The Full English Accompaniment – Watch the population slump, and then the economy

What’s piqued my interest this week?

In the allocations section of my Investment Strategy Statement I mentioned that I favour emerging markets (a generalisation) because of changing demographics. Events of the past few weeks have prompted me to flesh my thought process out. I have a hunch/ theory/ feeling in my waters that long term stock market movements correlate to changing demographics (so far so normal), particularly the ratio of 20-40 year olds to other demographics. This has long been muted, but is difficult to prove, partially (I think) because it depends on where and how you define the demographics and stock market changes, and how you look at dependants (1). It should be noted by the passive investor because if you invest in a national index now you want to be sure that that same index is going to keep going up.

The Japan Problem

Japan is the canary in the coalmine. People have been noting for some time the relationship between Japan’s relatively stagnant growth and its ageing population. This has improved somewhat under Shinzo Abe, averaging around 1% growth over the past decade despite the significant headwind of a falling population. With the highest life expectancy in the world and a fertility rate of 1.4, Japan’s population is getting older, with the expectation the proportion of those >65 will go from 3 in 10 to 4 in 10 in the next 40 years, with the population shrinking by 25% (2, 3). By 2025 it will have an aged dependant per worker ratio of 75% (3).

This is a huge challenge for a social security system, as more people rely on pensions and the healthcare system than the funds that are coming in (4, 5). Public debt increases or the numbers of workers increase, or both.

Europe

The problem I see is the EU isn’t that far behind. There’s a big post-boomer bubble coming, made up of those born 1955-75 (6). Shock! Millenial not slating the boomers.

We’re already starting to see one sign of the problem, as companies struggle under the weight of increasing pension debts. It’s one of the things that’s dragged down BHS, Debenhams, HoF, and look at the ongoing saga with private railway company operators. Stagecoach and Virgin don’t want to be on the hook for the Railways Pension Scheme deficit (7). As the working population reduces and the dependant population grows this chasm in the unfunded public sector pension schemes will yawn wider. Executives are looking down the barrel and running for the hills, to mix metaphors. This is across Europe. Germany and Italy have expanding dependant populations, Bulgaria has a birth rate of 1.5 and has seen its population fall by 2 million in 30 years, Poland is closing schools due to the lack of children (8, 9). Some countries though, like Sweden, are bucking the trend through immigration.

The Global Picture

Look wider and there are notes of caution but also reasons to be cheerful. Globally birthrates are falling, the low levels in the developed world balanced by high birthrates in India, the Philippines and Africa (8). Emerging market populations are growing faster than the developed markets are shrinking, so the population will keep growing, but at a slower rate (9). This is good news for the planet, which can’t sustain the current growth rates indefinitely, but bad news for those who dislike immigration, as migration will be required to maintain labour forces in the developed economies with shrinking populations. Or will it?

Before I move on it’s worth focusing on three more countries: India, the US and China (9, 10, 11).

Things are looking peachy for India, which has an expanding population likely to drive greater growth even as it modernises and develops (although this is not without its issues). The US is in better shape than most of the developed world, with forecasts for a relatively flat or increasing population before you even take migration into account (12). This is one of the reasons, combined with global corporate and technological monopolies, that I don’t believe the NYSE is about to undergo a crash when the boomers call time and cash their retirement cheques. But what happened to China? The single child policy. We’re past its peak, and now China is looking at a reduction in its working age population of 212 million by 2050 (10). 212 million less people working. That’s the current population of Brazil. That’s what state top-down planning gets you.

‘Abenomics’ and ways out

So how do we get out of our slump? Well we could open our borders to a motivated migrant workforce, but that would just be too sensible and easy. Some authors look back to Japan for the way out of this population pickle. Shinzo Abe has sustained growth in the face of a falling population primarily through recruiting more people into work who previously were not, alongside technological productivity developments (13). Japan in many ways is a deeply conservative country. The perceived social norm continues to be men go to work all day, women are home-makers. In 2013 Abe introduced ‘Womenomics’ (there’s a theme here), increasing female participation in the labour force through a number of methods (13, 14). I don’t feel this would necessarily translate to western European cultures, where women working is the norm. I think efforts in our economy to bring those out of the labour market for whatever reason into work, like zero-hours contracts, have been less successful. There’s more people in work, but productivity and earnings aren’t necessarily increasing.

Technology and automation, on the other hand, probably are solutions. Automation enables greater output with fewer workers, and can be applied to manufacturing, construction and some service industries, as it has in Japan (14). It’s not good news for the factory workers and low-skilled employees, which is all the more reason for Universal Basic Income – an argument for another time. There will continue to be some jobs robots will struggle with; caring roles or where intuition is required. As a shrink I’m probably safe. Robots are yet to understand human emotions.

Major caveats

Important flaws in this whole essay:

The stock market isn’t necessarily correlated with population demographics.

There’s lots of arguments and evidence of this. It can basically be boiled down to:

  1. You can’t correlate specific bear markets, like the dotcom bubble, to demographic/ population change points – this is often identification error
  2. External factors and drivers such as politics (e.g. the fall of the Berlin Wall/ communism etc) have unpredictable effects on a) markets and b) demographics
  3. The timescales and effect sizes are such that the end result on the stock market appears negligible (15, 16).

Add in the fact that we have an increasingly interconnected world, with global corporations taking earnings from multi-national operations, and it all gets murky. I don’t think any developed market is about to crash while companies listed on it’s market utilise cheap developing world labour (17). Just also don’t ignore a developing market with increasing capitalisation (18). Which is why I aim to hold more in certain developing markets. But you, as usual, should do your own research.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

The Right Way to Keep Chickens – Virginia Shirt – Another guide to our new pets.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://bit.ly/2UVX1x6
  2. https://www.indexmundi.com/japan/age_structure.html
  3. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/japans-economic-outlook-in-five-charts/
  4. https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/11/26/the-challenges-of-japans-demography
  5. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/japan-demographic-lesson-european-growth-by-daniel-gros-2017-11?barrier=accesspaylog
  6. https://www.indexmundi.com/european_union/age_structure.html
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/apr/10/unloved-stagecoach-may-have-a-point-on-rail-franchise-pension-risks
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/31/birthrate-crisis-require-new-mindset-growth-population-prediction
  9. https://www.businessinsider.com/2-charts-tell-the-global-demographic-story-2015-12?r=US&IR=T
  10. https://www.businessinsider.com/changes-to-working-age-population-around-the-globe-2016-12?r=US&IR=T
  11. https://www.indexmundi.com/united_states/age_structure.html
  12. https://fat-pitch.blogspot.com/2018/05/demographics-growing-prime-working-age.html
  13. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-aging-japan-defied-demographics-and-turned-around-its-economy-11547222490
  14. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/09/what-is-japans-secret-women-and-technology.html
  15. https://medium.com/street-smart/the-demographics-of-stock-market-returns-part-ii-a41a46622198
  16. https://global.vanguard.com/portal/site/institutional/nl/en/articles/research-and-commentary/vanguard-voices/demographics-and-equity-returns-vv
  17. https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2019/03/28/slower-growth-in-ageing-economies-is-not-inevitable
  18. https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2018/08/01/should-long-term-investors-own-more-emerging-market-equities/#3fcebc6854ee
  19. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47609539
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/04/sales-new-cars-fall-uk-consumers-continue-shun-diesel-brexit
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/04/us-china-risk-house-price-slump-trigger-recession-imf-lending
  22. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/01/was-the-us-stock-market-boom-predictable
  23. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/apr/01/fca-supervision-lcf-london-capital-finance-investigated
  24. https://monevator.com/the-slow-and-steady-passive-portfolio-update-q1-2019/
  25. https://monevator.com/what-is-a-sustainable-withdrawal-rate-for-a-world-portfolio/
  26. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/04/01/march-2019-other-updates/
  27. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/04/11/freetrade/
  28. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/04/01/how-i-sold-this-website-for-9-million/
  29. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/month-end-accounts-march-2019/
  30. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/fire-health-the-diabetes-epidemic/
  31. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/04/trig-share-offer-completed-update.html
  32. https://youngfiguy.com/audit-reform/
  33. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/04/09/through-the-brexit-looking-glass/
  34. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/04/financial-planning-2019-annual-review.html
  35. https://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-march-2019/
  36. https://www.msziyou.com/dating-as-a-feminist/
  37. https://indeedably.com/random-acts-of-bastardry/
  38. https://indeedably.com/feels-like-home/
  39. https://indeedably.com/designed-to-fail/
  40. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/04/rightmoves-share-good-value-dividends.html/
  41. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/04/three-value-traps.html/
  42. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/04/three-value-traps.html/
  43. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/how-to-stockpile-food-shortage/
  44. http://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2019/04/building-a-raised-bed%EF%BB%BF/
  45. https://sharpenyourspades.com/2019/04/13/allotment-gardening-and-the-power-of-to-do-lists/

View story at Medium.com

Advertisements

Quarterly Returns – Q1 2019

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.

This post marks one year of my blog. One year of posting rants and general waffle. It marks a new year, and the end of the old tax year, so how did I get on in my Q1 of 2019?

Q1 Returns:

Net Worth Q1

  • Cash Savings Accounts £2800 (+£1000)
  • Investments £1000 (+£1000)
  • Cars £3000

My net worth now sits at £~33,200, an increase of £4.7k over the past three months, and up dramatically from the £~20,000 I first wrote about twelve months ago. I’m fairly sure I won’t be able to keep up a 60% increase in net worth, but I’ll keep a twelve month rolling calculation out of curiosity.

Yearly Targets:

Goal 1: Build an emergency fund

My first 2019 goal was to build an emergency fund, as per the r/UKpersonalfinance flow chart (1).

I’ve continued to add to my Santander 5% regular saver, which will reach maturity this month. It currently stands at £2200, which is a month of total household expenses at our current spending, or two months of my half. I’m now looking to set up another regular saver. I’ve parked some extra cash to pay for upcoming car and work related expenses. In the past three months I’ve decided I’m going to define my goal emergency fund as three months total household expenses (£6k) in my name, plus a further three months (£6k) held jointly. This seems a fairly realistic target for the next year.

Goal 2: Pay off short-term debts

Q1 Short Term Debt

At the start of 2019 my short terms debts stood at £1.25k to family and £2.6k on 0% interest credit cards. In the past three months I’ve paid £1k off our loan to family, but some significant work expenses had to go on my credit card, so that figure has only come down by £600. I’m going to have to work hard to achieve my goal of clearing my credit card by the end of Q2.

Goal 3: Save 25% of my earnings

Q1 Net Worth

In the past three months my savings rate has gradually increased, but it’s a bit early to take averages, particularly with the March outlier. I calculate my savings rate using this formula:

Savings rate as % = ((Income – spend) + Cash savings + Investments + Pension contributions) / (Income + Pension contributions)

Where income minus spend equals the money left from my income in my accounts at the end of the month. It’s important to note I don’t include any mortgage payments in this (i.e. increased equity), nor do I include reductions in debt. This is purely the amount I have been able to save out of my earnings. I see some arguing that imputed rent or equity increases should be included in savings, but for me this figure is a literal savings percentage. Equity/ debt changes show up in my net worth, which accounts for the rapid increase in net worth concurrent with a piddly savings percentage.

Goal 4: Live more sustainably

Some success here. We’ve reduced our plastic usage, we’re eating more locally and sustainably sourced food, and I’ve finished setting up our mini-market garden with new raised beds for veggies and some pet chickens. As things start to crop I’ll add them up and work out cost savings from homegrown produce.

Goal 5: Commence investing!

Q1 Tax Efficiency

I’ve taken the plunge. March’s tax rebate has been quickly squirrelled into a Vanguard S&S ISA. I opted for the FTSE Developed World ex-U.K. Accumulation Fund, buying at £352.62/unit. I learnt a quick lesson in a) market timing and b) not checking investments too frequently, as literally the day after the price fell to £341/unit. I’m not in it for short term gains, I told myself.

Since then I’m trying to avoid impulsively checking the NAV every hour (bloody idiotic), busying myself building a spreadsheet to track returns and allocations. Like many others my intention is to unitise my portfolio (1, 2, 3, 4). I’ve been reading about this methodology through (as usual) Monevator, and also Bogleheads which has a fantastic portfolio spreadsheet (5, 6). Hopefully by the end of Q2 it should be ready to be unveiled.

Until next time.

The Shrink

 

References

  1. https://firevlondon.com/2017/01/17/my-investment-tracking-spreadsheet/
  2. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/08/how-to-manage-a-portfolio-of-shares.html/
  3. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/unitising-my-portfolio-shows-i-sucked-last-year/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_valuation_system
  5. https://monevator.com/how-to-unitize-your-portfolio/
  6. https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Calculating_personal_returns#GoogleDocs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Full English Accompaniment – Doctors are rubbish at pensions

What’s piqued my interest this week?

There’s been lots in the news over the past few weeks about how high-earning professionals are being stung by the Tapered Annual Allowance, particularly doctors (1, 2, 3). The estimates are that around a million UK workers will have an unexpected tax bill (4, 5). I wrote a long-winded draft post trying to explain the reasons why doctors were disproportionately affected, but then YFG did a much better one, so I’ll direct you there for an explanation (6). Instead I’ll try and provide some context from a doctoring point of view.

Doctors make a good wage. As someone climbing the ladder, it takes a long time to get there (10 years and counting), but the end result is solid. You don’t go into medicine to make money. GP and consultant starting salaries are £~70k, with most on about £80-90k. If I had wanted to get filthy stinking rich I would have gone into banking, law or finance. The grades to get into medicine are the same as those for degrees which feed into the big financial firms. You go into medicine to see people, ‘make a difference’ (bleurgh), do science-y things. You know you’ll be remunerated well enough for your services. You’re happy to pay taxes as you live in a developed society, and the whole point of a society is to support it’s members.

Many doctors in my experience are crap at personal finance, but they know that the NHS pension will sort them out at the end. And the NHS pension has long been a trade-off for a national monopolised employer running pay rates lower than international averages. That £70k starting wage? In the private sector of the UK, double it. That’s not private practice, that’s private companies sub-contracted by the NHS to provide NHS services. In the antipodes, double it. In the US and Canada, triple it and then some. Break out the tiny violins.

Why is the Tapered Annual Allowance such a stinger? Well drawing in some of YFG’s subheadings, doctors have high, variable, unpredictable incomes, with a defined benefit scheme that is inflexible. They are unable to predict if they will fall foul of the TAA, are unlikely to know from the PAYE payslips, and unable to opt out if they do.

The NHS pension is a DB Career-Average Revalued Earnings (CARE) system with a 1/54th ratio. It has been consistently raided and watered down over the past few years, and with the 2015 changes any option to transfer out removed. It’s an unfunded scheme so there’s no money to transfer out. It has high contributions of 20.6%, split at different levels between individual and employer based on pensionable pay (7). The 2015 changes are already subject to legal action for age discrimination (8, 9). Payroll services do not offer options for pensions, so either you have your NHS pension scheme, or you have no pension at all. Even if you knew you were going to breach the TAA and wanted to reduce your contributions and keep working, you couldn’t. Increasingly people are choosing to opt out altogether (10). A cynical person would say this was the intention all along, to precipitate the pension scheme collapsing.

To break down the income side for context, year-on-year it is unlikely a doctor can predict their income. Mine changes monthly. My salary changes every six months due to the complex contracting system. The NHS is chronically short of doctors and routinely asks staff to step in to fill the breaches at minimal notice. They are paid, but this overtime to keep services going is unpredictable. I’ve one colleague who has a £20k tax bill for overtime he was forced to do to make sure there was a doctor on the ward. Due to the Tapered Annual Allowance doctors are refusing to fill the gaps, as the extra work can kick them into the Tapered Annual Allowance tax bracket.

This all comes on the back of continuing pressures and erosion of morale. A dossier of experiences collated this week gives an idea of what it’s like to work under NHS management (11). Can’t come into work as you have pneumonia and just found out you have lung cancer? Obviously not a team player. Got appendicitis? Finish your shift before taking yourself to A&E. It goes on. So forgive me the rant, but the NHS is in a pretty dire situation already, without complex taxation laws penalising staff for working.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

The Right Way to Keep Chickens – Virginia Shirt – Another guide to our new pets.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2019/03/26/union-urges-action-on-doctors-pensions/
  2. https://www.ft.com/content/225fb300-4c8e-11e9-bbc9-6917dce3dc62
  3. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/pensions-retirement/tax-retirement/doctors-give-nhs-bosses-days-fix-pension-crisis/
  4. https://www.internationalinvestment.net/news/4001515/million-uk-workers-unexpected-pensions-tax
  5. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/pensions-retirement/tax-retirement/million-professionals-face-100k-pension-tax-bills-completely/
  6. https://youngfiguy.com/nhs-pension-scheme-and-doctors/
  7. https://www.nhsemployers.org/your-workforce/pay-and-reward/pensions/pension-contribution-tax-relief
  8. https://www.gponline.com/bma-sue-government-nhs-pension-scheme-age-discrimination/article/1578690
  9. https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1145
  10. https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/portfolio-clinic/2019/02/28/think-long-and-hard-before-opting-out-of-your-nhs-pension/
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/28/nhs-trainee-doctors-denied-leave-dossier-hospitals
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47691078
  13. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47679192
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/mar/29/house-prices-in-england-fall-for-first-time-since-2012
  15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47741984
  16. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/03/30/china-planting-flag-europe-bad-news-italy-france/
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/30/peasant-revolt-earl-percy-flats-allotments-london
  18. https://monevator.com/fintech-and-money-habits/
  19. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/to-lift-yourself-higher-walk-your-own-fire/
  20. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/03/27/get-rich-fast-part-2/
  21. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/03/27/an-electric-blanket-and-other-february-2019-expenditures/
  22. https://drfire.co.uk/phd/
  23. https://firevlondon.com/2019/03/31/march-19-q1-review/
  24. https://youngfiguy.com/state-pension-age-increases/
  25. https://ditchthecave.com/m-shaped-life/
  26. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/stories-from-london-conspicuous-consumption/
  27. https://www.foxymonkey.com/each-way-matched-betting/
  28. https://thesavingninja.com/the-account-sharing-revolution/
  29. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/03/what-went-wrong-at-interserve.html/
  30. https://cashflowcop.com/the-ultimate-directory-of-fire-calculators/
  31. https://indeedably.com/choose-your-poison/
  32. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/o-tempora-o-mores/
  33. https://www.jackwallington.com/roundup-of-glyphosate-weed-killer-research/

The Full English Accompaniment – Playing fair when maximising your ISA allowance

What’s piqued my interest this week?

It’s that time of the year, and for the first time in a long time I’m looking at dipping my toe in the ISA waters, that generous government tax-sweetener (1). Sensible investors of course maximise their ISA allowance at the start of the tax year (for time in the market), but I’m only just reaching a point where I can start thinking about it.

So I have my £20,000 allowance ahead of me. How do I use it? Well according to some denizens of the internet I should max out all of my lines of credit and fill up my ISA pots. This would potentially maximise my allowance, and ensure I don’t regret losing it in the future. I could do this by stoozing, taking out a new 0% interest credit card and bunging it all in an ISA (2). I’m loath to do this for three reasons. The best cash ISAs are currently providing 1.77% interest (or 1.95% if two year fixed), which on £10k borrowed is a measly £177 (3). I lack the kahunas to leverage £10k on credit cards into a S&S ISA in the current market. We’re also due to remortgage soon and I’m trying to minimise my credit utilisation.

If not stoozing then perhaps using a flexible ISA to at least fill my allowance before paying it all back next month (4). This would be a pretty weird use of the flexibility, and I’m not sure how well it sits with me. The main premise of a flexible ISA is that you can take money out and as long as you replace it within the tax year it doesn’t effect your allowance; i.e. Put in £5k, leaving £15k allowance, withdraw £2.5k and you go down to £17.5k allowance (5, 6). So far so simple, but it gets a bit more complicated when you start adding in previous tax year allowances. Money withdrawn comes first from the current years allowance, and then previous years. Money replaced first replenishes previous years and then the current year’s allowance (7). Also worth noting Innovative Finance ISAs and cash within a S&S ISA can be flexible, but not any element in a S&S ISA that is not cash. MSE’s guidance on this is pretty excellent (7).

In my situation I could therefore use £20k of credit to fill up this years allowance on the 5th of April, before paying back my creditors on the 6th of April and leaving myself with £40k to fill for the next tax year. I’m not going to do it because I don’t think I’ll fill my £20k allowance next year, never mind £40k. It also feels a bit morally like bed and breakfasting, the act of selling and repurchasing shares on the same-day to play CGT, which is a naughty tax no-no (8). My suspicion is that the actual number of people in this position is so low that nobody at HMRC really cares. Bed & ISA-ing is a separate proper thing which is recommended, because the repurchase into the ISA counts as being in a different capacity and therefore it’s not B&Bing (9, 10, 11).

Other sources point to portfolio cash ISAs, with a bit in S&S and a bit in cash in separate pots under once umbrella, just to make the waters more muddy (12). There’s also recommendations to use a flexible ISA as a sort of tax store, where you take it out of your 1% instant access ISA account at the start of the tax year, bung it somewhere it can earn more interest, and then put it back in at the end of the tax year to keep the allowance (13). This makes it ‘work harder’, but seems absolutely bonkers to me as surely any interest is taxable and therefore negates the point of having a bloody ISA. It’s all a bit of a minefield of suggestions, and you’ll have to wait until the end of the month to find out what I actually did. Hint: it’s very boring.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Tombland – C.J. Sansom – I love the Shardlake series, detective novels set in the Tudor period with a crippled lead character. Beautifully written.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/individual-savings-accounts/
  2. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/stooze-cash-credit-cards/
  3. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/best-cash-isa/
  4. https://www.gov.uk/individual-savings-accounts/withdrawing-your-money
  5. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-5572897/What-flexible-Isa-advantage-it.html
  6. https://www.gov.uk/individual-savings-accounts/withdrawing-your-money
  7. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/flexible-ISAs/
  8. https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/capital-gains-manual/cg13370
  9. https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5850109
  10. https://www.moneyobserver.com/how-to-invest/isa-rules-everything-you-need-to-k
  11. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/03/revealed-how-to-play-the-tax-free-isa-rules-to-your-advantage/
  12. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/03/revealed-how-to-play-the-tax-free-isa-rules-to-your-advantage/
  13. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-5572897/What-flexible-Isa-advantage-it.html
  14. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47636056
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/21/bank-of-england-holds-interest-rates-amid-brexit-chaos
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47554026
  17. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47617206
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47666249
  19. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/03/21/three-drunk-russian-sailors-rescued-island-welsh-coast-getting/
  20. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47652870
  21. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/03/cost-of-car-ownership-over-9-years.html
  22. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/03/19/get-rich-with-recycling/
  23. https://ofdollarsanddata.com/we-all-make-mistakes/
  24. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/03/22/5-years/
  25. https://monevator.com/weekend-reading-oops-bonds-did-it-again/
  26. https://monevator.com/why-the-4-rule-doesnt-work/
  27. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/03/ishares-global-clean-energy-new-addition.html
  28. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/red-and-white-dragons-fight-under-the-edifice-of-brexit-as-the-end-of-the-isa-year-approaches/
  29. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/03/21/fire-proofing-the-portfolio/
  30. https://theenglishinvestor.com/a-life-update-from-the-english-investor-q1-2019-edition/
  31. https://ditchthecave.com/child-millionaire-saving-kids/
  32. https://thesavingninja.com/how-to-be-successful/
  33. https://indeedably.com/uncharitable/
  34. https://indeedably.com/a-professional-not-an-expert/
  35. https://firevlondon.com/2019/03/17/february-2019-skinny-update/
  36. https://lifeatno27.com/2019/03/23/sweet-cherry-tomatoes-plot-to-plate/

 

 

Investment Strategy Statement – Part 4 – Accounts, Funds, Taxes & Rebalancing

Wrapping up my ISS with the mechanical stuff.
Taxes

Exploit tax-free allowances where possible

MrsShrink and I are both UK resident fully compliant UK taxpayers. 2018/19 I have been on the cusp of higher rate tax, and will need to review once I get my year end P60 for the three (actually sort of four) jobs I’ve been on PAYE (1). From 2019/20 onward it looks like I’ll be in the higher rate 40% bracket.

I plan to exploit four tax-sheltering methods:

1. Interest from cash savings and emergency funds will stay within my Personal Savings Allowance

This latest weapon in the public’s tax armory allows for £1,000 tax-free savings for basic rate tax payers and £500 for higher rate (2, 3). Interest from our high interest current accounts holding our cash emergency fund will aim to be held within this limit.

2. Filling up ISA allowances

Once our emergency fund is topped off we will contribute to ISAs (4, 5). In the short term all my stock market purchases will fit within the £20k/year wrapper (6). MrsShrink is likely to use Cash ISAs (7). We will utilise the Marriage Allowance if such circumstances arise (8).

We are considering using LISAs as well, but their benefit appears limited to the government bonus (9). We’re not first time buyers, so such an account would be for the long-haul and intended to supplement our income post-60. They’re a complex product and I’m not sure I’m happy with the lack of flexibility, so this will be another area to think about in the future (10).

tax efficiency

3. Pensions Contributions

I will maximise my tax relief on my pension contributions. I’m in the enviable position of having pensions held in two of the most generous funds left in the country; the NHS Pension Scheme and the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Both are sort of defined benefit schemes. The NHS Pension Scheme functions as a career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme (11). The USS is a hybrid defined benefit and contribution scheme, where DB is paid on salaries up to £57,216.50 and DC over that figure (12, 13). I will detail both schemes in separate future posts. I shouldn’t really have both (this has happened due to some HR oddness) and so I need to sit down and unpick. The complexities of my professional life mean that I am likely to be bouncing between services for the foreseeable future, so this will remain a headache.

The secondary headache in this is that both pensions may be hard up against the lifetime allowance cap (14, 15). As a defined benefit scheme my NHS pension is multiplied by 20 and added to any lump sum to give a capital value (16). Many of my senior colleagues have been hit with substantial (five-figure) unexpected tax bills since the reduction in the lifetime allowance. It’s therefore not clear to me yet if making further contributions will be tax effective, or which pension scheme will be the most advantageous for a potential early retirement (17, 18, 19, 20). A matter for future reading.

4. Other investment structures

Longer term areas of interest:

  • Venture Capital Trusts
  • Enterprise Investment Schemes
  • Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes (21, 22)
  • Premium Bonds (I dared to speak thy name!) (23, 24)
  • Property (25, 26, 27, 28)

Accounts and Funds

Split holdings across multiple providers and platforms to reduce risk

We will use the bank account savings website (or similar if superseded) to maximise returns on liquid cash holdings (29). This will be split across multiple accounts to remain within the FCSC £85,000 limit (30). Tax-free accounts will be the preferred method for holding passive equities, bonds and stock.

Assets will be allocated across investment accounts to reduce costs, provide further security and reduce platform risk (31, 32). Initially I will aim to keep investments within the £50,000 FCSC protection limit (33). As stated in my ISS part 3, I intend to allocate ETFs across fund holders to meet allocation targets. No provider will hold more than 25% of my holdings after year five (to give me time to actually build the damn thing up!).
Rebalancing

Rebalance quarterly using Swedroe’s 5/25 through purchases

A basic tenant of my investment plan is to sell rarely, if ever. My stock purchases are for the long haul. Therefore I aim to check and buy back to allocation each quarter through purchases (34, 35). Boundaries for this are set using Larry Swedroe’s 5/25 rule; 5% absolute or 25% relative percentage variance (36). If this implicates selling I will wait until year end to optimise Capital Gains Tax. Allocations will be balanced annually against global markets plus my own weighting. On the active naughty step portfolio investments are free to do their own thing but will be re-evaluated against the overall portfolio yearly at the 10% stocks, 10% active target.

I’ll revisit this and update periodically, but for now that about wraps it up.

Take care,

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.gov.uk/income-tax-rates
  2. https://www.gov.uk/apply-tax-free-interest-on-savings
  3. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/personal-savings-allowance/
  4. https://www.gov.uk/individual-savings-accounts
  5. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/isas-and-other-tax-efficient-ways-to-save-or-invest
  6. https://www.fool.co.uk/investing-basics/isas-and-investment-funds/stocks-and-shares-isas/
  7. https://www.fool.co.uk/investing-basics/isas-and-investment-funds/isa-basics/
  8. https://www.gov.uk/marriage-allowance
  9. https://www.fool.co.uk/investing-basics/isas-and-investment-funds/lifetime-isas/
  10. https://youngfiguy.com/why-the-lifetime-isa-is-not-a-simple-to-understand-product/
  11. https://www.moneywise.co.uk/managing-your-pension/pensions/the-lowdown-nhs-pensions
  12. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/human-resources/working-at-imperial/pension-schemes/uss—universities-superannuation-scheme/changes/pension-schemes-explained/
  13. https://www.uss.co.uk/members/members-home/the-uss-scheme
  14. https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-your-private-pension/lifetime-allowance
  15. https://www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk/about-pensions/saving-into-a-pension/pensions-and-tax/the-lifetime-allowance
  16. https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/employment/pensions/lifetime-allowance
  17. http://www.legalandmedical.co.uk/3-reasons-to-have-a-pension-pot-that-is-over-the-allowed-limit/
  18. https://chasedeveremedical.co.uk/2018/02/22/beware-the-lifetime-allowance-charge/
  19. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/special-reports/should-i-retire-at-55-because-of-my-125m-nhs-pension/
  20. https://www.uss.co.uk/members/members-home/retirement-articles/2018/the-easy-way-to-keep-track-of-your-annual-and-lifetime-allowances
  21. https://www.moneyobserver.com/how-to-invest/how-to-invest-tax-efficiently-beginners-guide
  22. https://www.fool.co.uk/investing-basics/how-shares-are-taxed-2/tax-efficient-investing/
  23. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/premium-bonds/
  24. https://www.nsandi.com/premium-bonds
  25. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/tax-and-property-investment
  26. https://www.out-law.com/topics/tax/property-tax-/tax-treatment-of-reits/
  27. https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/tax/2017/08/31/how-farmland-is-taxed/
  28. https://www.whatinvestment.co.uk/how-to-invest-in-forestry-2134293/
  29. https://www.bankaccountsavings.co.uk/calculator
  30. https://www.fscs.org.uk/what-we-cover/
  31. https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Asset_allocation_in_multiple_accounts
  32. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2553851/How-I-know-DIY-investing-platform-safe.html
  33. https://www.fscs.org.uk/what-we-cover/investments/
  34. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/stocks/11/rebalancing-strategies.asp
  35. https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Rebalancing
  36. https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2014/03/larry-swedroe-525-rebalancing-rule/

Full English Accompaniment – Is financial independence achievable by anyone?

What’s piqued my interest this week?

The above question appears to be a recurring theme in our little niche of the financial blogging community. High-profile, mainstream public-facing blogs like MMM and the Frugalwoods argue that anyone and everyone can potentially be financially independent and retire early, if they take the right steps (1). It’s great for selling the story and motivating potential readers, but to me it’s selling an impossible dream.

To explain let’s draw up some basic sums. The amount most people can save towards an early retirement can be defined as:

Amount saved = (Defined pension + take-home Earnings) – (Basic living + lifestyle Costs)

A = (D+E) – (B+C)

For the sake of simplicity we’ll ignore tax rebates, dividend payments, inheritance etc. I’m not even going to bother running this on a minimum wage. Instead we’ll start at the UK Living Wage, currently £9.00/hr (2). This is built on the Minimum Income Standard, which calculates the cost of the average basket of goods required for a household to afford an acceptable standard of living (3).

A 23 year old working a 37.5hr week on £9/hr that will see a yearly salary of £17,550. Plug that into a salary calculator, incorporating 8% pension contribution with an 8% employer match. That’s D and E. The Living Wage is based upon a minimum acceptable standard of lifestyle, so we’ll use that figure again for B, with £0 lifestyle inflation cost and we get (4):

A = ((£76.79 X 2)+£1214.81) – (£1214.81+£0)

How does that lifestyle cost compare? Well the average UK 1 bed flat costs £600, but that’s skewed by London’s ridiculous prices (5). Say instead you’re sharing or living in an area with cheaper housing, it’s more likely to be £400/month, this represents ~30% of your earnings and so if a fairly accurate representation given the UK average is 25% of earnings spent on accommodation (6). If you get can by on another £600/month for all other expenses then well done, you can save £215. Add in your generous pension contributions and you’re up to £365/month put aside for the future, or £4,380 annually. Run that number through a rough early retirement calculator and we get that you can retire in 33 years. So that’s early retirement at 56 for a lifetime spent in a one bed flat and minimum acceptable standard of living.

Not realistic? Lets work another example. Example 2:

30 year old earning median UK disposable household income (2017) of £27,300 (7). Same sums, same aggressive pension match, £1715.31 take home. This time our 30 year old has got bored of living in digs, and is instead renting a two bed new build in a LCOL area. £750/month for rent gets you access to homes in 67% of the UK, so compared to Example 1 you’ll pay £350 more/month (8). Your lifestyle has inflated a bit, but not much, just a few beers now and then, a better phone, a decent tv and slightly better food. Say £100/month? So, let’s punch that into our equations and calculators:

A = ((£141.79 X 2)+£1715.31) – (£1214.81+£450)

A = £334

Retire in 44 years

Ouch. That lifestyle inflation has hit hard. Your early retirement age is now 74. So what do you do? Cut back on the house size or go back to shared accommodation? Stop drinking and eat 7p basics noodles? We know that actually, due to the benefits from our taxation system and social support services, a moderate increase in income in the lower quartiles makes little difference to disposable income (available for savings). Lifestyle inflation at this end quickly gobbles up the extra earnings as you are now comfortable, not just-about-managing. Do you make yourself uncomfortable to retire early? That requires a special type of motivation (9, 10, 11).

You have to be a high earner to achieve the % savings rates required for early retirement without living uncomfortably in some way. Ignoring this fact is dreaming. Most people will not achieve early retirement without either lifestyle discomfort or a serious increase in their earning power. That’s FIREs dirty little secret (11). To say otherwise is to sell a dream.

I don’t think this is a bad thing.

Because the world is driven by soundbites and nicely packaged information, easily digestible and understandable. The majority of the FI blogs pitched to the mainstream do just that, make it easily digestible, understandable and relate-able. A cynic would argue it funds their early retirement through a customer-facing monetised website (12). But I’m not that cynic, this is a good thing, more people should be thinking about their money matters. The UK household savings ratio is currently stuck around 4%, and has been for several years (13):

capture

The financial choices required for early retirement are for everyone. 

The’ye just a good idea. Just by thinking about your finances you’re ahead of those ignoring their accounts. To crib my fellow medical colleague, the female money doc (14):

  • Know your numbers
  • Build assets
  • Get out of debt
  • Buffer it
  • Consider extra income streams

Anyone could achieve financial independence, but not everyone can. The effort can only be a good thing. No shame in trying!

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (now affiliate links):

Tombland – C.J. Sansom – I love the Shardlake series, detective novels set in the Tudor period with a crippled lead character. Beautifully written.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanity’s’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/mar/08/how-to-retire-early-frugal-spending
  2. https://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation
  3. https://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/mis/
  4. https://www.thesalarycalculator.co.uk/salary.php
  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46072509
  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44046392
  7. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/incomeandwealth/bulletins/householddisposableincomeandinequality/financialyearending2017
  8. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23234033
  9. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4110482/How-rich-Work-income-wealth-sits-UK.html
  10. https://www.financialsamurai.com/the-average-savings-rates-by-income-wealth-class/
  11. http://www.flannelguyroi.com/dirty-little-secret-early-retirement/
  12. https://theoutline.com/post/3840/frugalwoods-frugality-millennials?zd=2&zi=kjpt6k5u
  13. https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/personal-savings
  14. https://thefemalemoneydoctor.com/reach-financial-freedom/
  15. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/guid/FC86FC66-19DD-11E9-84BA-7B8C470F8CAB
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/jan/17/uk-house-prices-fall-at-fastest-rate-in-six-years-on-back-of-brexit-rics
  17. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-house-price-index-for-november-2018
  18. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-6578873/Renewable-power-provider-Bulb-Energy-slumps-24m-loss-amid-squeeze-small-suppliers.html
  19. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46900918
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/jan/17/government-isnt-quite-ready-drop-obsession-with-nuclear-greg-clark-business-secretary
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/12/subprime-timebomb-back-companies-lighting-the-fuse/
  22. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/metro-bank-profit-warning-new-branches-mortgages-challenger-banks-santander-uk-branch-closures-a8742301.html
  23. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/immediate-fossil-fuel-phaseout-could-arrest-climate-change-study
  24. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46865204
  25. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/16/marks-spencer-selling-loose-fruit-veg-plastic-waste/
  26. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46793506
  27. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20181217-the-best-time-of-year-to-x
  28. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/17/breached-data-largest-collection-ever-seen-email-password-hacking
  29. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46958560
  30. https://landlords.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/tenant-fees-bill-provisions-come-effect-june-2019
  31. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/cars/1076669/kia-e-niro-car-of-the-year-electric-vehicle/
  32. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/15/junior-doctors-working-past-shift-end-nhs-data-england/
  33. https://monevator.com/weekend-reading-the-house-that-jack-built/
  34. https://monevator.com/venture-capital-investing/
  35. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/01/18/this-month-on-the-homestead-burning-brush-and-the-life-and-times-of-firewood/
  36. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/01/25/hacked-sodastream-seltzer-reload-and-other-december-2018-expenditures/
  37. https://ournextlife.com/2019/01/14/one-year-adventures/
  38. http://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2019/01/2018-in-review-let-decompression.html
  39. https://monevator.com/the-pension-protection-fund-ppf/
  40. https://youngfiguy.com/patisserie-valerie-what-happens-now/
  41. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-why-i-stay/
  42. https://youngfiguy.com/podcasts-like-buses/
  43. https://firevlondon.com/2019/01/20/avoiding-tax-in-the-uk/
  44. https://www.msziyou.com/2018-review/
  45. https://www.msziyou.com/2019-goals/
  46. https://ditchthecave.com/prioritisation/
  47. https://ditchthecave.com/marginal-gains/
  48. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/01/why-i-sold-glaxo-dividend-yield.html/
  49. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/01/thin-profit-margins-bad-investments.html/
  50. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/01/capital-employed-growth-instead-of-earnings-growth.html/
  51. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/damp-squib-december-income-expenses-report/
  52. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/2018-review-plus-2019-goals-the-year-of-keeping-calm-and-carrying-on/
  53. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/01/17/what-to-expect-when-youre-expecting/
  54. https://thesavingninja.com/how-to-work-in-the-city-on-a-budget/
  55. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/01/17/changes-afoot/
  56. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/01/one-million-pageviews-for-blog.html
  57. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/01/aberforth-smaller-final-results.html
  58. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/geoarbitrage-how-to-survive-in-london-with-less-than-a-million-quid-in-the-bank/
  59. https://littlemissfire.com/side-hustles-report-december-2018/
  60. https://littlemissfire.com/paying-off-the-mortgage-jan-2019/
  61. https://littlemissfire.com/how-to-heat-your-home-for-free-with-a-wood-burner/
  62. https://pursuefire.com/the-power-of-compounding-the-rule-of-72/
  63. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-net-worth-report-7-december/
  64. http://www.thefinancezombie.com/2019/01/prime-your-mind.html
  65. https://indeedably.com/left-behind/
  66. https://lifeatno27.com/2019/01/23/winter-cool-calm-and-collected/
  67. http://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2019/01/how-to-make-rhubarb-and-ginger-shrub-easy-alcohol-free-cocktail-recipe/

The Full English Accompaniment – The rise and rise of P2P lending

What’s piqued my interest this week?

P2P leaves me puzzled. I understand the premise, I understand the attraction, but where does it fit in a balanced portfolio? Some of my fellow UK finance bloggers have dipped toes in the P2P waters; Monevator, Weenie and the other TFS to name a few (1, 2, 3). For many, including new reader the Obvious Investor, it appears to be separate from the rest of their portfolio, held as an independent entity or in an oddments corner (4). P2P has come a long way since the launch of the first platform, Zopa, in 2005, with 40+ platforms catering to different appetites (5, 6). As it comes of age and into the mainstream how do you classify P2P as an asset class in a mature portfolio? Here’s my amateur synthesis.

Risks

The appeal of P2P appears to be yield, projected at anywhere from 4-10% depending on the platform (6). This complies with the equity risk premium theory, and I’d be interested to find out if research supports this. P2P rose in popularity out of the 2008 recession. Banks clamped down on high risk lending, so those with poor credit histories or weak financial positions had to look elsewhere. P2P was safer for all concerned than loan sharks/ payday lenders. Savers chasing returns followed the risk premium to P2P seeking better rates than the crappy 1% offered by bonds and cash ISAs (7). P2P sits in the ‘Return Engine’.

Inflation Risk

This is primarily the reason for investing in P2P. With inflation running at 2.7% your money is actively being eroded in a Cash ISA. Currently the RateSetter offer will give you 14% for the first year. The 4% thereafter may not look so rosy if inflation jumps to 5% and standard bank interest rates track.

Default Risk 

This is primarily where P2P makes it’s returns over traditional bank loans. The theory argues that the platforms cut out the banks as middle-men and allow savers to loan out their cash to borrowers semi-directly. To attract savers you need decent returns, which means decent interest rates, which means the interest rates for the borrowers are necessarily high. Why would you choose those interest rates? From my laymans point of view there appear three reasons for a business to choose to borrow P2P:

  1. The act of borrowing P2P acts as proxy advertising as you have to attract funders from a pool of individuals who are by definition tech-savvy, cash-rich early adopters. They may well be your target market who are interested in your product.
  2. Your business pitch is disruptive, esoteric or quirky, and therefore relies upon a funding source which capture and project the emotive or story-driven level ignored by banks and other lenders. This is something lost with the move to centralised banks, and away from your friendly local bank manager.
  3. Your personal or business financial history is absent or poor, precluding larger or traditional funding sources.

Point 1 seems a fair trade off for certain industries. Point 2 and 3 seem classical default risk. Your story may be good, your disruptive idea genius, but if your number don’t stack up well… *whomp whomp*. Banks lending criteria became tighter because the numbers tell the score, and the casual lending of the early 00s led to a financial crisis. Plus they were straight up told to by governments. P2P fills the lending pool where banks daren’t or are legislated not to go. I should point out that the counterargument from P2P lenders is that rogue and risky lending continues to occur across all debt instrument markets (8).

Liquidity Risk

Another classic, but appears to depend on the lending platform. Some platforms (Abundance, House Crowd) allow you to pick who you lend to, others select a time period (RateSetter, Zopa) and pool your investment with other (9, 10, 11, 12). Of the options I’d prefer pooled investments as it decreases the above default risk, and diversification is always better. A few platforms offer in house secondary markets for resale if you decide to cash out. Where that’s not possible your P2P investment is tied up either for the time period, or until the project/ business is completed, or can be returned for a fee (13). Both the liquidity risk and the default risk have me making comparisons between P2P and junk bonds. These comparisons are made elsewhere as well, so perhaps P2P is a bit more palatable, or smartly wrapped (14)?

Legislation

Speaking of wrappers, the attention of governments is an indication of just how far we’ve come. First IFAs were able to recommend P2P lending options, and then in April 2016 the Innovative Finance ISA was born (6, 15, 16). These operate in parallel to traditional Cash and S&S ISAs, offering a tax-free wrapper for your investments. They have their own pitfalls and complications I won’t go into here.

Legislation is a work-in-progress for P2P, but already as companies have grown they have begun to expand. This month Zopa has been granted a banking license by the FSCS, and declared it’s intention to open a traditional savings arm as a challenger bank which will be protected by the FSCS guarantee (17, 18). The FSCS guarantee won’t cover Zopa’s P2P lending.

No P2P lending/ platform is covered by the FSCS guarantee.

All invested money is at risk.

Returns are not guaranteed. There are plenty of stories in the news of people losing out where their loans default (19). The lines blur with junk bonds further. After all, you can invest directly, P2P, in small companies by buying bonds/ shares/ investments. Monzo recently ran a round of crowdfunding (20, 21)Brewdog continues to run it’s Equity for Punks V, with an eye-watering valuation (22). Those investments would also sit in a little ‘oddments’ pile of your portfolio.

Counterparty Risk

Here’s the nub of my concerns. As we look at the coming bear markets, the rogue wave in our recent trade winds, how will P2P fare. The last week has been the worst since 2008, when Zopa etc were in their infancy (23). Those times place stresses on weak companies, which fold, and default. How will P2P platforms fare? Performances and default rates are entirely based upon the platform (24). Zopa expected a 4.52% default rate in 2017, the last time it approached that was 2008 (4.2%) (15). Some platforms have provision funds to protect savers (5, 13, 15). This hasn’t stopped black holes appearing in the ledger books of lenders such as Ratesetter, forced to buy out the debts of bad investments (25). Some are bullish in their outlook, seeking further institutional investment to expand (26, 27). It remains to be seen how many P2P platforms will succumb to bad loans.

Summary

These are merely an amateur’s thoughts and ramblings on P2P. YFG has also done an analysis from a more professional point of view (28). As always, do your own research.

Have a great Christmas,

The Shrink

Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading:

Fools and Mortals – Bernard Cornwell – finished this – good but not Sharpe or Uhtred

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch – the new bedside fiction

Smarter Investing 3rd edn – Tim Hale – very close to finishing this

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://monevator.com/ratesetter-high-interest-offer/
  2. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2017/06/08/investment-strategy-updated/
  3. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/november-income-expenses-report-well-the-run-had-to-end-somewhere/
  4. https://obviousinvestor.com/p2p-lending-portfolio-update-nov-2018/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/mar/06/peer-to-peer-lending-p2p-returns-investment
  6. https://www.which.co.uk/money/investing/types-of-investment/peer-to-peer-investing/innovative-finance-isas-explained-aq1tx2u2ms9j
  7. https://www.moneywise.co.uk/investing/peer-to-peer/how-p2p-can-be-high-income-kicker-investment-portfolio
  8. https://www.mortgagesolutions.co.uk/specialist-lending/2018/11/20/why-the-recent-criticism-of-p2p-lenders-is-misplaced-assetz-capital/
  9. https://www.abundanceinvestment.com/investments
  10. https://www.thehousecrowd.com/property-investment-opportunities
  11. https://www.ratesetter.com/
  12. https://www.zopa.com/lending
  13. https://www.moneywise.co.uk/investing/peer-to-peer/understanding-the-risks-peer-to-peer-lending
  14. https://www.proplend.com/news/bonds-vs-peer-to-peer-lending/
  15. https://www.moneyobserver.com/should-savers-be-seduced-peer-to-peers-strong-returns
  16. https://www.lendingworks.co.uk/innovative-finance-isa/setting-your-ifisa-what-you-need-know
  17. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-6458247/P2P-lender-Zopa-reveals-plans-digital-bank-launch-receiving-banking-licence.html
  18. https://www.bankingtech.com/2018/12/zopa-unleashes-uk-challenger-bank/
  19. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jun/03/peer-to-peer-lending-funding-circle-promised-returns-losing-money
  20. https://monzo.com/invest/
  21. https://www.moneywise.co.uk/blog/edmund-greaves/investing-monzo-and-what-you-could-consider-instead
  22. https://www.brewdog.com/equityforpunks
  23. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46654064
  24. https://www.ftadviser.com/investments/2017/04/28/six-things-to-know-about-p2p/?page=1
  25. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/12/09/ratesetter-falls-deeper-red-acquiring-carcass-motor-finance/
  26. http://www.p2pfinancenews.co.uk/2018/12/13/funding-circle-outlook-risk/
  27. http://www.p2pfinancenews.co.uk/2018/12/07/funding-circle-1bn-waterfall/
  28. https://youngfiguy.com/p2p-lending-a-review-of-the-market/
  29. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/20/us-stock-markets-drop-interest-rates-hike-looming-shutdown
  30. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/19/federal-reserve-interest-rates-raised-trump
  31. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tax-on-cryptoassets/cryptoassets-for-individuals
  32. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/12/should-you-consider-getting-a-seven-year-fixed-rate-mortgage/
  33. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/jaguar-land-rover-‘poised-cut-5000-jobs’
  34. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46590130
  35. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/16/brexit-is-a-business-bankrupter-small-firms-brace-for-no-deal
  36. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46591500
  37. https://www.moneywise.co.uk/news/2018-11-19/uk-house-prices-fall-more-5000-sharpest-falls-the-south-sellers-lower-expectations
  38. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/16/vulnerable-teenagers-helping-hand-finances
  39. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/pensions/article-6507381/Im-saving-400-month-projected-pension-65-puny.html
  40. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/18/ivan-rogers-brexit-bombshell-digested-home-truths
  41. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/22/frankie-boyle-review-2018-forget-brexit
  42. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/advice/winter-tyres
  43. https://monevator.com/vanguard-readying-its-personal-pension-sipp/
  44. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/12/18/very-muscular-and-other-things/
  45. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/12/how-to-measure-a-companys-growth-rate.html/
  46. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/12/why-dividend-investors-should-look-at-free-cash-flow.html/
  47. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/12/15/now-thats-what-i-call-financial-independence-14-2/
  48. https://theescapeartist.me/2016/01/21/the-3-numbers-that-can-make-you-a-millionaire/
  49. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/12/11/reset-how-one-family-changed-their-life/
  50. https://littlemissfireblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/15/the-problem-with-the-traditional-business-model/
  51. https://littlemissfireblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/tried-and-tested-can-you-make-money-with-be-my-eye/
  52. http://www.msziyou.com/female-money-doc/
  53. https://youngfiguy.com/healthcare/
  54. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/dividend-income-november-2018/
  55. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-net-worth-report-6-november/
  56. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/the-dangers-of-double-counting/
  57. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/how-to-survive-a-bear-market-attack/
  58. https://indeedably.com/what-do-you-do-when-you-do-what-you-do/
  59. https://indeedably.com/fire-extinguisher/
  60. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2018/12/finsbury-g-i-trust-final-results.html?m=1
  61. https://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2018/12/moving-to-cyprus-from-uk-part-1.html
  62. http://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2018/12/christmas-gift-guide-2019-gin-beer-whisky-stihl-bauble/
  63. https://www.countryliving.com/uk/homes-interiors/gardens/g25624008/garden-trends-2019-society-garden-designers/