Friday Finance: don’t pick your own stocks

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This is an extract from The Poor Man’s Guide to Financial Freedom: A Realistic, 10-Step Manual to Building Liberating Wealth on a Small to Medium Budget.

Why Stock Picking is Bad

Do you know who can pick stocks well enough to beat the average market return, i.e. that which a dartboard, a monkey or an index fund could do?  You know who? 

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Freedom ends in tiny steps

Seemingly small incidents sometimes take on a much greater significance with the passage of time.

A decade ago, Australia banned its citizens from travelling to Syria in order to prevent lumpen Muslims from Western Sydney joining ISIS. Those that made it anyway were stripped of their citizenship in order to block their return.

I vaguely recall civil rights groups kicking up a fuss at the time but most people were untroubled. Who cares if some people wanted to travel to Syria for innocent reasons, i.e. to work as civilian medics? Do-gooders have no right to go get themselves killed in some hellhole. Who cares if some ‘Australians’ are not allowed back after fighting? They’re citizens of Islamic State now and if they don’t like it, tough titties.

Then in 2020, Australians were banned from travelling anywhere in the world without permission and those stuck in India were threatened with jail if they tried to come back. This would have been politically harder without the Syrian precedent. Before that, Australians were free to go anywhere including Cuba, North Korea and Iran.

The border controls illustrate two vital principles of WEIRD nations:

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Friday Finance: stock market indexes of the world

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Tokyo, 1980s

This is an extract from The Poor Man’s Guide to Financial Freedom: A Realistic, 10-Step Manual to Building Liberating Wealth on a Small to Medium Budget.

Stock Market Indexes

We already learned about some of the stock markets around the world.  An ‘index’ is something that measures the change in such a market.  An ‘index fund’ invests broadly in order to match the performance of that index.

Are you with me?  No?  Okay, here’s an example:

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Untenable proposals

I’ve noticed a habit of the extremely online, which is most of us these days: advocating unrealistic positions.

The chief culprits are libertarians. For example, ‘All taxation is theft!’

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but there’s never going to be a society with no tax so it hardly matters.

The same goes for other libertarian proposals like ending all public expenditure on welfare, education, healthcare, roads, etc. These things will not happen.

If you write a theoretical piece outlining a utopian society run along completely different lines, that’s okay, but be aware that it is purely a thought experiment or perhaps a model for a country a hundred years hence. Kind of like how boffins used Newtonian physics to figure out how much horsepower was required to escape Earth’s gravitational field when all they had were horses.

The trouble comes when a writer espouses a politically impractical proposal, accuses everyone else of being too retarded or evil to see that he’s right, then flounces off to his trailer while leaving to others the impossible task he has decreed.

We get this on all sides of politics but let’s look at the right:

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Sunday Story – Hyenas

This story was first published in Terror House Magazine


The old fighters greeted each other with their traditional, shoulder-bumping handshake.  They went to their usual table on the raised section where they could look out at the other customers in the restaurant.  There were two types of food to choose from: Eritrean or Italian.  The fighters could remember when this colonial-era hotel had been owned by actual Italians.  Their fathers had told them of the time before that when natives had not been allowed inside.

For better or worse, the Italians were long gone.  The friends ordered a simple meal of lentils and injera because both were adhering to an Orthodox fast.  It was late afternoon.

In any group of three there is a government spy but Johannes and Tesfay were only two, and the other customers were slightly too far away to hear their uninhibited conversation.  They spoke of blackouts, feuds with tenants, mandated food prices, the water shortage.  The coup attempt.  The boys who’d been arrested for it, who they knew.  In a small city of old families, there were only a couple of degrees of separation between anyone.

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Friday Finance: SCAMS!

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On his excellent finance blog, JL Collins lists the five laws of con, reproduced here with my commentary:

1. EVERYBODY can be conned.

Even me. Even you. Those who think they are at no risk, are at the highest risk because they will be complacent.

2. You are likely to be conned in an area of your expertise.

Given Law 1, it makes sense, right? You’ll think yourself an expert and let your guard down. The art curator being sold a painting or the mechanic being sold a car should be especially cautious.

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Literally Hitler

Book review of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.

Previously: Literally Marx

Instead of fading with the passage of time, fear of Nazis seems to be growing stronger. Mainstream media asserts that WWII is currently being re-fought by the Proud Boys and other multicultural larpers. Western governments, three-letter agencies and all the other elite bodies sing in unison: the Nazis are back and they’re on the brink of taking over! (Unless we suspend your Constitutional rights to fight them.)

With Islamist terror forgotten and Covid fading, they needed something new. Plus, a dualist religion like Woke needs its Devil and Trump is struggling to fill the role.

With this newfound fervour for discovering fascists under the bed, it’s timely to go back and read what Hitler was all about.

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Sunday Story – Secret Heart

First published in Terror House Magazine


“Bastards!”  The man’s exclamation rang out through the bush, fading until the only sound was the cicadas droning in the heat.  His vegetable patch was completely turned over, the chook-wire fence pushed down and flattened.

The man looked like a retired bikie but in fact he was a retired biologist who’d let his greying beard grow wild.  He stood bare from the waist up in the blinding sunlight, a surgery scar livid on the brown skin of his chest.  He stared at his ruined tomatoes.

“What did it, Julius?” asked Alina.  “You said there are no bears here.  Was it wild pigs?”  His young wife put an arm around him sympathetically.  She spoke with a strong Russian accent.

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Your Covid story

People on this side of things don’t like to complain, myself excepted. Stoicism is preferred.

That’s fine in general but it has the side effect that we know little of others’ situations.

From off-hand comments here and there, I’ve discovered people who have lost their jobs, gone bankrupt, were unable to enter professions due to suspended bar exams etc., were forced to move house, lost friends, fell out with family, were separated from partners and children, and so on.

These weren’t whingers. The truth slipped out once and they didn’t mention it again.

I’ve also heard people note positive outcomes – fresh opportunities, personal growth and things like that.

This post is given over to your stories about how Covid went for you. Not a whine or a brag. A chance to share so we know what happened.

By ‘Covid’ I mean everything – the virus itself, closed hospitals, lockdowns, travel restrictions, mask and vaccine mandates, and anything else related.

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A loftier blog

I recently visited the old dame of Australian conservative writing, Quadrant.

Allegedly established with CIA money by one of the perpetrators of the Ern Malley hoax, for a long time it reflected anti-communist and anti-progressive thought in the Old Country. Its writers, often former communists themselves, penned screeds against the obsession of the left-wing media with its pet, Triple-R issues: Aboriginal reconciliation, the republic and refugees.

Quadrant’s left-wing counterpoint is The Monthly, which mostly writes about Aboriginal issues and refugees. The republic now takes a back seat to modern Woke obsessions. I think the new R word is race but gender also gets a look in depending upon the fashion of the day.

I hoped to find something intellectually stimulating in Quadrant but instead found it repeating the catechisms of mainstream conservatism: crazy Woke nonsense on campus is crazy Woke nonsense, global warming is bunk, Covid is overblown, plus endless, dull squid ink on the perpetual History Wars regarding Aborigines.

That 2% of the population seems to occupy 20% of the words ever written by white intellectuals on both sides, which is funny because few Aborigines will read a word of it.

Oh, and they obsess over ABC bias of course.

Tell us something we don’t know. This is stodgy, middle-brow stuff that we can hear in 3-minute format from Andrew Bolt on YouTube. [Edit: that link no longer works because Sky News just shitcanned him.]

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Sunday Story – Who Eats Who

Danae insisted on driving as they crossed the desert near Joshua Tree.  She’d insisted on a lot of things since becoming Assistant Principal and Meilani decided not to argue.  She remembered the time Danae had berated her during a staff meeting.

They’d been close friends for years.  Probably Danae’s military contractor boyfriend had been giving her misplaced ideas on how to lead a team.  Being an administrator of a suburban high school is different to commanding a brigade of mercenaries in the Sahel.

Whatever; it was water under the bridge.  That and other things.  Now they were just two BFFs on a road trip together.  It was technically work because they were going to an education conference at a desert retreat but on route they could gossip and chill. 

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Friday Finance: BAD money books

I previously listed some good books for those wanting to learn more about finance.

There are some I don’t generally recommend, not because they’re bad but because they are unsuitable for my target audience. Essays by Warren Buffett, that sort of thing. There are a small minority of investors who are able to do better than the index by picking their owns stocks, speculating on currencies and that sort of thing, and there are good books available on these topics.

However, as I showed in my book, research repeatedly demonstrates that these are losing strategies for the average person. My book is aimed at total beginners who should probably stay away from such advanced strategies. The kind of people who might pull them off are the kind of people who would not have read my book in the first place it is far too basic for their needs.

There is another kind of book that is no good for anyone. It is aimed at the novice, not the advanced investor, and focuses on feel-good, get-rich-quick nonsense rather than concrete advice on how to save and invest.

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