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Weekend reading: DIY Saturday edition

Weekend reading

Good reads from around the Web.

A slightly shorter list from me this weekend, as I’m preparing this edition of Weekend Reading on Friday ahead of an early start.

In particular, there’s no links from the Saturday papers. Gasp!

So if you spot anything worth sharing, please do share it with the rest of the monevated in the comments below.

Fans of Warren Buffett should also look out for his annual shareholder letter, which should be published this weekend.

Again, please do pop a link in the comments if you see it. 🙂

Have a good one!

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

Product of the week: With £5 knocked off the price at WHSmith, you can now buy a pack to help you write your own Will for just £20. ThisIsMoney asks a solicitor if this is one bargain you’ll live to regret. (Well, you won’t, but you know what I mean…)

Mainstream media money

Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber of that site.1

Passive investing

  • The market is only about as volatile as it ever was – Motley Fool
  • Index funds: Presumed guilty – Morningstar
  • Rob Arnott: Smart beta could go ‘horribly wrong’ [Search result]FT

Active investing

A word from a broker

Other stuff worth reading

Book of the week: Does anyone around here but me still love poetry? I’ve just bought yet another copy of Alice Oswald’s Memorial to give to a dear friend this weekend as a birthday present. If you believe they don’t write them like they used to, get this. Gloomy, mind.

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  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []

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{ 62 comments… add one }
  • 51 Grand February 29, 2016, 5:05 pm

    I wonder how I even first came across this website…. I definitely recollect it was a link from elsewhere in regards to a round up of investing in the UK but for the life of me I cannot remember where.

  • 52 The Investor February 29, 2016, 5:37 pm

    @all — While I don’t particularly relish or enjoy this conversation (hey, we’re British, right? I don’t discuss my friend’s salaries with them, either! 😉 ) I’m glad to see people find value in Monevator.

    I personally like MMM and FS, and clearly so do hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, judging by their traffic.

    Of course, the US is a much bigger country, too, with 6-7 times the potential native audience. And these sites weren’t battling vast incumbents like the BBC (though this has dialed back a little, thankfully) or MSE.

    Anyway, I don’t see why it has to be all Mods vs Teds or Xbox vs PlayStation. Fine, we all have preferences, but I don’t understand the need to cast aspersions about bloggers who do very well. It seems petty, grouchy, and Telegraph/Guardian-commentator style grumpy. If $400,000 a year started coming into this site, I guarantee you I would not be turning it away. If anything I admire them for sharing the detail, given the criticism it’s invited. (We don’t need to rehash the arguments, I do get the other side of it, I just don’t agree with it. But if you do, fine. The Internet is a vast and mostly free place. Let’s just hang out in the places we each like).

    I’ll say again, Monevator doesn’t make no money. It makes some, but to offer some disclosure even today it’s still less than you’d get for simply writing 3 articles a week for a magazine like MoneyWeek or Investor’s Chronicle, and for the first five years of blogging it *was* close to a pittance.

    We do get a bit of money from affiliate payments from platforms/brokers, but a minority offer them (I’m told there is some regulatory concern), even fewer will pay them to us, and overall the market is tiny compared to that for credit cards etc.

    And then we have all the readers who use ad blockers, as we discussed last time. Ho hum. It’s literally a free world. 😉

    Basically, if you want to make money from a free Web site about money, do personal finance with a lot about credit and loans and the like.

    The way to make money from investing sites these days is subscription models and/or selling some sort of product. Even our long-awaited book would help with the latter, though I’m not expecting to clash with MMM at the top of any tables anytime soon even when that’s finished… 😉 😉

  • 53 Grumpy Old Paul February 29, 2016, 6:16 pm

    Firstly, I’d like to state how much I appreciate this site and what a superb job TI and his chums have done in maintaining the standard of the articles and moderating the comments over the years. I personally have learnt so much and profited from the information provided.

    I enjoy the cut and thrust of the comments and the mostly temperate and respectful tone. (The posters in general are far less irritating than some of those on the Archer’s Mustardland blog!) Yeah, I know that there are a couple of hot buttons which wind people up on here but TI does too and only presses them a few times a year. (Not much discussion on here about the EU referendum or have I missed it?)

    @Rhino, @TI,
    I doubt that this blog in its current form could ever have a huge audience simply because it’s far too cerebral and, as someone commented, does not satisfy the desire for instant gratification and a fast buck which is so widespread.

    The lack of job security, demise of defined benefit pension schemes, student debt and sky-high house prices and growing inequality together means that only a small and diminishing minority will have the means to save and invest.

    So far as the pace of technological change is concerned, I’d say so far as the impact on the person in the street is concerned (rather than what goes on under the bonnet), it has definitely slowed during my sixty-plus years. We’ve seen the demise of Concorde and supersonic air travel. Have a look at the spaceref review of ‘The Last Man on the Moon’. It took only 12 years from the launch of the first Sputnik to the first manned lunar landing. Yes, we have smart phones, the internet and central heating but the last 50 years have seen nothing like the visible technological changes in everyday life that I expected to see when I was at school. I remember arguing with a dear late school friend that if, in the 1960’s, we’d been able to step into a time machine and visit a high street in the 2010’s, we’d be astonished how little had changed.

    @Mathmo,
    Liked your observations about the different tendencies within the FI community and I tend to agree with your take on frugalism. I’ll take the low hanging fruit but won’t spend hours chasing pennies even though as a retired old buffer, I have the time to do so. I do a very quick hassle/benefit analysis. Don’t drive but do like dining out well and good wine!

  • 54 Planting Acorns February 29, 2016, 6:47 pm

    @Grand @Grumpy old Paul…

    …I think there are a LOT of people out there saving for their future by investing in BTL. That may even be a better way of doing things, due to the leveraging involved. It’s not the case people either don’t save for the future or invest, there are buy to letters and even people with huge own homes they intend to downsize…

  • 55 elef February 29, 2016, 9:38 pm

    @TI

    It looks like we are all agreed on how valuable Monevator is. Personally speaking the benefit must be in the thousands (saved fees, time in the market, investing insight etc.) I’ll happily buy you a few beers if I see you at Lars’ event (thanks for that as well). I know a few beers doesn’t quite make it up, but I’m heading for FI you know…

  • 56 The Investor March 1, 2016, 9:33 am

    @elef — Cheers. I’m afraid I won’t be unmasking myself at Lars’ event, however, so I’ll have to take a rain cheque. Appreciate the sentiment!

    As for Monevator, as things stand growth in traffic is definitely slowing, and I’m inclined to agree with those who say we have a limited natural audience as stands (though perhaps we would benefit from a design spruce-up etc?) But anyway, it seems people would rather read about “19 things that will blow your mind” (and they won’t believe number 12) then several waffley blokes using too many long words to say (effectively) the same thing over and over again about sensible investing.

    I have long felt many readers “graduate” from Monevator — in that they set up their passive strategies then go off and do something they find more interesting — rather than coming back weekly for our latest “hot tips” or what not. Not a great business model, either. 🙂

    Indeed revenue is actually declining, though this is mainly because so many people now read the site through their mobiles, which is a great experience interface-wise, but which generates just a fraction of the ad revenue per visit. Ho hum.

  • 57 Survivor March 1, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Hi TI,

    I’m not so sure you’re right that people see your site as the starter course in the FI/investing buffet & then move on to the ‘heftier’ courses at the all you can eat free events 🙂

    I am only one experience, but though I only started self-educating at a serious pace ~3 years ago when I first found your site, I still check out the weekend’s reads every week – which ensures I keep an eye on any new articles too. As events [budgets for example] change the investment landscape, there’s always a need for new material, so the site can be kept fresh. Not having to do the due diligence myself saves time massively, & the commenters’ experiences with their investments is useful first-hand knowledge if you’re too scared to try something out yourself.

    Maybe the issue of earnings is less a problem with the content per se & more how you’re found – for example I stumbled on your site when googling ‘compound interest calculator’. So maybe there’s a way of even just slightly tweaking search optimisation parameters [inexpensively] to produce a significant improvement.

    I am no spring chicken as an investor, but still needed your site to work out [to my horror] my pension was on a closet tracker. [yes, the shame, I’ll never admit it in public] Since then, ~2.5 years ago, it’s risen in value, even now with the recent volatility by 50% – now I know that the rising tide of QE lifted all boats over much of that period, but I think that’s still impressive.

    So given that, have you thought of approaching appropriate entities to do deals on the basis of this site being an educational tool? I wish I’d seen it in school, failing that, at Varsity, then when I started working, then when I bought my home, started a penson etc., etc., – effectively before all important financial milestones in life – is better than nothing. Even if I’d clocked it a couple of years before I did, I’d then have caught the whole of the QE wave …..& my pension would have doubled with the boost of that prime time for sure. {& I’d be sleeping better now 🙂 }

  • 58 John B March 2, 2016, 12:09 am

    This site saves its devotees 5 figure sums, but its dry tone and long-term rewards won’t attract the unique visitors needed to make much on advertising, compared with MSE’s £50 nuggets of information. I’d hope the authors get their reward as ego-boo rather than cash, as partly that’s what FIRE is about. You hope that an “armchair investor” is in that kind of chair because they don’t *need* to be working at anything.

    As for monetising your efforts, advertising doesn’t really work, as all you can say is use cheap broker X to invest in low margin tracker fund from Y, and that rather limits the field.

  • 59 The Investor March 2, 2016, 12:33 am

    @Survivor — Really glad you’re finding the site so useful! It is heartening to read (and congratulations on your successes to-date).

    Regarding readers graduating to heftier courses, perhaps I wasn’t clear…

    I don’t think they go on to reading about more complicated investing, I think they go back to browsing property daydreams on Rightmove or hiking or to the pub or to reading about Kim Kardashian or whatever (misguided! 😉 ) people find more interesting than reading dry articles about investing. To @John B’s point, there’s only so much you need to do to get 95% of the benefits of passive investing, the rest is just gilding the lily, except for those of us for whom this is a hobby/passion. (And no, we’re not the sort who click on ads…)

    @John B — An anonymous site isn’t great for one’s ego. 🙂 And of course it is a fair amount of work.

    As for Armchair Investor’s not needing to be working, well, perhaps if they were born into some good fortune, or they’re high earners, or they’re at the end of the journey. Me and @TA are somewhere in the middle of our journeys, on a slow and steady path on fairly modest middle class incomes, not high-flyer salaries for most of our careers.

    This sometimes comes up with friends who know my interest in investing, and assume I must therefore be a secret Warren Buffett-style gazillionaire next door. Even with Buffett’s c.20% returns it’ll take about 20 years to convincingly clear £1m if saving say £5,000 a year, which is a good chunk of say a decent £40K per year pre-tax income.

    On passive style returns of 6-10%, you’re talking 40 years+ to get to a £1million.

    Now, sure, you don’t need a million, and for my (naughty, active) part I’m aiming for better than 6-10%, but anyway if you’re under 45 and you’ve got less (let alone much less) than £1m or so and you’re not a frugalista (I’m not, @TA is a bit) then I think you’re still very much in the “needing to work” category, whatever armchair you aspire to plonk yourself into someday… 😉 )

  • 60 Minikins March 4, 2016, 11:20 am

    I really think Monevator is a unique brand behemoth in the waiting. It’s the novel that everyone knows they should read fully but don’t actually complete. It’s the War and Peace of investment reading because there is so much else between the lines that is enjoyable and useful. But not everyone gets that. It’s for the people, but maybe “the people” don’t actually realise it. Sorry to continue the Tolstoy theme but he was the ‘conscience of the people of Europe’, yet most of the people he felt and wrote passionately for and about were unable to read. Please don’t let it sit on the shelf and get dusty for someone else to revive 20 years down the line in the form of a raunchy 3 part TV drama.

    Beyond idealism, to capitalise on this site, you really are going to have to build upon the Monevator brand. I think that is the key. Once you have developed the brand, you can understand what people like, expect and want from Monevator and use that to build a strategy to monetise it. I think Monevator is ready for it. You may be surprised at the direction it may be taken on once you have real brand identity, it will fly and thrive in places you never thought possible. Areas like Monevator meet ups, seminars, networking events, platform comparison apps, calculator tools, e-guides, newsletters, radio slots, subscriptions to extra content could all build on that brand trust and reliability and then it can take on a life of its own, becoming an authority that becomes a stamp of approval on other products. You don’t have to be the public face of it, many brands are faceless and incredibly successful. Other people can do that for you. You can be the obscure and reclusive millionaire founder. But you will have to let it fly free. Sorry if I got carried away 🙂

  • 61 The Investor March 4, 2016, 11:43 pm

    @Minikins — Wow, lots of food for thought there! It’s a shame I’m not more of an entrepreneur. I thought I was once — and I’m fascinated by them — but I gave it a go and discovered I wasn’t, really. I put the bit I’m good at (judgement) into my active investing now. I lack the energy, drive, recklessness, and big ambitions of the successful entrepreneurs I know.

    But perhaps I should give it more thought. As for the Tolstoy references, you’re often over-generous / flattering but that is an analogy too far I feel! 🙂

    I’m more a Dostoevsky man in real life, sadly. I suppose TA has to be Maxim Gorky.

  • 62 Minikins March 5, 2016, 12:10 pm

    Ha! Maybe I did get too carried away, but the posts here are lengthier and more discursive and I think that’s what makes it an authoritative blog as well as a jolly good read!
    I hope you do give it some thought, you’ve got to have a dream…

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