FIRE Escape in Wales

Gaer Hall

Where Huw and Richard plotted world domination…we reckon!

Just a brief update of the FIRE Escape event I attended on Saturday, organised by Huw.

Location Location

Gaer Hall was a fantastic location, set in some beautiful Welsh countryside and only a short journey for me (just over 1.5 hours). Of course, being in the middle of rolling fields, my sat nav didn’t have a clue where it was and there were no signs pointing to the property, so it was just as well that Huw put a ‘marker’ out for us (a traffic cone on a wheelie bin!)

Met up with some old friends (Huw, Lou, Richard, Emma, A+Z and M + baby) from previous gatherings and also met some new faces (Michael and Martina). Unfortunately, I managed to miss OR who left just before I arrived!

Food Glorious Food Continue reading

Good News and Bad News at Work

As I trawled through the masses of unread emails in my inbox upon my return to work after my holiday, one jumped out at me immediately, filling me with a bit of dread – my one-to-one appointment with my boss for my annual appraisal!

Over the years, I’ve tended to have good reviews but they’re just not things that I enjoy going through – I don’t like talking about my achievements, I’d rather just get on with doing them.

Yes, after all these years, I know I need to ‘sell’ myself, but I’m still pretty rubbish at it. Unfortunately, just doing a great job (which is what I do) isn’t enough, you have to apparently tell everyone about what a great job you are doing too and that’s the bit I find difficulty with…

Good News…

Anyway, despite the turmoil caused by New Co buying out Old Co last year, my boss told me that I’d kept my focus and put in a solid performance, hitting all my personal targets and helped the team achieve its target.

Also notched up another 100% attendance record at work – the few days I was sick happened over a weekend so I ended up not taking any time off.

The second (and bigger) piece of good news was that Old Co have honoured the bonus I accrued last year, have passed the monies onto New Co and I will be getting it in my March pay! Woo hoo! 🙂  This is likely to be my last bonus for a while as it doesn’t look like New Co operate a similar bonus scheme (that I know of).

This is only my 4th bonus in the last 10 years. As with the previous two, I’m likely to save/invest a lot of it but might put some of it aside for some forthcoming large expenses. Also, I can throw a chunk at my emergency fund.

I had thought that my savings rate would take a big dive this month, due to me having to pay off my family for some Japan trip expenses (when I ran out of money- oops!) but it looks like there will be a nice little boost which will hopefully help keep my rate up for the rest of the year.

…and the Bad News

Continue reading

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!]