8 Fascinating Reads

Good reads, short quotes.

Morgan Housel
Morgan Housel
Apr 4, 2014 at 9:23AM

There are more good news articles on the Web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are eight fascinating pieces I read this week.

Back at square one
Private employment has finally surpassed its pre-recession peak, according to ADP: 

Shhhhh -- they'll never know
Companies that schedule shareholder meetings at dumpy hotels are trying to evade shareholders, a study found

When companies move their annual meetings a great distance from headquarters, they tend to announce disappointing earnings results and experience pronounced stock market underperformance in the months after the meeting. Companies appear to schedule meetings in remote locations when the managers have private, adverse information about future performance and wish to discourage scrutiny by shareholders, activists, and the media. However, shareholders do not appear to decode this signal, since the disclosure of meeting locations leads to little immediate stock price reaction. We find that voter participation drops when meetings are held at unusual hours, even though most voting is done electronically during a period of weeks before the meeting convenes.

Status quo
Ninety-year-old mathematical physicist Freeman Dyson talks about the problem with traditional education: 

I'm very proud of not having a Ph.D. I think the Ph.D. system is an abomination. It was invented as a system for educating German professors in the 19th century, and it works well under those conditions. It's good for a very small number of people who are going to spend their lives being professors. But it has become now a kind of union card that you have to have in order to have a job, whether it's being a professor or other things, and it's quite inappropriate for that. It forces people to waste years and years of their lives sort of pretending to do research for which they're not at all well-suited. In the end, they have this piece of paper which says they're qualified, but it really doesn't mean anything. The Ph.D. takes far too long and discourages women from becoming scientists, which I consider a great tragedy. So I have opposed it all my life without any success at all.

I was lucky because I got educated in World War II and everything was screwed up so that I could get through without a Ph.D. and finish up as a professor. Now that's quite impossible. So, I'm very proud that I don't have a Ph.D. and I raised six children and none of them has a Ph.D., so that's my contribution.

Time management
Neurologist and money manager William Bernstein talks retirement: 

The biggest mistake retirees make is not having a clear idea of exactly what useful and productive things they're going to do with their time; "golf" is not a plan. Here's my formula: Retirement Happiness = [How Much You Dislike Your Job] X [How Badly You Want to Do Something Else]

Gone flat
Soda consumption is plunging, writes The Financial Times:

[S]ales of carbonated soft drinks fell 3 per cent in 2013 to 8.9bn cases, the lowest level since 1995, according to Beverage Digest, an industry publication. It was the ninth straight year of decline and much sharper than falls of 1.2 per cent in 2012 and 1 per cent in 2011.

A lot of the 1% richest Americans have seen their share of national income go down over the last half-century. The big growth is in the top 1% of the 1%, econoimsts Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman show: 

A Federal Reserve study talks about the recovery in average household wealth since, broken out by age:

[A]verage real wealth among young families [under age 40] at the end of the third quarter of 2013 remained below its 1989 level -- a period of 24 years. In contrast, the average wealth of middle-aged families was about two-thirds higher than its 1989 level and the average wealth of an older family has almost doubled since 1989.

Costco (NASDAQ:COST), known for ruthless efficiency, found an odd solution to a peanut butter problem: 

Related Articles

Nearly a million jars of peanut butter are to be dumped at a New Mexico landfill to speed up the sale of a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a salmonella outbreak in 2012.

The retailer Costco refused to take shipment of the peanut butter and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons.

Enjoy your weekend.