Thank You For Being Late—Buyer Beware

Excellent take down of Thomas Friedman’s newest NY Times best seller by Justin Peters of Slate.

Fav pgraph:

“Thank You for Being Late was put to bed well before the presidential election, and throughout the text Friedman makes occasional dismissive references to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. (Ha ha, remember those clowns? Good thing technocratic rationality prevailed!) Near the end of the book, Friedman presents an earnest 18-point plan for governmental reform in the age of accelerations; a platform for the “Making the Future Work for Everybody” party, as he puts it. Thomas Friedman doesn’t know a damn thing about the future. Despite all of his self-serving rhetoric about necessities and inevitabilities, he still couldn’t recognize that Trumpism is in part a consequence of thought leadership, of rampant globalization with blithe disregard for its domestic casualties, of having your head jammed so far up the future’s ass that you’ve completely lost touch with the present.”

If you’re looking for something better to read, I recommend Hillbilly Elegy: Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance. In this day and age, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it has become a political beach ball, batted around by Republicans and Democrats to argue for conservative and liberal social and economic policies. It’s Vance’s story of growing up in a dysfunctional family in Kentucky and Ohio, two states I grew up in. Here’s an idea, you can’t tell a person their story is “wrong”. Yes, if you must, you can tell them the conclusions they draw from it are misguided, but how about waiting awhile.

Alibaba, can I count Hillbilly Elegy as a 2017 book if I started it in the final days of 2016? What do your “book list” rules say about that? I also just finished the sup short collection of essays by Oliver Sacks that you gave me for Christmas. Does the fact that I enjoy reading and thinking about how people approach the end of life mean I’m old? How ’bout waiting awhile to answer that.

I just started a bruiser, Empire of Things by Frank Trentmann. Hoping to finish before UCLA cuts down the nets in Phoenix and/or JSpieth birdies #12 at Augusta National on Sunday. Also hoping everyone forgets I’m reading this so no one asks how it’s coming. #toomuchpressure

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The Ultimate Personal Finance Challenge

There are two types of investors, active and passive. Active investors are always educating themselves about personal finance; and paradoxically, tend to use passive funds, due to their lower fees and superior performance. In addition, they are purposeful in choosing a particular asset allocation and they monitor their progress regularly. They invest time and energy into increasing their wealth. I’m an active investor.

Passive investors, because they often think they’re not smart enough, often delegate to financial planners upon whom they depend for choosing particular investments and determining an asset allocation. Passive investors tend to end up with active funds with higher fees because they’re not paying very close attention.* They may not open their quarterly statements. Picture them falling asleep at the wheel of a semi-autonomous, financial planner driven car.

The most important thing I’ve learned in thirty years of investing is that there’s an undeniable point of diminishing returns when it comes to business smarts and investing success. Simply put, some of the most well-educated and successful business people I have ever known have made some of the worst investment decisions I have ever seen. And to add insult to injury, they’ve been unable to admit the error of their ways and reverse course. Too smart for their own good.

Personal finance research shows that once active investors master earning more than they spend, wire the difference into specific exchange traded funds monthly, and decide how best to balance bonds and stocks, additional trading detracts from their returns. Think of trading based on possible changes in the market as a “too smart for one’s own good” tax. Here’s one example.

Once you master earning more than you spend, wire the difference into specific exchange traded funds monthly, and decide how best to balance bonds and stocks, your ultimate personal finance challenge is doing nothing. Hence, consider my triumvirate of personal finance resolutions for 2017: 1) I will not be too smart for my own good. 2) I will not try to guess the market’s direction. 3) I will not trade. Or for the sake of additional research, you could guess and trade away and then we can compare returns in 11+ months.

* I hired an advisor in the early 1990s. Learned an expensive, but ultimately, invaluable lesson, no one cares nearly as much about your financial well-being as you do.

Paragraph to Ponder—Aging Academic Edition

From Leaving the Academic Stage by Robert Zaretsky.

According to a 2014 report and survey from TIAA-CREF, scarcely a fifth of workers in most professions are 55 or older. The one exception is higher education, where a full third of faculty members fall into that age cohort. That disparity, warns another study, will deepen with time: 60 percent of my colleagues intend to remain in the classroom when they pass 70, and 15 percent say they will hang on until they are 80.

 

Election 2016—Father-Daughter Dialogue 3

Alibaba: My last post was a theoretical exercise. In responding to your question I was not having an actual conversation with a Trump supporter. That – as I said in my answer – would of course include curiosity and listening and learning and new perspective.

But, to answer your question. Yeah, that phrase slipped past me and isn’t good. It didn’t capture a few things that I meant it to. 1. A broad, general sense, of “take a lot of action to make the world a better place, focusing on people who are systemically marginalized.” 2. That “vulnerable” doesn’t mean “people who can’t help themselves,” it means those who are structurally disenfranchised, subjugated, silenced, and that I am also talking about myself, as a woman, when I say “vulnerable people.” I feel like my rights are at risk and want to make sure they are protected. 3. That I think when the issue at hand does not relate to an identity I personally possess, it is important to look for and defer to people who do hold those identities. Cop out it may be, I do not think I have words better than these to describe this: “That is to say if you are able-bodied, if you have money, if you have resources, if you are seen as white, hetero, cis, if you have had the opportunity to develop your politics through theory rather than through forced violations against your body and your people, then take that backseat, offer a share of your resources to help organizers and activists travel and stay sheltered, protect and stand with communities you are not from, but do not take up space. Humbleness is what fuels a courageous fight that does not center you as savior.” -by Jenny Zhang in “Against Extinction”

And why do I think this is important? Because there are voices that have historically been ignored and there is a responsibility to do what we can to correct history and make them as loud as possible now. Because it would be arrogant and ignorant to think I know more about the lived experiences of someone else than they do, or what they want or need.

Now a few for you. What do you think the most important takeaways from the election are? In other words, what should we pay the most attention to going forward? 

Ron: Thoughtful reply, thank you. I’m sorry you think I don’t give you enough credit for being more savvy some/a lot of the time. When you communicate that frustration, I almost always think about my relationship with my dad. I get your frustration because I never felt like your grandfather gave me enough credit for being a capable, contributing, independent adult until I was in my mid-to-late 20’s. Too often, it felt like he was stuck viewing me as my dumbass sixteen year old self. I’m not sharing that for sympathy, or as an excuse not to be more caring, just to say I think some of your frustration is baked into the generation gap. Maybe everything will always be perfectly copacetic with your child(ren) and the pattern will be broken.

One take-away. I’ve written about the problems of the Simple Living movement before. It’s illogical for well-to-do people like me to tell the less well-to do about the limits of material wealth. My multi-layered, multi-facted privilege disqualifies me from commenting on anyone’s economic decision-making and lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wax philosophic about larger, related questions. Which is to say, I interpret the election result as a culmination of a larger trend in the US where more and more people are slighting their health and spiritual well-being in the pursuit of material gain. Put more simply, it’s the triump of a self-regarding consumerism. Way more people than Dems expected put their trust in the candidate they perceived to be a superior businessman. The aformentioned Frontline documentary shows he’s a terrible businessman, but perception becomes reality. In essence, Trumpers said, “He’s such a great businessman, I’ll give him a pass on the hateful anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-everything bullshit.” At the risk of simplifying things, I think Trumpers were saying, “Compared to HC, Trump will improve my job prospects, I’ll make more money, and be able to afford more stuff at my favorite big box store, so who cares about the environment, Muslim-Americans, traditional foreign alliances, or grabbing pussies.” In the battle between self-regarding personal economics and other-regarding American ideals, self-regarding personal economics has won.

The election may have turned on traditional Dems who succumbed to apathy and didn’t vote. Maybe they thought victory was in the bag, and turned off the game midway through the fourth quarter (you have to allow me one sports metaphor per reply) or the Democratic candidate didn’t rally them around the Common Good. HC was like a tennis player sitting well behind the baseline (okay, now I’m borrowing on the future), hitting desperate lobs, defending herself, criticizing her opponent, not rallying enough traditional Dems around the Common Good.

Pay attention to going forward? Short answer, Trump’s ego is such that he thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Look for him to play fast and lose with Constitutional principles related to the Executive and Supreme Court case law. I anticipate him breaking enough laws that he’ll lose the support of the Republican-controlled Congress. Even money he gets impeached before completing his term. One can hope.

More personally, getting out of the pool the other day, I asked a friend, older and faster than me, “Got any (Masters) meets coming up?” Normally, he’s competiting all the time, but he said, “No, I’m just too down. I’m going to give my meet money to the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood who I know will make the most of it.” Admirable sure, but not my approach. I return to the Stoic notion of “trichotomy of control” in which you focus as much of your time/energy on those things we have some or a lot of control over. Swimming competitions gave my friend joy, so it saddens me he’s letting the Celebrity President rob him of that. I will continue to do the things that bring me joy, watch the sun rise, drink my green tea latte, eat healthily, swim across Ward Lake, run in Priest Point Park, cycle with friends, watch my daughter graduate college, dialogue with you, see independent films at the hippy theatre, and try to be a more attentive and caring educator, husband, father, citizen. I confess, over the last three decades, since I was your age, my strong desire to change the world has ebbed. I’m glad you want to and I do have confidence that your friends and you can, especially if fueled by Zhang’s “humbleness”. I want to change myself, be more kind, listen more patiently. The next election won’t turn on that, but my small sliver of the world—my marriage, my family, my community, will be better for it.

Martes Links of Note

  1. Cut Millennials some slack. For Millennials It’s Never too Early to Save for Retirement. I’m adding “compound interest” to my list of favorite two-word phrases which includes passive income, complimentary breakfast, and snow day.
  2.  This resonated with me bigly. Stop and Acknowledge How Much Luck Has to Do With Your Success.
  3. Ready to take your Craigslisting to the next level? Here’s the grad seminar. A High-End Kitchen on the Cheap.
  4. Letter of the year so far. Who knows, maybe this will inspire DanDantheTranspoMan to write one or two this calendar year.Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 7.56.46 AM.png

Globalization is Alive and Well

For good and bad. From Overdose Fatalities From Opioids Hit New Peaks:

Fentanyl is the culprit.

The U.S. opioid crisis shows no sign of receding as a new year begins, with the latest data from several hard-hit cities and states showing overdose fatalities reaching new peaks as authorities scramble to stem the tide.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has up to 50 times the potency of heroin, remains the chief culprit driving the increase in fatalities, according to medical examiners and health and law-enforcement authorities in abuse hot spots, such as Ohio, Maryland and New England.

Federal data for 2015 deaths came out only last month, showing a nearly 16% climb to 33,091 opioid deaths in the year. Many jurisdictions are still compiling the grim tallies for 2016.

Where does it come from?

Fentanyl is a potent painkiller often used by cancer patients, but a bootleg version commonly made in China has become the major problem behind overdose deaths, according to law-enforcement and health authorities. Chemical cousins known as analogs are also on the rise, authorities said, sometimes as overseas labs switch recipes to keep ahead of law enforcement.

The President-elect will probably clean this up.