Sunday 22 December 2013

High Yield Bonds: Top Performers

Have faith...
The last five years have been quite traumatic for investors. In the case of the DIY Income Investor high-yield portfolio, an over-reliance on high-yield dividend shares led to a horrible decline in portfolio value in 2007/8. Since then I have upped the  fixed-income share of the portfolio to around 50%.

Some new analysis by Deutsche Bank Research seems to show that this was perhaps a good (or at least, lucky) decision.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Inheritance - One SIPP at a Time

Now that's using your feet!
With the inexorable rise in property prices in the UK, Inheritance Tax (IHT) will hit more and more families in the future. At the same time, life is looking harder for the post-baby-boomers: a recent study concluded that, for the first time, our children may be poorer in retirement than us.

OK, families hit by IHT are relatively affluent and it is fair that there should be some taxation of any transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. However, most families didn't save money by accident - it was often down to hard slog. So it is natural that they would look for legal (i.e. sanctioned by Parliament) tax-effective ways of passing on as much of their accrued wealth as possible.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Zen and the Art of Portfolio Maintenance (Portfolio Buy - RSAB:LSE)

I read Robert Pirsig's famous 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' a long time ago - and I'm not sure what brought it to mind. I would be hard pressed to tell you what it was about, except that it involved a lot of taking-motorcycle-engines-apart.

Well, I don't have a motorcycle - but I do have a DIY Income Investor portfolio. Perhaps there's a parallel?

Monday 16 December 2013

Christmas ETFs - Santa's Little Helpers

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) come in all shapes and sizes - like elfs (or is it elves?).

For a DIY Income Investor, the right choice of ETFs can be a big help. They can provide cost-effective diversification (and thus a measure of safety), simplify the running of your portfolio plus give easy access to dividend shares from around the world, in various currencies.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Yorkshire Luck? Or Macbeth's Ghosts?

It's illogical perhaps, but I do think of myself as quite lucky. I find money on the street and bargains in the supermarket (yesterday:12 yellow roses for 49p). My DIY Income Investor portfolio isn't doing too badly either.

However, a more rational explanation is that certain behaviours might make you more 'lucky'. A sound bit of biblical advice (Matthew 7:7) is: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you". Conversely, do none of the above and moan about how 'unlucky' you are.

Well, I've benefited from another bit of luck - but I'm not so sure I'm going to be much better off.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Janus Investing

For the record: yes, Janus was two-faced but he was the god of beginnings and transitions. His name gives us, appropriately, the Roman month-name that we know as January - the beginning of the year.

But let me concentrate on his job of looking in two directions at once - and the eye-strain that must induce...

Sunday 1 December 2013


That's a big number. If you lined up all those Pound coins, it would stretch...well quite a long way.

The number is the total amount of British personal debt, according to the Centre for Social Justice (reported in the Independent) - an astonishing 'average' of £54,000 per household. And of course, that 'average' includes a lot of households (like mine) that have no debt (or no mortgage), so the 'average' of households in debt will be higher. 

Saturday 30 November 2013

The Role of High Yield Bonds in Your Income Portfolio

It's a percentage game...
The DIY Income Investor portfolio is based on an asset allocation split between high-yield dividend shares and high-yield fixed-income securities. As far as I am aware no-one has previously advocated or publicised such an asset allocation mix. Yes, the 50/50 equity/bond split recommendation is fairly commonplace - but not with the emphasis on high-yield.

While there is a lot of evidence supporting dividend investing and, perhaps more speculatively, high-yield dividend investing, there seems to be less evidence for the success of high-yield fixed-income investment. But there is some...

Sunday 24 November 2013

Mean Reversion - What Goes Up Comes Down?

Mean reversion - the phenomenon of security prices (and therefore yields, for income-producing securities) returning to a 'normal' level - may exist for both equities (shares) and fixed-income investments.

In fact, this does seem to be what I rely on to make money with my high-yield DIY Income Investor portfolio! As well as hopefully pocketing the high yield for the foreseeable future, I am also betting on a price rise, so that I can sell in the short to medium term at a profit.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

A Preference for Diversification (Portfolio Buy)

Warren Buffett famously said (on the subject of portfolio diversification) that - and I paraphrase the words of the master - you should be very discriminating about which companies you buy shares in and consequently (because you don't buy much) you should: 'put your all your eggs in one basket but watch that basket carefully'. (Andrew Carnegie said something similar a generation before.)

Sunday 17 November 2013

Passive Aggressive - It All Depends on Which Index You Choose

Much as I enjoy the active investment process, I do have a lot of sympathy for the passive index investors out there.

Although they do seem a bit too smug sometimes, I admit that they have some excellent advocates - including Warren Buffett, William (Four Pillars of Investing) Bernstein and of course the Grand-daddy of low-cost index investing, John Bogle.

But it seems to me that the results obtained depend crucially on which index you choose, and how you structure your portfolio. So I was intrigued when I came across a useful summary of performance of the key worldwide indices...

Thursday 14 November 2013

SEMLing of Roses? (Portfolio Buy)

Orangutans smelling roses
Judging from my DIY Income Investor portfolio, the world stock markets are going through a period of risk reappraisal - and the next direction could be up or down. The value of the portfolio has been steaming upwards until November, when it paused and then started dropping alarmingly.

I have noticed this hiatus and reversal pattern in the markets before. Uncertainty in the financial markets can be an opportunity or a trap - all we can do, as individual DIY investors, is to have a long-term strategy (hopefully based on some academic evidence) and try to stick to it, no matter if the markets are crashing around our ears.

My latest portfolio buy is just that - a continuation of the long-term strategy.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

All That Glisters... (Portfolio Sale)


...Is Not Gold.

Gold mines in Tanzania - what was I thinking?

Not exactly Fool's Gold - more like a distant African mirage of untold wealth. Like Stewart Granger (as Allan Quartermain) searching for the lost diamond mines of King Solomon, I ventured into the steamy forests of the 'Dark Continent', looking to make my fortune.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

My Preciousss....The Attractiveness of Dividend Stocks

The DIY Income Investor portfolio includes dividend shares - specifically those with a high-yield - because I expect these to perform better over time, as an asset class, than other share types.

There is quite a lot of academic research supporting this belief - and Allianz Global Investors has provided some further more recent positive evidence supporting the attractiveness of dividend shares.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

DIY 'Dogs' - and another Portfolio Sale!

Cesar and his dogs
One of my favourite TV programmes is the Dog Whisperer. Mexican-born Cesar Milan takes unmanageable canines and reshapes their unacceptable behaviour - and, more importantly the behaviour of their owners. He roams the hills of California with a pack of dozens of 'problem' dogs that he is treating at his rehabilitation centre.

I always thought the DIY Income Investor portfolio was going to be a 'buy and hold' portfolio - sweeping up the share dividend and bond coupon shavings from the floor. But that's not how it has turned out - it looks like I am actually a kind of 'value' investor - but only selling my winners. And in the process I have gathered my own small pack of 'dogs'.

Friday 25 October 2013

HALP! (Portfolio Buy)

Having got over my reluctance to pay for yield, I've done it again.

I can't say that I'm particularly excited by my latest purchase for the DIY Income Investor portfolio - it's more of an income-oriented filler-inner. But when you have made a plan, you should stick to it - or come up with a better one.

My latest purchase gives me a yield on purchase of around 7.6% - hopefully for life.

Monday 21 October 2013

Two-Years' Resolution (Portfolio Sale)

One of the reasons for writing this blog is to force myself to think a bit more before making investment decisions. After all, if I make bad decisions, they will be there for all the world to see.

The same thing is true about New Year Resolutions - if you don't make them public they are easy to forget. (I made some in January 2012 - but times have changed since then!)

But that's not the point. I'm selling a lot this year: that's not 'buy and hold' is it? Still, when the money's on the table, it takes a lot of willpower not to grab it - and, for better or worse, my willpower has limits.

Saturday 19 October 2013

The 'Income Sandwich' Portfolio

I am always looking for better ways to communicate the basics of the DIY Income Investor approach. My basic paradigm (I've been watching The Big Bang Theory) is the Income Pyramid, which covers most of the basics (i.e. no debt, good cash management, income-oriented investing), although this model perhaps implies too much rigidity in moving between the Pyramid levels.

But for the investment portfolio itself, a simpler image is perhaps the Income Sandwich. Here's how it works...

Tuesday 15 October 2013

The Only Way Is ....Yorkshire (Portfolio Buy)

I admit it - I'm running out of ideas.
Keeping my DIY Income Investor portfolio diversified means not putting too much in any single investment. I don't like to put more than about 5% of the portfolio in anything - in fact I have around 40 different holdings.

The search for sustainable high yield continues, most recently finding a new international Exchange Traded Fund. But finding something new that I don't already hold is proving difficult.

Saturday 12 October 2013

A Yield Mirage? (Portfolio Buy)

It may not be what it seems...
Just to show I am 'walking the walk' and not just 'talking the talk', the latest addition to my DIY Income Investor portfolio is another Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

It meets the criteria of producing income and not being UK-based, increasing both the portfolio's geographical diversification ... and its passivity.

What makes this buy unusual (for an ETF) is the yield - currently 6.2%, according to Bloomberg (making it higher than my portfolio average of 5.5%): and my simple strategy for buying ETFs is to follow the highest yields in my chosen type of vehicle - those that produce income.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Active or Passive?

In the spectrum of private investors there are those that pick specific stocks - 'active' investors - and those that like to invest in funds that follow an index (such as the FTSE) - the 'passive' investors.

Warren Buffett, no less, thinks that most investors would be better off with an index fund as, left to themselves, they would generally make poor investment decisions. 

Being purely 'passive' doesn't suit some temperaments - certainly not mine! It feels too helpless. And it's no fun. However, much to my surprise, I am slowly becoming more 'passive'. Why?

Monday 7 October 2013

The Cheque's in the Post...

Have you seen Sid...err..Pat?
It's always exciting to see the postman (and yes, it usually is a man) coming up the path to put something in my letter box.

Well, when I say 'exciting', I may be exaggerating a little. As I have opted out of most advertising mail. apart from the odd handful of flyer rubbish that the Post Office insists I continue to receive, the postie tends to put through paper copies of bills and bank statements.

But he (or his colleagues) also bring packages of wonder from the Internet...

Thursday 3 October 2013

How to Make 50% Profit!

How would you like a 50% profit, presented to you on a plate. All you have to do is log on and tick 'yes'.

Too good to be true? Well, no - it has actually happened to thousands of investors. But if you missed it, sorry!

Many a Slip...(Portfolio Sale: Vodafone)

As the old English proverb goes: There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip - or in the more modern idiom, 'it ain't over until the [large] lady sings'.

Well, in this case the lady in question would be Verizon Wireless; the cup more than half full is Vodafone Group (LSE:VOD).

Sunday 22 September 2013

Ahead of My Time - Portfolio Sale: Morgan Sindall (LSE:MGNS)

Sometimes I do try to be a bit analytical about markets. For example, at the end of 2011, given the Government's desire to stimulate the economy and the low rate of construction of new houses, I thought that there might be a bit of a boom in this sector, particularly in the social housing side.

But my timing was wrong - I was a bit too early.

Saturday 21 September 2013

See SEGRO Grow (Portfolio Sale)

To continue my previous 'investment-as-gardening' theme; I have been doing some more pruning of the portfolio. In fact, the start of this autumn has been far busier than I was expecting both in the garden and here in cyberspace. Normally, watching the DIY Income Investor portfolio is a bit like watching grass grow - boring. It usually ticks over quietly with some of the constituents blooming while others fade away (hopefully to recover later).

This September has been quite remarkable, with the portfolio growing by 4% in the first three weeks - leading to some digging up of old favourites and a search for replacements.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Tending the Garden - Portfolio Sale Smiths News (LSE:NWS)

My portfolio?
I have been thinking about the similarities between DIY Income Investing and gardening. Not that I am a particularly good gardener - in fact my gardening also reflects my investing style: both are based on minimising effort!

Both investing and gardening require a lot of patience, some research and require occasional decisions - a visit to the garden centre, cutting the lawn, hacking back the brambles.

I have also taken the secateurs to the portfolio...

Thursday 12 September 2013

The Mousetrap Dilemma - Portfolio Buy: Phoenix Group Holdings (LSE:PHNX)

Doesn't that cheese look good?
I am constantly looking for high yields from my new investments but always with the proviso that I don't want to throw my money away on something that is likely to go belly-up in a few months.

Risk and reward are inseparable - however, I try to remember to find out what it is about the company the market does not like, so I can make my own assessment. So I take my time - a bit like a mouse sniffing around a mousetrap...

Wednesday 11 September 2013

What's Happened to Yahoo Finance? And Is There an Alternative?

As private investors we all rely on a couple of favourite financial websites to keep us updated on prices and developments in the markets. And, of course, we like to get this information for-free.

In particular, I previously used Yahoo Finance to 'scrape' share prices, to keep my portfolio spreadsheet up-to-date, at the click of a laptop button.

That has worked fine for a few years but, all of a sudden, in September (2013), it all seemed to go pear-shaped. Perhaps another indication that all is not peachy at Yahoo - hot on the heels of the bungled Yahoo Mail update.

Monday 9 September 2013

I'll Take The Money Chris...(Portfolio Sale: Tullett Prebon)

Investing in the stock market is a bit like 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire: the same excitement of possibly getting rich very quickly and a range of tricky questions to answer (usually 'should I buy this?' or 'should I sell that?).

OK, there's no Chris Tarrent to cajole us along the way, to question our decisions or to write the cheques, but it comes down to the same dilemma: when the question gets too hard - and you've phoned a friend, gone 50/50 and asked the audience - do you walk away and keep the money or risk a guess?

Tuesday 3 September 2013

PIBS: Nationwide Slashes and Burns

Slash and burn
The decline of PIBS continues. Many of you who hold Nationwide Building Society PIBS (Permanent Interest-Bearing Shares) will have been informed of the buyback tender recently launched. The buyback basically means: forget the prospectus and what was promised then (in terms of maturity/call date and rate of return) - just take the money and go away!

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Nationwide has done this - and where the nation's largest building society goes, others will no doubt follow.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Picking Dividend Shares: The Key Ratios - Their Predictive Power and Their Interdependence

When selecting a dividend share, the three numbers that a DIY Income Investor should look at first are:
  • dividend yield (dividend / share price)
  • dividend cover (earnings or profit / total dividends)
  • p/e ratio (price / earnings per share)

To underline, this is only the starting point for doing your own research - but these are important numbers to consider, giving an indication of the likely attractiveness and sustainability of the dividend.

And recent academic research underlines the importance of these ratios in forecasting stock returns...

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Batten Down the Hatches: Portfolio ETF Top-Ups

There are storm clouds on the horizon. The global economic situation is now beginning to look more and more difficult and I am gradually becoming more pessimistic.

I am hoping that the way I have restructured the DIY Income Investor portfolio will help me to weather the threatening coming storm.

Free eBook: "How to Make Money Out in Dividend Stocks"

Although I have produced my own eBook on DIY Income Investing, there are obviously others writing on topics related to this area of investing. In particular, The people at Stockopedia have recently sent me a link to their eBook on dividend shares, which they say they are happy to share.

So here is the link. Well worth a look!

Monday 19 August 2013

Portfolio Buy: 10% Yield - Asset or Hand Grenade?

"Three shall be the number of
the counting..."
At the risk of being repetitious: high yield = high risk.

To quantify that a little, the average yield on my portfolio usually runs at 5-6% and this is the sort of yield (and risk) that I feel comfortable with. So, to paraphrase the Monty Python 'Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch' sketch: 10% is right out (of the question).

A so-called 'free lunch' would entail getting an abnormally high yield with no consequent risk. However, given that the stock market is driven by thousands of decisions - many of which are very well informed indeed - means that this kind of situation is unlikely to arise. So unlikely, in fact, that spotting them is probably impossible.

In other words, even if you do your homework, buying anything with an abnormally high yield is a gamble - a bit like holding onto a hand grenade with the pin pulled out.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

When Dividend Shares Go Bad: FirstGroup (LSE:FGP)

It's all about the business model...
Investing is rarely straightforward, is it? No sooner have you paid in hard-earned cash for your new best choice in dividend share than the management announces that they are cutting the dividend.

This is the dreaded 'double whammy': not only is your income cut (the most important consideration, after all for a DIY Income Investor) but the share price falls. Negative equity meets the stock market.

How should you deal with this all-too-familiar scenario?

Monday 12 August 2013

Another Boring Buy...

More of this ahead...
Ho hum, another non-Sterling ETF purchase. This time its a top-up of my Euro dividend Exchange Traded Fund, the iShares EURO STOXX Select Dividend 30 (LSE:IDVY)

Sorry it is not any more exciting - but sometimes investment strategies work out like that, and you have to find your excitement elsewhere.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Portfolio Buy: Manchester Building Society 8% PIBS (LSE:MBSR)

A Manchester Building Society branch in Manchester
This is definitely a move not to copy - unless you have a strong stomach. As I like to paraphrase: "with great yield comes great risk".

Most readers will be familiar with PIBS (Permanent Interest-Bearing Shares), which are a kind of hybrid between preference shares and corporate bonds, particular to UK Building Societies.  Many of them offer great yields - but there have been some PIBS horror stories recently.

This one (not yet a horror story) comes from the Manchester Building Society with a great yield (over 9%) but a chilling warning...

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Portfolio Buy: ETF iShares Markit iBoxx Euro High Yield Bond (LSE:IHYG)

A house of cards?
Continuing the theme of topping up my ETF holdings, I have bought some more of this ETF, which specialises in Euro junk corporate bonds. Since I bought before, the price has gone down (at least in Sterling) and the yield has gone up - now touching 6.7%.

But remember the eternal truth: yields are high for a reason - this corner of the investment world is quite evidently risky. I may be investing in the financial equivalent of a house of cards.

Monday 5 August 2013

My ETF 'Wild Bunch' - and Today's Purchase

Call me fanciful, but I like to think of my selection of ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) as a bunch of yield-hungry gunslingers roaming the West (and the East, for that matter), looking for easy pickings - much like the Wild BunchIn fact I could call my 'international' ETFs the  Magnificent Seven.

But I digress: gunslingers are usually paid by results, so how have they done? And I've just thrown some more cash in their direction - are they going to make a killing?

Tuesday 30 July 2013

28 Days Later...

Emerging into the sunshine after being out of touch again for a couple of weeks, what does the financial landscape look like?

Still no sign of hordes of zombies: well, maybe a couple lurking in the depths of the DIY Income Investor portfolio but they seem to be under control for the time being.

After another trip - this time to Ireland, and again unplugged, without access to the Internet - I can assess the impact of a further couple of weeks of the portfolio on autopilot.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Portfolio Sale: Tullett Prebon (TLPR)

The post-holiday profit-taking continues with an opportunistic sale of part of my Tullett Prebon shareholding, bought only in April 2013. So, once again, I demonstrate that my rather dubious 'buy-and-hold' credentials.

TLBR was my largest dividend share holding (and one of my top 3 holdings overall - although none amounts to more than 5% of the portfolio), so I was glad of the opportunity to both take a profit and reduce my exposure.

Taking a 35% profit and reducing risk is all the more indicated as we are shortly off again - this time to the south of Ireland, to enjoy a week or so of what looks like being untypically sunny weather! So it is a good time to clear the decks a little.

Portfolio Sale: SSE (Scottish & Southern Energy) (LISE:SSE)

Utility shares have been taking a hit recently (particularly my holding in National Grid), probably because they are similar in nature to a fixed-income security, with their (usually) government-sanctioned rates of return and good dividend yields.

Unfortunately (or fortuitously, you might argue, if you are a 'real' buy-and-hold investor) I missed the price peak on National Grid. Moreover, I have read a couple of articles suggesting that SSE might struggle to maintain its dividend.

So when, on return from holiday, my SSE showed a nice capital gain - I pressed the sell button.

Monday 15 July 2013

14 Days Later...

Why did the polar bear
 cross the road?
Wow! After having been off-the-grid for the first two weeks of July (because of ridiculously high Internet charges on board our cruise ship, as well as broadband problems at home) - and reaching the most northerly point I am ever likely to reach (Spitzbergen, 78 degrees North) - it came as quite a shock to catch up with changes in the DIY Income Investor portfolio.

The background was that the month of June had been particularly punishing, with a substantial drop in value of the portfolio (4.3%) - so I logged out of my computer at the beginning of our family holiday with some concerns about whether this precipitous fall in market values would continue.

So, after finally crunching the numbers, the results are in: but how did the portfolio do without my expert fine-tuning and daily monitoring?

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Cruisin' (for a Bruisin'?)

It's not a fair fight, ref!
The financial markets are thrashing about at present, and I'm feeling fairly well pummelled, with the portfolio struggling - and failing - to keep above water over this second quarter of 2013. Investors seem to be trying to take profits (as I have) and find some kind of 'safe haven' for their money. The lesson of experience is that it is in these periods of turmoil that it is possible to pick up bargains - if you are lucky!

However, one of the tests of an investment approach is how stable it is: whether you can go off on holiday for a couple of weeks and not face financial ruin while you are away. Is your portfolio open to major market or security risks that actually need your constant attention?

I have written before about our family's choice of cruising for a holiday. When we set off for the Arctic (!) this year, I don't intend to be managing our portfolio of ISAs and SIPPs - in fact not even looking at them for a couple of weeks. So, am I cruisin' for a bruisin'? Will the market steam-roller me?

Thursday 20 June 2013

Portfolio Buy: HSBC Holdings (LSE:HSBA)

Is it still dangerous?
It's fair to say that the securities markets are in turmoil right now. No-one knows quite when and how the 'tapering' of QE is going to impact the market and investors are frantically trading their way to what they hope will be a safer portfolio structure. Many will be taking profits and holding cash on the sidelines, watching for bargains.

I have already taken a lot of profits and my strategy is still to look for income-producing assets - but diversifying away from the UK, whose economy I suspect will wallow in the doldrums for a few years (with possibly the  exception of commercial property).

But is it safe to go back into the banking water - or are the financial sharks still circling, ready to snap up any fresh meat?

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Evolving Strategy

Neither fish nor fowl
One of the fascinating aspects of investing is that the financial landscape is constantly churning and bubbling away, continually evolving into something new and – sometimes – unexpected. This presents any investor with the basic challenge: how will the investment approach they have chosen deal with the new, emerging market situation? Indeed, can any investment formula be repeated successfully?

The answer, I would suggest, is that new situations require a new approach: what worked last year may not work now.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Portfolio Sale: BAE Systems (LSE: BA.)

 Sometimes you just need cash and you have to sell something. What do you choose? Do you sell your 'losers', like you are supposed to - or your winners?

This is the kind of choice that reveals a lot about your investment style and your behavioural biases. In my case,  I have to hold my hand up to a very common bias - I don't like selling losers: its called the Disposition Effect (i.e. 'disposing' of winners too early). Does this make me a bad investor?

Saturday 8 June 2013

Portfolio Buy: Standard Life Investments Property Income Trust (LSE:SLI)

The search for yield is harder today than for many years and anything yielding more than around 5-6% will have its own specific risks. After selling some chunks of fully-price fixed-income securities, I need to find somewhere to put the cash to work - but without losing money, if possible.

The problem is that most fixed-income is heading south and equity markets are yo-yo-ing in reaction to comments on the potential end of QE by various governments around the world.

Is it time for commercial property?

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Portfolio Sale: Halifax plc 9 3/8% 2021 Corporate Bond (LSE:EH21):

Going down?
In addition to my recent sale of a Lloyds preference share, I have also sold this Halifax corporate bond.

The thinking is the same: at some stage soon government bond prices are going to fall (as Quantitative Easing unwinds), meaning that the yields from these 'safe' government securities will rise, bringing down the price of other fixed-income securities.