John Maynard Keynes was not only a renowned economist, he was an investor. He managed his own money as well as that of King’s College, his friends and family, and insurance companies. As John C. Bogle writes in his introduction to the book, “His spectacular success showed not only his passion for making money, but his growing aversion to losing it. As someone who had gained two fortunes through his trading prowess and lost them through his hubris, Keynes is a stellar example of how an investor can learn, fall on his face more than once, and still come out ahead.” (p. xxxiv)
John S. Wasik explores this investing journey in Keynes’s Way to Wealth: Timeless Investment Lessons from the Great Economist(McGraw-Hill, 2014). Let me start with the rewards of the journey: what Keynes did with his wealth. He bought art as well as rare books and manuscripts. The Keynes collection of rare books, bequeathed to King’s College in 1946, is, according to the college’s web site, “especially strong in editions of Hume, Newton and Locke, and in sixteenth and seventeenth century literature. About 1300 books in this collection have been catalogued on the online catalogue. … Keynes’s collection of manuscripts by Newton, Bentham, John Stuart Mill, etc., is housed in the Modern Archive Centre.” A man after my own heart, but with a bigger budget.
Keynes was a speculator. According to his own definition, “The essential characteristic of speculation … is superior knowledge. We do not mean by this the investment’s actual future yield … we mean the expected probability of the yield. The probability depends upon the degree of knowledge in a sense, therefore it’s subjective. If we regard speculation as a reasoned effort to gauge the future from present known data, it may be said to form the reins of all intelligent investing.” (p. 8) (more…)