My Favourite Takeaways from The Investment Zoo – Part 1

Throughout the investment industry, Stephen Jarislowsky needs little introduction.

Jarislowsky is the 80-something co-founder of the money management firm Jarislowsky Fraser, one of Canada’s most respected financial firms.  They manage pension funds, corporate and private investment portfolios primarily in North American but also around the world.  The company began in 1955 as an investment research firm and in the early 1960s, the firm branched into private investment counseling.  In 1966, they extended into pension fund management and since that time, the rest as they say is history.  From very modest beginnings over 50 years ago to assets under management exceeding $45 billion today, I guess you could say Stephen Jarislowsky is a Canadian financial icon.  You don’t become that successful if you don’t know a thing or two about money management.

Surprisingly, The Investment Zoo is Jarislowsky’s first book but you wouldn’t know it.  The billionaire octogenarian packs a wealth of information into a rather lean, easy to read book.  Jarislowsky takes readers through some personal history, offers his take on overcompensated CEOs, and describes perverse industry incentives before he lays out how investors can achieve financial success.

To survive “the zoo” that is the investment industry, Jarislowsky offers tons of common sense for do-it-yourself investors derived from his own experiences, both the good and the bad, but also from his observations of others.  To avoid being beaten-up or worst still, consumed by various wild animals that inhabit the investment jungle Jarislowsky voices a familiar expert refrain:

  • Save early
  • Save often
  • Avoid trading
  • Be an owner
  • Focus on dividend-paying companies
  • Avoid management fees
  • Live within your means

Overall, I found the book a very interesting read but The Investment Zoo did little to reinforce what I’ve learned from other investment books, such as The Single Best Investment by Lowell Miller.  Maybe that’s because the recipe for financial success is getting more and more ingrained (and clearer) with every investing book I read.  That negative comment aside, The Investment Zoo has a host of great messages and I found lots to takeaway and share with you today.  Just like a Canadian bank stock, I would recommend The Investment Zoo as a strong buy for every DIY investor, especially those who are focused on dividend-paying stocks.  Pick the book up, give it a read and keep it on your bookshelf for reference (and reinforcement) during your financial journey.  This is a must read or own book in my opinion.

I have two posts earmarked to cover my favourite takeaways from The Investment Zoo.  This post, part 1, includes a few of Jarislowsky’s gems below:

“Much of our savings in Canada literally goes to waste.  Keeping money in cash or bonds accomplishes little in the long term after tax and inflation.”

“I have certainly made investment mistakes.  Everybody makes mistakes and you don’t learn unless you make a few.”

“I believe that debt worldwide is so high that a sharp expansion of the money supply, which in time always causes inflation, is evitable.”

“Taxation has never been fair, since government can only take from those who have money.”

“In the investment business you always have to look at the downside because that’s where your risk is.   Anybody can live with the upside!”

“Therefore, in good times or in bad, I recommend you stick to the highway of investing in well-performing stocks.  You’ll end up the better for it regardless of the world situation.”

“Clearly, investors are operating in a jungle with some very vicious animals.”

“Few people tip Abbott Laboratories, Philip Morris, or General Electric.”  “Of course there are exceptions, but chances are if you listen to five tips, no more than one of them will be a solid, long-term choice.”

“Brokers make their money on commissions.  So if an investor worked with a broker and bought Abbott Laboratories, the poor sap would make one commission in a lifetime, unless the client had new money to place.”

“Clearly for investors, all things being equal, the fewer fees you pay the more your total wealth is maintained.”

Have you read The Investment Zoo?

What do you think about Jarislowsky’s comments?  Agree or disagree for the most part?

Check out Part 2 of The Investment Zoo here.

24 Responses to "My Favourite Takeaways from The Investment Zoo – Part 1"

  1. I read the investment zoo. I think it’s mostly about Jarislowsky’s view of investing. He is a huge proponent of proper governance when it comes to the board of directors. It’s one of those books where you want to learn about the author and the investment philosophy.

    I was really interested in learning about him when I read the book considering his success.

    1. @Passive,

      It’s a great book in my opinion; Jarislowsky certainly pushes his investment philosophy upon the reader. That philosophy might not align with everyone, but I think it’s an important read to understand his approach all the same.

  2. Investment Zoo is the first book I read on investing. I was amazed how he still lives in the same house he bought in the 70’s; no need to live in a huge mansion even though he’s super wealthy. He and Warren Buffet almost have the same outlook on living within your means.

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one that picked up of the Buffett similarities. The whole “be an owner” thing etc. Almost all long-term successful investors that don’t promise to get you rich quick, but get you rich over time, follow a similar model from what I have read.

    1. @ My University Money,

      Very true, most long-term investors don’t promise any get-rich-pitch. Rather, all the successful dividend-investors I’ve read about or been fortunate to talk to, believe in their get-rich eventually strategies – and they work 😉

  4. I like Jarislowsky’s take on fixed income (more of a savings vehicle than an investment).

    This book is Tom Conolly’s new bible. He quotes it religously in The Connolly Report.

    “The Investment Zoo by Stephen Jarislowsky – the best Canadian general investment book ever.” — Tom Connolly


    1. @Think Dividends,

      Yeah, I’ve seen a few times where Tom Connolly has referenced Jarislowsky. Connolly seems like a big fan, and given what I’ve read about Jarislowsky, there is good reason to be one.

  5. Nice post! Seems like a great read and Stephen surely offers some sound advice.

    I watched BNN this past weekend and they had Stephen on a telephone interview. Although he would not mention what stocks he was currently investing in (because he mentioned they were in the ‘buying process’), he did vaguely make reference to Utility plays.

    You can tell just by the interview that this is one seasoned cat and he knows the investment game very well.

  6. Good stuff. I agree with his major philosophies. I live well below my means, save over 50% of my net income and invest in high-quality equities as often as possible. I think it’s the old-school time-tested get-rich-slow technique that works 100% of the time.

    1. @Mantra,

      You’re kicking butt, saving over 50% of your net income. That blows our work right out of the water! Keep it up Mantra, you’ll have your own book someday.

      I love the get-wealthy-eventually message that comes from successful dividend-investors; success that comes from years and years of patience and sticking with the plan. Pun intended 🙂

  7. I read “The Investment Zoo” last year and I definitely enjoyed it. I didn’t know who the author was prior to that and was fascinated about his life, especially his exposure to Japan and its culture. Stephen impressed me with his honesty and philosophy of life. Indeed, the similarity between Stephen and Warren Buffett is striking.They are both men we all should try to learn from.

    Just like yourself Mark, I had hoped to find more details about his investing style and analysis, but the book turned out to be somewhat different. Nevertheless, the simple yet time-tested rules you had so nicely summed up just reconfirmed that investing is not a sprint but rather a marathon and our whole society should adopt a more frugal way of living. I don’t own the book but would give it as a gift to anyone who is close to me and my family.

    1. @Elemag,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the book as well. I didn’t know much about Jarislowsky before I read the book, but I certainly know a lot more know. I was hoping the book would be more in depth, but even still, it’s a great reference on my bookshelf. Investing is certainly not a sprint – from what you comment about – you know that very well!

      As always, thanks for your comment.

  8. MOA, excellent post! You really do a nice job on the book reviews.

    This has been on my wishlist, maybe I’ll put this at the top of the list and read this one sooner than later – it sounds great!

    The Dividend Ninja


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