Life After Full-time Work Blog

Learn about preparing for life after full-time work through posts from Don's upcoming book.

#147 More Anecdotes From My Time At Russell Investments

Including working with a Nobel Prize winner


Recently my blog carried a number of stories about the early days at Russell Investments, and the wonderful culture that George and Jane Russell built, and I’m gratified to see how many reads it got. The stories were from a 75-minute interview that Josh Cohen conducted with me, for Episode 8  (“In consultants we trust”) of his podcast series The Accidental Plan Sponsor.

Josh said that the episode was very well received (the most popular of the series, in fact), and he used our interview to create a bonus episode in which he featured stories that weren’t directly relevant to the growth of the consulting industry in the US. Here’s the link, and the episode is called “Let’s hear more from Don Ezra.” If you enjoyed the podcast or my blog post, chances are that you’ll enjoy the bonus episode.

Josh included four stories.

The first was about Madelyn Smith, one of the architects of Russell’s manager research capabilities, comparing the stately environment of British merchant banks with the direct approach of the manager research analysts. (I mentioned this briefly in my earlier blog post.)

The second was about the birth of the Russell 20-20 group, when the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 led to the possibility of new investment markets opening up for pension funds.

The third was about how I got to meet and know Bill Sharpe and then work with him and develop an enduring friendship, and the amazing coincidence that I was at the Q Group conference with Bill in 1990 at which the Nobel Prize Committee finally tracked him down to tell him that they were awarding him (and Harry Markowitz and Merton Miller) the 1990 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (to give it its formal name). Can you imagine the excitement for all of us present?!!! How many times does something like that happen in your life?!!!

Josh, in his commentary, refers to my charmed life at Russell. An appropriate adjective, and it goes beyond Russell. My lifetime experiences were beyond anything I could possibly have dreamed of. I grew up as an asthmatic kid in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and was sent to boarding school for some years in the foothills of the Himalayas where the air was cleaner, finally returning to day school in Calcutta at the age of 10, which is essentially where my memories begin. I view life through the eyes of that 10-year-old kid. “Charmed” is indeed the life I’ve had.

Josh’s final story is about what I’m doing these days. In addition of course to researching and writing these blog posts, I’ve put together some extensive notes on not only financial but also physical and mental wellness at five stages of life, from joining the workforce through retirement. If anyone is ever interested in seeing the notes published, I’m tentatively calling the collection “Dancing to my Dream Land,” because graduation from full-time work should not only be like your dreams coming true, you should also be able to get there joyously, like dancing, rather than struggling to get there.

All of that in ten short minutes of chat. Enjoy the bonus episode!


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I have written about retirement planning before and some of that material also relates to topics or issues that are being discussed here. Where relevant I draw on material from three sources: The Retirement Plan Solution (co-authored with Bob Collie and Matt Smith, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009), my foreword to Someday Rich (by Timothy Noonan and Matt Smith, also published by Wiley, 2012), and my occasional column The Art of Investment in the FT Money supplement of The Financial Times, published in the UK. I am grateful to the other authors and to The Financial Times for permission to use the material here.

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