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Everything posted by baypond

  1. I took an english citroen to France just before Christmas, and have decided to leave it in France and register it there. The last time I did this was in 2007 and you are not making me feel any more confident about going through the whole process again!
  2. We replaced 50 x 40 watt halogens with LED 7 watt alternatives. They are great except for one problem. If you fiddle with the dimmers and or on/off switches, they start flashing and turning themselves on and off.

    If you just press the dimmers once and leave them, they are fine. Sounds like I should be changing my dimmer switches?
  3. Leave the windows in and use it as a 'man shed'.
  4. Call me old fashioned, but all this criticism of Hollande and implied sympathy for the lady is a load of twaddle.

    People forget that she was still married when courting two politicians at the same time.

    They are as bad as each other
  5. If you pm me i will send you the PDF with charts.
  6. Great to hear the OH pulled through by the way. Im sure he is worth every centime you would have given away. Sometimes!
  7. The biggest mistake people make is thinking that money makes you popular. It doesnt.
  8. I think in a world that is in pursuit of material things, and I speak as an investment banker, it is a good reminder that material hapiness is transitory. Friends, family, hobbies etc are more important.

    My motivation to do well in my career started from a craving for financial security resulting from a childhood where my parents never had money and never owned a house. It always scared me to know that our home could be taken away from us.
  9. Don’t equate happiness with money. People adapt to income shifts

    relatively quickly, the long lasting benefits are essentially zero.

    Exercise regularly. Taking regular exercise generates further energy,

    and stimulates the mind and the body.

    Have sex (preferably with someone you love). Sex is consistently

    rated as amongst the highest generators of happiness. So what are you

    waiting for?

    Devote time and effort to close relationships. Close relationships

    require work and effort, but pay vast rewards in terms of happiness.

    Pause for reflection, meditate on the good things in life. Simple

    reflection on the good aspects of life helps prevent hedonic adaptation.

    Seek work that engages your skills, look to enjoy your job. It

    makes sense to do something you enjoy. This in turn is likely to allow

    you to flourish at your job, creating a pleasant feedback loop.

    Give your body the sleep it needs.

    Don’t pursue happiness for its own sake, enjoy the moment. Faulty

    perceptions of what makes you happy, may lead to the wrong pursuits.

    Additionally, activities may become a means to an end, rather than

    something to be enjoyed, defeating the purpose in the first place.

    Take control of your life, set yourself achievable goals.

    Remember to follow all the rules.

    If it makes you happy

    With apologies to Monty Python, this weekly is perhaps best summed up as “And now

    for something completely different”. We have a reputation (admittedly deservedly) for

    being bearish. Indeed, on occasions, we even manage to depress ourselves. However,

    as professional pessimists it behoves us to be happy in other aspects of our lives.

    Those of you who are amongst our regular readers may recall that Albert Edwards has

    documented his own search for happiness with a weekly concerning his exploits at

    speed dating (see Global Strategy Weekly, 15 January 2004).

    Albert’s adventures have inspired me to, once again, drag the psychological literature.

    The psychological study of well-being and happiness is still a relatively new field.

    However, despite its relative youth, the field has already delivered some powerful

    insights and advice.

    But before we get to these, let’s start at the beginning. Why be happy? The

    psychological literature shows that effectively the benefits of happiness can be broken

    down into three areas. These may seem like a long list of the blindingly obvious, but all

    are based on careful scientific studies (rather than cheap self help books!). 1

    1. i)  Social rewards

      1. Higher odds of marriage

      2. Lower odds on divorce

      3. More friends

      4. Stronger social support

      5. Richer social interactions

    2. ii)  Superior work outcomes

      1. Greater creativity

      2. Increased productivity

      3. Higher quality of work

      4. Higher income

      5. More activity, more energy

    3. iii)  Personal benefits

    a. Bolstered immune system

    1. Greater longevity

    2. Greater self control and coping abilities

    So let’s assume that you share the desire to enjoy this list of happiness-induced

    benefits (and I’d be surprised if anyone had issues with any of these benefits), how do

    you go about becoming happy?

    Percentage of Americans describing themselves as very happy



    = 31%

    1965 = 38%, 1970

    = 34%, 1975 =30% ,  1980= 32 ,  1985 =28 , 1990 =31  1995 =32  2000 = 28

    In order to understand how we can improve our level of happiness we need to

    understand its components. The latest research suggests that happiness is composed

    of three sections

    The largest contributor to happiness is the genetically determined set point (or more

    accurately set range). That is to say, people are pre-disposed to a certain level of

    happiness, which is determined by characteristics inherited from their parents! As

    Sheldon et al note “The set point likely reflects immutable interpersonal,

    temperamental and affective personality traits, such as extraversion, arousability and

    negative affectivity, that are rooted in neurobiology, ...are highly heritable... and

    change little over the lifespan.”

    Adam Smith, author of the Wealth of Nations, also wrote the Theory of Moral

    Sentiments, a text far closer to understanding the nature of human beings than the

    better known favourite of economists3. Smith noted “The mind of every man, in a

    longer or shorter time, returns to its natural and usual state of tranquillity. In prosperity,

    after a certain time, it falls back to that state; in adversity, after a certain time, it rises

    up to it”.

    Current estimates suggest that this genetically determined set range accounts for

    around 50% of an individual’s happiness. However, the set point is only the base line

    2 Sheldon, Lyubomirsky and Schkade (2003) Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable


    3 Indeed a new paper by Ashraf, Camerer, and Loewenstein (2004) argues that Adam Smith was

    actually one of the first behavioural economists. They cite the Theory of Moral Sentiments as a good

    example of how insightful Smith really was.

    or default level of happiness that an individual enjoys. It is the level of happiness that

    an individual would have in the absence of other factors. Because the set point is

    generally fixed, it is not something we can alter in order to improve our happiness lot.

    This, of course, means that in order to increase our happiness we need to look


    The second component of happiness is circumstances. Life circumstances include

    demographic factors, age, gender, ethnicity and geographic factors. It also includes

    personal history and life status. Frequently people focus upon the last element of this


    Indeed, amongst the most commonly reported correlates of happiness are marital

    status, occupation, job security, income, health and religious affiliations. In general,

    married, well paid, secure, healthy and religious believers are more likely to report

    themselves as being happy than the rest of us.

    That said, a vast array of individuals seriously over-rate the importance of money in

    making themselves, and others, happy. Indeed, it seems to me that an awful lot of

    individuals within our industry tend to equate money with happiness.

    However, study after study from psychology shows that money doesn’t equal

    happiness. For instance, Loewenstein (1996) asked visitors to Pittsburgh International

    Airport to rank from 1 (most important) to 5 (least important) a list of “things that might

    be important when it comes to making people happy”. They were then asked to assign

    percentages as to the importance of each factor in determining overall happiness. The

    table below shows the mean ranking and percentage weights that respondents

    assigned to each variable. High income received the lowest ranking and rating.

    Rankings and ratings of happiness factors

    Item Mean rank

    Family Life 1.7

    Friends 2.4

    Satisfying job 2.5

    High income 3.6

    Source: Loewenstein

    A similar finding is contained by Diener and Oishi (2000)4 who surveyed some 7167

    students across 41 countries. Those who valued love more than money reported far

    higher life satisfaction scores than those who seemed to be money focused. (See chart


    However, for all the emphasis that gets put upon life circumstances as a generator of

    happiness, the correlations between such variables as money, job security, marriage

    etc and happiness are relatively small. In fact, Sheldon et al argue that in total all

    circumstances account for only around 10% of the variations in people’s happiness.

    There is an additional problem with changing life circumstances as a path to increasing

    happiness. It goes by the frightening name of hedonic adaptation5. Simply put, hedonic

    adaptation means we are very good at quickly assimilating our current position, and

    then judging it as normal, hence only changes from our “normal” level get noticed.

    Gains in happiness quickly become the norm. So changing life circumstances seems

    to lead to only temporary improvement in people’s happiness. This helps explain the

    chart on p3, which shows that since the 1950s people’s happiness levels have been

    remarkably constant, despite a massive growth in income per head over the same time


    Schkade and Kahneman (1998)6 show that whilst “living in California” was an

    appealing idea for many Americans, it didn’t actually boost long run happiness. That is

    to say, people living in California were about as happy as other Americans on average.

    So whilst moving may provide a temporary increase in happiness, it is soon adapted

    into the perception of the “norm”.

    Hence hedonic adaptation severely limits the ability of changing life circumstances to

    improve long run happiness. So neither life circumstances nor the set point seem to

    hold the key to creating sustainable increases in happiness.

    All of which means that any hope for increasing happiness on a long term basis must

    lie with the third and final component of happiness – intentional activity. Sheldon et al

    define intentional activity as “discrete actions or practices that people can choose to

    do”. By process of elimination, intentional activity must account for 40% of people’s


    ntentional activity can be (somewhat artificially) broken down into three areas:

    Behavioural activities – such as exercising regularly, having sex7, being kind to others,

    and spending time socialising.

    Cognitive activities – such as trying to see the best, pausing to count how lucky one

    actually is.

    Volitional activities – striving for personal goals, devoting effort to meaningful causes.

    Unlike changing life circumstances, intentional activity is likely to be more resistant to

    hedonic adaptation. The very nature of activities means they are episodic, and hence

    are unlikely to become part of the “norm” in the way alterations to circumstances do.

    Because activities are not permanent they can be varied which again helps prevent

    hedonic adaptation. For instance, in taking exercise the particular activity can easily be

    altered from cycling to swimming.

    Cognitive activities such as pausing to think about the good things in one’s life can also

    help counteract the hedonic adaptation process directly. After all, counting one’s

    blessing helps to prevent them from becoming part of the “norm”.

    Of course, just like New Year’s resolutions, happiness increasing strategies are

    relatively easy to devise, but far harder to implement on a consistent basis. A

    deliberate effort is required to pursue activities. However, an individual has much more

    chance of being able to start an activity than say change the set point or alter life

    circumstances. So just how can we seek to improve our intentional activities to

    enhance happiness? Well the list below is drawn from my reading of the literature, all

    of these have withstood laboratory testing in a scientific environment.

    The top ten list for improving happiness (in no particular order)

    1. 1)  Don’t equate happiness with money. People adapt to income shifts

      relatively quickly, the long lasting benefits are essentially zero.

    2. 2)  Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is an effective cure for mild depression

      and anxiety. It also stimulates more energy, and is good for the mind and


    3. 3)  Have sex (preferably with someone you love). Need I say more?

    4. 4)  Devote time and effort to close relationships. Confiding and discussing

      problems and issues is good for happiness, so work on these relationships.

    5. 5)  Pause for reflection, meditate on the good things in life. Focusing on the

      good aspects of life helps to prevent hedonic adaptation.

    6. 6)  Seek work that engages your skills, look to enjoy your job. Doing well at

      work creates happiness, and the easiest way of doing well at work, is doing a

      job you enjoy.

    7. 7)  Give your body the sleep it needs. Too many people have a sleep deficit,

      resulting in fatigue, gloomy moods and lack of concentration.

    8. 8)  Don’t pursue happiness for its own sake, enjoy the moment. Because

      people don’t understand what makes them happy, pursuing happiness can be

      self-defeating. Additionally, if people start to aim for happiness they are doing

      activities for happiness’s sake rather than actually enjoying the activity itself.

    9. 9)  Take control of your life, set yourself achievable goals. People are

      happiest when they achieve their aims, so set yourself goals which stretch

      you, but are achievable.

    10) Remember to follow rules 1-9. Following these guidelines sounds easy, but

    actually requires willpower and effort.

    Let’s leave the last words to Adam Smith (quoted in Adam Smith, Behavioural

    Economist by Ashraf et al (2004) from the Theory of Moral Sentiments):

    Through the whole of his life he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and

    elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a

    real tranquillity that is at all times in his power, and which, if in the

    extremity of old age he should at last attain to it, he will find to be in no

    respect preferable to that humble security and contentment which he had

    abandoned for it. It is then, in the last dregs of life, his body wasted with

    toil and disease, his mind galled and ruffled by the memory of a thousand

    injuries and disappointments which he imagines he has met with from the

    injustice of his enemies, or from the perfidy and ingratitude of his friends,

    that he begins at last to find that wealth and greatness are mere trinkets

    of frivolous utility, no more adapted for procuring ease of body or

    tranquillity of mind, than the tweezer-cases of the lover of toys.

  10. Probably no rush to buy as house prices out of town are not rising, and houses are not exactly flying out of the estate agent's doors!

    Two things tend to trip pepole up. Firstly they go for something bigger than they need, with perhaps a large plot of land. Secondly they buy something with a lot of expensive work to do.

    The combination of these two things can really damage long term finances.

    The problem for me was that I hate renting, so we bought somthing that i have just advised against.
  11. Good question. It depends who administers the fines. In the USA there have been upto four bodies handing out fines for the same misdemeanor. Department of Justice, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and sometimes state prosecutors. Then in fact you also have private prosecutions, and then on top of all that you can have a bank finied in two countries. For example because the misdemeanor was by a branch of a UK bank in NYK.

    In each case the money goes somewhere different.

    In the UK it tends to be just two bodies. The FCA/PRA which is the old FSA, and then the courts. The courts are involved in UK due to criminal offences which regulatory offences don't often become.
  12. More accurately, the fine is often transfered to the shareholder by a lower share price. Competition should ensure that a bank that is fined can't pass on the costs easily through pricing and therefore has less to pass on as dividends.
  13. GBP racing higher on prospects that UK rate rise will happen sooner than anticipated.

    Watch out for pick up in enquiries about house buying in France!
  14. Banking crisis unpunshed?

    "The payment brings the total of fines imposed on JP Morgan to nearly $20bn in the past year." reported by The Gaurdian on 7th Jan 2014
  15. Tomorrow I will copy an interesting article I was sent 10 years ago regarding retirement and happiness.

    One of the studies surveyed 3 time points. Firstly when people were about to retire to Florida. Secondly when they had retired and moved to Florida for less than a year, and thirdly when they had been resident for several years. The results showed that life is life wherever you live. We are born with a base level of happiness that can be improved by friendship and love, but that happiness from material things is transitory. That includes the dream of retiring in sunnier parts. So, no surprise to know that for the people looking for happiness in Florida, it only lasted about a year after moving, then happiness levels returned to that which existed prior to their retirement.

    I think this goes to explain why so many people become disillusioned once the permanent move takes place. I will find the whole article tomorrow.
  16. By the way - my favorite thread was about running gites and the humour attached to all the trials and tribulations presented.
  17. Hi all. Good to see so many members still going strong. For what it is worth, the banking crisis made for frustrating visits to the site. I am an FX trader and 1. Couldnt really comment much of the time about views that I felt were ill-informed or had a different standpoint, and 2. Unsuprisingly, people were feeling angry (many still do) and so anything I had to say was pretty irrelevant as people needed to voice their anger.

    I have learnt to despise politics. I dont see many politicians in parliament that have a genuine interest of doing anything other than offering the world to get a vote, and that still includes misrepresenting the issues in banking and the banks ability to do what they are supposed to do. I could go on
  18. Woolybanna, you can't take both sides of the supply and demand argument by saying buy to let pushes up house prices AND increases rental costs. The former increases rental supply which doesnt push rental prices up.

    Be critical by all means, but be rational too.
  19. Banks operate in a competetive environment that governments encouraged because the belief is that competition is good for the consumer. However it is Government that should dictate regulation that limits the boundaries of competition. 110% mortgages and self certificated mortgages should be banned by regulation. The problem with that is that in a democracy it would be political suicide to implement. Remember two things about mortgage lending and the ensuing carnage. People should bare some responsibility for wether or not they can afford something. Secondly the explosion of credit to low credit scoring individuals was implement vociferously by the socialist Clinton in 1998 when he told Fannie Mae to accept poor credit score mortgages.
  20. A crab and lobster fisherman from Guernsey recommended www.xcweather.com which works well for UK, France and other parts of Ausria. It's prediction of temperature is generally a little on the low side by a couple of degrees compared to most weather sites, but seems accurate.

    I also like www.meteociel.fr

  21. Grexit should happen when Greece reaches the inflexion point when the population determines that the cost of staying in the EURO equals the cost of coming out. As the population as a whole can not determine that point easily, it will most likely happen before then. Maybe after new elections on 17th June.

  22. I always assumed the process to switch away from the EURO would take months but in fact it is not necessarily the case.

    If Latin America is an example, it could be done over a long weekend, with banks closed for a week.

    The premise on which it works is that 'bad' money chases out 'good'.

    Greek government would issue in note form, tax credits with a maturity of say 3 years. These would be used to pay civil servants and goods and services. Retail outlets such as supermarkets would be forced to accept these notes, and they could be used to settle tax demands etc.

    Euros would continue to circulate in Greece, but because anyone who received the tax credit notes wouldn't want to hold them, they would rush to spend them. This creates money velocity and helps to reflate the economy. Euros would be retained as a store of wealth (euroisation like dolarisation) with the newly created currency only becoming the accepted currency when stability returns after many years.

  23. The sad truth is that European Monetary Union was born because politicians wanted a united Europe and the desires of Germany and France to avoid any chance of future wars. With the decent in to Eurozone fragmentation, there is a horrible chance that internalised rioting and protests become cross border via terrorism. I pray it doesn't happen but when you have 17 countries disagreeing on how to deal with the credit crisis, and the weaker countries starting to baulk at fiscal consolidation, anything can happen. Greece will leave the EURO most likely. There is a good chance that one or two could follow unless the ECB monetise. Germany refuse to let that happen.
  24. Is it hunger? or a need to replenish salt flushed out by drinking fluids. If you are drinking a lot during the day/eve, and get peckish for salty things at night, and you have to get up in the night to pee then it might be an idea to get your blood sugars tested just in case.

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