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  • Writer's pictureMr H

The 2021 Portfolio

Well, it's that time of year were you come up with a whole list of New year Resolutions only to blow them out a few weeks later. I have decided this year that I'll be giving up Bobsledding and Base-Jumping for my New Year Resolutions [wink].

I do have a serious resolution though and that is to try and close the gap between our actual net worth and our FIRE number. I've talked about it extensively in the post but I retired earlier than the FIRE "Rules" say I should have. I won't bang on about it as it's been covered a few times before but to put it as simply as I can:

  • We have a cost of living budget of R62,000 / $3875 / £2980 per month

  • FIRE best practice says that if you can live on 4% annually of your total net worth, then there's a very high chance your money will never run out.

  • The net worth we require to live off 4% would be R18.6m / $1.2m / £0.9m (if you need to know how to get to that number it is 300 times your monthly spending or 25 times your annual spending.)

  • We currently have R14.8m / $0.93m / £0.71m

  • We have a shortfall of R3.8m / $240k / £180k

Now, I'm a great believer in the "Shoot for the stars and you might hit the moon" approach to targets and I also subscribe to the concept of "If you're personal goals don't make you feel uncomfortable, then they're not stretching enough". I suspect 80% of that comes from the corporate brainwashing that I was subjected to for the last 25 years but as a concept they feel quite appropriate for me to try and generate almost a quarter of a million dollars of net income in the next 12 months.

I'm not going to lie, that feels like a little bit of a pipe dream as I sit here on the 9th January 2021 with little or no plan and no significant income opportunities on the horizon.

But imagine for a minute I even get close, even if I do more than half of that, that would be a thing, no?

I do have one foot in the door so to speak, I spent the whole of 2020 locked down learning about myself, our finances and every facet of of our investments, fees, performance and risk and whilst I still have some more to do, our investments are in the best shape they've ever been. If they were a dog, they would be a whippet or greyhound, they're in the trap, the hare is running and they are primed and ready to rip that stuffed animals head clean off (Possibly getting a bit carried away now).

So whilst there is still a few donkeys in the pack that need my attention, I don't foresee wholesale change for our investments in 2021. I also predict some tail winds that will make 2021 a winning year:

  1. It doesn't feel like it right now, but the COVID-19 epidemic will end in 2021 in my opinion. Vaccines are rolling out like billy-oh in the developed world and its those markets I'm invested in, people will get back to work and business will be leaner, more galvanised and hungry to heal from the last 12 months, they will be better than before and that means higher profits which means higher returns for investors

  2. I'm not going to give an opinion on the goings on in the US political arena in 2020 other than to say it's been a dog show for the country and it looks like we're a few weeks away from the dawning of a hopefully new era of normality for the country. As I'm heavily invested there, that should hopefully bring some focus on recovery and a return to global trade.

  3. The UK finally has Brexit done and I am officially no longer a European. I'm not going to give an opinion on that either but the UK has largely been uninvestable for the last few year because of it and I am unfortunately also heavily invested there too, so an economic recovery story in the UK will also benefit us greatly.

  4. South Africa is also in political turmoil and, in my opinion, is on the brink of a humanitarian or economic meltdown. Who knows what will happen but I do know that change has to come for the country we've made our home and whilst I doubt it will be beneficial to any South African citizen on the short term, change in whatever form is needed and that can only be good for the country in the long term.

So, if you're anything like me, the above is the bread and now you want to get to the filling of this sandwich, what does the portfolio look like for 2021 and what is the strategy. Well let's get on with it then shall we?

The Current Portfolio

I put tons of time, effort and research into coming up with our portfolio and its designed to provide a target of 12% annual returns and a minimum of 9.5% (which happens to be my long term target number) with relatively low risk and a 5 to 10 year horizon (which coincidentally when I hit 55 and can access my retirement savings) . I'm 45 next month so we have a realistic investment window of around 30 years in total with 10 years being the point that we move from "pre retirement" (Defined as retired but still capable of working and side-hustling if we need to) into Post-Retirement (where we won't be generating any more income and will be drawing down directly from our savings). To simplify that, I look at the rest of our lives in 3 stages:

  1. Pre-Retirement - 2021 - 2031 (45 to 55 years old) - Retired but still capable of earning - Moderate Spending - Moderate income

  2. Post-Retirement - 2031 - 2051 (55 to 75 years old) - Retired and active e.g. travelling & partying! - High Spending - Investment income only

  3. The Golden Years -2051 to 2076 (75 to 100 years old) - Settling down, retirement village, bridge club and bowls, G&T in the garden in the afternoon. - Low Spending - Pension income only

So, to the portfolio:

2021 Portfolio

And there she is, isn't she pretty?

Sorry it's a bit small, if you're struggling, you can download the image and zoom in. It might look like a lot because it is, its 43 individual investments in total. However, I wanted to show you everything as that is what I would want to know. However, they broadly fit into 5 categories and percentages:

  • SA Equities - 12%

  • Global Equities - 56%

  • Structured Products 15%

  • Bonds & Cash - 4%

  • Alternative & Social Investments 13%

And then the split between retirement and non-retirement investments is

  • Retirement - 55%

  • Non-retirement - 45%

I've sorted the list from best returns to lowest but don't read so much into that, there's been so much change over the last year that they're quite misleading. What is important is that the annualised total is currently 8.8% which is short of my 9.5% target.

I am completely confident that I will smash 9.5% this year because I've cleaned out almost all high fee, low return investments with the exception of my structured products which are a bit of a burden but provide 7-9% steady returns. The cost of cancelling them is too high so they'll all expire over the nxt 2 to 4 years and get replaced by low cost index funds that tend to yield nearer 12%.

The Strategy

The plan is cunningly simple, do as little as possible. I have a few necessary tasks but with 56% in global low cost index funds and just 4% in cash, we're in good shape. The alternative & social investments like Cattle and Solar Panels will grow as I reduce my exposure to structured products.

So the strategy in a few bullet points is:

  • Reinvest all investment profits and try to live off side-hustle income and Mrs H's salary

  • Offset as much tax as possible by investing in retirement annuities, Tax free savings accounts and renewable energy (under section 12b you can recover your costs for renewable energy equipment through tax in South Africa).

  • Continue to direct equity investments toward low cost global index funds

  • Don't make change for changes sake, try to avoid dealing costs and transaction fees

And that's it.

So if the target growth this year is R3.8m / $240k / £180k, I need just over a 25% return on investment. Even after all the analytics I had to do to get this post done, that feels seriously punchy. It doesn't feel impossible though and who knows what opportunity might come knocking. As i've said, I'm not going to count it as failure if I don't make it. in fact, if the return is more than 9.5% I'll call it a good year, but the reality of achieving the full 25% is potentially game changing for Mrs H and I and I like changing the game!

If I take the top half of my investments and look at their annualised performance, they average 22% return and whilst the overall annual return was 8.8% they're currently annualising at 12% so all I need to do is do twice as well in 2021 than I did last year. If my hypothesis is right that 2021 is going to be a lot better than 2020 then it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to believe that 12% could come up to 18%. Then I only need to focus on the 7% gap.

That might all sound like crooked logic to you but it's a hypothesis that I'm going with and the work on that 7% starts immediately.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts, my portfolio, the strategy and simply if you believe I'm bonkers in the comments below. All feedback greatly received, good bad or indifferent.

I try to respond to all comments in a timely fashion so if you have a question or I'm using some jargon you don't understand or I haven't covered something you would hope I would, ask away, happy to provide an opinion.

Hope this has been useful, until next time

Keep living.

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Jan 21, 2021

Thanks for your comments and subscribing to my blog. I think its great that we a few fellow FIREees in SA now and can chat on similar topics, which i find fascinating.

In response to your feedback, i do hear your rationale on being over weight in the US, i still believe having 75% of your funds in the US is low diversification, given that US markets are on a high valuation (specially on the S&P 500 stocks and in particular technology stocks). A higher allocation to MSCI Global stocks gives you a better diversification from exposure to US (still about 60%), but also gives you exposure to the whole world, Also there is a growing Asia economy (read.. Sout…


Mr H
Mr H
Jan 21, 2021

Hey FYF, Thanks for your comment and congratulations on achieving Fi, great to meet another member of the team! I'll definitely be a subscriber to, As you say, we are similar in our views.

Let me try and pick off your questions 1 by 1:

I am very US heavy and that at the moment is because in my opinion, the US market is the most broad and easy to understand for me. Being British South African I'd like to be more invested in the UK but with Brexit, there's too many unknowns and all of my UK based investments are underperforming (mostly structured products based on the FTSE 100). China and the far east is hard to invest…


Jan 20, 2021

Hey Tribal FI , iv only started reading your blogs recently during lockdown late last year and must say they are enjoyable and watching your progress over this period with your strategy and approach from SA perspective quite refreshing. I am on the FIRE journey myself having reached lean FIRE when i was 36, also based in SA.

Iv been quite impressed with your story of growth through the corporate ladder and side hustles. My story is similar where i left corporate life at 38 after i had gotten towards flexi FIRE, and now spend time in the non-profit sector which is not work really but brings in some money. You can reach me on, although I'm not as…


Mr H
Mr H
Jan 16, 2021

Hi Charlie, thanks for the insights and pleased to hear you are also post-retirement.

I'm judging my performance on ZAR, which is not ideal as I'm massively subjected to the fluctuation of the Rand a good month can become a bad month overnight. But I spend in ZAR so it has to end up as leopards in the wallet at some point so it would be wrong to judge it in another currency whilst we're living here.

I know what you mean about the volatility of living on a percentage of net worth. I guess I'm cheating a little as we still have Mrs H's salary coming in right now so that means I'm not hitting anywhere near 4% drawdown…


Mr H
Mr H
Jan 16, 2021

Hi Ron, Thanks for commenting and thanks for the "Not financial advice" waiver so I can give you an honest opinion without going to jail! I'm going to assume you mean the Vanguard Health ETF (VHT) - Which is not technically global, it's US Health firms but they're all global leaders so pretty much means the same thing, you just miss out an a couple of european players.

I still like VHT, it's given me 14% return since October and that is way beyond my expectations. I guess for me it comes down to how long you want to stay invested. My personal view is that the pandemic will be old news within 3 years which is the key drive…

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