If you’re wondering whether it’s really worth the long slog to becoming a CFA Charterholder, Paul Grice, a Charterholder since 1998 might reinvigorate your motivation for studying the increasingly difficult exams.
Aged 56, Grice has achieved the sort of lifestyle that makes 900+ hours of studying seem worthwhile.
Having retired from his role as chief investment officer at a London-based fund last year, Grice now lives full time at his £2.7m ($3.7m) 16th century manor house in the English countryside.
Unfettered from a full time job, Grice says he now gets out of bed mid-morning. “I rise at around 10am, breakfast around noon after coffee and catch-up on the news.” His days are mostly then spent doing whatever’s required on his estate: “After that it could be anything from taking a chainsaw to the latest fallen tree, fixing a leaky roof in one the outbuildings, riding around on the mower and then there’s always a long dog walk across the fields. If it’s pouring with rain, then I’m in the studio playing the guitar.”
Despite being a self-described private investor, Grice says he doesn’t spend much time on markets now: “Once a week I might put on my fingerless woolly gloves, light a little stub of left over candle and spend an hour or so in my dimly lit study administering my investments.” Any more time than this is unnecessary, he suggests: “I’ve never fallen for the “knowledge delusion” and believe that a well diversified portfolio is best left well alone.”
Alongside his life around the house, Grice says that post-lockdown he aspires to visit music festivals, theatres and restaurants with his wife, and is forming a band with another retired fund manager (who we presume is a CFA Charterholder too).
For anyone who aspires to the life of Grice, these are his tenets:
1. Don’t keep going past your prime.
“You’ll put up with a lot when you are young, hungry and full of naive enthusiasm and self belief. By the time you are in your fifties you’ve hopefully acquired little investment wisdom, a big dollop of cynicism and enough money never to have to jump through hoops for anybody ever again. I don’t feel as though I have left my career, rather it is the first time I have been able to execute an effective investment strategy, not dictated to me or set in a group meeting. I don’t have to justify my investment decisions to anybody or be distracted by having to write a stack on monthly market reports or respond to unending client or compliance related queries. Also, if you haven’t made it to the big oak-paneled office with the deep pile fitted carpet and large leather chesterfield sofa by your mid 50s, then it probably is time to move on anyway and make room for the yappy ankle biters.”
2. Don’t let success go to your head.
“The industry attracts a lot of very intelligent people, and it’s fun to be around so many sparky, clever types. As a global investment manager with internationally based clients, you can get exposure to such a wide variety of topics, travel across every continent and meet a huge variety of people. As you become more seasoned you’ll often find yourself in a room full of educated clients that expect you to answer any questions on any topic however tenuously related to the investment matter in hand. You either fall flat on your face or, as in my case, learn to make a tiny big of knowledge go a very long way, which can be fun, especially if you are a bit of a performer. One potential pitfall of being asked to pontificate on important global issues every day is that one might need to have a bigger front door put on one’s house in order to squeeze one’s huge head through, I have a large set of church style double doors on the front of my house.”
3. Know what you’re getting into; study the CFA exams early on.
“Be careful what you wish for. If you aspire to be a fund manager, it is not just a job, it is an all consuming lifestyle. If you still want to go ahead then … buy a very reliable loud alarm clock, don’t wear brown shoes with a dark suit, shave off that beard and get on the CFA program as soon as you can because later on you won’t have time. If you are not a self-starter and the kind of person that can figure stuff out for yourself, think on your feet, juggle multiple conflicting obligations, not be afraid of taking risks, not fall to pieces when things go seriously wrong and make definitive decisions in an unpredictable world then you might prefer to consider another career. If you can do all of those then you just need to be lucky, stick at it, be very good at office politics, and you just might do well if the Gods are feeling kind.”
4. Work for small firms.
“I would definitely recommend working for a small firm, where you will tend to gain a much broader experience. There’s nowhere to hide in a small firm so your abilities (and weaknesses) will be noticed quickly, the investment wildebeests tend to hide in the darker recesses of some less well managed larger firms… allegedly. An alternative would be to get a proper job and satiate your investment interest by investing your spare money. Lastly, check out the FIRE movement and the Mr Money Moustache website for a potentially more rounded life experience.”