Crowdfunding Road Trip

Back in May 2018, I made an investment when Freetrade launched round 3 of their crowdfunding. I reviewed the app here.

I also managed to sneak in a small investment in Round 4 a couple of months ago, just before the whole Crowdcube website crashed due to too many people trying to invest at the same time, which led to fundraising being suspended. Apparently, it broke a record by raising £1 million in investments in 77 seconds!

Anyway, in anticipation of Round 5 of crowdfunding via Crowdcube at 12 noon on Monday 25th June (if you’re interested, you’ll need to be quick!), the Freetrade team decided to meet investors (existing and potential) outside of London. On Tuesday, they went to Birmingham; on Wednesday, they came to Manchester.

Showcase

From having never attended any meet ups in relation to investing, this is my 3rd such meet up (not had time to mention the 2nd one) in a relatively short space of time. This is however my first crowdfunding one.

I’d say this was definitely not your usual investors’ gathering. Predominantly young people/millennials in attendance, a good mix of women too. There were only a handful of Gen X-ers like me, one older bloke, the rest pretty much all fresh-faced and youthful!

The team did a great presentation showcasing how far Freetrade had come in a short time and revealed developments in progress, what was in the pipeline, their plans for the future (immediate and long term). They then answered loads of questions in the Q&A session. What was interesting was that many of the questions were tech, not finance related.

It was all very friendly and informal – the team mingled with everyone, were approachable and spoke openly about the company and their vision.  I got to chat to them all, Adam (CEO and founder), Viktor (CMO) and Alex (Marketing).

Viktor answering questions.

After revealing plans to expand in Europe (Ireland first, then Germany, France and the Netherlands), when someone mentioned Hargreaves Lansdown’s 1 million customers, Adam replied that Freetrade was going to end up bigger in time – after all, HL are only still in Bristol..! Haha, I love the ambition!

Other things we learned on the evening about Freetrade:

  • No, they are not going to offer CFDs (contracts for difference).
  • No, they are not going into social investing (like eToro).
  • No, they are not going to offer cryptocurrency (which apparently people only ask about when the price of Bitcoin goes up!)
  • No, they will not charge exit fees.
  • Yes, they intend to offer SIPPs and other types of ISA.
  • Yes, they want to expand outside of Europe.

As both an investor and customer of Freetrade, I was very happy with the answers.

And true to their name, there was a lot of free stuff at the event – free drinks, free pizza and also, free Freetrade branded socks!

So all in all, it was an excellent and informative evening.

But Wait – More Freebies?

Before readers rush to download the Freetrade app, they will shortly be introducing an incentive referral scheme.

What’s the incentive?

A random free share/stock for me (the referrer) and you (the referred), valued at between £1 and £80-£100! The stocks will be either UK or US.

But what’s the catch?

You have to open a Freetrade account and deposit £1.  And that’s it.

Anyway, more details when this rolls out in the next few weeks, but here’s a screenshot of what you might see on your phone once you’ve set up your account via the referral link:

So perhaps you’d like to wait for me to get the active link.

Or not – don’t let me stop you from downloading the app now to start investing for free! (note that for Android users, you need version 7 or above for the app to work).

Blog!

While I was at the event, a couple approached me and the chap tentatively asked if I ran a personal finance blog – hah, so much for being semi-anonymous! 🙂 Turns out he follows this blog and has recently pulled the FIRE plug himself – congrats again, David and happy 50th soon!

And I’ve acquired a new reader, a young guy who hadn’t previously heard of FIRE but who had been practising the ethos. This enabled him to save enough of a buffer/FU fund to be able to walk away from a job which he was not happy with, and go freelancing. As he is thinking of being able to stop working by 40, he’s a prime FIRE candidate if there ever was one, so all the best, Stuart! 🙂

Finally on the blog front, Viktor took a selfie with me to show his girlfriend as they are both readers (hi, Viktor’s gf 🙂 ).

I’m never sure how to act when meeting readers face to face but I do feel extremely humbled and a lot of appreciation that people take the time to read my mutterings!

And on that happy note, I’ll just mention here that I’ll be away now for a couple of weeks on my annual hols. No posts scheduled so I’ll do a belated catch up on my return.

Cheerio!

Half a Century

You might think I’m talking about the cricket score but no.

By the time this post goes out, I will have turned half a century old.

Yes, I am bloody 50!

There, I said it out loud but I still can’t quite believe it myself.

How did over half of my life go by so quickly?

Should I be having a mid-life crisis as so eloquently described by indeedably?

My Mum will no doubt ask me if it’s finally time for me to grow up?

Even if she doesn’t actually ask me, I will see it in her eyes and I’m afraid she’ll continue to be disappointed, haha!

Dread

I have to admit that I had not been looking forward to turning 50 at all. I was the same when I turned 40; seem to recall being a little down (for me) when I was 39.  I ended up getting a tattoo to celebrate and it looks likely there will be a similar such celebration for this birthday…

I know it’s only a number but it still sounds so….old!

It’s just as well that I’m told I don’t look my age (or act it) and I certainly don’t feel it, although when hungover, I think I feel every single one of those years!

Weight-wise, I’m only a few pounds heavier than when I was in my 20s but size-wise, I’m actually trimmer than I was then (about half a dress size), probably due to a better diet and less alcohol.

According to the Boditrax machine I tried out six months ago, my metabolic age is 34 years old which is great and means this old girl is mostly looking after herself!

I could probably get away with lying about my age but nah, I’m crap at lying and couldn’t live with my own lies!

Celebrate

Anyway, my friends kept asking me last year what I wanted to do as they wanted to celebrate my five decades on this planet.

To be honest, I just felt like hiding at home to contemplate, not celebrate but I bowed to peer pressure in the end.

I’m not one for being the centre of attention and the idea of a party seemed horrific, so the alternative was to go away somewhere.

I ended up organising a trip. The whole act of booking flights for everyone, sorting out hotel and ‘loose’ itinerary actually made me look forward to celebrating my birthday.

And the trip was a big deal – not just the significance of a life milestone but because:

a) I was travelling abroad with my friends, whereas previously, we’d barely ventured out of Manchester together, never mind leave the country – two of them had expired passports so good job I checked; and

b) the group of 7 friends were made up of my two ‘circles’ of friends who hadn’t previously met (ex-work, who have known me for around 20 years and gym pals who have known me around 6-7 years).

Fortunately, my fears of clashes of personality were not founded (not that I knew of anyway!).

And so, to celebrate becoming ancient my birthday, I decided to go on a little weekend trip away to Bruges, in Belgium.

Girls on Tour In Bruges

Of all the different European cities to visit, I opted for Bruges because I like beer and my friends like chocolate, so it seemed like a no-brainer! No, actually, what attracted me was that it looked really picturesque and historical and seemed to have a lot to offer for tourists. One member of the group had visited previously and she recommended it.

The whole trip nearly started off with a disaster however, as I realised just as we got to Brussels customs that I’d left my bag on some chairs while we were waiting for some of the others to get off the plane. I ran all the way back for it and fortunately it was still there and hadn’t been detonated as a security risk – phew!

Bruges was lovely – we did a lot of walking along cobbled streets, visited museums (including an interesting Salvador Dali exhibition), went on a brewery tour, canal trip, guided walking tour, drank lots of Belgian beer and ate some great food. Somehow, I managed to miss out on moules frites – not sure how!

The trip was not cheap – the girls (sorry Ms Ziyou, we all refer to ourselves as such!) were looking to stay centrally so I got us into a 4-star hotel right next to the canal, with lovely view and great walking right outside the hotel. We were just ten mins walk into the main square where all the pubs and restaurants were.

It was a fabulous weekend – the city had a lovely ambience, I found it very friendly. The weather was perfect – sunglasses and sun-cream made an appearance! I was very happy and humbled to have such a great group of friends who wanted to celebrate with me – it was a perfect weekend.

Anyway, I would definitely go back as there were still lots we didn’t get the chance to explore.

The Actual Day

Investing Mistakes

It’s been quite shocking to read about how trading on the Woodford Equity Income Fund has been suspended, meaning that many people are unable to sell and withdraw their money.

Neil Woodford took this drastic action as millions of pounds began pouring out of his funds as his previously loyal investors tried to leave what appeared to be a sinking ship.

Following the Herd

Back in 2014, I talked about how I was caught up by all the wave of publicity and invested in Woodford’s new fund.

He was like a rock star in the UK investing world, one of the few to become a household name.

Not smiling so much these days

A year later, I wrote that I was still happy with my investment as I saw some decent gains.

Fortunately for me, and not due to any kind of special investing foresight or premonition, I sold my entire holding of the fund early 2018 (for a profit) as I was switching the bulk of my actively managed funds into ETFs as part of a portfolio re-balancing exercise.

I pity the folk who have remained invested and who now cannot access their funds, so yes, I dodged a bullet there.

But all is not completely rosy with my own investments as I’m in a situation where I too have some funds which I cannot get access to right now (and I’m not talking pensions).

Properly Moosed

Back in 2016, I thought I’d go into property crowdfunding. It was something new, investments linked to something tangible, it looked like a good model, though I acknowledged then that there were risks.

So, I invested in Property Moose and all seemed great. I was receiving small regular ‘rental’ amounts for the properties I’d invested in, all looked tickety-boo.

In Feb 2018, the secondary market was suspended. Something was up.

In a nutshell, Property Moose’s business model wasn’t working. The model whereby investors purchased shares in each property and were paid monthly dividends was  unsustainable and ultimately discontinued.

The directors decided that the best possible long-term solution was to move all properties into a single PLC portfolio. This solution was voted on by investors and received a 99.48% majority.

All properties have been revalued and sold off to UK Diversified Property plc.

All investors who opted to stay invested will receive allocations of shares within the new company. The share price will be valued against the valuations, costs, and revenues generated by the portfolio of properties.

This company intends to be listed on the London Stock Exchange and will probably be like a REIT (real estate investment trust).

And this is where I’m at now, I can see that I haven’t lost my money (so far), I just can’t cash out and neither am I receiving any of the rental income from the properties.

I knew this was going to be a risk, which is why the money I’d invested came purely from my matched betting profits.

Yes, I was effectively gambling with proceeds from gambling in a way, but it’s still annoying that I can’t just walk away from this investment with my cash.

It’s not a huge amount, just under £2k, which if I lose won’t be massively detrimental to my wealth/portfolio.

Am just massively annoyed at myself if anything.

What’s happened to Property Moose might probably be an exception, other similar types of investment companies have been successful but I won’t be investing in anything like this again.

Live and learn.

May 2019 Savings + other updates

The month started off with a welcome £50 win on the premium bonds (2 x £25).

It was then pretty much just a blur of work, gym, a lovely weekend away (which will be in a future blog post) and a trip to the cinema to watch ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (which I thought was epic). Is it wrong to take my own water and snacks to the cinema?

There were a couple of unexpected costs which had me dipping into my emergency fund – the down-pipe/gutter at the back of my house had blown down so I had to get that fixed and my car failed its MOT, requiring a new tyre and repair to windscreen washer.

Anyway, on with the numbers – how did I get on in May?

I saved 39.3% of my net salary, which was better than I thought as some expenses (holiday ones) have been carried over into June on my credit card.

I should be due the second part of my work bonus next month, plus a small pay rise will come into effect, so should in theory, be able to save more of my salary.

The above savings includes top ups of the above-mentioned £50 premium bond win,  £67.40 from Google Adsense income and £138.30 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

As mentioned recently, I sold some AJ Bell shares (which I acquired from IPO) and used this money to open up an investment in International Biotechnology Trust.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets have been rather jittery this month I believe and my Future Fund has gone a little backwards at £164,227. Nothing to worry about, just continuing to invest.

Dividends and Other Income

Compared to last month, a more typical amount of dividends received. Continue reading