Problems With Recommending Books

Occasionally given my specialty and/or “advanced” age relative to some of the young turks the industry tends to attract, I’m asked for recommendations on books. I’ve tended to stop doing this lately, as I prefer the kinds of reads that meander a bit, stopping along the way to explore sidebars and tangent topics on the way to a bigger picture. I’ve gravitated towards math/finance/philosophy authors with this type of style, as I feel that the learning sinks in better and I’ve had a much more rewarding and relaxing experience in reading this type of material (note, I’m not talking about test prep – for those readings I want to get straight to the point…I’m talking about leisure reading).

I often get feedback of the nature “yeah, I appreciate that reco but I stopped reading XYZ after two chapters, it was too slow…” or whatever. I’m lamentably realizing that many have gnat-like attention spans and they somehow want to blast through a book and get rapid insights, Matrix-download style, and then conquer the world. They don’t realize that the brain is like a premium cut of meat, better if aged slightly and marinated slowly.

People don’t understand knowledge =/= wisdom and wisdom is what you should be striving for.

I like to read books that will help prepare for post finance life. People nowadays forget that finance is a cyclical industry and that they should not expect to have life long careers here. It is crucial to develop knowledge in personal investing, entrepreneurship, or other useful fields, so that one can remain economically viable in the event of a career termination event.

Yes, Charlie. But how do you obtain wisdom:

The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 111:10).

Very true. Many have spent their entire post-college lives in the post-March 2009 expansion; they’ve only ever seen the market go up. They don’t understand that when it hits the fan eventually, the market will reveal once more its cyclicality and shed most chaff employees except for the old SOBs that either a) have built the connections or b) have solid business plans for the coming reality.

‘know thy self’ is the essence of wisdom just as moisture is the essence of wetness and wetness is the essence of beauty.

It is not just a function of stock market performance. Even under economic expansion, careers in finance tend to be short lived due to the pyramid structure. So, diverse skills are needed to place yourself in your next career. Also, if you are a more senior employee - let’s say executive director or similar - it can be very difficult, especially today, to find another position in the same industry that is commensurate with your experience. So, you should by then also have a plan for financial independence; after about a decade in finance, you would hopefully have a respectable amount of financial capital to live off of. You could waste your money on vacation houses in the Hamptons, like every other douche banker, or you could be earning six figures in passive income.

Ideally, your economic freedom should increase over time, as your savings increase. However, what happens for many people is that their freedom decreases as their spending and financial obligations increase and lock them into their jobs.

Very good perspectives Ohai and DOW. I haven’t been in finance very long, but it doesn’t feel that exciting? Seems like despite the stock market, firms are downsizing, passive is growing fast, and computers are doing more and more. It’s a little scary that you guys are describing this as the good times!

Well, I was not trying to describe it as “good times”, but yes, you are right. It is not unreasonable to characterize these circumstances as good fortune.

The fact of the matter is that finance people are still paid a lot of money. Even if the industry contracts over the next 10 years, that should be enough time to be paid far more than the lifetime compensation of the average person. On top of that, you will develop personal finance skills that are superior to those of normal people. So you should be able to avoid most major financial mistakes and while cultivating a productive investment habit.

Either you’re on drugs or you should be.

Don’t you think this matrix download mentality is just a way to make candidates more job-ready, and a response to demands of prospective employers? I mean there is a bit of a cookie cutter mentality when it comes to finance education and recruiting cycles, young bucks are always under pressure to outperform the benchmark and easily justify to employers how they can slot right in. Slow, wise learning doesn’t really work for sell side career tracks. Few employers are willing to let people “learn on the job” these days. Smaller teams mean less time to train recruits. And since buy side makes a smaller percentage of recruiting and tend to take SS experience (in my area anyways), being more holistic but behind the peer group offers little competitive advantage. Curious to hear the thoughts of more experienced folks out there.

my wife had the idea that you could recommend comic books to these youngsters :bulb:, they are superior learning tool for many young people as they teach morality (dark versus light) - our granddaughter only reads comics and she got strong marks on an IQ exam :+1:

You speak a lot of sense

The reason that finance is paid more than most is because finance is the backbone of every company and each industry. Without the backbone you’re a spineless amoeba.

Right, you need to diversify your human capital, but I think these young guns probably want finance books because they just started out in…finance. So, give them the classics. I’ve run some company book clubs earlier in career, so if you need recommendations let me know. If they are a few years into career then you may need to branch out, but if you give them a In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat they may think you’re screwing with them.

People in finance only get paid if they are at a high level and it is because there is massive competition to get there and there is high career volatility (not a dentist). I don’t agree that most bail after 10 or 15 years (maybe specifically in ohai’s line of work, but not in HF, PE, traditional AM and some other areas) but it is awesome if you’re prepared to do so.


i used to enjoy reading when i was younger. (in elementary i remember reading goosebumps too, they had a lot of fucking books. when i was in ms, i read the classics and the top books, war and peace, count of monte cristo, les miserables, lotr, harry potter. by hs, i just read the books that was required great gatsby, the giver, lord of flies, my teacher still suckered me to reading the whole thing. by college i straight up just read summaries/presentations/analysis by others

this year was my 1st year without cfa studies. nowadays i just read summaries of financial books, the summaries break it down by chapter. haha. i also compiled a list of 100 cos that i feel will be super stocks. finished compiling them around December and will prolly update every year. i look at the numbers first, if i like the numbers. i spend about a week reading up on the co. and do a quick 1 pager write up. im doing this so that when im retired, i have a list of stocks i can invest in, and i will know them well.

to what ohai said. Its interesting that he said 10 years. right now im expecting to retire at 35, so roughly 15 years for me post college. my irr is 15% though. as for the downturn, i am looking forward to it. i want to see how i perform against the S&P during that period. a final test. plus i have really big plans on the next 20% downturn. i have a really rich network (100m i think) not exposed to the stock market. but they are exposed to the economy esp to real estate

anyways bottomline, i like reading summaries cuz i like standing on the shoulders of giants. requires less thought, maybe just fact checking?

also i just overheard a wisdom quote btw from jack ma, live on cnbc:

“Smart people know what they want, People with wisdom know what they dont want.”

Yeah, i think you are suffering from a problem of context. You’re recommending books that are helpful to a person (yourself) much later in their career. That would be like asking a monk how to start meditating and they say go to a month silent retreat. Despite if being very useful for late stage meditators, it would be useless for someone who can’t be mindful for 60 seconds.

what a glorious year #amirite6?

what a glorious year #amirite6?