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

Serious Investing

I mentioned in a recent post that I attended an ‘investment meet up‘.

I had been contacted out of the blue by someone who had read my blog and who had wondered if I’d be interested in attending a meet up for investors in Manchester, which was run by SIGnet, the Serious Investors Group Network.

My immediate reaction to the ‘serious’ bit was that it wasn’t for me. Yes, I do invest on a regular basis but I don’t see myself or put myself in the ‘serious investor’ category – that to me would be someone who’s been investing a lot longer than I have, someone who lives and breathes investing, and who actually knows what they’re talking about! You know…people like the guys from Monevator or John from UK Value Investor.

However, I thought about it some more and I realised that in my own way, I am ‘serious’ about investing (Dogs of the FTSE and Monkey Stock portfolios aside!) as I am committed to investing long-term to grow my wealth and to ultimately fund my early retirement. My net worth is currently made up of around 60% in equities.

I was assured that it was just a group of like-minded private individuals who liked to meet up and chat about their investments, what they’d bought, sold and are interested in. SIGnet has a heavy presence in London and has apparently been around for 20-30 years.  I first heard of them when Mike @ 7 Circles blogged about them (though not in a very good light) but they were looking to secure a stronger base in Manchester.

So I agreed to attend. The fact that I had to book the day off work to attend gave me an idea of the types of people who would arrange a meet up on a Monday morning/ afternoon, when folk like me would normally be working in the office…

Meet Up

Anyway, the meet up took place in the boardroom of the Rain Bar pub in Manchester city centre. There weren’t that many in attendance, just the ten of us in total, and they all seemed to be regulars as they knew each other.

I fully expected to be the only woman there but was pleasantly surprised to find another.

As predicted, they were a mix of retirees, semi-retirees and freelancers/self-employed. And from the sounds of it, all experienced investors, including the chap who looked young enough to be a millennial.

I was hoping to just lurk in the background and listen, hoping that I wouldn’t be out of my depth, but within minutes of kick-off, as the newbie present, I was asked to introduce myself to all and talk about my investing background – yikes!

So, I just talked about my buy and hold strategy, investing in broadly diversified index tracker ETFs and investment trusts and building dividend income.

When prompted, I talked a little about my aim to FIRE, although none of them had heard of it before – my guess is that most of them had actually achieved FIRE already, but just weren’t aware there was a cool acronym for it!

We broke up for a pub lunch and when the event was all over, I stuck around for a drink with a few of them for a pleasant chat.

Did I Learn Anything?

It was fascinating to hear about other people’s investment strategies. Being in the bubble that is the FIRE community, it can be easy to forget that there are strategies other than just buying and holding index trackers, not that there is, of course, anything wrong with this strategy!

There was a lot of talk about AIM stocks, ‘ten-baggers’, which I assumed to be the likes of Fevertree (if you had bought at the start). As one said, he wasn’t interested in bits of dividends from FTSE stocks – that wouldn’t be enough for him to live on so he looked for stocks with potential for big capital growth. Good, if you can spot those kinds of stocks.

A couple had investments in properties (buy to let), there was mention of one dabbling briefly in bitcoin but in the main, everyone was investing in the stock markets.

Another mentioned that one of his strategies was to sell half of a stock, pocketing the profit and to hold onto the rest, a strategy which I adopted myself recently when I sold some of my AJBell shares to take advantage of the >170% gain since its IPO – I intend to hold onto the rest.

There were two presentations, with the millennial guy talking about how he personally went about choosing his investments, his analysis and research etc.

Another couple of the guys did an interesting presentation of a company (they were investors themselves, not owners of the company) but it prompted me to read more about it when I went home.

There was no hard-sell, nobody was asked to part with any money or to invest in anything – it was all quite casual though professional, all very informative.

Ultimate Lesson

The people in attendance made me feel very welcome and by the end of it all, I didn’t feel like an ‘impostor’.

However, I did realise that I wasn’t quite ready to be part of their club of ‘serious investors’. By that, I mean that I’m not where they are right now but I’m on my way there.

They are where I would like to be upon achieving FIRE, a position where I envisage I will have more time to dedicate to my investments, due to not having to work full-time.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t attend future meet ups – I fully intend to (and to pay SIGnet’s annual £25 membership fee) because not only did I enjoy their company but I think there is still so much I can learn about investing, despite having invested for over 6 years. These people will have been invested during the big stock-market crashes, something I’ve never experienced before and many likely to be living off their investments already.

I’m not sure I would book the day off to attend another meet up (unless I had surplus holidays to use up) but I believe there’s the occasional evening meet up so will definitely be looking to attend a few of those.

Has anyone else ever been to one of these kinds of meet ups specifically for investing?