Book Review: Enough. True measures of Money, Business, and Life

Reading the book is free!

Reading the book is free!

I love to read. It is a habit I formed in school and the foundation of my achievements. In recent years, I have moved away from fictional reads to non-fictional categories like finance and self improvement. Sometimes, I take notes after finishing a wonderful book but somehow, I hardly go back to re-read them.

I have decided to do a book summary each time I finish a good book, so that I can collect the nuggets of wisdom and reflect on the teachings when I refer to the post again. And aptly, this first book writes on being sufficient in life.

Title: Enough. (True Measures of Money, Business, and Life). Author: John C. Bogle. Published: 2009, USA.

John C. Bogle is founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group. He created Vanguard in 1974. In 2004, Time named him one of the world’s 100 most powerful and influential people. Enough., Bogle’s seventh book, follows his 2007 bestseller “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing”.

Chapters: (Money) Too much cost, not enough value. Too much speculation, not enough investment. Too much complexity, not enough simplicity. (Business) Too much counting, not enough trust. Too much salesmanship., not enough stewardship. (Life) Too much focus on things, not enough focus on commitment. Too much “success”, not enough character.

Pg 1: The book opens with a story that at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt informs his pal, Joseph, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Joseph had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Joseph responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

Pg 8: Acres of Diamonds. In ancient Persia, a wealthy farmer leaves his home to seek even greater wealth, and spends his life in a fruitless search for a perhaps mythical diamond mine. Finally as age and years of frustration take their toll, he throws himself into the sea and dies, an unhappy pauper far from home. Meanwhile back at his estate, the new owner, surveying his vast acreage, sees something in a stream, something bright, glistening in the sunlight. It is a large diamond, and turns out to rest atop the fabulous Golconda mine.

This story was a special favorite of Dr Russell Conwell, who founded Philadelphia’s Temple University in 1884. The story inspired his classic lecture, “Acres of Diamonds”. The moral of the story: “Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyards, if you but dig for them.”

Pg 186: If things are by nature ephemeral (after all, you can’t take them with you), what is it that does matter? What are the characteristics by which we should measure our lives?

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

And so the combination of boldness and commitment magically seems to summon what we might call providence. Commitment and boldness-these are among the things that truly matter, the things by which we can measure our lives, the things that help turn providence in our favor.

Pg 211: There was this old greyhound, just like the ones who race around a track chasing those mechanical rabbits. The niece had taken the dog in to prevent it from being destroyed because its racing days were over, and Dr Craddock stuck up a conversation with the greyhound:

I said to the dog, “Are you still racing?” “No,” he replied. “Well, what was the matter? Did you get too old to race?” “No, I still had some race in me.” “Well, what then? Did you not win?” “I won over a million dollars for my owner.” “Well what was it? Bad treatment?” “Oh no,”the dog said. “They treated us royally when we were racing.” “Did you get crippled?” “No.” “Then why?” I pressed. “Why?” The dog answered, “I quit.” “You quit?” “Yes,” he said. “I quit.” “Why did you quit?” “I just quit because after all that running and running and running, I found out that the rabbit I was chasing wasn’t even real.”

Pg 217: Success cannot be measured solely in monetary terms, nor in terms of the amount of power one may exercise over others, nor in the illusory fame of inevitably transitory public notice. But it can be measured in our contributions to building a better world, in helping our fellow man, and in rasing children who themselves become loving human beings and good citizens. Success, in short, can be measured not in what we attain for ourselves, but in what we contribute to our society.

Pg 221: “Without Character and Courage, Nothing Else Lasts”. The affluent world in which so many young people exist today doesn’t easily create the ability to build character. Often, character requires failure; it requires adversity; it requires contemplation; it requires determination and steadfastness; it requires finding one’s own space as an individual. And it surely requires honor.

Recall St Paul’s warning, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Or St Luke’s demand of those who have been blessed with plenty: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required….And to whom men have committed much, of them they will ask the more.”

Pg 230: Money, it turns out, does provide happiness, but as we quickly get used to our higher level of material wealth, it turns out to be a transitory sort of happiness…. It’s the presence of some combination of these 3 attributes that determines our happiness: (1) autonomy, the extent to which we have the ability to control our own lives, to do our own things. (2) maintaining connectiveness with other human beings, in the form of love of our families, our pleasure in friends and colleagues, and an openness with those we meet in all walks of life. (3) exercising competence, using our talents, inspired and striving to learn.

Pg 235: But I am doing fine for 3 reasons. First I was born and raised to save rather than spend. I don’t go for extravagance, and it still hurts me a bit to spend on things that are not necessities. Second, I have been blessed with a fabulous defined retirement plan….My humble experience is a living testimony of how the humble wonders of the tax deferred retirement plan, soundly invested over the long term, can build the accumulation of wealth. Third, I have invested wisely, eschewing speculation and focusing exclusively on conservatively invested low cost mutual funds….And, I do my best to avoid the temptation to peek at the value of my fund holdings (a good rule for all of us!).

So I have been truly blessed by the magical combination of my thrift genes; my generous compensation; my propensity to save whatever remains each year; the mathematical miracle of tax free compounding; the knowledge that in investing, costs matter enormously; and enough common sense to focus on a balanced asset allocation.

Pg 238: For most of us, enough is $1 more than you need….And for nearly all of us, savings-early, often and regularly-that is the key to wealth accumulation. It is as simple as that….Another proven way to improve your savings accumulation is to postpone for as long as possible your first payments from Social Security….Still another way is to invest rather than speculate. Always manage investment costs.

….What can be counted and weighted and spent is only a small part of enough. To understand what enough means in the larger picture of existence, we must all keep in mind the many other things that count in this life, even though they can’t be counted.

….One must wait until the evening, to appreciate the splendor of the day.

A beautiful read indeed.


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