"Karōshi": Death from Overwork on Wall Street

It's 2015, and people in America are literally working themselves to death.

Let the insanity of this situation sink in for a second.

In a country with more wealth and opportunity than any before it in history, young people like Thomas Hughes and Sarvshreshth Gupta are sitting at a desk and staring at a computer until something kills them or they kill themselves.

I've been thinking about the tragic stories of Thomas and Sav a lot recently, rolling the same few questions through my head: Why are people with dream jobs committing suicide? What's causing their situations become so bad? And why are thousands of ambitious students fighting tooth and nail to follow in their footsteps?!

Who Taught You Math???

Mod Note (Andy): Best of Eddie, this originally was posted on 11/29/12.

We. Are. So. Screwed.

It's no secret that the educational quality in the United States has been on the decline for well over a decade. But I had no idea exactly how far we've fallen in real terms. That is, until I read this Psychology Today piece about a recent survey of the math skills of college students in the US. And then I threw up in my mouth a little.

How bad is it?

In an interview one student was asked if he could think of a way to check whether 462+253 = 715. He smartly subtracted 253 from 715 and came out with 462. So far so good. But when he was asked whether he could have subtracted 462 from 715 instead, he said he did not think so. He had been told in school to subtract the second number from the bigger number, not the first. It appears he was just following a memorized script.

In This Business, You Need A Hobby—I’m A DJ

Mod Note (Andy): WSO readers qualify for a $100 discount to Jared's Daily Dirtnap daily market newsletter...just email [email protected] and mention "WSO Monkey Discount" You can follow Jared on twitter at @dailydirtnap.

Things are okay now, but I got shithoused in the LEH bankruptcy. My stock went to zero, I had no income, and my portfolio got cut in half. Those were dark days.

I vowed two things:
1) To never put myself in a position where I could lose it all again, and
2) To have some fun for a change, for crying out loud.

Seriously. I had just spent the last nine years trading and didn't do anything fun. I went about 3-4 years between vacations once, without even taking a day off. When I got home at night, I would get right on the Bloomberg terminal. On the weekends, I read financial books.

All that dedication has paid off, but it was a crummy way to live.

WSO Weekly Wrap-Up (8/22-8/28)

In case you missed them, here's some of last week's most popular topics:

Random Musing on Mr. Market
Post By @Mr. Pink Money

I work 2 weeks per year and worry during the other 50 weeks. What you do/recommend during meaningful volatility will have a bigger impact on your career and credibility than what is done during periods of stability

Meir Ezra: How to Handle Distractions

Have you ever been busy all day without accomplishing anything? You were probably distracted.

Ever wonder why you feel frustrated at work? Distractions might be stopping you.

Ever feel stress? Distractions may be the cause.

Distractions are not just irritating, they are destructive forces that ruin your productivity. Examples: Chatty coworkers, personal problems, sunny days, rainy days, holidays, earthquakes, debts, sales people, money concerns, health problems and more.

How do you handle distractions? Get organized.

My Valuation Class: The Fall 2015 Model Preview

It is almost September and as the academic clock resets for a new year, I get ready to teach a new valuation class. With three hundred registered students, it is about as diverse a class as any I have every taught, with a mix of full-time and part-time MBA students, law and engineering graduate students and a few dozen undergraduates. And with a market meltdown framing discussions, it will be interesting to see how the class plays out. As always, I cannot wait for the class to start and as I have, each semester, for the last few years, I invite you to follow the class, if you are so inclined.

Setting the table

Valuation is an intimidating title for a class, stirring up visions (and nightmares) about spreadsheets, accounting statements and financial theory. This may be the default version of the class and it serves experts in the topic well to preserve this air of mystery and intimidation. I have neither the expertise nor the desire to teach such a class, and I hope that you will not only take my class, no matter what your background and experience, but that you will also learn to enjoy valuation as much as I do. The best way for me to start describing my class is to tell you what it is not about, rather than what it covers. So, here we go:

Beijing Blunders: Bull in a China Shop!

I have generally steered from using my blog as a vehicle for rants, not because I don't have my share of targets, but because I know that while ranting makes me feel better, it almost always creates more costs than benefits. It is true that I have had tantrums (mini-rants) about the practice of adding back stock-based compensation to EBITDA or expensing R&D to get to earnings, but the targets of those tend to be harmless. After all, what can sell-side Equity Research Analysts or accountants collectively do to retaliate? Refuse to send me their buy and sell recommendations? Threaten me with gang-audits?

This post is an exception, because the target of the rant is China, a much bigger and more powerful adversary than those in my mini-rants, and it is only fair that I let you know my priors before you read this post. First, I am hopelessly biased against the Chinese government. I believe that its reputation for efficiency and economic stewardship is inflated and that its thirst for power and money is soft-pedaled. Second, I know very little about the Chinese economy or its markets, how they operate and what makes them tick. It it true that some of my ignorance stems from the absence of trustworthy information about the economy but a great deal of it comes from not spending any time on the ground in China. So, if you disagree with this post, you have good reason to dismiss it as the rant born of ignorance and bias. If you agree with it, you should be wary for the same reasons.

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Try out these 10 technical IB interview questions

We all know the most dreaded part of an investment banking interview is the technical questions. Sure, you might be terrified of faking your way through the cultural fit stuff when you secretly hate the place, and yeah, you might be afraid of getting a question with no good answer, like, "If this is your dream job, then what happens if another firm gives you a better offer in five years?" Those are rough. But if you don't know what to say when some hard competency questions come your way, then you're dead in the water.

Certain technical questions are relatively easy to prepare for, like "Walk me through a DCF" or "Explain the three types of financial statements." You can study for those in a pretty straightforward manner and practice demonstrating your competency until you're blue in the face. Basically, if you actually get it, and you know how to talk, then you can do it.

What's harder is coming up with answers on the spot to interview questions about more specific modeling examples. At it's core, it's the same thing, but you have to attune your mind to applying your knowledge to particular cases on the fly. Part of it comes back to competency, but a lot of it is nerves, or calming down and trusting yourself to work through the problem.

Take the Quiz: 10 Financial Modeling Questions From Investment Banking Job Interviews