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Vanguard readying its Personal Pension SIPP

Vanguard logo

Given how often we’ve been labelled a front for Vanguard – in reality it’s never paid us a penny to directly1 , more’s the pity – I was reluctant to post a lightweight update on its Vanguard Personal Pension service.

But so many of you alerted me to the latest smoke signals, how could I not?

It’s clear that a pension with the low-cost juggernaut is something many Monevator readers are waiting for.

“Whadayoogonnadoaboutit?” I shrug, like a New York mobster in a mid-70s movie.

The missing link

A pension product was conspicuously absent at the launch of Vanguard’s Personal Investor service in the UK last year.

However it seems Vanguard has been beavering away since then.

The latest:

  • Vanguard has obtained necessary permissions from its regulator, the FCA.
  • The Vanguard Personal Pension is registered with HMRC.
  • The product will be structured as a low-cost SIPP2.
  • There’s still no launch date. We can expect an announcement in 2019.
  • The service will handle lump sum additions, regular contributions, and pension transfers.
  • De-accumulators will have the option of flexi-access drawdown from launch.
  • All Vanguard UK’s active and passive funds and ETFs will be available. (I’d expect people to be nudged towards its Target Retirement Funds.)
  • Vanguard says its pension will be low-cost and easy to use.
  • A dedicated pensions team has been recruited.

Pension perils

Vanguard admits it has taken longer than it hoped to get its pension up-and-running, though it hasn’t explained why.

I’m no expert on launching financial products. I’d guess though it comes down to the regulatory environment and a fear of mis-selling.

[Update: It may be due to software development delays. See comments.]

Because Vanguard will only be offering its own funds through its platform, some critics might argue that savers aren’t being given sufficient choice.

I don’t agree with that – at least not if they’re investing in broad-based tracker funds – but I do have sympathy with the view that putting all your eggs in one basket is sub-optimal in terms of total risk management.

And clearly that’s what will happen with a pension provider that only offers its own funds (a situation that won’t be unique to Vanguard, anyway).

The chances of Vanguard getting into trouble to the extent that your pension is threatened (remember, trouble might include fraud or technical disasters) seems to me infinitesimal.

But the impact on an individual from such a tiny probability event could be huge.

For me, that equation always suggests diversifying between at least two providers.

Of course it’s not a fatal issue. You’re allowed to have more than one pension provider, so such diversification is easily achieved. And as I say this risk is certainly not unique to Vanguard.

Even a major ‘open’ pension platform like Hargreaves Lansdown’s could equally (that is very, very unlikely) suffer some sort of permanent compromise. Brokers have failed. And in the opaque world of pensions there are already plenty of people banking their hassle-free retirement on the health of one company – not least with final salary pensions.

There are of course safeguards against pension failure, too. My point is after a lifetime of saving and with no time to make good any setbacks, you can’t afford to take chances. I’d therefore reduce the potential for catastrophic risks where possible.

A cheap platform is only half the battle

For a clue to the sort of thinking that Vanguard may have been grappling with, see this article from The Telegraph.

A 60-year old with a £420,000 pension pot says he has been advised to split it between two Vanguard funds – a Vanguard LifeStrategy 80 fund and a Lifestrategy 40 fund.

For this advice he’s charged £4,500 – to the apparent consternation of the experts the newspaper contacted.

To summarize, the experts want the money spread across 20-30 funds, including active funds and absolute return funds and “maybe gold”.

They say they’d charge much less than £4,500 for the upfront advice – but they’d charge 0.4% to 0.75% for ongoing advice.

True, £4,500 seems a lot to say “plonk it all in a couple of tracker funds”.3

We’ve often said much the same, for free!

But the average person hasn’t got the inclination to read Monevator for a year to learn why such apparently simple advice is probably the best way forward.

And for that reason, I’m not so sure that paying an extra £2,500 upfront to get the money into these super low-cost Vanguard funds is such a terrible deal.

I’m reminded of an old joke about a plumber who bangs a boiler once with a hammer to fix it and then writes an invoice for £250. When confronted that this was poor value for money, the plumber replies that the charge is for knowing where to hit.

Indeed I’d be prepared to bet, Warren Buffett-style, that a portfolio of the two LifeStrategy funds would beat most handpicked hodgepodges of expensive active funds that amounted to a similar risk profile – not least thanks to lower costs.

But sadly, the IFA who recommended the LifeStrategy funds seems to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – at least as best I can tell from the article.

He or she will charge an ongoing 1% a year, the article implies, for presumably telling the client not to touch anything. (The LifeStrategy funds automatically re-balance).

If so that’s a travesty, which will undo all the good work of the initial selection!

Anyway, this is the quagmire that Vanguard is tiptoeing towards.

I have no doubt the firm will produce a simple and low-cost solution. But tools are only part of the picture. Education is all-important – and one of the hardest lessons for investors is there is no perfect strategy. Everything comes with compromises.

We’ll keep doing our bit, but I suspect it will be many years before self-directed pension provision is a solved problem in the UK.

  • Have a play with Vanguard’s simple Pension Calculator to see if you’re saving enough.
  1. It may have bought Google display ads at some point, not sure. []
  2. Self-invested personal pension []
  3. The LifeStrategy funds are actually funds of funds, albeit all Vanguard funds. []
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Weekend reading: Can we take back control from Brexit?

Weekend reading logo

[A quick update on Brexit thoughts for those who want to reasonably discuss it. For those who don’t, please feel free to skip to the links.]

Imagine having anticipated something for 30 years, finally getting the freedom to do it, and then making a car crash out of it.

But enough about my progress as a mid-life singleton. I’m thinking here of the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party.

You know – those 40-odd guys who can’t muster up enough votes to unseat the UK’s most ineffectual leader since Hugh Laurie’s Prince Regent in Blackadder the Third, and yet who’ve somehow managed to send 63 million of us towards an apparently imminent impoverished future.

You might think the World Class farce we’ve endured over the past 30 months would see me smiling.

After all a second referendum is looking ever more likely, if still not odds-on.

But unfortunately, I continue to read and hear abundant evidence that most of the Leave voting contingent still doesn’t get it.

And that means despite the demographic challenges of that faction (i.e. its original margin of victory is literally dying) it’s quite possible Leave could win again.

Especially if the Remain side sticks to the previous policy of dull facts over bus-splattering bullshit fabrications.

No wonder Leave voters seem almost as angry as Remainers:

A second referendum is a horrible solution to a stupid problem, with plenty of downsides.

However from my perspective it has the minor virtue of being less terrible than all the other alternatives.

Whose Brexit is it, anyway

Can we not stop this death march? Absolutely no one seems happy with the direction of travel.

Not even the Leave voters, that’s the most galling – if unsurprising – thing.

Blogger Ermine came close to capturing this contradiction at the heart of the Leave vote with a graphic this week. Leavers are represented here by the two Mickey Mouse ears on top of the smug metropolitan elite mug:

What @ermine’s Venn diagram is missing though is the set of people who voted either Leave or Remain to make us poorer.

Perhaps that’s because it doesn’t exist – despite even the Government admitting that’s what we face.

True, a tiny set of Brexiteers have belatedly conceded that a No Deal Brexit will hit us in the national nads.

That, they now say, is a price worth paying for sovereignty / blue passports / the right to negotiate trade deals with Madagascar and Kazakhstan.

But all the leading Leave-supporting players continue to lie to the electorate.

Theresa May herself rounded off her Deal Debate Dodge by harking back to the supposed ability of Brexit to reduce the inequalities and insecurities she spoke of in the aftermath of the vote – despite almost every single analysis of Brexit showing a net negative impact, economically-speaking.1

If you want sovereignty or fewer immigrants from Brexit, fair enough. Own that. Don’t claim the tooth fairy too.

But sadly, the very few Leavers I come across in real-life are still saying things like “The EU needs us more than we need them.”

The same EU that has run rings around us in negotiations.

The EU that has stuck firmly together, despite all forecasts to the contrary, and strangely believes more in its vision of togetherness than in the fantasies of Brexiteers.

The EU that takes 44% of our exports, while we take 8%2 of theirs.

The roughly 450 million of them versus the 63 million of us.

The UK vs the EU is a negotiating position that only looks attractive to Tories of a certain class raised to see greatness in the self-destruction of The Charge Of The Light Brigade.

“C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre; c’est de la folie”.3

Barry Barricades

What I missed when I created Barry Blimp – the archetypal Home Counties Leave voter of not inconsiderable means and more than a few years – was his zealotry.

Because I now see a big chunk of the Leave cohort want Brexit no matter what.

In fact I rather think some would enjoy it if we had ferries piled up outside Dover and food rationing at Tesco.

Obviously I feel vindicated when I think back to the insults hurled at me when I ventured my opinion on my own blog that many Leave voters didn’t know what they’d started, or that this would drag on for years.

But that’s about as satisfying as telling the person in the seat next to you that yes, you were right that the 747’s engine sounded a bit funny as the Captain shouts “Brace, brace!” over the tannoy.

There seems no good solution to this mess now. Revolutions have started over less.

(That may sound melodramatic if you don’t know your history. I suggest you Google the origins of the French Revolution, the English Civil War, or the American War of Independence before you jab your finger in my chest.)

To be clear I’m not predicting revolution – let alone hoping for it, from any perspective – but there’s got to be a non-zero chance.

Currently we are just living through a nationalist coup, and that’s bad enough.

The irony is for many on the right, Jeremy Corbyn is a revolutionary Marxist.

Politics has abandoned the center ground. As a result, lots of people are going to be very unhappy, however this turns out.

Our politicians need to get a grip, fast.

[continue reading…]

  1. Yes, a couple of things might be made better for a tiny subset of the population. But as we’ve discussed before, almost every serious economist believes those benefits would be grossly outweighed by the economic negatives. They’d be far better addressed directly via redistribution or government investment. []
  2. Or 18%, in a certain light. []
  3. “It’s magnificent, but it’s not war; it’s madness” – General Pierre Bosquet. []
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How to get a 14% return from RateSetter

Mixing RateSetter’s £100 bonus offer and high interest rates should deliver a tasty return

Good news! RateSetter has brought back its £100 bonus for investors who put away just £1,000 for a year. To get the bonus, follow my links to RateSetter in this article. I will also be paid a bonus by RateSetter if you sign up via one of these ‘refer a friend’ links to claim your £100 bonus. This doesn’t affect your returns – it is paid by RateSetter.

I won’t cause any readers to fall to their knees screaming “No! How can it be? Why didn’t somebody tell me!” if I say it’s been hard to get a decent interest rate on cash for the past few years.

Even the Bank of England’s rate rises haven’t done much. High Street banks always drag their feet in passing on rate rises.

But in this article I’ll explain how you can effectively get a 14% return on a chunk of your cash by taking advantage of a bonus offer from RateSetter, the peer-to-peer lender.

True, this very attractive potential return does not come without some risk.

In practice, no Ratesetter investor has yet lost a penny. Every lender has received the rate they expected.

Nevertheless, peer-to-peer does not have the same protections as traditional cash deposits, so you should think about it differently to cash in the bank. More on that below.

If you can accept the risk and have the spare cash to hand, I believe this is a pretty safe – though not guaranteed – way to make a good return.

It also exemplifies how being nimble with your money can enable you to achieve higher returns – even in today’s low rate world.

Not a few Monevator readers have taken advantage of this win-win RateSetter offer over the past couple of years!

About RateSetter

RateSetter is one of the new breed of peer-to-peer lenders aiming to cut out the banks by acting as a matchmaker between ordinary savers and borrowers like you and me.

Rates change all the time, but as I write you can get up to 5.4% as a lender with RateSetter by putting your cash into its five-year market.

Since March 2018 you’ve also been able to open a RateSetter ISA, which means you get your income tax-free.

Meanwhile borrowers can get a loan charging less than 4%. RateSetter claims that rate is competitive with the mainstream banks, and says banks are its competition (rather than it simply getting all the bank rejects).

RateSetter charges no lending fees, which is great news for savers like us. Borrowers do pay a fee.

Over £2.5 billion has now been lent through the RateSetter platform. This is no longer a tiddly operation.

And importantly, of the 66,942 investors who’ve lent money with RateSetter not one has yet lost a penny of their investment.

In 2010 RateSetter set-up a ‘Provision Fund’, which is funded by charging all borrowers a risk-adjusted fee.

Money from the Provision Fund is used to repay lenders whose borrowers miss a payment, for as long as there’s money in the fund to do so.

It’s a different model to the initial approach of rivals like Zopa. Back then you were encouraged to spread your loans widely and accept a few would go bad, reducing your return.

The RateSetter approach is different.

But as sensible people of the world, we should understand there’s no magic here.

Downside protection

Some loans will still go bad. And those bad loans will still reduce the returns enjoyed by lenders in aggregate – because the Provision Fund fee levied against borrowers as part of the cost of their loan could otherwise have gone to lenders through a higher interest rate.

However what the Provision Fund does is share those losses between all lenders, reducing everyone’s return a tad.

This makes your returns predictable. Your outcome should be dependent on the interest you receive – rather than being distorted by the poor luck of being personally hit by an unusually high number of bad debts.

Note that the Provision Fund does not provide complete protection against a situation where all the loans made at RateSetter default. Far from it!

Rather the Provision Fund aims to cover the bad debts predicted by RateSetter’s models, with a margin of safety on top.

At the time of writing, Ratesetter says:

  • Future losses would need to be 1.23 times larger than it predicts before investors’ interest income starts to be at risk.
  • Future losses would need to be 2.48 times larger than predicted before investors’ initial investment starts to be at risk.

What would happen if losses did exceed the RateSetter projections?

First the Provision Fund would be used up, and ultimately exhausted.

After that interest payments could be redirected to repaying capital. You’d lose on interest payments, but it could cover lenders’ losses on capital unless the default rate got too high.

Finally, in a doomsday scenario with very high default rates, capital could be eroded. I’d expect other investments like equities and corporate bonds would also be taking a pummeling. But cash in the bank would not.

At the end of the day, I believe for most people the Provision Fund approach is preferable to the lottery of individual loans defaulting. But don’t mistake it for a panacea or a guarantee.

You could conceivably lose money if defaults are much worse than expected. More on that below.

How to bag that 14% return from RateSetter

At last, the good bit!

RateSetter is currently offering a £100 bonus to new customers who invest at least £1,000 in any of its markets and keep it there for a year.

This £1,000 minimum investment can be made up of new subscriptions and/or transfers from other ISA providers.1

The £100 bonus is paid once that year is up. It will be deposited into your RateSetter account, after which you can choose to do with it (and the rest of your money) as you please.

Clicking on any of the RateSetter links in this article will take you directly to the sign-up page for the £100 bonus.

For full disclosure, RateSetter will also pay me a £50 bonus if anyone does sign-up via my links, which would obviously be very welcome! My bonus doesn’t affect your returns. It’s paid by RateSetter.

As for your £1,000 investment, you can put it into any RateSetter market, which range from a rolling one-month option to a five-year lock-up. But you must keep it within RateSetter for a year to get your £100 bonus.

To keep things simple, let’s assume you invest your £1,000 in the one-year market, which matches the period required to qualify for the bonus.

The one-year market is paying 4.7% as I type.

So after one year you’d have your 4.7% interest on your £1,000 and you’d also receive your bonus, which works out as a return of 14.7% on your £1,000.

Very nice!

I’ve ignored taxes here because everyone’s tax situation is different.

The good news on taxes is that:

  • You can now open a RateSetter ISA and collect the bonus. You can fund this with a transfer from another ISA provider. In an ISA the income you earn is tax-free.
  • Most people even outside of an ISA will pay no tax on cash interest, thanks to the new-ish Personal Savings Allowance that covers the first £1,000 of interest earned by basic rate taxpayers, and £500 for higher-rate payers.

Is this bonus too good to be true?

A great question.

Clearly it’s not sustainable for RateSetter to lend your money out at, say, 4%, while paying you an effective rate of nearly 15%.

(The cost is even higher to RateSetter if it pays me a bonus, too.)

RateSetter must be hoping this is the start of a multi-year relationship with its new sign-ups, after they become comfortable with its platform.

Once you get over the initial hurdle, peer-to-peer is straightforward. I’ve used these platforms for ten years now.

RateSetter will hope many customers deposit more than £1,000 and ultimately prove profitable in the long-term.

Like all peer-to-peer lenders, RateSetter will be aiming to scale as quickly as possible. Greater size will improve its margins and enable it to continue to meet demand in both the savings and loans market. Scale is a critical factor in virtually all money-handling businesses.

Finally, I expect the cost of this offer is allocated internally to its marketing department.

If 5,000 people sign-up for the bonus that’s clearly a lot of money – but it wouldn’t buy very much TV airtime. At least this way RateSetter can precisely calculate the return on its investment.

I do think it’s a smart question to ask, though, and it neatly brings us back to risk.

A final word on the risks

I have already stated that peer-to-peer lending is not a straight swap for a cash savings account.

The risks are higher.

Firstly and crucially, there’s no Financial Services Compensation Scheme coverage for peer-to-peer lenders. If you lose money, the authorities will not bail you out like they would for up to £85,000 with a High Street bank savings account.

That’s important because even though no savers have yet lost a penny with RateSetter, that’s not a guarantee they will not do so in the future.

The economic situation could change markedly, say, or RateSetter could get its sums wrong on bad debt.

In the most likely (in my opinion) worst-case scenario, the Provision Fund would not be able to cover all the bad debts. This would mean some loss of interest.

  • According to RateSetter, as of August 2018 the loss rate experienced to date is 2.29%.
  • It currently projects this to rise to 3.33%. (Loans take a while to go bad.)
  • If credit losses rose to 127% of expected losses, RateSetter‘s model indicates the Provision Fund would still cover interest.
  • In what RateSetter terms a severe recession, you’d get no interest but it believes you’d get your initial money back.
  • If we saw 400% expected losses, investors might lose 5.6% of their capital.

This illustration is summarized in the following chart:

Provision Fund figures correct as of 1st August 2018. (Click to enlarge)

Source: RateSetter

As for the worst worst-case scenario, like with any business it is possible to imagine catastrophic situations where you’d lose much more.

But to my mind these would probably require fraud or massive incompetence within the company, and/or a far deeper recession than anything we saw in 2008 and 2009. (Probably both at once – as Warren Buffett says you only see who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out.)

Obviously I don’t think that’s at all likely, otherwise I wouldn’t have put any money into RateSetter.

But a hint of what might have gone wrong came in 2017, when the company intervened to restructure several businesses and cover repayments from one via its own funds. This prevented its bad loans from being defaulted to the Provision Fund. This decision to intervene reportedly2 delayed authorization from the FCA. It has subsequently been granted.

RateSetter says: “This intervention was an exception and will not happen again.”

As I understand it, RateSetter has since withdrawn from the wholesale funding operations that produced this situation. (Wholesale funding is when a company lends money to third parties, who then lend those funds on themselves.)

You invests your own money and takes your choice.

Personally, I am happy with the risk/reward here. Not everyone feels the same. My co-blogger, for instance, doesn’t use any peer-to-peer platforms.

As a halfway house to reduce risk one could perhaps only invest in RateSetter’s monthly market, in the hope this would give you more chance of getting money out relatively quickly if say the economy was coming off the rails. The price is a lower interest rate, of course.

I think it’s worth stressing again that nobody has lost money so far with RateSetter. And even if the economy turns very far south, you probably won’t lose more than a small percentage unless something very bad or criminal happens.

That would be a much worse situation than with cash, but not a catastrophe.

However we all know by now that bad things can happen, and every investment can fail you. Do not invest money you cannot afford to lose.

RateSetter and your portfolio

Personally I have always taken a pick-and-mix approach to spread the risk with these sorts of alternative opportunities.

For instance, I have used both RateSetter and Zopa, I’ve invested a little in mini-bonds and retail bonds, I have money with NS&I, and I have taken advantage of high interest rates and cashback offers with accounts like Santander 1-2-3 to boost my returns.

When putting money into the riskier alternative options, I only invest a low single-digit percentage of my net worth with any particular platform. Like this I aim to mitigate the risks of being hit by some sort of systemic or company failure.

I’m not going to labour the point on risk further. Most peer-to-peer articles barely mention it, and I’ve devoted half this piece to it. Consider yourself warned, and read the company’s extensive material if you want to know more.

I think peer-to-peer and other cash alternatives are interesting additions to our arsenal as private investors. But they’re not slam dunk safe bets. I size my exposure accordingly.

Get your £100 while it lasts

So there you have it – a hopefully even-handed assessment of the risk and reward potential of this £100 bonus offer from RateSetter.

From here you’ll have to make your own mind up.

I do hope some of you found this article interesting and enjoy those bonus-boosted returns.

  1. Note: Terms and conditions apply with transfers, so check the small print. The money must be transferred over within a certain time period, which may be down to the ISA provider you’re transferring from. Just setting up a new RateSetter ISA with a fresh £1,000 should be straightforward. []
  2. See this article at Reuters: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-interview-ratesetter/ratesetter-recovering-after-asteroid-strike-bad-loan-discovery-idUKKCN1BN1PF []
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Money is power

Money is power post image

The look on my friend’s face was one you might deploy if you were presented with a bill for service at McDonalds. Total incredulity.

“So let me get this straight – you’re putting a money value on your memories?”

“Well I wouldn’t state it so precisely,” I said. “But basically… yes.”

“Wow! That’s so sad! Experiences are worth more than money.”

“I agree,” I admitted. That puzzled look again. “But you’re experiencing something every moment of the day anyway. The question is whether the extra enhanced experience is worth the extra cost. Also – remember that when you spent all that money for those particular memories, you also bought a certain kind of experience you’ll have to live in the future, too.”

“Huh? I don’t get it.”

I topped up her wine.

“Look, neither of us are gazillionaires with infinite money. In particular, you don’t even have a job anymore, depending on whether they’ll take you back – and besides we spent the first half of this evening talking about how the reason you went away for three months was because you hated your work so much.”

“Right…”

“Okay, so you told me you spent half your savings on those three months of traveling. Which now the holiday is over exist only in your head – in as much as you can remember them. Which seems to be to a limited extent, possibly because so much of your holiday took place in various bars.”

“Alright, get on with it…”

“So that’s where we can start. Half your savings bought those memories. I’m not knocking that spending decision specifically – perhaps for you it was worthwhile. My point is you spent the money to buy them. Money that you can’t spend twice. So they certainly have a monetary value.”

“But there’s more,” I added in my winning way that makes me so popular at parties. “You’re in your early 30s – it’s possible you could have quadrupled that same money by age 65 if you’d invested it instead. So we know 65-year old you is going to have massively less money to spend because of those memories you bought and are already forgetting that you don’t think we should think about financially–”

“Yeah bu–”

“–you’re right! Let’s get back to experiences. You usually earn – what – £40,000 a year? After tax and National Insurance that’s going to be something like £30,000 in take home pay. Let’s divide that by 240 working days for easy maths, and say you take home £125 for every day of your life you sacrifice to work. Except since you have to go into the office, you spend more – we’ll call it £6 a day for travel, then add a let’s be honest low-ball £5 for lunch and coffees, and say £4 a day to cover the fact that you buy a certain amount of tidier clothes for work.”

“…”

“Knock that spending off the £125 and we’re at £110 a day or so take home. Really I’d like to take it down to £100 a day to cover stuff like ibuprofen, your inability to take off-peak mini-breaks, and all those late-night Ubers you order to have a mid-week social life while working. But we won’t. Let’s just say you spent £5,000 on your three month travels, which seems about right from what you’ve said.”

“I don’t know – something like that?”

“Well, that’s about 45 days of your take home pay – equal to nine additional weeks of your life where you’re going to have to go into the job you hate to sit in an office you hate because you went on your three-month holiday.”

“Yeah, okay – it does sound worse when you put it like that. But then again I got three months away from the office for another three month’s or nine weeks or whatever spent at it. Seems a fair trade?”

“Um, well sadly I was being gentle on you. The reality is you’re not going to save anything like all your take home pay. You know how much it costs to live in London. You’ve also got to eat, go out now and then. Buy bottles of wine to bring to my house for these thrilling heart-to-hearts.”

“Yeah, I’m really glad about that decision…”

“Hah! Anyway, I’d guess you save about 10% of your take home pay, which means it could take you two years more at the office to get back the money you spent on your three months away from it. But let’s say you manage to save to save 20%. Still going to take the best part of a year more work to pay for it.”

“Okay, okay – at least I have the memories.”

“Good, because you’re going to need them while you’re sitting at work! That’s my point – you’re alive either way and still having experiences. When I said earlier [Editor’s note: I did, different discussion!] that I’m more and more trying to find regular moments of happiness in small things, this is what I meant – that I’m trying to focus on sustainable mild contentment rather than the sort of high-cost roller-coaster you’re on. Honestly, I’m not saying you did the wrong thing – not at all, your trip sounds amazing – but I am saying I personally would totally put a cost on those memories, both in terms of the financial outlay and/or the price to be paid in terms of extra work by your future self.”

“Okay, fine, I spent the money. But that’s what money is for, right, to spend and have a good time? What’s the point of just sitting on a big pile of money like a bloody nerd-dragon, counting it in your cave? Even you bought this flat… eventually.”

“Ha ha, nerd-dragon, I’m stealing that! Yeah, I agree. Remember I think and write about this stuff a lot – I’ll probably even turn our conversation into a blog post! So I know this might all sound a weird way of looking at things to someone who doesn’t. But what I think it comes down to is how much do you value your future over your present – or in the case of memories, your past – and how do you strike a balance.”

“Go on…”

“So personally, I’ve always found it very easy to value the future. I saved some paper round money 30 years ago that went into the deposit on this flat! I’d always rather have most of my money invested, and to know I’ll have more options ahead of me because of that. Whereas we both know you live for the present – you’re a great party girl, and you’ve never thought much about tomorrow. That’s obvious. As for the Past You, I guess that’s where the monetary value on memories come in? Also possibly feelings of life satisfaction, and not having regrets, which is what I have to guard for with my approach. Although thinking about it, I suppose that’s really your Present You trying to anticipate and stop your Future You regretting what your Past You didn’t do and–”

“– stop stop I get it. But I still don’t really see how this doesn’t mean money is there to be spent? Whether you spend it now, or when you’re 90 or whenever?”

“Absolutely, ultimately that’s what money is for. But I think it’s helpful not to always think of it as money but sometimes as something else.”

“Something else like what?”

“Well sometimes I like to think of money as stored power. You build up your power by working and saving, and hopefully your investments charge it up further, too. But sometimes you have to run the battery down – that’s when you spend it. You can spend it on something now, but that means you’re going to have to work more in the future to charge it back up. Or you can try to get to the point where you have enough power stored away that it sort of auto-re-charges. And then you have maximum flexibility to spend it how you like indefinitely.”

“…”

“Did that make sense?”

“Err, sort of. You know this is why you’re single again, don’t you?”

“…”

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