Showing posts with label My Performance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Performance. Show all posts

Friday, 10 December 2021

Transitioning – musings on 2021

2021 has been my third year since I took that initial leap into the FIRE unknown and for me it’s been my biggest year ever for change.  Some good and some not so good.  So with the sun fast setting on 2021 I thought it was time to take stock and write some of this down.  Warning: If you don’t like blog posts that jump around this one may not be for you but if you want to know what FIRE can truly do to a person then I hope you find it helpful.

COVID-19

One of the 2021 elephants in the (influencing my life) room has of course been COVID-19.  What I’ve found interesting is that it’s not the virus itself giving me mortality concerns.  After all I’m a late 40’s healthy person who drinks very little, eats nutritious food, now has little to no stress, exercises regularly and doesn’t smoke or party hard so that part of life will probably turn out ok if it happens.

What I have however started to become concerned about is watching what a mix of a virus + power + politics + money + mainstream media selling fear + no real debate let alone scientific debate can turn the world into.  

For example here in Australia I watched many Victorians being coerced into vaccination not because they thought it was the right thing to do for their and their fellow citizens health but because without it they’d lose their jobs and ability to feed their families.  Coercion is never right in my books. 

Another example is that I am truly shocked at what seems to be going on in Austria where very soon if you are an honest law-abiding citizen who just wants to live in peace you will soon find yourself having committed a crime punishable by large fines or imprisonment.  It really does feel like we’ve regressed as a society significantly.

My COVID-19 coping mechanism is to minimise my contact with those selling fear, notably the ‘news’, which has resulted in a significant improvement in my wellbeing.

Housing

Housing has been a big topic for us this year.  Firstly, let’s cover our current living arrangements.  We are still renting in a beautiful part of the world close to the ocean (including visible sea life and plenty of water sports) and forests (including up close wildlife like kangaroos and plenty of trails) which we are absolutely loving.  We’ve invested in some new bicycles and are really racking the miles up.  So far so good.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore and 2020 in review

Usually at this time of year I publish a year in review which covers a little of the qualitative and a lot of the quantitative.  Given the year we’ve just had, along with quantitative needs now being significantly lessened given the stage of my FIRE life I’m currently in, I feel it’s worthy to flip that weighting as it really has been a year to both remember and to forget.  Additionally and hopefully once you see the qualitative you’ll understand why it’s been a long time between blog drinks.

So let’s get the quantitative stuff out of the way.  In my purist FIRE plan I was aiming to spend the lesser of:

  • up to 2.5% of initial FIRE wealth plus investment expenses of around 0.2% uprated for inflation annually.  For 2020 that gave me a drawdown target of around £26,084 plus investment expenses.
  • up to 85% of my annual dividends.  Dividends were a car crash this year. Once the laggards make their final payments I expect them to be down around 29% year on year.  For 2020 that gave me a drawdown target of around £19,848

RIT Annual Dividends

Click to enlarge, RIT Annual Dividends

In comparison, during year 2 of FIRE, I withdraw from my wealth a total £19,022.  I met my FIRE goals but boy did it occur unconventionally.  So let’s switch to the story to explain that which is hopefully the interesting bit.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Lenses

A chart of the monthly FTSE 100 price looks something like this:

Monthly FTSE 100 Price
Click to enlarge, Monthly FTSE 100 Price

This is the chart that you’ll see on all the mainstream media channels and it shows that the FTSE 100 still has about 32% to fall if it’s going to match the worst of the global financial crisis (GFC).  This sounds like a long way until one thinks about a big failing with this type of chart.  It’s unit of measurement…  The FTSE 100 is priced in £’s and they’re constantly being devalued via inflation.  So, let’s take out a different lens and try and look at the chart in real, inflation adjusted, terms.

Firstly, let’s correct for the consumer price index (CPI):

Real (CPI) Monthly FTSE 100 Price
Click to enlarge, Real (CPI) Monthly FTSE 100 Price

That shows that instead of falls of 32% being needed it’s actually closer to falls of 16% for parity with the worst of the GFC.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Insanity and 2019 in review

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – not Albert Einstein as I always thought but actually Rita Mae Brown 
2019 represented my first full year of FIRE, albeit with a slip-up back to FI during the year, which was then later corrected.  Despite a lot of my pre-FIRE posts being financial in nature finances actually occupied very little of my mind through 2019.  Having my wealth increase by £148,000 and my spending, albeit profligate, significantly less than this certainly helped here.

What did occupy a lot of my mind, as regular readers will be well aware, was the psychological, emotive and decompression elements of FIRE.  So let’s start here first and take a snap shot of where I find myself.

Nearly 14 months into my decompression I would have to say that while the days are getting easier I am still very much deep in the decompression mud.  There are still many unanswered questions and much soul searching (or is that naval gazing) going on.  To help with that I’ve tried to continue with the human being while changing only one thing at a time theme I started mid-year.  One conclusion I’ve come to, and started to accept, is that it’s unlikely that I have a “silver bullet” single purpose in me and I’m really ok with that.  My purpose doesn’t have to occupy 60 hours per week, like my previous job, so why I was thinking that is beyond me.  Instead I’m starting to take great joy in many small “successes” that without FIRE I wouldn’t have been able to do.  That extra 3 miles of hiking into the forest, seeing something new, because I have the time...  That 3 hour lunch with a loved one that builds a stronger bond because I have the time...

The one change I have made is that an old friend asked me to help with a very short term very temporary job.  I never expected it to be purposeful (so it’s a job and not work) but I did think it would be interesting so took it on.  I just hope that is helping with my decompression and not clouding it.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

2019 HYP Review

It’s now a little over 8 years ago that I started to build my UK High Yield Portfolio (HYP).  It was a much talked about strategy back in the Motley Fool forum days and today still gets plenty of attention on the Lemon Fool forums today.  I built the portfolio between November 2011 and July 2015 by which time I’d amassed 17 shares across multiple sectors.  That included a token amount of Royal Mail Group (ticker: RMG) during the initial public offering in 2013 and the spin-off of S32 by BHP in 2015.

Today the portfolio is down to 16 shares because of the forced Amlin sale in 2016.  It was set up to be close to a low tinker portfolio with only a few mechanical rules that would trigger a sale if there were big changes to a share.  For example if the actual value of a holding became 50% larger than the median share holding I would sell 25% (I’m looking at you Astra Zeneca, ticker: AZN, who is now 2.4 times the median) or if the actual dividend yield dropped below 50% of the FTSE All Share.

As it’s turned out to date I’ve done precisely zero tinkering unless forced by corporate events.  This means in 2019 there were again no buys or sells.  The complete HYP and the respective values of each share are shown in the chart below.  The purchasing rule that I followed while building the HYP was the amount of the next purchase was the median share value of the current portfolio (with the exception of RMG and S32).

Retirement Investing Today High Yield Portfolio
Click to enlarge, Retirement Investing Today High Yield Portfolio

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Real life portfolio returns

I was recently reading a FIRE blog post, from a couple who are still very much deep in the swim phase of the FIRE triathlon, where the post was exploring who in society has the opportunity to FIRE if they so choose.  Of course as many of us FIRE bloggers love a good spreadsheet, the weapon of choice for exploring this was an Excel model and a whole pile of assumptions.  Two of these assumptions were that we were living in a hypothetical world where there is no inflation and where the expected annualised investment portfolio return was 7%.  So to my reading a critical assumption in their Excel model was a real (ie after inflation) portfolio return of 7%!

I’m much further on the FIRE journey than these good folks being in the triathlon bike phase having now been FIRE’d for a little over a year and having been on my FIRE journey for around twelve years.  At one end this means I have more experience and data than these folks but it also means I’m more grey, grizzled and cynical.  With that warning out of the way to me that real 7% return assumption just seems way to bullish!  So I then asked myself why are they using such high returns in their model as not for a second do I think they are trying to deceive?  The simple answer I came up with is that the vast majority of FIRE blogs are from people who are pre-FIRE with many never having witnessed a bear market so they have no real life data, only published financial data.  Then from those that are FIRE’d I am yet to see transparent long term portfolio returns shared.  So today’s post aims to do just that.  Put a stake into the ground where hopefully your comments and other bloggers posts will tear my investing performance apart showing me to be either a poor, average or good investor.  With time that might help us all fine tune the expected returns we can all plug into our much loved spreadsheets.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Human being and a 2019 Q3 review

Bottle TreeAt the end of June I concluded that a potentially positive step forward on my FIRE journey was to focus on being a ‘human being’ rather than a ‘human doing’ for a while.  No action plans, no agendas, no need to be busy...  During this time I woke when my body was ready, enjoyed a non-time limited breakfast, took advantage of the British summer by spending as much time outdoors exercising as possible, read and even just spent time reflecting.  No contribution was made to the world but at the same time nobody was harmed in the making of this drama.  I just was.  At the start I admit it was incredibly difficult but amazingly as time went on my body and mind really started to accept what was happening and even change for the better.  Importantly I’ve also now started to hear and see things about the world I’ve never really noticed before.  In a good way.

As summer then started to fade bags were packed and time was spent in a far flung land.  It sounds so easy and not so different from what many do in the summer, which is take a summer holiday, but this time it was different as it was for a month which not that long ago it would have been impossible for me to do given my job.  Time was spent with some long lost potentially meaningful friends and family which was surreal, educational and importantly thoroughly enjoyable.  At one end of the spectrum an old friend had cried enough and is in the process of rapidly downshifting his life.  He’s already sold his mortgaged detached home and bought a townhouse, got rid of the car loan and instead has gone for something 10 years old, retrained into a career that pays about a quarter of what he was earning and amongst all this I’ve never seen anyone more happy and positive.

At the other end of the spectrum time was spent with a family member who is frantically trying to climb the greasy career pole and doing everything a good consumerist should be doing.  He has the massive mortgage, 2 smart executive lease cars, every branded item you can imagine, amazingly every TV/music streaming option I know about plus one I didn’t and a willingness to drive 10 minutes out of the way for a coffee at his favourite place rather than making a fantastic one at home with his posh coffee machine.  Oh and to go with that his job (work?) has just been put at risk.  I’ve never seen anyone looking so haggard and tired.

The parallels between the two were so surreal as to be quite disturbing and they certainly helped me further cement what’s important going forwards.  It also made me truly thankful for what I have done as that family member could so easily have been me if I hadn’t pursued FIRE.

Within an hour or so of that meaningful friend we have also identified a possible FIRE location where we could build ourselves a dream home so some time was spent understanding land prices and getting some building quotes.  The good news is that we have plenty of wealth to move this idea forward.

Not sure my finger would be as green as this potential neighbour
Click to enlarge, Not sure my finger would be as green as this potential neighbour

Friday, 2 August 2019

reFIRE and a 2019 Half 1 review

A few months after returning to my industry, albeit in a different role in the pursuit of meaningful work, I’ve left the company and am back to FIRE.  Soon after joining it became very obvious that while there were some pieces of meaningful work (where I define work as something you do for purpose) the vast majority of what I was going to be doing was just a job (which I define as something you do because you need the money) and right now I don’t need a job.  The excellent tool over at Engaging Data clearly shows that provided history rhymes my biggest risk now isn’t running out of money but running out of life.

Is the risk running out of money or running out of life
Click to enlarge, Is the risk running out of money or running out of life

Reflecting on this I think a few themes are emerging...

Firstly, some people can learn by brainstorming or thinking while some people learn by trystorming or doing.  I now see that I learn the best when I can do the second.  So going forwards I need to always find ways of experimenting before going all in.

Secondly, I deliberately went back to a similar role that I had done a number of years previously which at the time I felt was the highest level of meaningful work I had ever experienced.  Living it again enabled me to see that the role, my industry and my own needs had changed beyond recognition and at some point, much like the boiled frog, my meaningful work / career had actually predominantly become just a job with me just not noticing.

Reflecting on this change... I originally pursued FIRE as back in 2007 I saw some changes starting to occur that made me think my job at the time would eventually be outsourced to a low cost country.  Faced with no job I came up with the choices of FIRE or retrain into a new career.  I took on FIRE.  Looking now at what had forced many of the changes to my industry, making me also now incompatible, it was largely driven by what I initially saw.  That is globalisation requiring extreme cost reduction and reduced quality achieved by investment reduction, partly achieved by outsourcing, while at the same time ramping expectations far faster than answers could be found.  So while the changes occurring didn’t directly take my job directly by the time I FIREd they certainly helped reduce the level of meaningful work.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Managing Retirement Drawdown

As a 46 year old now in Early Retirement it seems worthwhile to now share more detail on how I have as tax efficiently as possible tried to build my wealth so that I run out of life before I run out of wealth.  For some time now at a high level I’ve used the following approach, which of shared on a number of occasions, to know when to pull the trigger.  Track my spending religiously then adjust that spending to add new expected retirement spends while subtracting non-retirement spends such as costs associated with work.  With my retirement spending defined at £24,000 per annum I then retired when that spending was the lesser of 85% of dividends received from the portfolio or a safe withdrawal rate of 2.5%.

This sounds relatively simple but it’s actually a more complicated problem than that as I actually have my wealth and earnings sitting in four buckets which have differing rules, including the age with which I can gain access.  These are:
  • £225,000 sitting in savings accounts ready for a home purchase.  This is accessible now.
  • £521,000 sitting in savings accounts, NS&I index linked savings certificates (ILSC’s) as well as bonds, gold, listed property and equities within trading account and ISA wrappers.  This is also accessible now.
  • £578,000 sitting in bonds, gold, listed property and equities within pension wrappers.  This currently cannot be accessed until age 55.
  • A State Pension promise according to my latest forecast of £5,353 per annum.  The current government promise is this is accessible at age 67.

So all in that’s wealth £1,324,000 and a government ‘promise’ of £5,353 annually at some point in the future.  Let’s look at each of these in turn.

£225,000 Home Purchase

We are currently renting but intend to buy and the money sitting in savings accounts ready for the purchase has no access restrictions.  The risk I carry here is if house prices rise at a rate greater than the interest after tax I can earn then I’m losing housing opportunity.  If my interest after tax is greater then I’m winning.  I see this approach as a less risk than if I invested this wealth into bonds, listed property or equities as the likely erosion should be gradual when compared to what bond and equity markets can do over a relatively short period.  That said I don’t want to wait too long.  From where I sit today there are no negatives to buying as if house prices fall we still have the home where if they rise we are losing quality of life that will come from our dream home.  We’ll therefore be buying as soon as we find a region to call home.  That might be Cyprus but we won’t know that for a few more months.

So far so good.  I have enough wealth to buy a home.

Monday, 14 January 2019

2018 In Review, Let Decompression Commence

A place to reflect, near Adonis Baths, Paphos, Cyprus
The fourth quarter of 2018 contained the pivotal moment of my FIRE journey so far – FIRE day.  Financially it represented the transition from rapid wealth accumulation to hopefully well managed wealth decumulation or drawdown.  As I write this though more importantly it also represented the start of what seems to be called the decompression phase of retirement and I’ll freely admit I’m finding this really difficult.  Prior to FIRE I had 60 – 70 hours a week either commuting or in the workplace where I would be seeing new data that would require action every 15 to 30 minutes.  I would then be paid reasonably well for this effort on a monthly basis with some being spent to live well while the majority was saved.

Now we get to do what we want when we want and there is no need for urgency but also if we want to eat I now need to withdraw from my wealth that will only be renewed passively.  I can’t speed it up without taking more investment risk.  So what emotions have I been experiencing?  Initially, mainly a lot of stress caused by giving a good work handover and pushing too hard on our relocation plans to Cyprus.  That has now subsided with us now having been here for about 6 weeks.  After the stress left I experienced euphoria!  I’d done it, I can now do whatever I want and am free to be where I want when I want.  That also has now subsided.

So what am I experiencing right now?  That’s have we done the right thing and should we persist.  There is certainly some fear in there as well.  Fear of running out of wealth, fear of not having enough wealth to meet our quality of life ambitions for the next 40 or so years, fear of my skills quickly becoming stale and not being able to re-enter my career when that occurs...  At one point I even thought about asking my employer if they’d take me back and I have also looked briefly at what jobs are out there.  Thankfully, I’ve bitten my tongue and moved on for now.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 HYP Review

A little over 7 years ago (late 2011) I started to build a UK High Yield Portfolio (HYP).  It was a much talked about strategy back in the Motley Fool forum days and today still gets plenty of attention on the Lemon Fool forums.  I continued building the portfolio until July 2015 by which time I’d amassed 17 shares across multiple sectors.  That included a token amount of Royal Mail Group (ticker: RMG) during the initial public offering in 2013 and the spin-off of S32 by BHP in 2015.

Today the portfolio is down to 16 shares because of the forced Amlin sale in 2016.  It was set up to be close to a low tinker portfolio with only a few mechanical rules that would be triggered if there were big changes to a share.  For example if the actual value of a holding became 50% larger than the median share holding I would sell 25% or if the actual dividend yield dropped below 50% of the FTSE All Share (I’m looking at you Pearson, ticker: PSON, although I didn’t follow my own rules when they cut the dividend in late 2017 and the share price is up 27% since making me think my rules might actually be rubbish).

There were no buys (or sells) in 2018 (making the maths pretty easy this year).  The complete HYP and the respective values of each share are shown in the chart below.  The purchasing rule that I followed was the amount of the next purchase was the median share value of the current portfolio (with the exception of RMG and S32).

Retirement Investing Today High Yield Portfolio
Click to enlarge, Retirement Investing Today High Yield Portfolio

Saturday, 24 November 2018

FIRE day!

“Retirement is the withdrawal from one's position or occupation or from one's active working life. ...  Retirement is generally considered to be "early" if it occurs before the age (or tenure) needed for eligibility for support and funds from government or employer-provided sources. Early retirees typically rely on their own savings and investments to be self-supporting, either indefinitely or until they begin receiving external support.” Source
It’s an exciting time in the RIT household as I’m now calling myself FIRE, Financial Independence Retire Early.  I’ve worked my notice period, completed a professional handover of responsibilities, was given a fabulous send off by the company I worked for, surrendered my identification card and then walked out the door.

I guess that confirms I’m now jobless but am I really FIRE?  Do I really have enough savings and investments to be self supporting ‘indefinitely’?  Let’s start with the level of wealth that I go into the next stage of my life with:
RIT progress towards FIRE
Click to enlarge, RIT progress towards FIRE

That’s just a whisker over £1.3 million.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

2018 Quarter 3 Review, Readying for FIRE

Latchi, Cyprus at dusk
Latchi, Cyprus at dusk
With my work notice period now nearing completion I’m actually a little surprised at the calm in the RIT household.  Hopefully this means we believe we are reasonably well prepared and probably more importantly means that we still believe we are doing the right thing.

At work we’re just completing 2019 plans and I’m not excited by any of it which is a new feeling for me.  I’ve put this down to a couple of things.  One of the main objectives is something I’ve personally done on a larger scale twice previously so I would expect few challenges if I was leading the activity.  This might be a contributor but I suspect the real reason is that FIRE now just feels 100% like the right next step combined with feeling well prepared for what we’re walking into.  Not even Mr Market taking £72,000 from my wealth since its peak in mid-August and £58,000 in the last 3 weeks has made my think twice.  I guess that means I’m ready.

Our readiness for our Med move is also calmly progressing.  We have the removal company booked with them moving us in 2 stages for only an additional 5% cost.  This was our suggestion and I was surprised at the small delta cost meaning it was the lowest total move cost option we came up with.  The rationale is that the shipping time to Cyprus is about 4 weeks so what we’ll do is split our stuff in half meaning we’ll be able to stay in our current UK rental flat right up until the night before our flight and then in Cyprus we’ll only book a short term rental for 2 weeks which should be time enough to find a long term rental.

On the financial side we’ve also taken some precautions like opening additional current accounts with new banks as that will be almost impossible to do once we’re non-resident and banks have form of closing non-resident accounts when they decide it’s best for them.  For example Barclays has form with residents of Cyprus being specifically targeted for closures.  We’ve also opened up new UK savings accounts for a fresh 12 months bonus interest by which time we should hopefully be putting those cash funds to work on a home purchase.  The best I came up with here was the new Goldman Sachs Marcus account which is giving me 1.5% annualised.

We’re also starting to think about what we’re going to need to purchase in Cyprus for our new lives and making sure we can get access to that cash quickly.  We’ve therefore opened up a competitive international currency transfer account as well.  One of the things I’ve decided I’ll ‘need’ very early on is a new road bike.  Requirements are a relatively good price vs weight bang for buck, suitable for plenty of miles in the saddle, suitable for hill/mountain ascending/descending plus the flats and good enough that when I get dropped on club rides it’s because I’m a ‘fat unfit b*stard’ not because I’m riding something that weights 30kg.  The best I’ve come up with is this:

Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 7.0
Click to enlarge, Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 7.0

Do any readers have any better road bike ideas?

With the move now just weeks away this makes this quarterly update the last that shows how I’ve accumulated my wealth.  The next update will switch to how I’m managing drawdown.  Accumulated wealth is quite a loose term in this case given since the start of the year my wealth has actually reduced by £14,000 or -1.1%.  Let’s look at the details.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

2018 Half 1 Review, The penultimate accumulation post

A little over ten and a half years ago I started to accumulate wealth with a vague notion of work becoming optional in a relatively short time.  At the time I was calling this Early Retirement.  It was a time when the more famous sites like Mr Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme didn’t even exist.  It was also a time when terms like FIRE also didn’t exist.  It was a time of self discovery vs being able to learn from those that had walked the path.

With my resignation now in and FIRE now just over the horizon this post series about accumulating wealth is fast drawing to a close.  This is the penultimate one.  The second last post where I ramble on about how I’m try to accrue wealth quickly.  It will soon become all about managing drawdown to protect my wealth.  I’m looking forward to it.

To stay on the subject of accumulation, in the first half of 2018 wealth growth was a modest 2.8% or £36,000.  If I was at the start of my journey the word modest would not be one I would be using to describe wealth growth of £36,000 in 6 months but as someone looking back at a journey that has managed annualised wealth growth of 21.4% it is modest.  Let’s look at the details.

SAVE HARD

I unapologetically continue to define Saving Hard differently than most personal finance bloggers.  For me it’s Gross Earnings (ie before taxes, a crucial difference) plus Employer Pension Contributions minus Spending minus Taxes.  Earn more and one is winning.  Spend less or pay less taxes and you’re also winning.  Savings Rate is then Saving Hard divided by Gross Earnings plus Employer Pension Contributions.  To make it a little more conservative Taxes include any taxes on investments but Earnings include no investment returns.  This encourages me to continually look for the most tax efficient investment methods.  I finished the quarter with an uninspiring Savings Rate of 42.3% against a plan of 55.0%.

RIT Savings Rate
Click to enlarge, RIT Savings Rate

Saturday, 13 January 2018

2017 In Review, A Year of 2 Halves

This annual review is usually a very quantitative personal finance review and for those readers looking for that please bear with me I’ll get there I promise.  I’m firstly going to go off piste a little because for me (and really for the first time on this journey) the FIRE challenges of 2017 weren’t about quantitative finances but more about qualitative mental FIRE readiness.  You only have to look back at some of my 2017 posts to see the difficulties I’ve had:
  • I came into 2017 ready to FIRE.
  • Towards the end of the first quarter excitement was starting to build in the RIT household.
  • But then early in the third quarter the decision was made to do One More Year.  I blamed Brexit primarily and then secondly further justified it by suggesting it would give us further fun money.  Looking back I honestly can’t tell you if that was the real reason.  I still tell myself it was but I also know that running against the herd and pulling the FIRE pin at age 44 when all those around you will work for many years more is a little scary.  Was that the real reason?  For me Early Retirement has always been defined as work becoming optional rather than I won’t ever work again.  That’s easy to say but right now I’ve also manoeuvred myself into a position where I can build wealth quite quickly and it would take a lot of effort to do that again if I decided that FIRE wasn’t for me in 5 years time.  Was that the real reason? ...
  • Whatever the real reason for holding back, I guess it’s not so important in the grand scheme of things as by the end of the third quarter frustration at my faffing was clearly creeping in.
  • Then phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations closed out and we again called FIRE readiness.  This time given my thinking around lasts I really do hope it was just a Brexit thing and we really are ready this time.
In contrast to that emotional roller coaster ride the quantitative financial side was a breeze with annual wealth growing by £184,000.  My second best year yet but interestingly at the same time one where performance when compared to other financial bloggers and targets I set myself a long time ago will look a little average.  I’ll make excuses for it but I’d love your views.  After all, it’s one of the reasons I stay at this blogging lark – to hold myself accountable to my plans.  Let’s look at the details.

SAVE HARD

I unapologetically continue to define Saving Hard differently than most personal finance bloggers.  For me it’s Gross Earnings (ie before taxes, a crucial difference) plus Employer Pension Contributions minus Spending minus Taxes.  Earn more and one is winning.  Spend less or pay less taxes and you’re also winning.  Savings Rate is then Saving Hard divided by Gross Earnings plus Employee Pension Contributions.  To make it a little more conservative Taxes include any taxes on investments but Earnings include no investment returns.  This encourages me to continually look for the most tax efficient investment methods.  I finished the quarter with an uninspiring Savings Rate of 42.3% against a plan of 55.0%.

RIT Savings Rate
Click to enlarge, RIT Savings Rate

Saturday, 6 January 2018

2017 HYP Review

Back in late 2011 I started building what is known as a UK High Yield Portfolio (HYP).  It was a much talked about strategy back in the Motley Fool forum days and is still being discussed on the more recent Lemon Fool forums.  One of the aims of a HYP was as a substitute for an annuity in retirement.  This meant that the dividends spun off by the HYP needed to increase at a rate which is equal to or greater than inflation if it was to be called a successful investment strategy.  I unitised my HYP a long time ago so I know in 2017 that goal was easily achieved with dividends increasing by 20.1% which is well above the current inflation rate (RPI) of 3.9%.

The dividend increase was largely helped by the only ad-hoc event to occur in 2017 which was National Grid’s (NG.) special dividend and share consolidation.  If I net that special dividend off as many would argue that was really a return of capital it’s still done its job with a 6.7% dividend increase.

There were no buys (or sells) in 2017 as my overall investment strategy has now moved on to be a mechanically diversified collection of low expense, physical (as opposed to synthetic), income based (as opposed to accumulation) ETFs tracking enough indices to give me diversification across asset classes and countries held within low expense SIPP/ISA/Trading Account wrappers.  This means that the HYP now only forms 5.2% of my wealth but interestingly it still delivers 14.3% of my total dividends.  This is very useful for 2 reasons:
  • Along the lines of replacing an annuity its original aim was to help me live off dividends only in FIRE and in that regard it’s still punching above its weight.  In 2017 it spun off £3,929 in dividends.
  • When we come to register in our new Med country as self sufficient, unlike the UK and one of the reasons we ended up with the disaster that is Brexit IMHO, we’re going to need to demonstrate sufficient income and/or capital to prove we’re not a potential burden on the state.  Those dividends are a good chunk of income to help with that.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Quarter 3 2017 – Celebrating a 10 year anniversary

10 years ago I took a step back and looked at where my life was going.  Family life was great for which I was and remain incredibly fortunate.  However when I looked at my career I saw an industry that was being hollowed out, was being outsourced to the lowest cost country and where all the stuff that was fun was slowly being weighed down by stuff I disliked.  I was also 34 years of age and by that time had been working for 12 years across the globe yet when I looked at how that work had helped build our financial future I saw limited progress with the vast majority of the money I had earned having ‘disappeared’.

I was at a turning point, some might call it an early mid-life crisis, and clearly had to do something different.  Stay the course and I was looking at having to work until the nice government would let me retire but the risk I ran was finding myself without a career before that period.  So I started to think about retraining to do something different.  I’d also heard of people retiring a little earlier (this was before the millions of personal finance blogs appeared on the scene) and so I spoke to some financial planners about how they might be able to help me bring retirement forward a little. One of my strengths is quantitative analytics which meant I was able to work my way through their sales pitch which led me to the conclusion that while that route would help me bring retirement forward I would also be helping to bring their retirement forward as well.

In tinkering with those spreadsheets I also discovered something quite amazing.  If I could modestly increase my earnings, modestly decrease my spending, invest averagely and just not give my wealth accrued away to the financial services industry or tax man I could possibly bring my retirement forward  a long way.  I also thought I could do that myself and so in October 2007 I built a spreadsheet and a plan that would see me retire by age 50, a period of only 16 years.  I thought it also meant I didn’t need to retrain and instead just had to get my head down and run the plan I had built.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Half 1 2017 – Some decisions made

The first half of 2017 required a few decisions to be made and we spent a bit like drunken sailors to make them.  Average monthly spending was £2,404 which is well up on 2016’s £2,250 average.  When I look at the detail the story is all holiday/relocation research where we had a monthly average spend of £544.  At least we were able to decide on Cyprus over Spain although I freely admit there is only a cigarette paper between them and this could change in the coming months.

Anyone for a beautiful quiet beach, Tarifa, Spain
Click to enlarge, Anyone for a beautiful quiet beach, Tarifa, Spain

How about views to die for, Akamas Peninsula National Park, Cyprus
Click to enlarge, How about views to die for, Akamas Peninsula National Park, Cyprus

We also decided I’d push on with work a little longer while Brexit played out a little more.  As the dust has settled on that decision we’re all a little uneasy about it.  One of the whole points of this FIRE lark was about control of our lives which includes the ability to do what we want where we want to do it and here we are letting government incompetence rule our decisions.  More on this in future posts I’m sure.

Financially, it’s actually been reasonably successful with wealth up £107,000 in the first half of 2017.  I say reasonably because while that looks pretty good it’s in a currency that less and less people seem to be wanting post the Brexit vote.  Measured in the currency that is important to us that wealth growth falls to EUR92,000.  Still admirable I think.

The famous Pound, fast becoming toilet paper
Click to enlarge, The famous Pound, fast becoming toilet paper 

Let’s look at the detail.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Personal Inflation

When trying to figure out whether or not I can FIRE I’ve needed to understand just how much I spend (along with a few other numbers).  To calculate this properly I started a few years ago to track every penny that I spent.  With this data I can then also make pre to post-FIRE estimates more accurately.  For example, in my case I know I can net off work related costs and rent but I know I have to add on home maintenance costs.  This is what my spending has looked like over the past few years:
RIT monthly spending
Click to enlarge, RIT monthly spending

In 2015 I spent £24,413 and in 2016 I spent £27,001.  If I did nothing 2017 could be around £26,000 but FIRE is coming (could come?) this year so my spending profile will (could?) transition from pre to post-FIRE so that’s not bankable.

The other advantage of tracking spending like this is that you start to understand what your personal inflation is actually looking like which allows you to take action if it’s starting to get out of hand.  It’s no good going into FIRE with a planned spending of £20,000 per annum, which you then plan to increase with published inflation, only to find you’re actually spending £25,000, which is then increasing at a rate greater than inflation.  That’s a road to potentially running out of wealth before you run out of life.

Friday, 14 April 2017

I can smell the sea - 2017 Q1 Review

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2017.  From a Mediterranean home research perspective we spent some time on the Costa del Sol exploring from just east of Marbella through to Gibraltar.  We viewed possible homes, walked/ran on the beach, soaked up some sunshine and also took a few days to put some charge back in the batteries in readiness for the final push from FI to FIRE.

All I can say about this part of Spain is that I could very happily grow old in this part of the world.  The final fight between this part of Spain and Cyprus really is on but to be honest I expect I’ll be very happy in either location.  I just feel so fortunate that this is now possible and is really about to happen.

Click to enlarge, The view from one of the properties within our budget

On the financial side of things the world is also good with savings and investment returns putting more icing on the cake by adding another £75,800 to my wealth.  Let’s look at this in a little more detail.

SAVE HARD

I unapologetically continue to define Saving Hard differently than most personal finance bloggers.  For me it’s Gross Earnings (ie before taxes, a crucial difference) plus Employer Pension Contributions minus Spending minus Taxes.  Earn more and one is winning.  Spend less or pay less taxes and you’re also winning.  Savings Rate is then Saving Hard divided by Gross Earnings plus Employer Pension Contributions.  To make it a little more conservative Taxes include any taxes on investments but Earnings include no investment returns.  This encourages me to continually look for the most tax efficient investment methods.  I finished the quarter with a reasonably healthy Savings Rate of 52.2% against a plan of 55.0%.

RIT Savings Rate
Click to enlarge, RIT Savings Rate

Saving Hard score: Conceeded Pass.  I can’t give myself a pass as I’ve missed the target but when I’ve saved £51,800 (admittedly including a very healthy bonus) and only spent £6,500 I’m also not going to beat myself up about it too much.