The Full English Accompaniment – Cognitive biases in crowdfunding

Continuing my current theme looking at crowdfunding, and in advance of some behavioural finance pieces I’m putting together, this week I’m pointing out some of the ways crowdfunding websites use cognitive biases to convince you to invest. For examples, I’ve pulled two pitches from Seedrs and CrowdCube which were at the top of their lists (1, 2).

Seedrs

Crowdcube

Crowdcube rewards

In my opinion, some of the main cognitive methods that these sites use are:

  • Bandwagon effect/ Confirmation bias
  • Overconfidence effect
  • Illusion of scarcity
  • Denomination/ reciprocity effects/ present bias

Bandwagon effect/ Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is the internal yes-man, that disregards data that contradicts your opinion and suggests that ambiguous information supports your opinion (3). Your search for, remember and interpret information subconsciously to prove you are right. The bandwagon effect refers to the tendency of people to follow others, regardless of whether it’s a good idea (4, 5). It stretches into and is allied with groupthink and herd behaviour. It’s common in politics and consumer economics, and was also seen in the Dotcom bubble. Here confirmation bias and the bandwagon effect work in tandem, people will invest along with others thinking that it is evidence that they are making the right choice.

Crowdcube Bandwagon

Seedrs Confirmation

In the two examples chosen, you can see (circled in orange) that the number of investors and their commitment to a theoretical goal valuation are given pride of place in the ‘pitch’. Both websites aim to convince you that it’s a good idea, as many others are doing the same. Others must have done the research (social loafing), and they’ve committed (sunk cost fallacy), so you should too.

Overconfidence effect

Tied into confirmation bias, the overconfidence effect is the subjective belief that a persons ability is greater than the objective results would suggest (6). This should be well known to anyone who has read Smarter Investing etc, and is the basis of the active investment mindset. It’s also the whole basis of the Crowdfunding system, offering a variety of ‘pitches’ which you then evaluate, thinking ‘I have the edge others do not’. It’s worth noting in this that. Adding to this, optimism bias makes you think you are less likely to have a negative outcome (like a company failing) than others.

To help you on your way in your overconfident selection, the websites use the framing effect (7). Information is presented in a positive manner. These are, after all, advertising pitches. Every page will play-up it’s ongoing good points. Causes of concern are never mentioned (except perhaps in the discussion section). To look at the company financials often requires an investment or access request, inhibiting due diligence.

Illusion of scarcity

Scarcity, in human psychology, boils down to the fact that we as humans place greater value on things which are rare than those which are common (8). The scarcity heuristic is the mental shortcut we do when we say, ‘this thing is rarely available, therefore it must be worth more’. Salespeople employ this to great effect as the basis for mark-down discounts, Black Friday, and the perpetual DFS sale. Scarcity can come from quantity, rarity or time. For quantity, our innate reaction to finding out there is a limited quantity of something is to believe our choice to have that something is threatened, and therefore we want it more. For rarity, we place value on items we perceive to be unique. In companies this is often played on with pro-innovation bias, where we will favour innovation over the status quo and ignore flaws in the innovation (9). Such a pitch could be ‘look at our innovative unique idea, set to change the world’. For time, the scarcity heuristic is simple; time is running out, you don’t have time to do the complex thinking, the short cut answer is to buy, buy, buy.

Crowdcube Scarcity

Seedrs Scarcity

Once again these methods are front and centre of our two chosen pitches. You have limited time left to choose (time scarcity). There’s a limited quantity of available investment (quantity scarcity), at odds with the over-funding concept. Ask yourself why the data is being presented in this way?

Denomination/ reciprocity effects/ present bias

Denomination effect is a cognitive bias in currency where people are more likely to spend an equivalent value in small denominations than in large denominations (10). I see this alot, as MrsShrink will actively avoid spending big sums, but £<10 in Tesco on tat twice a week is not an issue. You are more likely to buy multiple small crowdfunding investments than one large investment, which also fits with diversification bias, the tendency to opt for a selection which gives you options or variety in the future (11).

Crowdcube rewards

Crowdfunding sites pitch your investments in small amounts. They also offer rewards, which works on reciprocity effects and present bias. Reciprocity is responding to a positive action with a positive action, leading to positive regard from both sides (12). If the company rewards you for an investment, you are more likely to see it in a good light. You are also more likely to pick a company which rewards you for an investment due to present bias (13). This incorporates hyperbolic discounting, but essentially can be said that if we are offered £100 tomorrow or £100 in a month, we’re more likely to choose tomorrow. If we’re offered £100 tomorrow or £110 in a month, the choice will depend on the person and how much they discount the worth through time delay. As all crowdfunding investments are essential gambles set for an uncertain future, a present day reward sways our choices.

TL:DR

These are just a few of the methods that crowdfunding websites use to part us from our hard-earned. There are many, many more, and I encourage everyone to read up on behavioural finance and understand when cognitive biases may be at play. The post may come off as harsh, so know that I invested in the last month on one of these crowdfunding platforms. It’s all about doing your homework and looking beyond the sales pitch. If you can be bothered.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://www.seedrs.com/anna-money/sections/investors
  2. https://www.crowdcube.com/companies/justpark-1/pitches/bk7Aeb
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias
  4. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bandwagon-effect.asp
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwagon_effect
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overconfidence_effect
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology)
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarcity_(social_psychology)
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro-innovation_bias
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denomination_effect
  11. https://humanhow.com/en/list-of-cognitive-biases-with-examples/
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reciprocity_(social_psychology)
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_inconsistency
  14. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49884247
  15. https://metro.co.uk/2019/09/30/chancellor-sajid-javid-raises-national-living-wage-10-50-10834020/
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49849484
  17. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49891141
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49919189
  19. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7535061/Recession-fears-hang-global-economy.html
  20. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-7541673/Cautious-Treasury-loses-Sirius-Minerals-millions-failing-company.html
  21. https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3082227/new-gbp120m-low-carbon-greenhouse-project-set-to-deliver-one-in-10-uk-tomatoes
  22. https://www.getrichslowly.org/early-retirement-extreme/
  23. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-we-ditched-the-fire-movement-and-couldnt-be-happier-2019-09-30
  24. https://monevator.com/10-year-retrospective-what-a-decade-of-returns-tells-us-about-passive-investing/
  25. https://monevator.com/qa-thursday-with-lars-kroijer-session-1/
  26. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/09/30/month-end-accounts-september-2019/
  27. https://drfire.co.uk/september-2019-report/
  28. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/september-2019-a-month-in-review/
  29. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/dividend-income-september-2019/
  30. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/10/investment-review-september-2019.html
  31. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/10/01/september-review/
  32. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/10/04/saving-for-the-future/
  33. https://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-september-2019/
  34. https://thesquirreler.com/2019/10/02/september-2019-update/
  35. https://thesavingninja.com/savings-report-15-getting-a-job-at-google/
  36. https://playingwithfire.uk/october-update/
  37. https://monethalia.com/monthly-savings-report-september-2019/
  38. https://awaytoless.com/monthly-spending-september-2019/
  39. https://firevlondon.com/2019/10/05/sep-2019-q3-review/
  40. https://gettingminted.com/reviewing-the-situation/
  41. https://grizgalonfire.com/do-i-need-a-personal-pension/
  42. https://indeedably.com/backwardation/
  43. https://thefifox.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/how-to-successfully-merge-finances-without-breaking-up-over-it/
  44. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/10/the-hidden-debt-of-lease-obligations.html/
  45. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/10/itm-power-finals-key-partnership.html
  46. http://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2019/10/human-being-and-2019-q3-review.html
  47. https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/oct/03/always-cooking-the-same-thing-try-a-weekly-food-box

The Full English – The Crowdfunded Bubble

Calling economic bubbles is a no-lose situation for a blogger. If you’re correct, whoop-de-do, celebrate your foresight. If you’re wrong, you’re a grumpy pessimist but no worse off. With that caveat readers may recall a couple of weeks ago, in the last Full English, I mentioned that Curve had completed crowdfunding with a pre-money valuation of £201,000,000 (1). Yes, that is the correct number of decimal spaces. It left me asking, how the hell are people valuing these companies?

Turns out I’m not alone in wondering that (2). The hard data suggests that the price paid for a percentage of the company by the crowd is far higher than private equity pays (3). For your more expensive price you get B class shares and rarely see information about the valuation in the prospectus. How did we reach this point?

In a world of low interest rates investors are looking for returns. We’ve all read Smarter Investing, we know we should be avoiding active funds that would typically partake of Venture Capital. We exist in an economic climate that favours growth over value strategies. We see success stories like Facebook, Instagram, Monzo, Brewdog, Uber. We want a slice of that growth, and there are new and exciting ways to access it (4). So we apply some cognitive biases; illusion of control and confirmation bias. We can surely pick the winners.

We look to platforms like CrowdCube, Seedrs, etc to find a way in at the ground floor of the next unicorn. Because our purchase is fuelled by optimism (and a whole lot of sales psychology), we’re willing to pay over the odds for the ground floor. This drives competition for shares and increases the valuation of the company. Basic economics. When the company lists on the stock market you get off at the penthouse suite, suddenly a millionaire. The tech IPO procession continues (5).

But that competition for a slice of the pie ignores the companies bottom line. Crowdfunding platforms are slick presentations to consumers, not like the due diligence of a traditional capital firm. The position of power is with the listing company, not the lender. This again drives up the valuation of the market.

The companies, overvalued with optimism, get valued by the market fairly and fall from their listing price. The tech companies that have gone through the IPO process are losing money (6). And people are taking notice. IPOs are being shelved, most notably the recent WeWork delay (7, 8). Traditional institutions do not want an overvalued investment, because in the long run they won’t get a return. They don’t want to see their shares costing billions of dollars through the efficient market (9). While the stock is unlisted the return and gain/loss is not realised.

This isn’t stopping profitable and strong companies going public. AirBnB continues to voice that it will soon, now setting a timeline for next year (10). However as Crowdfunding grows it will continue to offer a window into murky investments, promising a lot but with little to report. It will continue to inflate prices with optimistic opinions of growth. At some point all the optimism becomes a little too sweet, and it’ll be interesting to see if we end up in a crowdfunded private-company rerun of the dot-com crash.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2019/09/151157-fastest-startup-to-ever-hit-4-million-crowdfunding-on-crowdcube-curve-kills-it-now-at-5-5-million/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicorn_bubble
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/goncalodevasconcelos/2015/05/27/valuations-in-crowdfunding-are-we-all-barking-mad/
  4. https://monevator.com/venture-capital-investing/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/30/lyft-ipo-stock-market-unicorns-uber-airbnb-slack
  6. https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/09/13/uber-and-out-why-the-tech-unicorns-keep-losing-money/
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49687338
  8. https://moneyweek.com/515081/proof-that-the-tech-company-unicorn-ipo-bubble-is-bursting/
  9. https://marketrealist.com/2019/09/wework-ipo-shelved-unicorn-stocks-lose-luster/
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49761461
  11. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-7452637/Never-ending-Brexit-saga-continues-drag-UK-housing-market-RICS.html
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49752883
  13. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-7468833/Almost-half-banks-cut-fixed-rate-savings-August.html
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/sep/17/britons-are-still-worse-off-than-in-2008-new-research-claims
  15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49738869
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49567197
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/sep/16/more-than-1400-uk-restaurants-close-as-casual-dining-crunch-bites
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49721436
  19. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7472389/Sirius-Minerals-shares-crash-fails-secure-funding-mine.html
  20. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49766418
  21. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49720446
  22. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/20/you-may-have-more-time-than-you-think-to-achieve-financial-security.html
  23. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/09/12/michael-burry-index-funds/
  24. https://earlyretirementnow.com/2019/09/17/market-peak-upcoming-recession/
  25. https://monevator.com/weekend-reading-how-could-the-financial-services-sector-better-cater-for-the-likes-of-us/
  26. https://monevator.com/my-biggest-fi-demon-status-anxiety/
  27. https://monevator.com/what-is-a-master-trust-pension/
  28. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/09/mitie-dividend.html/
  29. https://cashflowcop.com/csi-finance/
  30. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/09/18/translating-financial-independence-from-american-to-british/
  31. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/09/11/the-ice-sculpture-the-turkey-and-the-rollercoaster/
  32. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/afc-energy-portfolio-addition.html
  33. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/first-solar-new-addition.html
  34. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/bluefield-solar-trust-full-year-results.html
  35. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/aiming-for-fire/
  36. https://littlemissfire.com/erase-and-rewind/
  37. https://littlemissfire.com/why-im-the-fire-underdog-and-thats-ok/
  38. https://www.msziyou.com/money-is-political/
  39. https://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-august-2019/
  40. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/random-update-aka-what-the-hell-have-i-been-up-to-over-the-last-3-months/
  41. https://thesavingninja.com/how-to-get-a-first-class-flight-for-free/
  42. https://thesavingninja.com/savings-report-14/
  43. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/09/13/august-review/
  44. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/09/13/Early-retirement-costs-targets—August-2019
  45. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-update-15-august/
  46. https://pursuefire.com/pursue-fire-updates/
  47. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/09/tax-planning-for-retirement-savings.html
  48. https://thefifox.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/how-to-calculate-your-personal-investing-rate-the-usability-update-that-savings-rate-desperately-needs/
  49. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/db-pension-options/
  50. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/the-importance-of-being-earning/
  51. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/exit-strategy-update-is-it-best-to-quit-your-job-face-to-face/
  52. https://indeedably.com/telephone/
  53. https://indeedably.com/volte-face/
  54. https://indeedably.com/own-goal/
  55. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/09/19/random-shares/
  56. https://lovelygreens.com/tips-for-starting-a-new-vegetable-garden/
  57. https://www.jackwallington.com/allotment-month-46-tomatoes-edamame-apples-raspberries-and-sunflowers/

The Full English – Evolving radicalism vs Thanatos

What am I buggering on about this week?

We, as a society, are crap about talking about death. We don’t like to talk about it. It’s not polite conversation. It’s morbid. It’s uncomfortable. Yet we should talk about it. Getting old is part of life. Dying is part of life. You start off in nappies, get taller, get smarter, achieve your potential, then get smaller, ending up back in nappies. That end nappy part may be an uncomfortable thought, but it needs to be considered. Firstly because, as I’ve said before, that sort of care is expensive. Secondly, as The Accumulator at Monevator pointed out this week, longevity risk is a significant sword of Damocles over your portfolio that we’re increasingly error-prone at calculating (1).

I’m a pretty morbid sort on this blog. I suspect it comes from spending most days discussing suicide. But why as a society are we so bad at it? Fear of death is innate and hard-wired after millions of years of predation. Our ancestors evolved senses to not only hunt, but not be hunted. After all, you can’t procreate if you’re someone’s dinner. The awareness of this fact is intrinsically to the concept of ego and self-awareness, and has therefore been around for as long (2, 3). The logical step from ‘I think therefore I am’. You become aware of your identity, a self. An argument states the pressure of death anxiety led to the formation of early religions, as a way of placating anxiety at the extinguishing of the self and the maintenance of ego.

Death is therefore something the classical psychoanalytical types spend a lot of time on. Freud’s Todestreib (death drive) was in opposition to Eros, the life instinct/ drive (4). It is sometimes referred to as Thanatos. It was the drive and deep-rooted instinct towards destruction in opposition to the life instinct, which pushes us towards creation and fertility. All life had an innate drive to not exist; to return to a non-conscious state. Melanie Klein took this further in her description and psychoanalytical approach. As part of object-relations theory, Klein would suggest that elements of anxiety and fear are deep-rooted at an early stage, as part of a fear of death (5). In general I find Freud and Klein too contrived, too derivative and too full of collective assumption, without practical observation.

I much prefer Erik Eriksons’ explanation – it’s easier to understand and relate to. As part of the Psychosocial Stages of Development a person reaches a stage in their life called ‘Ego Integrity vs Despair’ (6). Conventionally it could be understood as a point where a person is a wise elder. If we accept our life cycle is our one and only chance, and we feel we have been successful, we are inherently satisfied. If feel guilt, we felt we have been unproductive or we did not accomplish our life goals we become despairing. Erikson said this applied from age 65+, but I feel this is much more flexible, and people’s ego states can move in or out.

Why am I talking about this? Well I think a lot of articles base their word count on this very contrast. I’m not just talking about that Guardian article about millenials smashing avocado (7). I’m talking about a huge quantity of the opinion pieces that litter written media. I was prompted to write this by an article, “How the baby boomers sold out”, that was in last weeks New Statesman (8).

Every generation has a hill it dies upon in it’s youth. As the radical fire is burnt out it becomes indentured. It develops Stockholm Syndrome for the capitalist society that props it up and provides it’s creature comforts. Erikson defines this as “Identity vs Role Confusion”, as part of defining the self and one’s political/ social/ moral beliefs (6). If you extend that out across a generation you see how each successive group of teenagers seeks to define itself against it’s elders. Thus every generation, in the course of normal self-development, will be in conflict with those older than it and their expected societal margins. You can see it now in the school strikes. It has existed since the concept of self. The old have always complained about the young in turn. Aristotle said:

“They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things — and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning — all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything — they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.”  (9, 10)

So next time you read an article which complains about the young, or rails against the boomers, remember your own life course. This is the path we all tread. Reflect on what you were radical about, and enjoy this new generations radicalism.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://monevator.com/why-your-life-expectancy-is-much-longer-than-you-think/
  2. https://sites.ualberta.ca/~jennyy/PDFs/13713823.pdf
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_anxiety_(psychology)
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_drive
  5. http://www.melanie-klein-trust.org.uk/paranoid-schizoid-position
  6. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/15/australian-millionaire-millennials-avocado-toast-house
  8. https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2019/05/how-baby-boomers-sold-out
  9. https://proto-knowledge.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-is-wrong-with-young-people-today.html
  10. http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20171003-proof-that-people-have-always-complained-about-young-adults
  11. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7066265/Stagecoach-launches-second-legal-action-Government-block-rail-bids.html
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48306172
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/may/19/google-huawei-trump-blacklist-report
  14. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48347711
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/may/23/zero-recycling-to-zero-waste-how-ljubljana-rethought-its-rubbish
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/21/belgian-monks-grimbergen-abbey-old-beer
  17. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/
  18. https://seths.blog/2019/04/the-avocado-principles/
  19. https://www.vox.com/platform/the-goods/2019/5/14/18563375/zero-waste-products-straws-jars-tote-bags
  20. https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/opinion/3076069/renewable-energy-is-now-a-commercially-attractive-investment-opportunity
  21. https://monevator.com/will-the-passive-investing-revolution-eat-itself/
  22. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/05/cranswicks-low-dividend-yield.html/
  23. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/05/22/dont-be-a-nice-guy-be-a-good-guy-part-2/
  24. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/05/17/green-money-greencoat-uk-wind-share-offer-may-2019/
  25. https://earlyretirementnow.com/2019/05/22/how-to-lie-with-personal-finance/
  26. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/why-do-so-many-people-hoard-so-much.html
  27. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/05/vanguard-lifestrategy-60-year-4-update.html
  28. https://firevlondon.com/2019/05/26/holding-up-the-mirror-to-my-own-trading-behaviour/
  29. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/05/24/drink-whisky-look-at-stars-make-maple-syrup/
  30. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/05/26/serious-investing/
  31. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/home-comforts/
  32. https://ditchthecave.com/love-your-job/
  33. https://thesavingninja.com/thinking-about-the-future/
  34. https://littlemissfire.com/springmount-gin-has-launched/
  35. https://awaytoless.com/productivity-systems/
  36. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-net-worth-report-11-april/
  37. https://pursuefire.com/meet-the-bettors/
  38. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/05/24/Early-retirement—life-as-a-247-couple%F0%9F%A4%B7%E2%80%8D%E2%99%80%EF%B8%8F%F0%9F%A4%A6%E2%80%8D%E2%99%82%EF%B8%8F%F0%9F%99%84
  39. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/05/26/treat-yourself/
  40. https://indeedably.com/flying-money/
  41. https://indeedably.com/ennui/
  42. http://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2019/05/an-interview-with-medwyn-williams-veg-growing-ace/
  43. https://sharpenyourspades.com/2019/05/10/allotment-jobs-for-may/

The Full English Accompaniment – Psychometrics, Myers-Briggs and the pseudoscience of personality analysis

What’s piqued my interest this week?

I bloody hate the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the personality analysis ‘tool’ whose results I keep seeing all over the internet (1). The test beloved of HR departments, taken by 2.5 million people a year, used by 89 of the Fortune 100 (2). It seems to be used as shorthand for various perceived positive characteristics in some quarters, others try to find correlations with the FI movement, while paid-for articles use it to try to guide individuals to their ideal investments (3, 4, 5, 6). I’ve come into contact with it through work, when departments have told me my role in teams through it’s interpretation. Problem is, it’s a load of manure.

Test-retest reliability

The probability that if you resit the same test you will get the same result. Myers-Briggs own website gives figures from 75-90% for this (why the wide confidence interval?) (7). Those figures have been supported by independent research (8, 9). I can’t use a blood test, or any other scientific test, that gets the answer wrong 1/4 of the time on retest in clinical practice. Imagine if I’m checking for an infection, and tell you it’s one thing, only to retest next week and tell you it’s another. So why does it persist in public use? I’ve probably taken the MBTI four times in various setting, with three different results.

Construct validity

Myers-Briggs grew out of Jungian types in the ’40s. Jung’s theories about archetypes, types, synchronicity, the collective unconscious etc, continue to be taught today in psychology, but more as part of a history lesson and a way for people to understand themselves. They’ve been superseded and are considered by most psychologists to be unscientific, with no clear grounding of reproducible evidence (1, 10, 11). So while the Myers-Briggs sorts you into categories, there’s no actual evidence that those categories are based on anything other than theory.

Content validity 

A further flaw is the question methodology, often using black and white variables to identify which category a person falls into. Personality is not black and white. The dichotomous variables used to decide which category you fall into would be expected to result from a bimodal distribution of choices, with most people at either end of the scale. Instead we see a more normal distribution, with clustering around the middle (1, 10, 11). This invalidates the test variables; the reasons behind choices are not dichotomous, but informed by an interplay of your previous experiences, your taught and learnt behaviours and your biological wiring. The chicken crosses the road for multiple reasons, not simply to be on the other side. It’s an over-simplification of a complex construct.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

And that’s just for starters. There’s a huge list of criticisms and peer-reviewed rebuttals on Wikipedia (1). Much of the pro-MBTI literature is the product of poor methodology and limited scrutiny. It’s been largely sidelined by the professional community but persists in the mainstream consciousness (12). People want an easy way to understand a complex system, which is probably why HR teams around the world continue to use it, but personality is too complex to be reduced to 16 types. By all means use it as a methodology for personal reflection. Just stop trying to class others.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Tombland – C.J. Sansom – I love the Shardlake series, detective novels set in the Tudor period with a crippled lead character. Beautifully written.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers–Briggs_Type_Indicator
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/give-and-take/201309/goodbye-mbti-the-fad-won-t-die
  3. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/krysten-merriman/myers-briggs-type_b_9877786.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_cs=-03q25v6JqVhVASPJTimXg
  4. https://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/comments/4gky1p/myersbriggs_of_fire/
  5. https://www.millennial-revolution.com/build/right-personality-fire/
  6. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/intj-folks-has-fire-been-the-answer/
  7. https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/reliability-and-validity.htm
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236111463_The_Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator_Evidence_of_its_validity_reliability_and_normative_characteristics_for_managers_in_an_Australian_context
  9. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013164402062004004
  10. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/cui-bono/201603/are-scores-the-mbti-totally-meaningless
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/19/myers-briggs-test-unscientific
  12. https://bit.ly/2Upya1b
  13. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47414916
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/01/us-seeks-greater-access-to-uk-food-markets-after-brexit-trade-deal
  15. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-6742415/Mortgage-rates-begin-creep-lull-price-rises.html
  16. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-6760015/Bulb-Energy-shames-Big-Six-providers-exploitation-price-cap-cutting-prices.html
  17. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-6756471/Classic-car-experts-reveal-bangers-worth-banking.html
  18. https://moneyweek.com/502897/bond-yields-interest-rates-creeping-higher-why/
  19. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47452571
  20. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/01/msci-to-quadruple-weighting-of-china-a-shares-in-global-benchmarks.html
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/feb/28/aston-martin-share-crash-shows-valuing-a-dream-takes-adjusting-to
  22. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/mar/05/brexit-wont-bother-the-city-but-everyone-else-should-worry
  23. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/02/renewables-infrastructure-new-addition.html
  24. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-uninhabitable-earth-review.html
  25. https://monevator.com/simple-maths-for-investors/
  26. https://monevator.com/the-gordon-equation-how-to-calculate-expected-returns-for-equities/
  27. https://monevator.com/robot-angels-automated-seed-investing-on-the-seedrs-crowdfunding-platform/
  28. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/02/27/how-to-create-reality/
  29. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/03/05/its-easier-without-children/
  30. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/03/09/financial-independence-is-for-everyone-part-2/
  31. https://cashflowcop.com/my-property-investment-journey-part-1-taking-in-lodgers/
  32. https://cashflowcop.com/fi-checkpoint-where-are-you-on-the-journey/
  33. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/02/28/this-month-on-the-homestead-when-your-internet-and-your-truck-conspire-against-you/
  34. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/02/bae-systems-dividend-good-value.html/
  35. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/03/buy-unilever-wake-up-rich.html/
  36. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/03/01/meet-up-friday-29-march/
  37. https://ditchthecave.com/save-the-world/
  38. https://thefemalemoneydoctor.com/ambitious-life-goals/
  39. https://thesavingninja.com/ew-betting-full-guide/
  40. https://thesavingninja.com/macro-enabled-matched-betting-spreadsheet/
  41. https://thesavingninja.com/bring-on-the-summer-savings-report-8/
  42. http://earlyretirementinuk.blogspot.com/2019/02/january-end-of-month-report.html
  43. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/03/01/Early-Retirement-Costs—February-2019
  44. https://littlemissfire.com/february-2019-income-and-expenses-report-2019/
  45. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/03/05/month-end-accounts-february-2019/
  46. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/pension-payback-prevention/
  47. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/house-price-inflation-friend-or-foe/
  48. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/a-fire-argument-for-the-lisa/
  49. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/03/09/meeting-up-in-manchester/
  50. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/best-frugal-foods-buy-broke/
  51. http://fiukmoney.co.uk/february-19-net-worth-and-monthly-update-7/
  52. https://drfire.co.uk/february-2019-income-expenses/
  53. https://indeedably.com/taxes-are-optional/
  54. https://indeedably.com/puppetry/
  55. https://indeedably.com/filiality/
  56. https://indeedably.com/financial-junk-food/
  57. https://youngfiguy.com/saving-sucks-or-why-you-need-a-savings-habit/
  58. https://youtu.be/BQovQUga0VE
  59. https://lovelygreens.com/pricking-out-tomato-seedlings/

The Full English Accompaniment – On Brexit, social psychology and market timing

What’s piqued my interest this week?
I’ve been reading Tim Hales Smarter Investing over the last couple of weeks, which appears considered essential reading by most FI/ passive investment sources (1). It has prompted me to write down a philosophy and a draft set of goals for my investment plans. One of the cautions is against market timing, because it’s very statistically difficult to be good at it, incorporating not a small amount of luck. Much better to go Bogle, and buy then hold a low cost tracker (2). So far, so sold.
There’s another section of the book which documents how one of the most important, most overlooked parts to a portfolio decision is target country allocation. This is where I’m currently stuck, as Brexit presents a big hit of unknown outcomes, and is turning my market timing milk sour. Oh look, another r/UKPersonalFinance post triggered me (I’ll cut out all the Reddit relevant-only bits)…

Everyone, put on your tin-foil hats and join me on a journey considering a Brexit scenario…

I’ve personally suspected that Brexit is being pushed along despite it outwardly, appearing to be in no-one’s interests perhaps as a textbook example of Naomi Klein’s ‘Disaster Capitalism’ but maybe just as a way for massive money to be made from the lurches in exchange rate and FTSE etc.

So one outcome I suspect is that the pound will stay relatively weak to the EUR/USD etc, keeping the FTSE reasonably high, until we suddenly hit a point where it gets revealed we’ll basically stay in the EU (or EEA), perhaps after a 2nd referendum, so…

If the timeline of this is the next 6 months, how will the politicians and their chums be looking to maximise the person financial benefit to themselves? Assuming a, say, 15% increase in the value of the pound, and 10% drop in the FTSE 100, would they be looking to sell most investments, have cash and then be ready to re-invest after the correction?

What would you do in this scenario if you had this inside information? (3)

This is a little tinfoil hat brigade, although the murmuring the Nigel Farage shorted the value of the £ when he found out the result of Brexit before it was officially released could provide some evidence (4). An ex-investment banker wouldn’t call up his mates still in the industry with privy information would he? The main issue I have with the above is that it appears to go against the political wind and public opinion polls. The Conservatives and Labour are both loath to go back on the stated plan to exit (would be seen as weak?), and YouGov’s last poll in July found that a fraction greater percentage thought Brexit was the wrong decision than didn’t (5). Opinion polls may be a pretty poor judge, but they’re not so bad as to miss half the nation suddenly decided they do want to stay in the EU, after all (6).
Brexit therefore represents a challenge to the efficient market hypothesis (7). Pre-Brexit vote, a commentator in Forbes discussed how the referendum would represent an excellent testbed for efficient markets (8). It truly did, as the unexpected (to the city) voter decision was integrated into share prices in a number of hours. The fact that the referendum result was unexpected and therefore prompted such a dramatic shift in the markets challenges the efficient market hypothesis, and specifically what makes it efficient. The efficiency relies upon the sum of all the traders individual access to information. To bring it round to psychological terms, it is a form of social Gestalt theory, where the individual chaotic pieces of information/ action contributes to a total pattern (9, 10). Market traders were unaware of the depth of feeling in favour of Brexit prior to the vote (those pesky polls again), and were suddenly exposed to it and integrated it into the markets on referendum day.
But why were market traders so unaware? I wonder that the possibility of a Leave vote did not comply with the collective conscience of market traders and ‘the city’ and therefore was not appropriately considered by the markets (11). To go back to Durkheim’s original use of collective consciousness (very separate from Jungian collective unconsciousness), it is the ‘general feeling’ towards a position, experienced and perceived by the individuals in the collective (11). A shared unconscious understanding of social norms. In the city, it was a social norm to be pro-EU. In the general populace, not so much. Therefore the true risk of a Leave vote to the markets was a Rumsfeldian ‘unknown unknown’. To be pro-Leave in London pre-Brexit went against social norms, it didn’t fit with the social reality constructed in that environment, even if it did fit with the social norms and social reality of the wider UK (12).
Which brings me to my market timing and allocation conundrum. The market is efficient when it is integrating information which makes sense within it’s system; IPOs, sales data, quarterly returns etc. It appears less efficient at integrating popular opinion and behaviour. The market is vulnerable to collective psychological effects (herd behaviour etc), and changes in the market are made by people. The people who change the market (traders etc) operate in a different social world (‘social reality’) to the general populace, by nature of their social interactions. Yours is visible in day-to-day life in your twitter or social media sphere, which may differ from general public opinion. The markets will therefore be generally running on the market traders social reality, whilst the rest of us live in a slightly different social reality. Politicians span the divide, but take their lauded mandate from the general populace’s social reality. The difference comes to the fore when the market has to integrate decisions which are made by the wider populace that didn’t fit with it’s reality, e.g. Brexit. The reddit comment quoted above appears to sit well within the market reality bubble; we’ll stay in the EU in the end, it’s all a sideshow. My concern is that the general populace appears fairly relaxed about a ‘No-deal’ Brexit. Knowing that we’re a few short months out of formal Brexit, do I choose allocations based on that worry which insulate against this outcome. Does even thinking about this represent market-timing, and I should just bung my cash ‘somewhere’ and sit it out. Your opinion welcome here…
Have a great week,

The Shrink

Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

What I’m reading:

Smarter Investing 3rd edn – Tim Hale – essential reading

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor. This is turning out to be real heavy-going.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00GAYHH8I/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B00GAYHH8I&linkCode=as2&tag=thefireshrink-21&linkId=5a8bfccf506245d47fbac2d871c70c47
  2. https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Getting_started
  3. http://www.reddit.com/r/UKPersonalFinance/comments/9cnsqj/the_potential_effect_of_a_massive_shift_in
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/25/nigel-farage-denies-shorting-value-of-sterling-on-night-of-brexit-vote
  5. https://yougov.co.uk/news/2018/06/23/eu-referendum-two-years/
  6. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-018-0330-7
  7. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/efficientmarkethypothesis.asp
  8. https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/02/22/brexit-uk-financial-markets-and-the-efficient-markets-hypothesis/#31ab82161667
  9. https://www.britannica.com/science/Gestalt-psychology
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_consciousness
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_reality
  13. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-6130445/Will-council-force-sell-house-cover-dads-care-bills.html
  14. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-6138267/A-1979-Lada-Niva-estimated-sell-75-000-goes-just-4K.html
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/sep/07/house-prices-rose-at-fastest-rate-in-almost-year-says-halifax-august-north-south
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/05/thinktank-calls-for-major-overhaul-of-britains-economy
  17. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/property/article-6106049/A-downstairs-family-bathroom-lowers-property-value-6.html
  18. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-6080099/Are-Monzo-Revolut-Starling-Transferwise-safe-bank-with.html
  19. http://monevator.com/10-things-you-can-do-today-to-reset-your-life/
  20. http://monevator.com/weekend-reading-what-is-your-reason-for-being/
  21. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/my-5-years-are-up-how-did-i-do/
  22. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/august-income-expenses-report-a-bit-of-an-odd-one/
  23. https://thefireeng.com/net-worth-update-august-2018/
  24. http://www.msziyou.com/yes-i-am-rich-now/
  25. http://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-august-2018/
  26. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/09/05/what-really-goes-on-at-mmm-headquarters/
  27. http://theirrelevantinvestor.com/2018/09/04/gold-what-is-it-good-for/
  28. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/09/sold-senior-plc-after-recent-share-price-gains.html/

 

The Full English Accompaniment – The neuroscience of a frugal mindset

What’s piqued my interest this week?

In a throwaway conversation this week MrsShrink said something which I’ve subsequently been ruminating on. In running our household I do most of the shopping, but MrsShrink does the toiletries. She remarked that she actively enjoyed going to browse in Savers, Home Bargains etc, as she enjoyed spending money she knows she has to. She’s learnt to be frugal, to penny-pinch, and spending is a treat. She gets a hit out of buying things most of us wouldn’t think twice about because to her it’s a forbidden joy.

Attitudes and behaviour towards money are learnt in childhood by observing your parents. On a structural level, the dopaminergic mesolimbic ‘reward’ pathway develops through your childhood and adolescence (1). This is the time when your brain is most sensitive to it’s reward system, and is setting down the pathways for a lifetimes use (2). The way I explain behavioural modelling to patients is to think of it as a parallel to learning your first language. As a toddler you observe your parents using sounds as language, try it out, see what works, gradually accumulating your understanding without consciously being aware of the process. Other behavioural processes also follow this unconscious accumulation process, including financial attitude. If you model your child’s behaviour at this time (consciously and unconsciously) you lay down the pathways for a lifetime of reward processing.

Hundreds of websites and blogs have signed onto this, offering to teach us the ways we can consciously train our children to be better financially. This doesn’t have to be as intense as paying your child through an investment account, or making them buy fractional shares in Netflix as some would recommend (3). The piggy bank, pocket money, weekend job development path will work just fine (4). I clearly remember learning the value of money calculating how many penny sweets I could buy with my 50p pocket money. The pre-frontal and frontal cortex projections of these pathways continue to develop into your teens and early 20s, forming your conscious awareness of pleasurable responses as you grow into adulthood.

The unconscious processes are far harder to model, alter or change. These are the deep cortex projections close to the archaic midbrain structures, projections which develop during early childhood through modelling. These are learnt through observation of those around you. This is why teaching your child to be a spendthrift can only go so far if your own approach is spending all you have to keep up with the Joneses. This is also why, in my opinion, people such as Little Miss Fire struggle with her Shop Floor Mentality (5). If you have grown up in an environment of thrift as a necessity of poverty the rewards from saving, investing and watching wealth grow are not hard-wired in your cortex. There is no unconscious drive for these goals. The Stanford Marshmallow experiment on delayed gratification is a case in point example, and potentially a way of teaching your child the benefits of patience (6).

Which is where I bring things full circle. Many rich people are innately frugal; look at Warren Buffett (7, 8). These winners derive their pleasure from the process not the outcome. MrsShrink is innately frugal as she was brought up in an environment where frugality was a necessity. She observed her mother being able to afford the things they wanted by saving wherever possible. I secretly suspect she is much more likely to become FI than I because of this innate drive, but will be hampered by her mistrust of investment vehicles. She has no desire and gains no pleasure from making non-frugal choices. Consciously training thought processes to be the same way is far harder.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

N.B. There won’t be a Full English Accompaniment next week as I’m on holiday AFK.

Side Orders

Other News:

Opinion/ blogs:

What I’m reading:

An exam textbook

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. Walker et al. Adolescence and Reward: Making Sense of Neural and Behavioral Changes Amid the Chaos. The Journal of Neuroscience (2017)
  2. Galvan, A. Adolescent Development of the Reward System. Frontiers In Human Neuroscience (2010)
  3. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-teach-your-kids-to-be-better-with-money-than-you-are-2017-07-26
  4. https://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/how-to-teach-money-children-kids-personal-finance-tips-guidelines-property-a7789381.html
  5. https://littlemissfireblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/do-you-have-the-shopfloor-money-mentality/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment
  7. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/how-do-life/201503/why-many-rich-people-are-frugal
  8. http://time.com/money/4861261/billionaires-spending-habits-frugal/
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45194019
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45201155
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/17/elon-musk-says-past-year-has-been-excruciating-and-worst-is-yet-to-come
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45216551
  13. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-45199034
  14. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article-6064685/Fears-grow-house-prices-fall-fastest-rate-financial-crisis.html
  15. https://www.ig.com/uk/shares-news/mining-in-the-uk-and-ireland-is-well-and-truly-alive-180815
  16. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/can-we-afford-an-electric-vehicle-lets-run-the-numbers/
  17. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44953607
  18. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/08/ted-baker-dividend-growth-stock.html/
  19. https://www.ig.com/uk/commodities-news/is-investment-in-renewable-energy-drying-up-180809
  20. https://www.etf.com/sections/index-investor-corner/swedroe-determining-esgs-nature
  21. https://firevlondon.com/2018/08/13/recalibrating-my-portfolio/
  22. https://firevlondon.com/2018/08/09/july-2018-the-trade-news-sweetens/
  23. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/there-be-a-rumbling-and-a-sound-of-clucking-chickens-in-the-air/
  24. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2018/08/garden-gate-repair-and-new-fence.html
  25. http://monevator.com/weekend-reading-funny-money/
  26. http://monevator.com/taking-more-risk-does-not-guarantee-more-reward/
  27. https://deliberatelivinguk.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/savings-rate-revisited/
  28. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/08/12/phone-free-day/
  29. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/07/25/the-twenty-dollar-swim/
  30. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/cognitive-bias/565775/