In her Happiness Project book Gretchen Rubin said that the days are long but the years are short, and so it has seemed for this year, a lot happened. There has been much noise and hum in 2022. It has been a collection of unforced errors in leadership, not just in the UK though we punched above our weight in mouth-breathing incompetence. I have a suspicion that we are getting the foothills of peak oil and the decline in living standards one would expect from that – the world is getting a larger place again, it is not so much slowbalisation as degobalisation of many things.
Capitalism hates resilience with a vengeance, driving it out across the board in the name of efficiency, but there is an assumed precondition of low geopolitical and natural volatility. 2022 was not the lifestyle that capitalism ordered in the Goldilocks period.
As a general rule resilience is inversely proportional to complexity and decreases with time. In the 1960s British houses had coal bunkers and didn’t depend on Russian gas (and if they did use gas it was coal gas locally produced). Before we get too dewy-eyed people only heated one room, and an open fire drew a hoolie through the single-glazed sash windows so everywhere else was freezing. People had bronchitis all the time – I haven’t had bronchitis since I was a student 😉 But they had the edge on resilience.
I await with interest if the power cuts happen in the first two weeks of January which seem to be the highest risk. Will our towns fill with zombies when they can’t plug into the social media hive mind with their smartphones. Smartphones are not resilient, and the base stations are good for an hour or so without power. It is of course a logical conclusion that the Internet will always be there despite its overweening complexity, so we don’t need to bother with broadcasting after 2030. Yet another piece resilience from a distant analogue world gets its marching orders, pah, who needs it…
In Britain the crew that delivered Brexit seems to have problems unleashing the heady promises of Britannia Unchained, with an exceptional rush of blood to the head in October that raised the price of people’s mortgages.
Everybody is grousing about energy prices. I am not sure all this can be laid at Putin’s door. Optimists will say that the solution to high energy prices is high energy prices, and perhaps this will capitalise the Energiewende that should have happened a few years ago.
In some ways that’s true – UK consumers have reduced their power consumption by 10-15%. Mind you, we also have a Warm Spaces network… I’m not saying that in itself is a bad thing, but it’s a symptom of a bad thing.
I investigated power drain in August, when all this was being floated. Being a cynical cost-focused running-dog I observe all the green crap is loaded on electricity, so I ignored space heating entirely and targeted electrical power drain, on the grounds I don’t want to subsidise other people’s insulation any more than I have to. I was able to reduce electricity usage by about a third, which is worth having, and the results are now in, and they are sustainable –
It wasn’t cost-free – I had to shut down some test equipment, replace the CCTV DVR and ice several static loads and consolidate many others. I have probably saved about £180 due to that activity so far, so I am still short because the capex was more. But unless power costs dramatically less soon I will probably break even over the next year.
I am on the list for a stake in a windfarm to defray electricity usage. This is progressing at a snails pace – strategy not tactics. To take it up I will need to get a smart meter and probably join Octopus. I have many reservations about smart meters, not only can They remotely cut you off with a clickety-clack at a remote NOC, as opposed to sending hairy-arsed grunts out to gain entry and pull the main service fuse, but there is the general surveillance and control aspect of it all, which is a feature of smart anything. Ida Auken’s Welcome to a 2030, I own nothing post of renting everything is a pointer of where that leads. It’s not hard to deduce when you go out from a 30min sample of your power usage, and experience has generally shown that the best way to keep your data secure is not to transmit it to third parties every half hour.
However, smart metering is probably an inherent requirement for power systems with a high proportion of renewables, along with the implied big stick of load shedding, which is terrifically easy to implement using smart meters, both in the we will cut this area off to save the rest, or perhaps encourager les autres as well as the more subtle we will only allocate you x kWh per day. Quite a gift to hostile state hackers, too.
It was precisely to avoid the smart meter that I implemented this solution myself, and efergy does of course send the data over the network, as well as being more ratty than I would like. But you don’t have to say who you are, or rather cleave to the truth in the same way as Boris Johnson does. Data snoopers can infer your district from the GeoIP range but not much closer than that. And efergy can’t cut me off 😉
A smart electricity network that can constructively use renewables with minimum storage will be a remarkable achievement. It will be much more complex that what we had. It will be far more hackable because of the larger attack surface, It will, probably be more efficient. But in no earthly way will it be be more reliable. I expect to see far more outages and also power restrictions, where your smart meter says you can only use x kWh today else we will cut high loads off.
In a world like that I wouldn’t be in too much of a rush to electrify everything. I will hold on to my gas boiler for a long time yet 😉
This was the year the stock market died, but we Brits didn’t notice because our money died faster than the stock market – 10% off on the start of the year relative to the USD, and a similar amount to gold. So while I can compare January’s iWeb statement with today’s and conclude I am 3% down in marked to market that is actually ~13% down when measured in Real Things of Value Not GBP, like gold or US dollars. Personally I go meh to that, I don’t have steam coming from my ears like American index investors who are looking at this.
I have been selling gold in the ISA and buying shares through this year, largely VWRL, and rebuying the gold in a GIA. Vanguard tell me in this year’s ISA I have £20366, a whopping 3.25% rate of return. Less, of course 10%, so no cigar. This is from starting to top this up in May once I had cleared out all last year’s Vanguard ISA into HL. Talking of which
When is VWRL not VWRL? When you transfer it to Hargreaves Lansdown in specie
Nobody gets fired for buying VWRL. It’s a boring index stock from a boring index provider. I hold a lot of it, largely on the back of this article. I am not a good little passive index investor, you can see that in my sick purchasing mode on Vanguard which is not regular in any way.
I managed to make a minor profit on this in GBP over the year, because I also vary the amount purchased as well as the time of purchase, I buy more if it is lower, so while it looks like I am a rotten shot the weighting helped me, I am very slightly up on VWRL for the year. I had to stop in October because I am all out of ammo, I have spaffed my £20k ISA allowance.
I transferred last year’s load of this this to HL. In specie, because that’s the whole point of accumulating in Vanguard (no transaction fees, but percentage platform fees) and dumping to HL (usurous £12 transaction fees, but a capped cost of carry at £45 if you eschew funds). You don’t currently pay either party to transfer in-specie, which means say to HL transfer my holding of x VWRL into HL from Vanguard as shares.
But you’d like x to turn up as VWRL, no? I was first warmed up to a strange smell when I opened the HL ISA, the cash came through first I think and I decided I wanted to buy VWRL. For some reason I couldn’t do that, computer said no. I could only buy VWRD or VHYL. Indeedably has a whole post about why VHYL is a terrible idea. However, since I was doing this after the meltdown of SMT I figured a value tilt wasn’t so bad, so I did it anyway. Although I haven’t drawn from any ISA yet, when I do I would hate to sell units to get cash.
It was a slight niggle, WTF is with this, how can they not sell me this common as muck ETF? Really? Monevator has many posts by Lars saying pretty much just go buy VWRL regularly and then do something else with your time. VWRL is USD 8.9billion AUM. I don’t know if that’s US Bn or British Billion, but it doesn’t really matter. World + Dog owns this, in spades. HL should have seen that ETF before 😉
I observe my transfer shows up as VWRD, and leave it be. Many freebie listings show the dollar variant of an ETF because there are more American investors than Brits. Time passes I then get this missive from the HL corporation
We’re getting in touch about your holding(s) in the investments listed below. The type of investment(s) you hold are non-GBP and as we only settle investments in GBP we’ve made the decision to no longer offer this type of investment. However, as there is a GBP denominated version of this investment, you will still be able to purchase and hold investments in this security.
What this means for non-GBP investments
You can continue to hold the investment and sell at any time but from 28 October you cannot buy any more units. Any further purchases will need to be made into the equivalent GBP version. We’ve listed your investments below and, on the right, you’ll see the equivalent GBP version of the stock.
Vanguard Funds plc – FTSE All-World UCITS ETF (USD) Distributing
Vanguard Funds plc – FTSE All-World UCITS ETF (USD) Distributing – GBP
If you don’t want to hold the non-GBP stock you can sell your holding at any time as normal but if you wish to make further purchases, you’ll need to transfer to another provider. We don’t want to encourage our clients to move investments from our platform, but we understand if this is the right choice for you. If you choose to sell, normal dealing charges apply, and you’ll need to consider any loss or gains you’ve made on the stock since buying it.
And I think to myself WTF is this line you are feeding me? I bought this stock from Vanguard in GBP, quoted in GBP. This is your bad, Mr HL, not mine. Over the years I have bought £75k worth of it in iWeb with nary a hitch. I don’t want to pay £11.95 twice plus the turn to rectify your balls-up. There was a price discrepancy and I considered for a moment whether this would be in my favour enough to be worth the turn but came to the conclusion that Thoreau was right, a man is rich in the number of things he can leave alone.
All I wanted was the same as I bought from Vanguard, what part of in-specie transfer do you not understand, HL? So I send them a secure message along the general lines of sort your shit out, guys, with a screenshot of what Vanguard sell me this as., along with the PDF from Vanguard. In all fairness, HL did rectify it, at no cost to me, though the reason for the balls-up is arcane
Both the VWRL denominated line and the VWRD denominated line have the same ISIN but a different SEDOL. As your transfer came through electronically, it seems the system pulled through the wrong SEDOL.
We have now amended your 107 Vanguard Fund plc shares that was transferred to our management from the VWRD denominated line to the VWRL denominated and you should see the correct line of stock reflected in your HL Stocks & Shares ISA.
Which broadly looks like a mea culpa on their part. I didn’t expect to have grief with a big world tracker ETF. Not only that, but they can’t guarantee it won’t happen again when I rinse, repeat in April, so I have to send them another secure message ‘Oi, VWRL coming your way again, that’s VWRL not VWRD, geddit?’
a year when it was time to pay the dues
All in all a messy year, and very seriously shit for many, sadly. One where a lot of chickens seem to be coming home to roost, and a lot of untruths seems to be revealed. Some charlatans were defenestrated, while channeling the Terminator. We discovered that supply-side economics works terribly well if you don’t need to convince other people to lend you money to do the easy tax-cutting part before the hard cost-cutting part. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for Liz Truss and everybody’s mortgage went up by the moron premium. She probably still believes she was right. Maniacs always do.
All you FIRE lot are causing fear and loathing due to the increasing exit of over 50s from the workplace. It seems to be confuzzling TPTB. I really don’t understand why the Big Cheeses don’t get it. Hell, the ONS managed to identify this pull-quote
I no longer had any job satisfaction, and felt physically and mentally exhausted, with many stress-related physical manifestations
Well, yes. For the last thirty years, companies have been making the world of work for stressful, more shit and more penny-pinching. Is it really such a surprise that people give this the middle finger at the earliest opportunity? I was that guy, and nothing I have heard about the world of corporate work has told me this has gotten better. Unless you are in the C-suite, in which case you are doing absolutely fine.
Normally we would have regarded this loss of our old gits as a great opportunity for our young pups to move up a rung or two, but that has no meaning in a gig economy. You’re going to have to pay people more or actually invest in your businesses, UK firms, arguably this is a wider issue. Perhaps returning to the time-honoured tradition of actually training people, rather than endlessly whining that you can’t buy your skills requirements off the shelf might be an idea?
There seems to be a hellacious level of long-term sickness in the UK if it is really 2.5M of working age. Perhaps that’s what you get from a laissez-faire approach to the food industry – I walk along whole aisles of supermarkets not recognizing the products as the category ‘food’, particularly along the snacks and family packs of crisps. Its also somewhat to be expected as a large rump of the population gets older. Talking of health
2022 is also probably the year the NHS died. Unsurprisingly it’s the Tories wot dunnit, though an ageing population, Brexit and Covid are accessories to the crime. In their current headless chicken mode there is not enough leadership to plot a route forward. Let us hope it is the European insurance model rather than the pathological American model that is chosen. In the meantime basically don’t get ill. Which is not an entirely peaceable thought – both of my parents had health issues at my age.
Still, look on the bright side. It’s not all bad if people are fighting to get hold of fruit-flavoured water with electrolytes promoted by social media talking heads. I suggest that’s best consumed on New Year’s day after a skinful, with Idiocracy playing. It’s on Amazon Prime.
Here’s to a better 2023. Here’s hoping for less stupid crap and fewer unforced errors. No more Bozza, though my crystal ball says that is probably in our future, a man of the people despite being a lying bastard incapable of complying with his own laws FFS. One last roll of the dice. On the plus side, the American market is a lot better value now. It can, of course, continue to get better value, but at some time the worm will turn. I survived OK on the markets, and have firepower to go. The accumulated value throws off a useful enough amount, though my plans of using the 2k tax-free dividend allowance will need to reduce in ambition next year, I am £1350 of the way there, which will be OTT after April.
In other areas I want to know more about the part of the world I live in. I want to walk more in it. I joined iNaturalist so I can make more sense of what I see here, and not just the birds. I am getting old – I was tickled by this woman’s ambition to walk all the footpaths near her home. Sure, it’s fundamentally pointless in a way, but it’s curiously in the moment.
Happy New Year to y’all!