Procrastination

As mentioned in my February update, I can’t say that I’ve been doing my utmost with my job hunting and I guess that as well as enjoying my free time too much, I’ve been suffering badly from procrastination.

I even borrowed a book from the library to help me focus but I haven’t gotten round to reading it yet…ahem!

What have I been doing instead of job hunting?

  • Sleep – Upon my return from my hols, the last two weeks of January were spent sleeping a lot as I was initially jet-lagged and then poorly with a virus.
  • Binge watching TV – I’ve been watching stuff like ‘The Man in the High Castle’, ‘Blacklist’ and ‘Homeland’. No daytime TV – I’d not stoop that low!
  • Reading blogs/tweets – I didn’t read any blogs while I was away so caught up on my reading. I also culled my Twitter feed to a more manageable level – following too many is just distracting and tweets that I may actually want to read end up getting lost in the noise/spam.
  • Practising my ukulele – Still getting used to the simple chords but I can ‘play’ a couple of tunes now. A great way to relax, though I need to learn how to ‘sing’ AND play at the same time – note sing in inverted commas as I can’t hold a proper tune!
  • Painting and decorating – I’ve been glossing the doors in the house, but got bored after a few so still have more to do at some point.
  • Matched betting (MB) – I started to do a bit of horse racing MB during the day, to help boost my profits. I still very much prefer MB on football but thought I’d see if I could tap into the much-touted riches of the Cheltenham Festival which are taking place this week.
  • Bird watching – It’s not very often that I get to sit around and enjoy the wildlife/birds in my garden. The grey squirrels have been keeping me entertained with their antics and with winter over, a variety of birds have returned to the garden.  However, I never expected to see a hapless pigeon being caught and plucked alive by a sparrowhawk…I’d seen a mass of feathers on my lawn previously but had thought it was the work of the neighbours’ cats!
  • Hunter looks smaller than the prey and yes, those bits scattered about are feathers!

I’m glad that I haven’t resorted to playing games on my PC or tablet as I would end up losing hours/days. As a former gamer, I can’t say that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, however. The only game I have going is Pokemon Go, which really only means that I park a little further away from the supermarket so I can do an extra bit of walking (to ‘hatch’ eggs and ‘catch’ Pokemon!).

I’ve been maintaining a routine of sorts, so still attend my gym classes and work out, plus of course, I’m now playing netball too. I’ve continued to wake up to my alarm as if I’m going to work every day and going to bed at my usual time. This way, my weekends remain different and are something to look forward to, ie drinking and having lie ins! 😉

A Little Progress

Anyway, since I started drafting this post just over a week or so ago, I ramped up my job hunting efforts and I have had two job interviews – just goes to show what a little effort can achieve, I guess.  I hope I make it through to the next stages of interviews but realistically acknowledge that nothing is guaranteed (even though I thought the interviews went quite well) and that I could well be job hunting for a while yet.

Just need to make sure that I don’t fall back into a routine of procrastination!

FIRE Escape in Sheffield + Win

So, Huw from Financially Free by 40 had organised another FIRE Escape gathering, this time in Sheffield.

I wasn’t able to attend the entire weekend so just dropped in on the Saturday.  This was the 4th such meeting I’ve attended.

The venue was Weaver’s Cottage, a superb detached, stone-built, Grade II listed property. It did look a bit stark on the outside but inside, it was beautifully refurbished with new, modern amenities.

It was good to catch up with Huw, Lou, M, Martina and Richard again, but also great to meet nine new faces – James, Ed, Eva, Valerie, Anne, Cora, Helen, John and Organised Redhead (OR did attend the last FIRE Escape, but wasn’t there the day I turned up!).

As with previous FIRE Escapes, it was a good mix of people, everyone at various stages of their lives and FI plans, from savvy millennials using enterprising ideas to make money, right through to folk who had already retired and were living off their investment income and those who are FI already who were happy to share ideas and advice.

We talked about all kinds of stuff including investing (shares and investment trusts), health and fitness, buy to lets and shared ideas on how to generate money such as buying stuff to sell on eBay, making things to sell, Kindle publishing, P2P, investing in whisky – maybe not a good one for you, FiL! 😉 and matched betting.

I have to say that after each gathering I’ve attended, I have ALWAYS come away with fresh ideas or end up learning about something which I want to research further – I learned some new stuff about matched betting (thanks M and James) and about investment trusts (thanks John).

I was there for 6 hours which just flew by and I wish I could have stayed longer. Had it not been for the fact that I really dislike driving down the Snake Pass in the dark, I would have stayed later. As it was, when it started to rain as I was driving back, I was glad that I left when I did.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I had the chance to chat to everyone properly but hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity next time.

Try It!

If you’ve never considered attending a FIRE Escape before, I would highly recommend these friendly and informal gatherings. I believe it’s Huw’s intention to continue to organise them and I for one am very grateful, as his efforts have enabled me to talk to people who understand what I’m trying to achieve and I love hearing about other people’s stories and plans for FI.

Whilst it’s great to put faces to bloggers, it’s also great to meet people who do not have blogs but who have similar goals, so cheers Huw for organising these FIRE Escapes!

PS – M, I forgot to grab one of your home brews before I left! Doh!

Premium Bond Win

I was out most of Friday so although I saw that I had received an email from NS&I about my premium bonds, I didn’t get the chance to log in to check my account and I only remembered after I’d gotten home from Sheffield:

I won £50 (2 x £25)! It’s my first win in 9 months. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned this but some of my redundancy money has been used to purchase more premium bonds. These bonds are accounted for separately (in my spreadsheets) from the bonds in my Future Fund since they’re not part of my long-term plan.

Yes, premium bonds make terrible investments – however, if you don’t view them as ‘investments’, but as somewhere to park your cash because you’ve already exhausted the high interest current accounts etc, then I don’t see anything inherently bad about them. Plus, you can win something, like I have! 🙂

Anyway, until I’m gainfully employed again, as and when I need funds for my living expenses, I’ll be selling some of the bonds. Let’s hope I’ll have notched up a few more wins by then! Unlike Jim who treated himself with his winnings, I’ll be chucking mine into my ISA!

February 2017 Savings, plus other Updates

Time for another update!

Again, my ‘income’ this month has been derived from my pay-in-lieu-of-notice (PILON) from my last job.

So, how have I done in February?

Well, I achieved my highest ever savings rate –  79.8%! Woo hoo! 🙂

Rather incredible but most certainly a one-off, largely due to the work bonus which I used to purchase my Dogs of the FTSE portfolio earlier in the month.

This pushes my average savings rate so far to 66.7% but as mentioned before, if I’m still jobless in April, my savings rate is going to be at or around 0%….

February’s savings was boosted by £50 from rent received, £229.75 Jobseekers Allowance (ahem, gotta make the most of ALL my income while I can), £63.10 affiliate income from OddsMonkey* and I had a £10 lotto win which I’ve chucked into the pot too.

Future Fund 

The big extra capital injection and the stock markets still being favourable to my portfolios despite political shenanigans means that my Future Fund is now up to £98,642, which is getting rather close to that big milestone!

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month (which will be reinvested): Continue reading

Who Let the Dogs Out?

I was so impressed by the performance of M’s ‘Underdogs’ portfolio (using the Dogs of the FTSE strategy), the winner of my Monkey Stocks League Challenge, that I was determined to set up a similar portfolio of my own.

Dogs of the FTSE?

The Dogs of the FTSE strategy is the UK equivalent of the US ‘Dogs of the Dow‘ strategy and setting up this portfolio is relatively simple:

  • Choose the ten FTSE 100 shares with the highest yield.
  • Invest equal amounts in all ten and hold for a year.
  • At the end of the year, sell the ones no longer in the top ten, replace with new shares with highest yield.
  • Pocket profit / reinvest / cry at losses* (*delete as applicable)

The rationale is that “a high yield indicates that a company is out of favour with investors. When that happens, its shares will be undervalued relative to its prospects and intrinsic worth. When the market realises this, the firm’s share are likely to rebound and give investors a decent profit.”

Allegedly.

Still, according to Money Observer, over the past 15 years, the Dogs strategy has performed impressively, though of course, past performance is not a guarantee of future results, etc, etc. (*update 01/03/17- here’s Money Observer’s article about the success of the 2016 Dogs).

The strategy was considered back in 2010 by the ermine, although I can’t find an updated post on whether he followed through on it or not.

My Doghouse

I could have just set up a ‘notional’ Dogs of the FTSE portfolio like other sound-minded folk, but risking some real money makes it more interesting for me and worth the effort of tracking the progress of the portfolio. Risking real money also satisfies my gambling gremlin!

I received a bonus from work as part of my severance package so decided to invest the entire lot (as close to) in this ‘experiment’. Note that this will lead to a massive boost to my savings rate for this month!

So, who are the mutts in my Doghouse?

  1. AstraZeneca plc (AZN)
  2. Capita plc (CPI)
  3. HSBC Holdings plc (HSBA)
  4. Intu Properties plc (INTU)
  5. Marks & Spencer Group plc (MKS)
  6. Persimmon plc (PSN)
  7. Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSB)
  8. Royal Mail PLC (RMG)
  9. SSE plc (SSE)
  10. Standard Life plc (SL)

Some of these were actually just outside the top 10 but I didn’t want to include any shares which I already held in my portfolio, or any where a dividend cut had been announced (hope I haven’t missed any announcements…).

The shares were purchased on 10th February 2017 (via regular investment to reduce costs). Here’s the live link, which I’ll stick on my header menu at some point. I’ll probably do quarterly or half-yearly updates.

As at close of trading, 10th Feb 2017

Risky

Yes, I’m aware that this strategy is on the risky side, though not as risky as randomly and blindly selecting shares out of the hat like I’ve done before… However, these stocks represent only a small part of my portfolio, it’s a bit of fun (gosh, should investing actually be FUN?), plus I may make some profits along the way. Or not. This will also expose me to the pleasures/perils of buying and selling as opposed to my usual buying and holding strategy.

I was a little concerned at first about the timing of my purchases – stock market is currently high and likely to dip in the year with Brexit/Article 50 triggering, the end of the Trump rally or more shenanigans and other stuff happening in the UK and around the world which may affect the financial markets.  Should I have waited to buy low?

I went ahead anyway because stuff happens all the time and I don’t know how to time the unpredictable market. Plus the money would be doing nothing if left to sit in my bank account, except to tempt me to spend it!

Anyone else tried this strategy before?

I’d be interested in any success/sob stories!

Anyway, have a great weekend all!