The einstein of money. Book#71

I saw this book by chance on Amazon, The Einstein of Money by Joe Carlen and I picked it up in Q1–16 driven by a curiosity to learn more about the personal life of the famous guru of Value investing Benjamin Graham. I found his life fascinating although at times tragic.

I didn’t know that he had lost his father very early in his life. I also didn’t know that his mother got addicted to stock market gambling to try to resolve the families’ finances, and lost it all. It must have had a profound impact on him at the time. I knew that he was a genius in economics but didn’t expect him to be such a gifted student in so many other fields. He was an expert in Latin, Greek, German. He finished Columbia University in two years instead of the usual three, while working thirty hours a week to finance his tuition. And he achieved such great results that upon graduation he was offered teaching roles in 3 different subjects: Greek, Latin and also Mathematics.

I knew that he had become very successful and wealthy as an analyst in his early years, i.e.: he earned more than 5 Mio $ a year before the 1929 crisis. But I hadn’t realized that even him at times burned himself with leverage and experienced terrible swings of fortune.

I hadn’t realized either how tragic his personal family life was. His first son died of meningitis at the early age of nine. He had four kids from his first marriage but divorced after 20 years. He then married his much younger secretary, had one son with her but this experience lasted no more than a year. Meanwhile, his second son from his first marriage committed suicide in his 20’s while serving on the European battle front during WWII. Ben Graham, the mourning father, ended up dating his dead son’s ex-girlfriend at the time and spending the rest of his life with her.

All of this doesn’t take away his genius in investing. But it reminded me that even geniuses are only men after all.

My purpose in life is independence, fulfilment and a better understanding of how the world works. Like Charlie Munger, I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have ever figured out. And like Sir Isaac Newton, I believe in our ability to see further than any others before us by acknowledging that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. With this blog I hope to keep track of my learning about investing, business, decision making, entrepreneurship and self development while inspiring others to do the same. For the moment the format of this blog will be one post for each book that has influenced me, but I expect it to evolve over time. Join my Journey. John.