a walk on the wild side

Wolf of Wall Street

Disclaimer: I won this round. I’m still not sure of the balance between skill and luck, I favour luck. I’m not sure I could do it again, so don’t extrapolate…

Monevator has a lovely little summary of advice for people who opened a share account during lockdown. The recommendation is go invest passively, but that’s dull as ditchwater. Everyone sees themselves as the Wolf of Wall Street

You opened your new trading account for excitement, not something that’s just as dull to do as it sounds – even if it is more profitable.

The markets had a near-death experience earlier this year. Passive investors had an easy life.  Do Not Sell

We only have to do one thing.

Do not sell.

That was posted three days after I did sell a lot of stuff. March 10th. There was a fellow called Peter Comley who wrote a book about sheeple like me that buy high and sell lower.

If you’re going to sell into a market suckout, do it, do it decisively in the shortest time possible, and if at all possible do it early. Well, I got two out of the three right. A bit before then I also started to short a lot of what I had1 . In a couple of cases I shorted more of the stock than I had in the ISA.

I had been chasing income into the ageing bull market, so I ended up with more FTSE100 and investment trusts than I should really have had. And then I sold into a low, though nowhere near the true low-water mark. I did not sell VWRL, gold, or my HYP from way back when. I didn’t sell any of my index holdings in Charles Stanley, and indeed pumped LGITI up. Among what I saw as crap I sold BWRM which was a  mistake in hindsight. You don’t have to hit zero bum notes, just more high ones than bum ones.

I bought a shedload of gold to add to my existing stash bought before the Brexit vote in 2016, and a few shares, and some VWRL. I was selective about what I sold – mainly UK based stuff and also income investment trusts, though only the excess I had bought in 2019, I have a core holding of ITs that I have had for years. At least TI seems to approve of the selectivity, just about.

9. Invest for the long-term: run your winners, and cut losers

though he doesn’t actually say short the losers

So I am one of those suckers that passive aficionados take the piss out of, I got slaughtered in the bear market, when stocks return to their rightful owners, yes?

Not so fast, passivistas

You’ve had a good war. You did not sell, and you are now sitting on a tidy profit. All around you the smoke is rising from people’s business hopes and dreams, but you stayed passive, and you did not F*ing sell, you kept the faith, and you are up on the year? I don’t want to take that away, well done you.

VWRL. Passive folks are within spitting distance of where you were this January. Sure, it’s been a hairy six months, by as long as you did not F*cking sell you’re sitting dandy

I did F*king sell.  Investing FAIL. Had I done n’owt I would probably be back where I was in Jan at a guess. Oddly enough when I look at my ISA now compared to January it’s not epic fail, but still FAIL. Advantage passive.

Oranges are not the only fruit

Not so flipping fast. I was way too heavy in shares, which arguably is not where I should have been. As Monevator reflected in his comment that I pinched the title of at some point during this bear market I realized that I probably shouldn’t keep doing this I was over-exposed2 to equities at a market high, and I didn’t want to really be so highly exposed. I’ve been grousing about valuations for long enough on here.

I hold no real bonds, and I don’t have the benefit(?) of the market value of bonds responding conversely to shares. I don’t really like cash, although I am happy with ILSCs. One long trade I did manage to get right was selling some premium bonds to buy LGITI, because: holding pounds into the farrago of Brexit, well, no.

ISA asset allocation Non-stocks is mainly gold

Now I have a lower exposure to equities. Before March the red and the yellow bits were about half where they’re now, with the blue stocks Pac-Man correspondingly larger. It’s easy enough to get a lower exposure to equities in a bear market, you just sell 😉 The downside is the loss! Active investors get killed in the long run, the market is efficient and exists to KO such temerity. And all that good stuff.

The ermine is not passive. I am quiescent most of the time, and indeed I have held some of my shareholdings for 10 years, most are over 5 years. So I’m not a day trader. I hope that we aren’t going to get rapid-fire seethe in the markets like this again, because that was too fast and furious. And I don’t want to have to short things again. Shorting stocks happens outside my ISA, and it’s tough to add it all up in real time, I could focus on tracking the shorting or the ISA. Shorting is more dangerous, so I tracked that. Reviewing my shareholding performance this year, I realised that what I am measuring is off.

The Law of the Instrument

A Birmingham screwdriver

I use a spreadsheet first created in 2008 to monitor shareholdings, which is terribly lo-tech. It is also unwieldy, because I used it to model what-ifs when I was trying to work out how many more years I had to work, then how long I could defer my DB pension for, until Osborne changed the rules. It only shows the ISA. It would substantiate the passive mantra, since the ISA down. Worse than that, I crystallised losses. You heard what the man said. Do not F*ing sell

The problem with using any instrument is it blinds you to what happens outside its area of utility. I have to zoom out. I use Quicken for a 360 degree view of networth, but getting it to display shareholdings right is a pain, since this program dates from 2004. It can match share ticker codes to values, but it is a manual update process, I’ve only done it sporadically.

Quicken has a line for all my accounts, so it is the closest to the one real truth I have. In particular it includes the cash in IG. I have no shorting exposure in IG now. I hadn’t updated share prices since the 1st November 2019, so up until February this shows the share networth frozen at the snapshot of 1/11/2019.

Because shorting in IG meant that I couldn’t use my normal spreadsheet, I updated this on March 24 (so after the low-water mark), then on May 1st when I was out of IG exposure and June 6th. I track all other spending as it happens, which is what Quicken is mainly for. The steady state to February shows that on this scale income and outgoings are about the same.

networth in quicken

Not every active investor gets killed. It may be most of them, but not all. If I sold into a suckout, and have a higher balance of gold to equities and gave up some money to the market, how is this? I retained 60% of my equity holdings so a little bit of it is simply the suckout coming back up – passively. What I retained is decent stuff, it rallied more than what I junked.

VWRL.L had a different crisis than the FTSE100, which still seems to be looking for its mojo

But late March was a low water mark. What’s with the March heft? Some of it is the power of gold, which lifted ~20% between 30/10/19 (SGLP=112) and March 24 (SGLP=132). Correspondingly VWRL sampled on the same dates was £68.4 and £60.49 so an 11% suckout. There  was much worse in there 😉

Disregarding the gold I did get burned on the shares. Shorting over 100% of some of these deadbeats (EDIN and ASL in particular, I’m looking at you) into the suckout saved my tail. Shorting is a very strange world indeed, and there is an argument that plungers need a different skillset to going long. Their inspiration is Jesse Livermore

Jesse Livermore, the Boy Plunger. You need different skills to make money on the short side

I did not have great skill – I gave up half of my erstwhile profits before I realised I was fighting the tape and the resurgence would continue.

I have no good explanation for why the markets have swept back to what was already an overvalued position in the good times and the high-water mark of a bull market. I failed to get back into the market on the long side, though others with a finer sense of market timing did, a couple of weeks after I cleared out. I thought I’d have months.

I can think long or short, not both. Shorting is extremely hazardous 3. It has a very high time cost of carry, and normally long holders just aren’t used to that at all. The shorting paid off. I didn’t have to put up with the misery of metrics and performance management to ‘earn’ a decent wedge this year.

I feel in a better position to fight another bear market with a much more balanced asset class holding than at the beginning of this year. I was too drunk on heady valuations, I am not a 20-something who needs to hit it out of the park. I have been bitching about valuations on here for long enough. OTOH it was the feeling valuations were high that triggered the shorting episode so quickly.

I don’t need to be balls-deep in equities. If equities will continue to soar, and that is good, and the gold will fall. If they tank, and the gold will rise. If the bear market comes soon, hopefully it will be less fast and furious than this one just gone and I will take it on via the long side, in a civilised way, over months.

You make your best buys in bear markets, but you don’t know it at the time.


I didn’t sell stuff that has proven its worth to me from the last bear market. I did OK here. I made plenty of mistakes, and had luck, but I wrested some wedge from this bear market, though it wasn’t the bear market I was hoping for (and still hope for 😉 ).

No more hedging of the resounding success Brexit will be

I hold very little that is dependent on the domestic economy now. If the £ rises then I am on the wrong side of the trade. I am betting against Brexit being a resounding success, because I have no hedged holdings. I am exactly the guy that Monevator highlighted should hedge foreign holdings to the £. I held IGWD for a while to do that, while I was largely equity-exposed and had no £ income. I have a secret weapon now. My DB pension is denominated in £. If Brexit is an amazing success and we have a strong world-facing economy exporting lots of stuff like they tell us, then my pension will be worth more in terms of Real Stuff, like bread, iPhones, foreign holidays, wine and cars. Taking a hit on the ISA is diversification in action.

Brexit is unlikely to be a resounding success for the £ IMO. Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said thusly of the devaluation he looked forward to

  “Our goods will become 20% more competitive on the global market.”

so the hit is likely to be the other way round. I’d rather look like an incompetent investor as the £ appreciates in value and preserve the value of my regular income, but I don’t get to make that choice. Que sera, sera.

time to retire that 10 year old spreadsheet

That 2008 spreadsheet is getting unwieldy. It has Visual Basic in it, and that’s really not nice. Nobody wants to admit to having VB in anything that matters. I also made a mistake in drafting it that I chose to unitise with a datum set on the 1st of January. When I was working the period between Christmas and New Year was quiet enough to go on the web and get a snapshot of prices and a valuation. Other than that January was a poor choice of datum because everything else is set on the end of the tax year on the 5th April.

The networth chart showed that this is not a bad year to start again, move the datum to April and start over. I am not sweeping bad news under the carpet. But I am not typing in market prices again. There are only about 20, but the process is tiresome and error-prone.


Google sheets (cloud-based spreadsheets) has a GOOGLEFINANCE command, which gives you some share prices and also currency pairs.

There’s a lot wrong with Cloud anything. The Ermine does Not. Do. Cloud. That’s because I’ve had too many times when a cloud service becomes collapsed.co, paid for, or otherwise goes bad. It’s particularly bad when you put effort into entering data to somebody’s Cloud platform, and they hold your work to ransom without any way of exporting it.

Share data is inherently a Cloud thing, but Google sheets lets you save a spreadsheet as a comma-separated value. After all, for a sporadically updated valuation it’s hardly as if I need Level 2 share price data, so I’m not going to pay for it, thanks.

Googlefinance is an unreliable sidekick, though it gives share prices easily. Given the ticker LON:VWRL in cell A1 the function =GOOGLEFINANCE(A1) gives you the 15 minutes delayed price. Bizarrely sometimes (like for VWRL) it gives you the price in pounds, whereas say for most shares eg LON:GSK it gives you the price in pence. So you need another column to normalise this to all pounds or all pence. That’s the price of being a cheapskate.It doesn’t seem to change from day to day for any given ticker. So I can get quotes. Now I need to get an oversight without the dreadfully unreliable pound.

in search of the luminiferous aethyr

If you stick GBPUSD in A1 you get the exchange rate for that pair. You used to be able to put GBPXDR to denominate things in IMF Special Drawing rights, but the unreliable sidekick stopped that earlier this year. This is how you derive that from the constituent pairs

GBPXDR calculation

B5 is GOOGLEFINANCE(A5) and D5 is =C5*B5 D10 is =SUM(D5:D9)

The currency amounts are brazenly pinched from the IMF specification here. Why am I engaging with all this aggravation? It is because the Great British Pound is an unreliable yardstick of value. Some extreme muppetry has been going on in the last few years, viewing your networth in GBP sticks random noise of Brexit noise into the signal. There seems no end to this muppetry – Brexit seems to mean hard brexit to the current crew, rather than the easiest trade deal in history. Reality, meet Stupid. Unfortunately I’m with Stupid.

I am looking for an independent measure of value, a financial luminiferous aethyr, but the trouble is all forex pairs are relative. When we had the Gold Standard you could use gold for that, but it was before my time, gold is more a fear-associated variable rather than a measure of value. IMF SDRs are an attempt to nail down all that relativity, though the relativity across time is an inherent problem of fiat currencies, and probably of money itself. IMF SDRs will get me far enough away from being blinded by Brexit baloney’s  effect on the pound.

So now all I have to do is get a Google Sheet of the tickers I want, and create two columns, one in pounds and one scaled to IMF SDRs, and store these in my Excel sheet in April, and I am done. I can track the longitudinal value in £ and XDR.

wait but what about funds

Googlefinance doesn’t do funds, like LGITI that I have in Charles Stanley. Musingmarket from Lemon fool has fixed this for you, at the cost of finding the fund on Morningstar

=REGEXEXTRACT(IMPORTXML("http://www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/funds/snapshot/snapshot.aspx?id=F00000QTLZ", Morningstarscrape), "[0-9]*\.[0-9]+[0-9]+")

Morningstarscrape is a named range containing this magic incantation

//*[(@id = "overviewQuickstatsDiv")]//tr[(((count(preceding-sibling::*) + 1) = 2) and parent::*)]//*[contains(concat( " ", @class, " " ), concat( " ", "text", " " ))]

No, I don’t understand what it does either, though I presume it’s the contents of the div overviewQuckstatsDiv munged in some way, from the LGITI web page on Morningstar

Active investing is more like work

that passive investing. March was really tough. I can see the passive attraction, OTOH I ‘earned’ more like when I was working. And yes, usual wealth warning. Active investing kills 9 out of 10 cats because it’s a zero-sum game

Don’t even think about it. Even at the end of this, I don’t really have a good handle of what was skill and what was luck, and Dunning Kruger probably favours luck. You also get massive sample bias, because if that networth chart had a heave-ho in the down direction you wouldn’t be reading this post. Success has many fathers and failure is a bastard.

However, I’m not selling you investing seminars on how to be a shit-hot short trader. I hope to never feel I need to short again – starting with trying not to be overexposed to equities at high valuations.

There again, I do hope this guy comes along later in the year to relieve me of some of those pounds with lower valuations. We were all told how it’s going to be a V shaped recession, which I struggled to see at the time. Fair enough to say markets look forward in the future, but it’s tough to see what they’re so damn chipper about for the next couple of years. At the moment it looks truly evil – Amazon, Facebook and Google will stand over the smoking wreckage of a billion people’s dreams, All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace. Adam Curtis warned us in 2011. This is apparently what success looks like, according to the stock market. WTAF?

  1.   If you short holdings you own as opposed to selling them then you freeze your net position, although if the short goes the way you expect it to you do effectively transfer money from your ISA out of it. This is not a big deal for me because I am not contributing from income any more, so I can put it back into the ISA. You save costs on the turn of the holdings, but shorting has high costs of carry compared to holding shares. This market swoon was both exceptionally steep but also exceptionally short, so that didn’t add up to much. 
  2. On a technical measure I am not overexposed to shares because my DB pension is an annuity. Scaling the annuity by the inverse safe withdrawal rate of ~5%, I would have to have more shares before I would get the bonds:equities ratio right for my age. 
  3. IG and the spreadbetting industry make a big song and dance about being able to use margin to lever up. That’s for people with balls of steel IMO – I put on deposit enough to cover the amount of value at risk if the price doubled. It’s really hard to control a SB account – I suspect IG make a fair bit of money pinging people out and crystallising losses if they reach margin limits. 

46 thoughts on “a walk on the wild side”

    1. > more than I probably should have!

      It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it 😉 Being exposed to a short is dreadfully stressful – sure, it paid more like work did but it damn well felt a lot more like work too. I have no desire to repeat the exercise on the short side.


  1. The Mythical ‘Markets’ sing of a ‘v’-shaped recovery, but from what I understand, it’s simply massive manipulation on a scale that it is hard for our brains to comprehend, with central banks (most of them private companies) blowing bubbles everywhere to prop up the wealth of the elite that own them. Computerised buying using entities like pension funds can really shift the needle on prices, but given ever rising risk on all asset classes, hand-in-hand with falling real returns, surviving this feels like being Bugs Bunny bouncing around in a shooting gallery, but eventually even Elmer Fudd is going to get a hit.

    Attempting to make an educated guess as to what would be the safest position in the face of this increasing, unceasing volatility and uncertainty is like trying to get meaning from the entrails of a goat, tea leaves or throwing chicken bones, but this guy articulates why it’s hard to believe things will get back to what until recently was normal life:

    As for David Davis & Co., implying a 20% devaluation in the £ in your pocket is a competitive advantage in trading, well then we’re going to shoot the lights out in this brave new world when it hits 100% by that logic, it’ll make Britain great again, forget the US vs China for ruler of the planet. (10-year olds might ask why Venezuela and Zimbabwe aren’t on the podium in that case, naked emperors and that, but hey, that’s why they aren’t cabinet ministers, innit.)


      1. @Ermine, we could play poker if you’ll accept my hoard of Italian lire I dug up that the termites refused to eat 🙂


      2. That note is from 1910. This is a note from 1923 : https://www.ma-shops.de/mueller/item.php?id=9351
        That is indeed a times your note……Just in case anyone is still wondering why Germans hate inflation with a vengeance and are extremely cautions w.r.t. to their southern European options. They have not forgotten…. Cash cannot possible survive such a storm.

        My defence against it : fully paid off house in CH, and, after a few lessons in how-not-to-invest, a small passive portfolio. And no lifestyle inflation, although that has never been difficult for me.
        And hope for the best…


        Liked by 1 person

      3. Issued on 1 November 1923 and they didn’t expect a long half-life
        “From the 1 February 1924 this can be recalled and replaced with other legal tender” 😉

        > fully paid off house in CH

        Living in CH is defence enough. If the wolf of inflation comes to knock of the door in Switzerland, then the fight has been lost all over the world and the Gnomes of Zurich will have lost the final battle and gone down fighting to the last man. Thus we will know that the end of the world has come to pass. Hyperinflation is just not gonna happen in CH 😉


  2. Good to see another Quicken 2004 user!

    Interesting timing, releasing this post after a >5% drop in US markets overnight…..

    Incidentally there is an interesting workaround for Google Sheet/GOOGLEFINANCE()’s woes posted on the comments section to my investment trading spreadsheet posts, that more nerdy readers might find helpful. https://firevlondon.com/2020/04/11/portfolio-tracking-spreadsheet-v2-0-release-notes/#comment-3752

    Liked by 1 person

    1. > releasing this post after a >5% drop in US markets overnight…..

      Took some time to write it 😉

      Bring on that Kodiak bear. And this time let’s have less of a flash crash. If it can hurt the Orange One in November then it’s an ill wind…

      It’s good to have a backup to the google sheets function, as screen scraping is always going to be an unstable solution. I’d like to be abel to say I understood what’s going on with the code on that comment, but I’ll leave it till I have to get my head round it!


  3. One thing I have learned over years of investing is that I cannot trust myself to make good decisions – especially since I tend to overreact irrationally to negative comments from my totally risk-averse partner. As a result I go with a fee-based advisor team that keeps me balanced, diversified and discretionary. They are market veterans who have a top-down economic approach based on ETFs. Although we are mostly DB pension based in income I stick with about 40% bonds just to mitigate downside and more commentary about how we should just keep our money in GICs.
    I can still cock things up though. This year I took out my mandatory RRIF sum at the beginning of the year, before the COVID-19 crisis induced the Canadian government reduced the amount you had to withdraw by 25%. That would have saved me some taxes I guess.
    I reinvested the RRIF proceeds into non-registered and registered accounts with the advisor so it was subject to the same vagaries as the rest of my investments. Maybe I should have taken it in cash. I guess we’ll find out.


    1. > I cannot trust myself to make good decisions

      Me neither. I had a nasty suspicion there’s more luck than judgement in this case. Going with an advisor makes a lot of sense as time goes by. The fees are a killer for a young pup at the start of his FI journey, but fees have fewer years to roll up for a retiree some way through projected retirement. Return of capital becomes a bigger deal than return on capital, unless you’re in the Rothschild family.


  4. I’m fully in agreement with your strategy Ermine! Though I haven’t got to the shorting stocks part yet (and frankly I’ve read too many loss stories on https://www.reddit.com/r/wallstreetbets/ to truly take that risk). I got in on the dip and it mine only just started looking green again this week (and possibly back down again today).

    I’m buying bonds with my monthly contributions for the forseeable future in my ISA. Not out of fear, I just don’t see how all the massive amounts of corporate debt isn’t going to come crashing down on us in the (near?) future (some interesting reading on CLOs for Sir: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/07/coronavirus-banks-collapse/612247/). Oh yeah, and Brexit, whenever that decides to happen. The pension sits in a 25/75 split (bonds/equities) and that can spend the next 30 years doing whatever it likes. I’ve realised all my holdings are hedged which is a shame – I’m not hopeful on GBP in the near term.

    Oh well, over-complicating things leads to problems for me. Keep It Simple, Stupid is my motto 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. > (and frankly I’ve read too many loss stories on https://www.reddit.com/r/wallstreetbets/ to truly take that risk)

      There are two things that kill you with shorting. One is margin calls – you get pinged out because the platform decides you don’t have enough on deposit, and these crystallise losses exactly at times you have lost most (though they can also save you from a really bad call!). The other is the corollary of that – buying on margin.

      Always have enough cash on deposit to cover a doubling of the initial share price. I try and avoid shorting individual shares – I was shorting ITs and indices. It’s unlikely for these to double in a short space of time.

      Brexit has happened already they tell me, though the current shower of spivs seem to be using coronavirus as a way to bury bad news. Having said that foreign assets are the way to deal with Brexit, it’s a localised piece of barminess.


      1. Wow, I will think about his analytical approach, though I am not sure I want to get into shorting again any time real soon now. However, some other gems

        > I strongly advise against jacking up leverage willy-nilly, especially during high-volatility periods….Never, ever raise your leverage when things are going against you. I occasionally raise my leverage when things are going in my favor, though.

        This. Absolutely. I did not use leverage, but I only increased positions when I was gaining and run them down on the other side. This is really, really, hard to do. How did I learn that? The same way any investor learns anything – by getting it wrong the first time I used it to lock in Sharesave options. In particular running down exposure into losses makes you hate yourself a little afterwards, but fundamentally is why I came away with something rather than nothing or a loss – don’t fight the tape. Even when the tape is barking mad. Only having a policy can save you in that case.


      2. @Al Cam – I’ve now read more of that and it is damned fascinating. There’s a hint of where he adds value (selling others peace of mind) and the methodology is interesting. The lower volatility is also attractive. Could be time to experiment on the demo side of my IG account, because I suspect that the spikiness of SB accounts disfavours some of that methodology. However, if it is deliberately introduces as some think, it will disfavour the more common downside protection options.


      3. @Ermine:
        Ern is always a good read; albeit often a tad technical.
        Obviously, he writes from a US perspective – but generally I have found that it does not take too much thought to extract the – UK relevant – nuggets.
        Best of luck with any experiments you may conduct!
        To date, I have not done anything along these lines myself – although I have been intrigued with such an approach for some time now.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. @Xailter Beware two things however. One is that ERN is later in the lifecycle than you are. He has enough, and is seeking to reduce volatility at the cost of surrendering a bit of upside. A fellow with several decades in a SIPP may be better off taking the passive market return.

        The other is that everybody is at it. and as The Fire Shrink’s “Gamble Your COVID Days Away post” opines

        We’re in a stock market bubble driven by bored amateur traders (speculators)

        I am (was – I have no current exposure and haven’t had for weeks) one of the examples 😉

        Small traders, for the first time since 2000, have made more than 50% of the daily trades

        I have seen this movie before, in 1999 😉


      5. @Ermine – have no fear, I have no interest in actually going into options. But I’ve never really understood them before, so it’s always nice to expand your knowledge a bit 🙂

        I was reading a fascinating post on how some large hedge funds are buying a bunch of shares, driving the price of a stock up, loads of Robin Hood traders jump in too, pushing it even higher and then the hedge funds sell out – leaving them holding the bag (the company’s fundamentals were crap before anyway) and the Robin Hood traders aren’t selling because “it’s not a loss if you don’t crystallise it”. Sounds like BitCoin all over again to me. Hedge funds *love* volatility.

        I’m happy to file this under “I’m not rich/big enough to do that properly!”.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw an interesting suggestion in last Saturday’s paper. Suppose you want protection from inflation. Index-linked gilts are far too expensive so the chappie suggested shorting fixed-interest gilts. When inflation goes up the Bank will increase interest rates and you’ll get the protection you sought.

    Apparently you can do this with ETFs. Maybe that means I could do it in an ISA or SIPP? I’ll perhaps turn the idea over in my mind for a while. I don’t suppose the immediate worry is inflation but I will presumably leave a widow from a notably long-lived family. But should I leave her with something that needs management, which would not be to her taste?


    1. That Monevator fellow had a grouse about short ETFs held for the long term. The trouble with shorting anything is that the cost of carry seems high (as well as that markets go up over the long run). So you have to qualify the specific ETF against those caveats.

      You could use options I guess, where the cost of carry will be lower, but these aren’t really designed for multi-year periods. They’re also taxable


  6. Hi, Just to say I always enjoy your musings… Re google finance and scraping have you considered giving the REBO sheets add on a whirl https://reboapp.co.uk, supply an ISIN reference and the addon can supply a price and date last updated. Just a suggestion 🙂


    1. Someone else mentioned that recently. Didn’t realise it’s a Google Sheets addon. There is still the the Cloud issue for me. because I am an unreconstructed old git that has seen Cloud applications disappear. I am still sore about the Internet of Things service Pachube that became Cosm that became Xively that became Google that became paid-for – all in the space of a few years. Not only did I have to rewrite assembly code each time but I lost data. Since that was compost heap temp it didn’t matter greatly, but that’s why I now do that standalone, on a Raspberry Pi which is within my own four walls and using RRDtool. The charts look ugly as sin compared to the lovely javascript zoomable charts in Xively, but I have control.


  7. Another Quicken 2004 user -passive investor with only 2 World Index Tracker Funds -Equities and Bonds-so does the job for me on a Win 8 platform
    Portfolio Rebalancing Tool is a cracker for deciding where to target Withdrawals or Additions
    Had to buy a refurbished Dell laptop with XP installed for my Backup as a Win 10 update wiped my Backup copy of Quicken 2004
    Installed a treat-I would so miss it -spots hacker withdrawals from current and visa accounts with ease-paid for itself many times over
    Not having it would be like losing my right hand
    Enjoying all the active investing posts but just reinforces my passive leanings which do need reinforced from time to time
    Sat through this latest debacle -now back where I started!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. > Win 10 update wiped my Backup copy of Quicken 2004

      Save a copy of your install directory QUICKENW. In my case I simply copied it my old Win7 install into


      although the program bellyaches each time to update, because I think it doesn’t have write permissions to some directory. ISTR it grizzled about mfc70.dll, msvcp70.dll and msvcr70.dll which are the runtime distributables for MS visualC 7 at a guess. I put them in the same directory and it seems ot work okay. That way you have insurance against losing the program again. I don’t think the installer runs on Win10.

      > Portfolio Rebalancing Tool

      Never used that. Having said that I lie to Quicken in that I put the total cash dividends accrued for the year as a cash injection, so it will not have a handle on total return. I only use it to track networth, so the marked to market value.

      It’s amazing that something that’s 16 years old is still serviceable. And no cloud 😉


  8. Im at the age now (55) where there are gaps starting to appear in the old school reunion photographs, where Im sick sore and tired of listening to bullshit at work, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, am tired chasing a number. I think Im at the stage where whats in the pot will have to do no matter what happens. Given the universal truth that shit will indeed happen Im ready to saunter off into the sunset of retirement with a head full of compromise and no solid plan. (Its as good a plan as any).
    Ermine, I wish I had the foresight that yourself and others on this blog have shown, and indeed Ive managed put some of that wisdom into practice along my journey towards calling it a day at the old daily grind, but given the fact no matter what I have stored away Ill never buy one second more on this green and pleasant land Im ready to settle for what I have.
    Ill still be tuning in to read the posts. Keep them coming!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. > given the fact no matter what I have stored away Ill never buy one second more on this green and pleasant land Im ready to settle for what I have

      That’s always a good thing to keep in mind. It’s not just money you’re running out of, the moving finger- having writ, moves on.

      I didn’t want to retire early, indeed I still wouldn’t have been retired in the normal way of things. But I have lived eight years now on my terms, not The Man’s. Those years staring out of the office window I would never have lived again. I gave up a fair amount of money to buy time. If only I had had the foresight it would have been easier spread over longer. But I am cheered that you and others learned from my errors and yes, sometimes wins. It makes it worth-while, thank you 😉


      1. Ermine, Im glad to have learned by your errors because I sure as hell never learned from my own, lol, and I hope overall your wins far outweigh the number of second places.


  9. Oh no, not bad mouthing VBA 🙂 I learnt it as an intern on a 12 month placement at a FTSE100 listed company and quickly became the goto guy during my placement. I still use it a lot today building systems and carrying out analytical work. Re Quicken have you tried GNUCash – it has some reasonably functionality built in for shares. I’m reading Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller at the moment and it’s making me feel very bearish. I sold some gold when it went out of my set allocation but finding it hard to keep topping up my passive share holdings each month.


  10. Have you found the pricing on Morningstar broken since yesterday on some funds? See iShares Physical Gold ETC (GBP) | SGLN which has a price from 2018. Some other prices are stuck at 30/6/20. I thought it must me something broken with my newly created Google sheet and your recommended XPATH scraping. But it looks to be something broken at Morningstar?


    1. I get quoted 13872 for SGLP and USD 171 for SGLD, which is not untoward relative to HL’s SGLP:13914 and SGLD:174

      Doing the same for SGLN does give an old price from the end of Feb 2018, but the same is visible in Morningstar’s SGLN page. So my commiserations, but I wasn’t hit by this. I will now try and find out what is different between SGLN and SGLP. They have the same OCF but SGLN has a lower indicative spread.

      What did just however happen to me was =GOOGLEFINANCE(A2, “tradetime”) comes out in that disgusting and illogical damn American MDY format, so I killed that column until I can work out the formatting string


      1. SGLP is pricing at 30/6/20. I have found the odd one of my funds are giving 2018 and 2019 prices, and a bigger proportion are stuck art 30/6/20 prices, as shown on the page you can view by browsing to it. The problem is not limited to this stock only, see Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets UCITS ETF USD Distributing (GBP) | VFEM also

        Can you not just change the display format for the date or does it come as a string from GOOGLEFINANCE? I am pulling the date from Mornigstar also with:-

        //tr[(((count(preceding-sibling::*) + 1) = 2) and parent::*)]//*[contains(concat( ” “, @class, ” ” ), concat( ” “, “heading”, ” ” ))]//*[contains(concat( ” “, @class, ” ” ), concat( ” “, “heading”, ” ” ))]

        which gives me the data as a number which can be manipulated with Sheets Format

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re quite right, I should have looked closer. Fingers crossed Morningstar fix it, I don’t really fancy wrangling those regexes for something else!

        Changing the display date format in Sheets does fix that MDY, so on reflection it was probably my bad copying up some fields rather than Google anticipating us becoming the 51st state.


  11. I have raised to Morningstar support, but their initial feedback was that as the date shown (30/6/20) matched the NAV price given, and they saw no issue. I was unsure if they were moving to give end of month pricing only? Awaiting further feedback from them


      1. I had hoped Morningstar would have fixed their pricing before now. But it looks like it is not going to happen. Very odd, it makes their site useless?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I sense a paid-for version of Morningstar in the offing…

        I’d be tempted to hack things to screenscrape HL. But updating my data monthly, the work involved would be a misallocation of time compared to manually updating the price 12 times 😉


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