≡ Menu

Weekend reading: The pandemic was a shot in the arm for financial independence

Weekend reading logo

What caught my eye this week.

I told to my friend we should saunter down the platform, because the tube would surely be busy. It was Friday night in London, after all.

But when the train drew in, the carriages were all half-empty.

You can visit Oxford Street and imagine things are back to normal.

But if you really cast your mind back to the crush and the rush, you know we’re not there yet.

And, as I’m steadily catching up with friends for in-person conversations, it’s uncanny how the same related topics keep recurring.

Work/life balance, going back to the office, moving out of the city – and how while we’re all happy to be seeing more people, we’re (mostly) not going back to those frazzled social lives we once thought must-haves.

Of course my friends are self-selected. They mostly know I write about financial independence and investing and all that malarkey, too.

And they know I’ve worked from home since forever, so it’s natural the subject comes up.

But even allowing for this, I’m hearing a lot more about changed habits – or at least a willingness to experiment – that no hectoring about savings rates or the hedonic treadmill could inspire back in 2019.

What a difference a virus makes

That most of us saved more money when locked in our homes due to Covid is well-understood.

We’ve also kicked about on Monevator what offices will be for now, how much we’ll stick to home working, or how we’ll mix in a mask-less world.

But could more subtle shifts be seen in the millions made meditative by successive waves of lockdown?

The substitutions they report are straight from a primer for financial independence:

  1. Partying in the garden instead of partying on a far-flung beach.
  2. Wearing the same clothes instead of wearing nothing new twice.
  3. Learning a new skill versus chasing a new experience.
  4. Working out at home compared to working out how to afford the gym.
  5. Getting a takeaway (delivered) instead of eating at a restaurant…
  6. …and cooking your own meals instead of getting a takeaway…
  7. …in both cases saving on alcohol bought at supermarket prices.
  8. Seeing a friend for a lockdown coffee versus blathering with strangers.
  9. Netflix and M&S snacks versus the cinema and £10 popcorn.
  10. Buying a nice home office chair instead of a £4,000 season ticket for the train.
  11. (Barely out of your) birthday suit to answer emails rather than shopping for another suit for the office.
  12. Saving 20% each month instead of dipping into the red at its end.

This list goes on. Let me know what have I missed below.

To many Monevator readers, such potential new habits will sound pretty pedestrian. But we’ve always been the exception.

No, I don’t think the world has caught FIRE1 along with Covid.

But perhaps some tenets of living well on less will be an easier sell for the next few years? Let’s hope so.

Have a great long weekend!

From Monevator

Time to switch to a new mortgage rate – Monevator

Fund names explained – Monevator

From the archive-ator: All about assets – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!2

‘Criminal’ post-Brexit error on HGVs could see Christmas food shortages – ES

Record numbers leaving London, but where are they going? – Which

83% of UK department stores have shut since 2016 – ThisIsMoney

Giant US retailers are now chartering their own freight vessels – Axios

The real victims of the mass crypto attacks that keep happening – BBC

The pandemic spurred millions of Americans to retire earlier – NPR

Too bad for their over-worked former colleagues left behind – The Cut

Products and services

Contactless payment limit set to rise to £100 in October – Guardian

Revolut’s ‘Payday’ feature will advance you half a month’s salary – ThisIsMoney

Interactive Investor is offering £100 cashback for ISA transfers worth more than £20,000 and up to £500 if you transfer a pension – Interactive Investor

A roundup of the camper van and transit van market – ThisIsMoney

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

PayPal enables UK users to buy and sell cryptocurrency – Reuters

How low can fund fees go? [US but relevant]Morningstar

Zopa launches Best Buy two-year (1.67%) and three-year (1.76%) fixed savings rates – Zopa

Homes for sale near universities, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

A comprehensive overview of the 4% rule [Podcast]Rational Reminder

Rules, truths, beliefs – Morgan Housel

Will gold have its day as an inflation hedge? [Search result]FT

Assumption – Indeedably

When to use rules of thumb – Humble Dollar

Why does quitting your job still feel so hard? – BBC

So far 2021 is yet another great year for the US indices… – AWOCS

…but remember that all markets can and do fall eventually – Validea

How to trade up from a bobby pin to a house [Podcast]NPR

Foxy Monkey with Andy Craig, of How To Own The World fame – via YouTube

Welcome to the weird – Simple Living in Somerset

Digital asset mania mini-special

12-year-old coder to earn $400,000 after two months selling NFTs – CNBC

OpenSea is first NFT marketplace to pass $1bn in monthly volume – The Block

Visa bought a CryptoPunk NFT for $150,000 [Good publicity…]CNBC

Why wouldn’t Bitcoin go to $100,000? – The Reformed Broker

I don’t fucking get it – The Irrelevant Investor

Naughty corner: Active antics

Price moves everything around me – Of Dollars and Data

A look at the valuation of the major investing factors – Validea

Analysts say lost decade is over for emerging markets – Bloomberg

Average late stage VC valuations nearing $1 billion – Institutional Investor

Covid corner

Covid infection protection waning in double jabbed… – BBC

..and cases are rising again. Time to worry? – BBC

Some Wall Streeters are fed up with their unvaccinated coworkers – NY Post

Kindle book bargains

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker – £0.99 on Kindle

Surrounded by Psychopaths: or, How to Stop Being Exploited by Others by Thomas Erikson – £0.99 on Kindle

The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living by Mark Boyle – £0.99 on Kindle

Hired: Six Months in Low-Wage Britain by James Bloodworth – £0.99 on Kindle

Environmental factors

Dead white man’s clothes – ABC News Australia

Meet the bounty hunters after Florida’s invasive pythons – Field and Stream

Off our beat

The secret to surviving cancer – The Atlantic

Uh oh! Netflix discovers the clickbait that killed online journalism – Slate

Why people who brush still get cavities – Five Thirty Eight

The hard men removing Spain’s squatters – BBC

Having killed them off, why is Amazon now opening malls? – The Atlantic

In the ‘undefeated’ Panjshir valley of Afghanistan – BBC

And finally…

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore’. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality.”
– Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday! Note this article includes affiliate links, such as from Amazon and Freetrade. We may be  compensated if you pursue these offers – that will not affect the price you pay.

  1. Financial Independence Retire Early. []
  2. 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”. []
{ 16 comments… add one }
  • 1 Rob B August 27, 2021, 7:44 pm

    My wife and I happily lived like monks during the various lockdowns. With nature on our doorstep, a walk became a really rewarding experience instead of paying for a mediocre one. As we had more time on our hands, tasty home cooking instead of a takeaway or meal out. We watched DVDs (anyone remember these) and read books. Grocery shopped online for the things we actually needed. My No Spend Days went for weeks.

    A ridiculous amount of money was deposited into our ISAs and pensions that is unlikely ever to be repeated. We were happier than ever leading a simple life. It was almost like a film where the crazy world slowed down to 1/10th speed. No commute, no panics, no queues, no dramas.

    Clearly we were very lucky. For some lockdown was an awful experience for a plethora of reasons. Genuine reach out to those who weren’t as lucky. But for us I don’t think we realised just how exhausted and worn out we were. It definitely firmed up our plans for quitting full-time work…the pandemic was without doubt a shot in the arm for our financial independence.

  • 2 Ian August 28, 2021, 8:38 am

    Correction: the Foxy Money link/reference should be Foxy Monkey… yeah it is confusing.

  • 3 The Investor August 28, 2021, 9:39 am

    @Rob B — Good to hear when some good comes out of it all. Sounds like you were already on this path already though? Maybe the pandemic gave you the ‘excuse’ to go into a more extreme early retirement-style monk-mode. Though I understand you’re saying it wasn’t extreme, more very pleasant… 🙂

    @Ian — Oops, thanks for spotting that typo Ian.

  • 4 PC August 28, 2021, 10:03 am

    The biggest benefit to the list of substitutions is time .. with the possible exception of cooking your own meals but I count that as fun not work .. for example I save 3 hours a day working from home compared to commuting into central London.

  • 5 Ericp August 28, 2021, 10:17 am

    The link to the Secret to Surviving Cancer is the single most important thing you have done on this site.

  • 6 xxd09 August 28, 2021, 10:53 am

    Now an “ancient “ and on the sidelines but still keeping an eye out
    3 married kids,8 grandkids
    It was getting more obvious to me that everyone seemed to be running on afterburners and that a reckoning was coming
    I thought it would be the debt bubble bursting (still to come!) but no Mother Nature as usual possibly with a little human help brought things to a shuddering halt!
    Perhaps we can control the climate but I doubt it -Nature operating with Darwinian rules will always keep uppity humans plus other life forms in line in its own unfathomable way
    The better off as usual have got a nice breathing space-I shudder at the effects on the poor-so far just big movements of peoples emigrating from troubled areas
    All sorts of readjustments in the pipeline!

  • 7 Gentleman's Family Finances August 28, 2021, 11:42 am

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the virus and lock down have been the best thing ever for me personally.
    Gone is the commute, WFH is here to stay.
    More importantly, my life is more focused on where we live, community and the kids.
    Add on the covid dividend of a 6 figure boost to our finances and the fact that we’ve stayed healthy, happy and employed and it’s a massive improvement on our old life.

  • 8 Ls2g09 August 28, 2021, 12:02 pm

    I feel like I’m the only person in the U.K. to have spent more in lockdown than I did prior to it! My spending was however mostly on very infrequent purchases, as I bought a car and paid for our wedding.

  • 9 Boltt August 28, 2021, 12:43 pm

    I’ve had a major thinning of possessions that were not getting enough use.

    2 cars down to 1
    2 motorbikes down to 1
    8 cameras down to 1
    Sold 7 watches (bought 4 – easily done!)
    Sold 1 BTL

    Couldn’t quite face sorting the mountains of clothes rarely wear.


  • 10 MarkR August 28, 2021, 1:11 pm

    I detest the phrase, “work/life balance”. It should be LIFE balance; work is but one part of it.

    (The old Mars advert probably said it best, “work, rest & play”!!)

  • 11 Dave S August 28, 2021, 2:21 pm

    If I may offer another link, some potentially interesting news for anyone wanting to access their pension at 55, but who thought they’d have to wait until 57 due to the proposed increase in the normal minimum retirement age. Fidelity think their SIPP meets the criteria for continued access at age 55…


  • 12 ZXSpectrum48k August 28, 2021, 2:27 pm

    A positive of COVID is that it’s making people question preconceptions. So many in my field still thought, even in 2020, that WFH would have a negative impact, despite no logical reason to think that. It was habit/fashion for them to force their poor teams to trek into the office. Instead the’ve found that WFH led to increased productivity, decreased group think and reduced costs.

    I was discussing tech costs last week with another team leader and he admitted that he’s been wasting millions per year on UK based IT consultants, paying up to £500-1k/day. He just assumed it was necessary to pay these people since “it’s London isn’t it?”. After 12 months of never seeing one of them, it clicked that their presence was just a crutch that made him feel better but added nothing. He’s replaced them all by hiring a smaller number of permanent staff in Eastern Europe and Mexico at less than 20% of the cost and the results are drastically better.

  • 13 jim August 28, 2021, 4:12 pm

    Went out on the town last night and ended up in a nightclub. Haven’t done that in a couple of years its usually 2 or 3 times a year. Bit quieter than usual but definitely normal in the sense of no silly rules or precautions.

  • 14 steveark August 28, 2021, 10:37 pm

    I think it was a financial positive for many but there were many victims as well. Landlords unable to evict renters who don’t pay their rent, restaurant owners with restricted access or who can’t find staff because unemployment has been more lucrative than working, event planners and event locations with almost all conventions and seminars cancelled or turned into zero revenue Zoom events. Even resort locations with no vacationers have suffered. For office workers who switched to working from home and kept their job, definitely a plus. But even there I wonder if the annual bonuses and raises were frozen by the pandemic and if most people lost a years advancement in their careers?

  • 15 Neverland August 29, 2021, 4:38 pm

    I have to love the irony of the poster in #12 boasting about WFH and then commenting how clever it was to outsource some WFH contractors to eastern europe and mexico. Reminds me of the holocaust memorial inscription:

    “First they came for the IT contractors, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not an It contractor.
    Then they came for the admin support, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not admin support.
    Then they came for the marketing department, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not in marketing.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left in the UK.”

  • 16 ZXSpectrum48k August 30, 2021, 12:15 pm

    @Troll. The fund operates a cost pass through model. Zero management fee but costs are passed through to investors. For every reduction in IT costs of $1mm, investors see $700k of benefit, employees $200k and senior management $100k. I thought commentators on this site championed lower costs for investors or is that just certain types of investor?

    I was also of the impression that commentators were all capitalists. So if a guy in Warsaw outcompetes a guy in London for a job by offering the same capability for a fraction of the cost, surely that is to be applauded? That’s capitalism in action. The London guy has been outcompeted. Tough.

    Personally, I’m all for competition and I’ll take my chances. I just find it odd that we get commentators who say they love capitalism until it causes them to suffer. Suddenly they go all nativist/protectionist. Those higher stock market returns aren’t only coming from lovely innovation and enterprise. It’s also about human labour being commoditized. You can’t have the nice bits without the bad bits.

Leave a Comment

Next post:

Previous post: