How to become a millionaire in London on £40k p.a.

I knew I didn’t know much about Imran.

Imran joined the company at about the same time as me, less than 2 years ago, in a fairly junior position. He’s a book-keeper. He’s young – in his twenties. Very much of the millennial generation.

Image result for hipster coffee in office

At my office, we get new joiners to do a dog-and-pony-show to introduce themselves to the whole floor. Imran’s dog-and-pony show was pretty memorable, for the wrong reasons: Imran didn’t know how to present, couldn’t structure his thoughts, and didn’t respect his audience. He did however make it clear he is a very hippy alternative person, a dreamer, somewhat immature, and was not from book-keeping central casting.

Image result for office  meetup london

Since Imran joined I have had very little – too little – to do with him. I’ve been involved with his pay review, he’s made the occasional not very practical suggestion for what other departments should be doing, and that’s about it. He’s clearly a fairly withdrawn, introverted person.

In Imran’s pay review, I learnt that he’s being paid significantly less than the market rate. He is evidently not very money motivated and his motivation for joining my company was for other reasons. In the last 18 months his pay has increased from a little under £40k to a little more than £40k. He could probably find a role elsewhere in London on £50k, though his presentational/ introverted style won’t make this easy for him.

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Why the market’s about to drop – and what I’m doing about it

This time is different.

We’ve been at market highs before. Staring at unprecedented multiples, unhinged presidents, central bankers finally increasing rates, comedians winning elections in G8 economies, the first serious trade wars in decades, and more.

We’ve heard how a big drop is imminent before. We’ve muttered, whispered, tutted, gawped and clicked our tongues.

Yes, as we predicted those times, market corrections often followed soon after (except, just a couple of times, when they didn’t).

But this time really is different.

This time my portfolio is running red hot, at a new high water mark.

Amazon’s just crossed $2000/share. $2000, per solitary share.

Apparently US company earnings are falling, and, not unsurprisingly if so, dividends are heading down. This hasn’t happened before, since, well, just before the last market correction/crash/similar.

In the UK, the (120,000) people have spoken and we have a new Prime Minister. And Brexit no deal/etc looming on Hallowe’en’s day. As if the world economy wasn’t giving us enough to think about.

So, obviously, now is the time to run for the hills.

Image result for hills in london
Head for the hills! If you can get a spot – this is London after all.

Which hill to run to?

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Holding up the mirror to my own trading behaviour

Idling away an hour on the long weekend, I found myself examining whether my mental model of how I invest is actually honest.

In particular I have an investment philosophy of holding for the long term, of buying (not selling). Is that true? How often do I in fact sell things?

My philosophy is to minimise fees wherever possible. But it is also to reinvest dividends manually, not automatically, so that I can rebalance as I go – rather than ‘high buying high, and low reinvesting little’. Moreover, my minimum amount for a trade in Mrs FvL’s account is only £1000 – the amount of cash that must accumulate before we reinvest it. So my philosophy leads to me making plenty of transactions, for which Mrs FvL pays full price. Does this lead to high trading expenses?

To answer my own questions I did the following analysis:

  • I looked only at Mrs FvL’s portfolio history. I manage her portfolio using the same investment philosophy, but in a simpler/cleaner way, as my own. I track all of her transactions in one place, unlike my own funds. And though her asset allocation is slightly different (lower weight USA, more domestic bias), this shouldn’t materially affect a transaction analysis.
  • I looked at the last tax year – i.e. the 12 months to 5 April 2019. This was a year in which I moved significant funds into Mrs FvL’s accounts, so there was more money to invest than normal – more than just dividends.

Mrs FvL’s portfolio has around 80 unique holdings in it. This is fewer than the ~200 in my portfolio, but is nonetheless highly diversified. Half of the value is in passive ETFs/index funds. The largest holding (an Australian Equity ETF) is about 8% of the total value, the biggest single stock is about 3%, and the smallest holding is worth about £2k.

Here is what I found:

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