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SmartMoney Review


1 year: $12.00

Published: monthly

Web site:
SmartMoney is a monthly personal finance magazine launched in 1992 and published by The Wall Street Journal. They spend about half their time talking about investing and the other half of their time talking about non-investing, personal finance. Their focus areas are listed below (the share of their content in each area is in parenthesis):

  • Investing - Outlook - (35%)
    These are outlooks on different markets. Most of the outlooks are on individual stocks but they also touch on the broader market, different market sectors (small cap/large cap), mutual funds - as well as occasionally report on commodities.

  • Investing - Methods (10%)
    Here they sometimes profile different investment strategies that investors can use but for the most part they have profiles and updates of different investment products available to investors. They do a particularly good covering ETFs.

  • Personal Finance - Spending (35%)
    These are reviews of different kinds of consumer goods people may be purchasing (e.g. vacations, mattresses, technology products, antiques).

  • Personal Finance - Money (20%)
    These are articles about non-investing aspects of personal finance like saving, taxes, debt, or retirement.

My Opinion

Considering that SmartMoney is a magazine that focuses on personal finance, it has a surprising large amount of information for active investors. A recent issue of SmartMoney I looked through had 7 different articles with profiles and analysis of individual stocks.

When it comes to articles about investing methods, they tend to be pretty light. But they do occasionally like to tiptoe into areas like historical market research and academic theories when talking about topics like risk and reward, volatility, and other issues.

Ironically, their personal finance content is on the weaker side. Their content that relates to maximizing wealth is rather thin considering the complexity of some issues like taxes, estates, and retirement products. They seem to be more focused on the industry rather than personalized advice. A skim through a recent issue had the following 3 articles: an 8-page article on how the AARP is changing, a profile of how Ivy League endowments do well with their investments, and a historical profile of doomsday market analysts. None of these really help me financially.

They also tend to concentrate on detailing ways to spend money instead of how to grow and protect it. The last third of the magazine is littered with articles profiling various discretionary consumer goods (like gourmet knives) as opposed to advice about spending on necessities like housing or cars. These "lifestyle" sections have never appealed to me in any way and, in this particular case, shouldn't be in the magazine at all. These articles would be fine if the target market of the magazine were really rich people but I don't think the middle class needs to be told to spend more money.

Most of the articles are only 1 to 2 pages long. Some serious readers are put off by this brevity because they believe the articles lack depth. But casual readers appreciate the concise nature of the writing because they value simple common sense more than needlessly elaborate commentary.

A subscription to SmartMoney is very cheap at only $18 for two years.

My Recommendation

For investing purposes, the only reason to buy SmartMoney is if you don't mind skimming the magazine to read the profiles of different stocks to come up with new investing ideas to do further research on.

For personal finance purposes, it is a borderline purchase since most of it has to do with how to spend your money instead of how to grow it.


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