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The Surprising Power of Honest Ignorance

Decision-making is hard because there is a fundamental and unavoidable ignorance about the future. We are especially uncomfortable about outcomes produced by processes that we don’t understand well. We’re much more comfortable with risks that we can quantify, model and forecast. This is called “ambiguity aversion“. We are so uncomfortable with the former (uncertainties) that … Continue reading The Surprising Power of Honest Ignorance

How to ‘Architect’ Your Investment Behavior

I took my annual look at my investments this week, and boy did I get it wrong. A few years ago, I determined I should have about 70% of my investments in equities. Instead, as of yesterday, I had less than 60%.  Most of the excess was in cash, earning essentially nothing and missing out on … Continue reading How to ‘Architect’ Your Investment Behavior

Mortgage Market Fail

How is it that, eight years after the financial crisis, there are 549,000 homes currently in some stage of foreclosure? A recent study found that 20 percent of American households should have refinanced in 2010, but did not. Potential loss: $45,000 over the lifetime of the loan. Another study found that 25 percent had interest rates more … Continue reading Mortgage Market Fail

Lessons From the Global Financial Crisis

Why Did So Many People Make So Many Ex Post Bad Decisions? The Causes of the Foreclosure Crisis has a really interesting alternative explanation the global financial crisis of 2008: Maybe it wasn’t about financial industry insiders deceiving investors and homebuyers, financial innovations run amok, securitization that allowed mortgage originators to avoid having skin in the game … Continue reading Lessons From the Global Financial Crisis

Got a Tough Decision? Fuggedaboutit!

I’ve got a wickedly complex decision to make. What should my priorities be now that I no longer have a full-time banking job? I’ve got at least a dozen different alternatives, each with subtle-to-obvious differences with respect to my key values including impact on my family, benefit to society, intellectual challenge, financial security and leverage of … Continue reading Got a Tough Decision? Fuggedaboutit!

Solar Power in New York: A Foggy View?

I have always been an ardent fan of solar power, ever since that balsa wood solar powered toy boat I built in elementary school. Free, unlimited and clean power would change the world if and when it can made practical. As I was preparing for a series of lectures on Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) for the … Continue reading Solar Power in New York: A Foggy View?

Future & Present: Where Brains, Math and Ethics Collide

Many of the most important decisions we make involve trade-offs between the present and future. How much of my income should I save today for my retirement? What costs should governments incur today to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change in the (hopefully) distant future? How should businesses allocate investments that pay off in … Continue reading Future & Present: Where Brains, Math and Ethics Collide

Why We Chose a College With Massively Negative Return on Investment

My family recently faced a bit of drama when my daughter was accepted to both a great state school and a wonderful, but much more expensive, private school . Naturally, my daughter strongly preferred the latter. As a finance guy with what I’d like to think is a disciplined approach to decision-making, how could I … Continue reading Why We Chose a College With Massively Negative Return on Investment

Rationality: Our Humanity, Our Planet

Rationality is supposed to be integral to our humanity. Indeed, the “sapiens” in homo sapiens is from the new Latin sapere, meaning know, learn and know how. As a matter of fact, our subspecies is actually homo sapiens sapiens. Does this mean we have twice the intellectual capacity of our extinct ancestors from the Pleistocene? … Continue reading Rationality: Our Humanity, Our Planet

We Use Feelings to Make Decisions, and that’s OK

One of the most important and surprising things I’ve learned about decision-making is that we rely on, even require gut feelings to make important decisions about the future. Naqiv, et. al. (2006) write about findings in neuroscience that support the somatic-marker hypothesis, which suggests that when we make decisions under uncertainty, we choose among different … Continue reading We Use Feelings to Make Decisions, and that’s OK