Notes on "The Wisdom of Finance" by Mihir A. Desai

December 08, 2018

Starting from the first chapter, Finance and the good life, Mihir sets the tone and an overarching warning which the remainder of the book explores.

Pg. xi This book is also about how the ideas of finance provide surprising insight on common aspects of our humanity.

Its a bold statement, and the author will reiterate this and other similar ideas throughout the book. What I found the book to contain is the following.

Even if your not a specialist in finance, you can take the core principles which are studied in finance: optionality, risk, etc. and apply them to our lives, providing a deeper and more meaningful view the world.


Pg. xii ..."finance has never been more important -- and ignorance of it has never been more costly".

The tone in which Mihir's ideas are written in, arrives in an unorthodox, back and forth meander through the connections finance has with the humanities. From what I can tell, the authors M.O. besides to enlighten, is to help raise a more positive opinion, we the general public, have of finance.

In other words, if finance was to have a NPS (Net Promoter Score), Mihir would be trying to raise it via this book. Ok, so thats the tone of the book per se, but you must be thinking, "what of the warning I mentioned earlier"?

Doom & Gloom

The warning is based on the following premise:

  • A of a lack of financial based knowledge, afflicts us in costly ways.

Through examples drawn from recent history, Mihir shows us just how much the costs really are. Each chapter revolving around a central case study, where parallels are drawn between finance and our daily lives. IMO, this approach does a good job of making the book simultaneously entertaining and provides justification, albeit light in detail, to to Mihir's warning.


As I was reading through the book, my mind wandered off, as it often does. But surprisingly my mind wandered not aimlessly, but on to a set of curiosity driven questions. Before I get into the questions,I want to point out, this kind of curiosity is a signal which I value and interpret as me having engaged in the book's material. In short, I enjoyed the read.

Now back to the questions arising while reading, and which I needed answers to. For example, one such question was:

  • "What is the essentials of finance that I should know to (A) minimize the largest amount of risk I will face in this world. And (B), would be minimal in the amount of time needed to acquire?

For all the benefit the book did in sparking these types of questions, more often than not, the book did not provide a satisfactory answer.

Instead, each chapter listed off a growing list of more and more interesting ideas and connections in finance to the humanities. Meaning, I was nerd snipped , and now must explore the ideas on my own, if I ever wanted to leverage them in the future.

What I'll do now is list those financial connections in two ways:

  • As a short outline of how the ideas were presented in the book.
  • And as rough notes from my preliminary exploration on the ideas after reading.

Do note, this listing of ideas is primarily for my future, forgetful self. But hopefully you the reader, can also use the details as a jumping off point to begin answering your own set of questions you might have in finance.

Matthew Clemens © 2022