A round up of interesting or cool stuff I’ve read.
Netflix’s “Money, Explained”
This past week, Ms FIRE and I have spent our lunchtimes watching the latest entrant into Netflix’s “Explained” series – Money Explained. (I know, we live a fast and furious lifestyle)
It’s a short, easy watch, consisting of five, 20 minute long episodes:
- Get Rich Quick – a look at a variety of scams throughout history, from the original Ponzi scheme to the timeless Nigerian prince scam.
- Credit Cards – covers the history of credit cards in the US, and the different ways they make money. It was interesting to hear that the first credit cards were just mailed out unannounced – amusingly, the company in question lost a lot of money as most people apparently didn’t realise they were expected to pay it back!
- Student Loans – a look at the student loans situation in the US. Makes me very glad for the UK system – my own student loans stand at around £20,000. I only have to make repayments whilst employed, I currently pay around £90-100 per month, and the remaining balance will be wiped out 25 years after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have no debt at all, like the previous generation of UK graduates, but it’s all much more bearable than the US!
- Gambling – this episode tracks the evolution of gambling, from the original one-armed bandits to more modern, colourful, digital slot machines. It also touched on the current boom in trading and speculating on apps such as Freetrade and Robinhood, and why gambling can be so addictive. It was startling to see that the largest funder of gambling research is funded by the gambling industry itself. No conflict of interest there!
- Retirement – covers the retirement funding shortfall, which is applicable on both sides of the pond. This episode talks about how retirement is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t that long ago that most people worked until death! It covers the brief golden period where (some) companies would provide their employees with a guaranteed pension. Of course, the onus and risk in retirement provision has now shifted to the individual, and so most of this episode focuses on how we’re not saving enough for retirement.
My biggest critique is that it is very US-focused. The focus on student debt, the origins of the 401(k), etc, is fairly interesting, but unsurprisingly I’d be much more interested in something either specific to the UK, or globally applicable.
My second critique is that, overall, it is pretty basic. As you might be able to tell from the titles above, it seems as though the writers/producers just picked a few topics, seemingly at random.
The quality/tone also varies. The credit card episode does a good job; it covers the history, how companies make money, and how you can avoid becoming trapped in the credit card debt cycle. But other episodes don’t really offer any advice, and are just a surface-level look at the topics of choice.
Overall, I think this is a missed opportunity. The production values are very slick, and the bitesize format makes it very watchable. But they could easily have made a series filled with more actionable advice. Or, they could have gone in much greater detail about the history of money and the complexities of the economy, etc. As it is, it’s a short, easy watch, but doesn’t even begin to cover the vast topic that is money.
Interesting links that caught my eye this week:
- Early retirement needs you to have an identity – Your Money Blueprint
“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking early retirement will solve all your problems. Make sure you have things outside of work that you love to do that will fill your days. Otherwise you may as well continue to be paid to be miserable, instead of unpaid and miserable.”
- Why FIRE is no mental health panacea – MedFI
“It’s become clear to me, both from my own FI(RE) journey to date and learning from others, that aiming for financial independence is no mental health panacea. Although it is perhaps not as malignant as indebtedness, FI is certainly not psychiatrically benign. What’s the best way forward then?”
- Spending versus investing: it’s not black and white – Wealth and Risk
“What is an investment for you might be spending for me, and an investment for me might be spending for you. At different points in life, the balance may be different. It depends on your circumstances, goals, and objectives. It also depends on the perspective we take: whether we’re looking at a short timeframe or a long one, and whether we’re looking for financial returns, or other kinds of reward.”
- Defensive asset allocation and model portfolios – Monevator
Examples of defensive allocations for different life stages.
- Why I track my spending – Occam Investing
Pretty much captures all the reasons I track my own spending and the benefits that brings.
“Which is why I prefer to track my spending, rather than creating limits through a budget. There’s no judgement, no penalty for overspending, it just is what it is. I spent £200 on a new sleeping bag? OK. No problem. It simply gives you the information, and allows you to make your own decisions on what you want to do.”
- Picasso’s Bull – Mantaro Money
A short but sweet post about the importance of keeping it simple.
- How a generation of amateurs got hooked on high-risk trading – The Guardian
Some pretty crazy stories of investors losing a lot of money on meme stocks and cryptocurrencies.
- It’s too late to get into buy-to-let – Monevator
Finumus relives the glory days of BTL, and offers several reasons why it’s probably not worth it anymore.
- “Follow Your Passion” Is Good Financial Advice – Incognito Money Scribe
Somewhat related to the first post I linked above by Your Money Blueprint. Following your passions / developing a hobby can lead to benefits elsewhere in your life.
“So, will one of these hobbies make you rich? Probably not in themselves, but they can help. And if you have been counting every penny and hustling for years but don’t feel happy, it’s a good sign you need to allocate some time and energy elsewhere. It’s time to follow your passion.”
- Sign up to Trading212 via this link and we both receive a free share.
Thanks for reading. Hope you’re all having a great week!