What caught my eye this week.
Unlike every other personal finance blogger around, I’ve started 2020 wondering whether it’s time I spent more money.
Definitely not going bananas – financial independence is too precious a salve for that!
But making little effort to further grow my wealth.
This is a novel thing for me to consider. Saving comes naturally (genetically?) to me. I’ve mostly left The Accumulator to write posts about mental fortitude and so on, because I’ve no great insights in this area – I just do it. Being in the black has been normal for me since I was eight or nine. I often have to strain my powers of empathy to understand why anyone with a reasonable job and no dependents is different.
And so for decades I’ve occasionally amused myself with compound interest. Even sleeping overnight in a hospital when my dad was in intensive care – and the financial crisis raged abroad – I’d plug in my numbers like some comforting ritual, to see what ludicrous rate of return I needed to catch up with Warren Buffett. (I was also reading The Snowball. And no, I’ve not caught-up!)
So what’s changed?
Well, it’s not that I think we’re doomed to low returns from equities for valuation, or other market timing reasons to act. I don’t see any great evidence for that, provided you’re globally diversified.
And I couldn’t give two hoots about a run-of-the-mill bear market.
Perhaps it’s just getting older? Childless friends my age are forever traveling, urging that you can’t take it with you.
Maybe it is just middle-age? There was a story going around on Bloomberg this week that mid-life misery peaks at just over 47. I’m within shooting distance, but that sort of estimate is usually tied to responsibilities I don’t have, like sleepless children.
Still, I do suspect it’s the ‘years’ field on my old friend, the compound interest calculator, that has set me off.
Because, frankly, when I look around at the world today, I’m more hesitant about entering another 40 years into that box.
Woe is me
Stand down that “actually…”, my friends…
As someone who has often sent people Hans Rosling’s infamously positive TED talk about how the world is getting better – and who regularly includes similar graphs in this round-up – I’m well aware many indicators are going the right way.
I also notice exciting progress in my active investing forays. Genetics-based biotech and the coming-of-age for renewables are two exciting areas to watch.
But I wonder if it’s too little, too late?
Recent politics doesn’t help my mood, obviously. One reason for sharing those hopeful graphs is all the debating with people – left and right – who have become openly scornful of the systems that brought us peace and prosperity – capitalism, markets, a social safety net, international cooperation. See Brexit and Donald Trump for more.
Politics also matters because we’ve had a gun to our head for six decades, and yet nobody talks about nuclear war anymore.
My feelings on nuclear weapons are summed up by this quote attributed to Bertrand Russell:
“You may reasonably expect a man to walk a tightrope safely for ten minutes; it would be unreasonable to do so without accident for two hundred years.”
When you look at the glib nationalism now prevalent in the UK and the US – and the renewed posturing of Russia and, arguably, China – you can’t help remembering we’ve already been balancing on that tightrope for quite some time.
And then there’s the environment.
Again, not a novel concern – see my post from 2010 on why environmental degradation is the biggest thread to your long-term wealth.
But honestly? I thought I’d probably easily make it out before a true collapse.
If anything I’d become less militant on that front. I’ve got no kids, so why was I curbing my short-haul flights and offsetting carbon via a share of fresh woodland I bought? My friends were constantly in the air with their two or three children who would inherit the results.
Maybe the Australian bush fires are a wake-up call? Evidence has been abundant for years – as a once would-have-been marine biologist I’ve long read about coral reefs dissolving from ocean acidification with dismay – but the Aussie footage is ominous.
Finally, I’ve also just read Dan Carlin’s The End Is Always Near.
As a fan of Carlin’s podcasts I’m familiar with his dour take on the murderous and careless nature of human beings. But you’re whacked over the head with it in his book. It’s hard not to conclude we’re living on borrowed time.
If I told you Carlin wonders whether intervention by an alien caretaker might be one of humanity’s best and only shots, you’ll get the picture!
Enough is enough
The other day I mused whether a Plan B was required in case the politics in Britain continues to deteriorate towards irrationality. A bug-out escape option, maybe, to some more hospitable political climate.
Many readers engaged with the idea. A few said I was being ridiculous or irresponsible for ‘predicting’ such a thing.
Let’s try the maths again, eh?
I’m guessing there is a 5-10% chance of this bug-out option being needed – up from ‘negligible’ 20 years ago. So I’m estimating at most a one-in-ten chance. In other words, I ‘predict’ that nine times out of ten the UK won’t reach this sorry state. That is not a forecast of certain or even likely disaster.
The point is even a small chance of a truly dire outcome is worth insuring against, however. It’s the same reason you insure your house against it burning down, though that’s never happened to anybody you know.
Unfortunately there’s no good Plan B against a global catastrophic dislocation – nuclear war, environmental collapse, the singularity, or perhaps a global pandemic – except to get your business done beforehand.
That is, to spend more money.
You can’t save the world
Before anyone asks (thanks in advance!) I’m feeling fine. I’m looking forward to the wedding of an old friend tomorrow, and I have an interesting date lined up for Sunday. I do suffer from SAD a tad, but that’s nothing new.
These Weekend Reading posts are a chance to range more widely beyond asset allocation, ISAs, and SIPPs. And I have found myself pondering whether an uptick in living for today might be a rational response to how I see things have been progressing.
Wealthy people are living for longer, and we’ve written before that a retiree at even 65-years old should ideally have a plan that can see them out for 30-40 years.
However not all those years will be healthy, and that raises difficult questions when planning. For instance, should you spend more money on travel when you’re early into retirement? Or should you save more for later, when you may need care?
Very few of us consider the healthy life of the societies – or even the planet – when making such calculations.
That’s a luxury we take for granted. Few societies (including our own) have gone as long as the UK has without some major disruption, be it war, famine, plague, or revolution.
Globally of course the planet has always come through, but from Easter Island to the Mayans to most recently the likes of Egypt, the demise of local natural life-support systems has caused unrest if not extinction.
It’s a bleak subject.
Optimists make the best investors, and that’s the hat I’ll continue to wear when investing.
But as a saver?
Maybe it’s time for some pessimism.
How to maximise your ISAs and SIPPs to reach financial independence – Monevator
From the archive-ator: How to enjoy life like a billionaire – 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!1
UK becoming a country of ‘ghost towns’, says Adam Smith Institute – ThisIsMoney
Could new regulation spell the death of trusts? [Search result] – FT
Savers trapped in one of Neil Woodford’s frozen funds will be allowed to access their cash again next month – ThisIsMoney
UK tech investment grew faster than the US and China in 2019 – CNBC
Nobody feels overpaid – The Irrelevant Investor
Products and services
New Virgin Atlantic credit card reward bonus gives you enough miles to fly to Barbados or New York – ThisIsMoney
Santander slashes interest rate on its popular 123 current account to 1% and will cap cashback – Money Observer
How do I solve my transatlantic inheritance tax problem? [Search result] – FT
RateSetter will pay you £100 [and me a cash bonus] if you invest £1,000 for a year – RateSetter
UK collector pays record £1m for rare Edward VIII sovereign – BBC
HyperJar bills itself as a buy now, pay later app – ThisIsMoney
Testing via Thriva helped me lower my cholesterol. Will write-up someday! Get 50%-off with this affiliate link – Thriva
Homes for fitness fanatics [Gallery] – Guardian
Comment and opinion
If only… – Humble Dollar
The Investor’s Fallacy: Don’t bet against the US market over the next 10 years – Of Dollars and Data
Nobody can predict a coming market crash. So stop worrying about it. [Video] – Robin Powell via YouTube
Lifestyle design – Indeedably
No one gets rich by shunning new cars and lattes – Barry Ritholz
Should your employer pay your bills if you work from home? – Guardian
Why I won’t be taking up a savings challenge [Search result] – FT
Insanity and 2019 in review – Retirement Investing Today
Why Manhattan’s skyscrapers are empty [Clear parallels with London] – The Atlantic
The big pull: Going back to work after retiring… – Next Avenue [hat tip Abnormal Returns]
…and is the side hustle a new dance seniors are learning? –Kiplinger
The dual Y-axis chart: Just say no [Geeky] – Tim Duy’s Fed Watch
How expensive are ESG stocks? [Research] – Factor Research
Naughty corner: Active antics
The fallacy behind the rise of passive fund management [Search result] – FT
You bet! [Howard Marks’ latest memo to clients] – Oaktree Capital
Tesla and Apple valuation questions – Jean-Louis Gassée
Mid Wynd International: global thematic investing – IT Investor
Why Admiral is my favourite dividend growth stock – UK Value Investor
The periodic table of commodity returns – Visual Capitalist
Looking back, looking forward – EQ Investors
‘Woodford effect’ weighs on stock market minnows [Search result] – FT
Forget staying close to EU after Brexit, chancellor tells business [Search result] – FT
Brexit will have soon cost the UK more than all its payments to the EU over the past 47 years put together – Business Insider
Politics is completely broken. It’s time to re-imagine the state – Wired
Can you identify Iran on a map? Few US voters can [Understatement] – Morning Consult
Kindle book bargains
The Looting Machine: Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth by Tom Burgis – £0.99 on Kindle
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo – £0.99 on Kindle
Economics: The User’s Guide by Ha-Joon Chang – £1.99 on Kindle
Off our beat
A survey of 20,000 creatives suggests brainstorming is a giant waste of time – Quartz
How negativity ruins relationships – The Atlantic
How Slack ruined work – Wired
The Mandalorian is the only smart soldier in the Star Wars galaxy – Wired
“Index funds make up for their lack of short-term excitement by their truly exciting long-term productivity. The traditional index funds is designed to be held for a lifetime.”
– Jack Bogle, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing
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My wife and I met at university in the 00s, both studying climate science.
Global warming science was settled, it was just a matter of fine-tuning model parameters. There was still a vain hope that cloud effects could save us, and that tipping-point predictions were far off.
Our work led us to believe our climate tipping points were closer than accepted. Also that a Venus-like hothouse scenario (not a true Venusian atmosphere, but a lower temperature approximate using water vapour) was on the outer bounds of possibility.
I remember, at the same time, the media both-siding climate change: scientists vs. deniers. Of course the group saying it was worse than the then-commonly accepted view didn’t get a look-in.
Ultimately, we decided never to have kids.
When I discovered your blog, I started learning about proper finance and investing. It’s kinda funny. Investing in global equity with priced-in assumptions about future growth, when you know Earth cannot reach that goal. Rational irrationality.
Now, we know tipping points are closer than we thought 20 years ago. Also that climate proxies conflict with models, when our current “experiment” timescale is at least an order of magnitude shorter.
Now, we’re re-badging climate change as climate crisis. To put humanity on a war footing. The time to do this was 20 years ago. I don’t blame the activists; you can’t sell a message of despair. You have to offer a way out. So no-one will say it. But the Earth’s support for higher-order life has been destroyed.
I’ve always been quite interested in prepping and “pessimistic investing”. It faces its own set of problems however, mainly being that there are so many varied ways things can go bad. For example, some might feel that it is worth getting citizenship/property elsewhere, as a sort of “bug out” location. But where on earth is there any ideal, safe country? Much of Europe is facing problems just as bad or even worse than the U.Ks, as are many other countries around the world. If you choose really far afield, like North America or Aus/New Zealand, you then have all of the logistical issues that come with that.
Depending whether it will be war, economic or environmental conditions changes how you can plan drastically.
After considering this, I believe the best option is to just keep your plans minimal. Another food/water stocked to keep you and your dependents going for a month and “bug out” bags arranged so you could leave quickly. Then, sufficient gold close by that you can pay for the theoretical lifeboat off the sinking ship, and maybe keep some in a foreign vault to help set yourself up wherever you go.
Anything beyond this and you’re entering into the realms of speculation, I believe.
I’m 41, married, 2 kids. We are FI and happy (apart from the kid related lack of sleep).
I would also like to spend more and I think it will happen naturally as we start to travel with the kids (2 and 5).
I still find it difficult to spend money on myself. I’m disinterested in a new car, despise most restaurant food, and am too tall to dabble in high end fashion ( most clothes don’t accommodate my height/shoe size).
One thing I am doing is ramping down at work. I’m an NHS doctor and the pension taper tax initially forced me to reduce my hours but now I am happy about it (earning less, but taking Fridays off and 11 weeks annual leave a year).
I think working less and taking more leisure time is comparable to spending more.
Probably, the government will address the taper tax in the March budget, but the change in my psychology is too ingrained to go back to working all the additional weekends and late shifts I used to do.
Thank you for the link about your father, I read it for the first time because of that. Very eloquent and moving.
I’ve always been a saver too, but one of my goals for this year was to spend more. I actually think I have a decent balance anyway but I think ultimately I just want to be able to make certain purchases without contemplating it for months on end.
Speaking of which, I too am off on a date on Sunday: £12 cocktails ahoy…doesn’t quite fit into the FI narrative does it…see above for more info…
There are lots of ways you can spend money without affecting your saving rate or path to FIRE. For instance you can buy things that rise In value or hold their value. A house is an obvious example, but other examples are 2nd hand furniture (mid century classics, Victorian, antiques), classic cars, high quality audio speakers, collectibles, anything vintage). You can buy almost anything 2nd hand on eBay and resell after use or when bored of it for a total net cost close to zero. Spend wisely on home improvements and make a net return on your investment. Subsidize holidays by using house swapping websites.
There’s no need to perceive spending and saving as mutually exclusive. If you enjoy spending, just find a clever FIRE-friendly way to keep doing it.
Thanks for the Barry Ritzholtz link
No. 1. Spend less than you earn;
No. 2. Prioritize investing for your future;
No. 3. Figure out what matters and spend accordingly.
pretty much sums it up.
I have found that the problem with travelling is that you take yourself with you. On a separate note, had a long discussion with an annuity broker yesterday ( serves me right for using an online calculator). Even on an enhanced basis, level annuity for a 66 year old with 50% widow’s pension, no guarantee, tops out at just 10k per year for a 200k purchase.
Using Excel, assuming I have 20 years left ( unlikely given lifestyle but it would serve me right), my wife would have to live to about 108 to get to the breakdown point on a present value basis assuming a very optimistic 2.5% discount rate over that eternity. Annuities must be a very difficult sell at the moment. Using a 3% discount rate and she would have to be in the Guinness book of records.
Norwegian TV did a variation on the WSJ stock picking v monkey with a dartboard comparison https://twitter.com/RobinWigg/status/1218146789947334667?s=20
An element of the jobs I held before FIRE was to use data to manage risk and by risk I mean people getting physically hurt if I make a mistake type risk. Early on in my ‘career’ it didn’t impact on my personal life but I now know as the years progressed and the risks I had to manage in the job became larger it certainly did. Much like the boiled frog I just didn’t notice until I was able to look at it as an outsider.
– I didn’t buy a home as soon as I had the opportunity because the data said they were over priced. My models of course didn’t allow for ZIRP, HTB, FLS etc. To date I lost out there.
– I didn’t buy multiple Buy To Lets and leverage myself to the hilt. My models said leverage like that is great on the way up but a fast was to ruin on the way down. To date I lost out there.
– I didn’t back the truck up when the S&P500 CAPE hit 13 as the data suggested we potentially had some way to go. My model of course didn’t include that little thing called QE. To date I lost out there.
– I looked for a job (at the time I thought it was work or a career…) Plan B because the data said my type of job would eventually be outsourced to another country that wasn’t for me. I won big time here as that Plan B was FIRE.
As I type this:
– we have started our bug-out option application.
– the median data says that in 40 years I’ll have x4 the wealth I have today. Even worse case history only drops that to x2. Of course past performance is not a reliable indication of future performance…
– I am very concerned for the environment and the lack of progress being made globally. We live a life that tries to tread as lightly as possible and have plans to tread even lighter.
Reflecting on all that and the data says that my data leads me to bad decisions more times than good. Maybe I should just buy that over-priced South East England home, like your thinking spend more money and like the masses not think about where I tread.
That said, right now life is pretty darn good so why change something if you’re happy…
I think I am a few years older than you and have already been through this. I decided to trade off money for more time and value the present over the future. I have a reasonable amount of money accumulated already and my main leisure interests involve travel and require fitness, stamina and physical and mental resilience. I need to do these things now as I may not be able to when I am older. Some of my close friends died young through unexpected illness. They didn’t have the years they thought they were going to have. I know we should be prudent and plan for the future but I think a lot of people are complacent. You definitely have the present but the future? Who knows? And what exactly are you going to be doing in the 30 years after the age of 65 anyway? I try and hedge my bets by working part time so I have more time off while letting my savings accumulate and still adding a bit too.
As for all these looming threats I enjoy speculating about them as much as everyone else but that is all it is – speculation. We can see trends such as demographic and climate change but we don’t really know how this will pan out at our level. I am fatalistic about it. I will be subject to whatever changes happen and there is not much I can do about it at long range. I need to wait until a situation is well enough defined that I can react to it. The very rich can indulge in endless scenario planning and try and cover all the bases – bugging out to New Zealand, bunkers full of guns and baked beans and so on and so forth but the rest of us would be wasting our time and money. It seems to me that people waste an inordinate amount of time worrying about things they cannot control and in reality have little to do with their day to day lives.
Having kids or grandchildren does change ones attitudes to the future where they will be living
Not sure what the answer is
I did read somewhere -Guardian?-that only half the women under 40 in Britain have children so maybe the future is talking care of itself
@TI – If you have no kids why do you care about the world? We can’t afford to be overly empathetic to every ancester who suffered, every driver competing for parking, poor person or animal up for slaughter – not only is it not in our ability to right all wrongs but it’d give you a nervous breakdown. You have to say at one point I’ve done enough, it’s not my responsability anymore, humanity’s had a good innings and is doomed to end one day anyway
We don’t have kids so that they can change the world or be workers – we have kids because we believe they can enjoy the world – I imagine your parents would rather you did what makes you happy rather than despairing at society. When you are FI you have done enough for society.
But for lack of other things to focus on we do think about the good we can do – but you have to therefore give yourself credit for the good your investing is doing as a part of the capitalist system, and the good your work does in providing a needed service – even if that is for example supplying petrol to people who need it or weapons to a government that will be better than anarchy
The good that investing and work does can be very indirect, very diluted, very hard to see, but it’s the most efficient, most real way
> that mid-life misery peaks at just over 47.
The U shaped happiness curve isn’t particularly associated with the drudgery of parenting, it’s more a turning point where you have to surrender some of the aspirations of your younger self, and the deepening of your future self is yet to come into play. This Atlantic article summed it up as
> hypothesis that the age U-shape in life satisfaction is driven by unmet aspirations that are painfully felt during midlife but beneficially abandoned and felt with less regret during old age.
And yeah, spend a little bit more. Life is too short to drink cheap wine, paint your own walls or in your case, screw your own Sonus speakers to the wall 😉
Cheer-up. Data, especially ‘Climate Science Data’ can be presented to show whatever fits ‘the narrative’.
I noticed this week some people at my work had those temperature stripes as their windows desktop background, conveniently starting from 1850.
Then, I found one going back 2000 years that included the medieval warm-period:
Much more uplifting 🙂
Seemingly the main reason that the Australian wildlife fires are so bad is that environmentalists have previously reduced burning of forests. That means the forests are full of dry tinder and the fires are intense. It would be better to follow aboriginal land management practice and have regular fires..
We’ve always had climate change. In medieval London the Thames would freeze over and they would have fairs on the ice. In the Bible there are references to rivers with fish etc. These rivers dried up hundreds of years ago.
Regarding politics, maybe the experiment with multicultural societies has proven to be a failure and people are voting against liberalism etc? The main duty of any politician is to look after their electorate…. I’d argue that politicians haven’t really been doing that….
I would rather have a life that followed the track of my Investment Portfolio-a slow steady growth forever -managing the hiccups along the way that will occur by chance
Never arriving at a definable end but playing the game as though one will live forever -at least for the next few hundred years!
Not having kids or grandchildren is one way of removing that dimension -good works and hedonism (or both-fly in your private jet to the latest climate change conference!)is the all that is left
They do not seem enough for me
Well. That’s it for Santander 123 now.
Flexible mortgage now the only decent place for cash? (if you have a mortgage of course).
@TI – You could adopt, or foster – fostering would be a career change that brings you close to people, hard though
@Ermine – agree, though having kids brings it more into focus as it suddenly becomes a lot harder to take a risk and give up your established profession and chase those dreams your 20 year old self had. Which can lead to an emotional cycle that is very hard to break if you happen to have grown to dislike / hate your profession.
@TI I have similar ‘dark’ thoughts every now and again. I have spent 20-30 years saving and bam! it (and maybe myself) all vanish. I should have just done what everyone else does and buy a new car, go on exotic holiday etc. It usually passes when I convince myself that the probability is low and I will just deal with it if it happens (and if I am not here I doubt I will care anyway). Stiff upper lip and all that! But for sure, treat yourself, spend on things that make you truly happy. I doubt you can change then habit of a lifetime so the risks to your long term plan are likely to be low.
@TI – I can certainly understand the SAD part of your post. When it’s grey and miserable through December/January/February and it’s dark at 4pm it really gets me down sometimes too. Lovely and sunny today and it’s amazing how much better I feel in it, even if it’s a bit nippy out.
Forgive me, but you seem glum because there are huge macro things in the world you are unable to change? Perhaps you need to focus on what is actually in your circle of control and apply your efforts there? Get some solar panels, ride an electric bike instead of getting an Uber, eat less meat, invest in a local solar farm, donate to a charity of your choosing, etc. Doesn’t matter what China, for example, is doing – one kg less co2 is one kg less co2 right now (and localised in the UK!).
I’ve been there too thinking it’s all going to shit. But I’m trying to do stuff to change my own habits first (the world comes later). Spend intentionally on things you care about 🙂
Thanks for the links, TI. One is reminded of TEA’s claim never to watch the news to keep yourself happy (I did wonder how that would fit in with my hobby of going on air to cover business and personal finance news stories!) – and you yourself point out that the good news is out there. Personally think a jolly good dose of Kipling’s phlegm is required – treat those imposters both the same. Steady as she goes, TI, trim the sails, perhaps splice the mainbrace a little more generously.
I liked indeedably’s interview story – I had hoped it would line up with the story last week about how an interview is just a meeting and you don’t have to stay or be subject to abuse – but tales of high cake-rustling are equally entertaining. I wonder if there is increased anxiety in seasonal retirees as the work season approaches. Will this be the year when the gig is up? Will there be good work in October? November? Will I work before Christmas. Strong resolve, great contacts and a dose of cash are required for that life. I’ve played that game and sold out to a full-time client when the well got even part dry. I used to work from home a bit (and an employee has just asked to – a resounding no) – never considered it the employer’s responsibility to equip the home, but in times where employers have fewer desks than staff, I can see the logic. Aren’t corporations more than places that organise endeavour, however?
Had to stop reading the Mandalorian piece as I realised I didn’t want spoilers and am reenergised to watch the series.
I feel some guilt for having children. Partially because I’m to adding to the Earth’s population when the last thing it needs is more of us. More selfishly because I fear that that my childrens’ lives will be blighted by issues such as a collapsing biosphere, nuclear terrorism etc. I still hope the post WWII period is the new normal but statistically it seems more the anomaly.
As TI says “there is no good plan B against a global dislocation”. For plan B against against lesser factors, the only way I could salve my guilt was throw money at the problem. The best education and network I can buy for my children and a lumpy inheritance when they get into their late 20s.
Location is increasingly a lottery ticket. I’ve just spent a month in what could have been my childrens’ bolthole from a UK gone mad but, unfortunately, it’s already on fire. The politicians and older generation there still prefer conspiracy theories that the droughts and fires are due to the “greenies”. They cheer the opening of a huge new coal mine. Honestly, how hard is it to understand that exponential economic growth, and energy usage, in a finite system (the Earth) is impossible. Entropy wins every time.
This is my issue with the bug out idea. It always sounds to me like people are using high principles to cover the fact they are really leaving to protect their wealth. People aren’t really that different the world over. How they currently act comes down to how the rulers have managed things and of course their individual circumstances as a result. NZ and Aus are not that easy to get into if you are not educated or have money which may have shielded them from some of the issues we have seen here. But the old will die and I do believe the young who will replace them will be better. You could argue by having kids and educating them in how you want the world to be (and giving them lots of money if you can so they can affect change while young) is one of the best ways to protect the planet and the future.
>Forget staying close to EU after Brexit, chancellor tells business
Have they already given up on saving UK manufacturing or just trying to shift the blame onto those remainer business infidels?
@zxspec – although I do believe in global warming I think it’s overblown and you shouldn’t feel guilty – permanent change – yes, extinctions – yes, more deaths – yes, but deaths as a % of the world population – negligable. Property damage – of course, but that is an economic thing, which itself should be weighed against the economic cost of regulation. Does it really matter if species go extinct? – why should the life of an endangered animal be more valuable than the life of, say, a dairy cow or a dog? – it may look different, but inside the mind it’s the same.
Climate change is change but it’s not the extinction of humans, and besides it is difficult to understand why people who deliberately forfeit children should care, its almost like they prioritise the existence of everyone else above the existence of their own kids – which is the total opposite of a parents priorities
Nuclear Armageddon should be quite quick and it’s better to have lived and lost than to never have lived at all
There is good news.
UK CO2 emissions have fallen 38% since 1990
but don’t expect Air Miles Attenborough or Greta to tell you that.
Is your glass half full or half empty?
Will we give up in despair or put our shoulders to the wheel and win through or die in the attempt ?
Personally I am for giving it my best shot .
Then it’s my children’s turn
Remember our grandparents and parent dealt with 2 World Wars -we lived in the shadow of the bomb
No doubt our children and grandchildren will cope in their turn
What other alternative do we have ?
As with our Investments we must play the game -we could lose the lot but hopefully we will win through
It is remarkable how investing mimics life -it would I suppose it would be surprising if it didn’t
Is this an investing board or a philosophical/metaphysical one?
@The Beta Investor
So that article confirms green initiatives have had an effect. And the Gretas and Attenboroughs of this world have put us on the right path.
Great news indeed!
Is there perhaps an irony to being pessimistic about the future on this website i.e. is it not an ‘Active’ approach, believing you can forecast what is going to happen in the world? Very un-Monevator-like!
(Not meant seriously, just a brief, wry thought…)
Does it really matter if species go extinct? Well, yes, actually, if it is caused by human profligate destruction of habitat, and for what, exactly? Palm oil products that 87% of women surveyed agreed visibly reduced fine lines and wrinkles. Bee population in drastic decline due to indescriminate insecticide use and monoculture (eg almond) farming.
And just maybe, some of those species may be a plant, fungus or algae that holds the cure for cancer, MSE, malaria… (need I go on?).
I am suprised by your post. I had thought that the idea of destroying everything in the hope of perpetual growth is the antithesis of FIRE.
And as to “Nuclear Armageddon should be quite quick”, only if your at ground zero. For the remaining billions it will be a slow, agonising death, and for any children remaining a return to brutality, disease, starvation and horror.
@borderer – you do have a point about potential cures, we need then to at least freeze cloneable copies of dna of promising species for that purpose. Its just that extinction has always happened and it removes species that are not well suited to this world – to fight it means raising ill adapted species – which may not be fair on the creature – only so that humans can gaze upon them. A lack of pollinators and subsequent lack of food would be a check on human population growth and would give a natural market incentive to preserve whats left – all the time we try to shield humans from the consequences of their actions we allow population growth, and the only real way to stop that is mass hunger one day, like all species at their maximum equilibrium population.
We are also innovative in that a shortage of pollinators need not mean zero food – we have algae, seaweed, etc – we could even make robot pollinators if we wanted
Its true that some nuclear victims will have a slow suffering, although in perspective the odds of 1)it happening and 2) the radius being that big, and even 3) the UK being much of a target are quite small – there is always risk in life, we could be walking down the street and hit by a car or a falling brick, and paralysed then onwards – do bear in mind the odds of things happening but dont get too caught up in unlikely things out of your control, or you’d never live
Things I resolve to spend more money and time on this year. 1, Exercise and health (already a big part of my life, need to keep focus as I age as this is the best indicator of late life health (bit like savings and investments really)) 2, Travel and experience (Mrs JimJim needs to go trekking in Peru, our bi-annual further afield trip) 3, Keeping in touch with friends (We have a large and globally spread out friend set that we have neglected in some areas, and, from what we did with some of them last year, it provided us with the best experiences for the money).
How I will offset the costs. Less money on alcohol (been a bit wild for the last two years, have kicked it entirely on more than one occasion in the past for up to seven years so do-able), Cut down on motoring expenses, buy second hand clothes off Ebay etc.
We are in the one child bracket, which seems to be best or worst of both scenarios when looking at children depending upon your perspective. I see that Italy is suffering a potential demographic catastrophe due to uncertainty in the economy reducing the birth rate below sustainable levels, compounded with emigration of it’s youth to seek better opportunities. (Bug out plans? they are executing them young).
An article that you did not include (FT link, private browser etc) … https://www.ft.com/content/abbfe166-3783-11ea-a6d3-9a26f8c3cba4
From the undercover economist took my fancy this weekend, I think he may be talking about me?…
When I never had a pot or window, someone complained that having money came with it’s own problems, and they were right.
The above confirms that too. But what about the sink estate generation, the ex military, who can only see as far as the end of the month. They don’t have the luxury of choice or foresight, successive governments have ensured that there will always be someone to empty your bins.
By all means make money for now and the future. But don’t lose sight of today, the most important things are family, health, and friends. If you already have those you’re wealthier than most.
> compounded with emigration of its youth to seek better opportunities. (Bug out plans? they are executing them young).
I’d say bugging out while you’re young definitely makes sense – you are at your most adaptable and have fewest attachments. It’s definitely the time to do it. I fear that Monevator has left it a wee bit too long. It is not just the gold in the kitty that makes a good life, it is the web of life and social connections you have built along the way. By the mid forties you have built up an awful lot of that, and retaining these connections at a distance is always more effort. Building a requirement for frequent low-cost air travel into your lifestyle against the background of the assumptions behind TI’s post seems an unwise thing to do. So yes. Go east, young person 😉
Looking at the children of friends setting up elsewhere seems surprisingly popular, certainly more popular than the previous generation. Which says something about the prospects they envisage in Blighty. Perhaps some are questioning the most popular destination, Oz now.
I remembered reading the Bertrand Russell quote recently as my son and I have been following Dan Carlin since you recommended his podcast a while ago, and I received his book for Christmas from my son. Over the years I’ve picked up some great book suggestions via your site – thanks! I read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, which was an eye opener.
@TI I notice from the Thriva link that you’re reducing your cholesterol. I wonder whether you have read any of Malcolm Kendrick’s books? @Dearieme recommended him to me, and I’ve since read all of his books and many of his blogs, and I’m now far less concerned about cholesterol. I’d recommend his latter books (A Station Nation and Doctoring Data) as they’re easier to read than his first one and they cover the same subject with more recent information. Hopefully they’ll have a similar effect on you, and then like me you’ll be able to spend a little more money on memorial experiences and getting out in the sunshine.
A GP friend told me long ago when I asked him about his personal lack of exercise -“you may and probably will feel better being fitter but you won’t live any longer”
Those pesky genes appear rule that game-chose your parents carefully!!
>90% of the world’s nutrition is provided by just five or six crops, none of which require pollination by insects t0 reproduce. Rice, maize, wheat (& all other cereals) are wind pollinated, seed potatoes divide into more tubers some of which are again retained as seeds, etc.
But Earth is not a closed system – more than enough energy is being added every day from that big fusion reactor eight light-seconds away. The problems are making efficient use of it, and disposing of the residue (the greenhouse gases blocking the radiation of low temperature heat to space).
@happyjack… Rubber is your biggest worry. All the trees are clones, Brazil lost there’s to disease, the rest could follow, the market is unstable and many farmers shun the crop and we have no viable substitute…. No cars, no planes?… As for exercise, my wife sees enough people through her clinic with health problems due to lack of it and a lot fewer due to too much of it.
You are spot on about not placing too much emphasis on high cholesterol. To the extent that cholesterol (or more accurately lipoprotein) measures are relevant markers of atherosclerosis it is far more important that your HDL/LDL ratio is high and your triglycerides are low. But these are indirect markers (or weak guesses) and anyone being advised to take statins really needs to get a CAC scan which directly measures heart disease and if their score is zero they shouldn’t be going anywhere near a statin.
Another big fan of Malcolm Kendrick. The simplistic nonsense about the causes of heat disease and role of cholesterol really needs debunking, as does the un-necessary prescribing of statins. Did you listen to his recent chat with Ivor Cummins on his podcast Passive Pete? Brilliant stuff.
Some good other resources:
Ivor Cummins (Eat Rich Live Long – gives a wonderfully clear explanation of the important role of cholesterol in the body and debunks the nonsense out there) plus lots of free and excellent videos on his youtube channel
Dave Feldman (cholesterolcode.com) including his work on lean mass hyper responders (those with very high LDL & HDL, along with very low triglycerides) and his work with the NHANES dataset to show that the starting point is that high LDL does not associate with higher all cause mortality, so you shouldn’t be expecting any causal link between high LDL and high mortality!
And there’s also Nick Mailer’s videos in particular the one explaining the mevalonate pathway, and why disturbing it by taking statins unnecessarily isn’t going to end up well.
I have read that cholesterol is something the body makes itself too, so its down to your dna
@happyjack – excellent! Should survive then
I didn’t say a lack of pollinating insects is not a significant problem, but it’s certainly not an existentialist crisis from the point of view of human food availability. There’s no need to replace the established basic nutritional crops with algae or seaweed, although these are already niche food products.
At a domestic level, plant your own fruit trees in the garden and then use a long feather duster to fertilise the blossom ! If you live outside of the south of the UK, you often need to do this anyway because many types of fruit trees form their blossoms very early in the year, and long before it’s warm enough for sufficient flying insects to be out and about.
Thanks for all the comments everyone, mostly a great conversation as usual.
(As far as I’m concerned the broad climate science is settled, though of course it’d be foolish to say we *know* exactly how things will pan out. Even the best models are constantly being recast. But I’ll eventually start deleting Blimp-ish anthropomorphic climate change denying if it crops up here. I’m more than persuaded by the 97% or similar of scientists, thanks. There’s plenty of other places on the Internet to poke fun at people trying to make a difference, such as Attenborough and Thunberg, so save it for there. Oh, and our domestic CO2 is deceptively low because we’ve off-shored most manufacturing.)
@PassivePete @Snowman — Kind of agree. I’m not persuaded cholesterol is a cause, I suspect it’s probably more a potential symptom. Similar to how smoke from a burning house wasn’t what *caused* it to burn down!
I’ve seen the poor correlations, though sometimes I feel the ramifications are equally stretched. For instance, many heart attack mortalities may have very low cholesterol, but that could well be because they’re generally totally screwed anyway; as has been said our bodies do produce cholesterol.
I was shocked when mine was into the (revised down) ‘elevated’ range because I’m very healthy in most ways. I have my suspicions about what’s going on. (All men in my family die of heart issues eventually, I think it’s because we store almost all our fat on our waists, with terrible hormonal and other consequences). I saw two doctors, both of whom said I should at least consider Statins. I was shocked they didn’t say lose fat or run more or similar… they said (a) I was already clearly what they’d term very healthy and (b) they usually see men only one or two times before a heart attack so best to suggest something that works!
On balance I decided to do something, because even if cholesterol isn’t the issue there are signs it’s a marker. (E.g. for inflammation or stress). I got it way down into the green zone with diet, more targeted fitness, more sleep, less stress/work, and plant sterols. It’s inched up again from just six months of taking my foot of the throat though so will be a lifelong target, clearly. (Unless new widely accepted evidence).
I think Thriva is great, provided you bleed easily. I actually don’t, but I’ve found I can get blood out via a DIY rubber band tourniquet, very carefully used. Having everything in a dashboard over time is really useful. It’s also great to just chuck in any test you are wondering about (e.g. I did a one off testosterone the other day).
I’ll do a big article on thriva/cholesterol as part of my extremely rarely seen cost-effective fitness series.
Here’s one from earlier (2009!)
@happyjack — I am willing to wager that if we get to the point where DIY pollinating of plants via feather-dusters is required as opposed to optional, then the ecosystem has collapsed and wind-pollinated grains will be of cold comfort. There are very intricate webs in nature, re: insects, foods, fungus, plankton, etc.
But hopefully neither of us will ever have to find out… All the best. 🙂
On the subject of cholesterol, although mine is not particularly high, I was prescribed statins because my GP said the surgery had been criticised for not prescribing enough of them to potentially vulnerable patients !
But the cost of statins to the NHS must be huge – I also take betablockers for a heart condition, and getting the medication via the GP is not always convenient since I travel a lot and therefore the times I’m away often straddle the medication renewal dates. Therefore I buy a six-months supply of betablockers from an online pharmacy to hold ‘in reserve’, for actually slightly less cost than the prescription charges. However, six months supply of statins obtained privately is around £200 …
On the topic of cholesterol, you also need to be careful as either guidlines change over time or even the trusted experts get it wrong. I had a blood test and when the results came back the GP looked at the cholesterol and said i was in the normal high range and need to make some lifestyle changes ASAP. Anyway, fast forward two years and I went to another GP with headaches. This GP did a stroke questionnaire and used the results of the previous blood test to plug in the data. Apparently my HDL/LDL ratio was very good and I didn’t need to worry about it being normal-high. So I went from panicking over having high cholesterol to not needing to worry about. Plus my stroke risk (as per a questionaire…) was much lower than average for my age group. So I would definitely get a second opinon / sleep on it before jumping on Statins.
And yes, Genes are very important. However, if you have bad genes then you need to work against them with exercise and diet. Less so if you have good genes. So, what genes do you have?
I look forward to gene editing – use a virus to swap out bad dna for good, lots of potential at curing all kinds of sufff, who knows, maybe reverse aging?!!!
I read that they cured a “bubble” boy who had to be wrapped up from some terrible condition using a modified HIV virus (dont know why they cant use the common cold though!)
Re pollination and armageddon, fair comment, although you might be surprised by the amount of manual fertilisation of market-garden fruit & veg that is already carried out, and has been for centuries.
Interesting and entertaining discussion on cholesterol here which covers some of the points you make.
For example at 9 mins they describe hypercholesterolemia as a made up disease with no symptoms other than a number or a statistical risk that is not understood. And Nick amusingly points out that the cancer fairy doesn’t come along and magically reduce cholesterol in people affected by cancer to explain why people with disease associate with low cholesterol.
But please do read that Ivor Cummins book, I guarantee you will be blown away by it. I’d lend you mine but it is out on loan at the moment.
@Snowman Thanks for the recommendations, I haven’t read or heard Ivor Cummins or Dave Feldman and Nick Mailer. I’ll get onto those shortly as I’m currently on the final chapter of The Man Who Solved The Market – another great recent recommendation by @TI.
I’ve read Michael Moseley’s books and seen him on tour last year. I recall he identified a problem of being fat on the inside and thin on the outside – something that appears to affect Indian men disproportionately, so probably due to genes (basically having fat surrounding the vital organs). I think Moseley showed success in treating this via intermittent fasting – something I’ve been doing for some time since using the 5:2 diet successfully.
@ Matthew (33)
I like your idea of replacing bees with robots. Millions of years of evolution circumvented by Elton Musk or his ilk. If anyone thinks that man can do better than nature, then they should have a look at https://asknature.org/strategy/seeds-with-efficiently-shaped-wings-glide-slowly-to-earth/#.XiR6fiPgq70 – these seeds was studied by NASA in their design of the space shuttle.
Regarding the chances of Armageddon, have a look at this: – https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/#.
And a bedtime thought, you may, unknowingly, live close enough to a target that the CEP of a Russian SS-18 could put a warhead down you chimney – but, of course, you would never know about either of these things!
As you say, may as well live while we live.
Hi @TI. I suspect may be deleted… but 97%? I imagine that figure is an estimation of from what the MSM allows to be published & aired.
Here’s a few well-known names who are what alarmists would label ‘deniers’, but that would call themselves realists or skeptics:
Freeman Dyson, Patrick Moore (one of the founders of Greenpeace), Clive James (OK, was not a scientist, but still rather intelligent), David Bellamy (stolen from our screens because of his wrongthink on the subject), Matt Ridley, Bjorn Lomborg (an Economist, but well considered).
Problem I have with the climate change debate isn’t that I dispute that mankind may well be causing an acceleration in warming ( and even if you did doubt that, why would you take the risk that you may be wrong?), it’s that we must not put ourselves at a significant economic disadvantage whilst acting ineffectually. I read that there is roughly one new coal fired power station put into commission somewhere in the world each week. If our efforts don’t significantly make a difference then we need to realistically weigh the benefits against the cost to ourselves. Words to the effect that we should show leadership, or set an example, are just that, words, the inner glow of satisfaction and feeling good about ourselves are conceits which mustn’t be bought at too great an expense if we don’t make a real impact on the monotonic graph.
Looking at how politics works, offering short term pain for long term gain puts the opposition in. Democracies aren’t good at strategic planning. When the real consequences of global warming show up, then we will act and adapt out of necessity. Until then….well good luck.
PS, not sure I have much faith in the quantitative models ( the behaviour of the oceans, atmospheric/ ocean interaction, ecosystem response) so it could be worse or better than currently predicted. When the North American ice sheet melted it switched off the gulf stream and what later became Portugal saw a temperate climate degenerate to having icebergs offshore in a century or so. We have been warned :).
There is a balance I think. Remember you never know what’s around the corner.
I went from healthy to seriously and permanently ill and disabled almost overnight. It has changed my perspective.I am 50. Whereas before I would agonise for weeks over spending decisions, I now make a decision in a few minutes. It is needed and worthwhile..go for it..
“MSM allows to be published & aired” …. “wrong speak”
If I believed the sort of stuff that people who use such language believe, I’d have a word with myself. 🙂
Some of largest and most powerful companies in the world (including the largest, and until the recent tech boom generally the largest) are fossil fuel companies.
Most people drive around in cars run on fossil fuels. We fly around with abandon. We do whatever we like.
Opposing forces to these facts on the ground are puny to the extent that a schoolgirl has been able to rise to the top of their ranks, and even she’s been villified by the usual Barry Blimp-ish suspects for her trouble.
There’s no MSM conspiracy that is gatekeeping what is allowed to be aired. The reason we now routinely talk about man made climate change as real is the same as why the “MSM” doesn’t talk about alternative theories about how 9/11 didn’t happen or the moon landings might have been fake.
Agreed, the outcomes/models from here are highly uncertain but that’s another issue.
(Also, Dyson believes in man made climate change, from memory. I seem to recall he’s against curbing growth/innovation on account of it, which is a coherent argument. But anyway I’m not engaging in discussions about half a dozen people with a vaguely contrary view versus an overwhelming scientific consensus, be it 97% versus 92% versus 87%. When the consensus changes or looks close to changing, I’ll change my mind.)
@Economiser. Sorry should have said finite system not closed system. Nonetheless, that big fusion reactor isn’t an inexhaustible supply either, especially when its up against exponential demand. At the 2017/18 energy growth rate of 2.3%, the total demand for energy would outstrip the total solar flux hitting Earth in just over 400 years. And we could only collect a fraction of that.
The issue is that the Earth is in thermodynamic equilibrium: incident radiation from the Sun against radiative cooling. Many economists seem to believe that exponential economic growth is feasible on a finite system such as the Earth. Growth always requires energy, thus exponential energy is required. The problem is every time we use low-entropy, concentrated energy to do ‘useful work’ (in the physics sense), we are left with high-entropy waste energy (waste heat). That waste heat is too diffuse to be radiated away. So it accumulates. Now my prior life was as a theoretical physicist, not a climate scientist, so I don’t know the details of how that plays out, but anything that disturbs that equilibrium should be viewed as a source of risk and volatility.
Putting my fund manager hat on, I see taking a risk on climate change as a terrible risk-return proposition. It’s the classic bad carry trade: picking up pennies in front of a steamroller. If your right, you make a few bob, if you’re wrong, you lose a few fingers, a foot or perhaps you just get completely flattened. Dead. If we had a plethora of other planets to go to but, err, we don’t. This is a one shot trade. So why take the risk?
I have to totally agree with ZX on this one. His closing sentence “This is a one shot trade. So why take the risk?” says it all.
If you have signs of damp in your house and a builder tells you your roof is leaking you can ignore the advice and see if it sorts itself out or you can get the roof fixed.
The economy will carry on either way in the event of changing our ways to make the planet more sustainable for those that live here. It will just be different economic activity. Renewable energy is getting on par or cheaper than coal and gas now, we are making moves to figure out how to store excess energy and a lot of the technology is in place. In the last climate meeting in Spain just before Christmas the countries that stopped things moving forward were all big producers of fossil fuels. Go figure! They don’t seem to mind living in a leaky house because they are comfortable off the back of that leak. (Australia has had some instant (if you don’t give climate change credence, it must be fate) karma on that vote).
Being socially minded in a country seems a hard enough thing to achieve in today’s politics. Being socially minded on a world scale might be next to impossible. If we change our ways we can still make money, whether the same people are making the money is the issue.
@ZX agreed, why take the risk. Plus reducing our reliance on the producers / suppliers of oil and gas, which usually come from highly suspect regimes can only be a good thing both morally and economically.
Of course our FI dreams are somewhat driven by the need of never ending growth which creates a paradox of sorts. Monevator has written on environmental investing a few times in the past, but I am not sure it is yet easy to be 100% environmental and stick to the tenants of passive investing (global equity tracker etc)
A healthy debate is important and the cynics have their place. It helps to push the science forward. Providing the cynics are using data or driving productive scientific discourse we should not demonise them. If they just put their fingers in their ears and so no no no, fill your boots….
I would say that although it looks like it, we dont actually need exponential growth, we just need businesses to continue to make a profit, and pass that profit on – as long as they do, funds will accumulate, and as long as we still have inflation and business structures that use debt to magnify inflation (like buy to let does) – we will be ok
Yes, the amount of incoming energy from the sun is finite, so market forces will make that more expensive, and make us rethink our growth as an when we need to, and it is part of what I’ve said that theres a limit to the population this planet can support, and ultimately (short of colonising elsewhere) most humanity will wind up in a borderline starvation mode like most animals at peak population
Also it is difficult to best natures designs on things, although i wouldn’t say impossible. It certainly makes sense to piggyback off natures designs as much as possible – but consider this – humans, as animals, are part of nature, so all our actions, even talking now, is part of nature – a nature not yet disovered – next time youre watching david Attenborough contrast it to “great railway journeys”, or period dramas, or the anique roadshow or question time, as examples of how we even study ourselves, and our own nature
@Matthew “most humanity will wind up in a borderline starvation mode like most animals at peak population”
Only in the absence of economic growth. In country after country, across a wide range of cultures, the effect of a becoming moderately prosperous has been for population growth to decrease, usually to a level below replacement level.
BTW, those interested in the decarbonisation debate, and the investment aspects thereof, might find this video interesting:
Despite the title, and the channel’s usual somewhat permabearish outlook, I found it very informative.
Incidentally, hope everyone is keeping an eye on the earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic north pole has wanderlust but the south pole is pretty steady ( no idea how that works).
ZX: don’t think we’d like it much if we were in thermodynamic equilibrium with the sun 🙂
Good points @arty and @mroptimistic, I don’t know if the decrease in birth rates in developed world will hold or if its a short term developmental stage, but I think its due to our rising standards of an acceptable minimum to raise kids
Magnetic field will one day stop although a long way off and luckily I think we will be able to save ourselves by then (ie artificial magnetic field) – and life will find a way even without that protection, after mass extinctions perhaps
The most resourceful way I believe for intelligence to survive as long as possible is to develop true AI that needs minimal body (just self maintenance) and no planet to survive, and only needs energy from orbiting a star or a nuclear reactor
The S-curve for population growth goes flat as wealth increases. We just can’t afford all the people alive to be that wealthy. Its not so much a problem with energy, but water, metals, land etc. And who am I to deny my lifestyle to others…
In a global economy with global pollution, only united action can change behaviour, and that won’t happen as the economic advantage of rogue behaviour is too great. We also have a big gap between what people want and what they are prepared to give up.
BTW most of the deniers quoted are dead, and Ridley owns a coal mine.
I find these apocalyptic discussions both bizzare and fascinating to watch.
Buddhist ideas about the world ending in the year 4600, the book of revelation, Islamic ideas about the battle at the end of times in Dabiq, millenarian cults, Malthusian theories, peak oil, extinction rebellion – these end of the world ideas have been with us for thousands of years, and it doesn’t look like they’re going away any time soon…
Really once you go beyond the life of your great grandkids, theres nobody you should overly care about any more than the man in the street or an alien species or a past one like the dinosaurs – even if this world one day ends life will probably go on elsewhere, although it would be a shame for that to happen
Although the apocalypse does give idle minds something to think about, and in religion it can even be a relief
Actually having children is a vote of confidence in the future