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Weekend reading: Once upon a time, books taught us about money

Weekend reading

Good reads from around the Web.

I miss novels! Sure I can put a tea towel over Twitter, turn the other cheek to Facebook, and watch less funny cat videos on YouTube. That ephemera is easily ignored.

The issue is what my girlfriend calls “side reading”.

I find it impossible these days to read a novel without feeling curious, antsy, or unstimulated, and then reaching for an iPad to look up some bit of detail.

When did the samurai era really end? Can acid dissolve a human body? How close are we to a manned space mission to Mars?

Historical novels, thrillers, science fiction – none of it escapes my Internet-egged-on need to Know Right Now the answer to every question that flutters up.

Perhaps that’s why I found the article on money lessons from fiction posted on Marketwatch so – well – sweet. It’s quaint to imagine learning things from fiction, rather than a blog, a discussion forum, or Khan Academy.

In fact, according to the article novelists warn us that financial bloggers can be downright dangerous:

Don’t expect to find explicit tips on spending, saving and investing baked into the texts like messages in fortune cookies.

Novelists and dramatists seem suspicious if not disdainful of those who dole out advice about money — which is perhaps why, when they do offer worthwhile personal-finance counsel, the words tend to be put into the mouths of imbeciles.


Well, I won’t take it personally. I’m sure Dickens was thinking of some other financial blogger!

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

  • Post-break-up spending qualified – Lam Thuy Vo (via Ermine)
  • The 100% off Black Friday Sale – Mr Money Mustache
  • Complete a Monevator reader’s 5-minute student survey into crowd-sourced equity funding, and you could win a Google Nexus – Online Survey

Product of the week: What are we to make of Bitcoins, the price of which hit $1,000 this week? £4m worth of Bitcoins have been accidentally buried in a Welsh rubbish dump, reports The Guardian, which makes me wonder if prospectors will some day mine for old hard disc drives. Even FT Alphaville tried acquire some Bitcoins, with revealing results.

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

  • Bernstein: Take some risk of the table – Index Universe
  • Swedroe: Investors’ hurt returns with poor timing – CBS
  • Swedroe, again: Is a manager’s alpha really just beta? – CBS

Active investing

  • Always buy on ‘black’ days for the market – Marketwatch
  • Trend-following hedge funds are broken – The Economist

Other stuff worth reading

  • Jack ‘Tracker’ Bogle’s son is an active fund manager – WSJ
  • Carney warns on homes, ends Funding for Lending support – Guardian
  • …mortgage rates will rise as a result [Search result]FT
  • The 1990s stock market bubble was crazier than you remember – Slate
  • Scottish independence could hit UK investors – Interactive Investor
  • Life in America is amazing and nobody is happy – Motley Fool

Book of the week: If you like the Howard Mark’s Memo I linked to above then you should read his book. This year’s version is called The Most Important Thing Illuminated, and it comes with extra insights from other investing bigwigs. Best for active investors.

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every week!

  1. Reader Ken notes that: “FT articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”.” []
{ 11 comments… add one }
  • 1 ermine November 30, 2013, 10:44 am

    > prospectors will some day mine for old hard disc drives.

    Gives a new perspective to the term bitcoin mining – in meatspace this time.

    It’s a terrible thing to do, to just chuck your hard drives. Not only from an information security POV, but you get a fantastically strong rare-earth magnet from the linear positioner and half the time a decent stepper motor from the spindle drive. Even if you give the magnet to some inquisitive kids it’ll be good for some fun. Probably worth noting that some HD platters are made of metallised glass these days…

  • 2 dearieme November 30, 2013, 1:09 pm

    “How to Ride your Bike All Winter – and Love it”: lying sod. Cycling in winter means peering through the darkness via rain-speckled glasses while car headlights glare at you. Either that, or cycling on a bloody skating rink. It’s to be endured not loved.

  • 3 gadgetmind November 30, 2013, 1:33 pm

    We use the platters as drinks coasters and I put magnets into the pockets of some of my work jackets so that I can stick tools and screws to them easily when up ladders or whatever.

  • 4 Paul S November 30, 2013, 6:56 pm

    That is a cracking article by Motely Fool. I love……

    “of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99 per cent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 per cent have a television, 88 per cent a telephone, 71 per cent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.”

  • 5 dearieme November 30, 2013, 8:39 pm

    Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877, didn’t have running water? Bollocks.

    As for flushing toilets, if true the US must have been remarkably backward, because WKPD reports “1858: The first flush toilets on the European continent may have been the three “waterclosets” installed in the new town house of banker Nicolay August Andresen on 6 Kirkegaten in Christiania, insured in January 1859. The toilets were probably imported from Britain, as they were referred to by the English term “waterclosets” in the insurance ledger.
    1859: By the end of the 1850s building codes suggest most new middle-class homes in British cities were equipped with a water closet.”

    As a useful rule of thumb, nothing any American says about history should be taken as true.

  • 6 Jonathan December 1, 2013, 12:08 am

    “Sure I can put a tea towel over Twitter, turn the other cheek to Facebook, and watch less funny cat videos on YouTube.”

    Watching less-funny cat videos on YouTube is pointless.

    Watching fewer funny cat videos on YouTube makes more sense.

  • 7 Graham December 1, 2013, 12:54 am
  • 8 Tyro December 1, 2013, 11:30 am


    There’s a point to observing ‘rules’ and conventions of punctuation and grammar. They’ve evolved to aid accuracy and precision in expression, and that in turn makes it possible to convey meaning in a finely-grained way. Writing and thinking are intimately connected, and sloppy writing permits sloppy thinking. If you had to read the semi-literate undergraduate nonsense that I’m required to wade through every semester (at one of the world’s top universities, supposedly) and had spent as much time as I have struggling to work out what on earth the student was trying to say, you wouldn’t be so dismissive of those of us who really don’t want a future in which we can barely communicate with each other.

    Rant over! (And none of it directed at Monevator – we’re all allowed the occasional lapse ….)

  • 9 The Investor December 1, 2013, 2:58 pm

    It was a fair cop, guv. Still, surveying the Internet with its anarchic approach to the English language and then choosing to spend valuable moments correcting a small slip on Monevator seems akin to crossing Newcastle town centre on a Saturday night, ducking flying kebabs and hurled profanities, to enter a restaurant to take issue with Stephen Fry for ordering the wrong Chablis.

  • 10 Bobby @ Making Money Fast and Slow December 1, 2013, 5:24 pm

    Our memory works best when it connects learnings to pragmatic examples. What better way to foster this memory than by looking up a new word on Google and learning about why you’d never heard of it before?
    Most of my reading these days comes from my Zite app where I get personalized blog posts. Since I’m a personal finance blogger as well, this definitely works out the best for me. I read what I should be reading, not irrelevant novels.

  • 11 oldthinker December 1, 2013, 8:22 pm

    @The Investor

    > crossing Newcastle town centre on a Saturday night, ducking flying kebabs and hurled profanities, to enter a restaurant to take issue with Stephen Fry for ordering the wrong Chablis.

    A perfectly reasonable course of actions as far as I am concerned :-).

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