Stocks vs ETF’s

An Argument for Picking stocks as well as ETF’s

You can pick a sh**ty ETF just as easily as you can pick a sh**ty stock’

Me – 24 June 2020

I’ve found this ☝ to be very true!

So why not combine strategies?

I get that index funds, ETF’s and these packaged funds which track multiple indexes make life very easy for your average FI (Financial Independence) seeker, as you can chuck money in your Vanguard account each month and see annual returns of around 7-9% over decades and decades.

However, that’s usually an average of all your funds. You’ll have ETF’s or Indexes within each of these that do much better than this and some which do much, much worse!

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I definitely see the appeal in a set-and-forget type investment strategy for anyone who’s happy with that kind of return.

Because let’s face it, getting an annual 7-9% ROI (Return on Investment) is many times what you would receive from any bank these days!

However, 7-9% for me isn’t enough.

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Maybe I’m greedy and foolish. But, if I can outperform this yearly ROI by optimising the different ETF’s I choose and picking some well-researched, healthy, individual growth stocks along the way, what if I could raise this ROI to more like 15%, or 20% even?!

I could reach FI way earlier! Let’s run these numbers and see if it’s worth that extra risk, because of course, as with any investment, your capital is at risk 😉

ROI at 7% (9% growth adjusted by 2% to account for inflation)

The below graph shows my current investment account balance, plus the £300/month contributions I make, assuming I will never increase this amount (which I will), with growth of 7% each year

So, at 25 years I’m at £257,031.50 which is great! But not amazing.

My FI number, what I need to retire on (See Here for more on this), is £636,990.

I am expecting my company pension pot to be worth around £375,000 by age 55 (assuming the gov. will let me have it at 55 😒). This means I need £261,990 from the account shown in the graph by age 55.

But what if I want to retire earlier than 55?

And, what if the government do up the age at which I can access my company pension to 58?

That leaves me in a situation where I need to live off my ISA for several years if I want to achieve early retirement!

So ideally, I need this ISA to be worth considerably more than the £257,031 I’d achieve with an index fund alone.

So what If I can achieve 15% ROI? Let’s see the graph.

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ROI at 13% (15% adjusted for 2% inflation)

It’s crazy, the difference a few percent can make over the long term!

You can see, by changing my investment strategy and aiming to achieve 15% instead of 9% by putting in a bit of extra time to research and picking some individual growth stocks, I’ll have an additional £100K and I’ll have it 5 years EARLIER than if I achieved 9%.

This is huge!

It means I can hit the FIRE button at 50, instead of 55. And, it gives me confidence that I’ll be more than comfortable in the years leading up to my company pension becoming available, likely at 58.

The numbers for 20% look even better, as you can imagine!

ROI at 18% (20% adjusted for 2% inflation)

In just 16 years, I’ll have what I need to top up my company pension to reach my FI number.

The power of compound interest is a beautiful thing! I have a separate post all about compound interest which you can read here.

However, this leaves a gap of potentially 12 years between achieving this £340,000 and getting access to my company pension at 58.

Therefore, I’ll likely play it safe and work another couple of years to ensure I have enough of a stash to cover the gap. The last thing I want to do is to pull the early retirement trigger too early and have to go back to work! Eurgh.

Just looking at the above graph you can see the difference a couple of extra years makes to the growth of the account.

By 20 years, I’d have achieved my stash goal with just my ISA savings, at which point my company pension would would just be extra cash!

However, the lovely, neat curve you see above won’t reflect reality. There’ll be lots of up’s and plenty of down’s along the way. I’m under no illusions! My aim is to achieve a consistent yearly ROI of around 15%.

I believe I can achieve a minimum of 12% growth per year from stock market gains, with an additional 2-3% coming from dividends.

Is this possible, you ask? Well let’s take a look at my investment account thus far…

My Stock Market Investment Account

This is my account since June 2019! To calculate my ROI, I need to subtract the £4,229 gain from the total value. This will give me the value of cash I have transferred to the account, which comes to £5,042.

The difference between this number and the portfolio value £9,271 has been achieved with pure market growth (And a few small dividend payments. Click Here to read about dividends).

This works out as 83%. That’s an 83% gain since June 2019.

So, in 19 months I’ve nearly doubled my money!

And lets not forget, I’ve achieved this 83% even after going through one of the most dramatic market crashes in the last century!

So, which stocks and ETF’s did I invest in this year to achieve this ROI?

I’ll get into that below.

If you want a weekly update on what I’m invested in, check out my Private Stock Group – Just £6.99/month for my complete weekly updates, beginners tips, rapid stock overviews, dividend stocks, ETF’s, live trade alerts so you ssee whenever I’m buying or selling anything and why, and much more!

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My Portfolio

This is what I am invested in right now. (As of 14 Jan 2021)

It’s a split between individual growth stocks and ETF’s, but more weighted towards stocks.

And within that list of individual stocks, there are 5 position which are now well in excess of a 100% gain!

25% of my picks have doubled-up.

Looking at the ETF’s, these have more modest growth. Decent, don’t get me wrong. But other than the clean energy ETF, definitely not seeing 50, 60, 100%+ gains.

And this is because these ETF’s are made up of a collection of stocks, sometimes a few dozen, sometimes hundreds, or even thousands!

And within these collections of stocks, you have some which perform incredibly well, like $TSLA and $TPR, and others which don’t perform well at all.

The beauty of ETF’s is that you’re invested pretty evenly over all of these stocks. So, in the S&P500 ETF for example, if one stock crashes and goes bankrupt, your losses are cushioned by the other 499 stocks that didn’t crash and go bankrupt!

Great, right? However, the opposite is also true for these. That means, if one stock, say Microsoft has an absolute scorcher of a week and climes 10% or even 20%, the growth is hindered by the other few hundred stocks that didn’t do so well, or maybe even declined that week.

This is why I feel that a good balance is necessary!

There’s certain stocks in the market which, when bought at the right valuation, are easy money!

But whether you focus on stocks or ETF’s is ultimately up to you. See my other post: How to Invest for the basics of investing, how to physically buy a stock and the 3 critical questions you must ask yourself before getting started with stocks and ETF’s!

Essentially though, what it comes down to is how much time you have to do some research on stocks. Without doing the research, you’re unlikely to see the gains I have.

But in my opinion, the few hours I put into research every week yields a more than satisfactory ROI to warrant the time spent on research.

If you want to learn my market-beating strategy, you can get 20% off The Investor’s Quick-Start Guide by clicking on the image below and entering ‘reader20’ at checkout.

Diversification

This table bothers me.

Why? Because obviously a single stock is not as diversified as a single share of an ETF. But I can have a diversified portfolio of individual stocks which considerably outperforms a selection of 6 ETF’s, let-alone a single ETF!

You’ve just seen the proof of this in my very own portfolio

I get what it’s trying to say. It’s going back to the point I made earlier about how your one stock can go to £0 and you can lose all your money.

Whereas, with an ETF, if one of the stocks in that ETF goes bankrupt, it’s replace by the next biggest company and your losses are cushioned.

But like I mentioned earlier, this is also true for when one stock in that ETF experiences multiple double-digit growth. The other stocks in that ETF will average out most of those gains and so you won’t feel the full benefits.

The key is to diversify your stock portfolio. No, it will never be as diversified as an ETF of 500 stocks. But if you do your research and invest in companies you genuinely believe, based on the right facts and data, should grow substantially over a 2-5 year+ period, then you should be able to outperform the stock market and thus, outperform those ETF’s too!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this post and have managed to take some value from it. If you want to know exactly what I look for in a stock before I buy, check out my ebook linked ebove.

See my other posts about investing here:
How to Invest
Dividend Investing
View My Stock Market Account

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My Investment Account Disclosed – May/June 2020

Why I’ve sold nearly all of my positions, for now…

I’ve decided to combine the May/June disclosure for this post as I made some very significant moves at the beginning of June and it didn’t seem right to not mention these!

I’m going to go over exactly what those moves were in this post. Firstly though, here’s where the portfolio started and ended for the month of May:

£302 of this months growth was inorganic (Cash top-up), whilst the remaining ~£500 was organic (pure, unadulterated asset value growth). Needless to say, this was a VERY good month for the account! Which is insane, given that we are STILL in the midst of a once-in-a-hundred-year event with a global pandemic which is causing businesses to bleed money, taking out debt, their profitability is in the toilet and GDP for major economies has fallen and continues to fall at record rates. This is part of the reason I made the decision to consider taking some profits.

And I want to emphasise something: taking profits is completely different to trying to time the market. Trying to time the market is a fools endeavour. Taking profits on the other hand, is a calculated carefully thought through process of analysing the value of your investments to evaluate if that asset is currently under valued, fairly valued, or, over valued. If assets you’re invested in are over valued, it’s a smart decision to take some profits. Because when assets are overvalued, they rarely stay that way for long before a correction comes and steers the valuation back to a reasonable level. This was the case with pretty much all of my investments, both individual stocks and ETF’s.

Here’s what I was invested in throughout May:

I was at around 88% stocks and ETF’s and 12% cash. I didn’t buy any additional stocks throughout May. These were all positions I was already holding. You can see the distribution of investments by sector on the top-right.

As you can see, my portfolio was absolutely crushing it! Which would normally make me a very very happy man. But this was making me nervous! Why? Because many of these company valuations had surpassed what they were at BEFORE the global pandemic. BEFORE the markets dropped 20, 30, 40% in March. BEFORE global GDP and unemployment headed to new, never-seen-before heights. If you can’t tell what I’m getting at, let me spell it out: This makes no sense, whatsoever! Why? Because a companies valuation is based on delivering results. And not only had none of these delivered anything, they were forecast to be delivering worst results than any quarter we’d seen for years, if not, ever! Every company has taken a hit from this pandemic in one way or another. Even if they’re still profitable, they’re not expected to be as profitable as they would have been if there were no global pandemic.

So why are stock prices going up then? Because of government stimulus. Both, in the UK and the US, the government and central banks have been pumping $TRILLIONS (with a ‘T’) into their respective economies and companies to keep their economies afloat. And I get that. I have no problem with them doing that. Heck! I’ve made about £500 in gains this month because of it! But, am I happy to continue to buy positions, or, even hold some of these positions at their current valuation? When they’re making less money than they did 6 months ago, yet their share price is higher than it was 6 months ago? NO. Hell NO.

Jesse Lauriston Livermore quote: No one ever went broke by taking ...

And this is why I decided that now was as good of a time as any to take some profits until I can find some companies that I feel are fairly or under valued for me to invest in again. Just take a look at the headlines and the stats that are going around right now. Here’s an example:

You know what happened the last time the stock market was value this richly? The tech bubble went BANG. and the Nasdaq took something crazy like 14 years to recover to it’s previous high! I’m not trying to scare anyone else out there into selling. Maybe I’ll even regret doing it one day. But I doubt it. Using commonsense, the markets are over valued. When markets are over valued, they correct. Which means they fall.

Here’s the proof. My portfolio at present:

There it is. 93% Cash. The reason I’ve not sold the last two stocks? Because I believe them to be heading back in the green in the coming years.

I strongly believe, if common sense prevails, that at the end of Q2 (June) when all these companies begin reporting earnings, that there will come another sell-off. If not, then individual stocks will fall as and when earning are reported, and they will fall to fairer valuations. At this point, I’ll start buying again because they are still companies I believe in over the long term. But right now, they’re at valuations which don’t make any sense to me given there earnings and growth for the coming 1 – 2 years due to the impact of the pandemic. Therefore, the fundamentals of their businesses and the reasons why I was bullish in the first place have completely changed. The way I think about and the question I ask myself is, if I hadn’t already bought this stock, would I buy it now based on their growth potential in the next 3 – 5 years? If the answer is no (or hell no, in this case). Then I consider taking profits.

But why did I sell my ETF’s too? It’s a question I asked myself, as my intention was always to just buy every month for years to come and not pay too much attention to ups and downs. But, simply put, I sold them because the individual stock investments I held were part of these ETF’s. And if I genuienly believed the companies within the ETF’s would fall in value, then by definition, the ETF’s will fall with them.

Should you sell too? Well that’s obviously up to you. All I would suggest you do is review your portfolio and look at the valuation and current financials of each and every stock you hold, asking yourself if their valuation is fair or not. If you come across some that are very over valued and your up a fair chunk on your original investment, then maybe it’s a good time to take some profits. Because, as I said earlier on, companies don’t tend to hold on to their valuations for too long when they are overvalued and there’s no massive future potential or good news priced in. Currently, there’s not a huge amount of good news out there!

Anyway, a slightly bleaker than usual investment account disclosure post 😂. But that’s my thoughts and my current position: Cash-heavy, waiting on some new, fairly or under valued investment opportunities.
Thank you for reading! I’d love to know your thoughts, so post a comment below and let me know what you think or what your strategy is currently. Or, reach out to me using the social links below.

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Frugal Win #3 – Broadband Super Switch!

How to save more than you might think on your home broadband by doing a super switch!

Photo by panumas nikhomkhai on Pexels.com

The internet. It’s a household necessity. Now more than ever I think it’s safe to say. So, when I got an email from my current provider, Virgin a few weeks back saying they were going to increase our monthly direct debit from £30 to £32 in a few weeks when my contract was coming to an end, and then again by £5 to £37 in November, initially I thought ‘Meh, they provide a good service and fast speeds and I’m working from home so gonna have to just deal with that’. But boy, was I glad I decided to have a look at what else was on offer. Here’s the steps I followed so you too can save more money on your broadband than you might think you can!

Step 1:

I went onto Uswtch.com, clicked on ‘Broadband & TV’ and clicked ‘Fibre Broadband Deals’. I then put in my postcode to see which companies can provide services in my postcode. The top result was Vodafone, offering similar speeds to my current plan at £22.95 per month! Vodafone were a company I’d considered switching to before but never followed through due to the upfront £75 set-up fee. However, i quickly realised they ad abolished this fee (thank god!) so proceeded to their website to have a look. Luckily for me, I live right next to one of the network hubs so I get pretty good speeds and their speed checker confirmed this for me. ‘Great!’ I thought. Next up…

Step 2:

I called my current provider, Virgin and gave them the 30 days notice they needed, siting to them that I’d found a cheaper price elsewhere. They offered to keep my price the same (£30), as if that was gonna sway me 😒. They initiated the disconnection and gave me my disconnection date which I used to arrange my set-up with Vodafone to get connected with them. This brings me on to the next, and very unexpected step..

Step 3:

I was contacted by a chap from the ‘Loyalty Team’at Virgin about 3 days after simultaneously cancelling Virgin and setting up my new contract with Vodafone. We went through the usual back and forth of:
‘why are you leaving?’
‘Because I got a better price elsewhere?’
‘But their speeds might not be as good’
‘Well I’ve checked and they seem like they’ll be fine’
Etc, etc…

Before we got to the crux of the issue: Price. When the guy finally accepted that I was mainly concerned with the price, he offered to beat their price, offering me my existing plan for £21 p/month! ‘Great!’ I thought. He said he’d give me a few days to cancel with Vodafone and then call me back to get it all set up. at this point, I felt I’d already won big-time, and cheerily proceeded to call Vodafone to cancel the set-up that hadn’t even started yet… Take note here and do this the next time you switch any service you’re signed up for…

Step 4:

I called Vodafone to cancel the contract that hadn’t even started. Again, I went through the back and forth of the chap on the phone asking why, to which I simply replied that ‘my current provided has offered to beat your price and quoted me for £21 p/month.
I was fully and understandably expecting a reply of ‘fair enough, no way we can beat that’. Instead, what i got was ‘Okay, let me see what we can do here. Are you hapy to hold the line while I check?’
‘Woah! No way am I about to get an even better price!’ I thought. And I was right. BUT, what he did offer me was £75 credit to my account, which basically means I get 3 months of free broadband! And, being financially savvy, I obviously checked the price, divided by the term of the contract with the discount to confirm it was, indeed cheaper than Virgins counter-offer!

The best part about this, was that I had no intention of trying to make them fight it out to win my business. It just happened! But I learned a massive lesson on how to get major discounts on services like this in the future and will be trying the same approach again with our mobile phone contracts, insurance etc.

Hopefully, if you’re reading this and your contracts are up for renewal soon, you can benefit from this quick 4-Step guide to getting the best possible price, plus account credit!

To check out my other Frugal Wins Click Here
And to see my other, useful resources Click Here

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Top Dividend Stocks To Buy

How Dividends Affect Stock Prices

In this post, I want to talk about dividends:

  • what they are
  • how you get them, and
  • why they’re so great!

I’m even going to share with you my secret weapon to getting the highest yielding, most consistent dividend income without having to do so much of the research and leg work upfront to find these stocks!

If you’re looking for ways to put your money to work, so your money makes you even more money with almost zero effort, then trust me, you don’t want to miss this!

For now though, and for those of you who don’t know…

What is a dividend?

A dividend is a cash payment that a publicly traded company makes to it’s investors, you and I, basically as a way of saying ‘Thanks for investing in our business and believing in us’.

Companies will pay out a proportion of their profits to their shareholders at a predetermined rate, normally anywhere from 0 to 15% per share.

Obviously, this is pretty powerful. Especially at a time when bank savings accounts are paying out 0.25% (if you’re lucky!). To know you can get anywhere from 2% to 15% by investing in a dividend paying stock, you’d be crazy to keep your money in a savings account!

So, how do you get them?

Well, first of all, you need a brokerage account. Like an ISA, GIA, or something that allows you to buy stocks. You can use apps, like: Trading 212, plus500, Freetrade etc. The choice is yours! I use Freetrade (you can sign up here and we’ll each get a free share worth up to £200).

Once you have an account set up, you can start buying stocks, including those which pay dividends. How much each stock pays as a dividend can be found on sites like Yahoo finance (see example below)

And remember, not all stocks pay dividends. The tool I share in a few paragraphs checks all this for you.

Now, you have a brokerage account and lets say you own 10 shares of $WBA (Walgreens Boots Alliance), which is currently $40.44/share, and their forward annual dividend yield is 4.62%.

This means you’ll get a dividend of 4.62% of the share price for each share you own. This equates to roughly $1.87/share. Multiplied by your 10 shares, this comes to £18.70. Not bad, right?! Especially when you can add this to the gains on the share price that you made for that year as well! Assuming that it went up, of course!

Dividends are where big investors make $millions upon $millions per year, just by holding certain stocks that pay out good dividends. And this is where my secret weapon comes in – a service I use which helps with identifying the best, safest and highest yielding stocks available on the market at any given time.

This is vital, because the amount that companies pay out, if they pay out at all, varies significantly.

There’s also other things you need to consider. It’s not as straight forward as just buying any stock that has a good looking yield. Some of these things include:

  • Their Payout Ratio: the percentage of their profits which are paid out each year. You want this to be reasonable. A company taking out debt in order to pay their shareholders dividends is never a good sign! It means it’s unsustainable at their current revenue levels and at some point they’ll have to cut or cancel their dividend entirely. NOT what you want!
  • The fundamentals of the business: you need to be sure the stock price won’t decrease by more than the value of the dividends you’re set to receive that year, or else you’ll be down overall. Ideally you want the price to go UP!
  • The dividend yield and yield history: is this sustainable? It’s great if you can find a 3-5% yielder whose increased their payout every year for 10 years, but does their revenue growth back this up? Will their future growth sustain this payout in your opinion?

Why Are Dividends So Great?

Because they are free money! Simple as that really.

You invest in a stock that;

1) pays a dividend, and

2) you believe will grow in value while you are invested in it

And they will give you money, generally every quarter as a thank you for being invested in their company.

The second reason they’re great, is that they supercharge the compounding effect of your investments.

If you’re seeing 10% gains on your investment portfolio now, once you add a few, well selected dividend stocks, you can immediately add an extra 3, 5 even 10% to this. That additional few percent, compounded over years could be worth tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of pounds (depending on the size of your investments).

Which Stocks Should You Invest In?

Well, this is never a straight-forward question to answer. And I always stress to do your own research!

However, there are thousands of stocks and ETF’s out there that pay dividends, and few people have the time or know-how to do that amount of research. I used to do a huge amount of research myself, checking all the information above and more to ensure my investment was worth while and to guarantee I’d see a return on my investment.

This online tool is saving me soooo much time, and helps me find dividend paying stocks that maintain and sustain their yields.

Click the image or here to take a look and sign up for their free list, which they will email direct to your inbox.

I don’t earn anything from you signing up by the way. This is just a tool I use myself that has made a massive difference to my portfolio gains that I feel others should be aware of.

Top Dividends have a team of people who scour the entire stock market for the best, highest yielding dividend stocks so that I don’t have to. They narrow down the search for me. They then send this list out to their subscribers so they can make an informed decision.

What I do, is take this list, research some of the stocks myself, and make a decision about which stocks, if any, I will invest in that month.

Of course, they do offer paid memberships, which is what I have (the monthly one – just $29 per month ~£22.60). And if you sign up to that, I will make a small commission.

Although, they often have offers running for a trial month though, which I signed up for. I think it was about $10 for the first month, cancel any time type-of-thing. And I had every intention of cancelling after that first month. But honestly, the lists they had were the kind of next-level, useful, insightful information I’d not seen anywhere for that kind of price!

The return on investment for me has been multiple times that £22.60 each month that I’m currently paying. So, well worth the subscription for me. Take a look yourself, get their free list, and if you think it’s value added, you can make your own decision about whether or not you’d like them to do the hard work for you or not! Some people love doing the research themselves!

It’s worked absolute wonders for my dividend gains. I’m seeing multiple dividend payments every month appear in my account. I then re-invest that money back into those very stocks which yielded those gains, which increases the next dividend I receive from that company, and so on. This compounds every quarter!

Alternatively

You can sign up to my Private Stock group, which has a dedicated Dividend channel where we share upcoming ex. Dividend dates for all US & UK companies.

In this channel you can ask questions about anything to do with buying/selling/receiving dividends.

PLUS you’ll get 24 hour access to me and other experienced investors, my live buy and sell alerts, weekly portfolio disclosures, my watch-list, rapid stock analysis and much more.

Click the image below and lock in 20% off your monthly membership FOR LIFE.

(There’s only 4 spaces left)

If dividend investing is not already a part of your investment/early retirement strategy, I implore you to strongly consider it!

If you want to see what stocks I’m invested in, I share a disclosure of my investment account each week on my twitter. So, make sure you follow me their and subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss those.

You can see the previous month’s disclosure here.

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Monthly Report #3 – May 2020

It’s that time of the month where I disclose my finances to you, in full and update you on my progress towards financial independence and early retirement. Following the news I gave in last months report about my increase in salary, I’m making some nice progress with my savings, and my retirement investments, both company pension and ISA are making some decent gains in this absolutely insane market we’re currently experiencing. Seriously considering selling everything and holding all my cash at the moment. Because this market has to go down at some point! Surely?! Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments.

Anyway, here’s the monthly break down:

Expenses for May:

Same as last month, really! Still in lock-down in the UK, so no major changes! Oh… except for the £552.13 bill for the car 😭. I was so grateful that we had money saved for exactly this type of event! Starting a car maintenance savings account was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you don’t currently do it, you should start! Believe me. there’s nothing better than putting your car in for its MOT or service knowing that you have the money set-aside for almost any outcome should the worst happen.

Other than that, I think we spent a bit extra on takeaways than usual. Which is perfectly justifiable when you have a 7-month-old who has the ability to throw all your dinner plans out the window at any given moment by suddenly deciding they want to go from three naps per day to zero, refusing to sleep whilst moaning and screaming because they’re tired. Trust me. By the time you’ve finally got them to sleep at 9 pm on a Tuesday night, the last thing you want to do is prepare a meal from scratch. Not at all FI, I know. Stop judging me!

Retirement Expenses:

No updates on this tab this month!

Retirement Savings Estimate:

I’ve worked out the numbers in that table under ‘Savings’ using a compound interest calculator online using worst-case interest values. You can see that, based on the estimated expenses in retirement and the estimated savings values, there’s a nice healthy gap of £1,419.18 which is a surplus of cash. If this starts adding up over the years, I can consider bringing my retirement age forwards!

Current Savings:

My savings are definitely moving in the right direction! Like I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m seeing some crazy gains on my stocks and pension investments which is driving this ramp-up in savings over the last two months. I’m not complaining! But I am VERY suspicious of this market right now. It’s extremely overvalued! And that’s facts, not opinion. I’m likely to take profits on a lot of my current positions at the end of June and wait for the inevitable dip that’s coming when companies start posting their Q2 earnings.

Other than that, our car maintenance fund has dropped to £0, thanks to the huge garage bill we got this month on one of our cars for its MOT, service, air-con re-gas, 4 new tyres, tracking and brake fluid replacement. But like I said, I’m SO happy we saved for this stuff! What wasn’t covered by the savings we had for this was covered by a bonus I received this month.

Equity & Assets:

No major changes on this one. Still chipping away at the mortgage which is up for renewal in September.

Debts:

I wish this graph was moving downwards and fast as our savings were moving upwards 😂. However, progress is progress! I mentioned last month that my Wife got a refund on her credit card which cleared the balance and that we had to put some of our living expenses on that card. So, you can see it went to £0 last month and back up to £400 this month. Which means we actually paid £527 off of it, if you look at the balance in March. Not bad!

Net Worth

Net worth is also looking good and moving in the right direction! This being driven by the stock market gains we’re seeing, increased equity and savings and slowly decreasing debt!

Summary

That brings May’s report to a close. As always, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on this post. I’d love to hear from you.

And if you’d like to receive your very own Path To FIRE Spreadsheet you see in the images above, you can purchase this below. I can’t tell you enough how much it’s helped me get a grip of our finances and better plan for our present and future!

My Path to FIRE Spreadsheet Template

There are instructions on each tab so you know what information to put where. The formulas work out everything else for you! Once your payment has been processed, you'll receive the document to your inbox within 24 hours. If you need any help with it, reach out to me via Twitter or Facebook using the links at the top of this page.

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Click Here to see my full list of resources to help you achieve your financial goals.

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Frugal Parenting Win #2 – Cheeky Wipes Review

Baby wipes. Parents everywhere love them. Not only can you use them at nappy changes, you can use them to clean you little one’s after meals, playtime, arts & crafts, you can even use them on your surfaces, pets, walls, televisions, the list goes on! They’re undoubtedly a parenting necessity. BUT, because they’re the go-to weapon of choice for parents all over the world, we get through unfathomable amounts of them! Apparently, the average child will need approximately two packs of 80 per week!! That’s 360 wipes per month and 4,320 per year! And, at around £1 per pack you’ll be spending over £100 per year for as long as your baby is in nappies. We’re talking multiple £hundreds. Not to mention the environmental impact of these thousands of non-biodegradable wipes going to landfill every year.

Enter, washable, environmentally friendly Cheeky Wipes!

Cheeky Wipes Wash Kits – 25 Washable Bamboo Terry Cloth Wipes, 15x15cm with Fresh soaking box, Mucky soaking box & Fresh and Mucky essential oil soaking solutions, 10ml (Lav & Cham, Teatree & Teatree Lemon)

Click the links to take a look for yourself. These are saving us £hundreds in the long run and we absolutely love them! The upfront cost is £49.99 and you’ll never have to buy a pack of baby wipes ever again! Simply use, wash and re-use! There’s a box for the clean wipes which you soak in some hot water and the natural oils provided, ready for use, and another box for the dirty wipes with some more water and essential oils where the wipes soak until you next put on a wash! And just like baby wipes, you can use these for all sorts of clean-up jobs.

We also purchased an additional pack of 25 wipes (link below) so that we always had some in use and some washing/soaking. The colourful ones are extra handy too, if you want to designate certain colours for certain jobs. For example, we keep all the blue ones in the kitchen for cleaning up after meals, and the yellow ones we keep dry to dry off the little one’s bum after cleaning down at each nappy change with one of the wet ones.

Cheeky Wipes – 25 Washable Bamboo Terry Cloth Wipes, 15x15cm Reusable Multi-Coloured Pack, Perfect for Babys Hands and Face, Absorbent, Super Soft and Naturally Anti-Bacterial | Eco Friendly

As I said, we love these wipes. They’re super convenient, they save us money and they’re better for the environment due to the fact we’re not sending non-degradable wipes to landfill, but also because when we no longer need them, they’re biodegradable due to the fact they’re made from bamboo! Win, win, win!

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Frugal Parenting Win #1 – Nooie Baby Monitor Review

This camera is an absolute life saver!

We have a 6-month-old who needs 2-3 naps a day and whose sleep patterns overnight vary. Any parents out there going through the struggle.. we feel you! 🙏 This camera has taken away SO much anxiety for us, wondering if she’s woken up because the sound of her whines and moans are now seared into our brains for all eternity but also not wanting to crack the door an inch to check on her in case the slightest squeak of a door hinge wakes her and all hell brakes loose! Urgh, the dread! 😩 Well, this camera ended all of that!

We, and by we I mean, my Wife, were spending so much time wondering if she was awake, not knowing if we could get on with anything in case she was about to wake up, that we never got anything done! Not eating, or showing in the morning and obsessing over what the day was going to be like if she woke up now, or in 5 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, praying that she wouldn’t make a noise! It was crazy. We agreed we needed to get a monitor so we could watch her and get some freedom back to be productive whilst she slept, in with the comfort of knowing that if she were to wake, we’d be able to see and hear her from wherever we were; even in the garden!

I wen’t straight online and started searching around for baby monitors. The prices varied anywhere from £40 to £300 for a camera and a monitor! And in my experience, with any baby related product, you get what you pay for! But I got to thinking: the cheaper ones have a monitor which needs to be plugged in. That’s no good if we want to be mobile and not cowering in the corner of a room eagerly staring at this monitor attached to the wall. So they weren’t an option. This pushed the price up to the £80 – £100 region. I was feeling uncomfortable about this. Spending that much on something we were likely going to need for a year or so.

I had a brain wave! We were essentially paying out for two pieces of tech; the monitor and the camera. When all we actually needed was the camera. Because we have phones! So I do a search for smart cameras and read reviews for hours and hours until I find this camera:

The Nooie Baby Monitor WiFi Camera

It attaches to most surfaces (we have ours on the wall above the cot), is full HD, has a free, incredibly easy-to-use App which you can download on Android and IOS, has motion and sound detection, one-way & two-way audio, night vision and an SD card slot or the option to sign up to their highly secured cloud storage plans, should you want to store footage for whatever reason. The best part: it cost £29.99! Amazing!

I genuinely couldn’t be happier with this bit of kit! We can now watch and listen in our little one whenever she is asleep to know if she needs us or if she’s just having a wriggle and resettling. It’s improved her nap times and overnight sleep and given us back some much needed freedom and sanity! If you have a child and you’re on the look out for a monitor, I cannot recommend this one highly enough! The image above is a link to the product for you to take a closer look and make a purchase, if you choose to do so. I can promise you, you will not be disappointed with this camera.

To get all the features of this camera in an ‘actual’ baby monitor, I was looking at way over £100 for a trustworthy brand. So this has saved me £70! However, the return on investment is even greater than that! Simply because, once we no longer need it to monitor our baby’s sleep (bring that day the hell on!), we can use it as a CCTV security camera, thanks to its incredibly clear night vision! I actually feel like I’ve mugged someone off getting this for £30.

This is by far and away my bargain of the year, so far!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the camera or if you’ve got one and want to share your experience with it. I’d love to hear from you!

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Monthly Report #2 – April 2020

It’s that time of the month where I disclose my finances to you, in full and update you on my progress towards financial independence and early retirement. Spoiler alert: still not there. However, I made some huge jumps towards my goals this month.

Having been promoted, I’ve seen my salary jump by 13%. As a result, I’ve increased my company pension contribution by 2%. So, I’m now paying in 6% of a larger amount and my employer still contributes 4% of this new number, plus a National Insurance rebate! I’ve also topped up what I’m investing into my investment ISA to £300. With these contributions, plus our regular savings for our rainy day fund, car maintenance and other, regular savings, my current savings rate sits at around 40%! Which is way higher than I expected it to be at this stage of my life. A nice win, early on in my journey to FI! Anyway, without further ado, let’s get into the screenshots of my finance tracker spreadsheet. Follow the link at the bottom of the post if you want to download the template yourself:

Our expenses for April:

With being in lock-down, this month was a bit of a weird one. Obviously, we’re not doing any driving, can’t get hair cuts, our dog can’t get a hair cut, or be walked by her paid walker. And, for some reason, our direct debit for our waste water didn’t come out… 🤷‍♂️. Also, I’m no longer paying for my car (Wahoo!). Can’t tell you enough how good that feels! However, we seem to have spent a decent chunk more on shopping (consumer purchases, mainly stuff for the baby, some scissors for the dogs hair etc). I also took the decision to take the money I’m no longer paying on my car and put it away so we can buy my wife some more time off work with the baby by extending her maternity leave. Worth every penny! So, all-in-all, a very different month. It’s nice to see there’s some big chunks of money going into savings and yet we’re still able to afford the things we want and need.

Our Retirement Expenses:

I actually made quite a considerable change to our retirement expenses tab and added an additional £500 per month in ‘pocket money’ (£250 each). The reason is that I’m finding we’re spending around £250 a month on consumer purchases currently. So, with inflation and additional time on our hands in retirement, I feel like I want a worst-case scenario covered. That way, if we want to buy a new barbecue for the garden or redecorate the lounge, I’m happy we’ve got a bucket of cash set aside each month that can cover most of these situations.

This has meant our FI number has now jumped to £1,326342.50 🤯. Or, £663,171.25 each. As you can see from the below, with my increased pension and ISA contributions, I’m set to achieve this with a surplus of £371.95 per year, if my calculations are accurate. You can see I’ve based my compound rate at 7% for both my retirement savings accounts, which I consider worst-case. Obviously, depending on how much I exceed this rate by, I may be able to retire earlier than 55. We’ll see 🤞.

Our Savings

Praise the stock market gods!! My pension savings have gone up this month! Although, temporarily, I have no doubt. Follow me on twitter for more commentary on this insane stock market we’re experiencing right now.

Nothing much else to report on this one. Only that our car maintenance has decreased as we had an MOT to pay for. So, fully serving it’s purpose there. I can’t tell you how reassuring it was dropping a car for it’s MOT knowing that we had all the money we needed in case of a fail. I can’t recommend enough putting some money away each month to cover things like this. It means, if we did have to pay out for anything that we likely wouldn’t have been able to save as much as we did this month for other important things, like retirement and maternity cover. Consider the consequences of not saving and you’ll quickly realise its worth.

Equity & Assets

We dropped below £220,000 this month! 😁 And the value went up £1,000. This has bought us below 70% on our LTV% which is good news for our remortgaging, due in a couple of months as it should give us access to slightly better rates, which means either lower monthly payments or a decreased term!

Debts

As you can see, debts are falling, slowly but surely! 😊 No more cars to pay for, did I already mention that? 😂 And my wife got a huge refund for a cancelled trip which was a group contribution. So, because it went onto her credit card, she needed to refund everyone with her pay and we’re using her credit card to cover her share of our expenses. We’re keeping a close eye on this to make sure we can pay a good chunk off it at the same time! However, this amount will likely jump a bit in next months report!

Net Worth

A nice jump in net-worth this month! Supported by our increased house equity, increased savings, a jump in the stock market, and a part-artificial drop in our debts, which will go up slightly next month. However, the trend is looking good!

Summary

That brings me to the end of the report for April! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, or via the social media links at the top of the post! I’d love to hear from you!

As always, if you want to download the template for the tracker spreadsheet you see in the above images, you can download it here:

My Path to FIRE Spreadsheet Template

There are instructions on each tab so you know what information to put where. The formulas work out everything else for you! Once your payment has been processed, you'll receive the document to your inbox within 24 hours. If you need any help with it, reach out to me via Twitter or Facebook using the links at the top of this page.

£10.00

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Investment Account Disclosure – April 2020

Gain/Loss:

April has been a good month for my portfolio, thanks to an early bounce-back from the Coronavirus plummet in the previous month. Starting from the top-left, you can see I ended last month at £2,638.27 and finished this month at £3,298.29. A total gain of £660.02! This means I’m up, as you can see at the bottom, by £325.79 since I started my investment account. Which is a gain of 10.9% in 9 months! Not too bad, all things considered. However, it’s worth noting that at it’s peak, prior to the pandemic, my portfolio was up over 30%!

Insights:

From the above left image, you can see I’m at about 90% stocks and 10% cash. I’m normally at more like 20% cash, but there were too many bargains to be had this month! On the right, you can see the split of my portfolio by industry. This list is topped by Tech at 39.6%, Other (which is made up of ETF’s), Cars (Uber), etc..

Anyone who’s read my previous posts might be surprised to read that I have more invested in individual stocks than index funds or ETF’s. Especially considering that the advice I give involves sticking to strictly index funds. But this is only if you don’t want to spend the time researching individual stocks and taking the additional risk involved with doing this. And don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling that way when you can get returns of 5-10% from a set-and-forget index fund portfolio. However, I do spend the time researching individual stocks and finding long term investment opportunities in the form of growth companies. And so far it’s working out alright! In fact, I’m seeing far greater returns from my individual stocks than I am from my ETF’s, which you’ll see from the ‘Stock picks of the month’ below.

Stock Picks of the Month:

This is every stock and ETF that I’m currently invested in via my investment ISA. As you can see, almost all of my positions finished the month in the green except for Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) and Diageo (DGE). I’m gonna pick two stocks to talk about this month in terms of my thesis for why I invested in them. This month, I’m gonna blubber about CCL and Uber.

Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL.L)

CCL is a bit of a sore subject for a lot of investors who purchased the stock before or during the Coronavirus Pandemic, but I certainly don’t regret it. It went from hovering around £31 to £6.20 in the space of 1 month. Ouch! I dipped my toes with 1 share at the beginning of Feb when no one knew what was about to happen with regards to Coronavirus. At the time, I felt the company was undervalued in terms of its share price due to the fact it’s balance sheet looked amazing! It’s revenues were growing by a £BILLION each year, and it’s forward PE was dropping. It’s also the biggest player in the cruising industry and has £45BILLION in assets vs £19.6 BILLION in debts. More than enough to ride out any storm. The price then dropped two weeks later. “Great!” I thought! If it was undervalued before, it’s even more so now! I’ll take two more please! Then Coronavirus went global and confirmed cases were announced onboard CCL’s ships! Long story short, I’m down about 30%!

Am I panicking? No. Here’s why: I still think, despite all the doom and gloom around this stock, the fact they diluted the share price to raise funds, AND the fact they’re taking out debt to cover their expenses at 11% (which is insane 😢) that they have what it takes to get the price back up to around the £20 region within the next 5 – 7 years. It’ll take some doing to get back up to the £30’s. But, they’re still the biggest player in thus industry. They still have the assets. People still want to cruise (once the pandemic has ended, of course!). My strategy: I’m by no means going to be chucking all my money at this stock. Far from it. But I will be picking off shares here and there whenever the price is under £10. Until my cost basis is around the £10 mark. Then I’ll be holding.

Uber (UBER)

At one point before the pandemic, I was up around £300 on my Uber position. I bought into Uber just as the lockout period (the time in which early investors aren’t allowed to sell their shares) ended, and the stock price tanked about 40% in the space of 3 months, from the mid-forties to around $26. It’s IPO was £41! And I was buying shares at $27!? To me, this was a no-brainer! This was Uber! The single biggest player in the ride hailing industry with massive backers, huge amounts of cash in the wings and a business model that people in cities were completely dependant on. With Uber, there is MONEY TO BE MADE! I literally see no risk with Uber. Maybe I’m blinded by my bullishness on this one 😂. But really, many competitors have come and gone while Uber has been getting bigger and bigger, expanding into new countries and regions, expanding into other markets with Uber eats and Freight, AND testing autonomous taxis… All these offerings are growing, too! IMO, this will be a $150 – $200 stock within the next 3 years. I’d have said sooner if it weren’t for the pandemic and the recovery period they’ll have to endure along side every other company on the planet.

Monthly Market Mood

I general, the market at the moment is freaking me out a bit. Here’s why: we’ve been hit with a once-in-a-hundred year event in the form of Coronavirus. Money velocity has al but come to a complete stop! This means the economy has effectively frozen. Normally, you’d go out and get a haircut, that pays your barber, who then takes his wife out to dinner at a local restaurant, that restaurant can then invest more into expansion to grow their business, maybe open up another restaurant in the next town, they employ more staff which creates jobs, which creates tax revenues and drives more money into that local area as those employees buy stuff which supports other businesses etc etc… None of this is happening right now! The £BILLIONS that changed hands every day has dropped almost entirely! Yet the S&P is only down about 9%. The NASDAQ is only down 8%…. WTF is this?

The economy is being propped up by government stimulus which they have admitted themselves, is completely unsustainable! Which means this stimulus will have to stop or be rolled back at some point soon! This will go away MUCH sooner than businesses, the economy and peoples incomes will recover. Nations and entire, multinational trading blocks are predicting contractions in their GDP that haven’t been seen since the 30’s during the great depression! And the S&P is down 9%?!?!?

Here’s what I, and many others believe is gonna happen over the coming weeks and months. Simply put, these indexes will see drops of 40% plus! The reason is, there’s companies who’s valuations have barely changed since the entire world went into lock-down and stopped buying stuff! That’s not okay. The income for a lot of these companies has reduced significantly! 100% for some companies. And yet there valuation is carrying on as if everything is completely normal. It’s not.

What am I doing? Am I gonna sell everything and sit back and watch? Nah. Am I buying? Nah. I’m going Cash HEAVY! so I can take full advantage of the opportunities that come my way when I this happens. The reason I won’t be selling: I could be wrong. I completely doubt that using all available common sense and logic! But I could be, and the market could keep bouncing back! In which case, I win because of the investments I didn’t sell out of today. To me it’s a win-win. I won’t invest in anything right now because I don’t think the valuations are accurate (understatement of the year). Therefore, I need the market to go down significantly before I start buying again.

What are your thought’s and feelings about the stock market at the moment? Let me know in the comments below or via the social media links at the top of the page! I’m interested to get your opinion. Remember: The comments here are my opinion and you should never buy a stock because someone else has and thinks it will make money. Do your own research and make your own choices. Your capital is at risk.

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Stock Market Investing For Beginners

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Investing doesn’t have to be scary!

And it should be accessible to everyone!

If you want to really put that hard-earned money to work, so it grows at it’s maximum potential rate, it’s genuinely your best bet.

When it comes to answering the question “How should I invest?”, you need to take a step back and ask yourself these three, key questions:

  1. What are you investing/saving for?
  2. How much time do you have/are you willing to put into it?
  3. What is your appetite for risk?

If your answer to question 1 is anything sooner than 5 years away, I personally wouldn’t bother with stock market investing.

This is because, as everyone knows, the stock market fluctuates over time and to be able to ride this out and ensure you get back more than you put in, you need to invest over the long-term.

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Of course, you could invest today and get 9-15% returns, year-after-year for 5 years and then you can come find me and tell me I was wrong, and I’d be happy for you!

BUT, you could just as easily see the market crash in that 5th and final year you intended to be in the stock market and see all your gains turn to dust, just as you wanted the cash.

If you’re investing for the long term though, 5 years+, you have an almost guaranteed chance of riding the bounce-back of any short-term market dips and seeing decent annual returns.

However, your rate of return will largely depend on your answers to questions 2 and 3.

For instance, if your answer to question 2 is “I have a few hours every week to put into this investing stuff and can maintain that commitment for as long as I need to” then great!

For you, I’d recommend researching and picking individual stocks on a value basis. Meaning, you pick stocks you believe, based on your research, will increase in value by a great deal over 2 – 5 years.

By researching, I mean reading their quarterly reports, browsing their website, understanding their business, their market(s), their competitors, getting to know their management and their track-record with leading companies, subscribing to and attending their conference calls, etc!

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It sounds like more work than it is.

But in my opinion, if you start picking individual stocks without doing this, your chances of consistent success will be VERY small.

A little known fact:

Most stock market investors who pick individual stocks fail to outperform the market.

This means, these well-payed investors who run large investment funds, worth $millions, most of the time, they fail to grow that money faster than the rate at which the market as a whole grows in the same year.

This is why so many people choose to invest in index funds. These are passively managed funds which simply track those very markets that the investment bankers all fail to keep up with!

So, if your answer to question 2 was “I have very little to no time to spend on this investment stuff, I just want to throw money at an account and see the money grow”, then these passively managed index funds are for you!

I’ve mentioned in a few posts before about how to access these kinds of accounts. But in summary, you need a platform on which to set up an investment account, ISA or SIPP (in the UK). I use Freetrade, but you can use what you like, just research the fee’s. Freetrade is free, obviously, which is why I like it!

If you’d like to get a free share worth up to £200, sign up using this link.

Anyway, once you have an account set up, which literally takes minutes, top it up, go to the available list of ETF’s (exchange traded funds), which are mostly passively managed funds that track entire markets or market segments, find some you like the look of (check the fees!) and throw your money at these every month and watch your money grow! Easy!

But wait!

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Don’t forget to ask yourself question number 3.

Risk plays a very important role. And in stock market investing it can mean the difference between a 10% gain and a 2000% gain, or a 10% gain and a 100% loss.

Ultimately, the investments you make have to be 100%, entirely your choice and based on the research you put in.

If you invest in a company or fund, it has to be because you believe it will grow in value over time. Risk also has the added complexity of perspective…

To you, investing in an ETF that tracks large Chinese companies may sound crazy risky!

To me, it sounds like an opportunity to benefit from an emerging manufacturing and productivity powerhouse economy that is on an absolute rampage in an upward trajectory thanks to an ever growing, ever more wealthy population. Not to mention the rest of the world being hugely dependent on their manufacturing infrastructure.

Perspective.

My personal preference is a mix of the two strategies. I have time, now and again, to research individual companies and I make sure I take the opportunity to do so.

I started investing about 3 years ago, and opened a public account to show my progress and strategy. During this time I’ve built positions in various companies, across several industries. Some examples:

These have yielded some nice returns so far, even despite the current pandemic situation and the havoc its reeking on the global markets.

In fact my portfolio return since I opened the account 18 months ago is 55%, not including cash top-up’s.

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My strategy for finding these winning stocks is laid out, step-by-step in the below guide.

If you want to learn my step-by-step strategy for identifying winning stocks like these, click the image below and you can get 20% off my Stock Research 101

I intend to hold these positions for 2 – 5 years and I monitor them regularly to check they don’t stray too far from the path I anticipated.

If they do, I react accordingly and update my Private Stock Group with any Buy or Sell moves I make live, as they happen.

The rest of my portfolio is made up of ETF’s. I’ll hold these for much longer, potentially for as long as I have money invested in the markets and into my retirement. These are ticking away nicely in the background but don’t see the gains my individual stocks have seen so far.

To see my Investment Portfolio in full, every week, as well as:

  • My live buy & sell alerts, as they happen
  • My Watchlist
  • My full list of holdings
  • Dividend alerts
  • Rapid Stock Analysis
  • Tips for beginners

Plus, 24 hour access to me and other investors for Q&A…

Check out My Private Stock Group where I disclose my investment account and all of my positions on a weekly basis with insights & explanations for every move I make, so you can see how I’m taking advantage of this tool to achieve my own financial goals.

To read about Dividend Investing, Click Here
To find out more about me, how I cut years off my retirement age and learn how you can do the same, Click Here

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