Kindly Stop Saying The Efficient Market Hypothesis is Dead

There are whispers that the Efficient-Market Hypothesis (EMH) is dead.

Smart people say the EMH may have been the real victim of the coronavirus. These people, or their friends, were able to get ahead of the recent market crash. They sold stocks before the market reacted, or shorted them, or bought ‘put’ options, and made handsome profits.

They beat the market without having any special information! They were reading the same news and reports as everyone else. They made a profit by acting on public information that was right there for anyone to see. And so, the EMH is dead, or dying, or at the very least, has a very nasty cough.

I say this is wishful thinking: rumours of the death of efficient markets are greatly exaggerated.

how to profit from coronavirus: investing through the pandemic

How to Profit From Coronavirus

There are a couple of cheap/free options you can to take out to limit the near-bottomless downside risk of COVID-19. I mentioned them in the last post, but they’re time-sensitive; hopefully you took those steps before the panic-buying began.

Now it’s time to think about the upside. When a black swan flaps its wings, great risks and opportunities swirl out of the same chaos.

So: what would it take to not just weather this situation, but profit from it?

Life of Paisa: The Cost of Living in Medellín, Colombia

Shortly after arriving in Medellín, I got The Fear. I barricaded myself in my tiny, claustrophobic Airbnb, binge-watching Narcos and compulsively reading up on the lurid crimes that still plague the former murder capital of the world. Every backfiring engine was a gunshot. Every taxi driver was scheming to deliver me into the hands of the paramilitaries lurking in the jungle. At the calisthenics park, I carefully guarded my water bottle, in case someone slipped in the scopolamine drops that would turn me into a zombie.

My salvation came, as it often does, through a basic grasp of statistics…

2019 spending report: the year of becoming a fancy bitch

2019 Spending Breakdown: The Year of Becoming a Fancy Bitch

Well, time to hand in my frugality card. In 2019, my expenses jumped 38 per cent!

…or perhaps not just yet. I spent most of the year in the Americas, including three of the most expensive cities in the world, which was a shock to the system after so much time in Asia.

It’s only fair to separate this out. After doing some very technical analysis, I calculate that my lifestyle has inflated by 1.25x this year.

Not quite as bad, but still a big leap. This was the year of becoming a Fancy Bitch. Honestly… I’m kind of into it.

Better to Reign in Hell Than Serve in Heaven

‘Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven’ is the fervently-held belief of many freelancers, entrepreneurs and digital nomads I’ve met over the last few years. They’ve all walked away from overbearing bosses, steady paychecks, and nine-to-five office hours to build their own dominions.

There are no rules in hell! You can set your own hours and fire annoying clients and be your own boss and blow off work to go drinking at 11 in the morning. But liberty always comes at a price…

the optionality approach to getting lucky: dead ends, treasure chests, and bottomless pits

The Optionality Approach to Getting Lucky

We’ve established that there is no such thing as cosmic justice: it rains on the just and the unjust alike. But over the course of a lifetime, we at least vaguely shuffle in the direction of getting what we deserve. The goal of this post is to get us from ‘vague shuffling’ to ‘slightly-more-purposeful ambling’.

If you want to get lucky, the usual advice is that you have to be prepared, and then wait for opportunities. This is not very helpful.

Instead of wandering aimlessly and hoping for the best, we can use a simple framework to figure out which opportunities are worth pursuing.

This is the filter I run over pretty much every decision these days. It’s called the optionality approach…

how to make your own luck dartboard cover image

How to Make Your Own Luck

There’s no such thing as cosmic justice. Plenty of good people suffer in various horrible ways; plenty of bad people die rich and happy and surrounded by loved ones. This is not part of some grand plan. It doesn’t ‘mean’ anything. It’s just the arbitrary shuffling of atoms bouncing around a universe-sized billiards table.

There are three common ways of responding to this situation. Unfortunately, two of them are kind of messed up…

stockmarket charts: how safe are index funds, anyway?

Beware of Geeks Bearing Formulas

The history of finance is a history of brains dashed on the pavement. The fact that many people tend to be ‘irrationally’ wary of the markets starts to take on a new significance: the suspicious folk-wisdom has often been correct, while the ‘experts’ have consistently been dangerously wrong.

Hence Warren Buffett’s warning: beware of geeks bearing formulas…

Living on $10,000 a year: Deep Dish 2018 spending report

Living on $10,000 a Year: Attempt #2

Last year, my goal was to live the good life on less than US$10,000. I ended up going about six hundred bucks over my target, but was pretty happy with the attempt. This year, I didn’t have any particular goal in mind. Since I’d already built a spreadsheet and got in the habit of tracking my expenses, I kept up […]

Fuck-You Money Part II

If you ever need a refresher on the importance of fuck-you frugality, go peel off a $100 bill, and subject yourself to the silent, brooding judgment of Benjamin Franklin.

The side-eye is so doleful it traverses time and space. It’s almost as if Franklin knows his face is about to be a) rolled into a tube and stuck up some degenerate’s nostril, or b) used to purchase another superfluous piece of junk that will, in short order, be discarded upon a mountain of previously purchased superfluous junk.

Franklin’s not mad; he’s just disappointed. He wants us to be better…

Somebody wants you to do something, fuck you. Boss pisses you off, fuck you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank. Don't drink. That's all I have to say to anybody on any social level. Did your grandfather take risks? I guarantee he did it from a position of fuck you. A wise man's life is based around fuck you.

The Joy of Fuck-You Money

Humphrey Bogart used to keep a $100 bill in his dresser drawer at all times—a decent chunk of change in the 1920s. He referred to it as his ‘fuck-you money’, because it meant he’d never be forced to take a crappy part. According to Bogie, the only good reason for making money was “so you can tell any son-of-a-bitch in the world to go to hell”.

Unlike Bogart, I am not a tough guy. One time I cried in front of my boss. She gave me the rest of the day off. In fact, all my bosses have been great. I’m struggling to think of a single person I’d like to say ‘fuck you’ to.

But there are plenty of people who I’d like to politely say ‘no thanks’ to. And I say it all the time! It’s great. If I think back on the last few years, fuck-you money has changed my life.

Tabah lot, Bali on the cheap cover image

Bali on a Budget: Living on Less Than $800 a Month

Bali offers a delightfully low cost of living and high quality of life. This being my fourth trip in as many years, I figure I’ve got enough spending data to do a decent breakdown of my expenses.

I’ve tracked every last rupiah during my time here, and crunched the numbers on my spending. What follows is a full cost-of-living breakdown including all the nitty-gritty stuff (like insurance and bank fees) which most reports seem to forget or ignore.

Futurama compound interest cover image

Futurama Taught Me Everything I Know About Compound Interest

Futurama is one of the greatest cartoons of all time. If you haven’t seen this gem of the early noughties, here’s the basic premise: Pizza delivery boy Fry accidentally falls into a cryogenic freezer at the turn of the new millennium, and wakes up 1000 years in the future.

In the sixth episode, ‘A Fishful of Dollars’, Fry re-discovers his old bank account, which contained the princely sum of 93 cents at the time he was frozen. Over the 1000 years he spent as a human popsicle, he is told the balance has compounded from less than a buck to the staggering sum of $4.3 billion. Hijinks and capers ensue…