≡ Menu

Weekend reading: Secret Santa

Weekend reading logo

What caught my eye this week.

Let’s end the year with a smile, or at least an ironic smirk. Here’s a bunch of things to put in your stocking or perhaps that of a significant other. (Mind out of the gutter…)

The Man Who Solved the Market
How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution

I don’t think it’s been a banner year for great investing books, or perhaps I just missed them what with all the exciting politics. Either way, it’d be hard to beat the best I read – Gregory Zuckerman’s The Man Who Solved The Market. If you’re an active investor, you can delude yourself that it could be you. If you’re a passive investor weighing up the competition from Simons and genius crew, you’ll be glad you’re not so deluded…

Quacks of Quedlinburg

I’ve written about what I’ve learned from my love of board games on Monevator before. The game featured in that article – Dominion – is still a favourite, not least thanks to a dozen or so mostly excellent expansions. But diversification isn’t just for our portfolios. This year I’ve also been playing the award-winning Quacks of Quedlinburg. It’s very accessible, though like all these games it hides its simplicity under a daunting rule set. This is a game about probabilities. Learn to think fuzzy!

Get a free share from Freetrade

This neat deal is still running. Sign up to Freetrade via this link, fund your account with £1, and we’ll both get a free share in our Freetrade accounts. Lots of Monevator readers have reported what free share they got in the comments on my original article, which also contains more details about the offer. The giveaway shares are typically around £5, but potentially much more. Which you can get for free!

Harriman House discount code

Thanks to John Kingham – aka UK Value Investor – for flagging up this one on Twitter. Financial book publisher Harriman House is running a special offer, where you can get 25% off its books until the end of January with the discount code FESTIVE25.

Investor Island: A free mobile game from The Motley Fool

This computer game is pretty bonkers, like a mash-up between a dozen of those infuriating free-to-play mobile games we’ve all had a spell of playing at 3am for three nights on the trot and, well, CNBC and The Motley Fool. It’s US, but relevant. Sort of. Heck, it’s free! A time sink, but less damaging than day-trading. (I’m not sure how to link to it, but search for Investor Island on the iOS app store).

Well there you have it, a very random assortment of fun in the best tradition of Secret Santa.

At least you didn’t get socks.

No more Weekend Readings until 2020, but do look out for the return of our Christmas debates next week!

Our last one, in – ahem – 2011 – was all about active investing. In this latest round, me, The Accumulator, and The Details Man turn our attention and rhetorical weapons on FIRE.

You won’t want to miss this. Particularly if the alternative is the Queen’s Speech.

Have a great Christmas and I hope a happy 2020.

From Monevator

Reflections on the investing and personal finance consequences of the 2019 Tory win – Monevator

The long comment thread on that post includes a good discussion about ‘bug out’ plans – Monevator

From the archive-ator: The Monevator millionaire calculator – 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

Andrew Bailey has been appointed as new Bank of England governor – BBC

House prices: regional winners and losers over the past decade – ThisIsMoney

More newly-minted unicorns than ever before were founded by females, data shows – TechCrunch

Whatever happened to Woodford? Mini-special

Aberdeen Standard Investments to take over Woodford Income Focus fund… – Investment Week

… while Neil Woodford has left industry stunned as he seeks new opportunities in China… – Portfolio Adviser

…and Woodford Patient Capital Trust has been given a new name, a new ticker, and a new loan – CityWire

Investors could face cash restrictions on Woodford-style funds – Guardian

Products and services

How would government plans to offer local home buyers a 30% discount work? – ThisIsMoney

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

Here’s why your current account balance no longer shows your overdraft as potential funds – ThisIsMoney

Houses with big chimneys for Santa [Gallery]Guardian

Comment and opinion

Climbing the wealth ladder – Of Dollars and Data

Financial independence let me walk away from harassment at work – Financial Mechanic

Markets aren’t 100% efficient? Whatever! – The Evidence-based Investor

Intangible returns – Pragmatic Capitalism

An example of real-life portfolio returns on the financial independence journey – Retirement Investing Today

Hindsight Is 20/20. Foresight Isn’t. – Independence Advisors [h/t Abnormal Returns]

Charts of the decade [US perspective but interesting]A Wealth of Common Sense

Markets are up [as much as] 30% year-to-date. Your portfolio is not. Here’s why – The Big Picture

What investment factors work for stocks? [A summary of ‘smart beta’ research]Morningstar

Naughty corner: Active antics

How one investor made 42% from British-listed small caps in 2019 – Cube Investments

It’s probably too late to buy UK housebuilders – UK Value Investor

Where to invest in 2020 [Search result]FT

Grim tidings – Demonetized

After all its battles, Tesla’s stock price just hit an all-time high – CNBC

The US yield curve story is a candidate for the chart of the year – Crossing Wall Street

Want to learn stock valuation from one of the world’s leading academics, for free? – Musing on Markets


Parliament passes Withdrawal Bill with a 124 majority – BBC

Johnson revised the bill to limit Parliament’s role in Brexit talks – Guardian

Tories accused of breaking minimum wage hike pledge after one week in office – HuffPost UK

Kindle book bargains

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou [The Theranos story] – £0.99 on Kindle

Mastering The Market Cycle: Getting the odds on your side by Howard Marks – £0.99 on Kindle

How To Have A Good Day: The Essential Toolkit for a Productive Day at Work by Caroline Webb – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

Mathematician Terence Tao cracks a ‘dangerous’ problem – Wired

Social media’s shift towards misery – Cal Newport

The Instagram decade: #holidaytrends – Guardian

Will the Star Wars universe survive? [Spoiler-free]BBC

The thing about elephants – Seth Godin

And finally…

“Gold, for the instant, lost its lustre in his eyes, for there were countless treasures of the heart which it could never purchase.”
– Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday!

  1. Note some 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”. []

Receive my articles for free in your inbox. Type your email and press submit:

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • 1 Sara December 21, 2019, 11:06 am

    Thank you for all your time and effort in keeping the blog going. You remain the first site I go to every weekend once all the boring regular stuff is done.
    Have a Happy Christmas and a great New Year.

  • 2 steve21020 December 21, 2019, 11:44 am

    In the ‘Grim Tidings’ post, he says, ‘ I am one of those loony Inflation Truthers who believes “real” inflation (as experienced by real people in their daily lives) is higher than the CPI numbers trumpeted in the news, because CPI is restrained by things like hedonic adjustments for the improving quality of goods.’
    I don’t know why he says ‘loony’. As far as I’m aware, you have to be pretty loony to ‘believe’ the CPI figures and I will continue to use the RPI figures with a bit added on for safety.
    I agree with Sara. Great blog and I’ve enjoyed all the discussions during the Brexit fiasco. In the future, the events of the last few years will keep historians busy for a very long time. Merry Christmas!

  • 3 JimJim December 21, 2019, 12:16 pm

    A merry Christmas one and all. More well deserved thanks to @TI @TA et al, a brilliant blog that deserves many gongs. My Saturday mornings would not be the same without you.
    The Morningstar article “What Investment Factors Work for Stocks?” was accessible and well put, it confirmed a few of my experiences and thoughts and put them into context with a few factors that I had not given as much thought towards. Another tool in the chest of decision making. As always, acting upon knowledge in the game may not yield the results expected, in fact I expect it won’t 😉

  • 4 mjcross December 21, 2019, 1:18 pm

    Re: ‘the man who solved the market’ – I may be jumping to conclusions here because I haven’t read it; but if there’s anything sillier than the idea that there is a strategy you can learn to ‘beat the market’, it might be that there is a book that everyone can read that means EVERYONE can beat the market… erm…

  • 5 The Borderer December 21, 2019, 1:32 pm

    John Rekenthaler’s article in Morningstar is a must read, although for anyone in de-accumulation, a disappointing conclusion. High volatility stocks seem to be the big winner, something I, for one, strenuously avoid.

    But hat’s off to Monevator for a super blog and hoping you, and all Monevator readers and the great contibutors here, a Merry Christmas and a successful and happy New Year.

  • 6 The Investor December 21, 2019, 2:16 pm

    @mjcross — You will read the book and likely confirm your views.

    But for context, from memory Simons’ main Medallion fund has delivered about 70% a year for decades. It is impossible to replicate at home, unless you have a basement full of world class maths geniuses.

  • 7 Collreg December 21, 2019, 5:19 pm

    Loved Climbing The Wealth Ladder from of Dollars and Data.

    Such a simple concept that I had been thinking about lately, albeit in a less quantitative manner. As a young(-ish) professional who recently purchased a flat but still has cash savings (and the kernel of my F*** You money in the market), I was wondering at my relative wealth and how lucky I am.

    Yet on the other hand, I still budget fairly strictly using YNAB and think about most moderate-large purchase decisions carefully – impulse spending is a rare event! That said, I rarely even look at the total in the supermarket, only finding out how much I spent when I reconcile it on YNAB. Ardent YNAB users would tell me this means I am not using it properly (the whole philosophy is to make you more thoughtful and deliberate about your spending because you always know what you can afford) but based on these Levels of Wealth, it is a natural consequence of the psychology of accumulating wealth.

    Now I could deliberately overcome that and embrace frugality a la Mr Money Moustache or other more hardcore FIRE-ers, but as I am sure TI has expressed here before, life is for the living, and missing out on your youth in the pursuit of an early old age is likely foolish.

    Thanks for another great read! Merry Christmas to all at Monevator, you continue to make the world a better place!

  • 8 John @ UK Value Investor December 21, 2019, 6:20 pm

    Thank you for another year of excellent content and link-fests. Let’s hope the next decade is as interesting as the last one (or perhaps not).

    Merry Christmas

  • 9 Sam December 21, 2019, 7:35 pm

    Thank you for all the links and commentary over the past year. May everyone have a very Merry Christmas.

  • 10 Mr Optimistic December 21, 2019, 8:16 pm

    Thanks to TI, TA, Mark Meldon, The Details Man and all the others for an entertaining, and at times interesting year ! Will we get a book to buy and read next year one asks?

  • 11 Patrick Duffy December 21, 2019, 9:38 pm

    Quacks of Quedlinburg

    Had a word with the publisher and editor of the wonderful The Board Game Book Volume 1. He tells me the designer of Q of Q has an even better game out called Taverns of Tiefenthal. Apparently It’s all about running a pub!

  • 12 The Borderer December 22, 2019, 1:12 am

    Please forgive my ignorance, but what does YNAB mean?

  • 13 The Rhino December 22, 2019, 8:12 am

    @TB You Need A Budget

  • 14 Boltt December 22, 2019, 10:46 am

    How are people feeling about P2P/Ratesetter, currently and for 2020/2021?

    I invested the proceeds from a property sale in 2016 and am getting more twitchy as time moves on. The constant tweaking and controlling of rates is very unattractive – S&D at least gave some real market measurement for the risk.

    I’ve averaged over 5% but am currently in run-off with ~£100k outstanding in the 12 product. It’s not 100% clear to me if I definitely get my money back, or if it depends on their ability to manage S&D cash flows.

    At the back of my mind there’s a turkey’s waiting for Xmas risk.

    Merry Xmas all

  • 15 The Rhino December 22, 2019, 11:18 am

    @Boltt the general consensus seems to be no more than 5% in P2P. Maybe a touch less?

    It’s had a dodgy year for sure.

  • 16 The Investor December 22, 2019, 12:08 pm

    @all — Thanks for the Christmas best wishes!


    …am currently in run-off with ~£100k outstanding

    Hi! We can’t give individual advice, but unless one was a multimillionaire that would be very high for me. (One of the many reasons we don’t give personal advice is that broad context is everything. A good IFA will tease all that out of a client. Isn’t going to happen in an anonymous Internet exchange! 🙂 )

    My general rule for P2P is 3-5% across all platforms. I like the idea of P2P (which is anyway diminishing, it’s going to be more ‘marketplace’ going forward) and until I used most of my cash for my flat deposit I had five-figures in Zopa and Ratesetter, but these are still new business models, without the security of FSCS-protected cash. I think most people (again, not all, many factors!) with say £50-100K in assets could afford to put a few thousand in and remember the good old days of cash that paid interest. Beyond that, risks of real damage if something goes wrong increase.

    With all that said, I believe those two platforms I use could eventually strengthen as weaker P2P players fold. Many are closing now due to upcoming FCA regulation changes. A few have gone bust.

    I’ve only ever written about Zopa and Ratesetter here on Monevator. They are not guaranteed, either, of course, but they’re the most all-round convincing to me. I’m not dissing all the others at all, but those are the two I’ve been happy with.

    (Zopa did get into difficulties recently with a massive down-round, as it required a cash injection to move forward its banking license before a deadline, but as far as I’m aware there wasn’t a threat to business survival, let alone its customers’ cash.)

  • 17 Ecomiser December 22, 2019, 1:15 pm

    May I add my thanks to the whole Monevator team and guest writers for many years of not-advice, education and entertainment.
    My deaccumulation portfolio is modeled on The Greybeard’s IT articles in particular. Slightly ironic as I moved away from pure passive index-linking to do this.

    A Merry Xmas and Prosperous New Year to All.

  • 18 Boltt December 22, 2019, 2:40 pm

    Thanks TI/Rhino

    My view is the increased liquidity risk/normal credit risk/extreme credit risk v the new reduced return now make Ratesetter, in particular, much less attractive now than in 2015/2016 (when I swapped a BTL for a block of P2P).

    Now I’d rather have FTSE tracker or preference shares – I wasn’t sure if others were more bullish.

    I’m under 10%, so no sleepless nights.

    All the best

  • 19 Jim McG December 22, 2019, 8:51 pm

    Merry Christmas and thanks for all the great links – which I mean to say every time I browse them, and then fail to do. All the best.

  • 20 Vagabundo December 23, 2019, 3:05 am

    Merry Christmas,

    I had a scan through the site and comments but can’t find any recent opinion on how the pound vs euro might be affected after Brexit (apologies if this is a boring and tedious subject). The reason I bring it up is that I’m paid in pounds but have a job opportunity that pays in Euros. The pay is less but could the Euro become stronger than the pound and possibly make this opportunity worth serious consideration?

    Thanks for any input.

  • 21 weenie December 23, 2019, 11:38 am

    ‘Investor Island’ downloaded – I’ll blame you for all the time I waste over the festive period! 🙂

    Thanks for a great blog, merry Christmas and hope it’s a prosperous 2020 for all!

  • 22 Vanguardfan December 24, 2019, 1:30 pm

    Since it’s Christmas, perhaps time to reflect on the proper place of wealth – as a means, not an end, to a good life.
    So I hope this Christmas you can all enjoy the richness life has to offer – connection with loved ones, fun and games, getting out into nature, maybe even making music, playing sport or enjoying a theatrical experience 😉

    Many thanks to team Monevator for continued interest and education through a turbulent year.
    Best wishes to all for a peaceful and joyful 2020.

  • 23 old_eyes December 24, 2019, 5:22 pm

    Thank you to all the Monevator team, and all contributors and commenters for an informative and entertaining 2019.

    I am now in the boring stages of passive investment, but after the paper on a Saturday morning, Monevator is my first port of call. And it is always a pleasure!

  • 24 Xailter December 24, 2019, 8:40 pm

    Thanks to the whole Monevator team for making starting the weekend always a deep dive into some truly strange yet interesting topics (I’m still chuckling at the penis fish). All the best for 2020!

  • 25 britinkiwi December 24, 2019, 10:30 pm

    Many thanks for the whole team’s work and the contributions from many this past year.
    Santa’s passed by here already (although traversing the rest of the world according to NORAD) and the day is bright and sunny. Have a happy, wealthy and healthy 2020!

Leave a Comment