Sunday, January 02, 2011

2011 - moving forward

I'll stick with the popular position of denouncing New Year resolutions and (as usual) will not make any for this year. However, as with previous years, I will take the opportunity to review a number of objectives and goals.

As there is a possibility that 2011 will be my last full working year, the objectives include a number of one-off items that need to be completed before I pull the trigger:

1. maintain a healthy savings rate. My savings rate for 2010 was above 50% (I don't have the exact numbers yet) and I will aim to beat that benchmark again this year;

2. start shifting the asset portfolio to be closer to my post-retirement structure. One change will be to have 2-3 years worth of living expenses in the form of cash or near cash. Bonds with less than three years to maturity count as near cash for these purposes and I am indifferent as to which currencies the cash is denominated in. At present I have less than half the target amount in cash/near cash. I would also like to achieve slightly greater diversification across asset classes as a means of reducing risk (rather than seeking better returns);

3. maintain my investment focus. I've had two very good years with the investments. While I lost money in 2008, it wasn't that much and was actually a decent result considering the extent of the declines in equity markets generally. I do not wish to delude myself that I am smarter than the market or any kind of investing "Warren Buffet next door" - that's a good way to lose focus and lose money;

4. decide what to do with the mortgage on our home. If I retire in early 2012, I will either need to carry a mortgage into retirement or sell some investments to repay it. I like the idea of having the home paid off when I stop working but I also like the idea of borrowing at less than 1% interest to invest in higher yielding assets as well;

5. keep monitoring expenses. Inflation made a noticeable impact on our expenses in 2010, mostly in the form of higher school fees, higher travelling costs, higher food costs and higher costs of high end Bordeaux. I can eliminate the Bordeaux with no impact on our lifestyle (it is mostly for investment), but there is nothing that can be done about either the school fees or the food and cutting the travel budget will impact our lifestyle;

6. get a full medical done. I had one done early last year. With the medical insurance possibly lapsing when I retire, I want the confirmation that I have no serious medical issues before I pull the trigger. (Continuation of the policy is at the discretion of the insurance company, and I won't find out until after I hand in my notice.) Target date for this will be either late 2011 or early 2012;

7. get the tech skills in line. I will lose the tech support my firm currently provides when I retire. While there are support services I can pay for, I really should teach myself how to do more of it myself. I'm keeping a list of things I need to be able to do and will work my way through the list during the year;

8. home renovation project. Our current home is now 11 years old. Parts of it need work now and the bits that don't might as well be done at the same time. The debate I am having with mrs trainee investor is whether to do it bit by bit while we are still living here or move to a serviced apartment for four months and get it all done in one go. The former is much cheaper and involves less inconvenience while the latter is less disruptive;

9. given my injury issues, I have not set myself any sporting objectives this year. I'll keep plugging away at it and see what happens. As an aside, a number of my planned post-retirement activities were based on physical activity levels that may now prove to be unrealistic. I will look to develop some other interests to fill the gap;

10. make some progress on the fantasy novel. Progress in 2010 was minimal (about 50 pages). I'd like to do better this year, but that will depend on how busy I am at work;

11. shift the focus of my social network from work related contacts to others.

That's about it.

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