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News & Opinion

Man vs. Markets: Economics Explained (Plain and Simple)

August 31, 2012

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I'm a little embarrassed to admit how ignorant I am of the world of finance. Being relatively young, I will attribute my long period of adulthood ignorance to the reality that is a relatively bad economy and a frighteningly unpromising future for any dollar not kept close to me (literally).   I have a 401(k), but never took much time to understand its deep inner workings.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how ignorant I am of the world of finance. Being relatively young, I will attribute my long period of adulthood ignorance to the reality that is a relatively bad economy and a frighteningly unpromising future for any dollar not kept close to me (literally). I have a 401(k), but never took much time to understand its deep inner workings. Actually, I'm more knowledgeable now than I was before I read Paddy Hirsch's new book, Man vs. Markets. Finance, markets—these are things about which I would always say to myself, "I need to just sit down and do some reading, you know, figure out exactly how this stuff works." And I felt like this because I thought eventually I would want to invest, eventually I will need to know how to make more of my earnings. That research remained postponed until I read this book. If not for this book coming into my possession, I would still know nearly nothing about finance. The reason I can stomach Man vs. Markets is because it is pleasant and appealing (just look at the cover!). I like to learn, but I also like to laugh. Hirsch's approach to educating readers is very much like his American Public Media program, Marketplace: a main course consisting of friendly and helpful information, seasoned with grins and quiet chuckles. No LOLs. But this style is what I find most inviting, and it's perfect for something so innately boring as finance. Of course I never got serious about learning about finance; not only did I have little to invest (again, being relatively young), I hadn't run across the right conduit for learning. Man vs. Markets could not be easier to understand. Hirsch doesn't spend time going into great depth on any one subject, but then again, that's not the point of the book. He's going broad and digestible: stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, banks, etc. And the digestible part? Aside from the extremely simple language, we get entertaining narratives involving characters like the three little pigs, invented children (lending toys), and bankers with names like Quickus Bucchus and Voluminus Bonus. You're learning, but you're also smiling. Oh, and there are illustrations. Lots of illustrations. This book is a must-read for the financially under-educated, and it's especially crucial if you're a public radio listener and/or fanatic. The fact that it's been published is to me a sign that I'm not the only listener out there who feels or felt confused about the ins and outs of the markets. This inviting text has partially cured my ignorance and provided me a good springboard for investigating more of the frightening world of finance.

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