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Weekend reading: DIY Saturday edition

Weekend reading

Good reads from around the Web.

A slightly shorter list from me this weekend, as I’m preparing this edition of Weekend Reading on Friday ahead of an early start.

In particular, there’s no links from the Saturday papers. Gasp!

So if you spot anything worth sharing, please do share it with the rest of the monevated in the comments below.

Fans of Warren Buffett should also look out for his annual shareholder letter, which should be published this weekend.

Again, please do pop a link in the comments if you see it. 🙂

Have a good one!

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

Product of the week: With £5 knocked off the price at WHSmith, you can now buy a pack to help you write your own Will for just £20. ThisIsMoney asks a solicitor if this is one bargain you’ll live to regret. (Well, you won’t, but you know what I mean…)

Mainstream media money

Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber of that site.1

Passive investing

  • The market is only about as volatile as it ever was – Motley Fool
  • Index funds: Presumed guilty – Morningstar
  • Rob Arnott: Smart beta could go ‘horribly wrong’ [Search result]FT

Active investing

A word from a broker

Other stuff worth reading

Book of the week: Does anyone around here but me still love poetry? I’ve just bought yet another copy of Alice Oswald’s Memorial to give to a dear friend this weekend as a birthday present. If you believe they don’t write them like they used to, get this. Gloomy, mind.

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{ 62 comments… add one }
  • 1 Learner February 27, 2016, 9:46 am

    An uncommonly candid response from the head of a fin-tech startup in part 7 of that NY Times feature:

    “we are creating a very small number of high-paying jobs in return for destroying a very large number of fairly high-paying jobs, and the net-net to society, absent some sort of policy intervention or new industry that no one’s thought of yet to employ all those people, is a net loss”

  • 2 gadgetmind February 27, 2016, 10:37 am

    As a species we need to up skill. A few years ago, the idea of a bipedal robot that could handle rough terrain was laughable, a car that could drive itself across the US a joke, and everyone said that Go was a game that would defeat computers for decades. Now one company (admittedly by acquisition in many cases) has the Atlas robot, a self driving car, and AlphaGo, which taught itself to play Go by watching the game being played and can now beat the top human players. What machines can do is advancing in leaps and bounds, so you’re either going to have to have skills they don’t, or … well that’s the big question!

    Unskilled people have never really a great time of things, but at least in the modern developed world we don’t just let them starve to death. However, the definition of “skilled” keeps changing, and unless we improve education drastically, huge numbers of people aren’t going to have the skills to justify being paid even a minimum wage, so will find themselves unemployed and unemployable.

    This could either be a post-scarcity utopia or a complete disaster!

  • 3 Minikins February 27, 2016, 10:39 am

    Looking forward to the links, thanks. Obviously, the European question is the big focus at the moment. I am always on the lookout for interesting and well written opinion on both cases and I found a great piece by the brilliant Anthony Hilton in Thursday’s Evening Standard:
    http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/anthony-hilton-stay-or-go-the-lack-of-solid-facts-means-it-s-all-a-leap-of-faith-a3189151.html
    I do still love poetry, Peter Redgrove and Angela Carter are favourite modern English poets. Was hooked from the moment my dad read Rudyard Kipling to me as a child and gave me a copy of Crow by Ted Hughes. My mother read us Rabindranath Tagore but would have to stop at certain points as her eyes would be filled with tears, so moved was she. I think the biggest mistake in poetry publication is that it is published in anthology format. Poetry impacts more when presented visually embedded in or flanked by prose or art. Verbally, of course, there are even more creative formats like rap, song and recital. Will have a peek at Memorial, thanks.

  • 4 CousinPete February 27, 2016, 12:16 pm

    For the active-type investor people re: the ARM article. I read this with interest (I am a holder), noted it was broadly very upbeat and went to look at the LSE website for a chart of recent prices. Whilst there, I noticed that two directors yesterday sold a pile of their stock at around 950. Six months ago, they could have sold at 1200. Also, ARM was buying back wodges of shares. What’s going on here, I ask myself? But no answers…

  • 5 gadgetmind February 27, 2016, 2:08 pm

    Education isn’t my speciality so I wouldn’t make detailed proposals.

    However, I do know what skills the high technology industry needs, and they are rather hard to find as STEM subjects are regarded as difficult so tend to be dropped rather early in favour of interpretive dance and music.

    But there again, if they aren’t going to have the skills for productive work, perhaps putting on a bit of a song and dance will cheer them up!

  • 6 Neverland February 27, 2016, 3:37 pm

    @gadget

    You are forgetting the rapid greying of Europe and much of Asia

    Average age is rising fast

    There are much fewer young people in many countries

    But sure it’s likely the pace of innovation is slowing has slowed. Look at the innovations around the beginning of the 20 the century

    You want to see the future? Look at japan

  • 7 gadgetmind February 27, 2016, 4:14 pm

    The pace of innovation is accelerating massively, particularly in semiconductors, robotics, AI and medicine, and even space has been given the kick start that only truly private industry can provide.

    Japan lost its way for many reasons. It’s actually quite interesting to make a trip that includes Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China – the similarities and contrasts are striking.

    Seeing Hon Hai making a bid for Sharp shows how things have changed.

  • 8 PinchThePennies February 27, 2016, 4:20 pm

    Berkshire Hathaway Inc. – Shareholder Letters

    http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/letters.html
    1977 – 2015 (so far)

    2015 letter is here:
    http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2015ltr.pdf

  • 9 Gregory February 27, 2016, 4:34 pm

    The first page is amazing. Performance of 50 years! http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2015ltr.pdf

  • 10 Neverland February 27, 2016, 4:57 pm

    @gadget

    Perspective is needed on innovation

    For instance the decades around the start of the 20th century saw
    – electrical power mass distributed
    – the automobile and trucks
    – powered flight

    Just off the top of my head in the middle of the 20th century we got

    – nuclear power
    – space flight

    Just me but the study of history is just as important “STEM”

  • 11 MyRichFuture February 27, 2016, 5:06 pm

    @Gregory. Yeah a year-on-year gain of almost 21% is quite staggering. Maybe ol’ Warren has a DeLorean that can hit 88mph!

  • 12 gadgetmind February 27, 2016, 5:12 pm

    And more recently, amazing advances in microelectronics, world wide communication networks, the ability to read and edit DNA (read about Cas9), 3D printed replacement bones and even organs, MRI scanners, and much more.

    The problem with historians is that they peer intently into the rear view mirror and try to use this to tell the driver about the road ahead. I’m not saying you shouldn’t glance in the mirror from time to time, but eyes ahead is generally better.

  • 13 Gregory February 27, 2016, 5:26 pm

    @MyRichFuture – I’m sure:)

  • 14 Neverland February 27, 2016, 5:50 pm

    @gadget

    Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it

    Quote from some dead guy, quite famous in his time. Bojo wrote a book about him…

  • 15 JohnG February 27, 2016, 6:22 pm

    @Neverland: Which rather undermines your own point. History has shown us that the rate of innovation continues to increase; perhaps you could learn a few lessons from it.

  • 16 gadgetmind February 27, 2016, 6:39 pm

    I can recommend “The Singularity Is Near” for some decent data on the rate of innovation increase we’re seeing, and “The Geek Manifesto” for why we need more scientists in government.

  • 17 ermine February 27, 2016, 7:23 pm

    Kurzweil is a brilliant guy in many ways, but he’s a typical old man in others – wanting to live forever by freezing his head, FFS. The way to survive death is not to die in the first place, once the state of mind is lost it’s wishful thinking. Nobody’s located the bootstrap code in the brain yet

    Moore’s law appears to be in trouble now, which could rain on his parade, though I guess massive networking could give workarounds.

  • 18 ermine February 27, 2016, 7:26 pm

    Nature ref for Moore’s law, since it’s impeding demise has been frequently called in the past – it seems the problems are more serious now

  • 19 Rg February 27, 2016, 7:31 pm

    MMMs blog earns $400k per year. 75% of the way through the article I’d been annoyed at reading the previous 73% or so and then up that popped. Paid off, I didn’t read the remaining 25%.

  • 20 gadgetmind February 27, 2016, 7:40 pm

    Moore’s law clearly has challenges ahead, but the word on the street is that the 10nm and 7nm nodes are going to hit early and perhaps at the same time from different fabs. Angstom scale is being talked of as a “soon” rather than “ever”, which wasn’t the case 18 months ago.

    But yes, it’s all moving to parallel, and AlphaGo runs on GPUs rather than CPUs.

    Hang onto your hats!

  • 21 John B February 27, 2016, 7:54 pm

    The stalling of Moore’s Law will be compensated by re-writing code to be massively parallel. Massively parallel supercomputing is the the 20 year career I want to retire out of now.

    I did like the M Moustache piece. I think anyone who’s obsessed over $10 savings while earning $400k does have a mental health issue, its pushing frugality into miserliness. His wife might be happy with him, but I wonder how he educates his kid on the value of money. Making an issue of $20 contributions to his home-schooled, introverted kid’s social life does not sound good. He says he’s stashing away the huge sums, but will he be able to take the mental wrench to actually cough up a college fund, or is the kid destined for Community College, as he can cycle there.

    I’ve been to Longmont, I do like the image of the meetups, big tippers all

  • 22 Techan February 27, 2016, 9:44 pm

    John B

    MMM gives some perspective to the article here . .
    http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/new-yorker-article-on-mmm/msg987552/#msg987552

    Journalists just doing their job I guess!

  • 23 John B February 27, 2016, 10:54 pm

    Money corrupts, and while MM’s optimising crusade is good for the environment, all power to his elbow, he is no longer retired, he’s running a crusade. Hopefully he will use his millions to extend his charitable work, but it will be interesting to see how he will spend money to persuade others not to.

  • 24 Toby Mory February 27, 2016, 11:24 pm

    I’m on the same page as @gadgetmind regarding the accelerating pace of innovation – it’s beyond me why it’s become a meme to believe the opposite – and on the same page regarding what this means for the ever-growing societal cohort of those usurped by machine automation.

    Although a paid up rentier member of the capitalist class, I increasingly see a path opening towards a ‘socialist’ (for want of a better word) future where asset owners need to share an ever larger proportion of their income with their not-so-fortunate brethren, in order that society does not fully bifurcate towards a ‘machine owners’ vs. ‘machine-pwned’ dystopia.

  • 25 Tom February 27, 2016, 11:27 pm

    Gadgetmind:

    I hadn’t really thought AI was something to consider in the next 50 years but this 2-part article was quite eye-opening, and seems like a (very) comprehensive view of the issues that we could be facing in our lifetimes.

    http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html

  • 26 The Investor February 28, 2016, 1:41 am

    @Toby — It’s become a meme to not understand / to underestimate the pace of innovation I think because people can’t see code or inside powerful ARM chips that can for inside a dimple of a golf ball, whereas they can see a plane or a nuclear reactor. Software enables insanely powerful process to be run by 5 years olds triggering actions on a web site. Very few people (including most of us, I think, but perhaps not Zuck, Page, and Brin in the valley) really grasp how powerful the Internet is today let alone tomorrow. Also in my experience the vast majority of 50+ engineering type men (and they are mostly men at that age so far) get rooted in the (dating) paradigm of their time — yet perversely (if understandably) have a greater platform/audience for their opinions at 50 than 16. Something like all that working together, plus of course ever increasing specialization in each niche that makes it ever harder for scientists/engineers to truly see inside another?

    @all — Yes, I’ve written before I’m personally pretty concerned about AI over the next 20-30 years. This is not your fathers AI / the AI of my student days (and where it is, well, Moore’s Law + time…)

    I need to write that article. Interestingly the people I know who really know about this are divided… Which is both reassuring, and not! ;!

  • 27 The Investor February 28, 2016, 1:53 am

    @minikins — It’s beautiful!

    @all — excuse the scrappy replies/moderation, dialing in from the kitchen pantry at a weekend away! 😉

  • 28 L February 28, 2016, 8:59 am

    I enjoyed the usual argument/debate on Reddit after the MMM piece, good fun if you can spare half an hour or so. Some very conflicting views!

  • 29 The Rhino February 28, 2016, 11:54 am

    So we know MMM blog generated 400k in 2015

    That seems like a good return on effort, especially as he rarely writes any articles any more.

    So why does MV only generate a pittance? Is it because it only generates a fraction of the traffic or is it something to do with the type of ads?

    Or could it be that it is more lucrative than is let on? Does it get divvied up between authors though?

  • 30 Tim G February 28, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the great links, as usual.

    I really enjoyed the MMM article – but it should also be read in conjunction with the subject’s reply (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/new-yorker-article-on-mmm/msg987552/#msg987552) – particularly with regard to the Magic the Gathering Cards, where the original article makes MMM sound like a cheapskate monster but MMM’s version seems pretty reasonable.

    However you feel about MMM, I personally think that it is positive to question your work-life balance (yuk – horrible phrase, but can’t think of a better one just now) and to question some of the crap we are meant to spend our money on (even if I wouldn’t try to make a whole lifestyle out of doing so).

  • 31 Roger February 28, 2016, 12:40 pm

    Hi to everybody. I have found your blog in my search for portfolio construction. Im in the process of constructing the equity side of the portfolio and have come up with a 60% global and 40% UK allocation. I would appreciate any comments from your readers on my selection. Great blog with a lively readership.

  • 32 Neverland February 28, 2016, 2:34 pm

    @Gadget, John B

    I just don’t agree with you about the pace of innovation. Straight line extrapolation and panglossianism is human nature, but the past doesn’t really bear that out

    If you really think we live in truly transfoamatory times this might be a good read:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Rise-Fall-American-Growth/dp/0691147728

  • 33 Planting Acorns February 28, 2016, 2:55 pm

    @Tim G…thanks for the link – I think MMM has the right of the whole magic card debate

  • 34 The Investor February 28, 2016, 3:17 pm

    @TheRhino — He gets about 10x the traffic last I properly looked into it, and pretty much all his revenue is from credit card bounties, which we don’t get at all. Monevator doesn’t make nothing, but it’s a terrible ROI in £ terms so far, especially on the 9-year view.

  • 35 Neverland February 28, 2016, 3:21 pm

    @Rhino, re. MMM

    There is an interesting parallel between the luctrativeness of the MMM blog and MSE/Martin Lewis

    (try this google search: Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, talks to Lucy Kellaway or http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/53bd0dd4-7cea-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html)

    Basically the two conclusions that could be drawn are:

    – the “audience” in personal finance is in practical budgeting tips (rarely featured in Monevator)

    – the “money” in personal finance blogging is in affiliate marketing (again not something practised in Monevator)

  • 36 Planting Acorns February 28, 2016, 3:49 pm

    @Roger … Worth looking at the ‘slow and steady portfolio’ which you can find by placing those words in search bar

    Also, I enjoyed watching ‘winning the losers game’.

    I personally decided to try and chose more or less the whole world with regions as they actually are weighted, BUT that’s for me – I invest a small sum each month rather than overpaying my mortgage just as an interest as much as anything else. I’m young and have a DB pension so I’m not suggesting for one second what’s right for me is right for every situation…

  • 37 Planting Acorns February 28, 2016, 3:52 pm

    @TI … Fidelity regularly features on quidco… Could be click through opportunities with the platforms ?

    I’m not up for P2P otherwise I’d click through you…looking forward to the article and I will try and resist the temptation to slag it off in the comments before reading ;0)

  • 38 Mathmo February 28, 2016, 5:13 pm

    Thanks for the links this week, TI, despite clearly heading of to do better things!

    Lots of stuff in here about heading out and doing better things, in fact. It’s certainly a theme that continually crops up of using money as a tool for life. Subtlely different from ignoring money altogether — again Kipling nails these thoughts:-

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

    If you can manage your money and not make money management your master;
    If you can be frugal – and not make frugality your aim;

    I’m afraid I find the Financial Samurai’s gloating — look at me:I could have got a job that pays 250k but I turned it down — as some sort of a game and a trifle annoying. It was a waste of time for the recruiting team, and one can’t help wondering if really it masks a serious and understandable doubt about stepping off the hamster wheel than has been dressed up in retrospect with bravado. Not inspired by it one way or the other.

    Much more on a wavelength with TEA and his perspective vs incrementalism arguments. All progress is, however, incremental, and the fact that one can determine a small difference and enjoy it, is the source of nearly all forward motion. The choice is not whether to take the extra step and get the audi instead of the skoda, but what the incremental cost is vs the incremental benefit. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It’s about eyes-wide-open budgeting. And I do feel that the frugalistas have let us down on this point (although MMM’s alright, Jack) — it’s not something that we address here much but the thoughtful choice of expenditure is the way forward, not the unthinking snipping of all costs.

  • 39 Gregory February 28, 2016, 6:19 pm

    At the end af the weekend here it is a good article from Meb Faber about Ranking Global Stock Markets On Valuationhttp://mebfaber.com/2016/02/25/ranking-global-stock-markets-on-valuation/
    P.S. I hate monday and working.

  • 40 Gregory February 28, 2016, 6:19 pm
  • 41 elef February 28, 2016, 8:29 pm

    @mathmo

    I agree with respect to financial samurai. I have been a long time follower of the website and even the ‘newsletter’. But I got a distinct impression about a year or two ago that he (rightly or wrongly) is on a bit of an ego trip (for whatever reaaon) and certainly pushing very hard to monetise his website (which I have found to be at the expense of any substance).

    (Sorry, TI, I know you don’t like us bagging on people. But hopefully you understand from where I’m coming from as a long time reader 🙂 )

  • 42 JohnG February 29, 2016, 11:50 am

    @elef: It’s understandable in a sense. Personal stories and compelling narratives have a wide audience, for a lot of people the bravado on a blog offering financial insight is seen as credibility and self-assuredness. MMM is regardless of your view, a clear example of how the style in which the message is conveyed is critical in building an audience/following.

    It is exactly the focus on quality content and insight over bravado here (with very few exceptions) that makes it my favourite 🙂

  • 43 The Rhino February 29, 2016, 12:41 pm

    @JohnG – It hadn’t escaped my attention either that the FI blogosphere is awash with motivational puff pieces. They are the pretty much the staple diet. Some do it better than others, but once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all to a large extent.

    Thats what strikes me as being the slight injustice faced by MV. It focuses on creating what I would call ‘real’ content. In as much as it covers real actionable details that you have to know before you can do sensible stuff with your money. And yet this doesn’t seem to generate revenue.

    It is slightly confusing in that MSE delivers real content*, albeit on a different area of PF, and that has been recognised as extremely valuable.

    * i.e. say I want to know exactly which supplier to get my gas from at the lowest cost I go to MSE and it tells me the answer – as opposed to MSE telling me how wonderful it is to buy gas at low prices and just leaving it at that..

  • 44 Neverland February 29, 2016, 12:43 pm

    @elef, John B, re. Financial Samurai

    Is Financial Samurai as big in the US as mr money moustache? I haven’t read this blog for quite some time…

    I’m seeing an alexa ranking of 17,000 for mmm and 48,000 for fs

    Money Saving Expert weighs in at a hefty 2,000…globally…wow

  • 45 elef February 29, 2016, 1:26 pm

    @neverland

    I don’t think it is in the same ballpark although the site has clearly grown in popularity over the past few years.

    @the rhino

    Isn’t that a shame though? Generally speaking (and with much hand waving) the average person saves far too little and invests even less. As great as MSE has been, there is basically no investment section which is a tremendous short-coming.

    Some may counter by saying that the FCA rules make this grey area (what is/isn’t advise) to which I would counter: isn’t the FCA’s role to help investors/consumers? Surely having easily accessible and helpful information on the top PF would help? (P.s. I long ago gave up pushing MSE and Martin to try and include even very basic investment information).

  • 46 Neverland February 29, 2016, 2:17 pm

    @elef

    Martin Lewis was always a retail personal finance journalist obsessing about unfair daily bills (mortgages, insurance, utilities, holiday FX) rather then stockmarket investment

    Mr Money Moustache has little to say on investment other than stick it all in a vanguard S&P500 tracker (unless this has changed in the last 2/3 years?)

    I personally think this is correct; the bulk of returns come from saving rate and simply being in the market

    Practically what would be the reputational upside for MSE in pushing equity investment products when equities are so volatile?

  • 47 The Rhino February 29, 2016, 2:37 pm

    @elef – yes, I think you’re right, it is a shame.

    I wonder though, whether the trend we are seeing with much of the fiscal responsibility being pushed back from the employing company on to the shoulders of the individual (lack of job security, disappearance of DB pensions etc.etc.) could means a boom in the market for the sort of info MV delivers?

    In much the same way that *no-one* switched utility suppliers 20 years ago (was it even possible?), maybe 20 years forward everyone will be clued up on cheap brokers and how to administer their own pension and all the rest..

    people will chuckle nostalgically about the times when people stopped by MSE to save a few quid on car insurance (it doesn’t exist now that cars drive themselves) when there was 100s of grand on the table to be picked up by reading MV, and they will be envious that the site has just been bought out by myvanguardshop.com for 11 billion.

    It could be that there is a market out there for MV that doesn’t quite know its a market yet?

  • 48 Grand February 29, 2016, 3:11 pm

    @The Rhino/Elef

    For most the path of FI is but a dream its rarely considered as a possibility by most of the people I come into contact with within my social circles.

    Monevator pushes this concept and the content of this site is predominantly focussed on the bigger picture and tomorrow. MSE focusses on the smaller issue’s and things that you can impact today. thus humans and there love of immediate gratification the latter site as a result seems far more relevant then the former.

    IMO I love monevator, it’s a brilliant site that has well written pieces and regular commentators (even a troll) that add an insane amount of value to the subject matter on display. Monevator appeals to a niche and its focus on that audience is which makes it so valuable to us.

    Grand

  • 49 Mathmo February 29, 2016, 4:03 pm

    I suppose the great appeal of FI is that it is a unifying measure of all this stuff. There are different proponents of course. Like the churches of any religion.

    Want to know if investing better makes you more money? Look at how close you are to FI.
    Want to know if cutting down on a daily Starbucks makes a difference? Look at how close you are to FI.
    Want to know if regular saving makes a difference? Look at how it gets you closer to FI.

    There might be particular flavours banging their drum: the Moustachians saying that it really doesn’t matter how you earn it or invest it as long as you don’t spend it. There are the MSE’ers (having dealt with them professionally, I refrain from referring to how they were named at the client I was serving at the time) – give us a deal, tell us the tricks, take a little slice off every pie and look at the crumbs adding up. There are the fundamentalists who focus purely on the FI objective – TEA’s very name implies goal-focus. There are the brokers and analysts looking geekily at chartism and investment (TRB), and the career advisers telling us how to make more at (a different) work by doing less (Tim Ferris anyone?). There are those who want to tell us about life when money no longer matters and how we should live the good life (Aristotle, other more recent bloggers). All of these are helpful in heading towards FI.

    I can’t really be bothered with the frugalism. Sure – I get a little surprised each year at how much I’m spending, but I like good wine and fast cars too much to drink my own sweat while cycling to work in my grandfather’s hand-me-down hair-shirt. And I love a deal, but I also value my time just a little too much to clip coupons all day long. I enjoy the mathematical rigour available on investment thinking but I can’t be bothered to apply it to daily budgeting (like St Augustine, I know I should one day — watch this space for my adventures with iPhone budgets).

    MV is quite specific in its offer: motivation for the arm-chair investor (and a bloody good weekly round up of the best of the rest). Feel like a nice little place to engage. I hope the advertisers realise it too one day. Well done TI.

  • 50 Neverland February 29, 2016, 4:43 pm

    @Grand

    Monevator isn’t really about FIRE/FI/frugalism

    Look at the header at the top of the blog, its about investing

    I believe the Investor is the owner of a £1,200 coffee machine, although maybe thats one of his mates

  • 51 Grand February 29, 2016, 5:05 pm

    I wonder how I even first came across this website…. I definitely recollect it was a link from elsewhere in regards to a round up of investing in the UK but for the life of me I cannot remember where.

  • 52 The Investor February 29, 2016, 5:37 pm

    @all — While I don’t particularly relish or enjoy this conversation (hey, we’re British, right? I don’t discuss my friend’s salaries with them, either! 😉 ) I’m glad to see people find value in Monevator.

    I personally like MMM and FS, and clearly so do hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, judging by their traffic.

    Of course, the US is a much bigger country, too, with 6-7 times the potential native audience. And these sites weren’t battling vast incumbents like the BBC (though this has dialed back a little, thankfully) or MSE.

    Anyway, I don’t see why it has to be all Mods vs Teds or Xbox vs PlayStation. Fine, we all have preferences, but I don’t understand the need to cast aspersions about bloggers who do very well. It seems petty, grouchy, and Telegraph/Guardian-commentator style grumpy. If $400,000 a year started coming into this site, I guarantee you I would not be turning it away. If anything I admire them for sharing the detail, given the criticism it’s invited. (We don’t need to rehash the arguments, I do get the other side of it, I just don’t agree with it. But if you do, fine. The Internet is a vast and mostly free place. Let’s just hang out in the places we each like).

    I’ll say again, Monevator doesn’t make no money. It makes some, but to offer some disclosure even today it’s still less than you’d get for simply writing 3 articles a week for a magazine like MoneyWeek or Investor’s Chronicle, and for the first five years of blogging it *was* close to a pittance.

    We do get a bit of money from affiliate payments from platforms/brokers, but a minority offer them (I’m told there is some regulatory concern), even fewer will pay them to us, and overall the market is tiny compared to that for credit cards etc.

    And then we have all the readers who use ad blockers, as we discussed last time. Ho hum. It’s literally a free world. 😉

    Basically, if you want to make money from a free Web site about money, do personal finance with a lot about credit and loans and the like.

    The way to make money from investing sites these days is subscription models and/or selling some sort of product. Even our long-awaited book would help with the latter, though I’m not expecting to clash with MMM at the top of any tables anytime soon even when that’s finished… 😉 😉

  • 53 Grumpy Old Paul February 29, 2016, 6:16 pm

    Firstly, I’d like to state how much I appreciate this site and what a superb job TI and his chums have done in maintaining the standard of the articles and moderating the comments over the years. I personally have learnt so much and profited from the information provided.

    I enjoy the cut and thrust of the comments and the mostly temperate and respectful tone. (The posters in general are far less irritating than some of those on the Archer’s Mustardland blog!) Yeah, I know that there are a couple of hot buttons which wind people up on here but TI does too and only presses them a few times a year. (Not much discussion on here about the EU referendum or have I missed it?)

    @Rhino, @TI,
    I doubt that this blog in its current form could ever have a huge audience simply because it’s far too cerebral and, as someone commented, does not satisfy the desire for instant gratification and a fast buck which is so widespread.

    The lack of job security, demise of defined benefit pension schemes, student debt and sky-high house prices and growing inequality together means that only a small and diminishing minority will have the means to save and invest.

    So far as the pace of technological change is concerned, I’d say so far as the impact on the person in the street is concerned (rather than what goes on under the bonnet), it has definitely slowed during my sixty-plus years. We’ve seen the demise of Concorde and supersonic air travel. Have a look at the spaceref review of ‘The Last Man on the Moon’. It took only 12 years from the launch of the first Sputnik to the first manned lunar landing. Yes, we have smart phones, the internet and central heating but the last 50 years have seen nothing like the visible technological changes in everyday life that I expected to see when I was at school. I remember arguing with a dear late school friend that if, in the 1960’s, we’d been able to step into a time machine and visit a high street in the 2010’s, we’d be astonished how little had changed.

    @Mathmo,
    Liked your observations about the different tendencies within the FI community and I tend to agree with your take on frugalism. I’ll take the low hanging fruit but won’t spend hours chasing pennies even though as a retired old buffer, I have the time to do so. I do a very quick hassle/benefit analysis. Don’t drive but do like dining out well and good wine!

  • 54 Planting Acorns February 29, 2016, 6:47 pm

    @Grand @Grumpy old Paul…

    …I think there are a LOT of people out there saving for their future by investing in BTL. That may even be a better way of doing things, due to the leveraging involved. It’s not the case people either don’t save for the future or invest, there are buy to letters and even people with huge own homes they intend to downsize…

  • 55 elef February 29, 2016, 9:38 pm

    @TI

    It looks like we are all agreed on how valuable Monevator is. Personally speaking the benefit must be in the thousands (saved fees, time in the market, investing insight etc.) I’ll happily buy you a few beers if I see you at Lars’ event (thanks for that as well). I know a few beers doesn’t quite make it up, but I’m heading for FI you know…

  • 56 The Investor March 1, 2016, 9:33 am

    @elef — Cheers. I’m afraid I won’t be unmasking myself at Lars’ event, however, so I’ll have to take a rain cheque. Appreciate the sentiment!

    As for Monevator, as things stand growth in traffic is definitely slowing, and I’m inclined to agree with those who say we have a limited natural audience as stands (though perhaps we would benefit from a design spruce-up etc?) But anyway, it seems people would rather read about “19 things that will blow your mind” (and they won’t believe number 12) then several waffley blokes using too many long words to say (effectively) the same thing over and over again about sensible investing.

    I have long felt many readers “graduate” from Monevator — in that they set up their passive strategies then go off and do something they find more interesting — rather than coming back weekly for our latest “hot tips” or what not. Not a great business model, either. 🙂

    Indeed revenue is actually declining, though this is mainly because so many people now read the site through their mobiles, which is a great experience interface-wise, but which generates just a fraction of the ad revenue per visit. Ho hum.

  • 57 Survivor March 1, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Hi TI,

    I’m not so sure you’re right that people see your site as the starter course in the FI/investing buffet & then move on to the ‘heftier’ courses at the all you can eat free events 🙂

    I am only one experience, but though I only started self-educating at a serious pace ~3 years ago when I first found your site, I still check out the weekend’s reads every week – which ensures I keep an eye on any new articles too. As events [budgets for example] change the investment landscape, there’s always a need for new material, so the site can be kept fresh. Not having to do the due diligence myself saves time massively, & the commenters’ experiences with their investments is useful first-hand knowledge if you’re too scared to try something out yourself.

    Maybe the issue of earnings is less a problem with the content per se & more how you’re found – for example I stumbled on your site when googling ‘compound interest calculator’. So maybe there’s a way of even just slightly tweaking search optimisation parameters [inexpensively] to produce a significant improvement.

    I am no spring chicken as an investor, but still needed your site to work out [to my horror] my pension was on a closet tracker. [yes, the shame, I’ll never admit it in public] Since then, ~2.5 years ago, it’s risen in value, even now with the recent volatility by 50% – now I know that the rising tide of QE lifted all boats over much of that period, but I think that’s still impressive.

    So given that, have you thought of approaching appropriate entities to do deals on the basis of this site being an educational tool? I wish I’d seen it in school, failing that, at Varsity, then when I started working, then when I bought my home, started a penson etc., etc., – effectively before all important financial milestones in life – is better than nothing. Even if I’d clocked it a couple of years before I did, I’d then have caught the whole of the QE wave …..& my pension would have doubled with the boost of that prime time for sure. {& I’d be sleeping better now 🙂 }

  • 58 John B March 2, 2016, 12:09 am

    This site saves its devotees 5 figure sums, but its dry tone and long-term rewards won’t attract the unique visitors needed to make much on advertising, compared with MSE’s £50 nuggets of information. I’d hope the authors get their reward as ego-boo rather than cash, as partly that’s what FIRE is about. You hope that an “armchair investor” is in that kind of chair because they don’t *need* to be working at anything.

    As for monetising your efforts, advertising doesn’t really work, as all you can say is use cheap broker X to invest in low margin tracker fund from Y, and that rather limits the field.

  • 59 The Investor March 2, 2016, 12:33 am

    @Survivor — Really glad you’re finding the site so useful! It is heartening to read (and congratulations on your successes to-date).

    Regarding readers graduating to heftier courses, perhaps I wasn’t clear…

    I don’t think they go on to reading about more complicated investing, I think they go back to browsing property daydreams on Rightmove or hiking or to the pub or to reading about Kim Kardashian or whatever (misguided! 😉 ) people find more interesting than reading dry articles about investing. To @John B’s point, there’s only so much you need to do to get 95% of the benefits of passive investing, the rest is just gilding the lily, except for those of us for whom this is a hobby/passion. (And no, we’re not the sort who click on ads…)

    @John B — An anonymous site isn’t great for one’s ego. 🙂 And of course it is a fair amount of work.

    As for Armchair Investor’s not needing to be working, well, perhaps if they were born into some good fortune, or they’re high earners, or they’re at the end of the journey. Me and @TA are somewhere in the middle of our journeys, on a slow and steady path on fairly modest middle class incomes, not high-flyer salaries for most of our careers.

    This sometimes comes up with friends who know my interest in investing, and assume I must therefore be a secret Warren Buffett-style gazillionaire next door. Even with Buffett’s c.20% returns it’ll take about 20 years to convincingly clear £1m if saving say £5,000 a year, which is a good chunk of say a decent £40K per year pre-tax income.

    On passive style returns of 6-10%, you’re talking 40 years+ to get to a £1million.

    Now, sure, you don’t need a million, and for my (naughty, active) part I’m aiming for better than 6-10%, but anyway if you’re under 45 and you’ve got less (let alone much less) than £1m or so and you’re not a frugalista (I’m not, @TA is a bit) then I think you’re still very much in the “needing to work” category, whatever armchair you aspire to plonk yourself into someday… 😉 )

  • 60 Minikins March 4, 2016, 11:20 am

    I really think Monevator is a unique brand behemoth in the waiting. It’s the novel that everyone knows they should read fully but don’t actually complete. It’s the War and Peace of investment reading because there is so much else between the lines that is enjoyable and useful. But not everyone gets that. It’s for the people, but maybe “the people” don’t actually realise it. Sorry to continue the Tolstoy theme but he was the ‘conscience of the people of Europe’, yet most of the people he felt and wrote passionately for and about were unable to read. Please don’t let it sit on the shelf and get dusty for someone else to revive 20 years down the line in the form of a raunchy 3 part TV drama.

    Beyond idealism, to capitalise on this site, you really are going to have to build upon the Monevator brand. I think that is the key. Once you have developed the brand, you can understand what people like, expect and want from Monevator and use that to build a strategy to monetise it. I think Monevator is ready for it. You may be surprised at the direction it may be taken on once you have real brand identity, it will fly and thrive in places you never thought possible. Areas like Monevator meet ups, seminars, networking events, platform comparison apps, calculator tools, e-guides, newsletters, radio slots, subscriptions to extra content could all build on that brand trust and reliability and then it can take on a life of its own, becoming an authority that becomes a stamp of approval on other products. You don’t have to be the public face of it, many brands are faceless and incredibly successful. Other people can do that for you. You can be the obscure and reclusive millionaire founder. But you will have to let it fly free. Sorry if I got carried away 🙂

  • 61 The Investor March 4, 2016, 11:43 pm

    @Minikins — Wow, lots of food for thought there! It’s a shame I’m not more of an entrepreneur. I thought I was once — and I’m fascinated by them — but I gave it a go and discovered I wasn’t, really. I put the bit I’m good at (judgement) into my active investing now. I lack the energy, drive, recklessness, and big ambitions of the successful entrepreneurs I know.

    But perhaps I should give it more thought. As for the Tolstoy references, you’re often over-generous / flattering but that is an analogy too far I feel! 🙂

    I’m more a Dostoevsky man in real life, sadly. I suppose TA has to be Maxim Gorky.

  • 62 Minikins March 5, 2016, 12:10 pm

    Ha! Maybe I did get too carried away, but the posts here are lengthier and more discursive and I think that’s what makes it an authoritative blog as well as a jolly good read!
    I hope you do give it some thought, you’ve got to have a dream…

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