Loans: what can possibly go wrong?

Just over a year ago, an unusual opportunity arose.  A friend asked if I might be up for lending his small property development company some money.  I ended up going ahead with it.  What happened? What lessons can I learn?  I’ll share the former, hoping my readers can help me with the latter.

Who was the borrower?

The loan was to a small private company doing real estate development. Basically they buy buildings in London where they believe they can get planning permission to increase the number of dwellings; they then maximise the planning potential of the buildings, do the work themselves, and sell on the units. They’ve got a few years’ successful track record.

I have known the three principals for over twenty years; one of them is a very close friend of mine, admittedly one who has radically different approaches to FIRE/money/investing.

What were the terms?

I reached agreement as follows: Read the rest of this entry »


Reducing my tax rate

Avoiding tax is probably the best-known investment advice, and the mission that unites even the least sophisticated investors with the most financially literate.

How the government wants you to avoid paying tax

As a wise blogger (SHMD, I think it was, but I can’t find the link) pointed out recently, the UK offers unusually generous investing tax breaks (and that’s even before we get onto SEIS and EIS angel investing tax breaks).  There’s almost no point in calling Panama.

For most UK investors, the simplest way to avoid taxes involves two manoeuvres, each done annually:

  • Topping up your ISA(s). ISAs remain the biggest potential tax break in the UK, but they require multi-year patience; there is an annual ‘use it or lose it’ allowance so to maximise the benefits you need to act annually.  The limit these days is £20k per adult, so £40k per couple – which is a lot of money to find from disposable income but not enough to squirrel a large inheritance/windfall/25% pension drawdown away all in one go.
  • Making pension contributions. For most retail investors, pensions are a fairly straightforward tax break; in exchange for locking my money up until I’m c.60, I avoid any tax on the money from now until I start accessing it. For more affluent but nowhere-near-retirement-age investors, such as me, the UK policy is pretty crazy, because knowing whether your pot is going to breach the ceiling 20+ years out is a mad Monte Carlo guessing game.  A 30 year old expecting to retire at 70 and expecting annual returns of 7% should be careful about taking their pot above £60k.

It is worth stating the obvious that not only are these two manoeuvres both 100% legal but they are in fact actively encouraged by government policy.

Practically all the readers of this blog are at least higher rate tax payers – i.e. their marginal income tax rate is 40% or more.  For them the two key rates on offer are 40% and 0%.

Read the rest of this entry »

How can an entrepreneur start investing £10m for FIRE?

One of my readers, Peter, liked my post (or its readers’ comments, more to the point!) about Jane and her £10m quality problem. He’s shared with me his attempt to find a new IFA.  Below is his initial introduction email, suitably anonymised, to an IFA he’s been intro’d to.

Peter is very well informed about FIRE. He’s thoughtful and articulate, and lays out a pretty clear strategy.

I’d love comments on this blog about what you think of his approach. I will comment myself, below this post.

In the meantime, it’s over to Peter.

Dear [Ifa]

Below is a summary of my situation. I’d be interested to hear how you could help.

Best wishes


My background:

  • I am 39 years old
  • 4 children (all under the age of 10)
  • I am not (yet) married
  • I am UK domiciled and resident

My work background:

I have been an entrepreneur for well over 10 years.

I’ve built and sold one business. I made net proceeds of around £10m (and exhausted my lifetime entrepreneur’s relief allowance).
I am now running my second business. I would anticipate my ~40% stake is currently worth around £10m. However, as with my previous business it could be worth zero (in an unlikely scenario though) up to a potential £30m+ in a ‘home run’ outcome 2-4 years from now. This is completely illiquid and high risk. I don’t count it at all. CGT would be due on the proceeds.

My investment history over the last 5 years

When I had my big ‘pay day’ from my first business a few years ago, I immediately bought lots of property. Mostly residential. Total deployed was just under £8m in/around London.

At the time, I knew zero about ‘conventional’ investing. “Sharks trying to sell me something I don’t understand”, etc was how I saw it. Thankfully I didn’t fall into the trap of immediately putting it all into an offshore bond and all into high-fee funds (as suggested by the private bank who was trying to become my new best friend back then…)

I did what a lot of people do when they have zero understanding of ‘conventional’ investing and turn to property. The (flawed) logic being “you can touch it”, easy to understand it (or so I thought), you can gear it up with debt to accelerate gains, “you can’t lose in property”, etc.

Fast forward a few years and to cut a long story, I absolutely hate being a landlord. Even with a competent property management company, it’s a constant head ache, so many hidden fees which lower the return, ongoing damage to property, constant management required, a big time sink, etc.

I hate being a landlord so much, that I’ve taken the decision to sell everything (apart from my principal residence, which is debt-free but has significant running costs). Not only do I not want to be a landlord, but I also don’t want to own the assets long term. I don’t want to be trapped in the assets if I change my mind at a late date and there are large inflation-linked gains with CGT due on switching, etc…

So what now?

Read the rest of this entry »