June 25, 2009

The 1/4 life Crisis

Does any of this sound familiar …

1. Feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level
2. Frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
3. Confusion of identity
4. Insecurity regarding the near future
5. Insecurity concerning long-term plans, life goals
6. Insecurity regarding present accomplishments
7. Re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
8. Disappointment with one's job
9. Nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life 10.
10. Tendency to hold stronger opinions
11. Boredom with social interactions
12. Loss of closeness to high school and college friends
13. Financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipated high cost of living, etc.)
14. Loneliness
15. Desire to have children
16. A sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

An author somewhere has called this phenomenon (of experiencing the above symptoms) the Quarterlife Crisis and has authored a book about the challenges of living in your twenties.

Though I haven't given most of these much thought, at some point or another some of the above symptoms have clouded my thinking. I could count 13 out of 16 - some more intense than the others … which makes the hit rate 81%. (FYI, I left out 1, 15, 16 - before I get mail asking me about my desire to have children ;))

Damn this! Kiddish before 12, teenager issues till 20, quarterlife crisis till mid 30s, midlife crisis in the 40s, prostrate issues after 50 … when is a brother supposed to be enjoying himself? :)

June 23, 2009

Development is the bane of our existence

Some thoughts as I return from a trip where I had a taste of rural life ...

The capitalist system we work in encourages us to do things faster and better with each passing year. Corporates are incentivised to grow faster than the previous year. Profits must be larger than the previous year. Costs must be lower than the previous year. These invariably get passed on to us which makes us humans enter a race, trying to do things faster than what evolution permits ...

… With each passing year, one works harder, runs faster to move ahead because if you do not others will take your place. You try to do things at 30 - that which you are meant to do when 35, achieve things at 40 - that which you were supposed to achieve at 50 … Why? … what do you plan to do in those additional 5-10 years you may possibly gain? (if you don’t kill yourself in the process)

… it all leads to stress and stress related problems … we then spend billions developing drugs that make us live longer with these illnesses …

The race to scale also incentivises man to standardise … agriculture is also standardised ... killing bio-diversity in nature …

Development is the bane of our existence … the more we invent, innovate, develop - the more we substitute our natural instincts and abilities for artificial ones … all to achieve more - the race to beat evolution, which hastens our doom.

June 14, 2009

Women reservations: Another policy waiting to be misused

The Government of India seeks to pass the Womens Reservation Bill which will result in 33% reservation of the Parliament seats in the Lok Sabha for women. While I am all for the upliftment of women who have traditionally played second fiddle to men in India (I'm talking of the larger Indian society here), I am not sure reservation is the right way to get there. I say that because reservations in the past have been misused. Deserving persons miss out. I say that from personal experiences, where I have seen people take advantage of their caste status to get benefits. Some of these are people I know well.

One of my friends mentions that this move will only benefit upper class women in urban areas who can contest elections on their own individual credentials. Those for whom this policy is meant - the sparky rural woman who has leadership potential but looses out due to male chauvinism - will find it difficult to get a seat. In all probability, political parties will ration this quota among women who already got elected to Parliament leaving less seats for the ones that need upliftment.

Reservations is curing the symptoms of gender inequality. The malaise is much deeper. Today the average rural woman is mostly dependent on her husband due to economic and social reasons. The only way this can change is if women come together in small communities to work, educate themselves, and have their own support system which can incentivise them to be independent. Empowerment is a long journey. The flipside of the current system is that this will lead to more reservations, where women will ask for representation within the current womens quota for backward castes. It will lead us nowhere

June 8, 2009

Update: Know they pension plan

Some time ago, I posted about having adequate knowledge of where investment managers put your money to work. As an update, I managed to get a cash flow plan of the scheme. Imagine my shock when I present valued the 'capital' and the 'fees' (Present valuing means discounting all future cash outgoes to present terms to know what it would mean if everything were to be evaluated on todays terms). The fees were a crazy 18%!!! ... which means that if I invested all monies today, 18% would go to this institution as fees for managing the capital. To give you an idea as to why that is crazy, mutual funds take around 1% (0.5% when one buys and 0.5% when one sells), alternative asset managers take close to 1.5% - 3% to manage wealth. The next time you are sold a plan, inquire about the fees

June 7, 2009

Heaven and Hell

Received this interesting one in the mail from Venkatron ... :)

June 1, 2009

Wall Street Fables: The secret of the Bonus

Following is a crude con-job. A far away analogy would be the way Wall Street quants (A term used to describe people with more than their share of quantitative skills ... typically guys who can do spreadsheets in their head) have financially engineered returns on dead assets ...

A city boy, Raj, moved to the village and bought a donkey from an oldfarmer for Rs.1000. Thefarmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.The next day the farmer drove up and said,

"Sorry Raj, but I have some bad news, the donkey died while I was bringing him here."

"Well then, just give me my money back", replied Raj.

The farmer said, "Can't do that. I wentand spent it already."

To which raj replied, "OK then, just unload the donkey."

The farmer was inquisitive. "What you are going to do with him?"

"I'm going to raffle him off." replied Raj

"You can't raffle off a dead donkey!" exclaimed the farmer.

"Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead." There was a twinkle in Raj's eye.

A month later the farmer met up with Raj and asked, "What happened with that dead donkey?

"I raffled him off", said Raj with a casual look, "I sold 500 tickets at Rs. 10 each and made a profit of Rs 4990 with the donkey worth Rs. 1000 as the prize."

"Didn't anyone complain?", the farmer asked with a look of astonishment.

"Just the guy who won .... So I gave him back his Rs. 10."

And that my friends is a fable on how investment bankers across the world made their hefty bonus'.