{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt


Guns ‘n Roses headlined Glastonbury this year.

I remember them being the band of the moment when I was in high school. Rock gods living life in the fast lane. With all the booze, drugs, groupies, and travel that formed part of being on top of the world.

Conforming to the cliché. Living down to the stereotype. Boys behaving badly. And the fans loved it!

Many of the kids at my school wanted to be in the band.

More than a few girls at my school wanted to sleep with the band. Legend has it a couple actually did.

It didn’t matter whether you worshipped the hard men who battled on the fields of rugby, league, or Aussie Rules. Nor the soft men who feigned injury, milked penalties, and pranced about the soccer pitch. Pretty much everyone tried to learn to play the opening riff of Sweet Child ‘O Mine on the guitar.

Younger me would have loved to have been at Glastonbury. Squirming my way to the front of the crowd. Close enough to the stage to be spat on or sprayed with sweat as the band put on a show.

Except younger me had lived half a world away, and couldn’t have afforded the price of admission.

£335 a ticket this year.

210,000 attendees.

Gross revenues of more than seventy million pounds. From a single weekend!

Of course, Guns ‘n Roses were just one act amongst many. Their share of the takings is said to have been around £250,000. Hardly megabucks, but still more than £1,000 per minute of performing.

I must confess, though I could now afford a ticket, I did not make the trek out to deepest darkest Somerset for the gig. Dancing in the mud. Queuing for a port-a-potty. Sleeping in a tent. Enjoying, then avoiding, the teeming horde of overstimulated teenagers powered by cocaine, ecstasy, expensive energy drinks, and cheap spirits.

Instead, I watched the concert on television. From the comfort of my sofa. Struggling to stay awake until the end of the encore. Very rock and roll. I had gotten old!

Axl Rose sounded rough and looked weird. A life lived in the fast lane was bound to leave its mark. Too much cosmetic surgery probably didn’t help. Now aged in his sixties, he looked as ludicrous as the age deniers found prowling around suburban shopping centres, sporting botox and bad dye jobs.   

Meanwhile, Slash looked and sounded the same as he ever had. He’s possibly an alien. Or a robot. Still plays like a god.

What the band lacked in vocals they made up for in showmanship and nostalgia. Transporting me back to my youth. Songs I knew the words to. From the days when guitar solos were still a thing, not yet replaced by obligatory rap interludes.

My younger son watched the gig with me.

After several years spent learning the acoustic guitar, he had commenced a war of attrition in pursuit of an electric model.

Countless hours teaching himself to play classic “oldies” from YouTube instructional videos. Designed to appeal to his parents.

Wonderwall. Times Like These. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Beat It. And Sweet Child ‘O Mine.

Theme songs from James Bond. Indiana Jones. Star Wars.

Soundtracks of family movies full of catchy earwig songs. Big Hero 6. Coco. Vivo.

Every time he played, he would finish with the unsubtle observation: “you know what would make these songs sound even better? Playing them on an electric guitar!

I commend his enthusiasm.

Am a tad daunted by his persistence.

He plays the long game. Willing to lose the odd skirmish. Certain he will eventually win the war.

He is probably right.

What does he want to be when he grows up? A rock star.

To my son’s credit, he hasn’t been leaving his quest for an electric guitar to chance.

He’s been working his backside off over the summer doing chores. To earn money. To save up. Not content to wait in hope for a Christmas or birthday miracle, let alone the vague parental promise of “maybe when you are in high school”.

He’s also been doing research, scouring the internet in search of knowledge. And bargains.

It turns out an electric guitar is not much good on its own. It needs an amplifier. A cable, to connect the two. A case doesn’t hurt. Nor a stand. And don’t get him started on pedals.

A lap around the instrument shops of Denmark Street began with big smiles and much encouragement from the musically inclined shop assistants. It ended in tears on the way home, once he had seen the price tags attached to treasures produced by Gibson, Fender, Marshall, and Roland.

For days afterwards, he learned some disheartening lessons about deceptive marketing, shady e-commerce sites, and that things appearing too good to be true often are seldom true at all.

Thieves and scoundrels on eBay and Gumtree.

Counterfeits and knock-offs infesting Amazon listings like the plague.

Scams and awful AI-generated content marketing sites crowding out Google search results.

Review sites flooded with purchased praise and sycophancy at scale, courtesy of the botnet army.

At his budget, he could barely afford a “beginner” electric guitar kit. Little more than toys really.

We talked at length about how many people take up the guitar with grandiose dreams. About how many swiftly set their instruments back down again.

Realising that mastery requires commitment. Effort. The investment of many hours practising.

Lazy. Entitled. Retreating in search of easier answers. Before cashing out and charging after the next shiny new thing.

This aspect of human nature produces a steady stream of slightly used instruments. Low mileage. Only one owner. Arbitrage pricing, providing the buyer has patience but the seller is in a hurry.

Used goods start at a lower entry price, but are not without risk. Not something he could procure on his own.

At some point during the seemingly endless series of conversations I realised my phrasing had shifted from “if” to “when”. My son noticed the change before I did. His war was won, the outcome just a question of time.

I’d never admit this to him of course, but I’m quietly proud of how he approached the whole thing.

When (not if) we eventually procure an electric guitar and the related paraphernalia, I will ensure he gets a decent one. Insisting he contributes what he can afford, while I make up the difference.

Instilling ownership in the outcome. An achievement earned. A sense of accomplishment.

Using it as a vehicle for learning by doing. The most effective school of all.


Delayed gratification.

Opportunity cost.

The difference between price and value. Two very different and often misunderstood concepts.

The psychology of markets. Supply versus demand. Arbitrage. Advantage. Fashion. Impatience. Seasonality. Power.

Recognising that “saving up” to buy something is just delayed spending. The money is still gone, the same as it would be had he frittered it away feeding his Lego habit.

We had also talked about investing. The wonders of compounding. Passive income. Capital growth.

After that particular talk, he had asked me to put 40% of his pocket money aside, before I paid him. So he wouldn’t spend it.

No prompting.

No edicts.

No coercion.

Just self-awareness. Common sense. Applied problem-solving. Impressive from a 10-year-old.

That money has been invested in a low-cost global tracker, via a tax-free account. He loved the idea of owning a little piece of the companies that sell all the things he loves to eat, wear, watch, and play.

Receiving a couple of hundred pounds worth of dividends provided the positive reinforcement needed to convince him that decision had been a good one. Something to be continued.

40% reinvested. The rest held as cash within the tax-free wrapper. For now.

I thought about my own journey through the treasures and trophies phase of life. Spending to impress disinterested strangers. Worrying about what others thought. Peer pressure. Keeping up with the Joneses. That road led to neither happiness nor contentment, just an endless yearning for more.

Financially naïve.

Emotionally immature.

Fortunately, something I grew out of. Something that many people never manage to escape.

In high school, it had been a television. Then a bike.

At university, it was a student car. A backpacking adventure. Moving out of home.

Three months after I migrated, I had been broke. Living in an eye-watering high cost-of-living city. Funded via credit cards denominated in a weak foreign currency. Waiting for invoices to be paid. Learning a brutal lesson about the importance of cash flow, and the peril of payment terms.

Six months after that, I was earning more than double as a junior freelancer than I had previously made as a permanent accountant on the career fast track. Still with some harsh lessons yet to learn about cash flow, specifically that all businesses play the role of tax collector. Which meant some of those rivers of cash flowing into my bank account belonged to the government, not to me!

The trophy I sought next? A shiny new computer, all of my very own.

I’d always wanted one.

I’d never been in the financial position to afford one.

Now, for the first time ever, perhaps I could. As a business expense. Tax deductible.

In echoes of my younger son’s quest for the perfect affordable guitar, I cast a wide net while researching makes, models, and options.

It turned out that goods in the UK cost more than the same things did in the US. Far more. Partly distance. Partly consumption tax rates. Partly an idiot tax leveraged on the inhabitants of Britain.

When it came to computers, that pricing arbitrage was huge.

How huge? For less than the cost of purchasing the computer in England, I could jump on a plane. Fly to New York. Enjoy a weekend sightseeing. Buy the computer. Fly back to London.

So I did.

A few years later, when that computer was no longer capable of doing the work things I needed a computer to do, I did it again.

By the time that second computer wore out, I had stumbled up the career ladder far enough that my involvement with technology involved designing solutions rather than building them. The heavy lifting delegated to people far younger, cheaper, and smarter than I was. I no longer needed the very best or most powerful of computers.

Fortunately, by that point I had outgrown seeking status and acquiring trophies. I no longer worried about what other people thought. They didn’t care what I did, wore, or drove. They never had.

Today, I find myself in the fortunate financial position to be able to afford any of the trophies I once lusted after. Ironically, by the time acquiring them became a realistic option, my desire to do so had diminished.

I didn’t need them.

They wouldn’t make me happier.

I already enjoyed an abundance. I had “enough”.

Not a milestone with a quantifiable definition. Rather, a realisation that slowly snuck up on me.

Watching the concert on television with my son certainly lacked the atmosphere of a festival.

Watching my young son dream of one day walking in the band’s footsteps, playing an epic solo on a vintage Les Paul guitar to hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. That was priceless.

He doesn’t need the best of the best. That is something to be worked towards. Earned. Accomplished. Then appreciated.

For now, good enough will do. A beginning, not the end.

Good, but not great. Like a band thirty years past their prime, but still giving their fans what they are looking for.

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  1. Ward Just 20 August 2023

    That is hilarious concerning the GNR lick. A buddy with whom I sometimes jam with wants me to learn it! I love the song. Unfortunately I think it’s also on the infamous guitar cringe list like Stairway to Heaven. I’ll be learning it soon!

    Lockdown helped me to reflect on activities and things I wanted to do outside of work. I started repairing coffee machines for family, believe that! YouTube will teach you anything! I then picked up the old guitars I hadn’t played in 30 years. Got a teacher and also use YouTube – now I’m thinking I should have become a rock star instead of a businessman! Two roads diverged in a yellow wood… Lovin’ it (my family is very patient and forgiving)!

    I’m still playing those now 40 year old guitars. For some reason I could never part with them in spite of multiple moves over the years. They sat in their cases biding time, calculating, waiting like a stalking butler, gathering dust, taking up space.

    Bought the acoustic new back then, the cheapest and best sound to my inexperienced ears. It’s not a very good guitar and I’m building up the courage to level up. My teacher plays a Taylor which cost $3000! It’s beautiful and my mouth drools every time I have a lesson with him! My wife says, “Go for it, enjoy!” I’m still biding my time….not quite ready….not quite sure….

    Did get myself a practice amp for the electric. A Boss Katana, I can only recommend it. Makes even my hacks sound good on that electric I bought used from a buddy back in ‘86. My most prized possession funny enough! A white Les Paul custom with the Kahler whammy bar. The $400 I paid for it back then was a lot of money for me.

    Music is a great universe to explore. May your son continue to walk those streets, a loaded six-string on his back!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 August 2023 — Post author

      Thanks Ward Just. That’s fantastic to hear you’ve rediscovered a favourite pastime from years passed. Hopefully my son experiences a similar lifetime love of playing.

  2. Fire And Wide 22 August 2023

    Guns n Roses rock…..or they did back in my head-banging days 🤣

    I’m a big fan of learning by doing. Action over words. Your son sounds like he is on a great path and you obviously set a great example for him here.

    I was never much into ‘things’, for me it’s always been exploring the world. At least never for bragging rights, just a whole bunch of curiousity about how things are different but the same.

    Cheers for some excellent posts lately, making me smile per usual.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 22 August 2023 — Post author

      Thanks Michelle.

      Things seem important until you’ve got some. Once acquired, they are just stuff.

      Travelling was always one of my favourite hobbies. Get it in before airfares start being metered on environmental impact rather than fuel and taxes!

  3. Ian T 22 August 2023

    Hey another interesting read! I too have young children and working out the best way to teach them about money when there various requests come in. Generally I feel that if they are interested in something that could become a hobby (sports, art, music etc) I will fund their basic equipment. if they like they can save up for better tools when they know what they need otherwise usually I can sell it on ebay. If they want to buy the new iphone they are on their own!

    Specifically on guitars I too picked mine up again in lockdown which led down a rabbit hole of restoring and trading them for a while. Its a cool hobby but difficult to make any money. Interesting to work out what should be hobbies and what could be money making activities its easy to confuse them

    For your son I would recommend the Chinese Squiers (the contemporary and classic vibe ones) . It does help to have a semi decent instrument when starting out as some of cheapo ones just make it hard and not much fun. Fender are having a big push to try and encourage younger players and their basic models are fantastic and great value. That and a basic fender amp would easily enough to keep a beginner satisfied for a couple of years until they work out if its something to pursue. If not you can sell it easily on Reverb or Ebay but will take a bit of a hit as there are lots on the market. (selling stuff on ebay is another great money lesson for kids!) You could chance getting one on ebay but if its your first one a decent music shop probably best place to start as you know it will be properly setup and you can get support from them.

    You might want to get them headphones as well (if you enjoy a quiet house)

  4. David Andrews 24 August 2023

    It can be painful educating your children on how the financial world works.

    However, I suspect your children will get a financial education far better than many others.

  5. Raph 25 August 2023

    You’re such a great writer, Indeedably! Enjoyed this a lot.

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