Arguably, my least favorite phrase in the English language is, “Some assembly required.”

Perhaps because it’s never “some” assembly, it’s always “a lot” of assembly.

Case in point: My wife and I bought a TV wall unit from Ikea that was advertised with the aforementioned caveat of required assembly. When I opened the box, you can imagine my surprise to learn the instruction manual ran a mere 22 pages long.

I also get a similar feeling of frustration when the annual reports come from my investments. One, which details the holdings and performances of the funds in my variable annuity, more often resembles the Manhattan white pages in size and length. It’s a wonder my postman hasn’t put in for combat pay.
I also receive some less-than-enthusiastic looks from my neighborhood trash haulers when I bundle the mammoth quarterly and annual reports in with the week-old newspapers.

Trying to locate the information you want within the tome is always time-consuming and frequently confusing.

While the Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t do anything to address my incompetence as a do-it-yourselfer, they did, however, take a fair stride in winnowing down the complexity of financial reporting.

With the formation of the SEC Advisory Committee on Improvements to Financial Reporting, the regulator is working to make financial reports less complex for investors, while reducing the costs for preparers.

The group, which will eventually be comprised of between 13 and 17 members, will focus their attention on such issues the current approach to setting financial accounting and reporting standards as well as examining compliance restraints via accounting and reporting standards. The group also will look at how to better use technology to improve systems allowing investors to access information.

For years, users, preparers and investors all have bemoaned ad nauseum the complexity and lack of transparency in financial reporting. It’s refreshing to actually see someone do something about it. It will be interesting to monitor the group’s progress a year from now.

Now if only the SEC could establish a user-friendly committee for discount furniture

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