Monthly update: Reversible decisions and wake-up calls

Feb 26, 2022 5:06 am

Hi !

It's cold but not in a "crisp and Christmassy" way, it's still dark all the time, and it has a confusing number of days. No-one has anything good to say about February, and I bet even the other months bitch about it behind its back.

But hey – I had a pretty good February, and I hope you did too. Here's what's coming up:

  • The case for investing in property in three sentences
  • I can't wake up in the morning, so I hired someone to help
  • Some of my favourite tech tips
  • I can't believe I just moved house again
  • And more!

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πŸ“ˆ This month in investing

I may have been mentioning for months-slash-years that I'm working on a book about economics, and the bloody thing is edging closer to being finished.

The book focuses on a few big themes to explain why the financial world is the way it is today. One of the biggest of those themes is inflation. I know – the amount I talk about inflation far exceeds anyone's desire to hear about it, but when you dig into it the causes and consequences of generating inflation explain so much about the system we live in.

Anyway. Driven by some of the same ideas, I've written an article on my website that gives the case for investing in property in three sentences.

🚚 This month in moving

For the second time in 18 months, I've moved house. Chalk up another win for the convenience of renting: we fancied a change, spotted the perfect place, and less than two months later we'd moved – with minimal cost and hassle.

Moving house when you rent rather than own is clearly easier for lots of practical reasons, but here's the killer psychological benefit: it turns choosing where to live into a reversible decision, which enables you to take more risk.

We've moved somewhere a lot more expensive, with some aspects we weren't sure about, in a part of town we don't know well. For any of those reasons, it might not be a good move. If that's the case, never mind: in a year we can literally move back into the same building we just vacated if we want to. That wouldn't be ideal, but nor would it be a disaster. Framing it as a one year experiment gave us the confidence to do something that would otherwise have been too risky...and so far, taking that risk is paying off in a big way.

I'm not saying everyone should rent: many people value other factors more than they value flexibility, so owning is the right choice for them. In our case though, this is the perfect validation of why we can't imagine ever owning our own home even if it were the smarter financial choice by a mile.

(Random tip if you do move house: get a removal company who'll come and box everything up for you, so you don't even need to bother emptying out your drawers and cupboards. It costs more, but reduces the hassle factor like you wouldn't believe.)

⏰ This month in mornings

I love being up early in the morning, but I hate waking up early in the morning. My unconscious is well aware of this, and has developed the able to turn off any type of alarm without troubling the part of my brain that understands the value of being in the gym nice and early.

What's the only force powerful enough to overcome my built-in snooze mechanism? Politeness. If someone calls me and insists on chatting away until I'm fully awake, I'm hardly going to hang up on them am I?

I went looking for a website where you can book hotel-style personal alarm calls, but couldn't find anything. (Someone, please build this.) So I settled for the next best thing: a service that will call you and have a computer voice read out a message you choose.

Amazingly, my politeness instinct applies to robots too: I found that I always answered the call and listened, and it somehow activated the "c'mon, you need to wake up and write some pithy economic commentary before the kid starts crying!" part of my brain enough to get me out of bed.

That service shut down, and I couldn't find another that worked in the UK. So, in a move that's odd even by my standards, I hired someone on to build my own private wake-up web app.

And you know what? It actually works! Each night I set a little message describing what's coming up the next day, and every morning I'm jolted to life by a robo-call reading it out to me.

I have no idea if it's a quirk of my psychology that makes this so effective, or if it'd work for anyone. So if you struggle with waking up and would like to test it out, let me know and I'll give you a login.

πŸ’» This month in tech

I ran a survey last month, and many people mentioned that they liked the occasional tech tips I share. This won't become a regular feature, but as I happen to have a few saved up...

  • Did you know that if you use an iPhone and another Apple product (like a Macbook or iPad), you can copy and paste between them? I thought this was common knowledge, but recently I've spoken to a couple of people who had no idea. Perfect use-case for this: making payments. Copy the account number from a PDF invoice on your laptop, and paste it into your online banking app on your phone. Much quicker, and no chance of typos. Works even better for long crypto addresses, but I know that's more niche.

  • Having tested out quite a few, I now use Sidekick as my main browser. It's built on the same underlying technology as Chrome so all the same browser extensions work, but it's privacy-focused and has a handy sidebar where you can keep your most frequently used apps (for me: WhatsApp, Trello and my calendar). It's free forever, unless you want certain pro features that I've never tried. Apparently if enough people sign up via this link I get to have those features for free, so consider doing me a favour by doing that if you're planning on trying it anyway.

  • Do yourself a favour and start using a decent bookmark manager to save interesting pages you come across on the web. (You can use the tool that's built into your browser, but it's pretty basic.) I use Raindrop: it works across all your devices, it's quick and easy to save anything, and it has good search and tagging features to pull what you need back out again. I just use the free version and I've never hit any limits.

🍿 This month in media

βš›οΈ I'm attempting to read A Brief History Of Time, and I think the heat death of the universe will happen before I meaningfully grasp any of it. It's fun to have my brain stretched by a totally different subject though – and it led me to Arvin Ash's YouTube channel, which does a brilliant job of explaining some of the more bonkers areas of quantum physics in terms simple enough that I *almost* understand them.

πŸ’° The Tinder Swindler on Netflix is a super-compelling documentary about a dating-based ponzi scheme operated by a fake billionaire. It's a shame he's such a despicable person, because his scheme was so clever and well executed he could achieve something brilliant in a legitimate business.

🎡 My monthly music recommendation is virtually everyone's least favourite part of the newsletter, as confirmed by the survey I ran last month. So quick – stop reading here and don't click on this link to Let You Break My Heart Again by Laufey with Philharmonia Orchestra.

πŸ‘‹ And finally...

Thank you so much if you filled in my survey from last month's email. The general consensus seemed to be that I'm on the right track, so I won't be making any major changes – but I have read every single response, and I was blown away by the number of people who took the time to write such kind and thoughtful comments.

That’s it for February! Feel free to write back and let me know what you've been up to.



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