What caught my eye this week.
Watching a handful of my friends get pretty rich over the past few years, it’s been striking how little they’ve changed.
Of course the props are swapped. Better cars breakdown. Household appliances are replaced with services, or even by part- or full-time staff. Baggage is stranded in more exotic locales. Arguments with their partners go upscale.
Sometimes one of them does something odd, like painting all the interior walls of their home griege and replacing literally 95% of the furniture to match the same rain cloud tone.
But mostly they are the same old Tom, Dick, or Harriet they were before.
I recently had a coffee in Berkeley Square with one who was fitting me in between the hedge funds. He was lamenting in turn his success or otherwise with dating apps, and trouble with his teenage son.
The same pep talk I offered could have been delivered to an old childhood mate in his caravan in the provinces back home.
Spare any change?
Of course this is a convenient narrative for those who want to argue that we’re all in it together.
We’re not. Those of us with a lot of money have it better.
But it’s true, too, that there is a limit to how much better.
Not because of the canard that, after a certain point, happiness brought about by money plateaus. This bit of social science no longer appears to be true, according to recent research. (See the Guardian article I linked to above).
Rather, it’s because much of what really matters to us simply cannot be bought.
As a beautiful post by Lawrence Yeo on More To That put it this week:
You can be the healthiest person on the planet, but if you love no one, what’s all that vitality for?
You can be free to do whatever you want, but if there’s no one to spend that time with, what’s the point?
Is it even possible to feel a sense of purpose in your days if you believe that you’re loved by no one?
Yeo is doing original digging on a very well-worked seam in his article – albeit not so much in the Beatles-y extract above, which nevertheless ring true – and I’d urge you to give him a read.
Maybe follow up with Ben Carlson, who this week wrote:
Happiness is a complicated topic because when you ask people what they want out of life the answers typically involve career achievements, financial goalposts, or status.
A good job or a high salary or a certain level of fame are easy to quantify and define. Relationships are not.
Money has a value you can attach to it. It’s impossible to quantify the value of strong relationships in your life.
Or with Indeedably, and his sombre reflections from a palliative care unit:
Over the weeks spent visiting the ward, I got to know some of the patients. Lending a sympathetic ear or supportive hand to those in need of a diversion, while the person I was there to see slept.
None reminisced about the jobs they had performed. The nappies changed, houses built, essays marked, budgets prepared, businesses founded, or lines of code written. Beyond their former professions being a token of identity, they barely rated a mention at all.
None reflected on the things they had bought or experiences they had purchased. Cars. Holidays. Houses. Concerts given or attended. Sporting events witnessed or participated in. All irrelevant.
It must be something in the water?
(Middle) class warriors
I do sometimes wonder if I’ll look back on all the effort I’ve put into saving, stock picking, and even running this investing blog over the years as a bit of a tawdry exercise.
I long ago gave up believing Monevator will make many poor people less poor. If we’re doing our job properly, then we help make ‘are or soon will be well-off’ people a little bit more well-off.
Which isn’t nothing, but it’s hardly God’s work.
I’m not looking for sympathy or anything like that. I’m proud of this site!
I just wonder now and then if I should have been writing poems, or helping out at a care home.
The feeling passes, and I’m grateful for the autonomy my decisions have given me. But I’m also left wondering at the counterfactual shadows. Flitting around, just out of sight.
Have a great weekend.
What order to put things into an ISA or SIPP – Monevator
Pensions, the LTA, and IHT – Monevator
From the archive-ator: Crisis investing as swine flu panic spreads – Monevator
Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view click through to read the article. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing to sites you visit a lot.
UK inflation breaks declining trend with surprise jump to 10.4% – CNBC
Households spending 12% more on essentials than a year ago – Guardian
Mortgage rates drop to six-month low – Which
Ministers reportedly scrap plan for earlier rise in UK state pension age – Guardian
Fewer than 10% of over-50 retirees tempted back to work by Budget – This Is Money
TFL ‘to spend £4m naming each London Overground line’ – My London
Amigo to be wound down after failure to secure financial backing – Sharecast
Wealthy executives make millions trading stock of competitors – ProPublica
A sensible strategy for the UK needs radical changes on pensions [Search result] – FT
Counter-argument: Stop blaming everything on pension funds! [Search result] – FT
(Sorry they are both FT search links. I consider my FT subscription a must these days.)
Products and services
How two similar index trackers can generate different returns – T.E.B.I.
Millennials and Gen Z are diving up the price of retro items at auction – This Is Money
Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor
English wine: the brilliant bottles to try – Which
Open an account with low-cost platform InvestEngine via our link and get £25 when you invest at least £100 (T&Cs apply. Capital at risk) – InvestEngine
Tesco to reduce value of points with Clubcard reward partners – Which
Studio flats for sale, in pictures – Guardian
Comment and opinion
William Bernstein: Riskless at age 104 [US assets but relevant] – Advisor Perspectives
How seven couples aged 20 to 80 manage their joint finances – This Is Money
Youth: the envy at work that dare not speak its name [Search result] – FT
Threadneedle’s dubious claims about active fund outperformance – Trustnet
Are pensions really so good for inheritance tax planning? [Search result] – FT
Status games: absurd or necessary? – RAD Reads
Don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog…okay, maybe once – S.L.I.S.
Altogether now – Morgan Housel
Unhealthy claims [The NHS isn’t perfect, but at least it avoids all this!] – Humble Dollar
More evidence time in the market beats timing the market [Research] – Ben Felix via Twitter
Reminders about risk from the banking crisis mini-special
Understanding the banking panic [Short video] – Cullen Roche via YouTube
Everything you didn’t think of – Young Money
Reality meets expectation – Fortunes & Frictions
Five ways investors can succeed by knowing their limits – Morningstar
Banking crisis highlights shifting nature of real estate assets – Dror Poleg
Crypto o’ crypto
No, Bitcoin isn’t pumping because it’s a safe haven from the banks – Molly White
Coinbase, SEC on collision course for ‘existential’ clash over crypto industry – Reuters
SEC charges various celebrities with crypto violations – CNBC
Naughty corner: Active antics
Defending discounts: the investment trusts buying back the most shares – Trustnet
With regime change, institutions are rethinking their portfolios – Institutional Investor
Short-term gain, long-term pain – Capital Allocator
Wandisco revisited – Maynard Paton
Strategic thinking matters – Klement on Investing
What is Bill Ackman up to? – Institutional Investor
More thoughts on the banking crisis – Calafia Beach Pundit
Kindle book bargains
Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry by Anne Boden – £0.99 on Kindle
Bank of Dave by Dave Fishwick – £0.99 on Kindle
Never Go Broke by Lee Boyce and Jesse McClure – £0.99 on Kindle
Green Living Made Easy: Hacks to Save Time and Money by Nancy Birtwhistle – £0.99 on Kindle
Bathing water status rarely granted in England, analysis finds – Guardian
Scientists release ‘survival guide’ to avert climate disaster – BBC
Cruise ship invasion – Hakai
We need to talk about carbon credits – Klement on Investing
DIY giant B&Q offers solar panel installation for the first time – This Is Money
Bras fit for burying: Australia to set standard for composting textiles – Guardian
Off our beat
The age of AI has begun – Bill Gates
Unschooling [On taking your children out of school] – Aeon
What are the world’s safest holiday destinations? – Which
Dining across the divide: “I thought I was going to meet an awful Tory” – Guardian
The real reason South Koreans aren’t having babies – The Atlantic via MSN
Please get me out of dead-dog TikTok – The Atlantic via MSN
I saw the face of God in a semiconductor factory – Wired
Off our beat Succession season 4 mini-special
The final season of Succession is going to be a bloodbath… – Vox
…with Tom Wambsgans on the up and up… – The Ringer
…though there’s still a lot of wood to chop to the top – The Ringer
“There are no atheists in foxholes or ideologues in a financial crisis.”
– Ben Bernanke, quoted in Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
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At least after a hard-to-endure 12 months for those who got rich very quickly, before they get over themselves…
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