{ in·deed·a·bly }

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

Solved problem

Once upon a time, I started a blog.

A hobby. Creative outlet. Escape from the everyday.

My writing focussed on personal finance, because personal finance was what I was focussing on.

Hard-won experience increased my wisdom and reduced my certainty. Two sides of the same coin. I have learned that there is a great deal I don’t understand. Have control over. Exert influence upon. But there is also little point worrying about this fact. Worry won’t change the outcome in the slightest!

Instead, I have learned acceptance. Patience. Surrender.

Not outright capitulation. Learning to swim across the tide, rather than against it.

More effective.

Less exhausting.

Experience provided the confidence to try the new. Wealth granted the ability to survive the failures.

Daring to imagine. Reflect. Refine. Revisit.

Hope the for best. Prepare for the worst. Learn, regardless of the outcome.

Five years on, my focus has shifted. Finance may well be personal, but it is also a solved problem.

I have thought about this a lot. Hundreds of stories. Hundreds of thousands of words.

Here is what I believe to be true. Today. At the time of writing. The answers may differ tomorrow.

Beliefs, not laws or rules. Those terms imply certainty, which I have come to recognise as hubris.

Beliefs lightly held, not dogma. Subject to change, I keep an open mind. Always learning.

Beliefs that form principles. Principles to guide decision-making. Helping to find least wrong answers.

It’s not what you earn, but what you keep. Live within your means. Align expectations to income.

The happiest people I know are broke. Surprising, but true. Surviving on social security. Living in council housing.

The secret of their happiness appears to be maintaining low expectations.

Their tribe are as poor as themselves. Family. Friends. Neighbours. Narrow horizons. Blinkered world views.

The Joneses they run with set the bar low. The poverty cycle ensures it remains difficult to clear.

Often having kids too young. Having too many kids. Broken relationships. Living hand to mouth.

Yet despite having modest means, the happy ones lead rich full lives. Living. Laughing. Loving. Their lifestyle choices may not be for me, but I respect their ability to make it work for them. Money certainly makes things easier, but it doesn’t guarantee the outcome. Far from it. Finding happiness is a choice.

By contrast, the most miserable people I know are all comfortably well off.

By any objective measure, they have “enough”. Yet they forever yearn for more.

Measuring themselves not against their peers, but against fantasy lives projected on social media.

Always falling short.

Endlessly found wanting.

First class felt like winning at life, until it got trumped by a private jet.

Six-figure salaries don’t go far when the salary earner occupies a gilded cage.

Half, or more, is likely consumed by tax. Vanishing before hitting the taxpayer’s bank account.

Car payments. Mortgage payments. Nursery fees. Private school fees. Each claims a hefty slice.

Remunerate the service providers. Cleaner. Dog walker. Nanny. Personal trainer. Therapist.

All those people we outsource our obligations to. Buying back time with money.

Sensible, if that time is used for rewarding pursuits.

Less sensible when that time is reinvested in working. To earn more money. To buy more time. The hustle trap. Not living life, but using work as an excuse to hide the absence of a rich fulfilling life.

A home we don’t want to go home to. Epic commutes. Frequent business travel. Lifestyle choices all.

Perhaps a family we choose to avoid rather than embrace. Too busy earning to be experiencing.

Probably not the narrative the noble worker would tell. But ask their loved ones. Deeds, not words!

After the bills, there is unlikely to be much left to pay for projecting that social media perfect lifestyle.

Cue the tiny violins, life is tough in the fast lane! Yet for reasons I struggle to understand, this life of quiet desperation is the one many adopt as their chosen lifestyle. A prison of their own making.

That “what you keep” equation offers several levers that are within our control.

Earn. Earn more. Maximise the marketable value of your time.

Money provides options.

Money creates the illusion of control.

Money buys time. Except not really. Time allocation is a prioritisation decision, not a monetary one.

Spend. Spend less than you earn, but spend.

Spend consciously.

Spend what it costs to be comfortable.

Spend on things that make you happy or provide contentment. Recognise that both feelings are fleeting, not permanent states of being. Anyone telling you otherwise is selling you something.

Don’t become an addict, endlessly chasing the next hit like a caffeine fiend or a heroin addict.

Self-sacrifice and denial are not the way. They do explain why frugalistas and budgeteers are a miserable breed. Forgetting that money is an enabler, not the goal.

Invest. Invest the difference between earnings and spending.

Invest often.

Invest wisely.

Invest in productive assets, including yourself.

Invest in enough professional advice to make you competent. But not so much it makes you a sucker.

Understand that financial advisors of all stripes earn their living from activity. What is good for you is not the same as what is good for them. For best results, align their financial interests with yours.

Avoid excessive fees.

Avoid commissions.

Avoid activity and churn. Both manage wealth out of your pocket and into the pockets of others.

Then wait. Wait patiently. Play the long game.

Ego is an investor’s greatest enemy. Boredom comes a close second. Recognise your weaknesses.

Accept that activity is not the same as effectiveness.

Comprehend that markets are comprised of a vast number of players who are just as fallible and uninformed as you. The only players who truly know what will happen next are those large enough to move markets and generate their own demand. They are playing a different game, a rigged game, which makes money not from investments but from the behaviours of investors just like you.

The only true alpha is inside knowledge. If you haven’t got that, any outperformance is down to luck.

Prediction is guessing. Your guess is as good as mine, and worth just as little.

Probability is our way of attempting to apply science to chance.

Risk management accepts uncertainty. It can’t guarantee a win, but may reduce the chance of a loss.

Doing the thinking. Imagining. Running the numbers. Wargaming scenarios.

In the absence of certainty, being prepared is the next best thing.

Investments compound while you wake. Compound while you work. Compound while you sleep.

A water wheel powered by money. Turning ever faster. Generating wealth. Funding lifestyle.

It is this one characteristic that distinguishes investments from assets.

If your investments don’t do this, then they aren’t investments. It really is that simple.

That is a lens that should be applied more broadly than financial investments.

The most important investments we will ever make are in our choices of education, profession, spouse, and social circle.

Should any of those areas fail to deliver a positive return on investment, or fail to add value to our life, then we should cut our losses and reinvest our energies elsewhere.

Holding onto losing investments is faulty mental accounting, driven by pride and ego.

The fear of realising a loss. Acknowledging that things didn’t work out as planned. That we got it wrong, for any number of reasons. Recognising that a paper setback has real world impact.

I have applied that lens to some aspects of my own life recently. Evaluating the return on investment from my scarce time and limited attention.

One area that was found wanting was Sovereign Quest, a personal finance aggregator I established a few years ago. The idea was to help people such as myself, with an interest in personal finance, to easily discover relevant content created by amateur bloggers, podcasters, and vloggers.

It has been an fascinating journey, observing as the personal finance creator community has evolved.

Technology has played a part, changing the methods and mediums the audience use when seeking out and consuming content.

Financial circumstance has also contributed. Over the life of Sovereign Quest we’ve seen crypto bubbles and busts. Pandemic economic shocks. Populist politicians committing economic vandalism. The return of inflation. The end of borrowings being as good as free.

Today, I no longer feel SovereignQuest successfully achieves its original goal.

The platforms and mediums used by creators have moved on from the traditional world of long form blogs and newsletters. Short form video clips and instagram posts now meet the demands of a new generation of audience. In the past 12 months only a small handful of new blogs or podcasts were added to the Soveriegn Quest creator directory.

Meanwhile, many of the creators who provided the content shared via Sovereign Quest have gone dark. Interest lost as audience numbers dwindled. Personal Finance content creation has ever been a high churn game, few creators last more than six months. With so few new voices joining the existing community, and so many choosing to cease creating, the feeds are now dominated by those few hardy souls who continue.

Traffic volumes have been telling. The average daily volume of new posts or episodes shared via the SovereignQuest feeds is almost 90% lower than it was three years ago. Back then, Sovereign Quest was visited by thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of visitors each day. Today that number has fallen to less than 200 daily visitors on average.

Curating SovereignQuest has been a rewarding activity for much of that time, providing new insights or ideas, or challenging existing premises. While I don’t pretend to know everything, my personal interests are no longer aligned to those publishing content aimed at those near the beginning of their personal finance journey.

As my interests have evolved, so too should my time allocation priorities. Therefore, SovereignQuest will go dark when its hosting contract expires.

I would like to thank all those who contributed to the SovereignQuest community, creating, consuming, or sharing the content produced by a generation of generous personal finance voices over the last few years.

This post summarises the key lessons that I’ve learned from you all. Hopefully it may help stimulate the thinking or challenge the beliefs of those who may read it.

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  1. FI-FireFighter 13 October 2023

    TBF I am a little relieved it’s SQ you are stopping, as I was reading I thought you were telling us you were stopping writing your blog!!
    I agree with your assessment re PF content, the landscape has changed quite a lot.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 13 October 2023 — Post author

      Thanks FI-FireFighter. Fear not, I’ll keep writing here while it remains fun to do so.

      I agree with your assessment re PF content, the landscape has changed quite a lot.

      It would be interesting to see the changes in demographic breakdown of the audience over that time period, but I long ago switched off the analytic cookie options that track such things. My guess would be the “average” audience member at Sovereign Quest has gotten older and probably whiter over that period, as younger consumers migrated away to other platforms hosting more relatable creators. Which now that I think about it, is broadly what has happened to Facebook… starting out with a community of university students, but today almost half of its active user base is aged 35 or older, while a comparable percentage of TikTok users are 24 or younger.

    • Raph 22 October 2023

      The most important remains this blog 🙂 but as we discussed some time ago the game has changed at least for the newbies (I tend to think video content is not the best format for more advanced investors)
      I value your support over those past few years, Indeedably.

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

        Thanks Raph. The world moves on, new replacing the old. Some call it progress, others change. That change brings opportunity as incumbents retire to be replaced by new voices, the BankerOnWheels Weekend Reading curation being a fantastic example of a valued addition to the community.

        Video and audio content don’t do it for me, requiring more time to consume with less payback for that time investment. They do provide entertainment though, so I’m fine with sitting back and switching off my brain to passively consume. That said, I find more new ideas about personal finance from an episode of The Expanse or Altered Carbon than I do from a podcast dedicated to the topic!

  2. Ward Just 13 October 2023

    Glad you are continuing! I enjoy your prose and take on life! RIP SQ!
    I can attest that my interest in a lot of financial blogs has ebbed – how many times do you want to read about the same warmed up leftovers? I‘m heading toward the FI goal, not yet so sure about RE, and my interests are evolving. We‘ll see! And yes, boring monthly investing is the best!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 13 October 2023 — Post author

      And yes, boring monthly investing is the best!

      Well said Ward Just, and best of luck for the final stretch to achieving your FI goals.

  3. Full Time Finance 14 October 2023

    I was half way through thinking you were leaving us completely. Glad you’re sticking around in some form. So many of the old crowd have moved on…. All things change given time I guess.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 15 October 2023 — Post author

      Thanks FullTimeFinance.

      So many of the old crowd have moved on…. All things change given time I guess.

      True, though I look at it a slightly different way.

      When most folks need a new banking product, they dip a toe into the banking ecosystem, do some just-in-time research, and dip back out again once they have scratched their itch. Apart from those harvesting affiliate commissions, they don’t hang around endlessly rehashing the merits of a given savings account or credit card.

      Personal Finance is a bit the same, a problem that is interesting only until it is solved.

      The approach to success is well known, a solved problem.

      Most of the FIRE blogs launched during a financial boom, at the time their creator realised there was an alternative to enduring the daily grind until traditional retirement age. Each blog’s journey covered that exciting initial period of discovery and course correction. Then, once it shifted into the “boring middle” part of the journey, rinse and repeat, the creator loses interest and moves on.

      All of which is perfectly natural, except perhaps starting a blog about it!

      Today, things are a bit different. Economic landscape less certain. Inflation is squeezing some folks. Higher interest rates make consumer debts ever more expensive, and home ownership no longer “free“. This means the modern equivalent of the olden days blogs are more focussed on the shallow end of personal finance, coupon clipping and economising. Immediately actionable low hanging fruit, that provides the audience with the illusion of control. Nothing that makes a long term difference, but an immediate sense of financial junk food satisfaction.

      It is a fashion thing, will likely swing back the other way in the future when there is a roaring bull market and soaring house prices once more. Only it won’t be called FIRE any more, there will have been a rebrand and a new generation of voices will tip their hats at the old timers who came before them, MMM and ERE referred to in the same way the early FIRE folks occasionally remembered Vicki Robin, Amy Dacyczyn, or the Beardstown Ladies.

  4. Gnotul 16 October 2023

    “Should any of those areas fail to deliver a positive return on investment, or fail to add value to our life, then we should cut our losses and reinvest our energies elsewhere.”

    BINGO! …so obvious once stated, yet seemingly so difficult to consistently apply in daily life!

    Thanks for this message as well as the continuously enjoyable writing. A solved problem – that’s what it all boils down to. I’ve begun to feel the same on my own journey toward FI/RE.. and shifted the focus to striking a balance, designing and savoring life right now, while the autopilot does its work in the background.

    Greetings from the “boring middle”. 🙂

  5. Nick @ TotalBalance.blog 17 October 2023

    The king is dead, long live the king!

    Thank you for the time you put into the SQ community. I hope you enjoyed it for the most part 😉

    I don’t think there should be sadness when leaving a project like this behind. It has served its purpose, and the times have changed.

    Time for some new endeavors? I don’t have tik-tok, but I would certainly follow you, should you ever decide to join! *haha*

    I can’t remember if I told you this before, but I once had a dream about a FIRE podcast called “The FIRE hazard”.
    It seems podcasts are the new shit these days. Would you ever consider moving in that direction? I like the format, because it can take conversations in some unexpected directions.

    While our 5 years of blogging (we share this milestone apparently) might have changed our appetite for the “classic FI/RE” content, I especially enjoy the writings of those who have already FIRED.
    It reminds me of the (ever-moving) goal at the end of the journey.

    I figure you have about 10 years on me (+/-), so naturally you are far ahead on this journey. Please don’t quit on us just yet! 😛 We want to see you reach the goal, albeit I sometimes find it difficult to read whether you’re already there, or whether you continue to move the goal-post… 🙂

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 17 October 2023 — Post author

      Thanks Nick. I’m comfortable with the decision to move on from Sovereign Quest because, as you rightly observe, it has served its purpose.

      We want to see you reach the goal, albeit I sometimes find it difficult to read whether you’re already there, or whether you continue to move the goal-post… 🙂


      There is a lot to unpack there.

      Once I could have FIREd, but paused to ponder the question whether I should have FIREd.

      Today I have a higher net worth than back then, but am nowhere near FIRE.

      Too much house. Too much trapped equity. Too much “families are complicated” bullshit. Own goals all!

      Once, rivers of passive income and a magic compounding machine purchased options. Control. A sense of freedom, made real by working the winters and idling the remainder of the year. It was glorious! But then life happened, and now I write jaded cynical stories about the shallow meaningless life of quiet desperation as led by many a corporate wage slave trapped on the treadmill of the daily grind.

      That said, I recognise that I’m only as trapped as I choose to be, living in a prison of my own making. The way out of is as obvious as it is accessible, starting with a simple choice!

  6. weenie 17 October 2023

    Sorry to hear about SQ but as you say, the PF/FI landscape has changed and evolved and your efforts are better directed elsewhere.

    As one of the few die-hards still blogging about my little journey, since I’m closer to the end than I am to the start, I think I owe it to myself and my little cohort of readers to at least document when I eventually cross the finish line, so I’ll continue to blog a while longer! The boom and bull markets are well and truly over, if you were to start your FIRE journey now, it’s arguably a lot tougher but certainly not impossible.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 17 October 2023 — Post author

      Thanks weenie.

      I’m pleased to hear you’ll continue chronicling your journey. I’m curious about when you do eventually decide to call time on your career, I bet it won’t be because of clearing an arbitrary magic number!

  7. Calt 21 October 2023

    Great post. I’m sorry for SQ but I’m happy you’ll continue writing here, it’s always nice to read what you have to say. Thank you for all the work by the way, really appreciated.

  8. FIRE v London 24 October 2023

    That is a shame about SQ but, at a distance, it feels like a sensible call. Thank you for running it.

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