Sunday, November 28, 2021

Life Lately: Omicron

I am not surprised that there’s a new coronavirus variant sending everyone into a panic. The virus is doing what viruses do, mutate, and there will be many more variants before the pandemic is over. (As written before, I still believe COVID will then become endemic). Given how recently Omicron was detected, we don’t know yet if it is more infectious, virulent, or vaccine-resistant.

However, we already know many of the Omicron mutations are in its spike protein, which is what the vaccines target. If the spike protein has been changed significantly by these mutations, current vaccines may be less effective. Again, we don’t know anything for sure yet and it will be a few weeks until we do, so governments can’t do much for now other than try to contain its spread.

I’m tired of reading, thinking, and writing about COVID – but I wanted to say two quick things about Omicron. First is we should all be grateful to South Africa for their advanced sequencing capabilities. A key weapon in the global defence against COVID is our ability to quickly identify aggressive mutations and then act as needed to modify vaccines or therapeutics. South Africa was first to publicly report Omicron, not only because of significant investments in sequencing, but also because of a culture of scientific honesty. Unfortunately (although I can understand the case for it), quick action also includes limiting travel from South Africa to contain the spread. The world needs to strike a balance in responding to new variants, otherwise politicians may become incentivized to gag their scientists when new variants are found.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Life Lately: The Matthew Effect

Contemplating my future atop the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in November 2018

On this day three years ago, I was cash-strapped. I was approaching the end of my year in business school with an empty bank account. While I could look forward to a nice signing bonus, that was still many months away. In the interim, we needed to fly back to Nigeria, wait out a few months of funemployment, and spend money on our visas which I could then claim back after starting my new job. I had money – the problem was that it existed in an employment contract, not as cash we could spend.

So, I needed to raise cash. I agonized about it for days as I’ve always found it difficult to borrow money. I negotiated again with my recruiter for my signing bonus to be paid immediately. It didn’t work. My last option was to go to my friends. Three conversations and fifteen minutes later, I had all the cash we needed to cover the next few months until my first paycheck came in.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Life Lately: The Psychology of Money

Chilling with my first personal finance coach

If I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can still conjure up vivid images of my mom’s budget sheets from my childhood. While I prefer to think of her as a miracle worker, I know those sheets played a huge role in stretching the family finances as far as possible. After I started my first job, my dad sent me notes from a teaching he did on personal finance in the early 90s. These all formed the basics of my approach to managing money: budget and spend less than you earn, invest your savings wisely, block lifestyle inflation, know what journey you’re on and don’t be swayed by people on a different journey...

I’ve just finished what I think is the second-best personal finance book I’ve ever read – and I’ve read quite a few. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it over the past few days.

A core thesis of the book is that doing well with money is more about how you behave than it is about what you know. There are ordinary people who have built million-dollar fortunes (e.g. Grace Groner) and there are highly educated finance professionals (e.g. Richard Fuscone) who end up bankrupt. The book contains 20 short points about how we think about money and how we can behave differently. It was originally a blog post, which is free to read here, and there’s a good video summary here. I’m also going to share some of my favourite takeaways below.