Weekend reading logo

What caught my eye this week.

We’re often told these days that we must take more responsibility for our own financial futures.

And we must! This site partly exists to help.

Taking responsibility is pretty straightforward – simple, but not easy – if you’re spending more than you earn, or you haven’t saved a rainy day fund.

Like a vasectomy, it’s a matter of cutting the outflow and redirecting internally.

But once you’re free of debt and you’ve got 3-6 months in a cash emergency fund, the picture gets more complicated.

Not with the part most people fret over – how to invest. That’s a solved problem.

Invest in a global index tracker fund, offset the risk with an appropriately-sized slug of government bonds, do it in tax shelters (ISAs and pensions), use cheap platforms, and add more monthly – rather than fuss daily – for the next 30 years. Tweak to suit.

Yes we like to dig into the minutia around here – exactly which fund, how much in what bonds – but you won’t go wrong if you get the basics right.

The big picture

Things get tricky not with the tactics…

  • Index funds, platforms, tax shelters

…but with the strategy…

  • How much to save? When can you retire? What can you spend?

We’ve written many series on everything from doing your planning to estimating a sustainable withdrawal rate.

They’ve typically come in multiple installments, because there are no pat answers.

Indeed faced with more complexity, many people are tempted to turn to professional advice.

And when it comes to issues such as taxes or estate planning, seeking advice could be very wise.

However I’m usually wary of suggesting people re-introduce higher costs and murkiness back into their core financial planning by offloading responsibility to a third-party.

Unless you’re very wealthy, such advice will probably just be outsourced to software – albeit someone charming who might spend an hour explaining the system’s output to you, and if you’re fortunate help you with the inputs.

But it won’t be truly individual advice, typically.

This is a problem, because such software models can spit out very different numbers.

Pension planning: from plenty to penury

Consider the results of an investigation into online pension planners by Trustnet’s magazine this month, pointed out to me by reader P.J.:

After almost two solid days on five platform websites, I have to say I was surprised to see there was almost no agreement at all on what my money would provide in retirement.

I am now wondering if the calculators are plain wrong, steeped in regulatory pessimism or a victim of their own complex assumptions.

The range of results is pretty astonishing, in some cases suggesting your income will run out 15 years earlier from what are essentially the same inputs.

The article’s author John Blowers fed the same fairly standard retirement scenario into all five planners. The results that came back do appear to be… a mixed bag:

There are some huge variations in there! Read the full article for more about the assumptions, and a discussion of what might be going on.

I’d suggest you do the hard miles with your own pension calculations. You can then sanity check them with an online planner or two.

If nothing else you’ll be better able to understand how these tools reach their conclusions!

From Monevator

The Slow and Steady passive portfolio update: Q2 2020 – Monevator

From the archive-ator: How to work out which platform is cheapest for you – 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

UK house prices fell annually for the first time since 2012, says Nationwide – Reuters

Wealth tax more likely than ever, former civil service head says [Search result]FT

Retailers face a tough slog to flog mountains of stock – ThisIsMoney

Savers put away record amounts of cash – but a third isn’t earning any interest at all – Which?

Source: S&P and ECB. Horizontal axis is weeks into the crisis, vertical axis is percent of BBB bonds downgraded to junk.

A slow-motion credit crisis in 2021? – Klement on Investing

Products and services

Dimensional Fund Advisors is finally launching ETFs [US, but they should come here eventually]Dimensional

Holidaymakers offered little to no Covid-19 insurance – Guardian

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

School fees are now very expensive, or are they? – Finumus

Working from home and the rise of the ‘shoffice’ [not my term!] or shed/office – ThisIsMoney

More: homes for sale with an artist’s studio [Gallery]Guardian

Death of cash mini-special

The (near) cashless society arrives – Axios

More: the pandemic is doing to credit cards what iTunes did to CDs – Protocol

Comment and opinion

Asset allocation beyond the zero bound – Verdad

Right or wrong? – Humble Dollar

Why did Rishi Sunak fail to help the self-employed who’ve paid plenty of tax? – Simon Lambert

Jack Bogle was wrong about ETFs – Morningstar

Out of favour asset classes: broken or bent? – Bps and pieces

Confessions of a former FIRE skeptic – Morningstar

Terry Smith: there are only two types of market-timing investors [Search result]FT

Why is gold valuable? – Of Dollars and Data

Jeremy Siegel: 75/25 is the new 60/40 – The Big Picture

Financial markets are no more uncertain today than they were last year – Behavioural Investment

Larry Swedroe: The four horsemen of the retirement apocalypse [Podcast]Standard Deviation

Naughty corner: Active antics

10 lessons from a 10-bagger – Maynard Paton

Keep running – Morgan Housel

Pedal to the metal leads to record rebound – Investing Caffeine

The gold breakout – The Reformed Broker

Blue Whale Growth Fund: the next big thing? – IT Investor

Apple and Facebook – Stratechery

Coronavirus corner, political chaser

Is coronavirus really in retreat in the UK? – Guardian

Covid-19 immunity may be more widespread than tests suggest – BBC

Vaccine trial from Pfizer and BioNTech shows positive results – CNBC

Atomic data on the new outbreak in Melbourne, Australia [We need such detail here]Guardian

The medical case for reopening schools – Slate

What does Covid-19 do to the brain? – BBC

Gilead announces long-awaited price for Covid-19 drug remdesivir – Stat

How America botched its reopening – Politico [hat tip Abnormal Returns]

Flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China – BBC

Boris Johnson’s best route to re-election success is a ‘war on woke’ [Deeply depressing]Independent

Kindle book bargains

You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich by Emilie Bellet – £0.99 on Kindle

The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by Niall Kishtainy- £1.99 on Kindle

Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland – £0.99 on Kindle

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

Why Hong Kong’s new security law scares people – BBC

Don’t kill time – Dave Perell

The curse of genius – 1843 Magazine

The rise and fall of the five stages of grief – BBC

And finally…

“Crowds are often surprisingly wise – the market can be right even when everyone who makes it up is individually wrong.”
Lee Freeman-Shor, The Art of Execution

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  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”.

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