3 things I’m thinking about this week…

1 –  Hard Landings. In the film Airport 1975, the pilots of a 747 are incapacitated by a Cessna hitting the cockpit and the flight attendant must land the plane with the help of the control tower.

Surprisingly, critical reception to the film was mainly unfavorable, with The New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael calling the picture "cut-rate swill," I liked it (though I’m more partial to the cut-rate swill of Airports ‘77 and ‘79).

What this movie reminds me of is the default system of retirement planning education we have in the U.S. We all only get 1 shot to “land the plane” of our retirement but none of us were taught how to fly via our educational system.

To mix metaphors, remember that planning for your retirement is an open-book test and there are many good (100% fiduciary) advisors available to help you succeed.

2 – Nepo Babies.  A phrase going around as Generation Z re-discovers that not all celebrities spring from “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” situations. The latest to be celebrated: Oscar winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis, a Nepo before her time, child of two Hollywood stars from the ‘50s. In my review, the term today is mostly used with celebrities or “celebrities” young to the point where I haven’t heard of them.

Labelling anyone a Nepo triggers a judgment circuit – was it talent or their famous name that got them if not to the top, to a spot higher on the heap than I am? That’s the question you face in evaluating another variant – the investing Nepo.

People leave a lot of things to their kids. Sometimes it’s an executive position or control of a publicly traded company. As in any endeavor, performance and utilization of talent is ultimately what matters. The Nepo spectrum here has quite a range. At one end…a major chicken producer that shall remain nameless named the 32-year-old son of the company’s chairman with what the Wall Street Journal called “minimal financial experience” to the role of CFO last September. Then, in November, he was arrested on public intoxication and criminal trespassing charges after breaking into a woman’s home where he was found sleeping. So, he’s got that going for him...

At the other end, among other better situations there’s HEICO. Founded and run by Laurans Mendelson, it has been managed for many years by Laurans and his two sons Victor and Eric. From what I know, the family connection is an asset here, helping to ensure the company’s unique approach to supplying aftermarket aircraft parts continues well into the future. In the best cases, the children bring dedication, desire to work for the family business and continuity in a good way (in this age of rebooted TV shows, we don’t need to see a sequel of a mediocre CEO’s reign).

3 – Keep on Truckin'?  Truckers epitomize one of the last bastions of workplace freedom, or so we think. Get from point A to point B on time but do it your way and in a truck where bosses and annoying co-workers are far away. The reality is much different. Technology in the cab including electronic logging devices (ELDs) has been added to address a major problem – driver fatigue.

This article from The New Yorker points out 3 things that stand out as examples of ignoring second-level impacts and how strong incentives are in any realm.

  • Imposing apparent order to the detriment of actual order. Electronically tracking hours was done to address driver fatigue. But, it also “curtails personal judgement” leading in some cases to riskier driver behavior – in other words increasing accidents vs. reducing them as they rush to complete trips under a more micromanaged regime.
  • Second-order effects: veteran drivers are retiring in frustration leading to more inexperienced drivers on the road, further lowering safety. Police are charged with enforcement of ELDs but often are not trained to interpret the systems.
  • Technology overlaid on the system doesn’t address the fundamental economics of trucking which is that you get paid on a per-mile basis - only when the truck is moving.

The Long-Haul Trucker

 …and one more thing

From faithful 3 things reader and contributor Jeff M. Window Swap lets you look and listen out a virtual real-time window from various points in the world. I’ve found it’s relaxing and somewhat fascinating to see the world in real-time from someone else’s vantage point. Here’s a snapshot from a recent window from Brixton (London area).