Saturday, 27 February 2016

12 Months to Go?

12 months ago I suggested that I might only have 18 months to go before FIRE (financially independent retired early).  The caveat placed on this bold statement was “from here if I can save 55% of gross earnings consistently and receive a real 4% investment return then I am exactly on target to be able to retire in 18 months”.  Since that post:
  • I've struggled to save 55% of gross earnings but this has been more than made up for with earnings increases which were subsequently saved; and
  • Mr Market decided to go all bearish with my Vanguard FTSE All Share tracker still down 10.6% and my Vanguard Developed Europe tracker down 8.8%.  My Vanguard S&P500 tracker also took a dip but has today recovered to a positive 1.9%.  

None of these market gyrations or savings disappointments bothered me.  Instead I have just kept saving as much as I can, which is then used to save for a family home and continually passively rebalance my portfolio by investing into the worst performing asset classes.  Updating my portfolio this morning resulted in the following chart staring back at me:

Path Trodden Toward Financial Independence
Click to enlarge, Path Trodden Toward Financial Independence

A new record level of wealth at £880,000 and importantly if I look at what I should be able to save over the next 12 months, assume a 4% investment return and compare that to my FIRE target of £1 million, I now only have 1 year to FIRE!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Am I an outlier or could most people do it?

I don’t think there would be much argument that millennials have it pretty tough financially with their plight now starting to make it into the mainstream media (FT link or search “Why millennials go on holiday instead of saving for a pension”).  After all:

  • They’re graduating with big chunks of student debt that their grey haired work colleagues didn't have to contend with, while their even greyer haired fellow countryman are being protected with triple lock state pensions;
  • They’re unlikely to receive anything better than a defined contribution pension with no hope of a defined pension; and
  • They’re graduating into a housing crisis where houses are today priced in such a way that ownership, particularly in the South East, is almost beyond reach.

While this is going on as a Generation X’er I'm starting to get comments that my current personal financial approach has become a little extreme.  To me it doesn't feel like it but I'm also conscious of the boiled frog analogy.

So with both of these in mind I thought today I’d run a simulation to see if a millennial graduating today, who didn't want to be as extreme as I am, but also didn't want to roll over and be a victim could still FIRE (financial independence, retired early)?  So a Saving Hard'ish, Investing Wisely, Retire Early simulation.  In short the uncomfortable maths suggests that the answer is yes...

A millenials journey to financial independence
Click to enlarge, A millenials journey to financial independence

Let’s look at the story in detail.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Good-bye Amlin, thanks for your contribution

Amlin was added to my High Yield Portfolio (HYP) back in August 2014.  At the time I purchased 963 shares at a price of £4.4986 paying £34 in stamp duty and trading fees for a total investment of £4,366.

When the mainstream media get excited about stock market rises and falls they always seem to conveniently omit mentioning those lovely things called dividends.  From purchase Amlin provided me with £485 of those, they were growing dividends year on year and I was a very happy camper.

Then on the 08 September 2015 Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company (MSI) swooped in and made a cash offer for the company.  The rest, as they say is history, with the end result being £6,452 in cash hitting my account on the 08 February 2016.  Totting that all together and Amlin for the short period held provided me with a total return of 59%.  So while I'm sad to see Amlin go I'm not too sad...

So with cash, including some new money, burning a hole in my pocket what to buy?  Market falls have resulted in the UK Equities portion of my portfolio being underweight but not yet enough for active rebalancing so I’ll just passively rebalance for now.  My strategy to build enough dividends to live off in FIRE is also still well in control so I don’t need to add to the HYP.

My Annual Dividends
Click to enlarge, My Annual Dividends

I therefore purchased £8,000 worth of Vanguard’s FTSE250 ETF Tracker, VMID, to continue my plan of further UK Equity diversification.  My UK equity split now looks like:

Saturday, 6 February 2016


In my travels I regularly come across 2 types of people.  The first are those that will set themselves a stiff challenge and then go for it.  The second are those that won’t because it’s not possible for some reason or another.  This second group I call the VICTIMS and I have little time for them.  Note here I am not talking about people who look at a goal, look at what it will take to achieve it and decide it’s not for them.  That is a conscious decision and admirable.

This week I saw the victim card being played on a couple of forums as a reason why the Save Hard, Invest Wisely and Retire Early strategy that we follow here wasn't possible:
“Forgive me if I am wrong, but isn't your entire savings strategy based on earning a top 1% income? Not possible for the other 99%.”
“Retirement Investing Today is probably the one to read if you're a captain of industry, he's very 'on' when it comes to reducing tax, expenses and coping in a high cost of living area. That said, he does have a fairly chunky salary from memory (£90k?) which makes everything flow a bit more smoothly.”

These comments frustrated me a little so what follows is a bit of rant.  If you’re not into rants I’d encourage you to move on to your next piece of regular Saturday reader.

So somebody believes that ‘my entire savings strategy is based on earning a top 1% income’.  The implication then being that because 99% don’t, the strategy can’t work for them, so they’re not going to try it.  A victim if ever I saw one.  Let’s clear this one up shall we.  The top level objective that I set myself way back in 2007 was simply that I wanted to Save Hard which would be achieved by both Earning More and Spending Less.  In the interests of full disclosure if I look back at my earnings when I started this journey and compare to some national statistics I can see that I was in the top 7% of earners in the country.  I therefore freely admit that I wasn't poorly rewarded but I was also a long long way from being in the top 1% of earners as I am today.  My strategy has allowed me to become an earnings 1%’er rather than my strategy becoming possible because I am a 1%’er.  A significant difference.