June 2019 Savings + other updates

Just back from my hols, so here’s my belated update for June.

This month saw numerous social outings with friends, interspersed with meeting new people at my second investors’ meet up in Manchester (similar to the first one, except in the evening) and attending my first crowdfunding event.

Reaching my milestone age and attending these events nudged me to reconsider the allocations in my portfolio. After revisiting some old Monevator posts, including one on age and portfolios, I’ll be starting to implement some small initial changes – I’ll sort out a post on that soon.

So, how did I get on in June?

I saved 50% of my net salary! I should have/could have saved more as I received the second part of my small annual bonus this month. However, I’ve put some funds aside to cover for some holiday spends, some of which may carry over into July. Perhaps a missed opportunity to really bump up my savings rate but it’s been an expensive month!

The above savings includes top ups of £33.68 from TopCashback*, £60 matched betting profit (from last month), £50 from another premium bond win and £74.67 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

I opened a small new investment in The Renewables Infrastructure Grp Ltd (TRIG) but mostly added to existing investments. I also made a small crowdfunding top up to my Freetrade investment.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets have been pretty buoyant lately as my Future Fund has risen to £169,631.

Dividends and Other Income

A decent month for dividends: Continue reading

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!

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?

Freetrade App Review

Back in May 2018,  I invested in Freetrade, a new stockbroker app, via CrowdCube.

It went on to become the most over-funded equity offering.

Anyway, after what felt like the longest wait ever, the app was finally available for download for Android today – here’s the Forbes’ announcement.

So, nearly a year after my crowdfunding investment, I have finally been able to download the app (after initially taking part in their beta-test). IOS users have been using the app since October so yes, I’ve been (im)patiently waiting all this time to try it out.

Search for stocks under ‘Discover’

What can I say, except that I can’t describe the feeling of being able to buy very small amounts of shares without being charged a trading fee!

The app is slick, responsive, simple yet aesthetically pleasing.

How will Freetrade make Money?

It operates a freemium business model, which anyone who plays ‘free’ games on their phones will be familiar with – you get a great basic app for free but if you want some bells and whistles, there’s a small cost.

In Freetrade’s case, basic buy/sell trades are all bunched together and executed for free at around 4pm on a working day. Great for someone like me who’s not bothered about price or timing the market.

However, if you want to buy/sell immediately, it costs a £1. For people used to paying £10-£12 per execution, this is a huge difference. Hell, I might even be tempted to part with the odd £1 occasionally for a quick sale/purchase!  Current pricing can be viewed here. At some point, Alpha accounts will be introduced, for a monthly fee, providing discount on instant trades and other services.

One of the reasons I’m more of a passive investor is because with conventional brokers, actively trading too much adds to high costs, eating into my gains.

These free trades or low fee trades are kind of dangerous.

My ‘test’ portfolio

How so?  The free/low cost trading might actually encourage some to over-trade, tempting people to buy/sell on a whim.

Or not. I guess it depends on what type of investor you are. At the end of the day, no big fees when you want to re-balance your portfolio or want to take advantage of some low prices, so definitely a win.

I think this app might well change the way I invest – previously, I waited for dividends to accumulate up to a minimum of £100 before I reinvested once a month (using my platform’s £1.50 regular investing facility).

With Freetrade, I will be able to invest when there’s just a few quid of dividend cash in the account, so my cash in the account will be invested a lot quicker.

Apologies that my cheap Android phone doesn’t do the app any justice in the screenshots as it’s only got a small screen.

You might get a better view of the screens here.

Android Compatibility

Speaking of cheap Android phone, the app is only compatible with Android version 7.0 and above. My current phone is on Android 6 so yes, I picked up a new basic handset just so that I could use the app! (thanks @Chris Perry for reminding me to add this to the post!)

What’s on Offer?

At the time of writing, ISAs were availabe for IOS users, priced at a fixed £3 per month (from July 2019 – it’s currently free).

ISAs should be available for Android users from next month and I will be setting up my 2019/20 ISA with them to see how it goes. I’m not sure if ISAs can be transferred just yet but it’s definitely in the pipeline.

Basic graph thingy…

At the moment, the choice of investments is nowhere near what you have available with say Hargreaves Lansdown, but pretty much all of the FTSE100 is available, much of the FTSE 250, many ETFs, a few investment trusts and also numerous US shares – FANG stocks anyone?

New stocks are being added all the time (albeit slowly) while the team concentrate on continuing to improve the app.

Topping Up

At the moment, the only way to top up my Freetrade account is by bank transfer (you have to link a bank account to the app).

Top up via Apple Pay is available for iPhone users and I believe other methods of topping up will be added in time.

So it’s not as handy as topping up via debit card which I’m able to do right now with my other platforms, but it’s no great inconvenience doing the bank transfer.

Google Play store is showing a load of one star reviews, received when the company made the decision a few months back to allow the app to be downloaded, only to place the people in a queue.

For people who read the blurb and were expecting this, fine; for those who didn’t and were expecting a fully working model, they one-starred it. Hopefully, there will now be better (and more accurate) reviews now that the fully-working model has been delivered. Apparently, there have been over 20k downloads already.

There is still plenty of scope for improvement and the Freetrade team continue to work on the development of the app to incorporate functionalities we’ve become used to with other brokers (eg ISA transfers, SIPPs etc) and other functions, such as being able to buy fractions of shares (US only). Here is their open product roadmap, documenting what they are working on.

I’ve not tried to do any research of stocks or other investments on the app – right now, I prefer to do my research from other websites, so improving this area isn’t a biggie for me but some users have mentioned that there wasn’t enough research/news material. All in good time, I guess.

Also, checking my portfolio on my phone is something quite new to me as I do pretty much all my investing on pc or laptop. Hopefully, this might mean that I won’t be too tempted to tinker…

One thing I’m really looking forward to doing is ultimately having my Dogs of the FTSE portfolio on here as it will be the perfect platform to run the experimental portfolio. I might even reconsider doing another Monkey Stocks portfolio – let me have a think about that!

Another thing I’m interested in, is seeing Freetrade added to Monevator’s broker comparison table – if I were a gambling woman, I’d put money on Freetrade being the cheapest!

Anyway, with Freetrade being FCA registered and investments being covered by the FSCS, I can’t wait to continue to build my portfolio using this app.

[Disclaimer – Aside from being an investor in the Freetrade company, I have no affiliation whatsoever with Freetrade (ie this is not a sponsored post) and this is not a recommendation to download the app (although, why not? 🙂 ). There are no referral links in this post]