| Real Life Strategies for Building Wealth

Because it is always better to build a house, including your money house, on solid foundations today I’ll be reviewing the performance of our investments in 2017. Previously, as part of my annual review, I used to update you on our health, wealth and successes during the year. This time, I decided to just touch on health and accomplishments and focus on our investments.

Suffice to say that we have been generally healthy apart from the occasional cold. This, my friend, is very good news: being in our ‘middle years’ we are already surrounded by people who are chronically ill. Pleased to say that John and I have not reached the time of life when we discuss (only) piles and joint pains over coffee.

As to accomplishments, last year these included:

  • A visiting professorship for me at the University of Lund, Sweden (so now John can joke about me being ‘double Doc’ and ‘double Prof’);
  • My interviews on high visibility money and business podcasts (despite radio not being my medium);
  • Fronted FinCon Money Master in London;
  • Spoke about Universal Basic Income at FinCon in Austin, Texas;
  • The Money Principle got back on the list of ten top money blogs in the UK.

(I was inspired to think of my accomplishments during 2017 by J. Money; thanks, friend.)

Not a bad year by half, it looks like.

Let me tell you now about our investments in 2017. This is going to take a bit longer not because I want to brag; it will take longer because this is where my experience can be reproduced.

Health is a matter of genetics, life style and luck.

Accomplishments are a matter of long trajectories of choices and competence.

Investing is a matter of following some basic rules, patience and dedication. Anyone can do it and succeed.

Our investments in 2017: key points

  • Our investments achieved return of 17% overall. Not too shabby though it is lower than the 21% returned by the S&P 500 index.
  • The value of our assets and investments increased by a cool 37%. This includes increased value of a business and new investments.
  • Our liquidity is high at approximately 50%. One thing being in debt taught me is that high liquidity is important.
  • We changed the structure of our portfolio. Recently, we added gold and crypto currencies to our portfolio; we no longer hold individual stocks and shares.

Our Nutmeg and Vanguard ISAs still rock

You know that I believe ISAs are a very good investment; stock and shares ISAs to be precise.

Do you know why it makes sense to contribute to a sound ISA before you do anything else? It is all about tax, friend. ISAs are very tax efficient.

John and I have stocks and shares ISAs with Nutmeg and we also have ISAs with Vanguard.

This is what they returned in 2017:


Return %

Nutmeg ISA (Maria)


Nutmeg ISA (John)


Vanguard ISA (Maria)


Vanguard ISA (John)




  • The difference between the two Nutmeg ISAs is because of the different level of risk these have been set on. Mine is risk level 8 and John’s is risk level 7; yes, the difference in return seems to be nearly 2%.
  • Vanguard has returned much less because the ISAs were opened at the beginning of November.

How did Scalable Capital do?

Last February I opened a general investment account with Scalable Capital.

In fact, I set up a little competition between Nutmeg and Scalable Capital (if you’d like to know more about Scalable Capital and how it works you can watch/read my interview with Adam French, founder and CEO of SC).

During 2017, Scalable Capital returned 3.8%.

You see? Nutmeg did much better than Scalable Capital during 2017 and there is a good reason for that: last year was a year of equities. Still, one year is not enough to judge the relative performance of investment vehicles; Scalable Capital will be tested, I reckon, when the bear market roars.

(It has to be said that my Nutmeg and Scalable Capital accounts are set at different levels of risk which probably accounts for the different returns.)

Our businesses are growing

Our portfolio is very un-usual. Tell me, how many professors in science and innovation dynamics own 50% share of an MOT and services garage?

Well, this one does.

The garage did well in 2017. It made 20% ROI as dividend (the profit is much higher, but it was re-invested in modern equipment and facilities).

Apart from that the value of the business has increased ten-fold.

My internet business hasn’t grown as I’d have wished but then you get out what you put in. It still brought in over £15,000 which is not bad for a side hustle. Next year, I’d focus on growth.

Other investments

What is left are out small investments.

We still have £6,000 in the House Crowd and it is returning the promised 6% per year.

Our solar panel still return 6-8% per year (payment) and save us considerable amount on the electricity bill.

I have some money in crypto currencies (not a lot) and this returned 38% in a month. (Hard to pinpoint because it keeps going up and down all the time).

I also have £2,000 worth of gold coins. As I’ve said before, this is not so much an investment, as it is my absolute emergency fund. Have been buying only sovereigns because one of those in crisis (I mean crisis like the world going ape-sh*t) will feed the family for a month. Only someone who has lived through hyper-inflation once would understand where I’m coming from. I have eight gold coins and will likely buy 6 to 8 more.

Overview of our investments and returns in 2017

Here is an overview of our investments and returns in 2017.our investments in 2017our investments in 2017To put it in perspective, here is an overview of the value of our investments and assets in 2017.Please note that:

  • My online businesses are not included in the overview. Have a good reason but this is another conversation.
  • We have very (relatively) small amount of money in crypto currencies. It did return 38% in a month, but it is still speculation, not long-term investment. At least for now.
  • Our Vanguard ISAs are small simply because we opened them very recently. We’ll be growing these.
  • We are growing the Scalable Capital account as well. My feeling is that it will redeem itself in the long run and the return is still ahead of inflation.
  • Investing in businesses beats the pants off anything else.

How about investing in 2018?

Hell yes!

I just need to do a bit of thinking on simplifying and consolidating. I’ll keep you posted.

How did your investments do in 2017?

(If you don’t invest, please start in 2018. Remember that ‘investing is like making your future self a present.)