November 2019 Savings, plus other updates

So it was Black Friday the other day – anyone pick up any bargains?

I should have probably done some Christmas shopping but the only thing I purchased  that day were more investments! My FIRE focus didn’t waiver!

Were the investments ‘on sale’? No idea – I’m sure I’m not alone in not checking the price of a Vanguard ETF before investing, except to make sure I’ve enough cash to invest.

I feel like I’ve caught up a bit on things this month, got myself a bit more organised, including sorted out my tax stuff. I even got round to having my tattoo to commemorate my half-century – it’s only visible when I remove my clothing so I’m not growing old too disgracefully!

In terms of blog reading/commenting, I’ve found that many of the usual blogs I follow haven’t been updating as much as before – have we reached Peak FIRE?

Still discovering and enjoying new UK blogs, but some of the older ones have been pretty quiet lately – hopefully they’re just too busy just getting on with the business of aiming for FIRE.

So, how are my numbers looking?

I saved 44% of my net salary! A larger than usual credit card bill due to social activities meant that I didn’t hit 50% but I’m happy with this.

The above savings includes top ups of £40 matched betting profit (from last month), £133.15 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all who signed up via my links!), £10 lotto winnings and £50 Premium Bond winnings!

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments – I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Either the markets were buoyant or it’s just a result of pound sterling taking a bashing  (probably the latter) but my Future Fund jumped quite a bit this month, up to £182,861.46.   And there was me hoping that I would end the year at £180k but we’ll see what happens after the General Election…

Dividends and Other Income

A better month for dividends: Continue reading

October 2019 Savings, plus other updates

Hope you all had a happy Brexit Day Halloween!

My ‘confused’ effort on the right!

October felt like a month where I had a lot going on but hardly anything was achieved.

I’m behind on loads of things – my reading, my paperwork, my tax return (meant to submit this month), my TV watching, my blog reading/commenting, my blogging.

That said, I bought a new mobile phone as my old one has been freezing and rebooting for months (used matched betting profits again for the purchase) and I’ve been out on a few social outings, completed a 13-mile walk in the rain (again!) for charity with work and been to the cinema a couple of times (to see Ad Astra and Terminator: Dark Fate).

My social calendar is pretty much filled up for November already so I hope I don’t continue to fall behind on stuff.

Am I also behind on my numbers? Let’s see how I did….

I saved 51.3% of my net salary! With my sis contributing towards household bills, I’m able to put away more of my money but as mentioned before, at some point, all my utilities direct debits will go up so my savings rate will revert closer to the norm.

The above savings includes top ups of £40 matched betting profit (from last month), £67.74 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all who signed up via my links!), £30 from Siteground* affiliate income (thanks Tom!) and £57.01 from TopCashback*.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments – I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets were all over the place this month and despite adding new capital, my portfolio value went backwards down to £178,832.19. As usual, I’m keeping calm and carrying on investing!

Dividends and Other Income

A slightly disappointing month for dividends: Continue reading

September 2019 Savings, plus other updates

Update is later than usual but this might become the norm, not sure. Still no real blogging routine yet and I wasn’t about during the weekend to get this out.

Anyway, for those concerned, my nephew survived the few days with me, wasn’t late for school once and didn’t miss his bedtime (by much… 🙂 )

So how did I get on in September with my savings?

I saved 52.9% of my net salary! This was the first month that my sis contributed to household bills since she moved in and I invested the cash straight away.

Of course, at some point, all my utilities direct debits will go up, with me no longer being in the house on my own, but I’ll save as much as I can while I can!

The above savings includes top ups of £120 matched betting profit (from last month) and £126.22 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

Thinking about greener investments, I started investing in Greencoat Wind UK plc.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

With the pound taking a pounding and markets generally on the up, at the end of the month, my portfolio stood at £179,130.49. This puts me in really good stead in my race to £200k, although with Brexit (or not) looming, who knows how things will look by the end of October.

Dividends and Other Income

Another fairly average month for dividends: Continue reading

Adjustments to My Investment Strategy

As I’ve touched upon in recent posts, I thought it was time to review my investment portfolio.

The last time I checked it (and its allocations) was back in 2017, so here’s quite a lengthy (and rather waffly) post as it’s been a long time coming! 🙂

The large part of my portfolio is made up of index tracker ETFs. The other part is mostly investment trusts (ITs). The intention, when it comes to drawdown/early retirement, is that I will likely sell off the ETFs for capital, whilst taking dividend income from the ITs.

I would describe myself as a passive investor, my strategy is predominantly ‘buy and hold’.  However, as there’s an element of investing which I enjoy, I do tinker about with a bit of active investing, small experimental portfolios and the like.

Index Tracker (ETF) Portfolio

I set up this portfolio after I’d read Tim Hale’s Smarter Investing book, combined with Monevator’s Lazy Portfolio post.

Thus, I created my own Portfolio for All Seasons, one which would supposedly weather all kinds of stock market shenanigans and which suited my own appetite for risk.

I’m thinking now that I do need to perhaps start protecting some of my wealth and increasing the bonds part of my portfolio.

A common rule of thumb is to simply hold a percentage of stocks/equities equal to 100 minus your age. If I followed this rule, that would mean having a 50/50 split equities/bonds, which to me, just doesn’t carry enough risk/opportunity for growth.  Equity to bond ratio of my Portfolio of All Seasons has been 90/10, so rather on the risky/aggressive side.

Apparently some financial planners are now recommending that the rule should be closer to 110 or 120 minus your age and that is what I will initially go for – 120 minus my age so my equity/bond ratio will now aim to be 70/30.

Here’s the Old v New portfolio allocations:

So I’m reducing some of the home/UK bias and the more risky allocations.

If I end up becoming more risk averse, I may go down to 60/40 but that’s for the future.

How did I come up with these allocations? They’re just what I’m comfortable with and happy to invest in. I wanted to start implementing the changes to my portfolio asap and didn’t want inaction as a result of analysis paralysis.

Anyway, here’s how it’s looking right now:

I intend to re-balance mostly via new contributions but I have made a few sales/switches already (sold my entire holding of the global value, VHYL (Vanguard All-World High Dividend Yield ETF)). I’ll be doing more switching over the next month or so.

I may ultimately whittle these allocations down to 4 core holdings for simplification in time, not sure yet – just need to be mindful of dealing fees.

And finally, why ETFs and not funds, like Vanguard Lifestrategy? Although I still hold a couple of funds, I have mostly ETFs as the fees are cheaper for ETFs on the platforms I use.

So here are my main holdings:

Global: Vanguard All World ETF (VWRL)
Bond: Vanguard Government Bond ETF (VGOV)
UK: Vanguard FTSE 100 ETF (VUKE)
Property: iShares Developed Markets Property Yld ETF (IWDP)
Emerging Markets: iShares Emerging Markets Equity Tracker
UK Mid: Vanguard FTSE 250 ETF (VMID)
Global Small Co: SPDR MSCI World Small Cap ETF (WOSC)

Investment Trust/Share Portfolio

I wanted a part of my portfolio which I would just hold and which would generate regular income.

Originally, I had a smattering of individual shares but wanted more diversification  (plus it’s really time consuming trying to research the best individual share to buy) so I started to build up a basket of investment trusts (ITs).

I chose from a mixture of ITs considered to be ‘dividend heroes’ (paying increasing dividends over many consecutive years) and diversified across global, UK and recently, more specialised sectors.  There’s also a mix of growth and income ITs, although later on, I’ll likely move to more income.

This portfolio currently generates on average £130 a month, my aim is for it pay out at least £250 a month/£3k a year, which should cover the bulk of my household bills.

I guess I’ll aim to do a bit of ‘top-slicing’, ie take profits from the growth ITs and buy more of the income payiing ones in time – not sure how that will work out as I generally only buy when ITs are showing a decent discount to NAV (Net Asset Value) but occasionally, I will buy on a premium.

So whilst the capital of my ETF portfolio will be whittled down in time, I’m intending to hang onto this portfolio for a good while longer.

Why have income paying investments while I’m still accumulating?

Mainly because I need to see that I can actually generate a certain amount of income from my investments – I’d rather avoid finding out belatedly that my portfolio didn’t actually pay the income I thought it would.

Anyway, click here to see this portfolio.

Cash

I haven’t got a lot of cash in my portfolio – most of it is in premium bonds, with a tiny amount in my cash ISA. Before anyone pipes up to say how crap premium bonds are, I don’t really care, I just like the fact that they carry no risk whatsoever and that there’s a chance of winning something every month and I’ll be sure to let you know if I win a decent-sized prize! 🙂

Much in the same way that I’m increasing my bond allocations in my ETF portfolio, I will gradually increase my cash allocation although I’m not rushing on this one, with interest rates still being on the low side.

Perhaps I’ll do a bigger push later on as I’d like to FIRE with a cash buffer.

Everything Else

P2P and property crowdfunding – over the next few years, these should run down to zero as I’m not adding any capital to these types of investments – currently, I have less than £2k invested.

Other crowdfunding – small amounts in Freetrade and BrewDog. It’s possible that I may look at other such opportunities but these are strictly in the ‘fun’ category and not part of my retirement planning.

SIPP or ISA?

The bulk of my savings/investments are ‘tax efficient’, ie either in my SIPPs or my ISAs.

I still continue to invest in both, although I plan to build up more in my ISAs as I feel they offer more flexibility and (hopefully) will continue not to be subject to tax, future government meddling notwithstanding. I currently have more in my SIPPs but hopefully that will be addressed over the years. Note that by the time I FIRE, I will have access to my SIPPs.

Experiments

My Dogs of the FTSE experimental portfolio also falls in the fun category but the dividend income I receive is reinvested into my ISA, so it benefits my overall portfolio. More on my Dogs at a later date, there’s a post pending!

I may run other little experiments or other fun portfolios although I’ll only be risking a tiny percentage of my overall wealth.

So that’s pretty much it for my portfolio for the next couple years.

I’m sure there will be many who might disagree with my strategy and wonder WTF I’m doing but I’m comfortable with it and although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m confident that it will do what I want it to do, well, all I can say is that I’ll do what any investor can do and that is to wait and see.

I intend to ride out any economic catastrophes, keep calm and carry on investing, which might be easier said than done!