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It has been a busy quarter for us at Northwood Family Office and an eventful one for the wider world in general. Powerful hurricanes rocked Texas (Harvey) and Florida/ The Caribbean (Irma), North Korea continued to test missiles and nuclear weapons, and the revolving door at the Trump White House continued with Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci leaving – all since our last Northwood Reading List was published in June. Closer to home, Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate twice in less than two months and the Canadian Dollar increased above 80 cents USD for the first time since mid-2015.

At Northwood, we have been diligently working, as always, to manage the financial and personal affairs of our client families. In this work, we find ourselves doing a substantial amount of reading on a wide variety of topics. This includes quarterly investment letters, political think pieces, global trends and, of course, topics in family wealth management.

In light of that, I thought I would share a small selection of interesting articles, news items, and white papers that we have read (or re-read) in the last quarter. The list below covers everything from how wealthy individuals can use big donations to change the world, to what you do with all your parents’ stuff! It includes some new articles and some classics. The common themes are that they are interesting, insightful and of significance for us, and hopefully for you too.


What to Call the Time of Life Between Work and Old Age

What do you call someone who is over 65 but not yet elderly? With average life spans continuing to increase across the developed world, this article ponders how society could benefit from rebranding the time ‘after retirement but before old age’.


Aging Parents with Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It

Many people in their 70s, 80s and beyond have spent their adult lifetimes building a treasure trove of possessions and mementos, including expensive china, crystal and silver sets. This piece discusses how changing tastes and societal norms have led to an entire generation of adult children who aren’t very interested in inheriting their parents’ possessions.


Why Canada Is Able to Do Things Better

Why has so much of American infrastructure gone from the envy of the world to badly in need of repair or complete rebuilding? In this article, Jonathan Kay argues it is simply a function of the US not having high enough taxes to keep infrastructure up to date. He uses Canada as an example of the other option; higher taxes but also better infrastructure. Hmmmm.


Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness letter on proposed tax proposals

Staying on the topic of taxes, the Federal Liberals proposed tax changes have been big news in Canada since Finance Minister Morneau initially announced them on July 18. We have read countless articles and op-eds on the proposed changes, but the one that stands out the most to us, is the letter that the newly formed Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness sent to Minister Morneau on August 30. The letter puts forth a well-reasoned argument against the proposed changes, but what made it memorable was the diverse set of organizations who signed the letter. The final three pages are filled with the signatures of the leaders of organizations representing everyone from management consultants, to grain farmers, to plumbers. This is the strongest evidence we have seen to date of the broad-based opposition to the proposed changes.


Making Big Donations to Change the World

Instead of donating to old standbys like universities, hospitals and museums, some wealthy individuals are making targeted donations designed to effect maximum social change. In this article, several donors discuss how this type of charity can be more time- and labour-intensive, but ultimately more rewarding.


Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside the White House

One of the most famous non-fiction writers on the planet (Michael Lewis) takes a deep dive into America’s nuclear operations and history. In this chilling piece for Vanity Fair, he examines the biggest current risks in the system, and how proposed cuts to the Department of Energy’s budget may be exacerbating them.


There They Go Again . . . Again

Legendary value investor Howard Marks said that he received more responses to this memo than he has on anything else he has written in the last 28 years. Marks touches on the state of the market, the rise of passive investing, and the recent surge in digital currencies. If you’re also interested in reading his follow up memo from September titled ‘Yet Again?’ please see the below link:
Yet Again?


The Pursuit of Average

As passive investing continues to grow in popularity, some people in the investing profession are openly questioning its benefits and its effect on markets. In this excellent paper, Jim Atkinson lays out a defence of active investing and questions some of the arguments made in favour of the purely passive approach.


As companies relocate to big cities, suburban towns are left scrambling

Fortune 500 giants from McDonalds to Caterpillar are learning that if they want to attract top tech talent and young professionals to their companies, they need to be located in hip urban centres where these people want to live. This article talks about how this shift has left suburban towns to pick up the pieces when their biggest local employer suddenly moves to the city.


Richard Florida is Sorry

Urban studies theorist Richard Florida has spent the last 15 years preaching the benefits of the ‘creative class’ and their contributions to the urban renewal taking place across North America. In this review of Florida’s latest book, The New Urban Crisis, Sam Wetherell argues that Florida has now admitted his mistake; he never anticipated how his ideas could help lead to the massive income inequality many leading cities are now struggling with.

As a lifelong learner, I am always interested in reading material that broadens my horizons, challenges my thinking and provides all-important context for the decisions we make. As a result, I’d also be interested in hearing what you’ve been reading lately. If you’ve come across any particularly insightful articles, please feel free to send them to me at


Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office, which looks after the investments and integrated financial affairs of wealthy families with $10 million or more. He teaches ‘The Management of Private Wealth’ in the MBA program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and is also co-author of the books, Family Wealth Management and Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask.

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