"You can read all the investment books you want, but there is no substitute for lessons learned in life," writes Jack Brennan, chairman and CEO of The Vanguard Group, in the foreword to Wealth of Experience. This fascinating book gathers the advice of 600 Vanguard shareholders, 80 percent of whom are "high-net-worth investors" whose portfolios are worth $2 million on average.

Feeling out of your league? It's interesting to note that, of that group, 18 percent never graduated from college, and 16 percent are still in the workforce earning less than $100,000 a year. The sharp, common-sense advice they impart shows you don't have to be a genius to be a smart investor just have stick-to-it-iveness on a few basic principles.

Author Andrew Clarke distills the many investor experiences and suggestions into a simple, practical program. He covers important ground on saving (the most important key to investment success) and creating a long-term strategy, then moves into the nitty-gritty details of taxes, estate planning and diversification. In addition, he peppers the chapters with quotes from real folks, thus enlivening topics that can sometimes feel like homework. Learning how real people cope with financial ups and downs proves to be both cautionary and encouraging. Each chapter also includes action steps from Vanguard's advisors.

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