Eight of the most stimulating conversations we had in 2020

John Stepek takes a look back through the 2020 archive of MoneyWeek Podcasts and flags up some of the best conversations of the year.

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We've been putting out the MoneyWeek podcast for several years now, but this year we stepped it up a notch and actually made it a weekly event, as opposed to just aspiring to being weekly.

Merryn has also had some superb guests on the podcast. So I thought I'd take a quick look back through the 2020 archive and flag up some of the best conversations of the year in case you missed them.

If you haven't already started listening to the podcast, I humbly suggest you subscribe now – we're planning an even bigger year of guests and quality conversation for 2021.

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Financial repression, inflation, Japan and longevity

The first podcast I'd flag up is our most recent Christmas podcast, where Merryn interviewed financial historian and strategist Russell Napier. Russell is one of MoneyWeek's favourite commentators and this interview shows why.

He's a master of explaining complicated concepts – from financial repression, to the difference between MMT and what governments are actually doing now, to the complex dynamics that could mean the euro has to be sacrificed to save the European Union – in ways that can be easily understood by those of us who don't work in the City. If you haven't already listened to it, do yourself a favour and click here.

Japan has long been one of MoneyWeek's big investment themes. That's partly because we favour a contrarian bent, and I think it's fair to say that Japan is unreasonably neglected by the investment press, given that it's one of the world's biggest economies and also a highly developed stock market.

This year Merryn interviewed two long-time Japan experts who gave their views on the outlook for the country and its markets. Jonathan Allum, the recently retired strategist behind the "Blah!" newsletter, suggested that one reason Japan is somewhat neglected is because investors are too inclined to over-exaggerate its differences, rather than its similarities, with other markets. Meanwhile Peter Tasker of Japan specialists Arcus highlighted the extraordinary resilience and longevity of Japanese companies.

For a look at the very long term, Merryn spoke to Andrew J Scott about his book, The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World (co-authored with Lynda Gratton). This was a fascinating and really quite inspiring conversation, particularly amid the pandemic, about collapsing mortality rates and improving long-term health. Merryn and Andrew discuss what we'll need to consider for a world in which most people can expect to live longer and in better health than any previous generation.

How will Covid affect us, and how will we pay for all of this?

We've been broadly bullish this year on the idea of a V-shaped economic recovery and a broad return to normal (eventually). But not everyone agrees. Earlier in the year, I chatted to Helen Thomas of Blonde Money about why she believes that coronavirus and its knock-on effects have impaired the "velocity of people" for the long term, and what that means for our economic future.

For an alternative view, Merryn spoke to Bernard Connolly, another of our favourite analysts, who explained back in May why governments have been right to support businesses aggressively through this crisis, and how we might escape the pandemic without too much “scarring”. But he also warned that in the longer run, the underlying actions of central banks are still distorting capitalism and damaging faith in our current system – and creating a risk of the entire system being upturned within the decade.

Finally, another must-listen podcast – which might shed some light on the way ahead for governments in terms of future stimulus following the pandemic – Merryn spoke to Professor Steve Keen in April, at the height of the pandemic about debt jubilees. But Steve also discusses ways to improve housing market affordability, how to reform the banking system – and also about the Roaring 20s. It's all quite radical and fascinating and you should make sure you listen to it.

Oh and if you missed Merryn's 20th anniversary video interview with entrepreneur and investor Jim Mellon, make sure you watch it. The interview was well-timed – it came out a couple of days before the vaccine news was announced, and thus Jim's big tip to buy Lloyds Bank has already done spectacularly well in a very short space of time – but he also discusses far longer-term trends including life extension and "clean meat". Don't miss it.

John Stepek

John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.

He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.

His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.