I definitely gained much more insight in many topics, and will be on the look-out for more of his books and teachings in the future.

Summary:

Terrific reading material, well-written, easily understandable and the knowledge gives every reader something to think about. As he closed off his first book (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) he said “every decision you make with every Dollar you hold today, will influence your future life” – not those precise words, but the message is clear. Rating I afford is 4.75/5 🙂

002-2020 Moneyland

Title: Moneyland (Why thieves &crooks now rule the World & how to take it back)

Author: Oliver Bullough

Whilst I was on my December holidays in Belgium I had opted to buy a day ticket to Brugge. It was here that, whilst I walked through the small town (still decorated in an old-style fashion) during the festive season, that I enjoyed a beer, home-made waffle, and located a small book store.

At first I thought I wouldn’t find anything since most of the books were in Belgian (obviously since i was in Begium). However, in the small English section I did find this book, which turned out to be an intriguing book.

If you look at the picture of the cover, it is of a US Dollar with another piece of currency that covers the lower part of the face (as the cowboys used to do in a bank heist). Basically, the picture suited the content of the story, namely thieving.

It starts off the first chapter in the Ukraine, with one of the prior high ranking government officials who was living a rich lifestyle that he should not have been able to afford with his government earnings. Yet, when it was investigated he didn’t own it, but the properties were owned by a company, which in turn was also owned by another company in another country. All around it goes and ends up back at him, after one had dug deep enough.

The book then delves into the time after the second world war decades, where off-shore banking was introduced into the modern world. As was well illustrated in the story, before offshore was introduced, wealthy individuals could not hide their wealth as easily since they had it with them in their home countries. But with offshoring, individuals took the opportunity to store their wealth in other jurisdictions, and amass more, all safely away from their home jurisdictions. Thus, wealthy individuals took the new concept to hide their wealth and amass even more, all in secret and hidden away from their local tax man.

Nowadays, a good term to describe countries that accommodated these wealthy individuals are called ‘tax havens’.

The book also explains other means which wealthy individuals, and government officials, used to improve their lifestyles, and within the protection of some legislation = diplomatic passports.

Every chapter gives terrific material, and is very insightful. Some of the concepts were already familiar to me, but the idea of how some of these proposals were utilized to hide away wealth, and the economic consequences of these actions were very new and definitely gave me food-for-thought. As they would say, I formed new connections within the nodes of my brain on how these means were used, other than the legal means meant to promote economic growth.

Summary:

To the layman who wishes for a good book to read, this should be on your list. For any academic and individuals interested in law and finance, this would be an interesting read not to miss. For every other individual that just wishes to fill their book rack with another great read, have this in your collection (like mine 🙂 ). Terrific book, well written, very insightful and well explained. The author did a great job in researching the topics he published in this work. I gladly give the book a rating of 4.8/5 (mainly because i wish he could tell me a bit more of this dark network, and stories from within).

Don’t pass this one up.

001-2020 Odyssey

Title: The Odyssey

Author: Homer (translated by W. H. D. Rouse)

One terrific role that Sean Bean also portrayed was Odyssey in the film ‘Troy’. In fact, when I read the book I pictured him being the character in the story line.

Other than in the film ‘Troy’ I had read two other books, both from Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles, and Circe) in which Odyssey was also featured as a prominent character. This brought me to research if there was a book written of the story of Odyssey, and that is what now leads to the book review.

He is a prominent, clever and heroic mythical Greek who rules over the kingdom of Ithaca, and has one son (Telemachos) with his wife Penelopeia, and is then summoned by King Agamemnon and Menelaos to fight against the Trojans for the wrongs committed by Paris and Helena (wife of Menelaos). That is where the great 10 Year war takes place, until finally the Greeks overrun the Trojans with the ingenious idea of Odyssey to build a large wooden horse, dubbed the Trojan Horse. The book doesn’t take place in the war, but rather after the war what Odyssey encounters in his travels to get home to his kingdom.

In fact, it would be almost another decade after the war before he finally returns home. He didn’t offer proper sacrifices to the gods, and had insulted one of the mighty gods’ children (Poseidon’s son, a cyclops), which resulted in his ship being redirected on the ocean, him performing some tasks and meeting Circe, and finally losing his ship to the ocean and being stranded on a island of a goddess (daughter of Oceanos).

Eventually he does return home, but then at home some intruders await, and with the help of his son, and goddess Athena, he removes them from his home, and finally can live his life further.

What kept me stuck to the story is how the Greek gods become involved with the mortal lives, and sometimes help them, or give them an ultimatum of what will come to pass should they not take a certain decision. And also the lessons that some of the tasks bring with them.

This is my fourth Greek Mythology book, and every time I become more and more hooked to them.

Summary

The translation by the author of the Homeric text to English was well done. The link he makes to the Trojan war lines up very well. However, there are a few areas where some characters of the Trojan War story don’t line up with the story of the characters of the film ‘Troy’. Examples are King Agamemnon, Menelaos and Helena. Nevertheless, the adventure that Odyssey goes through after the Trojan War, and how he makes amends and is finally permitted to get back home is fun to follow, and, you learn a little bit of ‘history/mythology’ in the process. The rating I like to award is 4.9/5

025-2019 Range

Title: Range – Why Generalists triumph in a specialized world

Author: David Epstein

I started with the synopsis of the book, and thought that this would be something different to the world of specialized individuals.

Have you ever heard that if you want to become really good at something (novice/semi-/professional) you need to put in at least 10,000 hours of training into that sport? This is where the book comes in and says that there is not one single-way to success.

In all chapters the author practically takes one scenario of someone that specialized, and one that took a slightly different route and both ended up having successful careers. And to showcase this, he started the first chapter with two well-known figureheads: Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

He tells a short version of Tiger Woods’ story, where he specialized from a young age and focused all his attention on one sport: golf. Roger Federer, on the other hand, only focused on one sport (tennis) much later in his life, and before-hand took part in a few sports. The comparison between two athletes shows the powerful message the author wishes to portray: namely, that early specialization is not the only way to succeed in everything.

In fact, the author strongly supports the notion that we shouldn’t specialize from an early age, but that we should ‘sample’ a few years and then later on decide on the most favorable alternative and focus our full attention on that. He also brings out that in many cases, human beings change much during their lifetimes and that the specialized decisions we make for our future might actually not be a good idea for all matters, because the future self for whom we’re making a decision now, might not have the interests still in future.

  • Somewhat, I understand where he is coming from
  • However, for some decisions (university degree) it is not always possible to have a ‘sampling period’ because higher education is unfortunately expensive
  • Therefore, I do agree that we change a lot during our lifetimes, and that our interests change constantly, but one good choice might be a gap year, or a year/more working before we make a commitment to study to attain more independence and learn more of ourselves

Summary:

The comparisons between ‘early specialization’ and ‘sampling’ show an interesting perspective on the commonly accepted status quo of how triumph is achieved. It also shows that we should not be afraid to make a change in our lives when we have already specialized too much in our work, because it could sometimes lead to something better.

Also, it is more fun to have a broader knowledge of many things than too much of one thing. The rating I award for this book take a 4.3/5

024-2019 Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Title: Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki

I bought the pocket-sized booklet of this top-seller, and am really satisfied with what I got from this read.

The approach followed by the author to tell this story is quite interesting. And it all starts with the entertaining title of the book. Before I bought myself a copy of this book, I wondered how he would give financial advice from a poor man and rich man’s perspective, and was given the answer straight away in the first chapter when he confirmed that the story is based on his time of growing up. His real dad being the ‘poor dad’ of the story and his ‘rich dad’ being the dad of his best friend. And the way he tells the story (/teaches the lessons as he grows up) was really well done.

He emphasizes on multiple occasions that schools only teach us the skills to become active and contributing members of a functioning society. Which is needed of course, for a society to function the way it does today. But there is more we could learn for ourselves, and live somewhat differently, making our lifestyles a little better.

This financial knowledge is introduced in this first book and has the following disciplines: 1) The Rich don’t work for Money, they make Money work for them; 2) It’s not how much you make, but how much you keep; 3) Mind your own business; 4) The history of taxes and the power of corporations; 5) The Rich invent Money; 6) Work to Learn – Don’t Work for Money; 7) Overcoming obstacles; 8) Getting started – There is Gold everywhere

Especially the first chapter was a little tricky for me to get in. “Don’t work for money”. I really had think on that, and even when I thought I had understood what was taught, when I read the subsequent chapters I understood more and more that that initial understanding wasn’t quite right. And gradually I learnt what he meant, and now believe I understand his lesson much better. So much so that I try and look around me for potential business ideas.

The great thing about growing up in a developing country, and then moving to a developed country, is that chances are that some ideas in place in the latter country have not yet been implemented in the former country. Thus, I look and see whether that business idea would have any feasibility in my home country.

Lesson 2 of the book I have already implemented before starting off the book, and lesson 3 is currently in progress. Having read the lessons and already seeing that to some small extent I was already on the right path, I was really excited to think of ways to take the next steps and improve my asset-base 🙂

Lesson 6 also gives good supporting reasons why we should never stop learning, and should in fact invest into our education, more so than make ‘conspicuous consumption’.

Summary:

The book was a fun read, teaches the lessons in a clear and understandable way. After every chapter there is a summary of the matters that were discussed in the chapter (however, the summary is almost written in the same manner that the chapter was written, and therefore it feels like the summary is not helpful). The lessons are sound, and the author strongly urges the reader to understand what the reader just read. The book got a rating of 5.7/5

023-2019 Think and Grow Rich

Title: Think and Grow Rich

Author: Napoleon Hill

I did finish this one some time ago but neglected to write a review before the year had ended. That’s why (even though we’re already going strong into 2020) I still title it among my 2019 reads.

Somewhere I once read that this was the book that was most commonly read by most millionaires. Once I turned the last page, I could understand how that could be true.

Even though the book was written a long time ago, the lessons it gives still hold strong value today as much as they did in the early 20th century.

The book is split into the following disciplines: 1) Desire; 2) Faith; 3) Auto-suggestion; 4) Specialized knowledge; 5) Imagination; 6) Organized Planning; 7) Decision; 8) Persistence; 9) The Power of the Master Mind Group; 10) The Mystery of Sex Transmutation; 11) The Brain; 12) The Subconscious Mind ; 13) The Sixth Sense…….off by heart 🙂

The order of the disciplines is not by random, but purposefully set in an order that the author wishes to get to the reader. With each of the disciplines taught the author gives the lesson, an illustrative example and then a session to reflect on the lesson learnt in the chapter. The examples used are of people from the early – mid 20th century, but they are clearly set out that the reader can still properly relate to the lessons.

Summary:

The book wishes to teach value to every reader, uses good examples to illustrate the 13 disciplines, and frequently links the disciplines to each other, so that the reader doesn’t see them as one, but sees the connection between them. The lesson is taught in not-too-lengthy chapters, and the examples are very well explained. This book thus got my rating of 5.7/5

PS – it’s on my reading list in the next few months so I can see and reflect, and relearn the principles, and sharpen my knowledge of them. 🙂