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Weekend reading: Reading the last rites on 2018

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What caught my eye this week.

And just like that it’s Christmas. Not sure if I should blame Brexit, the flu, the unseasonably warmish weather or the unseasonably bearish market, but it’s sprung up on me this year.

Even the spammers have stopped bombarding the website and sloped away to buy their Christmas turkeys. Time for me to do the same – after one last links post of 2018, of course!

Most years I suggest a few books before I take my annual Yuletide break. With just four sleeps to go until Santa, it’s hard to spin these books as gift ideas this year (although if you hurry Amazon might still manage it).

Oh well, the best presents are the ones you buy for yourself. So knock yourself out with one or two of these 2018 page-turners, to cheer yourself up if it’s socks again from the family on Christmas Day.

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

Nothing wildly original in this great read from a former poker star, its charm is that it’s an excellent entry-level introduction to probabilistic thinking and banishing black and white, all or nothing certainty from your investment approach.

Mastering the Market Cycle by Howard Marks

Mark’s The Most Important Thing is one of my favourite investing books, so I was disappointed to learn the other day he’s sold 500,000 copies. There goes another of my delusions of edge. This one isn’t in the same league, but everyone needs to understand that economies and markets are cyclical. Why not get a refresher from a man whose made billions from it?

Keeping At It by Paul Volcker

Must admit I haven’t yet read this! It’s in my ‘Save For Later’ shopping basket though. It seems appropriate to hear from the man who killed off high inflation at a time when its return – or not – has the market running in circles.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

It feels like only yesterday I was sending uplifting media stories about the female-led biotech Theranos to friends concerned about the ‘bro-fest’ of Silicon Valley. That – well, relief almost – at finding a good story to share about a young female Steve Jobs type is one reason Theranos got an easy ride. This tense, gasp-inducing expose of a multi-billion dollar scandal picks apart the rest.

Buying books for kids? Be sure to peruse Maria Popova’s selection of The Loveliest Children’s Books of 2018 (h/t Zude).

The publishing event of 2019

While we’re feeling bookish, make sure you also set aside a few pennies ready for our Monevator book. It is definitely coming next year.

Oh yes it is!

We now have a near-complete draft ready for editing. How much longer can it take? (Okay, don’t answer that.)

Once our book is out and you’ve all bought a copy, we can hope to see @TA back on-site every week, too.

What larks pip! Maybe next year will be the year the world starts to emerge from the darkness? Well, maybe.

Until then have a great Christmas and New Year – and thanks as ever for stopping by! 🙂

From Monevator

Vanguard readying its Personal Pension – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Stress test your plan with a Monte Carlo sim – Monevator

News

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

London property slump drags down UK house price growth – Guardian

UK consumer confidence hits five-year low – Retail Gazette

Business investment in longest slump since 2008 – BBC

HMRC’s out-of-date letters risk “confusing” taxpayers [Search result]FT

British Gas owner Centrica challenges energy price cap – Guardian

SEC charges two US robo-advisers with false disclosures – SEC

Why hasn’t Australia had a recession in almost 30 years? – The Atlantic

Wagamama staff get bonuses up to £2,000 as chain is sold – ThisIsMoney

Anti-expert toll grows: Measles in Europe at a 20-year high due to the anti-vaccine movement – Guardian

There was nowhere to hide in 2018 [US dollar terms]Pension Partners

Products and services

Bitcoin could be overseen by UK’s financial regulator – Guardian

Gatehouse Bank launches table-topping 2.1% one-year deal – ThisIsMoney

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

Savers are barely rewarded for locking cash away for two years – ThisIsMoney

Credit card made from biodegradable PVC coming in 2019 – ThisIsMoney

Comment and opinion

Investing ideas that changed my life – Morgan Housel

Passive attack: the story of a Wall Street revolution [Search result]FT

Once more, without feeling – AQR

The Instagram influencer side-hustle is hard to break into – New York Times

Three reasons you’ll never be financially satisfied – The Reformed Broker

Physician retires early and is met with scorn – Physician on Fire

How passive investing could change capitalism [Podcast]Bloomberg

Not even hindsight could have helped you make money this year – Bloomberg

18 signs you were an institutional investor in 2018 – Institutional Investor

A momentum-driven Bitcoin strategy delivered a 500-fold gain – Elm Funds

You have to be in the game – Oddball Stocks

Why dividend investors should look at free cash flow – UK Value Investor

Volatility is the only asset class [Podcast, one for geeks like me]Meb Faber

Brexit

That moment in a movie where the evil second in command has taken control and is screaming “Yes we’re going to storm the fortress armed with sticks of celery!” and about half the cast is about to get it in the neck: Treasury preps for no-deal Brexit – HM Treasury

Firms told to prepare for no-deal Brexit – BBC

Leave or Remain? The Brexit holiday dilemma [Search result]FT

How a no-deal Brexit could affect British travelers – Guardian

A brief history of [the myriad] second referendums – BBC

How I became a Brexiteer: Merryn Somerset-Webb [Search result]FT

30% fall in house prices on chaotic Brexit “implausible”, says RICS – ThisIsMoney

Kindle book bargains

The Barcelona Way: How to Create a High-performance Culture by Damian Hughes – £1.09 on Kindle

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott – £2.99 on Kindle

James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

Hyper-realistic scenes the cut from Cats: The Musical that they should have put in the movie – New Yorker

Dad and the Egg controller – Pentadact

Ex-NASA scientist’s glitter-bomb vs Amazon package thief – via YouTube

Confessions of a soulless troglodyte – Quillette

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial – BMJ

And finally…

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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{ 45 comments… add one }
  • 1 Wanabe Nerd Dragon December 21, 2018, 10:00 pm

    Merry Christmas and happy New year to you all. Thanks for all the links and posts this year.

    Let’s hope the book is out before Brexit!

  • 2 Mathmo December 21, 2018, 10:33 pm

    Thanks for the links and insights as ever, TI. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

    PS – looks like January sales started early.

  • 3 Duncurin December 21, 2018, 11:33 pm

    Many years ago I read an article in the British Medical Journal by a GP who reported that some of his patients became angry when he retired. He continued to live in the very small town in which he had practiced, and so still met his patients in the supermarket but was no longer responsible for their care.

    Bearing this in mind, I was reluctant to tell my patients of my impending retirement (in my late 50s rather than at 51). Another factor was that I always had difficulty keeping to time, and I reckoned that if I added a two-minute discussion about my retirement to every consultation then I would never finish the day’s work.

    For a year or so I felt uncomfortable when I spotted ex-patients in Sainsbury’s. Would they be cross with me for abandoning them, or critical of my care? Eventually I noticed that they appeared happy enough, so I stopped worrying.

    Then recently I met one such, and asked him how he was doing. “Not bad, considering I’ve just had a liver transplant” he replied. It turned out that his original liver had been irreparably damaged by statin tablets. “I didn’t want to take them” he went on, “but the doctor insisted.” For a moment I had a pang of anxiety that it was I who had started him on the tablets. Fortunately he went on to say that he had only been taking them for a few weeks when disaster struck.

    (Liver failure is a very rare complication of taking statins, about one in a million. As always, it’s a case of balancing risks.)

  • 4 dearieme December 22, 2018, 2:06 am

    “a very rare complication of taking statins”: I have a friend who is a retired epidemiologist. He remarks drily that more of his friends seem to have had nasty side effects from statins than the literature had encouraged him to think likely.

    Does this relate to saving and investing? Perhaps in the sense that we tend to know less than we think we do.

  • 5 Lord December 22, 2018, 8:16 am

    Thanks for everything this year.
    This complilation of links is one of the highlights of my weekend.

  • 6 Snowman December 22, 2018, 8:56 am

    Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone at monevator.

    Looking forward to the monevator book … if I haven’t melted away before then. Ha ha

  • 7 The English Investor December 22, 2018, 9:51 am

    Merry Christmas (and happy new year if you don’t post before)! Thank you so much for all the explanations, links, humor, life advice and good fun I had and will continue to have in reading this blog. Cheers.

  • 8 Clarence Odbody December 22, 2018, 10:56 am

    Thanks for all the great work from a long time fan, keep on strong in 2019

  • 9 UK Value Investor December 22, 2018, 11:50 am

    Merry Christmas olde chap. Will be good to finally see the Monevator book in print; it is perhaps the longest single project since the pyramids of Giza were built!

    Best of luck with the new(ish) flat, Brexit and everything else in 2019!

    Ho, ho, ho. etc.

  • 10 Tyro December 22, 2018, 12:23 pm

    I really enjoyed the ‘parachute’ article in the BMJ – thanks! The responses to it are funny too.

    Merry Christmas and as, er, damage-limited a 2019 as possible to TI, TA, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.

  • 11 chirlu December 22, 2018, 12:37 pm

    Thank you for finding us interesting articles every week (and for your own ones, too, of course), and have a merry Christmas!

  • 12 dearieme December 22, 2018, 2:28 pm

    “Will be good to finally see the Monevator book in print; it is perhaps the longest single project since the pyramids of Giza were built!”

    Maybe it should have a chapter called “The Pyramid Schemes of Geezers” about DB pensions, state pensions, Bernie Madoff, and anything else that might be dragged in to justify the joke.

  • 13 Hospitaller December 22, 2018, 2:35 pm

    Many thanks for all the reading suggestions over the year. Have an excellent Christmas!

    My New Year’s resolution is to think of some way of getting more thoughtful and reasoning people into Parliament. I have listened to (probably too much) BBC Parliament over the last months and am concerned that our country is in the hands of far too many examples of mediocrity. One thought is to limit the number of terms an MP can serve – it struck me that so many talk of things which can seriously affect people with casual indifference. One of our problems may be that being an MP has for many turned into a career. We need to cut off that option.

  • 14 ZXSpectrum48k December 22, 2018, 3:24 pm

    The article “There was nowhere to hide in 2018” is one of a many doing the rounds. The market fear is that this is the start of the inevitable reversal. Low rates and QE helped to raise all asset prices with a high correlation. Higher rates and QT reverse that, again with high asset correlation. So much for diversification and risk-parity. Volatility is making a comeback. Of course they often fail to mention that in 2017 we had almost exact opposite, everything rallied, so it could just be a bit of mean reversion which is no bad thing. Plus with US cash rates at a 2.82%, why take risk?

    Happy Xmas to the Monevator team

  • 15 old_eyes December 22, 2018, 3:31 pm

    Thanks to the Monevator team, including guest bloggers, for a fascinating year. And thanks to all the BTL commenters who add so much value to the excellent articles.

  • 16 MrOptimistic December 22, 2018, 3:45 pm

    Thanks for all your hard work on our behalf. Have a good one.

  • 17 Matthew December 22, 2018, 5:04 pm

    On a christmas carol quoted theme I believe that as a capitalist Scrooge was a good character misunderstood, as a business owner he was a job creator, providing work opportunities that would otherwise not be available, and supplying services to his customers

  • 18 FIRE v London December 22, 2018, 6:26 pm

    Adding more heartfelt thanks, to TI and the rest of the Monevator team (and excellent to see YFG join the ranks – a high quality addition).

    Also thanks to the numerous regular commenters – who add a lot of useful perspective and make the community all the richer, in both senses I think, for it.

    Merry Christmas one and all (except the Americans, for whom happy holidays / seasonal greetings will have to suffice).

  • 19 The Rhino December 22, 2018, 9:02 pm

    Bit tough on Corbyn that he is getting grief for what amounts to sticking to his manifesto promise. Even in the face of an open goal if he had decided to deviate appropriately. Whilst you can disagree with his principles I don’t think you can disagree that he is principled. Very rare in Westminster. (I would never vote Corbyn).

  • 20 Passive Pete December 22, 2018, 10:23 pm

    Thanks to the whole team of authors and commentators for maintaining a consistently high level of investment information. Best wishes for the new year and the publication of your book.
    On the statin comments, I’ve been patiently waiting for the publication of Ben Goldacre’s book, “Do statins work?” before I make a decision on whether to seek advice on taking them. It’s been listed on Amazon for a few years now and I guess that the delay in publishing might be due to legal action being taken against the author possibly by those with a vested interest in selling statins.
    I’ve been impressed with Ben Goldacre’s previous books.

  • 21 Boglehead December 22, 2018, 11:13 pm

    @Matthew, you may enjoy this article by Tim Harford from a few years back: http://timharford.com/2015/12/in-praise-of-scrooge/

  • 22 dearieme December 22, 2018, 11:22 pm

    I liked Goldacre’s early writing. Then he had a go at research himself. Would you credit it, it turned out to be more complicated than he had imagined.

    An excellent book, with a wonderful title, is Malcolm Kendrick’s “Doctoring Data”.

  • 23 Passive Pete December 23, 2018, 9:51 am

    Thanks @dearieme, I’ve just ordered The Great Cholesterol Con book, and Doctoring Data is winging its way to my Kindle too – so I’ll start this today.

  • 24 Guido Maluccio December 23, 2018, 11:13 am

    Thanks, I really look forward to your blog at the end of the week. Loved the revenge glitter bomb video 🙂 A very merry Christmas to everyone!

  • 25 The Investor December 23, 2018, 1:13 pm

    Thanks all for the positive thoughts! I’ve had a bit of an annoying few days (flu left me with ear infection which left blood running down my neck which turned out to be a ruptured ear drum!) but reading people are still looking forward to the blog each week etc has been a nice pick-me-up in the waiting rooms etc.

    Will only be floating around in moderation mode (have headache etc) for the next few days (plus, hey, it’s Christmas) so will leave my input here with another Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 🙂

  • 26 dearieme December 23, 2018, 2:11 pm

    Bloody hell, TI. Get well soon. Merry Xmas, if at all possible, and a Happy New Year.

  • 27 The Rhino December 23, 2018, 2:22 pm

    With respect to ‘Nowhere to Hide’ D-Ream’s 1994 smash-hit seems somehow relevant – https://youtu.be/aj4wcuo9Mgo

    Though Prof. Cox seems to be willfully ignorant of Galton’s regression to the mean theorem. He should have know better?

  • 28 ermine December 23, 2018, 4:04 pm

    @TI hope you get better soon, the eardrum story sounds like a rough start to Christmas! Thanks for the inspiration, and here’s hoping for a light through the dark days of the year ahead.

  • 29 allthegoodnamesaretaken December 23, 2018, 7:01 pm

    “the eardrum story sounds like a rough start to Christmas!”

    And on that note…

  • 30 Jim McG December 24, 2018, 9:59 am

    Get that book out! I’m not sure that I’ll read it, but I’d like to make a donation to the best UK investment site bar none. And I’ll maybe even do it before it appears on your 99p Kindle links 🙂
    Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  • 31 The Accumulator December 24, 2018, 10:42 am

    I’m afraid the book is going back to the drawing board for another 4 years as I don’t have a pun to compete with Dearieme’s “Pyramids of Geezer”. TI, that’s a joke. Don’t want your other eardrum exploding.

  • 32 Mark Meldon December 24, 2018, 1:07 pm

    Get well soon – horrid thing, ear problem!

  • 33 The Rhino December 24, 2018, 3:13 pm

    Don’t forget the back cover blurbs. Very important. Maybe you know of a PR firm who could help?

  • 34 Marked December 24, 2018, 5:57 pm

    #Rhino. Comment 19
    Regarding Corbyn, I just can’t believe the guy’s audacity that he thinks he can get better terms for the WA. This is the man that totally ballsed up the May no confidence vote.

    And those six tests Labour have got for Brexit. To me they can only be achieved with no Brexit.

  • 35 The Shrink December 24, 2018, 10:30 pm

    Echoing others sentiments, thank you for an amazing year, particularly the ongoing supreme quality of your work TI, without which I wouldn’t be here. Get well soon!
    I look forward to an intriguing 2019…

  • 36 The Rhino December 25, 2018, 12:00 am

    @Marked – yes granted that aspect is ridiculous. He’s painted himself into a corner and that’s the last thing he can say. It’s abundantly clear now that he couldn’t negotiate anything better.

    On the markets, the crash is now finally being reported in the media.

    Merry Christmas

  • 37 JimJim December 28, 2018, 7:21 am

    TI, thanks for your diligent and consistent efforts to provide the best financial blog on this sceptered isle. Weekends would not be the same without your reading list, a true treasure. The comments are always broad in range and add grist to the mill of reason. Opinionated as we all may be, a forum for sharing those and considering those of others is a refreshing and welcome thing in this too polarised world. Long may it last. You enrich us all by curating this cage of monkeys.
    Hope the ear thing is not too permenant and some good cheer is had over the festive season. All the best and I look forward to an interesting year in 2019.

  • 38 Sam Vimes December 28, 2018, 4:47 pm

    Dear TI/TA et al.,

    Longtime follower of your excellent blog and wanted to say a huge thank you (about 5 years overdue!) to all of you for providing such a detailed, no-nonsense and frequently brilliant resource – long may your labour of love continue. The website, and yourselves, are deserving of high praise and a far wider audience!
    Best wishes to you all for 2019 and keep up the good work – I (and many others) are in your debt!

  • 39 PendleWitch December 28, 2018, 7:07 pm

    As many posts above have already said, thank you for all the enlightenment (although it’s only been for less than 2 years for me). Your content and the comments have been very helpful and also entertaining.

    Hope you’re feeling better by now – happy new year!

    @JimJim, oo-oo-oo-oo are you calling monkeys?!

  • 40 The Investor December 29, 2018, 7:05 pm

    @all — Thanks again for all the generous comments. 🙂 Unfortunately I am still deaf-ish/lightly ringing in one ear. The doctor said it could continue for weeks, but I should recover fully in time (touch wood!) He also said it wasn’t uncommon, so if anyone has had this and got out the other side with hearing intact I’m all ears! Well, almost all ears. 😉

  • 41 Duncurin December 29, 2018, 8:35 pm

    It’s a little while since I was a GP, but from what I can remember there shouldn’t have been any damage to the structures of the middle ear, and so once the eardrum grows back you should be able to hear again. Don’t put your head under water or put the shower head to your ear until this has happened. P.S. don’t sue me as (a) I am not a doctor and (b) you have more money than me. 😉

  • 42 The Investor December 29, 2018, 9:43 pm

    @Duncurin — Thanks, that matches what they said in the hospital! Need to be patient I guess. (As for advice, understood, I’m forever telling people we can’t be their financial advisors over the Internet, too. Happy new year!)

  • 43 MrOptimistic December 30, 2018, 10:51 am

    Dealing with the ‘ear and now’, got ‘Bad Blood’, John Carreyrou as a present. Read it in one sitting. The old adages about not investing in something you don’t understand, or believing in returns too good to be true, seem to have been set aside by big investors who in the end set judgement aside for the promise of huge rewards in terms of cash and glory.
    Salutary lesson ( partly) transferrable to my own more modest strivings!

    Hope you don’t mind the plug ( no pun intended), and are on the mend.

    Happy new year ( and in my case hopefully many more of them). 🙂

  • 44 Sara January 1, 2019, 5:05 pm

    Hope you feel much better soon and Happy New Year.

  • 45 Sara January 1, 2019, 5:07 pm

    P.S. The comment submission form for the website doesn’t seem to work via Chrome recently. I had to use Edge to do these comments (horror!).

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