My Year in Money and Writing

Another one of those backward-looking summaries of what happened in 2020.

Thankfully, I focus not on the corona-world outside but the financial and professional world of myself. Much more tangible, and perhaps a tad more sane than the average shite outside.

As I meticulously note all my expenses and make regular balance sheets at the end of every month, it is my great pleasure to report that my net wealth in December 2020 is exactly 12.3% higher than December 2019. That’s after spending extravagantly on high-quality stuff, travelling to a new country, falling completely in love with it and permanently relocating there.

My financial portfolio stands 8.6% higher than a year ago, but that’s after withdrawing on net about $5,200 to hold larger cash balances as well as financing some of my extravagant living this year (new yoga mat, fantastic Icebreaker clothes, moving to Iceland, and adding $1,300 worth of books to my library). In hindsight, with a corona collapse in March and a rest-of-the-year bull run (including a few 100%+ returns in several of my assets), that capital spending became pretty expensive.

Speaking of spending, I’ve spent something like $4,000 on rent, which is a tad low since for a good portion of the year the pandemic confined me to friends’ and families’ homes (admittedly where implied rent shows up as more regular household expenditures — food, tea, gifts, chocolate). Having said that, I’ve spent some $2,700 on food, another $2,300 in cafés and restaurants, about $900 on chocolate, tea and coffee and a record $1,750 on clothes.

Flights, predictably, undershot last year’s expense by about 60%, still setting me back about $1,200. For permission to earn my living (and some vague promises of social, health, and future protection) I’ve dished out $6,067 to the government (not counting consumption taxes!) — but this number will adjust somewhat during this year’s tax season.

By my tally, I’ve produced 145 articles in 2020, across 8 platforms. 7 of them made it onto our esteemed Zero Hedge, which isn’t surprising considering how dismal the year has been and how pessimistic I became in the fall ‒ topics that fit ZH perfectly.

In total, I estimate 185,000 words, an average of about 15,000 words a month, or some 500 a day. A lot more than I would have guessed.

Many great things have happened this year, professionally and personally. I set myself an ambitious 30-day writing challenge in October which I never thought I would manage. I surrendered, finally, on day 18, after I had published one article a day ‒ in addition to my more regular work ‒ for almost three weeks. I did less than I intended, but more than I had thought. For the next few weeks, I noticed a long overhang as I had less interesting things to write about in my regular work, and had spent less time reading the many books I had set aside for myself. Mixed results. I’ve been on a number of podcasts, and lost count of the many places where my articles have been re-printed.

Speaking of books, early in 2020 I listed 13 (+1) books that I was looking forward to during the year. Counting charitably, I read 8 of them (8/14=57%) but one of these got postponed until next year, and two more were delayed until late-2020, which gave me less time to read them.

I count 35 books read during 2020, with a handful others half-way through, and another handful where I’ve read the introduction or select chapters. Let’s charitably round up to 40, which still falls short of my hoped-for 50. The good news is that I seem to improve over the rolling 12-months summary I made in July.

My favourite piece of this year — which I say about twelve times a quarter in various conversations — is probably my yoga article, To Align of Not To Align:

In it, I managed to tie the personal into the political in a way I rarely manage. I kept the message somewhat free of aggressive moralising, yet still delivered a valuable insight. Months later, I still think about this alignment of speech, actions, and values for my own life — and I re-read it on a weekly basis.

All in all an adventurous and prosperous year, the pandemic aside. I’m glad about the many words I’ve produced and the people whose lives I’ve added to as a result; I’m appalled at the many horrors that various governments (and individuals!) have unleashed, and the pessimism that has incited in me.

Professionally and personally, I aim for an even better year in 2021. For the things I cannot control I hope reason wins out over madness.

Happy New Years,


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Writer, editor, and student of money past and present. Here: mostly off-topic stories, personal finance-musings, worldly observations and Reykjavík reflections.

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