Practical analysis for investment professionals
08 August 2014

Weekend Reads for Finance Pros: Happiness, Active vs. Passive Investing, and Millennials

Posted In: Weekend Reads

One of my favorite pastimes is to walk through Central Park. I find a bench, take out my newspaper, and quietly survey the scenery. This morning I did just that en route to the office, and it reminded me that small things can lead to happiness.

I have been thinking about happiness a lot recently, spurred, in part, by Shawn Achor’s TED talk on “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” Achor notes that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ — 75% are predicted by “your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.” He believes we can train our brains to become more positive, that is to scan for the positive, not the negative, first. Dopamine not only makes us happier, it turns on all the learning centers in our brains.

He also believes that small changes can make a big difference, for example: random acts of kindness, exercise (which teaches our brains that behavior matters), and meditation, which “allows us to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once; it allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.” This is something Sharon Sloane, chief executive of Will Interactive, calls “chair time.” “It’s my time at home at the end of the day. I just sit quietly, turn my phone off, and I let the day wash over me. What really happened today?”

For some, introspection and happiness go hand in hand. But others go to great lengths people go to avoid introspection, even though researchers have found that an idle mind is “a crucible of creativity.” According to Jonathan Smallwood, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of York, in England: “Idle mental processing encourages creativity and solutions because imagining your problem when you aren’t in it is not the same as reality. Using your imagination means you are in fact rethinking the problem in a novel way.”

If you’re interested in meditation and the world of finance, take a look at the series of posts by colleague Jason Voss, CFA, on the importance of intuition in investing.

Here are some other articles and podcasts you may enjoy.


Wealth Management


  • A free retirement toolkit, courtesy of Uncle Sam. (The Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, PDF)

And Now For Something Completely Different

  • What criteria do you use when promoting people? This article on nine traits of promotable employees focuses on attitude. Why? “Attitude informs action. Attitude informs behavior. Attitude is the driving force behind every achievement, every accomplishment, and every success.” (Inc.)

Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

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About the Author(s)
Lauren Foster

Lauren Foster was a content director on the professional learning team at CFA Institute and host of the Take 15 Podcast. She is the former managing editor of Enterprising Investor and co-lead of CFA Institute’s Women in Investment Management initiative. Lauren spent nearly a decade on staff at the Financial Times as a reporter and editor based in the New York bureau, followed by freelance writing for Barron’s and the FT. Lauren holds a BA in political science from the University of Cape Town, and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

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