Monday 30 June 2014

The RIT High Yield Portfolio (HYP) – Update and Adding PSON and RDSB

When I reach Financial Independence in less than 3 years I'm going to be presented with a number of options, one of which will be to take Early Retirement.  Should I take that option I've already telegraphed that based on my current research I will start withdrawing from my wealth at the rate of 2.5% of total net worth on retirement day.  Ideally, this strategy will have then given me the option to increase my spending at the rate of inflation annually while ensuring the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is never extinguished.  Of course I won’t blindly follow this strategy but will instead monitor closely and should that black swan arrive will cut my cloth accordingly.

As the do I take Early Retirement question looms I also want to make sure I have sufficient confidence in my financial situation that I don’t fall into One More Year (OMY) Syndrome but instead make the decision on will I or won’t I for purely non-financial reasons.  One thing that would build financial confidence and hence take some of the do I have enough doubt away was if my dividends and interest being earned across my portfolio exceeded the withdrawal rate from the portfolio allowing some reinvestment even in retirement.  Were I to retire today I estimate that after purchasing a home and moving my employer defined contribution pension into my SIPP my dividend plus interest yield would be 2.53%.  So right on the targeted drawdown amount.  Continuing to build my High Yield Portfolio (HYP) should increase that percentage.

Saturday 21 June 2014

The Buck Stops Here

Some might think this post a little cynical however I've found that it sometimes pays to be a little cynical so here goes.  Businesses and their marketing machines have few goals on their mind.  One of those is to remove as many pounds and pence from your pocket as legally possible.  Ideally they then get to do this more than once.  They then try and get you not to notice how many notes and coins you’re counting out by bringing other businesses into the game that can help you to pay the original business in one electronic form or another.  They certainly don’t assess whether the purchase will benefit you or your family’s life.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s simply maximising the revenue.

Once those businesses have completely emptied your pocket worry not.  That’s because another business will come along who will provide you with a product of one type or another that will allow those previous businesses to remove pounds and pence that aren't even yet in your pocket.  They also don’t assess whether the purchase will benefit you or your family’s life and are again simply looking to maximise the revenue.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s simply maximising the revenue.

You might even work for one of those businesses.  Again, they are not interested in whether the salary paid brings benefit to your family’s life or if you need additional State support simply to exist.  They are simply trying to pay you and all your colleagues the least amount possible that will prevent empty desks either in the form of people leaving and/or new people not joining.  If this should occur then some other business will maximise the revenue at their cost.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s simply maximising the revenue and profit.

Saturday 14 June 2014

The Path to Early Financial Freedom, Bicycles Optional

VW Polo SE Bluemotion
In my hunt for Early Financial Independence, maybe even Early Retirement, I'm unrelenting in my efforts to minimise my spending while not sacrificing the elements of family life that are really important to us.  This is essential behaviour as finding ways to minimise spending allows two things to occur:

  • the reduction in spending allows another advance towards the Financial Independence goal  because it can directly become savings; and
  • importantly by spending less the Financial Independence goal posts also move towards you.

There is however one area where this is not an appropriate course of action – spending required to earn money.  Generally, if you were just looking to minimise spending you’d be looking for the highest paying job where housing costs were low and your home would be within a walk or cycle to work.  Other considerations for some might include minimising child care or ‘uniform’ costs to name but two.  In the extreme this would be home working.  This is of course flawed because we need to actually be finding ways to Save Hard and not just spend less.  The mathematical way to think about it is Saving Hard is maximised by maximising earnings (which in a family unit could be 2 or more salaries), minus tax, minus national insurance, minus spending required to earn.  Of course it’s then appropriate to be unrelenting in your efforts to minimise your spending required to earn.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Valuing the UK Stock Market (FTSE 100) - June 2014

When nominal charts of the FTSE100 start looking like this:

Chart of the FTSE 100 Price
Click to enlarge, Source: Yahoo Finance

Which are showing us being within 1% of the nominal 30 December 1999 record high of 6930, the chatter in the mainstream media about the potential to reach new highs kicks off.

So what do I think about the potential to reach new highs?  Well I don’t actually even waste brain power considering it for a few reasons:

  • The most important is that my investment strategy is no longer based on any form of emotion but is instead now purely mechanical.  This was done because early on in my DIY investing career I realised that no matter how much energy I expended I actually had no idea whether the market was going to go up, down or sideways.  A lot of people out there do claim to know but from what I can see most of these seem to make their money by commenting on it in the media, writing books on the topic or by selling investing newsletters.  If they really do know why are they expending energy doing this rather than making a fortune trading with this great knowledge?  I really do now believe that unless you have inside knowledge, which you can’t profit on legally, then they are all actually just like me.  They have no idea. 
  • As I’ll show in this post the market is actually nowhere near a new high.
  • Again, as I’ll show in this post, while I believe the market is slightly overvalued it’s still only in the bottom 17% of monthly valuations since 1993.   

Let’s run the numbers.  Firstly we’ll remove the excitement and normalise the data by:

  • Correcting the chart for the devaluation of the £ through inflation.  For this dataset I use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to devalue the £.
  • Plotting the Pricing on a logarithmic scale as opposed to a linear one.  By using this scale percentage changes in price appear the same.  

Monday 26 May 2014

Further Exploration of Safe Withdrawal Rates (SWR) for UK Investors

If you’re like me and don’t have a Final Salary Pension waiting in the wings, rich parents (which might include an inheritance), intention to buy an annuity and don’t want to be raiding bins for food scraps in old age then the amount of wealth you accrue before calling yourself financially independent, allowing early retirement is a critical number that you really can’t afford to get wrong.  Retire with too little wealth and you could expend it all before parting from this fair land making life in old age very difficult.  Be too conservative and fall into the “one more year of work” syndrome and well all I can say is you’re a long time dead.  So we’re looking for a Goldilocks amount of assets.  Let’s try and figure out what that amount might be for a UK resident.

Given the seriousness of the topic I must give the following Wealth Warning before we move on.  I’m just an average person on a DIY Investment journey to Financial Independence and am certainly not a Financial Planner.  The content of this post is for educational purposes only and is not a recommendation of any type.

We've looked at Safe Withdrawal Rates previously.  In that post we focused on the 4% Rule or 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate (SWR) which in brief works on the principle that if in your first year of retirement you withdraw 4% of your portfolio, then yearly up rate your withdrawals (your “Gross Earnings” plus any investment expenses) by inflation, the end result will be that you won’t exhaust your portfolio in your lifetime.  If you dig a little deeper what it actually says is that using past market performance (which we of course we know does not necessarily predict future market results) for a 50:50 Stocks : Bonds portfolio then you have a 96% of not expending your portfolio in a 30 year period.