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Weekend reading: Financial Independence against the odds

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What caught my eye this week.

Most of us moan now and then about life sneaking some booby-traps across our path to financial independence.

But few of us will face the hurdles overcome by The Humble Penny’s Ken Okoroafor and his family.

In a must-read guest post over at The Escape Artist this week, Ken relates how:

For a very long time, life in the UK felt like living in a prison. This is because we had a visa issue technicality on arrival in the UK. This meant we had no right to the NHS, no right to apply for jobs, no right to benefits etc. Basically no rights to anything till we heard back from the powers that be on what our future would be.

Months of waiting turned into years.

So how did we make money to buy food and survive? The only path available was to get creative and go underground.

A job at Pret would have been fantastic. However, that wasn’t an option. We needed to go lower – informal jobs cleaning factories, plate washing.

Do check out Ken’s full story to financial independence.

I’ve always been inspired by recent immigrants. In the main, statistics show they work hard, contribute more than they take out, and they are more entrepreneurial, too.

As I wrote back in 2007:

Mostly those who’ve taken the plunge and come to the UK don’t say, “We are very lucky to come here and scrounge from you stupid, lazy rich British.”

They say, “You British are very lucky to live here, to be able to make such money.”

They’re on a mission – the kind that happens when you decide to reinvent your life and choose your own path.

One of the many dismaying aspects of the Brexit referendum centered on immigration.

When the saner elements of the Leave campaign realized they couldn’t solely target EU migrants as a drain on the state – because such migrants contributed more than they put in – they shifted the argument to claim they were taking our jobs and driving down wages. Again with scant-to-no evidence.

One of the best retorts I ever read came in a comment from a Monevator reader:

The difference between “the poor Northener” and the “the poor immigrant” is that the poor Northeners can catch a train to visit their families on their days off, that they don’t have to learn a new language, and that they will have it even easier to find a job.

But because they don’t want to use their right for free movement (not even within their home country, FFS!), they decide to take that same right from other people.


London is a challenge for everybody who comes here, no matter where you are from.

I see 19-year-old girls who are still babies in their head leaving their family and their nice sunny beaches in Spain or Italy to come here and work 50-hour-weeks for £7.20 per hour and getting told off by their managers for being late for their 5a.m. shift, which happened because they don’t know what “this bus is on diversion” means.

They are afraid to lose their jobs for minor mistakes, because how shall they pay their rent…actually, how shall they pay their rent?

They don’t have a bank account and to open a bank account you need a proof of address and they don’t have a proof of address because flatsharers seldom have their name on utility bills, and their NINO appointment is only due in four weeks.

They are tired all the time, because they spend too much time commuting, and running errands or shopping for groceries takes five times as long in London as in any of their home towns.

When I say that my main reason for being here is that I love to be here, they look at me as if told them that I love to swim naked in the Thames every morning. I could go on forever.

The struggle is real, as they say. At least it is for those who take it on.

For others, easier to find a scapegoat.

Note: I’m publishing early this week. If I’ve missed anything good, please do feel free to pop it into the links below. Also, if people do want to debate immigration please do so respectfully. I’ll be moderating hard anything I personally deem racist or inflammatory. There are other places for that.

From Monevator

The Slow and Steady Passive Portfolio Update: Q3 2018 – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Valuing the market by P/E ratio – 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

Potential conflict of interest remains as rules tightened on financial salary transfers – Money Observer

World markets rattled by US inflation concerns – Guardian

London house prices fall again as stamp duty and Brexit fears bite… – Guardian

…and luxury homes face new hit, as UK plans extra tax on foreign buyers – Bloomberg

…while new tube map shows flat affordability for every London station – Metro

(Click to enlarge)

How a few model portfolios have performed in the medium-term past [US but relevant]Wealth Management

Products and services

Santander launches robo-adviser for first-time investors – CityWire

New mobile bank N26 from Germany to launch current accounts in Britain – CNBC

Childcare Vouchers replaced by Tax-Free Childcare scheme – Your Money

Ratesetter will pay you £100 [and me a cash bonus] if you invest £1,000 for a year – Ratesetter

Mortgage rates for potential first-time buyers continue to fall – ThisIsMoney

Prenups are losing their stigma in the US – Business Insider

The best value used car is apparently the super-fancy Mercedes E-Class – ThisIsMoney

Comment and opinion

My best investment: Low returns, high value – The Vanguard blog

Try a modern spin on a classic idea with the Pinwheel Portfolio – Portfolio Charts

Rick Ferri interviews Vanguard’s founder Jack Bogle [Podcast]Rick Ferri

What if stocks don’t crash for a long time? – A Wealth of Common Sense

Make sure you’re not over-exposed before a [US] bear market comes – MarketWatch

Budget busting – The Humble Dollar

Are investment returns from cannabis stocks just a pipe dream? [Search result]FT

So much for the bond bubble – Morningstar

What happens after (in retrospect) stock market peaks – The Irrelevant Investor

Good health and fitness gives you optionality in retirement – Random Roger

Win or lose, every [trader] gets what they want out of the market – The Macro Tourist

Are you a UK start-up looking for funding? Here’s a guide to the UK’s top seed funds – Medium


Paris set to triumph as Europe’s post-Brexit trading hub – FT via CNBC

Forget Brexit, we’re heading for BRINO [Brexit In Name Only. Search result]FT

Brilliant lampoon of the Tory’s miserable Brexit-addled conference – Guardian

The ‘opportunity’ created by Brexit [Graphic] – Seb Dance MEP via Twitter

EU negotiators see Brexit deal “very close” – sources – Reuters

Kindle book bargains

Way of the Wolf: Straight line selling: Master the art of persuasion, influence, and success by Jordan Belfort – £0.99 on Kindle

The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones – £0.99 on Kindle

The Slave Trade: History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas – £0.99 on Kindle

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

The war on sensible things continues, with Shetland no longer to be put in a box on maps – BBC

Hungry like a wolf [Video] – via Twitter

And finally…

“And when the golden handshake finally came, there you were at your leaving party one day, and the next you’d fallen off the proverbial cliff and on to the sofa, slippers at the ready. Easing into retirement by gradually reducing your hours was virtually unheard of.”
– Celia Dodd, Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 51 Lord October 7, 2018, 12:21 am

    It’s important to discuss the economics, but the cultural and social aspects are just as important. I found the growing number of people from different countries a very exciting and enriching experience. New foods, new perspectives, new connections to parts of Europe and the World that I’d previously never heard of. That people wanted to come to the UK to study and work, was an asset of the so called “soft power” of the UK.

    I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the heart of Brexitland and I was deeply cynical and gloomy about the UK – it was a depressing and miserable place. The foreigners I met at college, however, were positive people with positive ideas of the UK. They were more Anglophile than I, but it changed my impression of what the UK was about. I think the UK itself became a more positive place from the 2000s — more confident about itself, accepting of diversities etc. Brexit will perhaps bring a reversion to the gloom of the 80s and 90s eventually. The wet, boring Sunday afternoons of my teenage years.

    People sometimes say that working class kids don’t get much out of FoM, but I know guys that at school you’d not have expected much of, but they’ve gone and settled in Germany, Spain etc, becoming plumbers in France, whatever. People have no idea what opportunities they’re losing from Brexit.

    I really hate Brexit, and Brexiters.

  • 52 John B October 7, 2018, 6:41 am

    Modern economies don’t serve the unskilled well. I’d rather have a strong economy with tax receipts that can support them with benefits, and that clearly needs EU membership. I don’t like the increased crowding in Britain, but if its the price we need to pay for EU access, so be it. The EU project to harmonise living standards would leave us with better markets and reduce immigration with time.

    Our current crop of politicians seem crap on all sides, they might have sustained the status quo, but are bungling the transition, so we’ll be left in a right mess. And before the flood waters lap the feet of readers here, many, many poor will be drowned

  • 53 Richard October 7, 2018, 7:42 am

    I do wonder how many high paying jobs are actually protected from competition. Either through barriers to entry (only training X per year) or through high costs of starting (how easy to start up a hedge fund). I am sure these people would soon be moving to protect their livelihood if these barriers were reduced, pushing down wages. Even if this was actually better for the economy or for most peoples lives. Unskilled Labour has no built in protection, so I can see why they would hit out at the only obvious thing they can see. Bring back the power of the unions?

    Of course technology and globalisation is already starting this process in some higher paid industries.

  • 54 MrOptimistic October 7, 2018, 9:05 am

    Think shop opening hours and TV broadcast schedules will not be unduely affected by Brexit so Sunday’s entertainment opportunities should be safe. Linguistic assymetries cause an imbalance in opportunity. You could view temporary immigration as a firm of asset stripping, taking wealth from one place and sending it to another. Participating in the immediate opportunities without commitment to meeting the long term costs or investment demand.

  • 55 E&G October 7, 2018, 9:22 am

    There’s definitely an argument about depressing wages in some areas (albeit where your factories and the like are, there’s normally an oversupply of low-skilled people) but much of this is being argued from the right which otherwise would be arguing that competition is good and drives up standards, brings efficiencies etc. An example being barbers – the Turkish ones are actually a fair bit more expensive than your local ones where I live and work (£8-10 a haircut compared to £6-7 for a bogstandard barber) – but offer a far superior service and experience. No-one is owed a living and we’ll be crying into our flat beers and soggy fish and chips in years to come if we turn the clock back.

  • 56 Martyn October 7, 2018, 10:47 am

    The statistics state that the number of applicants for unskilled jobs is falling, supply and demand should images wage inflation. I’ve also witnessed family members who shall we say are the at the poorer end of the spreactrum trying to improve their lives. Righly or wrongly they are outcompeted. I don’t really care if the immigrants are better, more focused or any of the other meritocracy arguments deployed (not that I necessarily buy them anyway, qualifications obtained in some countries are the result of money changing hands.)

    Frankly I’ve come to despise the remainers. (Whose arguments do not stand examination and really boil down to liking the status quo because it enriches them.)

  • 57 Richard October 7, 2018, 11:43 am

    The issue though is someone who was charging £10 a hair cut will also have a £10 a haircut mortgage, bills etc. Suddenly having to drop to £6 a hair cut is pretty tough, and I doubt they will see the academically ‘right’ arguments of competition and free markets as much comfort. Can you blame people for voting for what they think will help them?

    Let’s suppose you were in a high skilled high paid job that suddenly gets automated away. Suppose your skills are no longer relevant and mean starting at the bottom. And you have a mortgage and bills and kids and a certain lifestyle. Then someone comes along and says they will legislate to ban the automation. You would vote against that policy for the good of mankind (the automation makes the service you used to provide significantly cheaper)? Or you would vote in your own best interests?

  • 58 Sw7 October 7, 2018, 12:19 pm

    Its reading through comments like these that confirm to me that Brexit wont be reversed, nor will there be a 2nd referendum.

    Most of the readers/commentators on this site would be comfortable middle class. Those, who apparently, should be ardent Remainers. The comments show that most on this site dont believe the arguments from academics and economists about mass low skilled migration being good for the country, and that naturally puts in doubt some of the other statements we get from these “experts”

    I would also posit most on this would have tertiary education and thus not be the a “typical Brexiter”, in fact some would likely have voted remain but get that reversing Brexit and/or having a second ref doesnt pass the smell test.

    Prehaps the country isnt as divided as what the London centric media and Twitterphere say we are?

  • 59 Factor October 7, 2018, 3:05 pm

    I read these and such other Brexit comments as I simply happen to see, and I hear all the Brexit comments that I simply happen to hear.

    What will I do when B day, or b day, or “b all” day finally arrives? I shall simply stand on some metaphorical high ground, watch as the dust slowly settles, and then choose the path that seems best for me and mine.

    Chacun pour soi and the devil take the hindmost, and for which I feel no need to apologise.

  • 60 Sara October 7, 2018, 3:18 pm

    Isn’t one of the suggested theories for UK poor productivity in the last 10 years that companies haven’t bothered to invest in automation and technology because it was cheaper to employ people on minimum wage – both UK and non-UK?
    Will it be an irony of Brexit that the companies will have to invest in automation to replace the jobs “we can’t fill”? And productivity increases…

    Of course, our appalling roads of giant potholes and railways with ancient trains might have something to do with it too. Don’t see any of those altering soon.

    Still think it’s the nuttiest thing we’ve ever voted for and apparently based on my salary I am “unskilled” as are most of the nurses, training grade doctors, physios etc I work with…. (The Conservatives really do live on Planet Fantasy).

  • 61 Grislybear October 7, 2018, 4:05 pm

    The UK has always recruited from overseas to fill vacancies in its industries and service sector and will continue to do so into the future. There is an argument to train UK citizens to fill those posts but that doesnt always work. An area that I am familiar with is nursing. The nursing degree courses are consistently underscribed every year even when the entry requirements are lowered to encorouge more applicants. In the first year of a nursing degree, students do some on the job training which involves 12 hour shifts including weekends as a response a percentage of students move out of nursing onto other courses (about 50% drop out rate). When the degree ends another percentage do not go into nursing but pursue another career instead. Those that do start a nursing career a percentage of those leave in the first year.
    The NHS regularly recruits from abroad especially from the Philippines and will continue to do so. The question you got to ask is if you have a life threatning accident or illness that needs hospital treatment. Would you prefer your family to be told you died because there was not enough nursing staff available or that you pulled through despite a skeleton nursing staff some of whom were economic migrants who competed with you for housing, schools, share of the pie, took more out than they put in, when they are old would be a burden on the taxpayer, ( ) between the brackets insert your own gripe.

  • 62 LondonBoy October 7, 2018, 4:28 pm

    Grislybear if there is a genuine demand of skills which the UK cant natively supply then should allow immigrants with those skills to come to the UK. I dont think most people have a problem with this.

    However, simply increasing the supply of labour when demand is stagnant does not help living standards.

  • 63 Gordon October 7, 2018, 4:56 pm

    @ GrislyBear

    So some migrants work in the NHS as nurses and that means mass immigration into the UK is a good thing? Do you work for the BBC? That’s the type of simplistic argument they present.

    No one is saying that we shouldn’t allow anyone into the country. However the present system means we allow a nurse to work in the UK then she brings her husband and kids over as well meaning pressure on housing/ transport/ healthcare/ benefits/ schooling etc.

    We shouldn’t be allowing non productive migrants into the UK. I’m cool with foreign nurses etc getting a 5 year work visa, but they shouldn’t bring family over or stay here long term.

  • 64 Gordon October 7, 2018, 5:04 pm

    @ Lord

    “It’s important to discuss the economics, but the cultural and social aspects are just as important. I found the growing number of people from different countries a very exciting and enriching experience.”

    Really? Do you think cultural aspects are a positive of immigration? What do you think of Romanian Big Issue sellers? Kosovon and Albanian crime gangs? Rotherham? Manchester attack? Knife crime in London?

    My mate was mugged at an atm by someone that couldn’t speak English. I’ll remind him how lucky he was receiving such an “enriching” experience.

  • 65 MrOptimistic October 7, 2018, 5:05 pm

    Maybe we should encourage an indigenous population breeding programme. I am ready to do my bit.

  • 66 Grislybear October 7, 2018, 6:25 pm

    @ Gordon. Bringing families with them, thats a good gripe to be included with all the others. The point I was making is that economic migrants are going to be encouraged to come to the UK by the government and private companies in the future and they will compete with you for resources. Nurses are a case I am familiar with but there are other sectors of the economy where the same applies eg Laboratory workers and certain computer sciences.

  • 67 Gordon October 7, 2018, 7:50 pm

    @ Grislybear

    “The point I was making is that economic migrants are going to be encouraged to come to the UK by the government and private companies in the future and they will compete with you for resources”.

    Ahhh, OK, so it’s good that you confirm that immigration is all about serving the needs of business…. And all of those economic migrants will compete with Brits for resources.

    It’s really no wonder we voted Brexit.

    Please respond to me. You seem to have a gift for weakening your side of the argument.

  • 68 The Investor October 7, 2018, 9:53 pm

    So there we have it. Like most debates that stray into Brexit, we start with a well-considered back and forth about economic matters and we end with this:

    “Really? Do you think cultural aspects are a positive of immigration? What do you think of Romanian Big Issue sellers? Kosovon and Albanian crime gangs? Rotherham? Manchester attack? Knife crime in London?

    My mate was mugged at an atm by someone that couldn’t speak English. I’ll remind him how lucky he was receiving such an “enriching” experience.”

    Every time I talk about Brexit on the Internet, some Leave voters decry me for mentioning that a significant cohort of Brexit supports are at best xenophobic and at worst racist. I also get push back for referencing them on average as being less educated, even though the survey data shows clearly they *are* as a cohort less well-educated.

    But facts, hey? Pfft.

    Non-racist/xenophobic Leave voters refuse to acknowledge this significant proportion of their base exists. Even when they do admit a large proportion of votes were for reasons of immigration (rather than sovereignty or similar) they argue it was for economically-minded reasons, as we’ve seen again in this thread.

    I don’t dispute some large proportion of Leave voters wanted Brexit for sovereignty / economic reasons.

    But I’ve literally *never* heard a Remain voter say “I voted for Remain because I am racist/xenophobic/I don’t like immigration”.

    Whereas it’s pretty clear all the racists voted Brexit.

    Will indignant Leave voters ever understand logic and set theory?

    Let’s try again:

    All hamsters are animals. But not all animals are hamsters. Similarly:

    That all/99% of racists voted Leave DOES NOT mean all Leave voters are racist.


    The set of voters that voted Leave contains pretty much all the racists.

    But the set of Leave voters also contains other voters who are not racist.

    With that said, it’s abundantly clear this wasn’t a tiny minority. Every discussion you see shows that.

    Many Leave voters are clearly at best culturally hostile to immigration (which in its milder forms I think is fair enough) if not xenophobic (distasteful to me but not a crime) and in a significant number of instances, outright racist.

    Catching up on my email after a weekend I open a typical message from an indignant Leave voter as a one-line reply to Saturday’s article:

    “There are other non xenophobic reasons to vote leave.”

    Indeed there are, as we’ve discussed many times on this very website.

    But the next email I open (honestly, it was that perfect) says:

    Brexit is more about what it means to be British. Similar debates happening across the West. Do you want Islam to continue to grow across the UK? Cos that’s essentially what it’s all about.

    Who am I supposed to believe?

    Since most Brexit arguments eventually end with people making derogatory comments about ethnic groups, I remain inclined to think that a lot of Leave voters think like @Gordon, assuming he is not actually a Russian troll. (He only ever comments on Monevator about Brexit, from memory).

    Again, the only people who don’t think many (not all) Leave voters are racists are Leave voters.

    Anyway I suppose I should quickly debunk @Gordon’s bile.

    For the record, crime has fallen steadily — most notably violent crime — in the years during and after the big EU migration spike. (Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics. See graph at bottom)


    Is that because the poor under-siege people of the main (not all, sigh) Brexit voting areas are committing fewer crimes, but @Gordon’s EU criminal gangs are committing more?

    No. Detailed research has found no link between EU migrants and more crime. The vast majority of them go to work. A few of them rob people or worse, like any other population.

    See for instance this LSE report: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28732/.

    As The Independent noted from the report:

    A report by LSE in 2013 found that crime actually fell significantly in areas that had experienced mass immigration from eastern Europe, with rates of burglary, vandalism and car theft down since 2004.

    The research concluded that there was “no causal impact of immigration on crime…contrary to the ‘immigration causes crime’ populist view expressed in some media and political debate”.

    So why does a proportion of Leave voters make that connection, then?

    Because they’re xenophobic, if not racist. Or else they’re stupid.

    If a Leave voter actually wanted less crime, then looking at the statistics she should actually want more EU migration!

    As for the ‘economic impact’, as I stated at the start of this comment thread, the data clearly shows immigration boosts the economy. It probably does this partly because there’s more economic activity, and partly because it helps fill gaps throughout the economy, which likely has a leverage affect.

    We can certainly and respectably argue if the economic benefits are worth other impacts to us (such as a need for more housing or busier roads or people feeling their home towns are changing too fast) but the economic benefits are largely agreed upon (unless you take your research from the likes of @Gordon, instead of large-scale studies by experts).

    As I acknowledged at the start of this discussion, a couple of studies have shown a small affect on wages at the lowest end of the spectrum (though others have found no such impact.) Any impact is small both in terms of the percentage of people affected, and in the actual affect.

    Is it wonderful news that the lowest-earners may earn even less due to EU migration?


    Is it a price worth paying for the wider positive impacts that have made Britain a vibrant economy and currently sees us (pre-Brexit, people who say “no impact”!) with record low unemployment and most people richer because of it?

    I’d say yes.

    Should more be done to help the lowest earners?

    Yes, 100%.

    Will Brexit help?

    Very unlikely, if it dings the economy and hurts the tax base, for starters.

    Maybe more right-wing style, economic zones and tax incentives to rejuvenate troubled areas would help. Or perhaps we just take some of the economic benefit that immigration helped create and redistribute it. Or perhaps we could just increase the minimum wage, and shareholders like me and you will have to take some pain.

    Point is, left or right, we have solutions to alleviate this wage hit on the lowest earners (which may not even exist). But somebody has to pay for it. If we haven’t done it in the past, it’s because not enough of us care. And for some it’s easier to blame foreigners.

    I have voted both Conservative and Labour in my time. Both parties have policies in their toolbox they could reach for to address this small impact on a small part of the population rather than destroying our freedoms and the freedoms of generations to come with Brexit.

    So those are the facts, and yet we’ve heard loads of people here telling each other stories about how EU migrants have pushed down wages and how terrible this has been. Despite the evidence saying otherwise.

    If you want to know why we have Brexit (and the other populist movements) that’s why. People have their prejudices and preconceptions and they’re currently out of the bottle. The stories are what matter.

    Are you worried about this? Even if you’re a racist, you probably should be. People ignoring facts that don’t conform to their prejudices does not have a great track record in the modern era.

    The most sensible reason to vote Brexit was for maximum technical sovereignty. I say ‘technical’ because in reality we may be about to spend years if not decades getting back to the weight we had as a member of the EU to affect change on the important issues like climate change or globalization. i.e. Things that really matter in a modern interconnected world.

    Ditto trading relationships in a Hard Brexit scenario — years of pain. Strangely enough, little nations tend not to do as well as massive trading blocs when it comes to negotiating trade deals. Hah, weird right!? That’s why most countries try to get into a massive bloc, not out of one.

    But anyway, I accept sovereignty as a legitimate argument, because it’s true, even if a bit of a hollow victory. I wouldn’t vote Leave for it but at least it makes sense.

    Most other reasons given do not.

    Even immigration! As we (should) all know, about as many people enter the country from outside the EU as in it, and there were lots of news stories last week explaining that after a Hard Brexit (i.e. no freedom of movement) we’d have to increase these non-EU migration numbers.

    Guess what, they won’t all be coming from Canada, Australia, and the US.

    At least there’ll be some poetic justice if the racists see fewer god-fearing Christian Polish people arriving at Heathrow, and more of “those sort” they don’t like.

    No, not all Brexit voters are stupid. Sadly far from it.

    But a significant minority were tricked by a bus.

    I could delete @Gordon’s nonsense (note: I have deleted worse) but I think I’ll leave it there and close comments now like I did last time we had a big back and forth like this. I’m sure next time Brexit flares up I’ll get a load of stick from Leavers for suggesting a chunk (sigh not all sigh) of their fellow Leave voters were either willfully dismissive of facts or racist. It might be handy to refer to my reply here.