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Robert Court
Posted: 26 August 2011 21:54:52(UTC)

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You just got handed a cool 400,000 GBP.

Not exactly a fortune, but enough to last your life if you invest it carefully.

What would you do with it?

How would you invest it to give yourself a reasonable income and attempt to beat inflation at the same time?

What proportion of your little nest egg would you invest in which type of investments and why?
Robert Court
Posted: 27 August 2011 08:57:49(UTC)

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No takers?


Let's imagine you own your own house or that your rent is taken care of and that you already have an adequate earned income to live on; i.e. you can pay your bills and keep your head above water.

Let's also reduce your lottery winning/unexpected nest egg/whatever to £100,000.

You wish to generate an increasing income from this investment pot.

You are late middle-aged and need to work 10 years until you get a pension, BUT this money could maybe help you retire a whole FIVE years earlier than if it hadn't dropped at your feet like manna from Heaven!

Are you now motivated?

You want that £100k to grow as fast as possible so that you can retire up to five whole years earlier than expected!

Now - where would you start?

Please reply, I want to pick your brains for any useful titbits; and no - I don't mean finding out what top-shelf magazines you read!
Jeremy Bosk
Posted: 27 August 2011 12:32:36(UTC)

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I want to do this justice so have postponed my effort to when I am feeling up to it.
Robert Court
Posted: 27 August 2011 17:52:49(UTC)

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Joe Soap


I retired aged 50 years and almost six months of age on 1st January 2006.

That makes me 56 years old now (two years older than your good self I believe).

I still have to wait another 45 months and a bit to draw a small pension at age 60.

It's obvious that income is VERY important to me and through 2009 until October 2010 I managed to make my investment income grow by about 68.42% and the market value by just over 268% - I was very pleased with myself.... so much so that it went to my head.

I then 'came a cropper' in October 2010 by being greedy and took a large step backwards even though (thank God/Jehovah/Allah/my pet cat Timmy the antichrist) I still have enough to live on.

I live in hope that I've learned from both my recent successes and failures.

Isn't it 'funny' that many of us can look back on life and remember good times when we were poor?...........but. what the heck, I want to be both rich AND happy and why not!

A basket of income generating unit/investment trusts?

Thank you for the advice.

I believe investment trusts are normally considered the better of the two options; maybe I'll take a dip there with between 1% and 5% of my portfolio as you can't all be wrong, can you?

Why is my 'bread and butter' main investment area of corporate bonds seem to be so unpopular, I wonder?

Corporate bonds have been so volatile over the past few years that, in many ways, they have acted like equities.

Once retired and more likely to be risk averse bonds seem to be an ideal way to tie in income as they have a combination of far less risk than shares etc and yet they also have the opportunity to make far larger gains than many people imagine to be possible!


Anything less than a BB+ is considered to be a 'junk bond'

I came a cropper when an 'investment grade' BBB+ bond defaulted; while a lowly CCC+ rated bond gave me fantastic returns in both income and the profit I made when I turned a paper profit into cash.

Maybe I'm just a junk bond junky (though most of my holdings are, in fact, at least BB or above rated).
Jeremy Bosk
Posted: 27 August 2011 21:56:06(UTC)

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In this country corporate bonds were until recently very difficult for a UK based retail investor to access in lots of < £50,000. You could buy gilts in any amount you liked. This was the pea brained authorities trying to protect us. They obviously thought that putting our entire wad on some broken down old nag in the 3:30 was less risky and so should remain legal. The politicians and the regulators are a worse problem than all the con artists in the financial services industry put together.

There is just too much in this world for any of us to understand all of it. That is why I stay away from bonds these days. I did own gilts and convertibles back in the 1970s before I was foolish enough to sell up and buy a house. When I came back into the market government had changed the rules to keep the best wealth gaining opportunities strictly for the already wealthy.

Robert Court
Posted: 28 August 2011 09:29:16(UTC)

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Re. 50k minimum holdings.

I realised that a couple of years ago.

I held several bonds that had minimum 50k trades and my holdings were less than this amount and I had to wait until other clients of my broker wanted to buy or sell to make up a 50k batch.

At the time this irritated me and I vowed to change the shape of the portfolio, over time, so that I'd only have holdings with a minimum 50k nominal in each.

I succeeded, but obviously the number of holdings reduced considerably.

I am now back to basics and have grown the number of bonds back to a more sensible level with a more diverse risk.

There are now only four bonds I currently hold that trade in 50k or greater (and only one of these trades in 100k + 1) and I hold less than 50k (at least for the time being) in all of these, even though it means I don't have the same power of being able to trade 'instantly'.

Many bonds trade in a minimum 2k +1 (two thousand plus any additional amounts in multiples of 1,000).

Most of my holdings are in these (with a minimum 10k nominal in each)
Jeremy Bosk
Posted: 28 August 2011 14:00:30(UTC)

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Thanks for extending my understanding here. If someone as sensible as you makes money in corporate bonds then maybe I should do more research in the area.

Robert Court
Posted: 28 August 2011 14:55:16(UTC)

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There is risk in everything, but I do believe there is far less risk in 'boring' bonds than shares; especially if you are retired.

Let me give you an example of a bond and the purchase price for them as at Friday.

Although all but one of my holdings are in EUR (you know why) I'll pick out some GBP bonds for you AT RANDOM.

These are just to indicate the returns; always ask for expert advice re. the perceived risk on any individual bonds (I am definitely NOT an expert)

7.125% BAA SH PLC 2017 (Composite BB rating by my broker)

Pays out semi-annually on 1st March and 1st September (matures on 1st March 2017)

Spread on Friday was indicative bid price of 95.41 and offer price of 96.94

Let's say you buy 5k nominal of this bond and assume it costs you 1% commission, you'd pay:

5k x .9694 x 1.01 = £4,895.47

Plus you'd have to pay the accrued interest from March (say 5 months = 5,000 x 0.07125 x 5/12 = £148.44)

(at least you don't pay any commission on the accrued interest!)

Your interest would be 5k x 0.07125 per annum = 356.25 but the total cost was £4,895.47 (you get the accrued interest back in September - i.e. a full six months interest)

Your annual net interest (gross of any tax liability) is therefore 7.277% PLUS you get back an additional (commission free) £104.53 on 1st March 2017 if you keep it until maturity.

Avoiding all the Mathematics there are also bonds such as:

DFS FURNITURE HOLDINGS 2017 (BB rated) paying a nominal 9.75% with an offer price of 87.10 (9.75/.8710 = 11.194% interest only return)

BARCLAYS 6% 2017-2049 (AA- rated callable on 15/12/17) with an offer price of 69.12 (6/0.6912 = 8.68% interest only return and if they called in their debt in 2017 you'd get back 10k for every 6.912k you invested as a bonus!

11.04% LBG CAPITAL ONE 2020 (composite BB rating) - offer price of 94.80 (and was as high as 110.88 as recently as May!) - work out the return yourself (but this one trades in 50k + 1)

I hold NONE of the above.

I only have one GBP corporate bond holding; just 8k nominal GBP of 9.334% LBG CAPITAL 2020.

I keep saying this, but if bonds go up in price the yields obviously go down on their market value and you can always take a profit (especially if you can get a better but equally safe return elsewhere).

Conversely if the price goes down the yields go up and you can:

1. Do nothing and sit it out (with a hopefully secure, unchanged income - unlike the reduced dividend of the shareholder)


2. Sell if you believe the bond could default and/or you can get a better return elsewhere by converting a paper loss into a real loss but being proactive.


3. Buy more of the bond at comparatively bargain prices and increase your income and maturity value.

Jeremy Bosk
Posted: 28 August 2011 23:00:44(UTC)

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Thanks. I understand what drives the price of bonds in general. What gets me is the amount of background information you need to look at for individual issues. Which has priority in the event of disaster, are there any unusual terms that will cause problems if a perceived low risk event occurs.

For example, I visited the Lloyds Banking website to find out what an ECN was. An Enhanced Capital Note is just a term for "pays a lot because of perceived high risk". The risk being that if the bank's tier one regulatory capital declines to 5 per cent, the high interest notes become ordinary shares at a time when the bank will plainly be struggling to survive. Income would probably vanish and capital might be severely depleted. High rewards are usually accompanied by high risks. In this case I do not know what nasties are still lurking in the cupboard. Full and frank disclosure is just too infra dig for any bank.

I find it difficult to find information on particular bonds. DFS for example has no corporate website because it is not a public company. A search on Google Finance found nothing.

Data on idiosyncratic risk is hard to come by but is what I need to feel comfortable. Risk is fine and I take a fair bit in equities as the only choice for someone with little capital. Playing it safe would just leave me in the means tested poverty trap until I die. I could lose all my investments and be very little worse off financially than I am now. Self respect would take a nosedive if I accepted my fate and did not fight for a better life.
Robert Court
Posted: 29 August 2011 00:33:39(UTC)

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I think assessing a person's risk profile as 'risk averse' or as a 'high risk taker' doesn't really make sense.

If there are other people like me they are a combination of both.

Do I wish income or capital growth?

What a dumb ass question - I want both............ both a growing income and a growing capital base to provide for growing income.

The thing is that anybody with half a brain could turn a reasonable sum of money into a fortune over time.

I haven't got 250 years to sit on my arse and wait to become a billionaire.

I doubt I have 50 years left to live.

I doubt I have more than about 20 years of quality life left.

So; I have to take reasonable precautions with my capital - I can't afford to risk it all and start again from base zero as I am simply too old, yet probably happy to take occasional calculated but high risks with a tiny percentage of my worth.

However, I can take more sensible calculated risks on a regular basis and what I like is that the figures are in front of me and fairly simple to test against different scenarios.

I keep a daily record of the nominal return, the return on my purchase price and the return at market value for each bond - if the return rises or falls above certain values I need to ask questions - there is no point in celebrating a yield of > 30% if the reason is the price has fallen/yield shot up because the company is about to go bust!

It's complicated in some ways but really quite simple mathematically; certainly not 'rocket science'.

You are correct in stating or infering that there are different categories of bonds but the general rule is that a bond has priority over shareholders should a company go bust and that is why the EU kicked up a huge fuss over Greek debt - when was a default a default?

This had serious implications for the Credit Default Swap Market used to hedge against a sovereign or corporate bond defaulting (unfortunately it does not pay to take out this insurance unless you are a huge financial institution, so I'm told)

I'd be happy to cover the risk of my holdings defaulting in return for a small loss of income; e.g. if my bonds returned 12% on their purchase value then paying a 1% premium would be a reasonable price to pay for 'total' peace of mind.

I got told you either trade in Credit Default Swaps or own the assets but it doesn't make sense to have both - crazy or what?

CDS's therefore sound quite evil to me - you only gain by somebody else losing their investment (as opposed to normal insurance where you can only insure yourself against a personal financial loss - though some people might think the death of a spouse as no great loss (sorry, let's not go there!).

Oh well, in bad times, which corporate bonds are best?

I simply don't know.

Non-banking bonds might actually have a greater risk than those of banks a government would not wish to go to the wall, but I'm trying to have a balance between banking/financial sector corporate bonds and 'others'. I've made large profits and good incomes from both in the past.

I wouldn't like to pick a 'winner' right now but I believe you can get a good range of bonds averaging a 10%+ annual interest only yield due to most prices currently being under par (100) with a good possibility of taking profits well before their maturity dates and with the high probability of a decent total yield if you do nothing and hold to maturity.

I would NOT invest in sovereign bonds (even if you are tempted by over 13% on a Venezuelan bond; greedy people offered fantastic returns came a cropper in Argentina some years ago you might remember! )

Most sovereign bonds pay pathetically low coupons.

Remember the undated 2.5% British War stock? - now THAT would be worth picking up if you could buy £1 nominal for just 10 pence (2.5/0.1 = 25% per annum) but I imagine you'd have to pay more like 50 pence to the £ giving a return of just 5%.
Jeremy Bosk
Posted: 29 August 2011 01:10:12(UTC)

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I briefly held some undated Gilts when the nominal yield was around 15 per cent and made a profit as inflation subsided.

Did you mean 3.5% War Loan? Friday's closing price was £83.31 and a half (crackers way to display prices, my keyboard cannot insert the small sized 1/2 fraction). It is down 2.21 per cent on the year, up 19.88 per cent on six months, 7.12 per cent on 3 months and 11.5 per cent on one month ago. A trader's stock if ever there was one.

Looking at the undated end in general all the gilts have similar price charts and similar running, not nominal, yields. Such differences as there are probably reflect different dividend schedules. Some pay quarterly if memory serves.

Anyone who can time the swings in sentiment, and does not mind the 4 point whatever per cent yield meanwhile, can do well. Market timing is not something at which I excel.

There was an interesting article by Mathew Vincent in Saturday's FT Money:

He used to edit the Investors Chronicle and generally makes sense.

Robert Court
Posted: 29 August 2011 08:31:18(UTC)

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Well done!

My fear would be to buy a 3.5% stock with rising inflation interest rates at such a price with a very low present yield (especially as I see inflation going into double digits before you can say 'Whatever happened to the 2% ceiling on inflation?') and with the probability that the pressure on the price of the bond would be downwards rather than upwards.

I'd certainly gamble a small amount on such a bond if the current inflation and interest rates were high as the price would or should be very depressed and likely to shoot back up at some point in the future as interest rates went back down again.

I take it you meant the 3.5% war stock was priced at £0.8331 and not £83.31 for £1's face value (or quoting for £100 worth of stock).

Anyway, 3.5/0.8331 is too low a return for me on the income side @ 4.2%.

Buying at that price wouldn't give a huge leeway for it to rise and the danger of being stuck at a loss wouldn't be attractive either.

I think it's better to go for reasonably high returns from a minimum 8% to not too far above 12% in the present climate; i.e I'd rather buy a stock that was more of a risk than the UK government but with a coupon of say 6% and a price of around 60 or a coupon of 8% with a price around 80 or a coupon of 9% and a price around 90.

Some of the higher yielding stocks tend to shoot up faster in price than the lower coupon ones, but if a lower coupon can be bought at a low price to give a good yield and isn't too risky then why not?

Some bonds seem to trade for seemingly crazy high prices - a high coupon USD Mexican oil stock might trade for over $1.80 for a maturity value of just 100 and with a sub 5% yield as a result.

All I can say is that I fared far better when prices were low and as I progressed to more highly rated bonds and, for the first time reducing my maturity value and buying them at nearer par I believed I was reducing my risk; my broker exclaimed when the total market value of my holdings exceeded their maturity value (although that weird situatuion only lasted for less than a week!).

It was only then that I made a HUGE loss near the end of last year that I'll never forget.

I clawed back half the loss within 3/4 months but I should be three steps further up the ladder rather than having taken a step backwards in the direction of a hard concrete terra firma.

Such is life. I am sure that somebody or some economy gained from my loss - bless 'em! :)
Jeremy Bosk
Posted: 29 August 2011 11:46:01(UTC)

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Yes. The last time I was into gilts the usual quotation was per £100 nominal. I forgot the changes.

It seems to me that the money is mostly to be made in the higher yield / sub par end where there is hope of a repricing when some possible danger is resolved favourably.

That is quite similar, I believe, to value investing in equities. For example, I hold Alpha Pyrenees, a REIT invested mainly n French offices and industrial property. It has a yield of 11.8 per cent, barely covered. It has been crippled for years by ill judged foreign exchange hedges which will shortly expire. It has some - less than 10 per cent - of its holdings in Spain. According to local custom, the rents are regularly upgraded in line with inflation. I think this is a mildly contrarian investment that will make a decent capital gain in a couple or three years (when the market catches up with me :-) ) and meanwhile pays very well.

I balance the high yield risks with no / low current yield, but lots of potential, mines that are either just in production or within a year or two. These seem to be very often too harshly discounted for political risk, operational risk, macro risk etcetera. I spread my countries, my commodities and my expected full production dates. You can do the same with oil shares but they appear far too speculative for my taste. Plus I have a friend who loses money on junior oils with monotonous regularity.

The direct miners I hold are:

Kirkland Lake Gold - Canada, profit forecast to increase more than threefold next year and sevenfold by 2013.

Petmin - mainly anthracite in South Africa with, further out, silica and iron ore. EPS forecasts from 1.46 pence this year to 3.29 next, 4.94 in 2013. Dividends from 0.55p to 1.1p to 1.65p.

Weatherley International - mainly copper in Namibia with more distant prospects of lead, zinc, vanadium and silver. It has a relationship with a big Chinese investor. There is currently a return of capital (10.6 per cent) in the form of shares in the Chinese company (or cash) which has assumed majority ownership of one of the operations in return for development capital.


I play the inflation fear market by holding Noble Investments, a coin dealer currently expanding into stamps and such. Yield 2.25 per cent in a growing market. Stanley Gibbons might be a better bet.

Ambrian Capital is a mini merchant bank switching its emphasis from bringing new resources companies onto AIM to trading in industrial metals. Yielding 6.42 per cent and with decent forecast EPS growth, I don't think the market recognises the changes.

I have other holdings with different rationales. The above is just to illustrate the kind of thinking that goes on in mine and other skulls.
Robert Court
Posted: 29 August 2011 13:21:52(UTC)

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Thank you so much for being so open and giving some real fact and figures rather than just links.

I shall repay the compliment below with some factual data using my latest available prices.

I just cancelled a 10k order on a high income bond fund that was going to be launched between 1st and 10th August; this was put back until today and now it's not going to be launched until 1st September.

I'm sure it shall do well but I hate all the dithering and the launch has obviously been delayed due to the falling prices and I guess if launched at a price of 100 then clients won't be too appreciative if the price falls to say 96 in the first week even though the income returns would now be way above the 7.5% to 8.5% target and the opportunity for market value growth good (even if negative in the very short term).

Oh well, I'll have to find another home for the 10k (EUR). :)

Market price (i.e. the bid price rather than the offer price), interest only yields for a selection of bonds are:

EUR BONDS (interest only yield to 2 decimal places not rounded up)

BOND.....................................................................................................INTEREST ONLY YIELD (i.e. ignoring greater yield to maturity)

11.25% SNS BANK NV 2019-49 .....................................................................13.15%
6.258% SNS REAAL GROEP NV 2017-49.....................................................10.43%
6.644% AXA 2011-49............................................................................................9.78%
7.375% LBG CAPITAL NO.1. PLC 2020............................................................9.75%
7.5% HEIDELBERGCEMENT 2020...................................................................7.92%
7.625% LBG NO.1. PLC 2020............................................................................9.81%
7.875% STENA 2020............................................................................................9.97%
7.875% INEOS 2016.............................................................................................9.97%
8% AGEAS 2013-49..............................................................................................9.28%
8.5% LABCO SAS 2018........................................................................................9.70%
8.875% LBG CAPITAL 2 PLC 2020..................................................................10.31%
9.25% GROUPE BPCE 2015-49.......................................................................10.33%

The coupon rate is between 6.258% and 11.25%, but you can see that an average income only return of just over 10% is possible, at present, with this example of a diversified portfolio of 12 bonds.

I really don't want ANYTHING with an interest yield of less than 8%, but I do have a small holding of the 7.5% HEIDELBERGCEMENT 2020.

The price was just under 108 not that long ago and I recently bought in at 97.75 (now dropped to an indicative 96.89 to buy) as a non banking corporate bond which I believe will recover quickly in price.

You'll also notice that there are two bonds with SNS and three with LBG - I'd make sure that the TOTAL of these holdings were not much higher than the average holdings for other individual bonds; if a company defaults it's more likely to default on all its bonds and therefore a concentration of bonds with one company equates to a greater risk.


The market value is therefore about the only thing you need to keep your eye on; it's relationship to both the maturity value and what you paid for it are indicators you can use to ask:

'Is it time to sell or buy more of bond 'x'?'

Assuming you made it a basic rule to buy all your bonds at below par and If a bond is only going to be worth 100 at maturity and you can sell it for a price of greater than 100 net of dealing costs then you have to ask yourself:

'Is the current market price yield high enough to warrant keeping this bond or should I sell now and take a profit as it can only be ultimately worth less in the future?'

Enough! My brain hurts! :(
Posted: 03 September 2011 21:50:19(UTC)

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If you like real sits here's mine.

Had a very jolly life and now retired (last month) bought a very central ex authority flat so low outgoings except for massive storage bills while we slim down a lifetime's clutter. Retired two months ago. No income. Two people. Love central London so can live relatively small.

Luckily have 700k mostly cash. One is 15years older. (me). Which was no problem until now. long.and..string come to mind.

I, the nominated investor, resent using our money to support lifestyle of investment advisors who are clearly doing alright. Offered to get us 4 percent. Perhaps, no guarantees. After fees of course. I may be dim but I hoped not that dim (until recently).

JoinedH/L few months ago and began dipping toe and reading up. Very discouraging as clearly not an even playing field, but then, what is.?

Did quite well in equities, about £120K made 15/20 percent overall. (8 months). Until crash. Could 't act on belief.
Head said sell all and keep booty, hand just wouldnt do it. Kind of frozen, every day dithering. Sold half a few weeks ago and am now just £500 up in theory. Bought 50K gold at $1600. feel good as that's for the grandkids I hope. The half I kept are stuff like coca cola, Eckhart and Ziegler which I can't sell easily, Pennon, whitbread, Siemens, GSK, BMW. And ETFs wheat and lean hogs for fun.
I did buy and sell too often, too fast and H/L have done very well but I enjoyed it so it was worth it but enough is enough. Now am much more serious and controlled in approach.

Very pleased to be turned on to bonds. For a change of view. Something else to ponder over.

Thanks so much for sounding human.
Will post you when progress made. Much to read.


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