Friday, January 03, 2014

2013 - Year End Review

The year that was.

In terms of achieving the targets I set for myself at the beginning of the year, 2013 was successful without actually being satisfying.

1. Retirement: I retired on schedule at the end of September. Three months in to FIREd life, I am happy that I have mostly exited my career. Stress levels are down and I feel like I have plenty of time the get things done. I am still doing a small amount of consulting for a token amount of money, largely as a transitional exercise.

2.  Finances: After the fantastic results of 2012, my finances in 2013 were something of a disappointment. In terms of the item listed in my beginning of year post:

  • I didn't do anything too stupid. But I didn't do anything great either.
  • I largely failed to achieve greater diversification - I purchased on share listed in London (currently holding at a small loss), put some money into a US real estate syndicate (it will be a few years before I know whether this was a good move), unsuccessfully bid twice on properties in New Zealand, I struggled to replace maturing bonds with new ones and sent some money down to New Zealand at exchange rates higher than today's. All in all, diversification didn't work for me this year.
  • Although I am still waiting for one final number, living expenses were lower this year than last year - primarily because we did not take a very expensive Christmas holiday.
  • I worked for nine months (rather than the budgeted six month) and Mrs Traineeinvestor continued in her part time job with the result that we actually managed a savings rate around 50 percent of our combined incomes.
  • One of our HK properties became debt free. The new stamp duties eliminated the possibility of leveraging up to buy another property in Hong Kong (which probably would not have happened on valuation grounds anyway).  Unless we make early repayments (which does not make a lot of sense when the average cost is below 1 percent), it will be several years before the next one is paid off.
  • Our year end cash/near cash position remains high.
  • I purchased one painting (leased), a few ounces of gold and a few cases of en primeur wine. These alternative investments were not material.
The performance on my investments was decidedly average - which just about sums up the performance of emerging markets generally. Our Hong Kong properties ended the year with valuations close to those at the beginning of the year. In spite of the CMR fraud, my equities and ETFs generated positive returns for the year (but woefully lagged the US and European markets).

3. Lifestyle: This was something of a mixed bag:

  • Although I made some progress on the novel, I am a long way short of finishing a first draft.
  • I have started some post-graduate studies.
  • I have done some volunteering.
  • I completed both the Hong Kong marathon and the Oxfam Trailwalker this year (both in very slow times).
4. Miscellaneous: Another mixed bag:

  • I have not updated my will.
  • I did switch medical insurance to Mrs Traineeinvestor's work policy. Given the impact of Obamacare (the premiums almost doubled), this ended up being a huge saving.
  • I cancelled the life insurance policy which is another large saving.

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