This month marks the blog’s second birthday. The ‘blog in review’ post is perhaps a bit cliché, so I’ve jazzed it up by shoehorning my musings it into a sort of Noah’s Ark theme. Why not?
Owls and Snakes
(Personal) finance is a fascinating world; an endless warren of information. I’ve engulfed media of most any description over the past few years: blogs, vlogs, videos, podcasts, books, internet forums, websites.
After threshing out a fair amount of chaff, I’ve enjoyed some truly brilliant content. Some of the creators I follow have a far greater understanding of the world of finance, economics and investing than I ever will. Others are simply individuals with a penchant for personal finance and an internet connection, not unlike myself.
These wise owls have been a guiding presence, both as an investor and content creator. As I continue to grow from the timid blogger who was convinced nobody would ever read a word he wrote, I offer my thanks to all those who publish such excellent material.
I’ve fortunately not come across too many snakes in the financial grass. Perhaps it’s because I eschew many of the social media platforms on which low-quality financial content can be found. I think that Hanlon’s Razor applies to most of the low effort, partial or otherwise misleading content out there. Yet with more and more financial content being chucked around the inter-webs we have to do our due diligence to ensure we don’t become scammed, intentionally so or otherwise. It’s as true for me as for anyone else.
Bears and Bulls
Two years is nothing in investing timeframes, but the performance of major indices over that period has been mostly generous. Many investors will have benefitted from the rising of the market, myself included.
It’s psychologically reinforcing to see the impressive returns on investing, certainly when compared to holding cash. It goes a long way to smoothing out some imprinted ideas about investing i.e. that it’s a gamble and losing money is a near-certainty. These perceptions run deep, either due to the sustained warnings from the powers that be (‘capital at risk’ etc.) or individual experiences (e.g. extended family losing out significantly in the 2008 GFC).
Such bullish times leave me in no doubt; investing isn’t a frill for those with more money than sense. It is the way to save and grow money for anything beyond the immediate or short term.
It hasn’t been all ‘up’ in the past two years, however. The Covid Crash of Spring 2020 was a brief blip in an otherwise steadily rising market. I’m happy to have experienced this dip early on in my investing journey, even if it was only transient.
Although my mental fortitude held up easily during on that occasion, I believe it’ll undergo much sterner tests in the future. Not only because there’ll be deeper and/or longer downturns in future, but also because my invested capital will be much greater. It’s potentially easier to watch £1,000 become £500 than see £100,000 become £50,000. There will be another market correction at some point. I just have to hope that my future self is sensible enough to not react.
With a growing number of investors, part of me worries that a lot of people are in for a nasty shock when the inevitable downturn happens. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I suspect that many of the novel investors have focussed solely on eking out maximum gains, crafting portfolios designed to rake in those sweet returns.
How many have thought about the behavioural side of investing? How many have mentally prepared for the fall to come? How many are braced to not react when things get tough? I would hazard a guess that it’s not too many, but I’d happily be proven wrong.
Quick Foxes and Lazy Dogs
It’s not all been ‘slow and steady’ in the markets for the past two years. The burgeoning interest in cryptocurrencies has brought with it a series of yo-yoing prices. Archetypal cryptocurrency Bitcoin has increased in price by ~600%, while second in command Ethereum has seen a rise of nearly 2,500% over the same period. A number of smaller cryptocurrencies have seen ludicrous changes in value.
‘Pump and dump’ schemes for such cryptoassets, the infamous GameStop/WallStreeBets/Robinhood affair and similar events are other examples of people attempting to make quick bucks rather than following a more steady approach. Undoubtedly many will have succeeded in doing so. I suspect that just as many, if not more, will have felt the cruel sting of loss instead.
I can understand the temptation, yet it’s one I’ve mostly resisted. The thrill of winning big is great, but only just about compensates for the ulcer-inducing fear of losing it all. The lazy man’s, Bogle-esque, investing approach is no guarantee of success but it certainly feels a lot stabler. Getting rich slow is fine by me.
Hares and Tortoises
These varied approaches to investing parallel approaches to Financial Independence. After having decided to pursue FI±RE I hared out of the blocks. I slashed my expenditure harshly and cranked the frugality up to 11. In the time since my attitude has mellowed.
Perhaps an element of that is a worn off novelty, or an unsustainability. I think however it’s mostly that I’ve decided it’s not just about sprinting to the FI finishing line. Quality of life in the here and now is important, just as quality of life in the future is. For me, it’s about finding the middle path between those of wanton expenditure or strict asceticism.
Copy Cats and Parrots
It’s readily apparent from the FIRE Blog Cemetery that even the big names in the PF blogging world don’t last forever, never mind the scores of smaller ones that rapidly fizzle out like so many sparklers.
Personal finance content creators are a dime a dozen:
“with hundreds of investing blogs having published thousands of articles over the past decade, there’s a lot of repetition around.”Monevator
MedFI is medically themed, but there are a number of other finance blogs written by doctors so it’s by no means unique. Why then, I ask myself, has MedFI lasted these two years? I suspect that there are a few of reasons.
I don’t have an upload schedule, which keeps researching and writing as more of a hobby than a chore.
I’m not driven by either views/subscribers (which I’m sure pales in comparison to others) or blog income (negative to date). I’m sure I could increase the former by engaging in clickbait ‘Buzzfeedism’ and the latter by hosting adverts on the blog. I have zero intention of doing either.
I try not to wax lyrical on the same old tropes, turning over oft-repeated truisms. If I do write about a common topic I at least try and bring some new angle or idea, e.g. emergency funds or the ‘invest vs. overpay mortgage‘ question.
I believe that the blog has been helpful. The NHS Pension Series is my most popular work and even if it has only helped a handful of people better understand their money in retirement then it’s done its job well. I hope that it, alongside other resources for NHS professionals, will continue to help educate my colleagues in financial matters.
Overall I think it’s because I simply still enjoy it.
I have no designs to put down the…erm…keyboard – what does the future hold for MedFI? Nothing mythical, nothing unreal, nothing fanciful or fictitious. I will endeavour to continue doing what I already try to do.
To publish and promote well-sourced, evidence-based, impartial and balanced content that will push only one agenda: helping us understand our finances not just so as to fatten our wallets, but enrich our lives too.