Why Stoicism Is the Best Mental Operating System for Individuals in High Finance

IntroductionThe fabric and culture of today’s modern age and even more so in western society has provided a perfect environment for the re-emergence of an ancient Greek Philosophy, the philosophy of stoicism. Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It was heavily influenced by certain teachings of Socrates. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, born nearly two millennia ago is perhaps the best-known Stoic leader in history and also holds claims to one of the most famous and unintentional works of stoic literature, ‘the meditations’, his personal journal. In this article I will discuss different stoic exercises and explain how these can be applied to the minds and actions of successful actors within financial markets and institutions.Your new mental operating systemTrain Your Perception to Avoid Good and BadOnce you understand that there is no such thing as obstacles, only opportunities then you have truly mastered your perception.
During the 2007 financial crisis people truly thought a financial apocalypse was inbound however if you have ever seen the hit movie ‘The Big Short’ then you get a perfect example of people who saw disaster coming but instead turned this into an opportunity; by betting against the housing market.
As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius puts it – “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”. Ensure you see obstacles as opportunities and understand good and bad are only part of perception; something that is ultimately under your control.Everything is EphemeralRemember your possessions and achievements are only lasting for a markedly brief time in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of things, you are small, everything is. See yourself as part of the bigger system and do what is right here and now.
For professionals working within high finance it is easy to become consumed by the ego and focus on only enriching ones-self, thereby creating a moral hazard. However, if you see yourself as just a cog in an aggregate financial system which is in turn a part of a macroeconomy; then you see the role you play is ultimately, small. In order to benefit the system as a whole you must work with it not against it.Take a Birdseye ViewThis takes a powerful imagination but by doing this exercise you are able to train your mind’s eye to see your life in third person, you can then reflect on your actions and behaviour and also that of others. You can reflect on how others may have felt and what they did after interacting with you.
You also see yourself from a higher perspective which relates to the point I made about how small we are.
And finally, you can compare yourself to someone in a far worse situation, the reason for this is that there is always someone in a worse situation than you. Compare yourself to these people in times of discomfort and struggle and you may find some comfort in the fact that in a relative sense, things aren’t so bad for you.
If you work or reside within a skyscraper or high-rise building, take a real view from above. Combined with this exercise it should help to greatly expand your awareness. Conversely, if not you could always use Google earth live but hopefully in the future we will have services like virgin galactic at an affordable price, so people can get the truly pure experience that astronauts get.
For individuals working at Bloomberg or stock exchanges this exercise could be used for example, if a tsunami hits the coast of a certain region. Use the view from above to assess who and what is affected and follow the trail right back to the stock market and make decisions accordingly.”Is This Within My Control”Learn to differentiate between what’s directly under your control, what you have influence over and what is not under your control. Differentiate what you can change and what you can’t.
Do not waste time trying (and failing) to move immovable objects. Use your precious time productively on things that you do have control over.
Return to this question frequently or when a dilemma emerges, make a note of things that are in your control and things that are not. This way not only will you feel better, but you position yourself with a distinct advantage over people who fail to realise when a battle is unwinnable.
For example, if your employees are snowed in and cannot make it into work, do not be mad as you have no control over the weather.
You also have no control over huge market trends. A very good example of a huge failure to realise what was and what wasn’t under one’s control was the bank of England, who failed to realise they couldn’t beat the market on black Wednesday (Sept.16, 1992); when the pound was pegged to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Speculators broke the bank and they were forced to pull from the ERM.Contemplation of The Ideal Man (Or Woman)Humans were not born to be lazy. Ancient man was out hunting lions, fighting battles, saving women from barbarian tribes, the list goes on. But many modern men have been sucked into mediocrity by abundance, reduced to claiming benefits, binging video games and eating too much pizza.
No one can lead a fulfilling life living like this. Man must achieve his full potential. A man with a fulfilling life does the modern equivalent of ancient man. Focus on continuously improving and learning. Fight for success and dominate. Go out and get what you want.
Contemplating the archetypal ideal man is a catalyst for change towards becoming an ideal human being. This may be a never-ending quest however you should still think of the qualities that make up the ideal person and apply these to your life.
Good archetypal figures within finance to contemplate are figureheads like Warren Buffet and JP Morgan. You can also find good examples of archetypes by analysing movies like the Wolf of Wall Street or TV series such as Billions.Self-RetreatIn today’s ever connected world; wealthy and successful people have complete abundance of options of where their next holiday retreat will be. However, what most people fail to realise is that there is also infinite abundance within the mind’s eye, and self-reflection is a brilliant tool to understanding, and exploring your inner world, which is ultimately you on the deepest level. Peace of mind and freedom comes from within, regularly travel inside your mind for 5 to 10 minutes a day.The Stripping Method.Scenarios and situations have many different layers. Picture them like an onion where each layer represents a characteristic of the situation but not the core issue itself. Practice stripping away the unimportant layers to find the core issue.
This can be applied to economic analysis for example, the price of a share may rise or fall due to a company reporting higher or lower profit than predicted. This may be because they reduced their advertising spending or because they lowered the quality of their production materials, or outsourced labour. But ultimately the reason for a change in the price of a share regardless of any other speculation is supply and demand factors within the market for shares.Practice MisfortuneIt is easy to get comfortable in today’s world, but comfort can keep you in bondage if you are afraid that something or someone might take it away. Practice what you fear and make yourself familiar with the worst-case scenario. This will help you become grateful and prevent a relentless pursuit of material things, including money.JournalJournaling is possibly the most important part of stoicism and morning and evening meditation is an essential part of it. Benjamin Franklin set a great example of this and is daily schedule is available online, this would include setting goals in the morning and then reflection in the evening. In the evening write down what you did good, what you did bad, and what you could do to improve.
Managers can take a lot from this but in a financial context, day traders can also take a lot from this. For example, for someone who trades the news, they can note down all the reports that day that will move the markets, and at the end of that day note down what they did good and bad, and what they need to do differently next time.
Philosophy is something that should be written down day by day and how you exercise yourself and mind. Writing down everything you’ve done in a day allows for self-examination and is a form of mindfulness and reflection.Negative VisualizationThis stoic exercise prepares you for the setbacks in life. By visualising what could go wrong and what could be taken from us, we are better prepared for when negative events happen.
Todays finance industry is in the business of risk. So this exercise can be applied greatly in evaluating or making risk models, by understanding what can go wrong and helping to prevent a failure of imagination. Doing this exercise can also help you to realise what may need insuring, hedging or backing up (in the case of data).Amor Fati: Love Everything That HappensAmor Fati, Latin for Love fate is possibly the best mindset you can have in life. Throughout the centuries great leaders have followed this motto, which I believe to be a factor in their life’s successes. It is the best mindset for any situation you face.
Treat each moment, no matter how challenging, as something to be embraced and not avoided. To not only be OK with it, but love it and be better for it. Then you will have truly achieved greatness for yourself.
Financial setbacks will happen, but you must be better for it, and learn from it.Cultivating PhilanthropyPhilanthropy is defined as the desire to promote the welfare of others.
People in high finance may often be under the illusion that in order to become a philanthropist, you need money. But in fact, this is not true. Anyone can become a philanthropist. It just requires the right attitude towards other people.
The best exercise to practice is an exercise whereby you bring everyone a sphere closer to yourself. For example, your family becomes a part of yourself, your friends to family, and strangers to friends.
To apply this to individuals in finance, if you consider the financial system as a whole as a part of yourself, then you are working in the best interests of the system and therefore all the stakeholders effected by it. Using this ethical understanding you are culminating a sense of philanthropy.Training Your Physical Self-ControlThis is basically level 2 of negative visualisation. By practicing purposefully enduring physical hardship and going without things you crave/enjoy; you are preparing yourself for when you must actually endure a struggle. Whether it be losing something or enduring physical hardship. This also trains us to desire things not under our control.
For example, for people working in finance, try to treat everything as a loan. Instead of saying ‘I have lost it’ say ‘I have given it back’. Learn not to grasp too tightly to ephemeral things.
Start small by practicing going for a run in the rain and slowly build it up. Also try reading a poker psychology book. If you smoke, you could take it an extra step and try quitting.ConclusionIndividuals whether they be hedge fund managers, investment bankers or traders on the London stock exchange will all benefit from the use of stoic exercises, regardless of if they do decide, or decide not to educate themselves on the general philosophy of stoicism in the future.
The reason for this is because stoicism has emerged as an ideal way of life and mind for the real, modern world. Ultimately what Stoicism is, is a series of reminders, tips and aids for living a prosperously.
Be a better, happier person. Be stronger in the face of adversity. Turns obstacles into opportunities. Keep your ego manageable and in perspective. And finally take whatever help you can get but understand it must also come from within.Stoic on financiers.References:Wikipedia, last edited on 22 July 2018. Stoicism [Online] < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
The daily stoic, 2018. What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 9 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started [Online] < https://dailystoic.com/what-is-stoicism-a-definition-3-stoic-exercises-to-get-you-started/ > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
By Emanuele Faja, 22 February 2016. 10 Insanely Useful Stoic Exercises [Online] < http://observer.com/2016/02/ten-insanely-useful-stoic-exercises/ > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
Marcus Aurelius. Unknown, likely before 850BC, The Meditations. London: Penguin Classics
Epictetus, 1537, The Discourses of Epictetus. London: Penguin Classics

US Markets in green on Friday; Dow 30 up over 345 points, Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 up nearly 1%

US Markets were trading in the green on Friday with Dow 30 trading at 30,678.80, up by 1.14%. While S&P 500 was trading at 3,701.66, up by 0.98% and Nasdaq Composite 10,690.60 was also up by 0.71 per cent

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US Markets in green on Friday; Dow 30 up over 345 points, Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 up nearly 1%
Earlier today, Indian stock markets ended the week on a winning note. It was the sixth straight gains for equity markets. Source: Reuters
US Markets were trading in the green on Friday with Dow 30 trading at 30,678.80, up by 345.25 points or1.14 per cent. While S&P 500 was trading at 3,701.66, up by 35.88 points or 0.98 per cent and Nasdaq Composite 10,690.60 was also up 75.75 points or 0.71 per cent. A Reuters report said that today’s strength was on the back of a report which said the Federal Reserve will likely debate on signaling plans for a smaller interest rate hike in December, reversing declines set off by social media firms after Snap Inc’s ad warning.

Source: Comex

Nasdaq Top Gainers and Losers

Source: Nasdaq

Earlier today, Indian stock markets ended the week on a winning note. It was the sixth straight gains for equity markets. The BSE Sensex ended at 59,307.15, up by 104.25 points or 0.18 per cent from the Thursday closing level. Meanwhile, the Nifty50 index closed at 17,590.00, higher by 26.05 points or 0.15 per cent. In the 30-share Sensex, 13 stocks gained while the remaining 17 ended on the losing side. In the 50-stock Nifty50, 21 stocks advanced while 29 declined.

Which Health Insurance Plan Is Best for Me?

Health insurance has proven itself of great help and financial aid in certain cases when events turn out unexpectedly. In times when you are ill and when your health is in grave jeopardy and when finances seem to be incapable to sustain for your care, health insurance is here to the rescue. A good health insurance plan will definitely make things better for you.Basically, there are two types of health insurance plans. Your first option is the indemnity plans, which includes the fee-for-services and the second is the managed care plans. The differences between these two include the choice offered by the providers, the amount of bills the policy holder has to pay and the services covered by the policy. As you can always hear there is no ultimate or best plan for anyone.As you can see, there are some plans which may be way better than the others. Some may be good for you and your family’s health and medical care needs. However, amidst the sweet health insurance plan terms presented, there are always certain drawbacks that you may come to consider. The key is, you will have to wisely weigh the benefits. Especially that not among these plans will pay for all the financial damages associated with your care.The following are a brief description about the health insurance plans that might be fitting for you and your family’s case.Indemnity PlansFlexible Spending Plans – These are the types of health insurance plans that are sponsored when you are working for a company, or any employer. These are the care plans inclusive in your employee benefit package. Some of the specific types of benefits included in this plan are the multiple options pre-tax conversion plan, medical plans plus flexible spending accounts, tax conversion plan, and employer credit cafeteria plans. You can always ask your employer of the benefits included in your health care/insurance plans.Indemnity Health Plans – This type of health insurance plan allows you to choose your own health care providers. You are given the freedom to go to any doctor, medical institution, or other health care providers for a set monthly premium. The insurance plan will reimburse you and your health care provider according to the services rendered. Depending on the health insurance plan policy, there are those that offers limit on individual expenses, and when that expense is reached, the health insurance will cover for the remaining expenses in full. Sometimes, indemnity health insurance plans impose restrictions on services covered and may require prior authorization for hospital care and other expensive services.Basic and Essential Health Plans – It provides a limited health insurance benefit at a considerably low insurance cost. In opting for this kind of health insurance plan, it is necessary that one should read the policy description giving special focus on covered services. There are plans which may not cover on some basic treatments, certain medical services such as chemotherapy, maternity care or certain prescriptions. Also, rates vary considerably since unlike other plans, premiums consider age, gender, health status, occupation, geographic location, and community rated.Health Savings Accounts – You own and control the money in your HSA. This is the recent alternative to the old fashioned health insurance plans. These are savings product designed to offer policy holders different way to pay for their health care. This type of insurance plan allows the individual to pay for the current health expenses and also save for untoward future qualified medical and retiree health costs on a tax-free basis. With this health care plan, you decide on how your money is spent. You make all the decisions without relying on any third party or a health insurer. You decide on which investment will help your money grow. However, if you sign up for an HSA, High Deductible Health Plans are required in adjunct to this type of insurance plan.High Deductible Health Plans – Also called Catastrophic Health Insurance Coverage. It is an inexpensive health insurance plan which is enabled only after a high deductible is met of at least $1,000 for an individual expense and $2,000 for family-related medical expense.Managed Care OptionsPreferred Provider Organizations – This is charged in a fee-for-service basis. The involved health care providers are paid by the insurer on a negotiated fee and schedule. The cost of services are likely lower if the policy holder chooses an out-of-network provider ad generally required to pay the difference between what the provider charges and what the health insurance plan has to pay.Point of Service – POS health insurance plans are one of the indemnity type options in which the primary health care providers usually make referrals to other providers within the plan. In the event the doctors make referrals which are out of the plan, that plan pays all or most of the bill. However, if you refer yourself to an outside provider, the service charges may also be covered by the plan but the individual may be required to pay the coinsurance.Health Maintenance Organizations – It offers access to a network of physicians, health care institutions, health care providers, and a variety of health care facilities. You have the freedom to choose for your personal primary care doctor from a list which may be provided by the HMO and this chosen doctor may coordinate with all the other aspects of your health care. You may speak with your chosen primary doctor for further referrals to a specialist. Generally, you are paying fewer out-of-pocket fees with this type of health insurance plan. However, there are certain instances that you may be often charged of the fees or co-payment for services such as doctor visits or prescriptions.Government-Sponsored Health InsuranceIndian Health Services – This is part of the Department of Health and Human Services Program offering all American Indians the medical assistance at HIS facilities. Also, HIS helps in paying the cost of the health care services utilized at non-HIS facilities.Medicaid – This is a federal or s state public assistance program created in the year 1965. These are available for the people who may have insufficient resources to pay for the health care services or for private insurance policies. Medicaid is available in all states. Eligibility levels and coverage benefits may vary though.Medicare – This is a health care program for people aging 65 and older, with certain disabilities that pays part of the cost associated with hospitalization, surgery, home health care, doctor’s bills, and skilled nursing care.Military Health Care – This type includes the TRICARE or the CHAMPUS (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services) and CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affair). The Department of Veterans Affair (VA) may also provide this service.State Children’s Health Insurance Program – This is available to children whose low-income parents were not able to qualify for the Medicaid.
State-Specific Plans – This type of plan is available for low income uninsured individuals.There are many different types of insurance plans that you may have the prerogative to know about. By learning which health care insurance fits your situation, you can avail of the many options that will likely be of great assistance to you in times when you will need it most. Insurance costs have typically become one of the common draw backs in choosing for an insurance quote. However, weighing the benefits will really matter. Make sure that you always read the benefits, terms and conditions before landing to whichever type of health insurance you choose.