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Work Daze – Tofu Takes Wall Street

If you enjoyed the financial meltdown of 2007, I’ve got good news. The Wall Street denizens, who we admired for their ability to take enormous risks with our money, as long as they were insured enormous profits on their money, have turned a new leaf.

And what did they find under that leaf?



That’s right! The archetypical Wall Street firm of Merrill Lynch has instituted a major healthy-living campaign to keep its brokers working at peak performance. You know what this means. With these financial desperados totally healthy and totally energized, we’re almost guaranteed to have another major melt down, soon.

Or maybe not.

Since Merrill management has clearly gone gaga, the only salvation I can see for the few shekels left in our communal piggy banks are the Merrill employees. Despite the fact that it is their fearless leader, John Thiel, who is spearheading the health charge, many of the employees are deciding that the better living through tofu campaign is not exactly to their taste. At least, that’s what I read in a recent Reuters article in the Financial Advisor website, “Merrill Brokers Have Mixed Reaction to Healthy Life Training, Tofu Burger Diets.”

According to Reuters, “some hard-charging long-term advisors” are starting to “bristle.” I imagine that when their caviar and lobster lunches are replaced with mushy lumps of tofu, they are also starting to yak.

Of course, none of this has affected the appetite for healthy living expressed by Thiel, the man credited with hiring Chris Johnson, a “wellness guru,” who “has been traveling the country teaching Merrill Lynch advisors how lead healthier lives.”

And who could object to leading a healthier life? Anyone who finds themselves facing a management ukase that includes a recommended diet of “liver oil, wheatgrass, flax, chia and a type of algae called spirulina.” [What chia is, I don’t know, but it does make a wonderful pet.

Not satisfied with commandeering the kitchens of the Merrill employees, Johnson, with the support of Thiel, is also taking over their bathrooms. Forget that dry martini; Merrill employees are instructed to unwind with a “relaxing bath with Epsom salt.”

Maybe they can throw an olive in the bathtub, too, just for old-time’s sake.

Merrill is not the only Wall Street firm that Johnson is helping to evolve. He is also working with employees at Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Raymond James. Obviously, these firms all believe that healthier employees will help their firms’ profits. Whether all this healthy behavior is going to help their clients’ investments is open to discussion. I do know that I am moving my own portfolio 100 percent into tofu futures.

With the kitchen and the bathroom covered, it won’t surprise you that Wall Street’s wellness kick has also moved into the bedroom. One executive, perhaps feeling a slight bit dyspeptic from “the tofu burgers served at a retreat for top producers,” registered a complaint over a message from Mahogany Row encouraging advisors “to take an afternoon nap to increase productivity.”

Personally, I think this is a charming idea. I can imagine nothing more delightful than a room full of testosterone-crazed money managers slipping off their Gucci loafers before rolling out their Frette nap mats so they can sleep like a rock while the Dow-Jones drops like a rock.

Not satisfied with super-charging the bodies of Merrill employees with tofu burgers and non-stop naps, the Wall Street thought-leaders are also messing with their employees’ minds. Thiel has “wholeheartedly embraced” the New Age lifestyle prescriptions of “another guru called davidji.” Too evolved, apparently, for capital letters, davidji “describes himself as a former banker and specializes in wellness of the mind.”

“People familiar with his Merrill training sessions,” reports Reuters, “say they feature bongo drum playing and meditation.”

While we can’t be sure if a spirulina diet, Epsom salt baths and meditation [preferably with “your cat, your dog, your lizard, your parrot”] will reduce the stress that comes with trying to wreck the economy, anyone with any experience in a corporate setting will immediately understand the kind of stress Merrill employees now face as they compete with each other to be more spiritual, more healthy, and a whole lot better on the bongos.

But I have faith in America’s financial forces. They won’t let a tofu burger slow them down. They wrecked the economy before; I know they can do it again.

Now, hand over that parrot. After a lunch of tofu burgers, it looks delicious.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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