Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E. This week I will discuss expertise and how we should not just blindly trust those labelled experts. I will also explain how wealth can be measured as time. First, the Quote of the Week:
Quote of the Week
Expert (noun); a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.
Expert (adjective); having or involving a great deal of knowledge or skill in a particular area.
We put a lot of faith in experts during our daily lives. Almost everything we do is based upon the work of experts in one form or another. So, it stands to reason that, in general, experts can be trusted within their field of expertise. However, just because someone is an expert it does not always mean they are correct. In fact, there is a logical fallacy dedicated to this premise which is known as Appeal to Authority or Argument from Authority. This can create problems when you are trying to understand a subject or debate that you have no familiarity with, for example with vaccines.
There is a lot of talk in the media about the Covid vaccines that have been created and which are due to be rolled out in the coming weeks. Understandably, there are many people who are skeptical about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines as they have been created in such a short space of time. However, we should remember that thousands of scientists, lab technicians, doctors and other researchers have been working hard on this problem for a year now. Advancements in artificial intelligence modelling of viruses has helped speed up research in this field, and based on this I am happy to put my trust in the experts that the vaccines will generally be safe and effective.
Most people trust vaccines, but there is a minority of people that are in denial. This is despite the fact that vaccines have been shown time and time again to be effective. Many viruses have been brought to heel by advancements in vaccines and it’s not that long ago that our species was vulnerable to the measles virus, or mumps. We created the MMR vaccine and almost overnight the problem disappeared. Enter Andrew Wakefield.
Do vaccines cause autism? If you have ever asked this question, then Andrew Wakefield is probably the reason why. The details surrounding the Lancet MMR Autism fraud are too complex to discuss in this blog, so I am only covering the basics. Andrew Wakefield, a medical doctor at the time, and several co-authors, published a paper linking the MMR vaccine with autism. However, it was subsequently found to be based on false data. Further, it was found that Andrew Wakefield had conflicts of interest regarding the study. The damage was done though. To this day, the anti-vax movement is still going strong, and there seems to be an undercurrent of mistrust over vaccines in the general public. As the saying goes, “mud sticks”, and the claim that vaccines are unsafe has been difficult to counter. For some people, explaining the background surrounding the MMR-Autism study is enough to switch their mental light bulb on. For many conspiracy theorists, however, education is not enough. Any attempt to educate and explain is just seen as another attempt by the establishment to cover up the conspiracy. Following this damaging false research, vaccination rates took a hit. We really need these vaccines to be safe and effective because I’m not sure that public trust would survive another vaccine scandal.
How is all this relevant to the quote I’ve chosen this week? Skepticism is healthy but when taken to the extreme it leads to paranoia. It’s fine to question experts, but if the general consensus points to a particular theory or claim, then it’s probably best to trust the experts. There is another, related, example of this in a Bored Panda article using the example of chess players. You can read the article here:
A good rule of thumb, I find, is that if you are listening to one expert talk about their subject, be skeptical. If you are looking at the consensus of opinion from most of the experts in the field, then it’s probably fair to go with that opinion (disregarding pseudoscience and rubbish like astrology or homeopathy). Using real life examples, it’s fair to assume that climate change is real and that vaccines are effective and safe. However, it would be foolish to believe that the Earth is flat. This is the great thing about science; it’s not a belief in facts but rather an adherence to a process or method from which you can create theories about reality. As new evidence is uncovered, those theories change and evolve. The scientific method is about truth, but that truth refers to the method and following that method where it leads, even if the outcome is not what you wanted or what you initially believed. I believe Star Trek’s own Jean-Luc PIcard sums it up best…
One could quite easily replace the word “Starfleet” with “science” and the statement will still be as valid. It is for this reason that I hold Andrew Wakefield in such contempt. He failed in his duty as a doctor and a scientist to the truth, and society has paid for it.
This week saw me hit a major milestone as I hit 500 days since I last gambled. I have struggled with gambling on and off for a number of years, and I once went 550 days without gambling before falling off the wagon. It used to be an escape from my depression and stress, but it quickly became a problem. I’m feeling somewhat reassured that despite being under extreme stress for the past few months, I have not reverted back to bad habits.
I would love to say that the past week has not been stressful, but that is not the case. John Lewis continues to amaze me with one staggering display of incompetence after another. I’m not going to bore you with the full details but let’s just say I will never trust John Lewis with a large purchase again.
Once more I sound like a broken record. I’m not making any progress towards losing weight. I’m struggling to maintain a healthy diet, and I think the only thing keeping my weight roughly in check is my walking. Putting my headphones on and going for a walk is one of the few things I find any enjoyment in. If I’m listening to a good audiobook it helps transport me to another reality. Anyone who loves books knows that feeling, when you get engrossed in a story so deeply that you are no longer aware of the words on the page or the voice in your ear; it’s just you and the story, you and the characters. It’s a great feeling.
I’m still waiting on the results of my pill camera, and I’m not quite sure what the hold up is. I need physio on my shoulder but I’m a little anxious about attending hospital weekly for physio with the current pandemic. I may hang on until the vaccine is rolled out and then look to take up physio if needed.
Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £17,371.73 (up £720.06 from last update).
Fuck It Fund: £325.00 (no change from last update).
Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).
Total Assets: £225,950.73 (up £720.06 from last update).
Credit Card: £0.00 (down £915.53 from last update).
Residential Mortgage: £141,740.98 (down £358.39 from last update).
Total Debts: £141,740.98 (down £1,273.92 from last update).
Total Wealth Figure: £84,209.75 (up £1,993.98 from last update).
Investment Income in 2020: £185.90 (up £25.00 from last update) (target £2,000).
A huge increase in my total wealth figure as I paid off my credit card, my ISA increased in value and my monthly mortgage payment was made. Next week will see some major changes in these figures as my Premium Bonds will be reduced to approximately £2,000 as I draw funds down to fund my BTL purchase. Then, it’s back to building up the deposit for the next property.
Wealth as Time: The Game of Money
Although I describe wealth as a unit of currency, it can also be described as time. Some people measure wealth as the amount of time they could maintain their standard of living without any income being received. I like this explanation but it’s not something that’s easy to measure, and it does not account for unexpected expenses. There is a real link between wealth and time though. In the course of my life, many people have expressed opinions about money that I find strange. Some people seem extremely relaxed about money whilst drowning in debt. Others have no understanding about how money works, and seem to view the accumulation of wealth as abhorrant. As with most things, the accumulation of wealth can be done ethically or unethically.
Money isn’t real. Many major currencies are fiat currencies. This means the currencies are not backed by a commodity such as gold or silver. These currencies have power because people believe they have power. If people lose faith in a currency, the currency loses power. As such, money isn’t real. It’s just a game that we all play, and the game only matters because we all agree to keep playing.
I’m not saying that the system is a bad thing. The evolution of currency has allowed society to advance. It’s made trade easier. It’s made it easier for people to buy products and services. Fiat currencies are not perfect, but I believe they are better than many alternatives. It would serve no one’s interests to disrupt faith in the system as a whole, although people have made money by causing certain currencies to fail.
Some people have commented that I’m obsessed with money, and to an extent they are correct. My obsession is not about money per se, but rather about what money buys; freedom. I want freedom. I want freedom to choose what I do with my time. I want freedom to go where I want, when I want. The rules of the game state we can only do this with money, and so money is the tool that helps me achieve my goals. The thing is, if you want to accumulate wealth, you need to understand how the game is played and the reality is that most people do not understand how the game is played, or even that they are in a game to start with.
In school we are not taught the rules of the game, and this is a major reason why many people in the working class find it difficult to move up the socio-economic ladder. Many people higher up the ladder treat the game of money as a zero-sum-game, and to some degree I think it is. We now live in a world where information is freely available to anyone with an internet connection. Even so, you have to know where to look. A major motivation for this blog is to try and help make the rules clearer, and to help people understand that they have the power to improve their own financial position.
A Quick Request
I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media. I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021. Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve. I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media. Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger. If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.
My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at darrenscothern.com.