Quarterly Returns – Q1 2022

Quarterly return posts supplement my monthly Financial Dashboard, covering investments in detail and looking at my yearly targets. Here I track purchases and sales, document progress against my (in progress) investment strategy, and discuss re-balancing and changes over time.

Permanently chasing my tail on these, but it’s partly because I don’t have much interesting to share at the moment…

Q1 Returns:

  • Cash Accounts £17,600 (+£1,850)
  • Investments £12,700 (-£580)
  • Property £56,150 (+£1,100)
  • Cars £2000 (no changes)

My net worth has essentially tracked sideways, as money squirreled away in cash savings accounts gets offset by losses on the markets. The fact I can maintain my net worth at time when we’re running mortgage, nursery fees and all household bills on just my income is satisfying. I won’t say we’re lucky, hard work and budgeting have equal shares, but it was intentional that we could ‘manage’ in this sort of situation. Q2 will likely continue this vein, as MrsShrink doesn’t go back to work until Q3, and the baby is gradually upping her hours at nursery.

Investments:

Core/ Satellite Passive/ Active Split

My 2021 Financial Year ISA is in Vanguard, however I again didn’t pay in anything this quarter.  Activity in my Freetrade account was just topping up an existing holding in Unilever. (fancy a free share? Sign up to Freetrade using this link, and we both get one). I’ve got round to adding my crowdfunding account to my investment portfolio spreadsheet. This, combined with some good returns on my active stock selections and a fall on the trackers, means I’m now overweight on my active UK satellite portfolio. Any spare cash I do have hanging around once I’ve topped off emergency funds is therefore likely to go into dull ole trackers.

Ratio of satellite active holdings to core passive trackers
Asset allocation ratios

Goals

In terms of goals for 2022:

  • Save 35% of my income – 40% prediction

I will be amazed if I achieve this to be honest. Q1 saw a savings rate of 25%, all in cash. Given what my financial year is looking at I’m going to aim to keep it at that, and hope that a big return to saving can be achieved towards the end of the year.

  • Save £8k towards a new car – 40% prediction

This steadily ticks upward, with my cash accounts at their healthiest level ever. Should be ready to pull the trigger soon.

  • Finish the house renovations – 75% prediction

Some good progress made here, doing the sort of jobs that add little value but make a big difference to the state of the property. I painted a load of the stone and woodwork on the outside of the house, so it’s got a bit of kerb appeal, and we’ve started on re-rendering some other sections, along with painting the last few rooms. A friend recently commented that she would be willing to buy the house from us when we move, which would save a lot of hassle and fees, so we’ll see how that pans out.

Happy, wait is this supposed to be summer?

The Shrink

April 2022 – Lifestyle creep in the face of inflation

The news is full of horror stories about the ‘cost of living crisis’ (1, 2, 3). People choosing between heating and eating. It’s getting bad for those at the financial margin, and the theory goes once that punished margin hits a tipping point, to a recession we shall head. The prospect of rocketing inflation isn’t a surprise if you’ve had your ear to the ground, it was kind of evident at least a year ago, when Monevator was already talking about it (4).

Fearing such things I locked in a 1.65% mortgage for five years twelve months ago. Should see us through the worst, or at least until we’re ready to move and capitalise on a distressed market. Elsewhere inflation is pushing up our monthly budgets. It has made me realise how much each month was spent on discretionary items, eating out, etc. I thought we were pretty good, but now the amount we’re spending on essentials has gone up, I’m suddenly seeing where we need to, and could have, reined in spending.

I think this was a strong case of insidious lifestyle creep. In the past couple of years we’ve added a baby with associated costs to the family, but we’ve also as a couple had many conversations about how we’re living. For a long time we’ve continued our fairly student lifestyles, not unlike Monevator in his 30s (5). Yes we had a house, but we bought a wreck when we were young, bought tools and did it up, turning a bit of a profit. We lived in cheap parts of the UK, where our mortgage was comparable to rent. Furniture was hand-me-downs, flea market or charity shop bought (BHF FTW). Clothes were bought on sale or from charity shops, from good brands in fairly timeless styles. We avoided most standard lifestyle inflation traps, but at same time we had a habit of buying things that “will do”. So in the last year we started to buy some things which were more than “that’ll do”, to be things we truly liked no matter the cost. Not major stuff, a few bits of furniture, some clothes here, some shoes there.

It’s culminated in a major purchase this month. My daily driver up until now has been a tatty but reliable 20-year old estate. It brought the baby home, it’s helped me move house about eight times, as I’ve shuttled around the country during training. I bought it eight years ago for £2,000. It’s cost me a further £5,700 in repairs over the time I’ve owned it. I’ll do a full run-down of costs in a separate post. In the last six months it’s started generating bills every month of around £150, as various things have gone wrong. So I made a decision to sell it.

It’s been replaced by something very new, very safe and hopefully reliable. I’ve been looking for around six months, and I’m cursing not replacing it sooner. What was £7,000 two years ago is now £10,000. The sort of car we wanted to replace my daily, a family car which can ferry us all in comfort and safety, has dramatically shot up in price.

And this is where the lifestyle inflation comes in (6). We’ve decided to use some of my (overly cautious) emergency fund alongside savings to get a more modern car than we planned from a luxury marque. It’s a lot of car, for a lot of money, that we will hopefully keep for a long time. It’s more than we need. It’s got luxuries, and feeds our sense of entitlement (we deserve it, we work hard), and our sense of status (we’re important people with important jobs) (7, 8). The sensible choice would be another ten year old work-horse, not a four year old show-pony.

I then ran through a list of places where I might have already made subtle inflationary changes (some taken from here and here) (9, 10):

  • New furniture (as described above; new coffee tables, sideboards, bed and mattress, wardrobes…)
  • Gym memberships (gone from the council to a fancy gym – this did help with my motivation, but back to the council one I go)
  • Eating out or takeaway in (went up for a long time, we’re now cutting down)
  • Holidays (we had a really nice one recently to a resort, but maybe we can go back to cheap AirBnBs with friends)
  • Brand name foods – we don’t do this
  • Clothing – yep, as above
  • Organic foods – we do a lot of this.

We’ve made a lot of changes from needs to wants. And I guess that’s lifestyle inflation. So maybe we’ll do a bit of substitution for a while, and pause our discretionary spend (11). More money to chuck in the markets that way…

April Finances

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved just 5% of my salary in April, as many got moved about and prepared for an impending car purchase. My net worth fell by half a percent thanks to the markets trending down.

Budgets:

As compared to my four year back-calculated mean monthly spend:

  • Groceries: March £225, April £220, budget £220
  • Eating out & Takeaway: March £79.62, April £50, budget £50
  • Transport: March £432, April £158, budget £330
  • Holiday: Mar £125, Apr £0, budget £40
  • Personal: Mar £85, Apr £60, budget £120
  • Health: Mar £47.95, Apr £92, budget £150
  • Misc: Mar £96.56, Apr £92, budget £215
  • Work fees: Mar £189, Apr £344, budget £265 (splitting the difference of this lumpy spend)

In the garden:

Grass mown and re-seeded, potatoes sown, lettuces, beans, celery and tomatoes potting on. A bit more time means a bit more growth.

Cheers,

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/cost-living-crisis
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/business/cost-of-living-crisis
  3. https://www.ft.com/content/e6bd22e1-088f-492d-802a-1a7aecdc7fe7
  4. https://monevator.com/beating-inflation/
  5. https://monevator.com/live-like-a-graduate-student-and-save/
  6. https://www.ramseysolutions.com/budgeting/lifestyle-inflation
  7. https://medium.com/swlh/lifestyle-inflation-more-money-more-problems-93a2090d7f41
  8. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/lifestyle-inflation.asp
  9. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinmckenna/2020/06/22/the-true-cost-of-lifestyle-inflation/?sh=35c978b52423
  10. https://www.frugalconfessions.com/spend-less/examples-of-lifestyle-inflation/
  11. https://monevator.com/rising-cost-of-living/

March 2022 spending – quick update

I’ve had a fairly mad couple of months, working what could be conservatively put at 90 hour weeks, with a toddler to care for and sleep to somehow find. Therefore there will follow a flurry of posts covering various financial thoughts and my sitrep.

March Finances

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved another 30.1% of my salary in March, which was all funneled into cash savings ahead of new car purchase and BabyShrink nursery fees. My net worth rose 0.4% (sad reacts only please), as the markets continued to trade sideways and down, and I didn’t add anything further to them.

Budgets:

Budgets based on updated figures using my four year back-calculated monthly average from last month.

  • Groceries: last month £351, March £260, budget £220 (still work to do)
  • Eating out & Takeaway: February £34, March £79.62, budget £50
  • Transport: Feb £573, March £432, budget £330 (my daily driver is increasingly costly)
  • Holiday: Feb £0, Mar £125, budget £40 (booking things ahead of a trip)
  • Personal: Feb £91, Mar £85, budget £120
  • Health: Feb £250, £47.95, budget £150
  • Misc: Feb £250, £96.56, budget £215
  • Work fees: Feb £101, £189, budget £265

In the garden:

Sadly neglected due to work commitments.

Watch out for the next update soon…

The Shrink

January & February 2022 – Reviewing 2021’s investing mistakes

I saw an interesting FT article some time in the Christmas/ New Year period (literally the last point I had free time to think), where the author went over the mistakes they made in their portfolio in 2021. It seemed like a good exercise in humility, and running counter to all the Youtube/ Instagram ‘I made hundreds of thousands on crypto, you should too’ type wafflebollocks. Therefore, in that vein, here are my investing mistakes from 2021. If other bloggers are also willing to be humbled before the masses I’ll link to them here. In no particular order…

LON: IQE

Bought in February at 80p/share. This had been going on a bit of a bull run. They’re a semiconductor manufacturer local to me in South Wales. I figured it was a reasonable play on the ongoing semiconductor shortages, and tried a bit of momentum investing. I invested literally at the top. They promptly slumped down, and I sold out in October at 45p/share. They then fell further, and are now about 38p. Luckily it was a small holding, so only lost ~£100, at -43%.

NYSE: NEE

Bought in April at $77/share. Again after a bit of a bull run. This is a US energy company, with a mix of fossil fuels and renewables. Again, they slumped and I lost my nerve, selling out in June at $72/share. They then went on a massive bull run up to the end of January, topping out at ~$94, before falling back $72, then rising to ~$80. Total loss to me -7%.

NYSE: GME

You’ve heard of it. After making a decent return (160%) on the first r/WSB run, I came back for a second bigger bite of the cherry in August. I bought back in at $214/share, right near the peak of a sustained wave. The price then drifted down and I ended up sitting on it for months, hoping for the price to go back up. Classic loss aversion. Eventually it did in November, and I sold at $217. Not bad given it’s now $97, but I consider this a loss due to the opportunity cost. There was a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to buy but didn’t have liquid cash for in the intervening months, so it was a waste. After FX costs, total loss to me -0.5%, and a whole lot of time.

NYSE: UMWC

A US mortgage company. Had reasonable fundamentals, and I bought on hype. I bought in June at $9.52, and then as it drifted down at $7.36 in August. It continued to drift down, and is now at $4.37/share. I still hold it, although I’m not sure if that’s down to loss aversion (can’t call it a loss if it’s not crystallised), or actual belief in the company (PE currently of 6.6). Either way, total loss to me -46%.

Most of the rest of my active stocks are up, or at least trading sideways. We’ll ignore what’s going on with passive stocks given the general state of the world. I think my losses suggest I suffer strongly from loss aversion, alongside a tendency to get caught up in hype. Some lessons for 2022.

January & February Finances

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I haven’t managed to save much over these months, as I have done little locum work and I’m building a small nursery war chest to cover the gap between BabyShrink starting nursery and MrsShrink returning to full time paid employment. I saved 33% in January, and a paltry 10% in February, with my net worth essentially flatlining for those months. All savings were in cash in a Starling pot, so no fun in investments or crypto.

Budgets:

A focus for the last month has been updating my spreadsheet and budget to better reflect my spending patterns. For the last three years I’ve checked my budgets against the same headings, and this has enabled me to view patterns:

Patterns of spending within budget categories 2019-2021

Standout points for me are:

  • Groceries have got more expensive particularly in the last year, although this may partially relate to the arrival of BabyShrink
  • Spending on transport has reduced, mostly driven by working-from-home more, and other COVID effects
  • My personal spending (clothes, haircuts, toys, gifts) has gradually increased
  • Spending on miscellaneous stuff (usually household furniture and random bits from Amazon) has also doubled – however this also includes things like baby travel systems
  • My fees to work have shot up in line with seniority. Deep joy.

Average monthly spends were £220/month for groceries per person, £265/month on work fees, £120/month on personal items, £330/month on transport, and £110/month on entertainment and going out.

Based on this, and also trying to see things which are more useful to me, I’ve updated my budget headings. So here are January and February 2022:

  • Groceries: January £273, February £351, budget £220 (Overspend)
  • Eating out & Takeaway: January £40, February £34, budget not previously calculated, aim £50/pp (underspend)
  • Transport: Jan £186, Feb £573, budget £330 (lumpy!)
  • Holiday: Jan £0, Feb £0, budget £40 (this will also be lumpy)
  • Personal: Jan £41, Feb £91, budget £120 (underspend)
  • Health: Jan £151, Feb £250, budget not previously calculated, no aim
  • Misc: Jan £15, Feb £250, budget £215 (baby items)
  • Work fees: Jan £322, Feb £101, budget £265 (this will be about £700/quarter)

In the garden:

General tidy-up ahead of new planting next month.

The Shrink

Q4 and 2021 Review

Quarterly return posts supplement my monthly Financial Dashboard, covering investments in detail and looking at my yearly targets. Here I track purchases and sales, document progress against my (in progress) investment strategy, and discuss re-balancing and changes over time.

It has taken me many weeks to properly unpack 2021. A year in which a lot happened, and also a lot of nothing. I remain in the same job, earning slightly more as I increase in seniority, watching the NHS continue to fall to a death by a thousand cuts. We live in the same house, with only minor repainting and renovations undertaken this year. We had no proper holidays away, and made no major (four figure) purchases. We started 2021 with the roll-out of a vaccine for COVID and we end with the Omicron variant seemingly left to run it’s milder course through the population.

Our year was punctuated by the arrival of our baby. We have gone from a DINK household to a one income and kid (so an OIK?) household. We are a happy family, but by god nothing prepares you for it. I thought I was prepared – I’ve worked abysmal rotas in my time, I’m a friend to sleep deprivation, how hard can it be? Seven 13 hour night shifts in a row at 60% staffing… done it. Living a life reminiscent of the scenes from ‘This is Going to Hurt’. Compared to that?

It was a totally different beast. The snatched sleep, the emotionally draining, energy sapping, unrelating nature of it, the quiet resignation to endurance. Yet, somehow, the positives of a tiny, happy, giggling face outweighs it. Evolution’s a hell of a drug.

In my 2020 review I set some goals for 2021, alongside a prediction of whether I could achieve them. These were:

  • Finalise emergency fund structure and pay off credit card – 80%Success
  • Save 35% of my income – 40%Failure
  • Make goalless time every month for hobbies – 60%Success

I made the final payment to my credit card on the 23rd of December, meaning over the course of the year I cleared a balance of £3,680. I also sorted out my emergency fund and the cascading system I use for immediate/<24 hours/ 24-72 hour financial requirements. I’ve a couple of legacy accounts yet to close, but we’re otherwise now at fighting weight. I missed my 35% savings goal by 0.86%, managing to somehow save 34% of my salary over the year (that’s not including the credit card). This will roll over to next year. I did organise my time to be able to spend an afternoon a fortnight on my hobbies. Past tense here, as infants are sleep and time thieves, and some hobbies have had to be sacrificed.

In an effort to test my forecasting abilities, I also began running a new SSC/ Astral Codex Ten-esque prediction experiment with conviction, where incorrect predictions will be struck through:

  1. UK vaccination will be completed before the July – 75% – A difficult one to assess, but based vaccination delivery rates for first jabs plateaued after July, and for second jabs after September. I did not account for vaccine hesitancy or government logistics nonsense. Stats taken from wiki (1).
  2. Greater than 200,000 UK COVID deaths – 30% – Happy to see that the cumulative death figure at the end of December was 148,624. Still staggering.
  3. UK has worst death rate as percentage of the population in the world – 60% – This was very flippant and pessimistic, as various countries in Eastern Europe and South America have been absolutely battered.
  4. Under-reporting in developing nations hides significant pandemic effects – 90% – I’m going to call this as correct, because from what I’ve read and heard it is, but the actual chances of proving it are very slim. An error of prediction writing.
  5. The UK tier system is still in use in December 2021 – 60% – I underestimated just how driven by political and economic pressure BoJo would be (2). I also assumed that he was aiming for clear messaging. I was wrong.
  6. The UK experiences another ‘lockdown’ in winter 2021/2 – 75% – This was mostly wrong. England’s Plan B rules were definitely not a lockdown, and while Wales’ and Scotland’s rules were stricter, I don’t think they can be called a lockdown.
  7. COVID-19 mutates into a form immune to the current vaccine – 40% – My estimate was <50%, therefore I thought this unlikely. It hasn’t and I hope it doesn’t.
  8. I am personally working in office >80% of the time again at some point in 2021 – 10% – Also never happened.
  9. Someone I am close to will die of COVID-19 – 25% – Didn’t happen, though that is dependent on the close clause.
  10. Endemic COVID-19 circulates in the population with lockdown easing and shops re-opening – 80% – I think this is pretty much where we’re at now. Government continues to publish figures, but we’re not far off back to ‘normal’, and I can see people using vaccine passports, testing and masks for years to come.
  11. … and self-isolation becomes normalised – 80% – Yes? Again error of writing predictions I think. I know the government has shortened the self-isolation rules, but I don’t know anyone not treating it as standard practice.
  12. … and higher death rates tolerated among the over 50s with consistent effect on life expectancy by end 2021 – 75% – I think we’re heading this way, but too early to call. Certainly life expectancy in the UK is falling slightly (3), but I’ve not read anything suggesting or attributing this to COVID. It seems more linked to poverty.
  13. Boris resigns – 60% – Wishful thinking, he’s a stubborn old gibbon.
  14. Keir Starmer above BoJo in the opinion polls – 80% – As per Britain Elect’s weight average tracker, BoJo had a 32.9% voting choice compared to Starmer’s 32.1% on the 3rd of Jan 2022 (4). They actually crossed over at the end of Jan 2022, but that doesn’t count. Again evidence I am not in tune with Joe Public.
  15. Inflation above 2% – 75% – CPI at a stunning 5+% (5).
  16. … due to Brexit-resultant shipping and food cost rises – 60% – Eh, I’m going to call this correct. Food, fuel, household bills and tech have all pushed it up, but you look at the reported cost of living crisis and it seems that way.
  17. There are resultant food shortages – 10% – So there are and have been some food shortages, but not to the point of seriously empty shelves, so I think this is correct.
  18. Homeless rate rises – 95% – Actually down 4% from 2020 (data for September to September) (6).
  19. Foodbank usage rises – 95% – Interestingly, though up from 2019, looking at the Trussell Trust figures for Apr-Sept it appears to be down from 2020 (7).
  20. House prices continue to increase – 75% – Yes (8).
  21. FTSE100 above 7,000 – 60% – Yes…
  22. FTSE100 remains above 6,500 – 80% – Yes…
  23. FTSE100 hits 7,500 – 20% – Yes… Closing at 7,358 on the 31st of December 2021. Ticked over to 7,500 the next day though. More positive than I expected.
  24. FTSE250 hits 22,000 – 60% – Yes, actually closing at 23,480 at the end of the year. Again more positive than I expected.
  25. S&P500 hits 4,000 – 75% – Yes, storming to 4,766.
  26. S&P500 hits 2,500 – 30% – Yes
  27. £ hits $1.40 – 50% – Nope. $1.35. I think the US did better than I expected.
  28. We have £100k in equity – 95% – We do.
  29. We start to overpay our mortgage – 30% – We didn’t. Baby swallowed spare cash (not literally).
  30. I have £15k invested – 30% – I do not.
  31. I am saving £1k/month – 30% – Quite unbelievably to me, my mean average monthly savings over the year were £1.3k.
  32. We have [redacted] – 90% – We did.
  33. MrsShrink [redacted] – 75% – She is.
  34. We replace one of our cars – 50% – Went to look at a few. Still looking.
  35. The project car gets repainted – 25% – I did not get time.
  36. The project car gets sold – 10% – I wavered, and then put it on axle stands.
  37. We have a holiday – 80% – I was pretty shocked when I sat down and worked out we hadn’t had a holiday away at all in 2021. Staycations yes, but nowhere actually away. A few coming in 2022.
  38. Outside of the UK – 20% – We didn’t.
  39. I learn another language – 30% – I didn’t.
  40. I continue to exercise at least three times/ week for the whole year – 75% – I did.
  41. I can do a pull-up again – 40% – I can’t.
  42. I can do a hand-stand press up again – 20% – I can’t.
  43. I return to [redacted] – 10% – I didn’t.
  44. I complete [redacted] – 25% – I didn’t.
  45. My ongoing work has not conformed to anticipated plans – 90% – It did not.
  46. I publish [redacted] – 90% – I did.
  47. I publish [redacted] – 25% – I did not, although it is under review.
  48. I publish on average four posts/ month – 40% – I did not.
  49. Most page views ever this year – 30% – My page views halved with my decreased posting frequency. I’m ok with that.
  50. This blog gets abandoned – 10% – Still here.

Calculations

In my predictions 50% is equivalent to sitting on the fence. Greater than 50% is a positive prediction, less than 50% is a prediction of negative likelihood; i.e. I do (former) or don’t (latter) think the predicted thing will happen. The variance from 50% is then summed, with correct predictions positive, incorrect predictions negative, before dividing by the total to produce a mean. The result was +0.141, suggesting that within a range of -0.5 to +0.5, my predictions are slightly positively predictive. I have predictions for 2022 in a little black book, and I’ll post them here in the weeks to come.

Goals

In terms of goals for 2022:

  • Save 35% of my income – 40% – Rolling over from 2021.
  • Save £8k towards a new car – 40% – My current car is… fine… but it is increasingly decrepit, and we could do with something safer and more comfortable for long journeys as a family. Maybe this counts as lifestyle inflation. Car prices are absolutely nuts at the moment, as you may have heard, with things I was looking at in 2019 for £3k now more like £5k. What I’m after sits around the £7-9k mark, so I’m aiming to save across the year so that I don’t need credit to purchase. At the moment, on one salary and with nursery fees looming this seems impossible, but it’s about what I put away across regular cash savers and paying off credit cards last year, so we will see.
  • Finish the house renovations – 75% – We have put a lot of time and effort into making our current house the way we want it. We have one room left to redo, plus some external maintenance and beautifying. Once this is done we can sit back a little, relax, and then inevitably sell and move as itchy feet and my Rightmove habit kick in.

Q4 Returns:

  • Cash Accounts £15,750 (+£2,230)
  • Investments £13,280 11,920 (+£1,360)
  • Property £58,960 52,900 (+£6,060)
  • Cars £2000 (no changes)

Bit of a bumper quarter. I was paid a fairly decent lump for some locum work, most of which went into cash savings accounts to prepare for potential future tax bills – hence the big bump there. Continued to add a bit to my regular savings account as well. On the investment front the growth this quarter came from the markets. As our household income has fallen my salary has been paying more of the bills, and I prioritised reducing debt over further ISA investments. The property jump comes from principal repayment (smaller proportion) and a revaluation of our property worth. A house on our street sold off the market at £290k in the summer, and another of a similar finish to ours recently sold (in less than a week) for £300k, so we have estimated that as it’s worth.

Investments:

Core/ Satellite Passive/ Active Split

My 2021 ISA is in Vanguard, however I didn’t pay in anything this quarter. All activity in my Freetrade has been active attempts at stock picking by selling holdings to buy new (fancy a free share? Sign up to Freetrade using this link, and we both get one). So what did I actually do?

Ratio of satellite active holdings to core passive trackers

In mid-October, while still trying to decide what to do proper, I bought Lucid (NASDAQ:LCID) as a conviction play after seeing a series of excellent reviews of their upcoming car. I bought at ~$25/share, and held as it jumped over the following weeks. After it crossed the $35/share mark I sold out, only to then watch it hit $55/share over the following month. I’m happy I took my gains, as it’s now back down to the $22 mark. Then when GME hit about what I paid for it, I sold out of that too.

I used that released cash to purchase Cornish Metals at 14p/share. Cornish Metals holds the mining rights to South Crofty, a very old, very big, tin, zinc, tungsten and copper mine that closed up in 1998 following the collapse of the global tin price (9). Since it started up in the 16th century it has absorbed a vast number of surrounding mines, to extend 2 and a half miles and 900m down. After closure the site was considered for redevelopment (as the surface mine workings sit in the middle of the town of Pool, between Camborne and Redruth), before going through a series of owners. I started following it in 2011 when Celeste Copper Corp assessed there to be £1.5 billion of tin left in the ground, before UNESCO got involved and it went into administration in 2013. Strongbow Exploration bought it out of administration, and since then have gradually been working through permits to restart the mine, along with changing their name to Cornish Metals (10). They’ve done further exploration which has extended the mineral resource estimate at South Crofty. The South Crofty rights also came bundled with a load of other mineral rights across Cornwall, including United Downs, last mined by Rio Tinto Zinc in 1991 (11). This whole area has been historically mined, and Cornish Metals went looking between some of the old mines. In 2020 they found virgin high-grade copper-tin, which they’re now applying for further permits to assess. As a final kicker, Cornish Metals have a tie-in with Cornish Lithium, who I have some shares in through crowdfunding. The share price of Cornish Metals rose in Nov/Dec, and has been bouncing in a range between 20p and 28p/share since. I’m planning to hold them long, as I think they have the potential for decent profitability based on future tin price estimates. To be nice and boring I then balanced my active purchase with some more Vanguard FTSE All World, just in time for the 2022 correction.

Happy winter everyone,

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_in_the_United_Kingdom_(July%E2%80%93December_2021)
  2. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/charts/uk-government-coronavirus-lockdowns
  3. https://www.onhttps://www.britainelects.com/s.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/bulletins/nationallifetablesunitedkingdom/2018to2020
  4. https://www.britainelects.com/
  5. https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/consumerpriceinflation/december2021
  6. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statutory-homelessness-in-england-july-to-september-2021
  7. https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/mid-year-stats/
  8. https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/housepriceindex/november
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Crofty
  10. https://www.cornishmetals.com/projects/uk/south-crofty/
  11. https://www.cornishmetals.com/projects/uk/united-downs/

December 2021 – Future inflation thoughts

Last month I noticed what I think is the beginning of inflation telling on my monthly budget. A gradual creep over the year in the amount we spend each month on food, energy and general household goods. This has been in the news as well, with inflation apparently running at a decade-high 5.1% in November (1, 2, 3). The BoE don’t think this will change in the short term, with forecasts of >5% for 2022, before dropping off into 2023 and beyond (2, 4).

The comment pieces on this news are all over the place. On one hand you get people like Chris Dillow of the Investors Chronicle (5). He reckons the BoE are overstating the risk; the inflation is due to higher gas prices, and gilts and commodities prices do not suggest there is much fear of ongoing inflation, whilst increased price pressure will weaken pressure from spending, and there really is no wage-price spiral as a shortage of decent staff pushes up salaries (5). At the other side of the argument are people like Merryn Somerset Webb (6). She argues surveys (I hesitate to call this data) from the British Chambers of Commerce showed most (66%) of businesses are worried about inflation, and while 30% say this is due to wage growth, 94% blame raw material price increase (6). This is reportedly due to increases in oil and gas prices, and they aren’t going down any time sooner because everyone is going renewable too quickly (6). Hogwash.

While I don’t agree with Merryn Somerset Webb’s “all aboard the coal train” bandwagon, I do agree that inflation isn’t going away. In my naturally bearish state I am concerned that the BoE is under-weighting long-term inflationary causes. Two points on this. First, all the CPI inflation graphs people refer to seem to go back to the late 80s/ early 90s. Inflation isn’t a modern thing, we’re just measuring it with the CPI now. The fairly fun in2013dollars.com reckons since 1920 the pound has had an average inflation rate of 3.86% (7). Actual proper peer-reviewed papers peg inflation since the mid-1950s at median average 4.3% and mean 5.90% (8, 9). So our current 5% looks like a reversion to mean. Five percent inflation (and theoretically associated interest rates) is not something the BoE wants, but might be good for national debt. For the rest of us debtors, 5% mortgage rates could pinch a lot of those stretched salary-multiplier high LTV mortgages, and rid us of some of the zombie companies floating about.

Point two. What is in the CPI. Have you ever looked at the basket of goods the ONS uses? It can be bloody weird, but seems like a fairly decent mix of households (10). Wholemeal loaf and dehydrated noodles, fair enough. Liver and canned meats, not round here. Rent costs for housing, materials for maintenance like MDF, bedroom furniture, and a new smartphone. That feels fairly normal. There’s a lot of items, but I’d encourage you to have a look.

The important point here is it’s not just about gas prices or wage growth. This is all the bits of stuff people buy or spend on. The price of laptops, the latest Apple watch, the latest Samsung smartphone, etc have all gone up because of chip shortages. That doesn’t seem to be easing. Same problem applies to new cars, and has driven up the price of second hand cars. Rail prices are going up faster than inflation. Air fares have gone up. Rent prices have gone up – have you spoken to anyone trying to rent recently? In our local area it seems to be almost impossible. One of my junior colleagues has been looking for nine months for somewhere suitable, staying with a friend in the interim. Brexit and COVID has meant fewer people available for hospitality, services and transport work, driving up wages (3). The headlines might be lawyers and lorry drivers, but everyone I’ve spoken to seems to be struggling to get staff.

And add-on the sustainability element. Fast fashion is in for a certain portion of the population, but for many it’s firmly on it’s way out. See the rise of Depop and Vinted, the fashion amongst the generation below me of reuse and recycle. On/re-shoring and difficulties with international shipping (COVID, Suez, Brexit, general fuel cost) means that it’s much more expensive to get stuff to the UK now. People can’t get raw materials or finished goods in. Food prices have continuously fallen over the last decade, meaning even as wages have stagnated many families have not noticed inflation on their food bill (11). It’s got cheaper thanks to cheap labour from abroad for UK farms, and cheap food imported from abroad. Farmers have been squeezed to the point of barely breaking even – watch Clarkson’s Farm. Both of these drivers are disappearing. This affects the poorest in the population most, as food makes up a greater proportion of their total spending (11). Food prices are going to start increasing, because the only way they can get cheaper is if farms become even more commercialized as agri-businesses, with lower welfare standards and quality in the face of fairly paltry Government replacements for EU subsidies (12, 13, 14). The alternative is importing more food, which is harder and more expensive due to Brexit. Or people pay more for better quality, more sustainable produce, the way that some public opinion is blowing.

So that’s my long-winded rant about why I’m adding £50 to my weekly food budget and monthly energy spend rather than a future eating soylent green and ChickieNobs in the dark. We can afford it. I’m going to account for 4% annual inflation in my future calculations. After a decade of low inflation and low interest rates, times they are a-changing.

December Finances

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved (a surprising) 34% of my salary, bolstered by some locum work. I have also finally managed to clear my credit card. I’m not quite unsecured debt free, there’s about £1000 of 0% credit for a kitchen, but not too shabby. Savings this month were in cash and cryptocurrency – more on this in my Q4 review. If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £297.80, last month £348.68
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £31.93, last month £206
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £258, last month £349
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £272/ £199 – Christmas gifts
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £512/ £445
  • Misc – £50/ £207/ £153
  • Fees – £300 /£233/ £494

In the garden:

Found an old paraffin greenhouse heater in the garage. Played with it. Need more paraffin.

Happy 2022!

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.ftadviser.com/your-industry/2021/12/15/uk-inflation-hits-highest-level-in-decade-at-5-1/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/personal-finance/2021/12/15/inflation-rate-update/
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12196322
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/jan/02/what-does-2022-hold-for-the-uk-economy-and-its-households
  5. https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/news/2022/01/04/a-year-of-falling-inflation/
  6. https://www.ft.com/content/fce4a625-aa74-46fa-9a62-7a0cb72993d6
  7. https://www.in2013dollars.com/uk/inflation/1920
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1042443110000429?casa_token=tOEF5yB9oWcAAAAA:ljC2hDbKPqIFpHynk8cOmzfcPgaBO_gER06hI5LJa93VBxCmO5-PS7zDTW9M0RYi3X7INx0
  9. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1350485042000200169?casa_token=fCJsOkOUJbEAAAAA%3A76hVL-P5ZqSKjbTP4HVDFsK16aC8Q1Geyv_69prSYdeNhzpJRqPYi5w4qx0LlRIQVFzJPipNEw
  10. https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/datasets/consumerpriceinflationbasketofgoodsandservices
  11. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021/united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021-theme-4-food-security-at-household-level
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/jan/05/grocery-inflation-adds-15-to-britains-christmas-bills
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/06/farmers-should-stand-their-ground-with-supermarkets-on-fair-prices-minister-says
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/09/farm-subsidy-plan-risks-increasing-the-uks-reliance-on-food-imports

November 2021 – Inflation & Energy Prices

In rushing together these few months and quarterly posts I’ve noticed an uptrend in my boring household spending. Nothing dramatic, just a general creep. Some of this is down to added baby costs, and MrsShrink being at home fulltime eating, keeping warm, breathing. I don’t think this can account for everything though. MrsShrink used to spend about £25/week at her work canteen for breakfast and lunch, and baby nappies etc from Aldi/ Lidl aren’t more than a few pounds a week. So why has our monthly grocery spend gone from £300-400/month in 2020 to £500-600/month at the end of 2021? I think most of it is inflation, due to the obvious increased transport and wage costs, increased cost of production etc. ONS has CPI pegged at 4.6% for last month, and I suspect food costs are rising faster (1). It could well account for an extra hundred on our monthly food bill. There’s a lot of concern about the risks of this inflation to households in the media at the moment, but for now we can weather it on my single income (2, 3). We’re lucky as I’m not sure all will.

We’ve also been struck by the collapse of our energy supplier, Bulb (4). We always had good service from them, but it seems that behind the flashy front and customer service they we’re particularly well run, will allegations that they weren’t hedging their energy contracts. We’re now on the supplier of last resort run by Ofgem, from a practical sense still paying through Bulb at the price cap. This means we’re likely to see a fair rise in our energy spend when the supplier of last resort is wound up. Time to tighten the old belt.

November Finances

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved a paltry 19.5% of my salary, which I’m quite content with. Maintaining this whilst also running the house on just my salary feels the sort of thing a family in the 1950s might have been able to do, but rare today. Again this was all saved as cash or in my pension, with no new investment. If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £348.68, last month £201.48
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £206.38, last month £113.55 – Going out, eating out, naughty things like the asian bakery round the corner
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £349.06, last month £163.98 – MOT time
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £199.22/ £288.23
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £445/ £159 – extra locum/ overtime pay is getting funnelled here
  • Misc – £50/ £153.14/ £594.76
  • Fees – £300 /£494.43/ £311.67

In the garden:

Basically just on life support now, with tender stuff tucked up in the greenhouse or under cloches to over winter.

Hope you’re all having a great Christmas and New Year break!

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/dec/30/the-bank-of-england-has-underestimated-the-risk-inflation-poses-to-stability
  3. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/investing/article-10332935/What-2021-bring-investors-Covid-fightback-inflation.html
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59373198

Quarterly Returns – Q3 2021

Quarterly return posts supplement my monthly Financial Dashboard, covering investments in detail and looking at my yearly targets. Here I track purchases and sales, document progress against my (in progress) investment strategy, and discuss re-balancing and changes over time.

Finding time over the Christmas break to catch up on these posts, as juggling work and a newborn has turned out to be time intensive. We had planned for around £2100/month of expenses (mortgage, all household bills, all household groceries and toiletries, any other activities as a family). This is proving to be pretty… lean. One of the actions for 2022 will be to re-look at this, as I’m not entirely sure where the cost creep is coming from. We seem to be spending more in supermarkets, and maybe that’s a combination of the inflation of food prices and the endless merry-go-round of visiting relatives requiring feed and water. More likely it’s all the little extra things we’re buying for baby; dummies, toys, books, odd shit you don’t account for like cot sheets and blackout blinds. It feels like these aren’t going away. There’s going to be a continual stream of random ‘essentials’ we ‘need’. Better update my cashflow.

Q3 Returns:

  • Cash Accounts £13,520 (-£340)
  • Investments £11,920 (+£320)
  • Property £52,900 (+£800)
  • Cars £2000 (no changes)

Increased spending on the newborn, and some dips in the market have meant my net worth has fallen back this month, but the savings rate is averaging 37.5%, just under my 40% aim. I continue to target paying off my credit card, aiming to get it paid off by Christmas, while also continuing to put away £250 in cash/month in the Principality Thank You Saver, which is a 1.4% regular saving offering for NHS workers in South Wales (1).

Investments:

Active/Passive Satellite to Core ratio

Core/ Satellite Passive/ Active Split

My 2021 ISA is in Vanguard, and for two of this quarters months I paid in £400/month to my old friend Dev World ex-UK. I also bought some more Ethereum, which I now include in my active satellite % calculation, again as a hedge against inflation/ bond weirdness as outlined last quarter.

As I’m not paying in to Freetrade for this years ISA, all activity in that account has been active attempts at stock picking by selling holdings to buy new (fancy a free share? Sign up to Freetrade using this link, and we both get one). Towards the end of Q2 and into Q3 I sunk around 10% of the value of this account (essentially my GME gains) into some US mortgage brokers, following further meme posts (NYSE:RKT, NYSE:UWMC). These then promptly lost 20%, proving that I am not good at timing my herd following. I also bought back into GME at a price peak, and at the end of Q3 still hold that (small) position, awaiting another price peak.

With all of these positions in play I got annoyed at progress, at the active/passive split and at the general makeup of my portfolio. When I looked over my account (ignoring passive funds) I was holding GME, RKT and UMWC as meme stocks, Unilever (LON:ULVR), Greencoat UK Wind (LON:UKW) and The Renewables Infrastructure Group (LON:TRIG) as sustainable dividend investments, and IQE (LON:IQE) and Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN) as growth conviction plays. I.E. A bit of a nonsensical mess. I sold a small amount of my passive EM holding (slap wrist) to provide some liquid capital. I then closed my positions in UKW and TRIG. I held these two positions since May 2020, during which time both of their market prices essentially flatlined. That’s kind of what I was expecting; these were essentially investments aligned with my attempt to be more sustainable in general, and were also supposed to be for dividends, not growth. The dividends on these holdings have been the drivers for return, seeing 10% and 11% over the 17 months. I also sold my RKT holding for essentially what I paid for it, and my small IQE position for a healthy 43% loss. This left me with a collection of cash, ULVR and COIN in the positive, and UWMC and GME in the negative awaiting suitable exit points. Where is this portfolio going? Not fully decided yet, so watch this space.

Happy winter everyone,

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.principality.co.uk/savings-accounts/everyday-savings-accounts/thank-you-online-saver

October 2021 – Mining

I have a confession to make. I really love mining. I don’t know if it’s something in my blood, as my ancestors made money from coal and iron, or just formative years spent amongst decrepit mine shafts in former industrial heartlands. I absolutely love it. I probably should have gone and done it as a degree. Pulling wealth out of the ground!

It’s not really pulling wealth out of the ground though. Gone are the days, and the mineral resources, where you could just rock up and pull money from crevices in the rock (except maybe if you’re a forest freeminer). These days mining has crazy overheads, economies of scale, and you need proper cash to be a player.

I’ve followed the fates of various UK mining concerns over the last decade. I’ve invested in some, and not really lost money. Let’s talk about a few.

Sirius Minerals

If you’re interested in investing, particularly with a UK focus, I think you’d be hard pressed not to have heard of Sirius Minerals (1, 2). They were a company building a mine to extract polyhalite , a type of potash used as a fertiliser compound, in North Yorkshire. It was/is a vast project, with a 22 mile underground conveyor to comply with North York Moors planning requirements, and the potential for £2.5 billion annually in exports. There was also a focus on local jobs, and a lot of local people stumped up cash, alongside institutional investment hype. Repeated rounds of junk bond sales were needed to raise the funds to build such a monster mine, and gradually investment dried up (at the time allegedly linked to Brexit) (3) . Without continued investment the project withered, and where it had previously been the ‘darling’ of the FTSE, it suddenly left a lot of small investors holding big losses (4, 5). People lost pensions and life savings, as ultimately Anglo-American bought out the company at a bargain price (6, 7, 8).

I didn’t invest in Sirius Minerals. By the time I heard about it it was making lots of new in the mainstream press, and I considered that too late to jump aboard. It also looked a bit like a giant white elephant in a deep hole. It remains to be seen whether Anglo-American can turn it around.

Wolf Minerals/ Tungsten West

I did stick some money through the AIM listing in Wolf Minerals (9). Wolf developed and ran a tungsten and tin mine outside Plymouth, on the edge of Dartmoor. The mine itself has been there for decades (centuries?), with the enormous deposit of high grade tungsten being used during WW2. It lay essentially dormant until rising tungsten prices prompted a relook, with a feasibility study suggesting low-cost, high-grade ore was available. At least £170 million was ploughed in, developing an open cast pit and low environmental impact ore recovery plant on site. Once producing, it never met volume expectations, tungsten prices fell and it ran at a huge loss before falling into administration in 2018 (10, 11).

The Drakelands mine may potentially live on; it’s still a high-grade resource with the world’s 3rd-largest deposit, planning and infrastructure. It has gone through various hands, ending up as Tungsten West who bought it out of receivership in 2019 (12, 13). Tungsten West is also market-listed, and I may well buy in (on sentiment) after I’ve read some more about them. Their plan is to re-open the mine, and with increasing tungsten prices and general onshoring/ mineral security concerns they are certainly interesting (14, 15).

There’s a theme here… (Image from http://www.lyngham.co.uk/cornishlads/lads2.html)

Strongbow exploration/ Cornish Metals

I’ve been following the mineral resource held by Strongbow Exploration, now renamed Cornish Metals, for at least a decade (16). They hold the rights to South Crofty mine, an enormous tin (and previously copper, arsenic and tungsten) mine under Camborne/ Redruth/ a lot of Cornwall, that has been producing ore since 1592 (17). It went into decline in the 1980s into the 90s with the collapse in the global price of tin, shutting down in 1997. Since then, as the price of tin has increased, there have been periodic attempts to restart the mine, but with progress slowed by planning problems (it sits underneath the towns of Camborne and Redruth, with old surface mine sites prime for redevelopment) and the involvement of UNESCO (it’s within a world heritage site). Through gradual purchases it now covers an area of 34 former mines, and after Strongbow bought the site out of administration they have been drilling, re-assessing, permitting, and are now de-watering the old South Crofty site (16).

It’s a common story across the Devon, Cornwall and rest of the UK. These mines did not shut due to exhaustion of the resource. The cost of recovery was too high versus the price of the ore. South Crofty’s previous owners, the Celeste Copper Corp reckoned there was >£1.5 billion in ore left in South Crofty. Cornish Metals has now listed on the AIM, and I’ve seen quite a nice profit from them (18). I think their recent rally has come because of new results from a separate site. South Crofty came packaged up with a lot of other rights, permits and sites, including the old United Downs near Gwennap. It had the richest copper reserves in the world in the 18th and 19th century, but shut down due to global competition and low prices (19). Wheal Jane, a mine in the area covered by United Downs, was run by Rio Tinto Zinc into the mid 90s (20). Cornish Metals have an agreement with Cornish Lithium (below) whereby Cornish Lithium can look for lithium in areas covered by Cornish Metals rights. Cornish Lithium were busy drilling for lithium in 2020 when they struck a potentially massive unknown copper/tin lode in the United Downs area (19). Since then Cornish Metals have been getting permits and test-drilling the site (21). These have come back positively, and I’m fairly bullish on this company (22, 23, 24).

Cornish Lithium

Lithium, so hot right now. The market loves it for it’s potential in batteries. This has been going on since 2017, with the potential for small cap growth (25, 26). So when Cornish Lithium popped up on a crowdfunding site in 2019, I dipped my toe (27, 28). There’s hard rock lithium scattered throughout Cornwall, and Cornish Lithium’s spin is that they have both access from a maiden hard rock mine and from brine in mine water from sites like South Crofty (27). There’s been further industry investment and crowdfunding rounds, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out (29, 30). Cornish Lithium have a rival, British Lithium, who are also busy developing a hard rock mine in Cornwall to produce battery-grade lithium, backed by UKRI funding (31, 32). They’re not publicly listed, but I’ll be following their progress to see what happens, as there seems to be a lot of competition and interest in bringing lithium production to the UK – this WIRED article is excellent (33).

Gold

There’s a couple of UK gold resources being explored/ mined, and what better way of finding portfolio diversity. Sod the gold ETFs, buy the miner. I’m watching Galantas, who are developing a mine in Omagh, and Scotgold, who have the Cononish mine in Scotland (34, 35, 36). I’ve also got half an eye on Alba Mineral Resources, who hold a few rights and are doing exploration in the old Clogau welsh gold sites (37). I’ve not invested in these yet, but dependent on what happens with the broader markets I may open positions, and develop myself a little mining portfolio. Would welcome comments and thoughts from readers.

October Finances

Yes, I’m very behind here. Baby’s are time consuming. Hoping to catch up over the Christmas period…

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved a paltry 14% of my salary, as household bills on one salary have started to bite. This was almost all saved as cash or in my pension, as items for the baby meant I didn’t have any spare cash (even paying myself before) to invest. If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £196.58, last month £396.02 – More on track this month, but still need to rein this in ahead of the decrease in household income
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £113.55, last month £133.45 – Making the most of the few warm days with babysitters
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £163.98, last month £384.92
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £73.85/ £78.71
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £159/ £960
  • Misc – £50/ £69/ £145.83
  • Fees – £300 /£149.57/ £421.85

In the garden:

Winding down in the cold and wet, I harvested the last of my kale, pumpkins, squashes and spring onions. A few other bits plod on, but it’s mostly down to the greenhouse now, and my intention is to let everything run wild while occupied with other activities.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirius_Minerals
  2. https://siriusminerals.com/investors/
  3. https://www.ft.com/content/c35b094e-7d89-3609-973b-8af441c4f01a
  4. https://www.ft.com/content/e99f113e-b1b3-11e8-99ca-68cf89602132
  5. https://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/902964/losers-and-winners-of-the-sirius-minerals-saga-902964.html
  6. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-8583999/Sirius-Minerals-boss-pocketed-1-3m-investors-lost-fortune.html
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-51736395
  8. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7472389/Sirius-Minerals-shares-crash-fails-secure-funding-mine.html
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_Minerals
  10. https://miningglobal.com/smart-mining/wolf-minerals-and-drakelands-tungsten-mine
  11. https://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/206786/wolf-minerals-ceases-trading-in-london-after-uk-subsidiary-enters-voluntary-administration-206786.html
  12. https://www.business-live.co.uk/economic-development/tungsten-mine-owner-explores-options-20565271
  13. https://www.tungstenwest.com/overview-and-strategy
  14. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/king-of-mining-ian-hannam-plots-devon-tungsten-float-lbppjmj0f
  15. https://im-mining.com/2021/10/12/tungsten-west-set-to-bring-hemerdon-tungsten-tin-mine-back-into-production/
  16. https://www.strongbowexploration.com/projects/uk/south-crofty/
  17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Crofty
  18. https://miningglobal.com/automation-and-ai/strongbow-exploration-list-london-stock-exchange
  19. https://www.cornishmetals.com/projects/uk/united-downs/
  20. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheal_Jane
  21. https://www.mining.com/cornish-metals-granted-key-permit-for-united-downs/
  22. https://www.insidermedia.com/news/south-west/cornish-metals-makes-progress-on-sw-venture
  23. https://www.business-live.co.uk/economic-development/high-grade-tin-discovered-cornish-22054497
  24. https://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/968381/cornish-metals-reports-high-grade-copper-from-united-downs-copper-tin-project-968381.html
  25. https://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/173004/small-cap-movers-lithium-miners-start-to-shine-173004.html
  26. https://www.businessgreen.com/news-analysis/3025238/cornish-batteries-scientists-embark-on-satellite-search-for-lithium-below-cornwall
  27. https://cornishlithium.com/
  28. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/07/12/cornish-lithium-miner-goes-digging-crowdfunding/amp/?__twitter_impression=true
  29. https://www.mining-technology.com/dashboards/deals-dashboards/cornish-lithium-funding-techmet/
  30. https://www.crowdcube.com/companies/cornish-lithium-ltd/pitches/qYERNq
  31. https://www.businessgreen.com/news/4019146/boost-british-lithium-cornish-mining-firm-wins-gbp500-backing
  32. https://britishlithium.co.uk/
  33. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/cornwall-lithium
  34. https://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/224283/galantas-gold-advancing-omagh-mine-after-placing-sees-high-demand-224283.html
  35. https://www.scotgoldresources.com/
  36. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/02/gold-highlands-mine-scottish-jewellery
  37. https://www.albamineralresources.com/

September 2021 – Reaping what is sown

It’s been a while since the last post here. Turns out infants are time consuming, who knew. There is an increased respect for single parents. As I have sat awake feeding, changing nappies or soothing at 4am I have found myself with more time to ponder. The sleep deprivation has also made me more… cantankerous? Treat this as a trigger warning. Brexit and sustainability rant ahead.

It feels like the next twelve months could see a lot of chickens coming home to roost. Metaphorical chickens mind. Chickens for dinner are going to get harder to come by and more expensive (1). Food prices have fallen over the past 20 years, off the back of competition, cheap labour, EU market imports and large-scale agribusinesses (or so says the Chicken King) (1). That is set to end. The cost of energy and supplies like fertiliser has gone up, for a variety of reasons. Cheap labour isn’t coming from Europe anymore, and Brits won’t do it (2). There were those stories of food rotting in the fields because the farms couldn’t get staff to pick them (3). Here’s a good Twitter thread on the labour shortages:

Anyone with half an ear to the farming community knew this would happen. I know quite a few farming families, many voted for Brexit, and as far as I can work out they thought they would still be receiving subsidies from the government, and the lack of EU legislation would mean they could go gung-ho for currently banned fertilisers/ pesticides, while still selling into and receiving labour from the EU market. There was a lot of goose that laid the golden egg promises. The Government appears to have viewed the opportunity to set it’s own subsidies as a way to pivot towards sustainable practices (4). Which is great for the planet, but not so good if you’re an agri-business. The upshot is a lot of farmers are going to lose a lot (maybe half) of subsidies (5). If you’ve watched Clarkson’s Farm you know how precarious a lot of farming when you don’t have fame and public buffoonery to fall back on. Farmers are going to go bankrupt.

So, food is getting more expensive. Our monthly food bill has gone up. I’ve mitigated by always buying meat from a local vertically integrated butcher, and seasonal veg from a co-operative organic growing scheme (doncha know). Some people can’t afford that. We get our milk through a milkman who pays the farmer a fair price direct. Talking over the fence to a neighbour they said “oh that sounds too expensive”. I hope the population will start to see the sense in buying very local, very seasonal food, because it’s cheaper. It used to be if you were poor you ate cheap cuts of meat. I worry that people are used to £3 chicken.

And that’s before we get onto gas prices.

Energy bills are going to keep going up for the next 18 months (6). It’s going to put millions into fuel poverty (7). Most people will be £1000s worse off due to the combination of inflation, stagnant or falling wages/ benefits, and increased household bills (8). We may not see the government inflation figures rise much, but we will definitely feel it, and I’ve seen unofficial figures at 4-5%. Not that savings or interest rates will go there. If they did thousands would default on mortgages and loans. Plenty of new energy businesses have gone bust, the competition that was supposed to drive the prices down from the big boys not able to weather the storm (9). The big six remain the most complained about (10). Much like in the water industry, where the big boys keep failing, and suck up the fines as a cost rather than actually fixing the problems (11).

How do you combat the current setup? I quite like the idea of local energy production. Again, in the old days every town and city had it’s own power station. Now with the grid and massive power stations for maximum efficiency we’re reliant on a few providers and a few sites; hence the issue with the Kent interconnector fire (12). There’s a push back as part of sustainability drives to local energy production through Community Energy groups (13). Local investors buy bonds in small projects to supply cheaper energy to the local area. Maybe this could happen with the return of local stock exchanges, where you could buy into local businesses (14). Probably a bit revolutionary. At least in Wales the Government and Community Interest Companies are pushing forward with local energy sustainable energy production (15, 16). Wind and wave power may yet see the Welsh valleys reborn (17, 18). Neither will be cheap.

Taken together, things are going to get more expensive. Brexit and macro-economics seems to be pushing things more locally – “onshoring”. The global labour/ supply chain and just-in-time deliveries have made things cheaper. How would you feel if food returned to costing a third of the average household income (19,20)? Food, energy and basic household items are going to get more expensive, so time to tighten the belts.

September 2021 Dashboard

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved just under 20% of my salary, as I move to cover 90% of our household bills with MrsShrink off on maternity leave. This months S&S ISA money again went into Vanguard’s ex-UK Dev World Acc Fund. More churn in my Freetrade account, buying back into GME and some other hyped nonsense, and out of sensible dividend and environment stocks. If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £260.03, last month £196.58 – On holiday at the start of this month, with spending correspondingly inflated
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £95, last month £113.55 – Making the most of the few warm days with babysitters
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £210.35, last month £163.98
  • Holiday – £150, spent £274.65, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £0/ £73.85
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £188/ £159
  • Misc – £50/ £334.25/ £69 – Made a will, paid some nursery fees
  • Fees – £300 /£134.57/ £149.57

In the garden:

I love this time of year, reaping rewards of planting. At the same time I’m tinged with melancholy, knowing that my growing season is coming to an end. Mowing the lawn, tidying hedges, sowing winter seed. Lots of pickling of things like tomatoes, beetroot, french beans and gherkins. Soon it’ll be cold again, and it’s time to relish those few last warm days. Just a shame there weren’t many!

Happy October everyone!

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/uk-news/chicken-king-warns-days-cheap-21858567
  2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/10/17/wont-brits-pick-vegetables-30-hour/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/aug/25/the-anxiety-is-off-the-scale-uk-farm-sector-worried-by-labour-shortages
  4. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/agriculture-subsidies-after-brexit
  5. https://www.ft.com/content/62bf13df-195c-4f0b-a1d5-db1c80ffffd1
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/oct/21/expect-18-more-months-of-rising-energy-bills-uk-householders-warned
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58831110
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2021/oct/19/british-households-will-be-1000-worse-off-next-year-thinktank-warns
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58903122
  10. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/54e1e26ce5274a451400000b/Summary_of_hearing_with_Energy_Ombudsman.pdf
  11. https://www.sas.org.uk/news/water-industry-fails-to-cut-pollution-again/
  12. https://www.energylivenews.com/2021/10/15/fire-struck-ifa-interconnector-not-fully-operational-until-2023-national-grid-says/
  13. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-9935477/Locals-bought-two-turbines-power-lido-make-profit-flow.html
  14. https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/141821/1/859906256.pdf
  15. https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/19648241.wales-explore-public-owned-energy-company-renewables/
  16. https://www.thegreenvalleys.org/
  17. https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/windfarm-senghenydd-caerphilly-rct-21960922
  18. https://www.business-live.co.uk/enterprise/17bn-green-energy-project-swansea-21956299
  19. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/11/heres-how-our-food-prices-compare-to-30-years-ago-and-you-might-be-surprised/
  20. https://www.hillarys.co.uk/back-in-my-day/