A few weeks ago, my lovely wife surprised me with a trip to Iceland. She wanted us to get away for a long weekend to belatedly celebrate my 40th birthday.
Unfortunately, I picked up some sort of Mutant Icelandic Super Bug at the tail end of our trip. It knocked me out for three weeks! My weekly posts had to be put on hold while I focused on my health.
Frugal? Yeah, Not Right Now
In case you didn't already know it, I'm a frugal guy. However, while I was sick my frugality was temporarily put on the back burner; I would have paid just about anything to feel like myself again. Special tea that's supposed to shorten the duration of colds and the flu? Sure. Six different kinds of Mucinex? One of them has to work, right? An outrageously expensive inhaler? Done.
I'm sure I'm not the only person to temporarily turn off personal spending limits. In fact, I can think of at least two other events that trigger a similar reaction: Vacations and holidays. Of course, the latter is especially relevant right now.
What's the point of this observation? It's certainly not that spending is bad - especially when it's related to your health. I believe it's important to recognize the things that affect our behavior so we can (hopefully) make fewer financial mistakes in the future.
Back to Iceland
Despite catching the Icelandic Plague, our time in Iceland was incredible. The country is beautiful yet sparsely populated. Most of the 330,000+ residents live in Reykjavik, where we spent much of our time.
Nerd that I am, I frequently regaled Heidi with stories of Iceland's financial struggles. In case you missed it, Iceland was one of the countries hardest hit by the 2008 financial crisis. Three of the country's major privately-owned banks went into default and eventually collapsed.
Here's the interesting thing: The banks were allowed to fail. This makes me wonder what would have happened if the US had responded the same way during the financial crisis.
So how has Iceland fared since the crisis? Surprisingly well. Unemployment is low (~4%), GDP growth is an impressive 4%, and tourism has boomed. We saw signs of development all over Reykjavik. Construction cranes dotted the skyline. Major infrastructure projects have been completed to take advantage of the country's natural thermal and hydro resources. An impressive 99% of Iceland's energy needs are now produced by these renewable sources of energy.
Okay, I'm done geeking out over Iceland's fascinating financial history. Go visit the country if you can. Just watch out for their Super Bugs.
Listening / Reading / Watching
Here are the things that had my attention this week:
- The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis. I'm a big fan of Michael Lewis's work. If you haven't read The Big Short or Flash Boys, add them to your reading list right now. His latest book focuses on the work of two psychologists whose work created the field of behavioral economics.
- The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It's difficult to believe this is a work of non-fiction. Larson details how a serial killer used the 1893 World's Fair to lure victims to their death. It's a heartwarming tale.