A: The Financial Times crossword.
Not that the FT itself is a doddle; it took me a good couple of years to get used to its ways (I’d given up on the Guardian – too smug, too celebrity-obsessed), and even now there are bits I shy away from – especially the Companies and Markets section.
But if you’re spending £2 a pop (more now? I don’t know), then strategic capital drawdown to increase sustainable “return on investment” is part of your fiduciary duty of care, given an acceptable amortisation period. That is to say, I bought and have now read “Reading and Understanding the Financial Times” by Kevin Boakes. (Here’s the website supporting the book)
It’s an interesting book, written and published after Northern Rock went down (well, was saved by the Tax Payer) in late 2007, but before the real shit hit the fan in late 2008 (Lehmann’s, the LIBOR seizing up, the TARP etc).
The focus is mostly on ‘micro’economics; corporate finance (invesment banks, private equity, capital structure, dividend policy and so on). There are twelve topics, with anywhere from 1 to 4 actual articles from the FT, followed by an extended exegesis and further questions (this is largely a text book for people who hope to get jobs moving figures from one column to another and ending up all the richer for it).
The book does what it sets out to. It certainly have clarified the nature of corporate investment, bonds, private equity/venture capital and so on. But if you’re looking for a critique of efficient markets theory, an historical overview of state bailouts, even a whisper about the social and ecological costs of business, you will be sorely disappointed.
It would be interesting to see if there’s a second edition, and if that has a slightly more reflective and even rueful tone – this book is very much in the “the market will more or less provide, if the state just keeps itself to itself.” Such were the days, of course.
Other things to read
Misrule of Experts: The financial crisis as elite debacle (25 page piece on who gets the blame for the financial meltdown. Academic, but in a good way, and well worth your time!)
Inside Job (documentary, reviewed here)
Gillian Tett’s book (Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a CatastropheDavid Harvey