December 2021 Savings, plus round up

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had an enjoyable festive period and a good start to another new year.

I’ve had a nice mostly quiet time getting used to being in my new home. Still not fully unpacked properly but I’m still moving some last few things from the old house (not sorted the garage or the shed yet – eek!). I can see that I’m going to have to do the whole KonMari thing again at some point!

Anyway, let’s just get the numbers out of the way for 2021!

I saved 13.2% of my net salary.

The above includes £150 from taking part in an investment community exercise, another £25 Premium Bond win and £42.80 from doing Prolific surveys.

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 

Was there a Santa’s Rally? I wasn’t paying attention but perhaps there was as my Future Fund finished up at £232,272.61.

Here’s how it all looks at the end of another year:

Considering the unexpected house purchase, I’m just relieved to finish with a bit more in the pot than I began with at the beginning of the year.

Dividends and Other Income

An average final month for dividends:

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November 2021 Savings, plus other updates

November was a blur, here are a few highlights:

  • My house purchase was completed! I nearly cried with relief!
  • My niece was up for half-term and was with me when I went to the estate agents’ to pick up my house keys. She helped me choose new carpets!
  • My sister came over for a quick visit from Hong Kong – it was so good to see her after nearly 2.5 years. She helped me choose some new lights for the living room! I was able to hand over some family Christmas gifts for her to take back. Unfortunately, she’s still not quite home yet, as she’s currently 5 days into a 21-day quarantine in a hotel…
  • Not everyone’s cup of tea and certainly no ‘Game of Thrones’ but am loving  Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s high fantasy series, ‘Wheel of Time‘. I’ve read all 14 books and one of the the most fascinating things is hearing how the names are pronounced (yes, in my head, I’ve been pronouncing them wrong!).
  • I was awarded Employee of the Month at work, which was a real surprise (though of course, very much appreciated) as I’ve just had my head down, doing my job, nothing which I thought was exceptional.

So, how did I get on with my savings this month?

I saved 13.5% of my net salary.

The above includes £39.20 from doing Prolific surveys.

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 

A wobbly final week of the month for the stock markets due to concerns caused by the Omicron variant of the virus – indeed so big is the concern, that our works’ Christmas party has been cancelled – but I ran my numbers the evening of 30th November so avoided the plunging ‘Black Friday’ values.

Not that there was anything to celebrate, my Future Fund stayed pretty much the same at £227,349.

WIth one month left, here’s how the graph is looking (I’m continuing with the original graph, rather than the house-purchase adjusted one):

Well, it was too much to hope for a V-shaped recovery but steady as she goes. Perhaps there will be a Santa’s Rally!

Dividends and Other Income

A decent month for dividends:

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October 2021 Savings, plus other updates

Highlights this month:

  • At last, I had a mini break away from home! As mentioned in my last update, I went to London – I had tickets to watch the NFL game, Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a great weekend – an enjoyable match with a sellout crowd in Tottenham Hotspurs’ beautiful stadium. The following day, we spent some time wandering around Camden, sampling some expensive beer and food and then happened across probably one of the coolest and most fascinating shops I’ve visited in a long time – I didn’t buy anything, just enjoyed the sights and the music!

It was a great atmosphere and yes, I did know what was going on (mostly!)

Walking into this shop was like walking into another world

  • I went to the cinema to watch the latest James Bond film, ‘No Time to Die’ – have always loved Daniel Craig as Bond.
  • Enjoyed another great Manchester FIRE meetup in the pub – great to interact with faces old and new. There were around 20 of us who turned up. Anyone who’s interested in these meetups, sign up to Financial Independence FIRE – Manchester.  Events are alternately online and face-to-face, so the next one will be online on Friday 26th Nov.
  • And finally, I am sooooo relieved to say that I have finally exchanged contracts on my house, with completion due to happen early November! More details soon – so much (more) to do!

So, how did I get on with my savings in October?

I saved 14.4% of my net salary.

The above includes another £25 Premium Bond win, and £42.24 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I started switching out some of my bond ETFs into a defensive investment trust, Ruffer Investment Co.  Monevator recently did a two-parter on the 60/40 strategy but I was already getting a bit antsy about the portion of bonds I held in my portfolio and wondering what I could do. Despite not holding anywhere near 40%, I was feeling it was still on the high side.

I won’t ditch them completely but will likely switch some more into other defensive investment trusts.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

After removing the funds needed to buy my house, my Future Fund has dropped to £227,413. It’s not half as bad as I originally envisaged – as suggested by regular commenter Jane In London, I asked my Mum for the max amount she would loan me (that I could still cover with the eventual sale of my BTL) so this meant that I didn’t have to dip so far into my own funds.

I had to sell some equities (from my S&S ISAs) to release some cash and fortunately, I sold little bits of my portfolio over July and August when numbers were green.

I’ve been dreading doing this graph update.

Regular commenter Kid Cocoa suggested rebasing the graph, as if the house money was never part of my Future Fund, so that its removal didn’t cause me any distress. I did that and this is what it looks like:


[edit – original post had the wrong graph]

Looking good, with the markets bouncing back after the drop in September.

However, for consistency and because I feel like I need to see the consequences (and feel the pain) of my actions, this is what the graph actually looks like:

Oof! Looks almost like the crash back in March 2020, although there’s very little hope for another V-shaped recovery, haha!

My Future Fund’s value is now what it was in March 2021 so I’ve only really lost 7 months. My FIRE plan is still intact and unchanged – this is fine, I don’t feel so stressed about it any more.

Anyway, as horrid as the graph looks, I am already looking forward seeing it go back up again.

Dividends and Other Income

A more average month for dividends:

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Adjustments to My Investment Strategy (II)

As mentioned in recent posts, I’m making some adjustments to my investment portfolio.

The last time I made any real changes to it (and its allocations) was back in 2019 – apologies if this post is just as lengthy (and rather waffly) – I’ve added a bit more detail as to what’s in my Future Fund.

My Future Fund is made up of my ISAs, SIPPs, employer DC pension, cash savings and premium bonds and will provide me with income when I retire from full-time work – it is not a net worth number and does not include my DB pension, cash emergency fund or any property.

Do I have Passive or Active investments?

The bulk of my investment portfolio is made up of index tracker ETFs (passive). The other part is mostly investment trusts (active). 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’m mostly a buy and hold investor.  However, I do enjoy tinkering about with a bit of active investing, small experimental portfolios and the like – I guess the ETFs and ITs are the ‘core’ part of my portfolio and the other bits (individual stocks, Dogs of the FTSE etc) are the ‘satellite’ part, which make up around 5-6% of my entire portfolio. Here’s some more info on the core and satellite approach which I loosely follow.

What’s in my Future Fund?

This bit is probably more for my benefit, since before I did this, I only had a vague idea of what it all looked like – too many disjointed spreadsheets which didn’t give me a complete picture!

So it looks like I have an equity/bond ratio of around 75/25 (I’ve lumped the cash and bonds together) which is probably on the more aggressive/risky side for someone my age but I’m ok with this.

However, over the next few years, I’m likely to increase the bond/cash allocation a bit to perhaps 35 or even 40, just for peace of mind.

Index Tracker ETF Portfolio

I’m not making any changes to my ETF portfolio, which I set up after reading 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 thought it didn’t do too badly during the ‘pandemic panic’.

The original % allocations have altered slightly over the years but not by that much:

How did I come up with these allocations? They’re just what I’m comfortable with and happy to maintain right now.

I re-balance via new monthly contributions but when the bottom fell out of the market in March 2020, I sold some bonds (which were in the green) and reinvested in some of the others which were looking rather rubbish in the red.

I may ultimately whittle these allocations down to 4 core holdings for simplification in time, not sure yet.

And finally, why ETFs and not funds, like Vanguard Lifestrategy? The fees are cheaper for ETFs on the platforms I use.

So here are my main ETF 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 (EMIM)
UK Mid: Vanguard FTSE 250 ETF (VMID)
Global Small Co: SPDR MSCI World Small Cap ETF (WOSC)

These are my majority holdings but I do have a few smaller (more specialised) holdings in other ETFs which are just lumped into my ‘global’ allocation, for example iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (INRG) and VanEck Vectors Gaming Esports ETF (ESGB) for a  further bit of diversification – these did quite well in 2020:


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 shares to buy) so I started to build up a basket of investment trusts (ITs).

I initially chose from a mixture of ITs considered to be ‘dividend heroes’ (paying increasing dividends over many consecutive years) and diversified across global, a mix of both growth and income ITs.

However, it was time to ditch the growth (and lower income paying) ITs to see the potential of higher yielding ITs.

Using the AIC Income Finder, I had a look at what ITs paid a decent yield (generally >4%) and did some further research into the ones which caught my eye.

Big thanks to Gez, who I know from Manchester FIRE meet ups and who provided me with some helpful ideas to research! This Monevator post on investment trusts was also handy for reference.

In the first week of January, I wielded the big ‘Sell’ Axe, so out went the likes of (with their respective gains in brackets) Bankers (+38%), Alliance Trust (+7%), Brunner (+27%), Finsbury Growth & Income (+8%), Aberforth Smaller Co (+7%), Scottish American (+31%), JP Morgan Asian IT (+39%) and yes, the insanely high-flying Scottish Mortgage (+169%) – well, most of the latter anyway, I still have a small holding with one of my providers, so I don’t miss out on future gains…

No, it wasn’t easy hitting the Sell button – I sold them all in quick succession before I waivered about my plan and changed my mind!

In their place, I picked a bunch of ITs for their high(er) yields, including Aberdeen Standard Equity Income Trust, Civitas Social Housing, Henderson High Income Trust, Target Healthcare REIT, Supermarket Income REIT, Bluefield Solar Income and JLEN Environmental Assets Group. Some others will have been added by the time this post goes out – click here to see the full portfolio.

I’m fine spreading the risk across many different ITs rather than a concentrated few, although it does mean there are more to keep tabs on.

In 2020, I received around £1.8k in income from my IT and share ISA portfolio. I think the changes I have made (and will continue to make) will mean I should have a good chance of hitting my 2021 income target of £2.5k.  Ultimately, I think I might aim for £4k a year in income (which would cover most of my utitlity bills) but I’m nowhere near there yet – that will be a goal in a few years’ time.

I still have holdings which yield less than 4% but I’m fine to hang onto those investments for now.

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 don’t want to pull the FIRE plug, only to find out belatedly that my portfolio didn’t provide me with the income I thought it would.


Cash, or rather premium bonds makes up just 7% of my Future Fund. Before anyone pipes up to say how crap premium bonds are, I don’t really care that they are rubbish, I just like the fact that they carry no risk whatsoever and that there’s a chance of winning something every month.

Last year, I won a total of £325, which works out as a return of 2.25%, better than any instant access bank account that I know of. All winnings were chucked into my ISA. If I ever win a decent-sized prize, I’ll be sure to share the happy news here! 🙂

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.

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


Pretty much all 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.

Fun Investment Experiments

Why can’t investing be fun?

My Dogs of the FTSE experimental portfolio falls in the fun category but the dividend income I receive is reinvested into my ISA, so it benefits my overall portfolio.

I may run other little experiments or other fun portfolios (like my Winter Rock fund) – I was thinking of doing an actual Dogs of the Dow portfolio, which the UK FTSE version is based on. This wasn’t possible to do when I first started these experiments, due to the high value of US shares but with Freetrade*, I’ll be able to buy fractions of shares. Maybe I’ll do it once I’m done with the FTSE one.

I might even run a future Monkey Stocks challenge – thinking about it anyway!

So that’s pretty much it for my portfolio for the next year or so.

I’m not trying to beat any sort of benchmark – my annualised returns since I started tracking my investments in 2014 is around 8.6% so if I can maintain that, I’ll be well happy!

I’m sure there will be many who might disagree with my strategy (eg how many holdings??) and wonder WTF I’m doing but I’m comfortable with what I’m doing and I think I know what I’m doing! 🙂

I’m certainly not 100% confident that it will do what I want it to do – all I can do is wait and see, keep calm and carry on investing!

Anyone else have a similar kind of portfolio or is mine so ‘out there’, there’s nothing else like it? 🙂

[*referral link]