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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Barry Ritholtz

Math you say? Hmmm, I'm gonna have to look into that.

In all seriousness, thanks to digital technology, we have been replacing squishy, unmeasurable eleements (i.e. advertising) with quantifiable easily readable analyses.


Well, matamaticians are good in sensing and thinking (ST)

Reality Check

I am a math geek. I even went to grad school in the subject. It's the worst decision I ever made, one which has literally destroyed my life.

I've been looking for work since I completed the coursework for my PhD. That coursework was completed back during the Reagan era, when the concept of financial aid was very politically incorrect. I worked my way through school, putting in long hours even before studies, and still held to a solid Dean's List average at a top twenty school here in the US, while others were suffering psychological breaks around me. Neither a lazy man nor a weak one could do that, but now I find myself condescended to on a daily basis by punks who found the one true path to success in the New Economy - get drunk or high in the right fraternity, because nobody making a hiring decision gives a rat's backside about what you did in school, at least not in a good way.

What grad school did for me was that it put me on the path for being rejected for almost every job advertised on the basis of "overqualification". I started looking for my entry level job when I was 28; I am now 45. In 17 years, I have not been able to find even a single employer who has been willing to allow me the opportunity to work. Let's put that number in perspective. I've had people tell me to stop complaining, that they were out of work longer than that during the Great Depression, and aside from the usual chronological impossibilities (how old would one have to be now, to have been of employable age during the 1930s), there is the simple fact that they can't be telling the truth, because the Great Depression didn't come close to lasting that long.

I could tell you about the joys that followed, of picking the maggots out of the food I had to fight others for, to win the privilege of being the first to did through the freshly deposited garbage, as I had to because the luxurious $2/day (roughly 1 British pound) granted unto the poor in Chicago during the 90s just never seemed to go far enough. Or of standing with the others who had been locked out of the system with equal capriciousness on a cold January morning, a deep, -10 Farenheit cold with a forty mile per hour wind, waiting in a line wrapping itself around a largish city block several times, filled with those waiting to apply for a single hamburger flipping position. Stumbling in through the door, because frostbite has begun to numb one's feet, only to have the girl taking the applications tear yours into shreds, and throw them into your face along with a few choice epithets that if one is a wise applicant, one will let pass. One wouldn't want other employers to think that one wasn't minding one's place.

17 years of looking through every avenue open to me later, being guilty of nothing more than having worked hard and asking for nothing more than a chance to finally begin my life, I can have no realistic expectation that this will ever be possible, which is why I will leave off my real name. At 28, my life was already over, and in 17 years of looking I have yet to meet anybody who has offered me anything more than a handful of platitudes or a lousy attitude, and the thought of another 17 years of the same is more than I can take. The reward for my work is to wake up in the morning uncertain that I am glad to have been able to do so.

Ask around, and try doing a little field work instead of just repeating the polemic you hear. Shattered lives are not hard to find in this field, and neither are those who will tell you what I'm telling you now - that there is no path back to having a life, once you drop into this abyss. Please do the right thing, talk with the people who have gone this way, and never encourge anybody to go into this field again.

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I find it amazing that that quants are taking part of the blame for the credit crisis and growth of the securitized debt markets. what about shareholders who screamed for more profits and rating agencies that slapped AAA ratings on all these instruments in order to sell more? Its like saying game designers are responsible for high school shootings. The fact is that quant finance still has little influence on corporate decision making. its up to management to prudently allocate capital. everyone knows that you should not cancel the insurance on your house even if there has not been a natural disaster in the last 5 years.


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Mathematics is a wonderful course! It all the time full of mystery! Full of people tried their best to force it lifted the veil just to

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