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Weekend reading: Cold comfort

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What caught my eye this week.

Pretty much straight into the links today, as I’ve been ill most of the week with a remorseless cold. I’ve kept up with my reading, but couldn’t manage much thinking.

Well, I did spend a few feverish moments wondering if getting Covid last year had somehow impaired my immune system.

Normally I shake colds off in a couple of days. I rarely get them in the first place. This one made itself at home, returning in waves from Monday to Friday.

Perhaps I’ve forgotten what a cold – let alone flu – is like? Lockdowns, masking, handwashing, indulging my reclusive tendencies with a global pandemic at my back… for whatever reason I can’t recall going toe-to-toe with mankind’s most implacable foe since at least 2019.

The Atlantic wrote recently that man flu-ism is rampant right now:

As far as experts can tell, the average severity of cold symptoms hasn’t changed.

“It’s about perception,” says Jasmine Marcelin, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

After skipping colds for several years, “experiencing them now feels worse than usual.” 

It was also nostalgic to rip open one of my last lateral flow tests, and to wait for those lines. The pregnant pause. The relief. Misguided, almost, given how the cold I actually did have dragged on for longer than The Big One did for me, though without Covid’s awful tiredness.

Anyway, rambling. Enjoy the links, please discuss them in the comments! I’d probably have focused on inflation. It looks licked in the US.

Have a great weekend.

From Monevator

Are US Treasuries better than gilts for UK investors? – Monevator

Buying an investment trust on a discount versus a premium – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Great expectations: how much should you fear inflation? – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view click through to read the article. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing to sites you visit a lot.

Some workers may have to wait until they are 74 to get state pension – This Is Money

Frozen food beats fresh as shoppers seek savings – BBC

Strikes weigh on a UK economy which stagnated in February – Reuters

House prices drop amid falling demand as rents keep increasing – Yahoo Finance

Interest rates likely to return to pre-pandemic levels after inflation is tamed – IMF

What is the Living Pension standard, and could it boost your retirement pot? – Which

Are Americans too pessimistic about their financial futures? – Morningstar

Products and services

More borrowers choosing two-year fixes in gamble mortgage rates will fall – This Is Money

Blackrock/iShares is getting into the ‘Buffer’ ETF game – Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance

Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor

Plan now to afford typical care home costs [Search result]FT

17 ways to save money on your bills and living costs in 2023 – Which

Open an account with low-cost platform InvestEngine via our link and get £25 when you invest at least £100 (T&Cs apply. Capital at risk) – InvestEngine

Restored homes with interiors that sing, in pictures – Guardian

Property mini-special

The highs and lows of starting a new life in a static caravan – Guardian

Curbs on second-home rentals risk hurting local economies [Search result]FT

Folly – Indeedably

Seven tips on selling your home quickly in a slow market – Which

This is where people with staggering wealth end up – Guardian

Comment and opinion

Should we ban billionaires? – Prospect

Risky business – Humble Dollar

The ultimate level of wealth – A Wealth of Common Sense

James Choi: improving the way we make investment choices [Podcast]Morningstar

Invest like Oprah Winfrey? – Contessa Capital

Play your own game [Podcast]Morgan Housel

Why portfolio diversification helped in 2022 [US but relevant]Morningstar

The alpha games: technology funds – Finominal

Harvesting tax losses – Fire V London

Never retire…what the ‘world’s oldest practicing doctor’ does for a long life – CNBC

Naughty corner: Active antics

RIT Capital Partners: a rare opportunity to buy a unique trust – Quoted Data

Ten lessons from three small-cap AGMs – Maynard Paton

100-baggers with Chris Mayer [Podcast] We Study Billionaires via Apple

Finding companies with consistent dividends and profits – UK Dividend Stocks

US inflation is yesterday’s news – Calafia Beach Pundit

An annus horribilis for UK stockpickers [Search result]FT

The end of the cycle is nigh [PDF] Legal and General

Kindle book bargains

Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe – £0.99 on Kindle

Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley – £0.99 on Kindle

The Almighty Dollar by Dharshini David – £2.19 on Kindle

The Nowhere Office: Reinventing Work and the Workplace by Julie Hobsbawm – £0.99 on Kindle

Environmental factors

Less cars, more money: visiting the city of the future – Mr Money Mustache

The illusion of saving the planet with a trillion trees [Search result]FT

Have global combustion engine sales already peaked? – Visual Capitalist

“Bees are sentient”: inside the brains of nature’s hardest workers – Guardian

Full-year results from UK energy storage investment trust GRID – DIY Investor

Billionaire founder of Paul Mitchell invests in man-made coral reefs – CNBC

Robot overlord roundup

If we don’t shut down AI development we will all die – Time

First hands-free self-driving system approved for British motorways – Guardian

The Bloomberg terminal just got a ChatGPT-style upgrade – Institutional Investor

How to use A.I. to do practical stuff – One Useful Thing

Existential threats: Terminator scenario – Continuations

An example of LLM prompting for programming [Nerdy]Martin Fowler

A BabyAGI mod is close to creating own executables [Nerdy, big if true]via Twitter

Off our beat

What makes you happy – Morgan Housel

The gambler who beat roulette [Video] – Bloomberg via YouTube

Slowing down – Conor Mac

Dave Eggers: sketches from Ukraine – The Believer [h/t Abnormal Returns]

The Super Mario Bros. movie will be impossible to beat – Wired

Fame – Professor Scott Galloway

Stock therapy – Humble Dollar

“I am 70 and so full of regret about my husband and career”Guardian

And finally…

“Far from being the smartest possible biological species, we are probably better thought of as the stupidest possible biological species capable of starting a technological civilization – a niche we filled because we got there first, not because we are in any sense optimally adapted to it.”
– Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • 1 Jbone April 14, 2023, 10:03 pm

    As someone with two nursery aged children who has been sick with one cold after the next since July or so, allow me to reassure you that this particular cold is a bad ‘un, you’re not imagining it!

  • 2 G April 14, 2023, 10:38 pm

    Agreed, this isn’t ordinary man-flu or that what we’ve forgotten what a cold is like. It was about 3 weeks before I was able to fully return to all of my activities and even now (6 weeks on) I don’t feel completely on it.

    Get well soon!

  • 3 Al Cam April 14, 2023, 11:20 pm

    Re; “I’d probably have focused on inflation. It looks licked in the US.”

    I would like to think the message of the Calafia Beach Pundit link will be echoed here soon (ONS inflation update is due next Wednesday 19/4/23) but, ….

  • 4 mr_jetlag April 15, 2023, 5:43 am

    Here in Singapore a new wave of covid seems to have embedded itself in the last few weeks. Interestingly it resists detection from ART tests… could very well be your cold is a much milder endemic strain of the same?

    Not convinced about inflation until we see a couple of quarters data. this is the same Fed who proclaimed inflation as transitory back in 2021…

  • 5 CF April 15, 2023, 10:01 am

    The constant shifting of the state pension age (and the age at which one can draw from a SIPP or private pension) doesn’t sit right with me. When planning for retirement people make long term decisions. To have the goalposts moved as you approach retirement undermines those decisions. I’m 43 and very fortunate to have a final salary pension that is still active. Due to recent ill health I was in contact with my pension scheme discussing possible options. During the conversation it was mentioned that retirement at 55 was no longer an option for me, the age had increased to 58. Not bad compared to many for sure, but I’ve made many sacrifices to remain in the scheme and have added AVCs on the basis of finishing early. It’s frustrating to see those goalposts moving as I approach.

  • 6 Calculus April 15, 2023, 10:21 am

    Definite hint of optimism in the markets, given the inflation read, and including the run from the not to be mentioned crypto big two.
    I hit a milestone bday this week, with the SIPP becoming accessible – cool beans, but not doing anything just yet, working on my own newish enterprise as long as I can and still enjoy the ride. Its about building something, passing on too. I read that Hokusai reckoned he didn’t create anything good before the age of 50 😉
    Heading out for a walk in the mountains later, to reflect a little and soak in the surroundings, hopefully not literally. Get well TI, there’s always the option of self prescribing a hot whiskey or two?

  • 7 Faustus April 15, 2023, 10:34 am

    Hope you are feeling better soon – thanks for providing our weekend reading in spite of

    Staying health related, why do national media journalists continue to propagate the lie that life expectancy is currently rising in Britain? In actual fact (after several decades of gains), it has been stagnant for more than a decade and life expectancy for UK males and females was lower in 2021 than in 2011.

    There is no justification at the moment to raise the state pension age based on life expectancy, and many of the reviews are flawed because they incorrectly assumed the pre-2010 trend would continue.

    Onto investing – the RIT Capital Partners article was interesting. I remember the Trust being recommended by TI once upon a time, but it has had a really rough period recently and is currently on a bigger discount than at any time since the financial crash. Thoughts on its future prospects without Jacob Rothschild at the helm?

  • 8 weenie April 15, 2023, 12:01 pm

    Hope you feel better soon, TI. I used to catch colds all the time and shrug them off easily, but a recent one felt bad enough that I too did a test (negative).

    Later this year, I’ll have the dilemma of whether to gamble on a 2-year fix and that rates will go down. I might even swallow SVR for a short while.

    Not had the chance to read and digest the entire RIT piece yet but I’ve been wondering whether to just hold or top up on that big discount.

  • 9 Neverland April 15, 2023, 2:11 pm

    re. RIT Capital

    I think anyone thinking about investing in RIT needs to take a good look under the hood

    RIT isn’t the same trust I invested in decades ago

    It’s now even more invested in opaque private capital … and some of the investments have the potential to turn out to be pretty rancid

    Just one random example – the largest single private equity fund investment is to a fund manager closely linked with Jared Kushner

  • 10 Robin April 15, 2023, 3:59 pm

    Hello TI, sorry to hear you are unwell.
    Please could I get some advice. I’m now gearing-up for my 1o-year FIRE stint before the state pensions etc… I’ve been looking at the best way to fund this and one option that has reappeared now interest rate have gone up is the fixed-term annuity.
    But as far as I can see I can’t apply for one without getting independent financial advice and paying someone say £5,000 to go over my plans / numbers. Is there any way around this or do I need to spend the cash?
    My experience to date of IFA’s is poor and I have next to zero trust in them. They charge a lot for advice I found of low value. But the Life Assurance businesses mandate I must have an IFA’s permission to buy an annuity.

  • 11 Tom April 15, 2023, 8:14 pm

    Get well soon! I have definitely felt like my immune system has been reset since covid. I ended up with long covid lasting nearly 18 months and I’m still not back to my pre-covid self. I take an assorted cocktail of vitamins and minerals (B3, C, D3 and zinc are the main ones) to enable me to function. Although various theories on the origins of covid19 abound, there are other viruses that do indeed reset your immune system post infection. If this was some sort of lab based concoction it’s perfectly possible that it included this function along with more generic functions.
    I’ve since had covid a second time and felt much better since then, almost as if reinfection removed some remaining virus from me. It may be that some fragments remain in some people.
    Related heavily to the folly blog post as I too am undergoing a redevelopment in a new to me property that has dragged on. I’m sure it will not be a good financial ROI but it will improve my quality of life and keep the Mrs happy which is probably more important than being considerably better off. You can’t take it with you after all and this is to be a forever home. It’s costing me 10 years of hard labour though. But the children are getting older so at least the extortionate preschool costs will disappear soon.

  • 12 londoninvestor April 16, 2023, 4:01 pm

    Worth noting the small print on that RIT “report”. It turns out to be “advert-orial”:

    “Marten & Co (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) was paid to produce this note on RIT Capital Partners Plc.”

    Piper, tune, etc.

  • 13 London a long time ago April 16, 2023, 8:47 pm

    @TI, so sorry you’re sick! Feel better soon …

    @everyone, 30/10/23!!!!!!!! That’s my date … it marks the start of the Australian summer

  • 14 The Investor April 16, 2023, 10:13 pm

    Thanks all. Think it *finally* troughed last night. Fingers crossed! Was interesting to read about all the pandemic preparedness stuff being shut down through a haze of illness.

    Surprised nobody has mentioned the Time AI article. Among a certain cohort of my friends (all technology/science types FWIW) this (AI) is pretty much all we’re talking about nowadays. It’s become the new Brexit. All conversations lead and end there. 😐

  • 15 e17jack April 16, 2023, 11:26 pm

    I did read the Time AI article and am now doing my best to purge it from my mind! Horrifying and told in the starkest terms with the candid excerpts from his wife’s email-grieving with the certainty that their daughter will be wiped out by AI along with the rest of us, before she has a chance to grow up.

    Grim reading, and what the hell can i do about it?!

  • 16 Griff April 17, 2023, 9:21 am

    This AI stuff does seem quite interesting. I have been playing with the Google version for a week or so now.
    I have asked it to provide investment ideas using several different criteria and it has come up with a few companies for me to invest in. I haven’t had the confidence to actually invest in the companies it offered.
    As an aside, I asked it if it was human would it be a man or a woman. It said it would be a brown haired slim woman with brown eyes. Weird. By the way, it said buy shell, BP and sports direct. Its jokes are not funny either.

  • 17 LadsDad April 17, 2023, 2:01 pm

    The author of the Time article on AI recently did a podcast with Lex Friedman which woke me up to the peril we potentially face. Episode 368 if anyone is interested

  • 18 The Rhino April 17, 2023, 9:53 pm

    Currently working in the field of AI and autonomous system assurance. As ever, when you are involved professionally in some subject domain you realise all the media stuff is wrong and it’s actually far more mundane and boring than everyone is giving it credit for. But that’s not going to sell any copy right? What I would say though is AI is definitely better than crypto. Get well soon TI.

  • 19 The Investor April 18, 2023, 10:39 am

    @TheRhino — It’s a point I’ve heard before. A close friend of mine works around the top of this field, and he is supremely nonplussed. He doesn’t think we’ll necessarily even see self-driving cars in our lifetime (where he’s been right for years in the face of my (wrong) counter-arguments) let alone an AGI, let alone one that manifests its destiny against us.

    I hope he’s right. I fear he’s a bit too close and is looking at bugs while missing the features.

  • 20 The Hare April 23, 2023, 9:26 pm

    There is an IFA who comments sometimes on this blog who I got my life insurance with because he seemed to be the exception to the rule of ‘avoid ifas’. Have a search as I think he wrote a few articles way back aswell. Obviously not a recommendation/advice etc etc.

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