Month 3: 6.73% Down. S&P 500 & SmallCap 600

This month I spent a little less than usual, just £90.71, split between the S&P 500 and S&P SmallCap 600. I feel as though I have done some dabbling with more volatile and riskier investments thus-far which in the very short term have underperformed, and so to balance my portfolio I am focusing some more on (hopefully) more stable ones.

Current performance:

So far, most of the portfolio is down. The best performers so far are;

  • Mitchells & Butlers – 25% up (on a single share…)
  • Evraz Steel – 8.4% up
  • S&P SmallCap 600 – 3.75% up (this month’s pick)
  • MSCI World – 2.8% up
  • Foresight Solar – 1.22% up
  • FTSE 100 – 0.82% up

The poorest performers so far are;

  • AFC Energy – 43% down
  • Pan African Resources – 29.5% down
  • iShares Clean Energy – 20% down
  • The Hut Group – 10.6% down
  • Greencoat UK Wind – 6.5% down

Clearly there are a few small winners, but the losers are quite significant, so for the past few weeks I’ve been considering different strategies that might not be so volatile.

These charts update (almost) daily and show my current portfolio in real time, so may not reflect what is mentioned in the post in several days/weeks/months/years. I may look for another solution for this.

Here’s this month’s investments:

iShares S&P SmallCap 600 (ISP6)

600 small cap UK stocks with a 0.68% dividend. Growth has looked quite stable up until the pandemic hit and has since grown quite quickly. It does seem as though the pandemic has helped some smaller, more agile companies gain a foothold and that is what caught my interest here.

1 share at £64.60

Total cost: £64.60

iShares S&P 500 (IUSA)

A standard S&P 500 ETF with a 1.22% dividend. Incredibly stable growth, doubling since 2016. This is what I benchmark my portfolio against.

1 share at £28.275

Total cost: £28.275

Ongoing Thoughts:

I have put money into a number of very small and very volatile stocks which have seen quick and quite large drops in value. Obviously, this is a long-term thing and I’m not expecting them to pay off any time soon, but it is a little disappointing to see such large drops so soon after investing.

This month I am “playing it safe” and also withholding about £10 for future investments.

I do still consider that some of my previous investments may work out and I will definitely be investing in more green shares, but for now I do need to dial back my risk somewhat.

What has been working better has been previous investments in cryptocurrencies, some which are up by as much as 50% just this month. Maybe at some point I will write about these as side investments, but I do need to get the main project on track first.

For next month, I will likely look a bit more into Evraz Steel, as one of my best performers, and some other more consistently positive ones.

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Month 2: 0.25% Up. PNPL, TRIG, EVR

Over the last month I’ve split my £100 between 8 companies and funds, with a little focus on quite high risk and low-cost shares which proven to be very volatile.

Current performance:

Thus far, we are down on the majority of shares. AFC Energy from last month is down around 10%, iShares Global Clean Energy is up about 7%, while Mitchells & Butlers (my smallest investment) is up a whopping 40%, likely being driven by hype around the return to normality after the lockdown. This month’s investments are also a little all over the place, with Pineapple Power currently being down by 19.75% and various other ones fluctuating by a few percent.

Obviously, the idea is to look at these over a number of years, not simply after one month.

Overall, my portfolio has grown by 0.25%, verses FTSE100 which has grown 3.79% in that time. Evidently at the moment I would have gained more by investing directly in the FTSE100, or the S&P500, but then this blog would be just a little more boring, right?

These charts update (almost) daily and show my current portfolio in real time, so may not reflect what is mentioned in the post in several days/weeks/months/years. I may look for another solution for this.

Shares bought in the last month;

I deposited another £100 into my Freetrade account (you can get a free share worth up to £200 if you join here), however the below shares cost a total of £100.96, because I spent a little less than the target last month.

At the time of writing, this month’s £100.96 of shares is worth £104.09, which is a profit of about £3.13. Overall I have invested £199.59 and have a portfolio balance of £200.08.

Here’s this month’s investments:

Pineapple Power (PNLP)

A US-style SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) which raised funds in order to invest in a Vanadium mine. Thus-far having not acquired any other companies, the share is quite high risk as there is little information around what they will actually do. However, I am young(ish) and can afford some risk, so the potential upside of a small £25 investment could be worth a “punt”.

Out of pure luck, I bought a handful of shares right before the price jumped and within a day had made 30%+ profit. I took the profit out, leaving me with the number of shares below and lowering my average buy-in price, to put that profit into another company.

184 shares at £0.0917

Total cost: £16.87

Foresight Solar (bought with PNLP profits)

An investment trust which buys out ground-based solar farms, paying a 6.77% dividend at the time of purchasing. This was effectively free considering I sold the profits generated from PNLP above to buy these. They are on a downward trajectory since the pandemic, so I am hopeful that this is a nice discounted price which will turn around after some good news is released.

8 shares at £1.0275

Total cost: £8.22

Renewables Infrastructure Group (TRIG)

A trust which invests in infrastructure for renewable energy and pays a dividend of 5.36% at the time of purchasing. This has seen decent growth in the two years prior to the pandemic but has stalled since then. You will see that I do have some focus on green energy in some of my picks each month, because I expect this to become exponentially bigger in the future. Regardless of price movement the dividend will provide a nice annual return (percentage-wise at least).

20 shares at £2.53

Total cost: £25.27

Templeton Emerging Markets (TEM)

A trust with holdings in emerging markets mostly in China, Taiwan and Korea. Some of their largest holdings are Taiwan Semiconductor, Tencent, Samsung and Alibaba – all appear to have good growth opportunities and should be solid purchases.

1 share at £10.10

Stamp duty: £0.05

Total cost: £10.15

Greencoat UK Wind plc (UKW)

These operate wind farms through the UK and offer a 5.03% dividend at the time of writing. They are expanding nicely and have just in the last couple of weeks acquired a 24% stake in their first wind farm in the US.

10 shares at £1.3610

Stamp duty: £0.07

Total cost: £13.68

Evraz Steel plc (EVR)

An iron ore mining and steel manufacturing firm, currently offering an 8.88% dividend (wowsers!). Their production has been almost unaffected by the pandemic while demand for steel appears to be increasing. JP Morgan and other firms are raising their price targets for this stock which is promising. I’ll be keeping an eye on this a little more as the market looks like it’s set for growth, and that dividend is very attractive.

2 shares at £5.075

Stamp duty: £0.05

Total cost: £10.20

Pan African Resources plc (PAF)

A very low market cap gold producer. Their gold production in H2 2020 increased almost 6% and their net debt was reduced by almost 50%. They’re set to build solar plants at one of their mines and may roll this out to others if successful, to provide 30% of their power through the day. I’m quite impressed by their strive to ‘go green’ as their industry is typically dirty. With their debt coming down so quickly, this looks like one that could very quickly turn out a nice profit.

40 shares at £0.2428

Stamp duty: £0.05

Total cost: £9.76

iShares MSCI World ETF (IWDG)

A nice, simple ETF which tracks the performance of large and mid-cap companies in developed markets, holding Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, Alphabet (Google) and similar companies. This looks like the safest option in this month’s list.

1 share at £6.81

Total cost: £6.81

Can you retire early investing £100/month?

I’ve been dipping in and out of the FI/RE (Financial Independence, Retiring Early) space for some years now, primarily fueled by a longstanding desire to have the freedom to do what I want, without having to spend five days per week at work.

Now, I don’t think many would expect a £100/month investment to allow them to retire early, but, could it?

Below I’ll go through a few scenarios and maths the hell out of this, so buckle up!

Some assumptions:

  • £20,000 annual expenditure in today’s money
  • Also investing in a pension which will cover expenditure from age ~57
  • The pension age will be 57-60, depending on the government..
  • 3% inflation devaluing the purchasing power of my money
  • The pot of money won’t be touched until retirement
  • Upon retirement, the lot is withdrawn and no further gains are made (just to reduce complexity so I’m not maths-ing the cr@p out of this all day)
  • Average annual 8% return doesn’t change

Scenario 1: Myself, 30, investing £100/month, S&P 500 average returns.

The average S&P 500 returns were 8% over the last 60 years (source), or 0.67% per month, so if we use this as a benchmark, I would expect to see a return of £8 profit for every £100 invested after 12 months.

I’m investing this into my ISA on Freetrade (join and you’ll get a free share worth up to £200 when you use my link), investing in a range of ETFs and equities.

In the first month, I would start off with £100.

In month two, I would have the original £100, 0.67% of that in growth (or, £0.67) and this month’s £100.

In month three, I would have the prior two months worth of £100 deposits (£200), 0.67% of that in growth (or £1.33), the prior month’s growth (£0.67) and this month’s £100.

I won’t go on, but you can see from the below that I might expect to make 67p profit in month two, £2 in total by month three, £4 by month four and so on, resulting in a growth/profit of £44.99 by the end of the first twelve months:

After ten years of following this method, I would expect month 120 to return a total of £18,294.60, or growth/profit of £6,294.60, from a £12,000 investment.

Hardly enough to even bring my retirement age forward by half a year.

However, double it, because after the 20th year my £24,000 investment will be worth £58,902.04, meaning growth/profit of £34,902.04.

Now that could actually bring forward my retirement age by one, maybe even two years!

Alas, inflation… at 3% annually for 20 years, the £35,000 growth would be equivalent to £20,000 today, so one year off is more likely.

In fact, investing £100/month from age 30, it would take until I am 57 for my ISA to produce 1.5 years worth of living expenses as growth, which is roughly the year that I should be able to take my workplace pension, so this may still only allow me to retire 1-2 years early!

Let’s say I did this for my (theoretical) child who is ten at the start of the project (obviously they would take on the investment once they earn the money..):

Scenario 2: My (theoretical) child, 10, S&P 500 average returns

Investing £100/month for 30 years would mean that by age 40, my (theoretical) child would have made £301,000 in growth/profit from a £48,000 investment:

At this scale, inflation will really hit that figure quite hard.

If we estimate an average 3% inflation for the next 30 years (hopefully it’s not so high), that £301,000 will be roughly equivalent to £124,000 today, which may only equate to chopping around six years off of my (theoretical) son’s retirement age by that point.

However, just ten years later and this happens:

When you consider 3% inflation for 40 years, that £733,000 growth/profit is equivalent to £225,000 today, which could chop 11 years off of the retirement age of someone with £20,000 annual expenditure (in today’s money).

By this point, if my (theoretical) son was ten years old at the start of investing (where, obviously, as a parent I would need to start them off) and they would now be 50 years old, and with more than enough in this pot to retire – in fact, they may have been able to retire in the prior 2-3 years!

Obviously this is of almost no use to anyone who either isn’t ten years old, or who can’t/won’t put £100/month towards a ten year old’s ISA.

What these two scenarios show is that starting early is essential to retiring early. Because I have started investing so late (is 30 actually late when most people never do it anyway?), I will obviously not be able to rely solely on my £100 Every Month project to allow me to retire early, unless my investments beat the average of the stock market by a considerable degree – this remains to be seen.

But I would consider that £100/month is the absolute minimum that you should invest from age 30 in order to see any impact on your retirement age.

Scenario 3: Myself, 30, £100/month year increasing by £100/month every 2 years up to max £1,000/month

Rather than looking at a straight £1k/month investment which isn’t realistic for most people, this scenario increases the monthly investment by £100 every 24 months – hopefully more achievable.

Starting at age 30, this would mean you hit £1,000/month being invested when you reach 50 years old, where 8% annual return would give you growth/profit of £101,000 just after you turn 50.

At age 52, the amount invested and the growth/profit would be more or less the same, about £138,000. This £138k would be the equivalent to £72,000 in today’s money, or worth just over 3.5 years of expenditure. Considering we would have invested the same amount, there should be enough money in the pot for us to retire around six-seven years early.

Now, the investment here is more than double that of scenario 2 and will likely chop off about half of the impact on the retirement age – even massively increasing our investment doesn’t outperform starting earlier.

Conclusion: Start ’em young!

Investing early makes more of a difference than investing late, even if you massively increase the amount you invest.

If you can only afford to invest £100 Every Month, that is better than waiting a number of years before investing 2x,5x or 10x that amount, because the interest you gain this year will gain it’s own interest next year, and so on (gotta love compound interest).

Heck, if you can afford to only deposit £25 every month into your ISA, that is far better than waiting ten years; I could have done this 10 years ago when I was 20 and by now it would have grown by 50%, for a tasty £1,500 growth/profit.

Investing is not just for people who have £1,000+/month to put away. It’s for everyone.

Month 1: £0.74 Up, FTSE, Energy, Emerging Mkts, THG

For my first month I’ve split my investment between the FTSE100 (which seems like a historically safe option), green energy and emerging markets as important long-term options and some smaller companies; The Hut Group, Mitchell & Butlers and AFC Energy.

I deposited £100 into my Freetrade account (you can get a free share worth up to £200 if you join here), however the below shares cost a total of £98.77, so the rest is left as cash to be invested in future months. At the time of writing my £98.77 of shares is worth £99.51, which is a profit of about £0.74.

The below shares were purchase on December 29th (two weeks ago). For future posts I will invest at roughly the same time each month and publish the summary about two weeks later.

Shares bought last month:

Mitchells & Butlers

A large chain of pubs and restaurants in the UK. Their share price stagnated between 2016 and 2019, rallied in the second half of 2019, then fell during the first lockdown. I envisage a rebound once the country has vaccinated the majority, but they may fall further in the meantime.

1 share at £2.53

£0.01 Stamp Duty

Total cost: £2.54

iShares FTSE 100

100 of the largest UK companies. Very consistent growth over the years means it has tripled since I started high school in 2002. Graphs even show positive growth since the vote on Brexit. A good drop since our first lockdown means I may be getting this at a nice discount.

3 shares at £6.54

Total cost: £19.62

iShares Global Clean Energy

An index of global companies which focus on sustainable and renewable energy. I’m aware of the growing need for clean energy, and with younger generations being very conscious of this, it is surely an industry which will grow massively in my lifetime.

1 share at £12.16

Genesis Emerging Markets Trust

Investing in companies in emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, South Korea and Russia. My employer is expanding into some of these emerging markets, because they can achieve larger percentage growth than expanding further in the UK. This is the same logic I’m using – these markets are expanding rapidly and there is no doubt that at least some of the companies this invests in will become significant players.

2 shares at £8.865

Total cost: £17.73

The Hut Group

A collection of around 100 ecommerce sites, including MyProtein, Glossybox and a tonne of others which are popular with Millennials and Gen Z. Myself and many others I know of are regular customers. They invest a lot in marketing to Gen Z, and as that’s the next generation to have disposable income, investing in these now seems like an obvious move.

3 shares at £7.3733

£0.11 Stamp Duty

Total cost: £22.23

AFC Energy

A clean-energy company developing hydrogen fuel cells, which has recently established a partnership to produce batteries for electric vehicles. This was a bit of a pot-luck stand-out one for me, as I had not heard of these before this investment. Some small investments into potential future large-players are worthy of some consideration. This company and many others in this industry could grow massively over the next 10 years as electric vehicles become more mainstream.

28 shares at £0.8746

Total cost: £24.49

As of 13th January:

Total cost of stocks and shares: £98.77

Current value: £99.51

Difference: +£0.74

Cash left over: £1.23

Current value + cash: £100.74

Considerations for next month:

I’m currently engaged in a lot of research so the below list is likely to change. If you check my Portfolio page, Global Clean Energy is up by a double digit percentage since I invested, so I am keen to put a little more into there and expand further into similar spaces.

I am also looking at dividend stocks and considering if this is a good way forward.

Some ideas:

  • Proctor and Gamble
    • Makes many popular brands and is likely a long-term consistent performer
  • Other emerging markets
    • Good growth with larger risk, but a long-term option
  • Smaller companies funds
    • Hopefully some good growth after Coronavirus has been dealt with
  • Green energy and Electric Vehicles
    • QuantumScape
      • Producing batteries for electric vehicles
    • WorkHorse
      • Deploys electric vehicles for delivery

Introduction to 100 Every Month

Welcome to 100 Every Month, where you can follow my stock market journey as I start (almost) from scratch with a £100/month regular investment.

I started this journey on December 29th 2020 where I set up a Stocks and Shares ISA with Freetrade, a trading app which takes no commission and allows completely free trading, with an optional £3/month ISA, or optionally more features for £9.99/month.

I only have two guidelines that I’ll follow on this journey:

  1. I must invest roughly £100 every month through my ISA
  2. While I will choose roughly £100 of shares each month to track for this project, I will include any additional investments separately, while focusing on the original £100 investment

I’m currently engaged in a tonne of reading and research, as I have little experience of the stock market outside of cryptocurrencies, so I would consider my position to be not much better than the average person who has no experience of investing. Hopefully this will serve as a worthwhile project to follow which might provide some learnings for future readers.

Who am I?

Call me Jay (or James); unmarried, no children, renting a terraced house with my partner. I’m a tech geek, early-adopter of cryptocurrencies, side-business-owner. I work in marketing in the money-saving industry earning a little above average for the UK while my side-business brings in some play-money.

Why invest in stocks and shares?

With average returns of 8-11% annually (depending on your source), this is far more attractive than current savings accounts which might pay 0.4%. This also beats out any other strategy of investing my money which I can think of, yet there are even countless examples of investors who are able to beat the average over time.

Working in marketing, I do have some insight into consumer trends, so this may also allow me to understand a little more about companies with potentially bright futures by looking at the people buying from them. This may not give me any advantage over other investors, but I feel as though I can see some trends emerging which I want to get into.

Why invest £100 every month?

There’s a few reasons for this:

  • It’s a small enough number that I won’t miss it (much)
  • It’s easy to free up this much money by cutting back on some expenses, if I need to
  • Investing every month ensures I’m actively looking at the market and don’t forget to actually invest
  • This should be easy enough to follow for readers of most income levels, who wouldn’t follow along with a £500-1,000/month investment strategy

As well as provide insight into my portfolio’s performance, I may also post some advice of how to fund your own investments. My work in the money-saving industry for the past 5 years means that I’m pretty fluent in saving money, which will certainly help with funding this strategy and any additional investments.

What about additional investments?

I will discuss these in the portfolio update post each month, but they will not be included in the main portfolio tracking, as this will be reserved exclusively for the £100 monthly investment.

I may purchase more of the same shares, if I feel that it is a particularly good investment.

How will I decide on which shares are included in the £100 Every Month project and which are included in the additional investments?

I will consider what I would invest in, as if I only have £100 to invest. Some months it may be that I can only afford the £100 investment, and some months I may be able to invest 5x that much. In any case, my main focus will be on what I think are the best investments for my £100 Every Month strategy, and any additional shares will be an afterthought.

Where does my money come from?

I’m no rich kid; I’ve earned my money through hard work and graft.

I grew up in a regular household, where my parents made the financially-unfortunate decisions to leave their above-average paying jobs to spend more time with their family, by buying a small series of convenience stores which over time went bankrupt. My father went from earning £36k in the mid 90’s (equivalent to about £70k now) to about £18k in 2018 when he retired.

Since a young age, I watched as my parent’s money disappeared and as the nice, annual holidays to Florida stopped, dreading having to work for anyone and relying on them for a pittance of income. I grafted through some small business ideas that made money but never really took off, and learned SEO and marketing from the ground up.

The overwhelming majority of my disposable income comes from my day job, which pays less than the equivalent of what my father’s mid 90’s salary would be worth.

As you can see, I am no rich kid with hundreds of thousands to throw at the stock market and there’s even a good likelihood that you may be in a better financial situation than I am in.

What is my money situation like right now?

I have around £15,000 of debt through a small low-interest loan and a couple of 0% interest credit cards. I move my debt around every 18 months or so in order to continue utilising the 0% interest introductory periods, so as to pay off the debt over time with very little in the way of fees to pay.

My credit card debt is being obliterated by November this year and my loan will be paid off in 2022.

My savings account is currently at about £300, or around 2 weeks of living expenses – this fluctuates depending on how much I pay off of my credit cards. In the last couple of weeks I have paid about £1k off of one card, which I withdrew from my savings account – this is to help me clear it by March, when the 0% interest period expires.

I have a small side-business, selling through ebay and etsy. This produces margins of around 50% on each sale but currently only generates £1,000 on a good, average month. Theoretically, myself and my partner could withdraw £250/month each and the business should sustain itself by generating enough money to reinvest into new stock each year.

We are currently saving for a large purchase of stock, but I hope to start taking a small sum of money out in the next 6 months. In the future I may invest more to grow this business, once we have a larger property where we can store more stock.

For reference, this side-business cost us very little money, around £100-200/month for each of us for a couple of years or so, but required a lot of time to investigate. We resell handmade products as accessories for a larger market. I do believe that we can grow this business much further but that we are currently restricted by space. I also believe that if we can do this, then anyone with the right determination and some startup funds can do the same, if not a lot better.

What am I hoping to get out of this?

As I am just about to turn 30, I don’t expect that a £100/month investment at an 8% average return, would do much to help me retire early (in fact, £100/month with a 0.66%/month return will take 25.7 years to reach a £100k valuation, far from retirement money..).

But, I am hoping that it will help me to achieve a better life for myself one day. To bring forward my retirement age, I will need to make further, additional investments, and/or invest in riskier shares which may provide better than average returns.

For example, at 8% growth and £100/month, I could expect to attain a £100k value by the time I am 55, yet at 10% growth I could do the same by the time I am 52 – if this were enough for me to retire on, I would have brought my retirement age forward by about 3 years.

For my readers, I want you to see what a small, but regular investment can do, good or bad, market-beating, average or losing to the market.

Follow my journey by browsing my more recent posts.