Monthly update: The perfect portfolio and multiple marathons

Jun 26, 2021 9:06 am

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Here's what had my attention in June...

πŸ’° This month in investing

I've written an article about building the perfect portfolio – AKA how to balance the three motivations of investing.

It came about because understanding how these motivations apply to you is essential before you can answer that common question: "is X a good thing to invest in?"

The article could easily have been five times as long, so let me know if you'd like to read more on this kind of subject – and feel free to drop any specific questions in the comments.

πŸ’ͺ This month in personal improvement

If you want to lose weight, 90% of the solution is eating fewer calories than you burn. You can fiddle around the edges a bit my hitting certain macros and having a training programme, but the absolute basics get you most of the way there.

If you want to be wealthy, 90% of the solution is spending less than you earn and investing the difference consistently in boring assets over a long period of time. The evidence shows that in most cases, trying to get clever by timing the market or investing in wacky asset classes actually reduces performance.

The same goes for most areas of life: just knuckling down and doing the obvious basics is the best way to get results. So why does everything become so over-complicated?

The convenient target for blame is greedy marketers: to sell more products, they need to reveal a new "secret" to success every few years and invent programmes so complex you need expert help to implement them.

But actually, I think we're largely to blame – because we want these quick fixes. Deep down, we know what we need to do – but it's more emotionally rewarding to buy into the latest fad than it is to do the difficult, boring work for long periods of time.

(This interview with The Fitness Chef on the Modern Wisdom podcast is brilliant on the diet point, and is what planted this idea with me.)

🎹 This month in life

I've been learning to play the piano. Or more accurately, re-learning – although ascending to the dizzy heights of Grade 5 as a child has proven not to be at all like riding a bike, and left me with no residual ability.

Proving what I was just saying about wanting quick fixes, instead of bothering to learn the theory I'm taking the "paint by numbers" approach and just following YouTube tutorials to learn where to put my fingers to play the songs I want, without really knowing why it sounds right or learning anything I can generalise to other songs in the future. 

It's a daft way to learn, but it's highly satisfying to get to the point of being able to play a piece on autopilot, having initially had that "whoa, that's way too hard for me" feeling.

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ This month in ridiculously impressive people

A reader wrote in to tell me about her brother, Tom Crossland, who's currently running around the perimeter (not the right word, but y'know) of England and Wales to raise money and awareness to fight against people-trafficking and modern slavery. It's 1900 miles, or the equivalent of 75 marathons in about 90 days.

Just on the very slim off-chance you're thinking "so what? I could easily do that – and indeed, I did just the other day", you should know that Tom also grew up with Cerebral Palsy which meant he didn't walk until he was over three years old and it still takes significant daily training for him to be able to run at all.

It's well worth reading Tom's inspiring daily updates on his blog and following him on his social channels.

🍿 This month in media

πŸ“– Another book recommendation via my wife: Where Did I Go Right? by Geoff Norcott. Geoff is known for being a rare stand-up comedian who votes Conservative, and this book is what I'd describe as an autobiography through a political lens. Whether you agree with his views or not, it's brilliantly written and very funny.

πŸ’Š I try to avoid sharing anything Covid-related because it doesn't make anyone happier, but this is a fascinating article about how a researcher discovered a 60-year-old mistake that led to a complete misunderstanding of how the virus spreads. When I was studying a science-based subject at University I came across similar situations all the time – something mis-cited once that's become regarded as indisputable truth through repetition – and this article shows how hard it is to correct such a mistake once it's become embedded.

πŸ“š The TED-Ed YouTube channel has a playlist of five-minute book summaries, which is great for blagging your way through conversations about the classics – or even for the more noble aim of deciding which you want to read. Here – you can now have a convincing conversation about Crime & Punishment.

πŸ‘‹That’s it for June! Could you do me a favour? If you can think of one person who might enjoy receiving these emails, please forward this on to them. They can then use this link if they want to sign up to receive more.