Saturday 12 December 2015

US vs UK vs Aus Equity Valuations

The largest country equity holding within my portfolio is my home country, the United Kingdom, at 20.4% of total portfolio value.  This is then followed by Australian equities at 10.1% (a mistake I've mentioned numerous times previously) and then US equities at a relatively paltry 4.5%.  The Equity markets of these three countries make one third of my portfolio and so their performance (particularly that of the UK) matters.

My total portfolio year to date is under water by a few percent and since I started my DIY journey to FIRE (financially independent retired early) in late 2007 I've only managed a real (after inflation) annualised 3%.  Looking at the data what is clear is that to date I have backed the wrong horse.  Let’s take a look.

Firstly the US S&P500:
S&P500 Price Performance
Click to enlarge, S&P500 Price Performance, Source: Yahoo Finance

Now the UK FTSE100:
FTSE100 Price Performance
Click to enlarge, FTSE100 Price Performance, Source: Yahoo Finance

And finally the Australian ASX200:
ASX200 Price Performance
Click to enlarge, ASX200 Price Performance, Source: Yahoo Finance

Year to date the S&P500 is down 2.3%.  In comparison the FTSE100 is down 9.3% and the ASX200 is down 7.0%.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Monthly Financial Decisions

Here on Retirement Investing Today I talk about a lot of different themes and learnings.  As I learn I also then update some of those themes from time to time.  This might make it sound like my financial life is complicated and full of tinkering.  It’s actually the opposite of that and actually requires very few decisions on a monthly basis.  This is partly because the themes I write about cover the complete spectrum of my past, present and future investing life and partly because 8 years into this FIRE journey I now know (I hope) what I'm doing.  Let me demonstrate using November 2015 as an example.

On the Spending front history tells me that because I'm a lightweight consumer I don’t need to budget.  So I don’t.  For any purchase I do however still mentally ask myself do I really need this, can I buy less of it and is this giving me the best value for money.  Roll that into November and it resulted in 36 purchases with the lowest purchase being £1.70 for a work lunch and the highest being £1,148 for rent.  After rent and work costs (my tracked metric as this is what will be relevant in FIRE) my spending was well in control at £430 for the month.  This reinforces yet again that I don’t need to start budgeting.

RIT November 2015 Spending
Click to enlarge, RIT November 2015 Spending

My wealth is currently spread as follows:

RIT Low Charge Investment Portfolio
Click to enlarge, RIT Low Charge Investment Portfolio

My Wealth spreadsheet tells me that against plan my Equities are positioned as follows:
  • International Equities are 20.4% underweight
  • UK Equities are 14.6% underweight
  • Emerging Markets are 10.2% underweight; and
  • Australian Equities are well overweight as in hindsight this was a mistake that I now can’t correct so will just let sit and spin off dividends ‘forever’.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Consumer for a day

All this Black Friday talk has given me flashbacks to my last consumer experience a few weeks ago.  Now before I go on I do need to warn you that this might be a little biased in its viewpoint given I actually opted out of consumerism many years ago and so far this year have had an average monthly spend on clothing of £2.64, miscellaneous (which covers gifts, gadgets, a suitcase, non-work/entertainment related public transport and homewares) of £15.80 and entertainment of a hefty £56.15.

While I opted out many of those around me haven’t and so I was asked if I’d like to partake in a little ‘retail therapy’ with a close friend.  I hadn't caught up in a while and am conscious I've lost a number of ‘friends’ because of my lack of interest in consumption so I agreed to spend a few hours in a very large East London shopping centre.  It really did reinforce to me that this was no longer my thing.  It particularly hit home when I was looking at a scene not unlike this:


Firstly, not a single thing was as nature intended.  It was all concrete, steel, glass, lights and colours designed to heighten your senses and draw you in like a moth to a flame.  Importantly though watching the shoppers themselves moving through the walkways and aisles really did remind me of a hoard of zombies lumbering along in pursuit of the unknown.  It was all just so passive with everyone moving along to the next bargain waiting for stuff to just wash over them.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Raise the Private Pension Access Age & My Global Exposure

Firstly, an interesting article in the Financial Times today – Retirement experts campaign for pension freedom age to rise to 65 (should be a free click through or alternatively Google the title and you’ll also find it for free).  It looks like the pensions industry is starting to lobby the government to push back the age at which we can access our pensions from as early as 55 (some of us are not that fortunate) to 65.  Apparently, according to the Society for Pension Professionals:

  • “...55 “was far too young” to allow full access to retirement savings...”
  • “ is also too young to consider oneself retired from a working life...”
  • “Although I recognise this will not be popular it would result in better outcomes in true later life.”
It’s really great to hear that the Pensions industry apparently has our welfare at the top of their agenda.  To be honest though, in my years of investing I've never seen the Pensions industry do anything that has my best interests in mind so I’m not going to start believe their tripe now.  The cynic in me says that this is yet another way to extract more expenses or fees from us.  Just think about all the extra fees available if you can’t access your wealth for another 10 years.  Come to think of it maybe the third bullet point above is actually right.  Maybe it will result in “...better outcomes in true later life”.  It’s just unfortunate that those better outcomes will be for the Pensions industry rather than the punter.

As always some great Comments in response to last week’s post which included some questions around my International exposure.  Rather than give half an answer in a Comment I thought I’d spend some time and give a more thoughtful detailed answer.

As of this morning my Asset Allocation looks like this:

Retirement Investing Today Low Charge Investment Portfolio
Click to enlarge, Retirement Investing Today Low Charge Investment Portfolio

In pounds, shillings and pence it is £819,004 and represents everything I own.  Let’s work around the pie chart to uncover my Globall exposure.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Further UK Equity Diversification

I am a disciple of Tim Hale who in my humble opinion is the investing granddaddy for UK investors.  From the emails I receive it’s rare that I can’t refer a reader to his book Smarter Investing: Simpler Decisions for Better Results for the answer to their question.  It’s a must read for anyone serious about investing from the UK.

It’s therefore probably no surprise to find out that my investing strategy is largely based around the teachings of his book (I started in 2007 and so I used the first edition as a basis).  At its most basic he starts with what he calls a Level 1 portfolio mix consisting of Level 1 UK equities and Level 1 UK bonds.  He then goes on to show how you might diversify a portion of your wealth away from these to create a portfolio for all seasons.  Importantly though no matter what your investment horizon large allocations always stay with the Level 1 building blocks.  So the question then becomes what Index should be used to represent Level 1 Equities?  As always Hale has the answer with “For your Level 1 equity allocation, the return benchmark should be the return of the whole domestic market, which provides a diversified and representative benchmark as it includes most public companies, be they large or small and weighted according to their market size... The FTSE All Share is the index of choice for the rational investor.”

I followed this guidance with no other exposure to UK Equities other than the All Share until late 2011 when I realised, that for me at least, I wanted more dividends than my strategy was forecast to give me at the end of my accumulation stage.  I therefore started to diversify a percentage away from Level UK Equities towards a UK based High Yield Portfolio (HYP).  Today that HYP contains 17 companies with 83% of them by valuation coming from the FTSE100 and 16% coming from the FTSE250.  I then continued with this strategy until I reached the point where it looked like my total portfolio would enable me to live off the dividends.  I’m fairly comfortably there now and so don’t need to keep growing my dividends at such a great rate.