York Gathering + Monkey Stocks

Just a quick update from me about the UK PF/FI Gathering which took place in York this weekend, as I’m sure Huw will do a detailed one on his blog.

All I can say really is that it was a most enjoyable weekend – many, many thanks to Huw for organising it all!

It was great to catch up with people I’d met at the last gathering in Stratford-Upon-Avon (eg Huw, Lou, Richard, Alison and M) and to meet up with new faces, namely Cerridwen, TheFIREStarter + Mrs TFS, Emma, Craig, MikeS, A+Z and JimMcG, a resident of York who directed us to the best pubs! Much local beer and ale was consumed over the weekend, or was that just me, haha?
Incidentally, it was JimMcG who wrote the guest post on Early Retirement Guy’s blog, Top 10 Downsides of Financial Independence & Early Retirement – I hope I’ve managed to persuade Jim that if he started his own blog, there will be plenty of readers who will enjoy his wit and dry humour!

Typically, we had the usual mix of British weather – rain one day, glorious sunshine the next – but regardless of the weather, it was fantastic company. I thought it was great just listening to other people’s stories and also being able to talk to others who didn’t think I was a freak/bore/lottery winner (delete as applicable) just for mentioning investments or early retirement!

I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend the next gathering (down south somewhere) but for those toying with the idea, I would highly recommend making the effort.
I think I feel even more motivated than ever after this weekend!

Monkey Stocks League Update

As promised, one of the highlights of Saturday afternoon was the blind drawing of stocks for my Monkey Stocks League Challenge! There was great participation and it looks like it’s going to be an exciting and fun league!

However, only two brave souls will join me in actually purchasing for real the shares that were blindly drawn out – yes, step forward Cerridwen and Lou (Mrs FFB40) – us women are fearless, haha!
Ok, here are the shares that I picked out of the hat:
ARM Holdings plc
Sainsbury (J) plc
Shaftesbury plc
Tate & Lyle plc
Temple Bar Investment Trust plc
Am I happy with my picks? Well to be honest, I was a little disappointed as I actually wanted 5 companies I’d never heard of before and there are plenty of those in the FTSE 350! 
Oh well, I shall indeed be purchasing the above shares on 10th September and have set regular investments as follows on my share account:
Now, I’m really excited! 🙂
Here are Cerridwen and Lou’s picks:
Diploma plc
OneSaving Bank plc
Prudential plc
Redefine International plc
Wood Group (John) plc Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (Cerridwen’s spare being used as she had a prior criteria of no fossil fuel related stocks being picked)
BG Group plc
BP plc
Rolls Royce Holdings plc
Segro plc
Shire plc
Ten others blindly picked their ‘virtual’ portfolios so that they could join in on the fun. Who’s to say that they won’t sneakily invest for real in their picks!? Anyway, I’ve listed those portfolios at the bottom of this post.
For the people who are joining the Monkey Stocks League Challenge and actually purchasing their shares (eg FireVLondon, Mr Z), please can you ensure you buy your stocks in the month of September and let me know the numbers, eg cost etc.
Same goes with others joining in virtually, eg , John K, Dividend Drive and Dividend Legion, (plus Huw and M for their hand-picked portfolios), can you let me have your picks any time in September.
Oh and if you haven’t already done so, I’ll need the names of your portfolios for the league table.
Prize for the Winner
I did mention that there wasn’t going to be a prize but there’s likely to be a trophy for the winner – might even get it engraved!
Anyway, I’d best continue working on my Google sheets for the portfolios – a bit more work than I thought as I didn’t think so many people would be joining in, haha!
Hope everyone had a great weekend!

EDIT – Ok, FIbrarian’s the last entrant, need to keep this easy to update!


Virtual Portfolio Picks
Richard: CLS Holdings Plc, Enterprise Inns plc, Royal Dutch Shell plc, Smith & Nephew plc, Spire Healthcare Group plc
Alison: Antofagasta Holdings plc, Big Yellow Group plc, Nostrum Oil & Gas plc, Redrow plc, Standard Life plc, 
Emma: Centrica plc, Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group plc, Rexam plc, Serco Group plc, Unite Group plc
Huw: Bank of Georgia Holdings plc, Booker Group plc, Bunzl plc, Carillion plc, UK Commercial Property Trust plc. (Huw intends to submit a second portfolio of personally selected shares to pit against his monkey portfolio!)
TheFIREStarter: Alliance Trust plc, Bovis Homes Group plc, Carnival plc, Mondi plc, Restaurant Group plc
A+Z: City of London Investment Trust plc, Hunting plc, Inchcape plc, Sky plc, Synthomer plc
JimMcG: Blue Crest AllBlue Fund Ltd, Electra Private Equity plc, Grafton Group plc, Rio Tinto plc, Taylor Wimpey plc
MikeS: Amlin Group plc, British American Tobacco plc, Cineworld Group plc, Experian plc, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc
Craig: CRH plc, Compass Group plc, NMC Health plc, Northgate plc, WPP plc
M: Brewin Dolphin Holdings plc, Coca Cola HBC AG, CSR plc. AVEVA Group plc, Debenhams plc, Zoopla Property Group plc.(Like Huw, M intends to submit a second portfolio of personally selected shares to pit against her monkey portfolio!)

Additional entry:

FIbrarian: Bodycote plc, Morgan Advanced Materials plc, SVG Capital plc, Standard Chartere plc and WH Smith plc

Weenie’s Monkey Stocks League Challenge!

For some reason, this post has taken me a while to write up, even though I’ve had all the ideas in my head for a while, so time to talk about those Monkey Stocks again.

Around the time when I first started this blog, I spent many an hour reading all I could about saving, investing in funds, shares, the stock market etc.

I came across some amusing articles and stories that really piqued my interest – I have no idea what I was Googling but somehow, I came across articles about ‘monkeys picking stocks‘, ultimately leading me to Burton Malkiel’s book ‘A Random Walk Down Wall Street‘, which I read recently.

As mentioned at the end of my book review, an idea formed, one which I shared with some of the attendees at the UK Gathering in March and which I mentioned in a post in May, so without further ado….

My Monkey Portfolio Idea

1. I will randomly/blindly select 5 shares from the FTSE 350.

2. I will buy £100 of each share (as regular payments, so only incurring £1.50 dealing charge per purchase). Yes, I am doing this for real!

3.  I will track the trials and tribulations of this portfolio.

4.  Any dividends received (if any) will be used to ultimately buy another randomly/blindly selected share when financially viable to do so.

5. My intention is to buy and hold but if I end up selling, funds received from sales of monkey shares will be used to buy more monkey shares.

League Table

My original idea was just for me to do this mad experiment on my own.

However, there are a few people who wish to join me in this experiment (thanks Huw and M, my first guinea pigs fellow stockpickers!), hence the idea of:

Weenie’s Monkey Stocks League!

A bit like a 5-a-side football league only with shares instead of players!

Your Choice

M suggested that people who joined may not necessarily want to select their stocks the ‘blindfolded monkey’ way but rather, use their own preference to choose their 5 stocks.

Her own preference was similar to the Dogs of the Dow (or Dogs of the FTSE) method – Dogs vs Monkeys already sounds like an interesting battle!

Or people may wish to use their usual stock picking criteria to choose – this might be the sensible way…

Or maybe your pet cat might be just as good as any monkey at picking winning shares? Dogs vs Monkeys vs Cats – a 3 way epic battle*!

Mr Z has expressed an interest – oh my, I can’t contain my excitement – Dogs v Monkeys vs Cats vs Zombies – I’ll have to sell the movie rights!

Whichever method you choose, anything goes  – a bit like Wacky Races!

Your Money – Real or Not

Huw mentioned that some people could be put off by investing £500 of real money. Personally, I was always intending to invest for real but I appreciate that other people may not want to risk real cash, so why not enter the league with virtual shares/portfolios!?

So, Weenie’s Monkey Stocks League Rules:

1. Pick your 5 shares from the FTSE 350 using the Monkey / Dog / Cat / Compound Income Score / / Roll of the dice / Dividend ChampsDeep value method / Mystic Meg or whatever method of your choice.

2. Buy £100 of each share using real cash or virtual cash. If buying for real, you probably need one of those platforms that allow you to purchase for around £1.50 or less.

3. Let me know what shares you have purchased (and whether you’ve purchased for real or just virtually), cost (including trading fee and stamp duty), number of shares, your method of choosing the shares, any cash left over from the £500 etc. For virtual stocks, I will use the £1.50 trading fee as default and also include the standard stamp duty of 0.5%.

4. Name your portfolio – yes, we get to pick daft/witty names – it’s a league table so it would be rude not to!

5. Anyone who doing this with real cash is of course free to dispose of their shares at any time and remove themselves from the experiment/league  – it’s their money after all!

6. No limits on participants selling and buying, although of course with such a small amount of capital invested, frequent trading might not be a great idea. I’ll need to be notified of sales/purchases as per point 3 so I can update the table.

7. The league will last for 12 months and the ‘winner’ will be the person with the highest return of dividends and capital gains from an original investment of £500.

8. No prize for the winner sorry, just bragging rights (although perhaps I’ll think of something later…)

9. Fun fact – did you know that a ‘Monkey’ is cockney rhyme for £500, which is the capital invested for this league?!

How Will I Select My Monkey Shares?

I will be attending the next UK gathering in August, which will be in York and I’m thinking of doing a live draw in front of a few gathered witnesses! This does mean I have to print and cut up lots of little bits of paper but this is so I can say I did choose my shares totally randomly in a blindfolded monkey style! (Yes, Mr Z, I did think of using a random number thing which would be a lot easier but this is a sociable way of doing it, I think!)

When Will the League Start?

The next regular payment date after the York gathering will be in September, so I was thinking that the competition could start 1st September 2015 and end on 31st August 2016, although I think my purchases will likely take place in the second week of September. [Edit 10/09/15 – Competition will now end 30th September 2016, as the start date was 30th September 2015]

So this seems like a long while to go but time for people to muse on the idea or if wanting to take part for real, gather some funds!

Investing Experts?

Huw suggested that we could ask a couple of “Investing Blogging Experts” to take a punt.

Monevator (The Investor) vs John Kingham could be a tasty battle between heavy hitters, but I’m not sure they’d be interested in something like this, ie ‘little league’.

Any other investing (blogging) experts who could be interested?

I may just choose 5 stocks which ‘experts’ from popular financial media have recommended (in August) and put those together virtually to see how they do.


Why am I doing this? Curiosity mainly, a bit of a fun experiment, introduce a bit more randomness which may (or may not) boost my investments. Plus it’s not like I’m blowing the money on shopping – I’m investing it and it still counts towards my savings rate and overall Future Fund!

Are you With Me?

So far, the following have indicated their interest – thank guys/gals, although it’s been a while since I first mentioned this so I understand if you’ve lost interest or no longer wish to take part:

1.  Me!
2.  Huw (Financially Free by Forty) – although he may be too busy with his Kindle stuff!
3.  M (There’s Value)
4.  DL (Dividend Legion)
5.  Cerridwen (Keeper of the Cauldron)
6.  Mr Zombie (The Finance Zombie)
7. TheFireStarter (TheFireStarter)
8. Laura (FTSE Market and UK Investments)
9. Stephen Iles

Post in comments or send me a message if you’re interested (or not, if your name is already above!) in being added to the list.

There is a distinct possibility that it could end up just me doing this on my own!

I’m ok with that thought, since that was my original plan but also, because you could say I don’t really give a monkey’s… 🙂

[*NB – no animals will be harmed in this league / experiment!]

UK FI/PF Bloggers Gathering

On Saturday, 21st March 2015, I attended my first UK Gathering, which was organised by Huw of FFB40. I say my ‘first’ because I know it won’t be my last!

The day nearly started off disastrously for me as I found out almost belatedly that there was a station at Birmingham other than International and New Street – I’d never heard of Moor Street – and that that was where I had to catch my connecting train to Stratford Upon Avon! Cue lots of running but I made it just as the train was pulling into the platform!
Meeting Strangers
It was a bright but rather chilly day in Stratford Upon Avon when I arrived and from the little I saw of it, it’s a beautiful town.
As is always the case (well, my case!) when meeting people you don’t know, it can be a little bit awkward but I found myself immediately at ease, everyone was really friendly. I did think it was funny that only 3 of us were bloggers (myself, Huw and M from There’s Value) – aside from spouses, the others didn’t appear to have their own blogs but were regular readers and part of the PF/FI community. Our gathering numbered 11 (12 if you include M’s little one in the pushchair!). The “most impressive journey award” went to Richard and Alison who drove all the way down from North Yorkshire!
What did I get out of the Gathering?
It was great to finally put faces to names and to meet new people. I found it liberating to be able to talk about money, ask financial questions (without people pulling a face!) and discuss investments with like-minded people. How great was it to talk about retiring early without someone mentioning a big lotto win! I picked up on stuff which I will do further research on and also was able to get some feedback on an idea (which may or may not include monkeys…) that I’ve had that’s been bubbling for a while but which I’m not quite ready to kick off just yet!
I really enjoyed hearing first hand what people did or were doing towards achieving FI, people from different backgrounds, different careers and jobs, some with young families, some with only a few years left before they think they can stop working, some on the verge of changing careers. Found it all really fascinating and interesting.

The other thing that I got out of this gathering was a bottle of home brew! As agreed, I swapped a bottle of my home brew bitter (still a bit shaken up from my running earlier!) for one of M’s bottles of perry, which I look forward to trying. 

I also gave a bottle to Huw as thanks for organising the gathering and even got a special label for the bottle to celebrate the occasion:

I left the gathering full of motivation, encouraged that the path that I’m taking is the right one for me.

My one complaint of the day?
The day went by far too quickly and I was unable to get the chance to talk to everyone properly. Partly my fault I guess, as I’m a bit rubbish at mingling. As I was sitting on the cold platform waiting for my train home, I was quite envious of those who were staying the night as they would be able to continue their conversations and discussions.

Next Gathering
The general consensus was that the gathering was a real success so it was only natural that there was talk of the next one. York has been suggested (evidently keeping along the theme of places of culture as a meeting place!), sometime in the summer – I’m sure there will be more info as dates/locations are looked at.
It will be great to see everyone again but also hopefully, there will be some new faces too.

Anyway, I’m so glad I made the effort to attend the meeting – thanks very much for organising it, Huw!

I’ve got a Date!

No, not that kind of date (sorry to disappoint some of you!).

Saturday 21st March 2015

On this day, I shall be travelling down to Stratford-upon-Avon to meet up with some fellow FI/PF bloggers!

Huw of Financially Free By 40 has organised a second UK Gathering!

Stratford-Upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s home town!

I’ve been fascinated with the big gatherings that Mr Money Mustache arranges over in the US and whilst ours won’t be anywhere near that sort of scale, it’s a start and I believe Huw is hoping to make it a regular sort of event, at least an annual one, I guess.
The location was chosen as it was deemed to be fairly central for both people travelling down from the North and those travelling up from the South. Also, it’s place of history and culture – a place I’ve  never visited before so hey, I can be a bit of a tourist!  
I haven’t decided yet whether I will drive or take a leisurely train down – I’ll decide closer to the date and also when the exact place of meeting has been confirmed, although I’m sure it’ll be some pub!

Not the First Time

This won’t be the first time I’ll be meeting up with complete strangers after chatting to them on the internet. 
No, I’m not talking about online dating (sorry to disappoint some of you!).
Once upon a time, having internet connection at home was NOT the norm. I was one of those not-so-normal people. My ex was in IT, so both of us had laptops/PCs and embraced the internet at a time when most people didn’t own their own computers at home and only used the internet at work – this was around 1993-94.
I’ve always been into my fantasy/sci-fi stuff, including games (yes, I was/am a geek!) so the only people I communicated with online were fellow gamers – none of my ‘real friends’ or even family were online in those days!
However, I used to go to ‘gaming meets’ as it just seemed better to meet people in real life. The Press likes to paint the picture of online gamers as awkward introverts who can’t communicate in real life and who have no social lives. I’m sure some of them are like that but actually, I’ve found them to be a very sociable bunch, myself included!
I’ve also met up with people I’ve chatted to online on football forums to…attend football matches!

Join Us!

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to meeting like-minded people, people at different stages of the FI journeys, hearing about real life experiences, talking about my own experiences with people who are ‘on the same page as me’ and ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ so it’s a ‘win-win situation’ for all – how many clichés can I fit in here, haha?!

Gosh, I hope I’m not going to be nervous and start saying stuff like that for real when I meet everyone!

It’ll be good to discuss ideas, learn different stuff and make new connections and friends – all things that will affect my life for real, not my life in a game!  Plus, a bit of networking won’t go amiss!


I guess that some people will just call me ‘Weenie’ instead of my real name – kind of expected I guess when people meet me (!) and I don’t really mind as it’s a nickname I’ve had since I was 18 and one that some of my uni friends still refer to me by! Although if there’s quite a few of us attending, perhaps we could have name badges!
Also, I’d best not forget to bring along a bottle of one of my home brew beers  – me and M from There’s Value have agreed to do a swap as she does home brewing too!

Anyway,  I have a feeling this is going to be a blast – exciting times! 🙂