Millionaire Interview Series #1 – Finumus
Hello dear reader and welcome to the first blog post of the Millionaire Interview Series.
As this blog’s domain name suggests, my personal long term financial goal is to reach a net worth of one million euros, or in other words, become a millionaire.
In addition to self-educating in topics as finance, and summarizing my learnings on my millionaire mindest series of posts, I am keen on acquiring knowledge from other people experiences, especially from those who are self-made millionaires.
Every interviewee will answer the same set of questions, which aim to collect information from several millionaires around the world.
My goal is to analyse and find common patterns, behaviour, careers, lifestyles, mindset, hobbies, or any other aspect that may come across.
If you’d be interested in being interviewed please get in touch with me by email tony (at) onemillionjourney (dot) com or a message me on Twitter.
The first interviewee is an interesting multi-millionaire individual, a British ex-hedge fund manager who’s recently started blogging about finances and investing at Finumus. The blog is becoming popular among the UK financial independence community due to its analytical posts, so go and check it out for sure! 🙂
As you’ll soon find out, Finumus financial literacy is above the average financial blogger, and as such, I asked him whether he would be happy to tell us his insights in regards to what’s currently happening with Coronavirus and the markets. He was kind and wrote a few words for us, retail investors (see the last question ).
Without further ado, it’s learning time with Finumus.
Introduction About Yourself
How old are you?
What’s your nationality?
Where do you live?
Within commuting distance of London
Are you married? (If so, how old is your spouse and when you married?)
Do you have any children? (If so, how many and how old are they?)
What do you do for a living?
I’m an ex-hedge fund manager, I am largely retired but do a bit of consulting.
Determining how wealthy you are
In this section, I would like to find out where you stand along the wealth continuum, or in other words, if you are a prodigious accumulator (PAW), an under accumulator of wealth (UAW) or just an average accumulator (AAW). More about this on wikipedia.
What’s your net worth? Please include debt details if applicable.
Mid-single digit millions £
How much of your net worth is inherited?
Maybe 5-10%? Parents helped me out with a house purchase when I was younger, obviously, the value of that equity has grown.
Could you please tell us what’s your pre-tax household income from all sources, except inheritances and how it has evolved from your first earnings until now?
I’d rather not, my investment income more than covers expenses, but I’m not really a ‘natural-yield’ SWR kind of person, so I try to spend less than this.
Sources of income
Please, would you mind telling us what are your main sources of income and how much they contribute to your pre-tax income household? (Day job, side hustles, businesses, dividends, interests… from you and your spouse).
The majority of my current income comes from dividends and interest, and the minority from rents on property (changes to the tax rules have shrunk this somewhat). There’s a bit of consulting income, but this is not a necessity. My wife still works.
Approximately, how many hours per week of your time is required to maintain this income level?
Have you had any period with a significant lower stream of income due to a career or occupation change, incapacity, illness or any other bumps on the road you encountered? (If so, what did you do to overcome the situation?)
Yeah, I was unemployed for a while in the early noughties when the dot-com bubble burst, and the firm I worked for closed up. I got a new job, but it took a few months. But no, not really, I’ve been lucky, mostly by being born into a middle-class family in a rich country.
Do you spend time or money looking for new opportunities to boost your income?
Savings, expenses and purchasing behaviour
How much of your pre-tax household income do you save and how it has changed over time?
That’s a bit of a tricky one, we don’t really think like that anymore. We try, and baring emergencies largely achieve, living on the natural yield of our investments, without reaching for yield. The intent is that capital-growth in our investments is our ‘savings’.
Do you have a budget, pay yourself first or track your expenses? (If so, how much time do you spend on it on a monthly basis?)
Not really, we have a monthly run rate of expenses, and try and keep within that. I use MoneyDashboard to track it all with, but this has recently broken in their migration to proper open-banking.
Do you remember how much you paid for your first home and what was your household’s total annual realized income at that time?
Yes, about £130k and that was on my own, my income would have been about £30k at the time. The first house we bought as a married couple, we spent less than that year’s gross household income on.
Is there any category where you don’t mind spending more money into? (travelling, education for yourself or your kids…)
I don’t really think about it like this, we spend what we need to, and on what we enjoy. Things like music festivals and going to music gigs are a particular indulgence.
What’s the most expensive piece of clothing and the motor vehicle you’ve ever bought?
No idea, it’s certainly my ambition to spend more on bicycles than cars.
What’s the current value of all your motor vehicles?
We are a two-car family, they are both fairly old, and both second hand, we’re completely di-interested in cars. They are depreciating assets that hold no particular enjoyment for us. They are worth maybe £5k
Investing strategy and behaviour
What’s your net worth asset allocation?
About 60% Equities, 20% bonds, 20% property, obviously a bit leveraged (mostly through mortgages on property that’s let out)
What’s your investing philosophy? Do you stick into any strategy? (If so, do you change it often?)
I pretty much stick to the above asset allocation, excess income is used to reduce debt, so the asset allocation remains about the same.
How much time do you spend planning and tracking your investments on a monthly basis?
More than I should! The intent is to do it monthly, but in reality, it’s more often than that. I check them more often when asset prices are going up than when they are going down. Which comes naturally, but is also optimal from a prospect theory point of view.
Do you follow the markets and media closely and trade accordingly? Are you an active or inactive trader?
I’m more active than I should be, I have a few accounts where I allow myself to be an active investor. But this is for fun. Not because I believe I can beat the markets.
Do you hire any professional financial and tax advisors, lawyers or accountants? (If so, what’s the annual cost of it?)
I have an accountant look after the Family Investment Company, and file my tax return. It’s a few-thousands a year.
Tell us about your best investment.
Ex-Council house bought in London for £75,000 in 1996, now worth £500,000 and producing about £20k of annual gross rent.
And the worst one?
I really don’t keep track of those, some stocks I bought in the dot-com bubble?
What would be your investment advice to anyone who wants to build wealth today?
No different from anyone else’s really. Invest appropriately in risk-assets, for the long run. I think most of my accumulation has been turbo-charged by the bond-bull market, and unfortunately, that’s probably not to be repeated.
Are you a goal-oriented person? Do you have a net worth target number?
I’m not particularly, and no not really.
Do you follow any specific morning routine? How do you spend the first hour of the day?
Yes, I try to do some exercise before breakfast, either cycling or 20-minutes on the rowing machine.
Is there any specific goal or habit you would like to mention?
I don’t think so. Exercise, particularly outside, is great for your mental health.
How do you view money? What does it represent to you?
Life is a process of converting your human capital into financial capital. Money is just the bit you’ve already converted.
Did your parents provide you with economic outpatient care? (If so, how much was gifted to you?)
They helped me out with the deposit on my first house. But most importantly, probably, they provided me with frugal genes and environment, and so I’m naturally fairly frugal.
Do you consider yourself financially literate? (If so, please could you tell us how you got the knowledge?)
Yes, I’ve been investing for 30 years, I have a finance degree, I’ve been a hedge-fund manager and worked in investment banking. So I consider myself fairly financially literate.
Tell us about your hobbies and how you like to spend (free) time and energy.
Your concerns, fears and worries. Can you tell us a bit about them? Is there anything you are especially afraid of?
Extreme governments. I was naïve enough to think that we were fairly immune to that in the UK, turns out I was very wrong. I am hard-core cosmopolitan-liberal-global-elitist who believes very strongly in markets and the rule-of-law and individual rights, particularly the right for people to go about their business anywhere, regardless of where they happened to be born. This appears to be a minority view now, unfortunately.
I’m not overly worried about the environment, it’s not that I don’t think it’s a concern, I just think that humanity is capable of sorting it out, and we will.
Who do you hang out with? Where do you hang out? What’s your environment like?
My friends, my family, the pub. I live in a pointless commuter town that doesn’t have much to recommend it.
What is your mindset like? What do you think about on a daily basis?
Not really sure how to answer this, I don’t really think about what my mindset is!
Tell us three books you think any wealth accumulator must-read.
This is going to be slightly different from what most people would recommend, I suspect, but these are the ones that have helped me the most:
- “Options as a strategic investment” Lawrence G Mcmillan
This is a very old book about options trading, it’s quite light on the maths for a book about options. It’s made me a lot of money. Regular investors should almost certainly not be trading options.
- “Lifecycle Investing” Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff
This is a somewhat old, very US-centric book about why young people should leverage their exposure to the stock market. It’s a very well thought out work. Regular investors probably shouldn’t be using leverage.
- “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou
More recent, not really about investment, but an absolutely ripping read, you will not be able to put it down. I guess the lesson here is never be fooled into investing in something just because respectable people who you admire are involved in it.
Becoming a millionaire is a common people’s dream. Can you see any pattern that some millionaire dreamers follow, and you think it isn’t the most appropriate? What would like to advise them?
No, just save hard, invest well, and wait. Inflation will make you a millionaire. A lot of people have already achieved this, and just don’t know it. If they have a defined-benefit pension that will pay them more than about £16k per annum in retirement, they are already a millionaire.
And my advice would be – be lucky enough to born into a well-off family in a rich country, and if you weren’t, at least try to move to a rich country if you can, and invest in your human capital.
Could you tell us your thoughts about coronavirus and the current market scenario? What are you doing these days with your investments? Is there any recommendation you’d give to my readers on what to do amid coronavirus outbreak?
Nobody knows anything. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you what the outcome is going to be, including me. The market has done a reasonable job of pricing in the impact of the virus. This is the fastest crash we’ve ever had. And this is because it’s been the fastest forward-looking change in circumstances we’ve ever had. Everything is working as expected, it’s just expectations have changed.
What am I doing about it? I’ve reduced my overall level of risk, selling some equities and bonds. But this is NOT because I think I know what’s going on, or that I know better than the market. This is because I target a certain level of risk in my portfolio, and risks have increased. So I need to reduce the level of exposure, and my leverage. This is what a lot of professional investors are doing as well, and this is why you are getting days when equities, bonds and gold are all down at the same time. This is not something that regular investors should be doing. What they should be doing is ignoring what’s happening in the markets and making sure that their families are staying safe during what is going to be a very difficult time.