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]

September 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Compared to last month’s ‘activity-filled’ calendar, September was on the quiet side.

The only things of any note were:

  • My nephew went back to school and all was well until during the second week when he came home with the lurgy and we had to self-isolate. Fortunately, he was able to get tested within a day and his results (negative) 48 hours later so there was little disruption to the household.
  • I had a little homegrown ‘harvest’:

  • And did I mention that I managed to hit a little milestone this month? More on that later…

Work had my brain fried most evenings so all I’ve felt like doing after logging off was slumping on the sofa watching ‘comfort’ TV – I rewatched/binged all 4 seasons of ‘Heroes‘ (“Save the cheerleader, save the world!“) and have just started to rewatch ‘Battlestar Galactica‘ (the remake, not the original camp 70s show).

I did however keep up my gym sessions so haven’t been entirely unhealthy!

Me and Sis have slowly started to add more to our shopping – an extra packet here, a couple more tins there – in anticipation of a second lockdown and in case people start going mad again stockpiling like they did in March and April (which seems a lifetime ago).

Restrictions haven’t eased off in Greater Manchester, with cases continuing to rise. Life (as we know it now) will just go on.

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

I saved 56% of my net salary – very good, but considering it was a month of doing pretty much nothing, I was surprised I didn’t save more.

The above savings includes top ups from £60 Matched Betting profits (from last month) and £72.72 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

I sold my holding in Murray International Investment Trust (MYI) for a small profit (reason being that MYI hasn’t done so well compared to other global ITs and while the yield of >5% is tempting, I’m not sure it will be maintained). I swapped it for SPDR S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats ETF (GBDV). I topped up other existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

After reaching my £200k milestone, the stock markets went all jittery and did their best to spoil my little celebration.

By the end of the month, my Future Fund had dropped to £199,167 – it could have been worse so I’m ok with that, although it seems I wasn’t the only one who ‘flirted’ with £200k, only for it to skip out of reach again!

Dividends and Other Income

An average month for dividends:

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August 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Another month has passed in this strange year.

Some ‘interesting’ things which happened in August:

    • I ate in a restaurant (thanks for the 50% discount, Rishi!). It was nice to dress up and enjoy a pleasant evening outside of the house. Something I’ve missed a lot.
    • I put petrol in my car! I filled up the day before lockdown and haven’t really driven anywhere so it’s taken this long to use up my petrol.
    • I grew something edible and ate it! So excited as I’ve never had green fingers!

My runner beans!

    • I baked! I don’t normally do baking – I reckon the last time I baked anything was in school during one of my disastrous Home Economics classes! Anyway, I baked some healthy breakfast biscuits, which even my sis and nephew enjoyed!
    • I bought some books! I don’t tend to buy books because I use the library. Although I’ve enjoyed reading ebooks on my Kindle, I really miss holding a physical book in my hands so not knowing when my library is going to reopen, I succumbed to buying some books which I’ve been wanting to read in a while.

Can’t wait to get my teeth into these (not literally!)

    • I tried a couple of recipes with Gousto* (50% off your first box and then 30% off your first month’s subscription if you sign up via my link – while offer lasts). My sis does most of the cooking duties and we didn’t want to start getting takeaways for variety so I’ve subscribed to Gousto on my friend’s recommendation to cook some different meals. These have worked out really well – I’ve cooked some meals I never would have dreamt of cooking (all delicious so far!) and at a decent price (cheaper and healthier than takeaways for definite). I’m on a fortnightly subscription but weekly or monthly are available.
    • I was Employee of the Month – who needs to be in the office to put in a good shift and be recognised? 🙂

As there’s been no change to the lockdown requirements in Greater Manchester, I’m still only leaving the house as necessary, still not been back into the office yet although I am actually looking forward to when I do eventually go back in, just to see some different faces.

Anyway, how did I get on with my savings in August?

I was able to save 47.1% of my net salary – there was quite a bit of spending, including gifts for a couple of special birthdays, some bits and pieces for the garden and some purchases I made the back end of July on my credit card.

The above savings includes top ups from a £75 premium bond win (woo hoo!), £50 Matched Betting profits (from last month), £57.69 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!) and £20.20 from TopCashback*.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Big rises in the stock markets meant that my Future Fund jumped up to £197,334, but with some market wobbles this week, I’ll be lucky if I finish as high, come end of September.

Still v-shaped!

Dividends and Other Income

A better month for dividends:

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July 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Compared to the past few months, July has been positively ‘exciting’ and ‘action-packed’:

  • I took my car for its service and MOT – it passed!
  • I went to the hairdresser – au revoir unruly tresses and grey hair!
  • I went walking on the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail in North Yorkshire!
  • I went to a friend’s house for a socially-distanced BBQ!
  • I bought a sausage roll from Greggs!
  • I got a McDonalds delivery!
  • I went back to the gym – need to get rid of my lockdown flab and to counter the last two points!

One of the waterfalls at Ingleton

Does it feel like things are getting back to normal?

It was beginning to feel that way, until the newly imposed lockdown measures for Greater Manchester (where I live) were announced, due to some spikes in people testing positive for COVID-19. Ah well.

Despite things being more relaxed earlier in the month, I’ve still not been back in the office, nor have I visited a pub or a restaurant.

I’ve been wearing a mask – lots of confused messages about where you should wear them, so my thinking is that if in doubt, I’m just going to wear one.

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers?

I was able to save 61.6% of my net salary!

The above savings includes top ups from yet another £25 premium bond win, £50 Matched Betting profits (from last month), £35 football predictions winnings and £24.54  from TopCashback*.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Ups and downs in the stock market, with it ending on a down, just as I was running my numbers!

So a bit of a dip from last month, with my Future Fund standing at £191,900.

Will it go back up or continue to fall? It’s anyone’s guess!

Sitting at the top of a rollercoaster and about to go down the other side?

Dividends and Other Income

Remember when I said that I hadn’t really been affected by any dividend cuts?

I spoke too soon!

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