As recommended by various people, I read “Whoops!: Why Everyone Owes Everyone And No One Can Pay” by John Lanchester this month. As I borrowed it from the library, that’s another step closer to my library book-reading goal!


I’d say it was probably the most fascinating non-fiction book I’ve read in a long, long time!

It basically describes and explains how the global economy was brought to the edge of destruction in 2008. Ooh, those naughty banks!

Where was I in 2008?

Well, this was the year I sold the house that I owned with my ex and I finally paid off my credit card debts so I was in a good place financially – finally! The proceeds of the sale were left sitting in a high interest bank account (yes, they existed back then!) and I had virtually no investments whatsoever (I say virtually as I discovered years later that I had a small holding in an investment trust!).

Whilst I do remember the global economy collapsing and the hysteria in the news, I didn’t really understand why or how it happened, except that the banks were largely to blame. How so? Something or other to do with ‘sub-prime’ mortgages but to tell you the truth, I wasn’t really that interested at the time.

I also naively didn’t think the financial crash would affect me since I had no investments (that I knew of) that were affected by the plummet in the stock market…until my job became ‘at risk’ and Old Co axed around 120 people in one go and had to be bailed out by Warren Buffet. Those days at work weren’t great…

Years later, I would still feel the aftereffects of the crash, with regulatory overkill forming a huge part of my working life and environment – audits upon audits!

So what’s in the Book?

The book is easy to read as it assumes you know nothing so explains lots of things in a clear, uncomplicated way; things which my eyes probably glossed over when I saw them in newspapers back in 2008.

I also found it pretty scary – scary at how the banks were so powerful that they pretty much made up their own rules and when even those rules didn’t suit them, they just bent them and nobody stopped them.  Regulators were just regulators in name only – they were next to useless against the almighty banks.

People think pay day loans are bad but they’re nothing compared to the mortgages that were handed out almost like candy to people known to have patchy credit history. It wasn’t just the value of the mortgages, it was the sheer number of mortgages that were handed as it was so easy for anyone to get a loan.

For example:

‘Stated income’ loans were where the borrower just stated what their income was and the lender took their word for it…yes, really!

‘Ninja loans’ –  where people who had ‘No Income, No Jobs or Assets’ were able to borrow a pile of money…

It really sounds made up and unbelievable but the scary truth is that this all happened, though not in some corrupt third world country – it happened in the rich western countries and nearly destroyed the global economy.

So, who or what was to blame?

Greed, stupidity, Governments or Banks?

Probably all of the above.

Have lessons been learnt?

Well the book was written six years ago and there’s still the ticking time bomb of Deutsche Bank (still the most dangerous bank in the world?) to name but one.

Only time will tell before the next financial crisis happens due to some new loophole that will get exploited, though of course, actual Brexit and the result of the US elections could cause some disruption.

Anyway, a highly recommended read.

September 2016 Savings, plus other Updates

My family’s visit has come to an end and the house is all quiet again. Things should be be back normal again but I’m finding myself somewhat lacking a little on the motivational front.

Work has been really chaotic (we’ve all been given brand new laptops and telephones and system migration is taking place) and people are starting to leave so that’s probably one thing that’s distracting me. I’ve also been scheduled my first workshop sessions with the back-to-work specialists to help put me on the right job-hunting path, ie sorting out CV etc.

Another reason for distraction is that things haven’t worked out with the guy I’ve been seeing for the past 1.5 years…let’s hope I don’t feel the urge to write sad posts about frugal dating at some point…

Anyway, back onto more relevant topics, let’s have a look at some numbers:


So I managed a savings rate of 42%, which is better than last month.

My average savings rate continues to drop  –  it’s now at 46.5%.  This is still a pretty good number, but as I said in the last update, I don’t have many months left in the year to try to drag it up to my target of 50% so I will settle for getting as close as possible!

This month’s income was boosted by £50 from rent received and £19.17 from TopCashback*. There was also an unexpected £500 referral fee, which came from a Manchester property developer – I’d put them in touch with my aunt, who had ended up making a purchase – boom! A nice little windfall and although tempting to just spend it, I’ve whacked it all into investments!

I also chucked some more of my matched betting profits into some property crowdfunding via Property Moose*.

Future Fund 

The markets continue to be pretty steady for my portfolio, (although there was a small wobble last week) which now stands at £82,888, a small gain of just 2% from last month.

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month (which will be reinvested): Continue reading

Monkey Stocks League Winner 2016!

Twelve months have flown by since I started the Monkey Stocks League Challenge and I can now announce that the winner is…..

M’s Underdogs Fund

Runners-up Craig and his Interesting Initials Fund just couldn’t get anywhere near the winner.

Below is the final snapshot of the league as at the close of trading on 30th September 2016:final16league

And here’s M’s winning portfolio (other portfolios can be found here):


The Underdogs Fund showed a gain of over 60%, or rather £300 profit on M’s original investment of £500. M’s shares were chosen based on the Dogs of the FTSE strategy, all shares with high yields. The portfolio’s only ‘blip’ were the shares in Standard Chartered, one of the many banks which suffered big losses this year, cutting their dividend completely. Can’t win ’em all, eh M?

Real Portfolios

I must say that I am well chuffed that I not only finished in the top 3 but that my stocks showed a gain of nearly 26%.  Mr Z can’t be too unhappy that his Undead Monkey Fund came 4th, with a gain of nearly 23%. FireVLondon’s B Team Fund ended up pretty much just breaking even, with Cerridwen’s Eye of Toad Fund down by around 10%.

Many thanks to all of you who bought your stocks for real to join me in my mad experiment!

Expertly Picked Funds

I’ve been waiting to say this so… “Yay, the experts got beaten by the monkeys/dogs!

Ok, so both expertly chosen funds finished in the top 10 but still, both were miles from the winning portfolios.

In the duel between the experts, Huw came out on top, with his portfolio Kunniga Apa finishing in 8th place, with a gain of 10%. Incidentally, his Monkey Stocks fund, Blinda Apa, finished one place above!

John Kingham’s Pigmamig Fund finished in 10th place, with a gain of nearly 8%.

However, it was interesting to note that John’s portfolio scored the highest total dividend paid – over time, reinvesting dividend income plays a huge part in investment success, so John had obviously picked his stocks for the long-term.

Steady Eddy

diy’s Mutley’s Magic Formula fund continued to maintain its steady process and finished 5th. This fund was based on Vanguard’s 60% LifeStrategy Fund and steadliy made gains (18% in the end) with relatively little volatility.

Best vs Worst

The best 5 performing shares since the start of the league were Centamin plc, Evraz plc, Glencore plc, NMC Health plc and ARM Holdings plc (I include the latter, as although the shares were bought out last month, funds would have been received for that buyout):


If someone had happened to pick all these shares for their portfolio, they would have nearly doubled their initial investment of £500!

The worst 5 performing shares were Royal Bank of Scotland, Nostrum Oil & Gas plc, Restaurant Group, Interserve plc and Barclays plc.


If you’d had the misfortune to pick this lot, you would have seen your portfolio value drop  by over 40% – ouch!

Notes and Conclusion

Whilst blindly/randomly selecting shares to buy is definitely NOT a recommended strategy for people to try at home, this experiment of mine has perhaps shown how luck and randomness can play a big part in investments. Continue reading

Matched Betting vs Gambling

A while back, I listened to Huw’s interviews with Guy on matched betting with great interest (second interview here).

Guy made close to £7k in just 6 months – he’s broken the £15k barrier since that interview! It was great to know first hand the potential that can be earned via matched betting, although from the sounds of things, Guy does put a lot of effort into getting the profits rolling in.

Prior to matched betting, Guy had never ventured into a bookie and his gambling was limited to just playing the lottery.  I guess that meant that at no point has he been tempted to just gamble whilst he’s been doing his matched betting.

Former Gambler

On the other hand, as someone who used to count gambling (sports betting) as one of her favourite hobbies, I cannot say that I have not been tempted and that temptation to have a ‘flutter’ is something that I continue to struggle with.

Yes, I do the lotto (£2 a week with a lottery syndicate) and I take part in a football predictions league at work (£1 a week) but these activities still struggle to dampen my bubbling gambling urges.

I don’t think I will fall off the wagon in an epic way and start spending/throwing away all my matched betting profits but the threat of stepping off the rails lingers in the background.

The good news is that I can’t end up wasting all my profits now anyway, as I’ve started investing some of it (into property crowdfunding via Property Moose*) but sometimes, I can feel my finger twitching and hovering over the ‘Bet Now’ button for a pure gamble! Oh the…


Below is an actual 6-leg football accumulator I did at the end of last season, whereby I bet that 6 teams would win.

All the teams did win and doing it the matched betting way, I made around £15 profit – nice, eh?

However, if I had just gambled my £25 bet on the accumulator, I would have made £167.85 profit…


Feeling Lucky?

I’m finding that I win around 1 in 4 of the accumulators I do, so a little voice in the back of my mind is ‘suggesting’ that I should perhaps just place normal bets instead of matched bets for some of the accumulators I do.

Making £167 profit is obviously a lot more exciting (to me), but I need to keep reminding myself that had all the teams not won, I would have ended up losing my entire £25 stake in a straight gamble. (Most bookies have ‘acca insurance’ whereby if one team lets you down, you get your stake returned as a free bet but if two teams had lost, then you get zip!)

Matched betting ultimately wins hands down as regardless of the results, no money is lost (aside from small qualifying losses) and with the right selections/odds, you can make small risk free profits, which, with patience, you can build into bigger profits.

Stop Matched Betting?

I don’t want to stop just because I might be weak and succumb to temptation and revert back to my old gambling ways. I like that this side income adds to my savings and if I end up without a job long term, I will be counting on it to help cover some of my living expenses.

I have to keep my focus and make sure that my matched betting follows the way I invest, ie slowly and steadily, with growth via small increases.

That said, I can’t say for certain that there won’t be the odd ‘blip’ – there hasn’t been so far (much…).

Got to focus, got to focus and be happy to be making on average £400 a month tax free in my spare time.

I’ve only been at this for a little over 6 months now and I hope to be able to continue to reap the benefits for as long as I can.

I know, I know – gambling is a complete mug’s game – tell me something I don’t know!

Anyway, the matched betting website I subscribe to is OddsMonkey*. I started drafting this post a while ago and since then, the website has come up with a way where I might be able to satisfy the ‘gambler gremlin’ inside me with less risk. I’ll give it a try to see how it goes!

Any other matched bettors out there who feel the pull of gambling or is it just me??