Transforming personal finance since 2011

#72 — "It's hip to be square"

March 4th, 2021

By Andrew Craig

Reading time: ~ 2 minutes

Today is world book day

There is a joke that is reasonably popular in places like silicon valley (for pretty obvious reasons) which goes something like this:

Question: "What does the high school quarterback call the high school nerd a few years after high school?
Answer: "Boss!"

It isn't particularly funny but I do think it is pretty apt, and never more so than today. We live in an age where information has never been more important: For career success for sure but, I would argue, for a raft of more important things and most particularly health, wealth and happiness and contentment overall.

Research highlighted by UK charity The Reading Agency has shown that:

  • ...regular readers for pleasure reported fewer feelings of stress and depression than non-readers.
  • ...those who read for pleasure have higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations.
  • Reading for pleasure was also associated with better sleeping patterns.

...and also, for children specifically, that:

  • Reading for pleasure is more important for children's cognitive development than their parents' level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background. (!!)...
  • 16-year-olds who choose to read books for pleasure outside of school are more likely to secure managerial or professional jobs in later life.

We have many decades of evidence that higher levels of reading correlate with higher levels of success, wealth and happiness. I would also stress that this correlation is exponential, not linear - something I think is very important to understand.

The Compound Effect

I have written a great deal in the past about the compound effect when it comes to finance - but it is actually relevant to everything else. If reading makes you only 1% "better" every month - fitter, healthier, smarter, better-informed, more skilled and so on - over a lifetime, your life won't end up twice as good as it might otherwise have been - it will be many, many multiples better. This is a mathematical inevitability.

I know few better ways to get "1% better" each month than through reading. Reading about diet, fitness, psychology, philosophy, financial markets and lots else besides can and will have an enormous impact on how you experience (and enjoy) life and on the probability you succeed.

Perhaps more importantly - it is also fundamentally inspiring, uplifting and enjoyable. I think that films are great - the best of them at least - but I find that if I want to be transported more viscerally to another place and time - to Victorian London perhaps, or medieval Germany, or modern-day Tokyo, or to a science fiction future or a prehistoric past, books have it every time.

I just wanted to take a moment to make these points on the occasion of World Book Day.

You will know from my article on Tuesday that my first book is available for the whole of this month for only 99p on Amazon Kindle - but my bigger-picture point today was just to take a moment to celebrate and really dwell on the merits of the written word.

Books are great.

Until next time, I wish you the very best for your finances and for everything else besides...