Monday, 21 February 2011

Not going down...

...under, at least for now.

Goal 6: To visit Australia

A stranger requested that we connect on LinkedIn last week.

I usually reply asking for more information as the standard advice is not to connect with anyone one does not have an existing business relationship with. Then will choose to ignore strangers, unless there seems to be a real benefit in connecting.

The response this time was intriguing. A recruitment agent based in Perth, Australia was looking for Business Objects developers. We ended up having a video call via Skype and he explained there is a current demand for experienced business intelligence and other IT contractors in Perth such that they can't fill demand locally.

Most of my travel goals are so way down on my list of priorities right now I rarely consider how I would achieve them but this weekend my wife and I spent a fair bit of time discussing the possibility of moving to Australia.

Looking back at my 100 goals, I had forgotten how high on the list this one is. Number six! At the time of writing my goals, I just let myself free write without trying to place these in any real order of priority and yet I am intrigued how quickly this one came out. If I think about it, seeing the Grand Canyon deserves it's place at number four; but I would actually place visiting New Zealand higher up my list of preferred locations and yet, New Zealand is down at number fifty two.

Australia is an attractive location: generally a good climate; English speaking; close relationships with the UK; they even drive on the same side of the road! If I had not other commitments, I would happily contract there for a while.

Although the discussion with my wife did not centre around my 100 goals, it did touch on some of them. I consciously phrased and wrote goals 15, 58 and 94 because I wanted to remind myself that adventures are far less fun on one's own. I regret not being able to take my wife on a business trip to China. For me, that experience was awesome and yet I constantly wished my wife was there to share it.

Goals 19 through 26 are a constant reminder that my family is important and despite my wife and I agreeing that we would like to live somewhere warmer, where it rains less and ones quality of life is substantially improved; the reality is that it may be better for us to improve our quality of life here in central Scotland, where our kids are now settled and where for the next eleven years they will be experiencing enough challenges from O Grades (or GCSE's or Standard Grades or whatever it is they now start in third year[I really must find out...])

So, for now, goal number six is on hold. Yet, having raised it's profile, I am wondering if it may be worth discussing a long term plan to achieve it.

If anyone out there has IT skills and Oil and Gas experience and is interested in a move to Perth, Australia - let me know and I'll pass your contact details onto my new contact.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Love is patient

Goal 26: To be a loving and faithful husband to my wife

Well, my  Love Dare book arrived yesterday and today I have started my 40 day journey...

You know that sinking feeling - that growing suspicion that one has taken on a challenge that is going to require far more commitment than previously considered? Fools rush in and all that... Would it not have been easier to just mosey on along?

I told my wife what I was doing, well, she was going to see it on my blog eventually! Her comment: "You really are an all or nothing guy." A lot of truth in that statement. I think back and can see evidence of it throughout my life. There are definite positives to being all or nothing. I can emerse myself in a project and see it through to completion despite tremendous obstacles. I can be passionate and faithful. Yet, thinking back there are times when I have lost or given up that passion and faithfulness and while that may be okay for a work project that has obviously lost it's way, it is never good in a relationship.

I know I'm not totally all or nothing about everything but I would rather be excited about something I am involved or invested in. Also, on the flip side, I will actively distance myself from anything I perceive I do not want to be involved with rather than putting up with it.

Yet, even as I write this, I know there are aspects of my character that I am uncomfortable with. I know only too well that I am imperfect and I knowingly put up with character traits that I am ashamed of.

One of these character traits is impatience. If you have seen the movie Evan Almighty you will know the scene where God very subtly says, "If you pray for love, does God give you a feeling or does he give you opportunities to show love to others?"

I'm praying for patience today, knowing full well what my answer may just be...

Monday, 14 February 2011

A valentine's dare

Goal 26: To be a loving and faithful husband to my wife

Last year I bought the DVD of Fireproof. At the time I thought it would be a good idea to spend some money on a film that I could watch with my wife, a film that seemed to have something positive to say about marriage.

I brought it home and it sat on our shelf for seven months.

My folks are down with us this weekend and we wanted to watch a movie but they were not really interested in any of the new, high def, loud, violent movies that I was offering. They were keen to see Fireproof however and so we settled down and despite having bought the film, I was expecting a low budget, poorly directed movie that at best might have an uplifting message.

After about ten minutes though, Fireproof had become, what is for me, the ultimate goal of any movie - it was reality! It was well directed, well lit, the sound quality was good, it showed signs of being well edited, but above all, I could identify with the characters.

A no holds barred, full on argument between the married couple took this well outside any safety zone and into an anything can happen journey.

A few minutes later the tension broke with some deliciously funny scenes and we were fully on a rollercoaster ride. The scene with the train, not to give too much away, was as real as anything I've seen in another movie.

Fireproof dealt honestly with many things married couples face: loss of passion in their relationship; romance being eroded by the daily grind; temptations to flirt or use Internet porn.

The film for me, didn't judge, didn't condemn. Instead, it offered hope, said, here is a better way - specifically The Love Dare.

The husband is challenged to hold off on divorce for 40 days and accept a series of daily dares to show love to his wife.

It is valentines day today. A day for flowers and chocolate, cards and meals in fancy restaurants.

I have given all these things to my wife in past years but I know I'm far from being a consistently loving husband. If I compare myself to what I consider the ideal of love, described in the first book of Corinthians, I cannot say I am a loving husband.

So, I am going to accept The Love Dare. Unfortunately, unlike the husband in the film, I don't have someone to write out the 40 dares for me so I've had to order the book...;)

I'm not going to commit to updating this blog daily once I get the book and start but will commit to letting you know one way or the other what difference it has made to our marriage.

And since it is valentines day, I dare you to accept The Love Dare too!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Oops I did it again

I've never analysed the lyrics to Britney Spears "classic" hit - who needs to, the title says it all.

I found myself hovering over the buy button again yesterday, the early disasters of this week still in my mind. I did it again. Not quite the same but I was very aware of taking a risk with a large sum of money that I didn't want to lose.

The difference yesterday? I am already invested in the company. I bought Sound Oil (SOU) earlier in the year and quickly saw my investment drop in value over 20%. Almost every time...

But, it recovered and showed signs of justifying a long term investment. Yesterday the company released news saying they were presenting to city analysts and would release the presentation later in the day. Had I not {insert appropriate word of your choosing} so badly this week, I would have sat back and enjoyed a tick up in value.

As it was I saw an opportunity. I didn't say earlier but, to pay off my losses on PYC and SAR, I sold my favourite stock - Anglo Asian (AAZ). I had decided to sell completely out and see if there was a opportunity and Sound seemed to be worth investing in.

There was no guidance as to when the presentation would be released and no guarantee it would materially affect the value of the company but I decided it was more likely to have a positive affect than not. I invested the remaining money from Anglo Asian and bought Sound at 2.55p. Again, due to the spread I was now losing money but - it kept ticking up. The price fell back a few times during the day but unlike my experience with PYC or SAR, I had confidence in the company to hold for a year if neccessary to see a profit.

I am looking for a quick profit however. If the share price reaches 4p (taking the value of my shares back to where I was before my mistakes) I will sell out and plan to buy back into Anglo Asian.

I'm hoping this will be the last post on my investments for a while. I'm 39 today and feeling that melancholy state I get most years. A day for reflection on a year gone and considering direction for the next. My deadline of 40 is now exactly one year away which brings into sharp focus the three goals I wanted to achieve. I am looking forward to being 40. Is that odd?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Skip to the end...

...is one of my favourite quotes from Spaced

Skipping to the end, I lost 13 percent of my pension fund this week. I'm still reeling from how foolishly I acted.

I basically broke every rule and went against all normal investment advice.

Accountability is fine when everything goes well but extremely unpleasant when it goes wrong but here goes...

On Tuesday I started to see forum posts about a meteoric rise in Sareum Holdings (SAR) share price. I eventually checked and confirmed a 200% rise on Tuesday's price.

I was very tempted to try and day trade and on Wednesday the price doubled again. I tried to buy some shares but wasn't initially able to deal online. I had also seen on the same forum, postings that a company related to Sareum was seeing a huge share price rise - Physiomics (PYC). I decided, based on nothing more at this point on greed and a desire to avoid missing the boat, to buy Physiomics. By the time I tried to buy, the share price had jumped again and was up 300% at 1.1p a share. I bought and the price immediately fell 40%. I had just lost 4% of my pension fund.

I spent a feverish few minutes watching the share price continue to fall and eventually realised I had no way of knowing how far the price would fall or if it would recover and sold out having lost 6%.

I couldn't believe how stupidly I had acted. I couldn't believe it enough that I tried to win the money back.

I had originally intended to buy Sareum so I tried again. The share price had peaked at 5p a share and had fallen back. Share prices often fall back and then rise again and I thought if I bought as it rose, I could recover what I had lost. I invested a larger sum.

The price went up, slightly, then fell back. I was now losing a larger percentage the more the price went down. By this time I was frantic. Did I hold on assuming the price would rise. I studied the chart and realised that each peak was lower than the previous, a clear sign that confidence had gone in the price.

I eventually sold out having lost more than I had tried to recover.

The irony of my previous post is not lost on me. Here I am stating that I am fully capable of making complex decisions and yet I blow a substantial sum of money having a flutter on the stock market.

I'm reluctant to make any statements about what I will do or will never do again as a result of this week. I thought I had already decided rules to trade by. Obviously not enough.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

EU ban UK citizens from share dealing

Goal 89: To change laws for the better

Do you own shares in UK companies? Do you own a share dealing account which allows you to buy and sell shares?

If you answer yes to either of these questions then please read the following post today and decide whether to act on it.

The EU is currently considering changes to MARKETS IN FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS
DIRECTIVE (MIFID)

Under these proposals, it is possible laws could come into force preventing UK citizens from buying and selling shares directly using an execution only account. Also, the proposals may prevent UK citizens from  trading on the UK AIM market and other less regulated markets around the world.

There are several sites which have some good information on these proposals so I won't try to repeat it:

http://www.fool.co.uk/news/investing/2011/01/24/eu-to-ban-internet-share-dealing.aspx
http://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/adviser-news/euro-threat-to-execution-only/1024454.article
http://share.com/mifidreview
e-mail opposition to:

markt-consultations-mifid@ec.europa.eu

Below is a copy of the email I have just sent. Please do not simply copy and paste as it is my own personal view but it will hopefully give an idea of why I feel strongly about this:

To markt-consultations-mifid@ec.europa.eu

I am a UK citizen and am writing to express my concern at the proposals contained within the MiFID consultation paper:
http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/docs/2010/mifid/consultation_paper_en.pdf

To give you some background, I invest mainly in shares traded on the UK's AIM. I have a long term goal to increase my savings through these trades in order to build up a pension fund. My personal experience of 'managed investments' has been poor. In the 1980's I had a pension with Mirror Group which was stolen. My father took out a private pension and was told after many years that the value of the pension had shrunk by 66%. I invested £2,000 in a family bond for my children in the last decade and the value of this investment also went down, though only by a small amount.

It appears from your proposals that you believe that only qualified and regulated individuals and organizations should have the right to make high risk decisions when it comes to dealing in shares.

I fully accept that changes need to take place with regards to the financial problems of the last few years and yet none of these financial problems have been caused by individuals such as myself who use execution only trading accounts and who trade on less regulated markets such as UK AIM. Instead, these problems have been caused ONLY by financial institutions! Indeed, these problems have been caused by individuals within these institutions who are both qualified and regulated!

With regards to your proposals:

(87) What is your opinion of the suggested modifications of certain categories of instruments (notably shares, money market instruments, bonds and securitised debt), in the context of so-called "execution only" services? Please explain the reasons for your views.

I reject both option A and option B.

I would like the EU to protect my current ability to hold an execution only account which allows me to buy and sell shares without any interference and without any advice.

I would also like the EU to protect my ability to buy and sell shares in regulated and unregulated markets around the world. It is not for the EU to impose restrictions as to the level of risk I am willing to take.


(88) What is your opinion about the exclusion of the provision of "execution-only" services when the ancillary service of granting credits or loans to the client (Annex I, section B (2) of MiFID) is also provided? Please explain the reasons for your views.

Again, I would like the EU to protect my current ability to hold an execution only account which allows me to buy and sell shares without any interference and without any advice. Please see above for reasons.


(90) Do you consider that, in the light of the intrinsic complexity of investment services, the "execution-only" regime should be abolished? Please explain the reasons for your views.

Absolutely not!

I have lost money by trading shares on an execution only basis, but overall, I have made a substantial profit from my investments. I and my family have lost far more money from entrusting it to the very financial institutions that are supposedly qualified and regulated.

Ultimately, investment services at their heart are not complex. The complexity has been imposed through over regulation and directives.

Perhaps a simpler option would be to ban the selling of debt as this seems to be a root cause of our current financial crisis. If a company (or country) has given credit in the form of mortgages for example, they should be unable to sell that on in any form.

Regards

Mark Smith