Weekend Reads for Finance Pros: Secular Sabbath, Fiduciary Standard, and Investing
“Researchers in the new field of interruption science have found that it takes an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from a phone call. Yet such interruptions come every eleven minutes — which means we’re never caught up with our lives.”
Stop. Pause for a minute. And think about that.
And then ponder this statement by the seventeenth-century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal:
“All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they cannot sit quietly in their chamber.”
If you are like me, and just about everyone else I know in this “age of fetishistic connectivity,” you have trouble “switching off,” or “sitting quietly in your chamber.”
Perhaps that’s why I so enjoyed reading “Why We Need to Slow Down Our Lives” (and where I found these quotes). It’s a wonderful essay by one of my favorite writers, Pico Iyer, about a “secular sabbath,” or what some in Silicon Valley observe as an “Internet Sabbath,” when “they turn off most of their devices from, say, Friday night to Monday morning, if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction they’ll need for when they go back online.”
The article is an excerpt from Iyer’s new book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.
“The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones,” he writes. “It’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape. That’s the reason American football players prefer to go into a huddle rather than just race toward the line of scrimmage, the reason a certain kind of writer will include a lot of blank space on a page, so his sentences have room to breathe (and his readers, too). The one word for which the adjective ‘holy’ is used in the Ten Commandments is Sabbath.”
Take time to pause this weekend, even if it’s to read an article or two you didn’t get around to earlier in the week, or to carve out some time to just “be” and not “do.”
A lot of virtual ink was spilled this week after President Barack Obama announced a proposal to reduce conflicts of interest and “hidden fees” that cost Americans billions of dollars in retirement savings every year. The discussion also raised the issue of spelling and semantics. I had always thought of “adviser” and “advisor”as interchangeable (with the difference coming down to house style), but I learned otherwise.
- What’s in a word?
AdvisEr = RIAs (IC Act of 1940) #Fiduciary
AdvisOr = BDs mimicking Fiduciary titles thus more public confusion #sales
— Chris Cannon (@CC_Rock) February 24, 2015
- “Fiduciary or Broker? Many Financial Advisers Wear Both Hats” (Wall Street Journal)
- “Five Ways Your Financial Adviser Can Screw Up Your Retirement, Legally” (Bloomberg)
— Rebecca Fender, CFA (@RebeccaFender) February 24, 2015
- “Should You Go to an Adviser or an Advisor” (Wall Street Journal)
- “Before the Advice, Check out the Adviser” (The New York Times)
- Some investing advice:
— Ben Carlson (@awealthofcs) February 23, 2015
- “Observations from a Decade in the Investment Business” (A Wealth of Common Sense)
- My colleague Julia VanDeren had a great blog post this week on Scott Dinsmore’s TEDx talk, “How to Find and Do Work You Love.” It involves answering this question: “What is the work that you can’t not do?” (Enterprising Investor)
- “Why ‘Lean In’ If Laziness Can Be Just as Effective?” (Financial Times)
A Sneak-Peak ahead of CFA Institute’s Annual Conference
- Lag time, accounting rules, and dollar-for-dollar mapping challenges make research and development spending tough to evaluate, and yet it is central to the analyst’s understanding of some firms: “Capital Conundrum: Evaluating a Management Team’s R&D Spending.” (68th CFA Institute Annual Conference)
- “5 Questions for Global Investment Professionals” (68th CFA Institute Annual Conference)
And Now for Something Completely Different
- “The Secret Life of Passwords” (The New York Times Magazine)
- Renowned author and neurologist Oliver Sacks learns he has terminal cancer and writes movingly about facing death in the essay “My Own Life.” (The New York Times)
In closing, I have (at least) three passions: food/cooking, photography, and travel. And so this week, I’m going to conclude with one of each:
- Food/Cooking: Last week I was in Charleston, South Carolina, a culinary mecca, and was fortunate to have lunch at Husk. We were so impressed with Sean Brock’s version of Hoppin’ John, the quintessential South Carolina Lowcountry dish, that we bought his best-selling cookbook Heritage. Here are three points excerpted from his “manifesto”: “Respect ingredients and the people who produce them; Visit the farmers’ market at least once a week, and use most of your food budget at the market; and let the vegetables tell you what to do.”
- Photography: This week the World Photography Organisation (WPO) announced the shortlist for the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards in three categories: Professional, Open, and Youth. (The Atlantic)
- Travel: Pico Iyer, who is quoted at the outset of this post, has written one of the finest descriptions of “Why We Travel” in this essay, published in Salon in 2000. I’m going to quote the opening paragraph in its entirety:
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, ‘The Philosophy of Travel.’ We ‘need sometimes,’ the Harvard philosopher wrote, ‘to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.'”
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/JLGutierrez