My ISAs need a topup

It’s that time of year again. The start of the new UK tax year (for ancient reasons, UK tax years begin on 6 April).  My favourite time in the financial calendar.

It’s time to top up the annual ISA.  ISAs are the tax-free savings accounts we are – unusually in the world – blessed with in the UK.  While the funds we put into an ISA are net of tax, with no pension-like tax relief when we save, all subsequent returns are tax free.  Forever.  If you are fortunate enough to have £20k lying around, and you move it into an ISA…. by the time it has doubled, say, four times (which it probably will, if you invest in low-cost equity trackers and live long enough) it may well be producing £20k a year of tax-free income. If you can do this enough times, when you are young, your ISA will knock your pension into a cocked hat. 

There are no upper limits on how much you can have in your ISA pots, unlike pensions. Hence, one of my ambitions is to (live long enough to) build an ISA pot worth potentially $100m.  

However, with markets melting down over the last two months, it is definitely a case of two steps forward, one step backwards. Nonetheless, my ISA’s income is £24k – up about 10% on last year – so our (two) ISAs are generating more than one of us can top up every year.  

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Portfolio tracking spreadsheet: v2.0 release notes

This post is a sequel to my Investment Tracking Spreadsheet post of three years ago.  A number of readers have found the spreadsheet (‘example portfolio returns tracker’) outlined in that post helpful, so it’s time to bring it up to date. 

Since I wrote that post I have in fact been using a Google Sheet as my ‘day to day’ portfolio tracking tool, which gives me live prices on most of my holdings.  My tracking Google Sheet uses the very same FvL example workbook as its master ‘database’, so the security data (tickers, expense ratios, etc) is updated fairly regularly. 

I have taken advantage of the long Easter weekend to release an updated public share tracking spreadsheet (here) which supports live prices.  The difficult bit is that it handles both equities (via GoogleFinance) and also funds (as listed on Hargreaves Lansdown). 

The spreadsheet is still read only, but you can make a copy (either download a copy in Excel, or make a copy in Google Sheets) to edit yourself and make your own portfolio tracking tool.  All appropriate disclaimers apply – use at your own risk.

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Mar 2020: Q1 post mortem

What a brutal month. We moved from ‘crumbs, Italy’s borders are shut’ to ‘whoa, we’re all under house arrest’ in only a few days. The start of March is hard to remember.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Announces UK Coronavirus Lockdown ...
The Prime Minister demonstrating Covid-19 to us all

I’m glad I managed to get a few days skiing done earlier in the season – now I have three overseas trips cancelled and don’t expect even to leave London for potentially months.

As lockdown loomed, I found myself shocked to be asked “are you staying in London? Or getting away?” by several people. OF COURSE I’M STAYING IN LONDON. In my Dream Home, silly. In fact some friends who had decamped to Cornwall have recently returned to London saying they really hadn’t appreciated how much better to be marooned here than there.

Market meltdown

But turning to the markets, they have had an absolute whipping this month. The fastest decline ever. And, wow, the volatility. Normally liquid ETFs had pronounced spreads, and one of my online brokers resorted to manual trading on a frequent basis. Yet, with all said and done, the damage isn’t yet quite as bad as it feels.

Having caught a cold in February, world markets developed a very nasty flu in March. All equity markets fell. And fell very rapidly. Equities were down around 18%, across the piece.

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