How to get a free company share worth up to £200

Follow my main project and you’ll see that I use Freetrade for all of my investments. That’s because they charge no fees and 0% commission for a general investment account.

But if you’re a new customer and are referred to them (you can join here), you’ll also get a free, random share in a company or other fund, worth between £3 and £200.

In fact, so far I’ve referred seven people to Freetrade who have gone on to become a customer and have earned themselves free shares, and that’s just in the last week (at time of writing) of my blog going live.

The free shares I’ve earned for myself include;

1x Gregg’s – worth ~£18.50

2x Evraz Steel – worth £10.37

1x iShares UK Dividend – worth £6.73

1x Landsec – worth £6.54

1x iShares S&P Financials – worth £6.19

1x iShares Global Agg. Bond – worth £5.26

In addition to these, I also have ten other referrals who have joined but are yet to use their account, so I may have other free shares on the way.

Here’s how you can get a free share for yourself

  1. Join Freetrade here, download the app on your iPhone or Android and create an account
  2. Verify your account in order to deposit funds
  3. Link your bank and top up your account with some funds
  4. In your profile, there should be an option to complete a form to confirm that you are not a citizen of the United States – complete this
  5. That’s it, you should receive your free share within a week
Free Email Updates

Get my updates every month

We respect your privacy.

Month 4: 1.34% down, £900 invested

I am a little late putting this blog post together, and am seeing a significant drop in the market which appears to be spurred on by the war between Russia and Ukraine.

April marked a £12.10 drop in the value of my total portfolio, after investing another £100 into each of three buckets of investments, bringing my total investment to £900.

However, as I am reporting this a little late, my title shows the percentage change as of the end of April, but my figures below do include a larger drop as a result of the war, stock market crash and potential recession on our hands, where my portfolio has dropped by almost £70 in total (almost 7.5%!) by the 10th of May.

This month I am not opening up any new investments, so am continuing to invest a total of £300, but may increase that to £400 in total next month.

About my investments:

Every month I use Freetrade to invest £100 into each of several buckets of investments. If you’re a new customer and are referred to them (you can join here), you’ll also get a free, random share in a company or other fund, worth between £3 and £200.

Portfolio so far

100 EM Core

I added another £100 into this bucket of investments, buying a couple of shares of VUSA while also making use of some of the left-over cash.

Growth as of the 10th May, as you can see, has been negative, predominantly because of the recent stock market crash. Regardless, these typically hold very worthwhile companies to invest in, so I will continue the quest.

100 EM Clean

A little of each went into the pot this month, with 6 more shares of Global Clean Energy and 1 more of Global Clean Water.

Towards the start of April this was looking good, but that quickly took a tumble later in the month.

I do consider these to be good long-term investments and in a sense am happy to be gearing up to buy more shares at a discount towards the end of May

100 EM Future

This month I added 10 shares of RBTX, as a way to slightly keep away from my blockchain investments. Not that I consider those to be bad investments, but that I expected a larger drop in the blockchain industry – and it looks like I was roughly right – as a related impact of the war.

For next month, I will likely buy a share of BCHS and 1-2 of RBTX.

Happening Recently

  • It is pay-review season at work, however, as I received a massive 45% increase last year it is looking as though my new pay rise may be just a couple of percent – or potentially even zero
  • I am being offered a share option which would vest if the company were to sell, but this is not a significant number (a few months of work)
  • My side business is slowly starting to pick up again, but not exceeding £500/month revenue at the moment. We expect slow months due to being out of the regular season but this is still uncommonly low compared to the last few years.
  • I am working towards establishing myself as a course creator in my main industry (of which I have 16 years experience) and will be looking to market several courses at the £500-1000 mark, and a few smaller ones at the £50-250 mark, later this year. My aim will be a regular income of at least £1,000 per month within 6-12 months.
    • I do have to consider that while it is definitely possible to do this at low-cost, I do expect to have to invest in advertising as a means to test market-fit, and so I am going to estimate that I’ll need to make at least a £5k investment at least to begin with in the next year, which would then scale upwards if/when making sales

Upcoming Changes

  • Ongoing from last month: I may look at altering the VS FTSE100 comparison for my charts, as I don’t think the FTSE100 return is completely accurate as a comparison here.
    • Or, I may look at changing the comparison to something else.
  • Ongoing from last month: I may look into getting details about my pension on here, so that I can also track that. I think that may be a little more difficult as I don’t have manual control over that, so it may be a little less accurate than my ISA portfolio.
  • Postponed from last month: Next month I will be opening up 100 EM Global, a new bucket of investments that will focus on ETFs that invest in global companies that have good and strong growth prospects.
  • Ongoing from last month: Just in the short term, I may slow down some of my investments so that I don’t open up any new investments while I aim to pay off debts at a faster rate (I will continue to invest £100/month into each of the above, however). Doing this will decrease my credit utilisation which should benefit me when I can use my LISA towards a deposit for a house.

Month 3: 3.8% up, £600 invested

This month I’ve opened up my 100 EM Future fund, adding both Invesco Coinshares Global Blockchain (BCHS) and iShares Automation & Robotics (RBTX) to my portfolio.

As this is month #3, I’ve invested a total of £600, and am currently seeing a return of ~£23, or about 3.8% up. To see my portfolio updated daily, see my portfolio page.

About my investments:

Every month I use Freetrade to invest £100 into each of several buckets of investments. If you’re a new customer and are referred to them (you can join here), you’ll also get a free, random share in a company or other fund, worth between £3 and £200.

Portfolio so far

100 EM Core

I added another £100 into this bucket of investments, buying 1 more share of VWRL at £88.68, leaving £41.91 in cash for next month. This is going well, as last month we were at a return of -£1.75.

Next month, I should be able to add in a couple of shares of the S&P 500 (VUSA), but VWRL as I have bought so far is costly enough to mean I can only buy one of one or the other each month.

Growth so far is good, as this is a very broad set of investments that are going into highly valued companies.

100 EM Clean

I added another 6 shares of Clean Energy and 1 share of Clean Water, leaving £1.26 left over as cash. Once again, last month we were down by £1.68 immediately, but we’re almost up by £10 (~5%) in this bucket of investments.

I do think that this could be performing well because of the situation with Russia and Ukraine, where Russia supplies a large amount of oil to the west and the west is finding alternative sources of energy to mitigate any issues that arise.

Long term, that’s good, because it brings more attention to the clean energy debate, and thus, the companies I’ve invested in which are working towards a more sustainable future.

I do believe this to be one of my most valuable buckets of investments for the future.

100 EM Future

I started this bucket of investments with Invesco Coinshares Global Blockchain (BCHS) and iShares Automation & Robotics (RBTX), keeping £1.99 over for next month.

This is investing in companies that are investing in both blockchain and robotics and automated machinery, which seems like a solid choice to me. If you have exposure to either of these fields, you would know that the number of people being hired to build these industries is incredibly high, but that it is still relatively early in the industry lifecycle.

I expect slow, but very good growth.

Happening Recently

  • My side business has slowed down a lot recently, due it it being out of our main seasonal selling periods, pulling in just £250 in the past month. We will need to restock our products in June/July in time for the black friday / Christmas period, which may cost around £5,000, with a projected return of £15,000.
  • I’ve increased my pension contributions again, from 7% to 9%. A little earlier than expected (as I only increased it last month), but I will give it 3 months now to get used to the new take-home pay before I increase it again.
  • I’ve almost managed to max-out my LISA (lifetime ISA), but I had hoped to be able to max it out completely. A business trip to the US with work set me back a little and I’ll just about miss out on maxing this out by about £500.

Upcoming Changes

  • I may look at altering the VS FTSE100 comparison for my charts, as I don’t think the FTSE100 return is completely accurate as a comparison here.
    • Or, I may look at changing the comparison to something else.
  • I may look into getting details about my pension on here, so that I can also track that. I think that may be a little more difficult as I don’t have manual control over that, so it may be a little less accurate than my ISA portfolio.
  • Next month I will be opening up 100 EM Global, a new bucket of investments that will focus on ETFs that invest in global companies that have good and strong growth prospects.
  • Just in the short term, I may slow down some of my investments so that I don’t open up any new investments while I aim to pay off debts at a faster rate (I will continue to invest £100/month into each of the above, however). Doing this will decrease my credit utilisation which should benefit me when I can use my LISA towards a deposit for a house.

Month 2: ~1% down, £300 invested

This month I’ve opened up my 100 EM Clean fund, adding both iShares Global Clean Energy and iShares Global Clean Water to my portfolio.

As this is month #2, I’ve invested a total of £300, and am currently seeing a return of -£3.43, or about -1%. To see my portfolio updated daily, see my portfolio page.

About my investments:

Every month I use Freetrade to invest £100 into each of several buckets of investments. If you’re a new customer and are referred to them (you can join here), you’ll also get a free, random share in a company or other fund, worth between £3 and £200.

Portfolio so far

100 EM Core

I added another £100 into this bucket of investments, buying 1 more share of VWRL at £84.67, leaving £30.59 in cash for next month.

100 EM Clean

I started off my Clean portfolio with 6 shares of Clean Energy and 1 share of Clean Water, leaving £3.13 left over as cash.

Happening Recently

  • February was a relatively normal and slow month really
  • No further progress on the freelance side of things
  • My side business pulled in ~£500, of which our profit margin is around 40%, and we’re in the process of saving up for our next order of stock probably in May/June
  • Maxing out my LISA should be just about doable by my next payday
  • I’ve increased my pension contributions from 5% to 7%, and will be increasing that every 2-3 months until it’s about 15%, giving me chance to get used to the slow drop in wages

A new beginning

It’s the 25th of January and finally time to kick-start this project again, now I’ve had my first pay day of the year and have a few hours spare to get writing.

At 100 Every Month, I’ll be blogging about my investments and ambitions to achieve FI/RE – the ability to become financially independent and retire early.

This blog, going forward, will focus on a few main areas;

  • How you can invest up to £100/month into a variety of different “buckets” of investments
  • My journey to achieve FI/RE
  • Personal finance advice from me, who has spent 6 years working for one of the UK’s largest money-saving websites

How my £100/month strategy works:

For the next few months, I’m going to be tapering up my investments so that in month 1 (this month), I invest in just one of my portfolio buckets, invest in 2 next month, 3 the month after and so on until I can ensure that I can contribute to each one every single month.

But, there’s a problem.

With UK shares I can only buy whole shares, so if the value of one share goes above £100, I won’t be able to buy one whole share that month – consequently, if the share price is under £100 then I may have spare cash left over.

I can solve this by separating out both Shares and Cash, and invest up to £1,200 in any particular bucket of investments each year.

Investment buckets are simply my way of grouping shares, where I can split my £100/month investment into any proportion of that bucket’s investments.

For example, as part of my 100 EM Core bucket, I can invest up to £1,200/year in VWRL and/or VUSA. To buy one share of each would currently cost around £140, so I simply cannot buy both every single month. I may instead buy one share of VWRL at £80 and reserve the cash for the following month when I can then buy two shares of VUSA for £120.

This month’s investment:
I’ve invested £100 into Freetrade for one share of VWRL at £84.74.

You can check out my portfolio here to see how this is performing – it will update every evening and compare against the FTSE100.

Next month, I’ll be investing £100 into each of 2 buckets rather than just one.

Now, let’s just have a quick overview of my situation:

  • 31 years old
  • Renting at £700/month, hoping to buy with partner in next ~2 years
  • £65,000 pre-tax earnings
    • ~£3,600 take-home/month
    • Future pay rises are likely to be very minimal unless I jump company
  • 7% pension contribution by myself (4% by my employer)
    • Pension contributions increasing to 15% by myself in next 12 months
  • ~£20,000 debt, mostly on 0% credit cards
    • Two large medical procedures in the last 2 years
  • Medical costs of ~£200/month
  • Other costs of up to £800/month
  • Maxing out LISA each year from now
  • Side business generating at least £2,000/year profit that I can withdraw
  • Some investments in Cryptocurrencies which are too volatile to provide a value for
  • Savings rate, after paying off debt in next ~12-15 months, should be at least 50%
    • Current savings rate is around 8-10%

Current Investments, suffering due to repaying debt:

  • £1,100 in S&S ISA through Freetrade
  • £2,100 in Cash LISA through Moneybox

So, when can I retire?

According to Networthify, I should be able to retire in about 20 years from when I have fully paid off my debt at the current rate. After increasing my pension contributions over the next year, this may increase to about 22 years. so I will need to make some updates as my journey to repay my debt has ended.

Happening recently:

  • I was in talks with a freelance client that I was very confident about, which has unfortunately led to me being ghosted. I had anticipated a take-home of at least £12,000/year from this. It’s quite unfortunate as I have had very good relations with this company’s staff and community for about 6 years online.
  • I have a call coming up with another company which may lead to freelance work, however I am not hoping for much.
  • My side-business had its best month ever in December and pulled in at least £1,000 of profit (about 40% profit margins), although this is split between myself, my business partner and reinvesting into new stock.
  • The current market conditions are quite volatile, with many stocks and crypto dropping significantly. My crypto holdings have been anywhere between “a small car” and “a small house” and are currently going down. I have no intent to sell.

Taking 100 Every Month in a new direction

Like many people, I started this blog with good intentions and expected to be keeping it up to date at least once per month.

As always, things change, things get in the way and some of the things we plan just don’t work out.

Earlier this year I had a large medical payment to make, and have recently made another large medical payment, both using credit, while my priority has been to pay those off instead of investing.

During the year, I’ve learned more about investing and about what my focuses should be. Particularly as I previously was buying lots of individual stocks and very few ETFs.

I have also recently managed to increase my salary by another 42% this year, which certainly helps, allowing me to double my pension contributions and giving me another £500/month which can go straight into my ISA.

I’m intending to take this blog in a new direction, and now instead of simply investing £100/month into lazily-picked shares, I will instead be putting up to £100/month into several different buckets of investments, showing the return from those.

In cases where I can only buy one whole share (as with the UK market) but that share price is above £100, I will work this out to come under £1,200/year over the whole year.

So, to unveil my new monthly investment portfolio(s);

100 EM Core:

  1. Vanguard FTSE All World – VWRL
  2. Vanguard S&P 500 – VUSA

Additional possible investments:

100 EM Clean:

  1. iShares Global Clean Energy – INRG
  2. iShares Global Clean Water – IH2O

100 EM Future:

  1. Global Blockchain – BCHS
  2. iShares Robotics – RBTX

100 EM Global

  1. iShares MSCI World – IWDG
  2. iShares Momentum Factor – IWFM
  3. iShares MSCI World Quality – IWFQ
  4. iShares MSCI EM – EMIM

100 EM Technology

  1. iShares Digitalisation – DGIT
  2. iShares Nasdaq 100 – CNX1

100 EM Small

  1. BlackRock Smaller Companies – BRSC
  2. iShares USA Momentum – IUMF

100 EM Crypto

  1. Various cryptocurrencies with a focus on ETH and MATIC

100 EM Strategy

  1. Individual shares picked using investment strategy tools such as OUTPRFRM and TYKR

Ready, set…

For the sake of consistency and ease of tracking, I will be re-starting my journey here from January 2022. In the meantime I will be publishing more details about investing in general and about FI/RE, which is something I’ve been very interested in for a while.

The 8-Step Guide to Building Your First Emergency Fund

Building your first emergency fund is crucial if you want to be financially secure. It is not possible to predict when financial emergencies will occur, but if you have an emergency fund, you won’t have to worry about money. With that in mind, here is an 8-step guide on what it is and how to build your first emergency fund.

What is an emergency fund?


An emergency fund is an amount of money set aside for unexpected expenses. It should be used to pay for unexpected situations such as medical emergencies, car problems, home repairs, among others, and/or for all of your living expenses in the event that you are made redundant from your job.

People tend to think of an emergency fund as something they have to painstakingly build. In reality, you can build your emergency fund by saving up the little money you have left over after paying your bills and other expenses.

Why is it important to have an emergency fund?


The main reason why you need an emergency fund is to save yourself from financial disasters, emergencies, and other unforeseen circumstances.  These kinds of events can be really stressful and can affect your finances in a very bad way.

If you don’t have any savings, you will have to resort to various kinds of loans or might even have to borrow money from your family just to get by.  

On the other hand, if you have an emergency fund, you will be able to handle these kinds of situations very easily. You can just easily take out some money from your emergency fund if you have to.  

You will also be able to enjoy more peace of mind since you will know that you have a financial safety net in case anything happens.

How much money should be in my emergency fund?


Most of us would recommend somewhere between 3-12 months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund.

It’s a case of “the more the better”, so aim to build up 12 months’ worth in total, as this would allow you to ‘get by’ without any income for a full year if you need to.

For instance, let’s say that your take-home pay after all taxes is £2,000, yet your average expenditure is £1,000 per month – that covers your accommodation, bills, basic living costs including food and water, and various other small costs that you can’t really live without.

In this scenario, each month of pay will pay for two months’ worth of living expenses, so you can build a 12-month emergency fund of £12,000 in 12 months.

What are the most common emergencies?


The most common emergencies are: medical emergencies, car breakdowns, car accidents, fires, floods, thefts and redundancies.


Any one of these can cost hundreds or thousands and as most people don’t have more than a month of expenses immediately available to them while many live paycheck to paycheck, even the smallest emergency can have a big impact on your finances.

How can I save up for my emergency fund?

The first step to building your emergency fund is to look at your expenses and see what areas you can reduce by asking yourself a number of questions such as;

  • Do you spend too much on utility bills and are you able to reduce these somehow?
  • Do you spend a lot on food and groceries and can you swap expenses brands for supermarket’s own-brand versions, or could you shop somewhere cheaper?
  • Do you smoke, drink alcohol or have another regular habit that is expensive and can you reduce those or completely cut them out?
  • Do you have credit card debt and can you use a 0% balance transfer to move that to another card with minimal costs?
  • Do you spend money on fuel for lots of short journeys where you could walk or ride a bike instead?

I perform this exercise at least once per year and always find something that I can work on to reduce my expenses.

The second step to building your emergency fund is to open a savings account and set up an automatic transfer from your current account to go through after you receive your pay each month. This way, you won’t even see the money in your account and thus are less likely to spend so much.

The amount you set up to automatically transfer to your savings account is an amount that you are guaranteed to have spare each month. So if your take-home is £2,000, your average monthly expenses are £1,000, you might want to automatically transfer £500-800/month just so that you have a little left over in case of an unforeseen last-second expense, then at the end of the month simply manually transfer anything you have left.

What are some great places to save my money?

The purpose of the budget is for it to be easily and quickly accessible, which means that you don’t want to invest it in an asset that you would then have to sell before being able to access the money.

A simple savings account with your bank will be enough for most of your emergency budget and is almost immediately available – simply login to your bank and move the money from your savings account to your current account almost instantly.

Premium Bonds and Cash ISAs are good options to store some of your emergency fund, but you should be aware that the money isn’t immediately available. Premium bonds may take up to two weeks while cash ISAs may only take 1-3 days for the money to reach your bank account.

Keep some of your budget in cash, in case you have an in-person expense to pay and are in the coincidental situation of being unable to access your bank account (such as if you misplaced your debit card).

For myself, this is where I store my 12 month emergency fund:

  • 6 months’ worth in a savings account
  • 3 months’ worth in premium bonds
  • 2 months’ worth in cash ISAs
  • 1 months’ worth in cash

How can I keep track of my expenses?

I simply use Excel or Google Sheets.

All you really need to do is look back over your bank statements, record your spending into a spreadsheet and categorise them where you can.
For instance, based on the prior 12 months of spending I can give myself a £200/month food budget, which means I expect to spend up to that much but no more.

I can total together the spending at several different supermarkets throughout the month and see how that compares to my £200/month budget for food, and record how much I spent on that category of expenses in each month.

What you want to be able to do is look back at previous months and easily see that you spent X on food, Y on utilities and Z on entertainment, which then allows you to see which categories of expenses are having the largest impact on your finances and thus which ones to work on reducing.

If you don’t fancy handling everything yourself in a spreadsheet, you can also use the following budgeting apps: YNAB and Mint.

Your emergency budget in 8 steps

  1. Calculate your emergency budget savings goal
    • Determine what your necessary living expenses are per month and multiply by twelve to get your emergency budget savings goal
  2. Review your spending habits and make alterations
    • Look over your bank statements for the last year and categorise all expenses for each month, then look for ways that you can reduce your spending in each category
  3. Reduce debt payments
    • If you have credit card debt, move this into a 0% account using a 0% balance transfer, giving you a period of time (usually 12-24 months) with no interest to pay and thus lower repayments
  4. Start saving into a savings account
    • Set up an automatic transfer from your current account to your savings account to happen after you receive your monthly salary
    • You may want to save 50% of your available cash in a savings account
  5. Open a cash ISA account
    • Find the highest-interest cash ISA that’s available, open an account and start saving
    • You may want to save 15% of your available cash in a cash ISA
  6. Open a premium bonds account with NS&I
    • You may want to save 25% of your available cash in premium bonds
  7. Monitor your spending habits regularly
    • Review your spending each month or when possible to make sure you’re on the right track to minimising your spending and maximising your savings
  8. Invest the excess
    • Once you have built up your emergency fund, funnel the rest of your available funds into investments, and for times when you have to use your emergency fund, focus on rebuilding it

Conclusion: Life is unpredictable, but with an emergency fund you can feel safe about your financial situation.

Your emergency fund is your safety net. It’s there for you if something goes wrong. It’s there for you if you lose your job, have a major car repair, are sick longer than expected, have a major appliance break, or any other unexpected expense. A true emergency fund can protect your finances from life’s unexpected events. I hope this blog post has helped you to improve your financial situation. If you have any other questions or concerns about building your first emergency fund, please feel free to comment below.

Why retire early? 8 reasons why you should

If you’re like me, you feel like you simply don’t have enough time in your week to do everything that you want to do.

You get up at 7am, get to work for 9am, stay there until 5:30pm and get home by 6:30pm.

You’re out for half the day doing something that, even if you enjoy what you do, you’re only doing it because it helps you to afford your house, essentials and some luxuries.

But what if you had enough money that you didn’t need to work?

I’m not talking about winning millions and being able to buy everything you could ever want, but about having enough that it could pay off your expenses each year.

This is the premise behind FI/RE – Financial Indepence / Retiring Early.

Through lowering your expenses and increasing your investment portfolio in the stock market, you would simply withdraw from your investments enough to cover your expenses, so long as it doesn’t result in your portfolio dropping.

I am not going to tell you to quit your job now, but once you have planned it out and built your investments, here’s some major benefits that you’ll see;

You’ll have freedom to do what you want with your time

Feeling fatigued from having to commute 2 hours each day? Well, now you don’t have to.

You can wake up a little later in the day feeling perfectly refreshed, start your day with a hearty breakfast and some light exercise, move on to reading a book, working on your garden or house, flex your chef skills on lunch and dinner and more.

For myself, I love models and collectibles, but the last time I built or painted a model was over 10 years ago. That’s a very long time to miss out on your hobbies, so retiring early would allow me to take part in hobbies that I haven’t found time for, for years.

You’ll get more time with your family

If you have children, aging parents or pets, you’ll get more time with the people that you love.

For myself, my parents are in their 60’s and still are agile enough to do what they want, so it would be nice to spend this time with them while I can. Our family dogs are also very old now, and considering the amount of time they have left with us is a dark and sad thought, so being able to spend a few more hours with them each week would make me very happy.

You’ll have more time to take care of your health

It can take me 3 hours to cook an excellent Greek meal because of all of the preparation involved and the individual herbs, spices, vegetables and marination involved.

I just cannot find time for that on an evening after work and at most I do that a couple of times per month.

Being able to spend more time on my food would allow me to eat healthier foods that should improve my healthspan and allow me to enjoy life for longer.

Not only that, but I would have more time to spend exercising.

I, like most people, fall into the trap of rarely exercising because I am simply too fatigued after a long day at work to not only cook, clean and relax, but also to exercise on top.

Just half an hour to an hour of exercise per day would do wonders for everyone, and this would be easy to do if I didn’t have to work.

You’ll have time to work on that small business idea you’ve always had

Hold on, why retire if you’re just going to start working again?

My point with this is that you don’t have to do this, but you can do it purely because you want to and would enjoy it.

This could be as simple as starting a blog on a topic that you’re knowledgable on, or could even involve you creating something to sell on etsy.

Lets say you love art – could you make and sell art cards, paintings or something else?

How about we say you love dogs – could you do some part-time dog walking?

If you’re an advocate for Greek Pottery, could you even import a few to sell on ebay?

Maybe you could even start a subscription box business.

The world is your oyster and you could work because you want to, not because you need to.

You could take that course you’ve never had time for

I am vastly interested in astronomy and would love to learn more about physics and planetary sciences. I could be taking courses through Coursera purely to satisfy my own curiosity about the world, instead of having to take courses only to improve skills that are beneficial to my employers.

Take courses on nutrition, exercise, yoga and more and you’ll not only learn some useful and interesting knowledge, but that will also help you live a longer and healthier life too!

You could live anywhere you want

While I work for someone else, I’m forced to live within commuting distance, but if I’m retired, I could choose almost anywhere to retire to.

Maybe I’d love to move to Cardiff but my job keeps me stuck in Birmingham – not having to work would allow me to move.

Not only that, but according to Numbeo it is around 3.75% more expensive to live in Birmingham, so my money would last a little tiny bit longer in Cardiff.

Equally, if you lived in Edinburgh and for some reason wanted to move to Birmingham, you could be saving around 11%.

Maybe I could move abroad to a country where my living costs would be halved, which would actually allow me to retire many years earlier.

You could have more time to travel the world

I’m not going to say that you should spend all of your money seeing a different country every week, but simply having more time to travel would allow you to see and experience more life around the planet.

You wouldn’t need to wait until the bank holidays to maximise your time off work, bumping up the costs because everyone else does the same.

You wouldn’t need to limit your trips to a couple of big, expensive weeks each year – in fact, you could have more time at your destination, drop your daily budget and experience more.

While I’m working, about the maximum I can take is 3 weeks of holidays per year, so I pack out those days with as many activities as possible, making it very expensive.

If I could instead spend 6 weeks of travelling each year, I could take a more relaxed approach that allows me to appreciate the destination more, and yet it might not cost too much more to do this.

For myself, the money is not the limiting factor, but the main reason why I travel very little is purely down to the time I can get off work. No work = no issues finding the time.

You could cut out a lot of stress, fatigue and burnout

We’ve all had those days where we’ve come home from work feeling absolutely drained, hoping that the money we’ve earned is worth the sacrifice to our health.

There’s certainly a lot of value in abolishing that.

Why work until pension age and retire as a burnt, stressed fragment of who you could have been, only to find that those years of working reduced the amount of time you have left to enjoy to just a few years?

If I can retire 10 years earlier than I originally planned, that’s 10 years less work stress, which might actually help me to live a little longer.

What would you do if you could retire early?

Here’s how much money you need to retire early

This is a question of maths, pure and simple, and works no matter which country you’re in.1

How much do I need to retire? I need to have an amount of money that won’t fall below one year’s worth of expenses before I die.

I’m 30, have £20k of annual expenses, with 55 years left to live according to my life expectancy.

Thus, you might assume that if I had 55x my £20k expenses (about £1.1m), that I could retire immediately, right?

If I assumed that inflation would be 2% for the next 55 years, then my expenditure could actually rise to £58,269, which would eat through £1.1m in 38 years.

So how do you solve the problem of the money running out too early?

It’s simple really: invest it.

Investing your money into the stock market, and in particular into index funds that spread your money across a large number of companies, that will provide you with a return that you can retire from.

But how much will you need to invest, exactly?

Recommendations for the amount you need by the time you retire are usually an absolute minimum of 25x your annual expenses, and up to 40x.

Why?

The Trinity Study found that withdrawing 3-4% of an investment portfolio each year should allow it to last for more than 30 years, while differences in investing returns in the UK suggests that we British should aim for 2.5%.

Divide your annual expenditure by those percentages and you should get the same figure as if you multiplied it by 25-40.

So, quick maths tells us that for every £1k of annual expenses, you’ll need £25k-£40k in your investment portfolio.

So for myself, with £20k of annual expenses I will need £500k-£800k to match that range. As a couple, myself and my partner have around £35,000 of annual expenses, so we will need a retirement goal of £875k-£1.4m in our portfolios before we can reliably retire.

If you had £100,000 of annual expenses, you better get to work on cutting those down because you’ll need at least £2.5m before you can start to retire.

How long do I need to invest for?

Let’s say you are me – 30 years old, £20k annual expenses, requiring £800k for retirement, with no current savings or investments, investing £1,000/month.

Using this handy Early Retirement Calculator I can quickly plot out how long I will need to do this for, until the return from my investments can cover my expenses.

If 30 years until retirement is too much for you, try doubling your investments to £2,000/month and you should reduce the time until retirement to almost 20 years from now. Increase it to £3,000/month and you’ll take it down to about 15 years.

Keep in mind, however, that all of these figures are standalone from your pension(s), and taking a pension further down the line may decrease the amount you need invested for a comfortable retirement.

What should I invest in?

I have a few strategies, but mostly focus on Index Funds – these are investment funds that put your money into a large number of stocks all at once.

Using Freetrade (use my link and you’ll get a free share worth up to £200) I’m putting my money into a selection of consistent good performers that spread my money across reliable and high-earning companies.

The Vanguard FTSE All-World (VWRL) fund spreads my investment across 3,000 large and medium sized companies around the world. In the past 8 years, it has had double digit percentage growth for 4 years, single digit percentage growth for 2 years and has declined for 2 years. In that time it has increased by 121%, for an average of 15% annual growth.

Keeping in mind that all of my calculations are on a 5% ROI, this fund may actually outperform that over the long term.

As a nice little bonus, funds like VWRL offer a dividend, which gives you a small annual income based on the size of your investment. VWRL offers 1.38%, so I’ll get £1.38 for every £100 invested each year.

How do I invest?

Retirement saving and investing is actually quite simple.

Investing platforms can take some hefty fees, so for the past year I’ve been using Freetrade, which offers commission-free trading and an ISA for a flat fee of £3/month regardless of the size of your investment.

If you join, you’ll get a free share worth up to £200, so I highly recommend you check it out.

I definitely recommend that you invest through an ISA, which gives means you can make tax-free withdrawals of any profit you make.

Don’t forget your workplace pension scheme

When looking at your retirement plan, you should also consider any pension savings you made through working.

You’ll be able to take this at a fixed age – for me that’s going to be age 57, and all of your pension contributions come with tax relief – basic rate tax payers get £100 for every £80 they put in.

If I can get a guaranteed income to cover all expenses from my workplace pension fund at age 57 and actually retired at age 40, then my pre-pension income from investments only needs to last for 17 years.

In this case, I may not need to amass 40x my expenses, as 25x should still last more than long enough.

While you can take a 25% lump sum tax free, this does decrease your pension pot signficantly and impacts the amount you can withdraw each year, so do take that into account.

Don’t forget your state pension

My state pension age is 68, meaning that I can get an annual ‘wage’ from the government at that age.

The full rate will be about £180 per week, but this is pro-rata based on the number of years you have worked and paid national insurance contributions.

The full rate requires 35 years of contributions, so let’s say I only work for 20 years:

£180/35 = £5.14*20 = £102.85/week = £5,348/year.

Scenario: What if I retired at age 40 with £20k expenses?

I would have contributed 18 years worth of national insurance contributions.

From age 57 I can take my workplace pension, which at age 30 is worth only £17,000.

Estimates show that I could get about £6,000/year from this, but considering I will retire early and these estimates are based on not doing that, I will factor in £3,000 (but naturally, this is not simple to estimate).

From age 68 the government would pay me £4,811/year as a state pension, giving me £7,811 with both pension pots and leaving me with just £12,189 left to find.

Thus from my investments I need £20k from age 40, £17k from age 57 and £12.2k from age 68.

If we say that I would take 2.5% of my investments, then my investment portfolio would need to be:

£800,000 from my retirement age of 40, £680,000 from age 57, £488,000 from age 68.

To find your own numbers, look at the estimated income from your workplace pension, determine your state pension age and income and then deduct those from your annual expenses and divide those figures by 0.025 to see what your investments need to be at each age.

Conclusion

Retirement planning is a long process that starts with you determining how much you’ll need to cover all expenses, considering your pension pot values and investing as much as possible to reach your Financial Independence / Retire Early (or FI/RE) number to give you a good retirement income.

Once you plot all of that out, it’s just a matter of time before you reach your goals to allow you to retire early.

So, how much do you need to retire early? It’s time to work that out for yourself, but the general recommendation is 25-40x your expected annual expenses, or up to $/£40,000 for every $/£1,000 that you spend each year.

Let me know in the comments what your calculations are and share how long it’ll take.

As always, I am just a simple guy who likes maths and wants to share my knowledge on retiring early. I am not a financial adviser and none of this is financial advice.

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.