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Weekend reading: Can money buy freedom?

Money articles

My regular roundup of the week’s blog and financial site links.

I suspect most of you caught the market turmoil this week. The financial journalists certainly relished the chance to scare their audiences witless again.

No, surprise given everyone is still nostalgic for the credit crisis.

Let’s keep this in perspective. Year-to-date:

  • The FTSE is down 6.5%
  • The S&P is down 4.5%

That’s just noise, not a new Apocalypse.

Could Greek government debt spark a wider crisis? It’s possible – the Euro has long been an accident waiting to happen.

But personally I think this is just a normal sell-off on any old excuse as we climb our way up a new bull run.

It will take a couple more solid boom years before the story moves on and the reporters forget markets can go down as well as up again. Currently they think a rising market is a government conspiracy.

The post of the week

Here on Monevator, we walked our own path with articles on unemployment, bond safety, a banker and his Miranda Kerr video, the new LSE bond market, and the new UK boom.

Continuing the contrary tone, my blog post of the week is an article from last week’s Financial Times! However it is very personal, and a great read.

John Lanchester, the English novelist, has written a book about money in the wake of the credit crisis. I groaned when I first heard about the book, entitled Whoops!, but going by this article it will be a must read.

In Can Money Set You Free?, Lanchester writes:

Security is a complicated idea, and one with an immense potential to trap us – that was one lesson I learnt from my father.

Money isn’t automatically freedom. You need to look carefully at what you’re doing to earn the money before you can conclude that you are, in practice, free. This is a cost-benefit analysis we should all perform on our own lives.

Don’t listen to what people say about freedom and security and money but, instead, look at the specific, actual bargains they are making with their lives.

I’ve written about money and my father, and also the dangers of money obsession, but Lanchester’s piece proves I Must Try Harder.

His explanation of his own attitude to money is perceptive, and I could hardly agree more with this:

One of our culture’s deepest held beliefs is expressed in the question, “If you’re so smart why ain’t you rich?” But people in finance are rich – so it logically follows that everything they choose to do must be smart. That was the syllogism followed by too many people in the money business.

What really chimed with me were his comments about how money will shape your life. I’ve known this for years, and seen it play out since I was a student who went through the usual intellectual dalliances with communism and even anarchism before returning to my one true if sullied love, free markets.

More in the future about this journey and how even my goals for Monevator are changing (I believe more in financial freedom than early retirement, nowadays) but let’s conclude with this last fabulous insight from Lanchester:

It helps to have a compass, and mine is based on two principles, both of them learnt from my banker father: anxiety is freedom, and the way you are living will have been your life.

That’s worth repeating: The way you are living will have been your life.

Highlights from the personal finance blogs

Other interesting financial and money articles

  • Norway should have bought a tracker fund – The Economist
  • How managers bamboozle analysts – The Economist (both via Niklas)
  • Will retrospective taxes affect us all? – The BBC
  • Ben Graham market screener – The Motley Fool
  • Bond prices to fall as QE comes to end – FT
  • Inflation: Not if, but when – FT
  • LSE bond market Q&AThe Telegraph

Bonus: Highlights from the Alexa challenge entrants

I’m taking part in an initiative started by my blogging buddy Financial Samurai to see if I can tempt a few more misguided souls into reading Monevator’s 1,000 word sleep aids essays on investing.

As a friendly nod to my fellow entrants, here’s my pick of their latest articles:

Hope you found a blog in there you liked! (Special thanks to Sweating the Big Stuff for the handy list).

Reading through all these sites really brings home how many are out there. If you choose to read Monevator let alone subscribe, my special thanks this week!

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • 1 Niklas Smith February 6, 2010, 3:06 pm

    A fascinating post on Lanchester’s article and book – I will look them up. What you say chimes with my feelings. A number of my fellow economics students have worked or interned in the City and all of those who have that experience say that they didn’t like it, despite the lavish rewards available. What’s the point of earning six figures if you have no time to enjoy what it buys you because you work 18-hour days? Spending time with friends and the people we love (even just ourselves and a good book) has a huge but intangible value that we should pay more attention to.

    P.S. Thanks for the hat tip on those Economist articles 🙂 You should offer to write their headlines – “Norway should have bought a tracker fund” is genius!

  • 2 David @ MBA briefs February 6, 2010, 3:19 pm

    This is an awesome collection of articles – thanks for including my article. I’m going to easily spend an hour reading through everything you’ve listed. Great website with tons of interesting articles!
    .-= David @ MBA briefs on: Do positions of power corrupt people or attract people who are already corrupt? =-.

  • 3 Financial Samurai February 6, 2010, 4:04 pm

    Wow, look at you! Great job new Samurai Alexa Challenge participant! I have no doubt in my mind you will succedd come July 4th!

    I just have to ask though, why are Europeans (England, Greece, Spain, Portugal) hurting the world so much? What did we ever do to y’all?

    Also, I have to ask you this… can you speak in an American accent if you tried? I’m so impressed when English people can… Olivia Dunham from Fringe for example.
    .-= Financial Samurai on: We Have Peanut Butter, But No Bread – Making Do With Less =-.

  • 4 Evan February 6, 2010, 4:52 pm

    Wow really cool of you to pump up the challange…

    I am not sure why Sam, but it angers the hell out of me when I find out an actor (with an american accent) is not American. I feel like I was cheated and duped. I am weird like that
    .-= Evan on: Thank You Fellow Bloggers! =-.

  • 5 Money Reasons February 6, 2010, 5:01 pm

    Great compilation! I’ve already started digging into it.

    .-= Money Reasons on: Stop Waiting For Magical Moments To Happen =-.

  • 6 Jeff February 6, 2010, 5:22 pm

    Holy moly, great list. I’m glad I have some time this morning to go out and explore. Thanks for including me. The Alexa challenge is turning out to be VERY cool.
    .-= Jeff on: Friday Frugal Tip – Pizza Delivery =-.

  • 7 youngandthrifty February 6, 2010, 5:49 pm

    Thanks for rounding all those articles up! Looks like a great read- looking forward to checking them out this weekend.

    Thanks for including me too =)
    .-= youngandthrifty on: Wondering if Pet Insurance Claim will be Approved =-.

  • 8 FinEngr February 6, 2010, 7:39 pm

    Same! Appreciated the shout-out and gave me an idea on more collaboration/promotion for this challenge. I’ll be posting it over at Sweating the Big Stuff’s site.

    .-= FinEngr on: Which Way Are You Outsourcing? =-.

  • 9 Jason @ MyMoneyMinute February 6, 2010, 9:50 pm

    Wow, great work on this post. Thanks for including my article, and good luck with tour Alexa ranking!
    .-= Jason @ MyMoneyMinute on: There’s An App For That: 35 Ways To Slash Your Household Budget! =-.

  • 10 LeanLifeCoach February 6, 2010, 10:06 pm

    Thanks for the nod Investor!
    .-= LeanLifeCoach on: Money & Time, How Others Waste It =-.

  • 11 Ryan @ Planting Dollars February 7, 2010, 1:41 am

    Thanks for the link and great idea with the list, I think this will be a fun and rewarding challenge for everyone.
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars on: Seeds of Knowledge 2.5.10 =-.

  • 12 FFB February 7, 2010, 4:10 am

    Thanks so much for the mention! I have to catch up on the list and make sure I have everyone added!

  • 13 Doctor Stock February 7, 2010, 7:39 am

    Wow… now I’ve got a lot of reading for the next month!!! Thanks!
    .-= Doctor Stock on: Lessons from the Casino – Lesson 8 of 8 =-.

  • 14 Valentina February 7, 2010, 9:06 am

    Thank you so much for stopping by … 🙂

    Now that’s an impressive list and thank you for including me. Got my Sunday Morning reading all cut out for me – and you can count on a new subscription.

    .-= Valentina on: On Silver and Gold and The Week That Was: Jan 31-Feb 06 =-.

  • 15 The Investor February 7, 2010, 12:41 pm

    @Niklas – The number of people in The City who tell you they’re miserable and want to get out is incredible. I’m sure some are very happy, but the majority seem to find it a slog until their mid-30s. If they’re still standing then, work eases up in comparison to the rewards that soar so it’s crazy to leave, and then another decade goes. Then again, a lot of people are miserable at work – at least you’re paid for it in the City. Then again *again* these are often people who could do almost anything – it’s hardly Morgan Stanley or McDonalds.

    @DavidMBSBriefs – Your welcome, an interesting angle on your site you have there.

    @Sam – Well, to be fair to the Greeks it was US-driven low yields that tempted their life-loving Southern European hearts to go on a wild borrowing spree. 😉 But this was always going to happen to the Euro sooner or later. It’s political unity or bust really. May blog about this, this week.

    @Evan – It’s all good fun, right? 🙂

    @MoneyReasons – Thanks for stopping by.

    @FinEngr – You’re welcome, like the spin of your site.

    @Jason – No worries, good luck to you, too!

    @LifeLeanCoach – My pleasure.

    @Ryan – Great logo on your site!

    @FFB – You’re welcome… I’ve been thinking about a guest article for your lucky readers 😉

    @DrStock – Thanks for stopping by.

    @Irana – Valentina… Too many blogs, not enough time, eh? Thanks for subscribing, hope you find some interesting articles in amongst the 1000s of words. 🙂

  • 16 Aaron @ Clarifinancial February 7, 2010, 1:39 pm

    Thanks Investor. I wondered who read that post. I thought I scared most of the people off by putting “death” in the title.

    I saw the two articles you reviewed on the Economist. They also did one on longevity swaps, which is a new way pension investors are hedging risks. Thought you might like it.

  • 17 Anastasia February 7, 2010, 8:28 pm

    Thanks for mentioning my blog! As a newbie I really appreciate some attention:-) I really like to think that what I write other people find interesting or useful
    .-= Anastasia on: 10 Most Popular Articles About Money =-.

  • 18 The Investor February 9, 2010, 10:15 am

    @Aaran – Thanks, I’ll check it out.

    @Anastasia – You’re welcome, good luck with the blog.

  • 19 Peter February 10, 2010, 5:08 pm

    Thanks for the link! Here’s to hoping my visit helps to boost your Alexa rating!
    .-= Peter on: 6 Advantages Of Automatic Saving And Investing =-.

  • 20 J. Money February 10, 2010, 6:43 pm

    Thx for the shout out my friend!

  • 21 Brad February 12, 2010, 5:49 am

    It looks like we are moving down the list nicely monevator!! I have enjoyed seeing myself drop in the rankings.

    I have found myself checking multiple times a week to see how far I have dropped. (then I downloaded the toolbar—much easier!)

    Have a great weekend!
    .-= Brad on: The March 2010 “Manage Your Money” Challenge: Featuring Pocketsmith – Are You In Or Out? =-.

  • 22 The Investor February 12, 2010, 11:28 am

    @Brad – Indeed! Funny — I get what you mean, but my heart sank for a moment as I thought you meant down Sweating The Big Stuff’s collated list of all entrants. Clearly I’m taking this challenge more to heart than I thought!

  • 23 lisa May 13, 2011, 1:31 am

    What does “anxiety is freedom” mean???

  • 24 The Investor May 14, 2011, 8:47 am

    @Lisa – Hmm, it’s a long time since I read his thoughts, but if I recall correctly he was saying that choice/options are freedom, and choice/options are also what lead to anxiety. A tribe in the Amazon rainforest wouldn’t have anxiety, for instance, since every day was the same, except for seasonal variations, ritual differences, and the odd ‘event’ like an attack by a jaguar. They don’t spend every day waking up thinking “am I doing what I should be doing with me life?”

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