When I first corresponded with Dallas-based attorney Rob Pivnick six years ago, he worked at Goldman Sachs, my former employer, although we did not know each other from there. Now set up with his own law practice, he pursues the same mission as me — financial literacy.
When I published my finance book for college graduates in 2018, I was chagrined to hear from readers, “OK, great. But I wish you’d written one for junior high or high school students.”
(Side complaint: this is probably a hazard for every author. You spend four years doing a project only to have readers ask why you didn’t write a different book tailored to their specific needs. Whatever. Complaint over.)
This week, Pivnick published “The Young Adult’s Guide To Investing: A Practical Guide To Finance That Helps Young People Plan, Save, and Get Ahead.”
Essentially, Pivnick wrote the book readers had requested from me.
Philosophically, Pivnick and I agree on all the big stuff about investing. We share a preference for simplicity. He espouses low-cost approaches that depend on long-term compound interest for success.
He cleverly teaches the major developments of the last 50 years of high finance and investment theory, like the efficient market hypothesis and portfolio theories. He illustrates compound interest, the effects of costs and the risks of timing and chasing returns.
If you are not sure what all those theories are, then pretend you are the teen and buy it for yourself.
He’s clearly read all the correct finance classics. Most importantly, Pivnick makes the language accessible to teenagers. Big color graphics and side boxes make this book easy on the eyes. The smart junior high kid in your life could consume this in less than an hour.
Below is excerpted email correspondence to celebrate the publication of his book.
MT: Did you write this for anyone in particular?
RP: I wrote it for my kids, but enough parents and coaches and teachers to whom I gave copies suggested that it needed to be published that I gave it a shot. My aim was simply to spread the word. Too many people — way too many people — don’t have the knowledge to save and invest properly.
MT: How did you personally learn about money and finance and investing?
RP: Reading. School. (Vanguard-founder) Jack Bogle. My Dad. My first investment was $250 in the Twentieth Century Select mutual fund. My Dad matched my contributions, and I caught the bug at that point. I’m a saver, not a spender.
MT: Why is learning about money and finance so challenging for most people?
RP: Two reasons, I think. It’s a taboo concept for some reason, like talking about sex or politics. But it shouldn’t be. Second, it seems complicated. And, again, it shouldn’t be. If one buys into the buy-and-hold, passive, low-cost investment strategy, it’s neither complicated nor a topic that should be difficult to discuss. I’m also a firm believer of involving kids in discussions about finance and savings and budgeting. If they get the hang of it at a young age, then they buy in.
MT: Who do you blame for the dearth of financial literacy among not just young adults but medium-age adults and older adults?
RP: One could blame schools for not teaching finlit adequately. I think by last count approximately 20 states teach some form of finlit in school. Some give it lip service with a short lesson in a history class. Others give it the proper time it deserves with a more fulsome curriculum.
One probably should blame the parents. It’s our responsibility to raise our kids to be respectful and educated.
I don’t think it’s necessarily a dearth of material out there, but rather too much material that teaches the wrong stuff. Almost all of the saving and investing material available is geared towards picking stocks or beating the system. How much airtime did Gamestop get? And the result is that people think they can pick the next winner. They can’t, but they are convinced they can.
MT: Can you describe some of the volunteer work you’ve done regarding economic/financial education in Texas? Has that been successful?
RP: I’ve donated books to schools and churches and community organizations, and performed lessons/seminars at those same types of institutions. I served on the board of the Texas Council on Economic Education from 2014 to 2019. I can only hope I’ve made a difference. I do, occasionally, get a teen or parent who will follow up and tell me that my book has sparked a real interest, so at least I know some people are getting the message.
MT: Besides your own book, which books or resources for this same target audience would you recommend most? And what are your favorite books on investing?
RP: I’m going to combine these questions. I love the behavioral finance stuff. Daniel Ariely, Nassim Taleb, Daniel Kahneman, Adam Grant, Robert Cialdini and Malcolm Gladwell. I think if I could have gone back in time, I would have majored in the psychology and behavioral sciences of investing. The newsletters and TV talking heads (e.g., Mad Money and Squawk Box, etc.) have pomp and circumstance, and that seems to get folks attention. But at the end of the day, that’s all gambling.
Pivnick’s book was published April 6, 2021, by Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
Michael Taylor is a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News and author of “The Financial Rules for New College Graduates.”