Friday, November 26, 2021

Defined Benefit vs. Defined Contribution Update

Each time I was given the choice to be in a defined benefit scheme or a defined contribution superannuation scheme, I chose defined contribution. So, now and then I like to check whether I made the right decision. I worked from 1996 to 2001 in the Australian Higher Education sector. In fact, at the same employer I now work for. Originally, defined benefit was the only option. But then they gave us the choice to switch. In 2001, I rolled over my account to Colonial First State and then this year to our SMSF. I have now worked out how much that money is now worth. I estimate that it is AUD 410k. In 2009 I started working at the same employer again and opened a new Unisuper defined contribution account. It now has AUD 477k in it. So, in total I have AUD 888k. Including the 5 years that I worked from 1996 to 2001 my defined benefit lump sum would now be AUD 473k. We are going to need to have a big crash to make those numbers equal...

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Save, Inherit, and Invest

I love reading the Millionaire Interviews at the Earn, Save, and Invest Blog. One of the questions they get asked is "What would you say is your greatest strength in the ESI wealth-building model (Earn, Save or Invest) and why would you say it’s tops?" Compared to many of his interviewees, our earning has not been that strong. Despite my salary putting me in the top 5% of Australian earners, it's only nominally about USD 125k per year. On the other hand, our household income including superannuation contributions and net investment income is nearer USD 250k per year. Historically, I would have said that our strength was in saving. Before we bought the house and had children, we had a very high saving rate. But, in the last few years, our investment profits have really taken off. Now the sources of our net worth are roughly 25% saving, 30% inheritance, and 45% investment returns.

I've posted earlier versions of this crazy chart before:

It separates net worth into saving and investment returns in superannuation and non-superannuation accounts, inheritance, and housing equity. Part of housing equity is saving and part gains. Maybe, in the future I will split that up in the graph. Only recently is that difference becoming significant.

Up till the end of 2014, we saved a lot apart from the meltdown following the crash. Since then we moved savings into housing equity and superannuation, resulting in negative current savings. More interesting is that after the first transfer to housing equity the growth rate of savings (i.e. the slope in the segments without a transfer) is much lower than before 2015. On the other hand, retirement contributions remain strong.

P.S. 25 November

So, I made a chart showing just total savings, inherited money, and investment returns:

Investment returns are the gap between net worth and the other two categories. As investment returns went negative a few times, plotting them in the same way as the other two sources would be confusing. This graph shows that savings continue to increase but at a slower pace than they did in the first part of the previous decade.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Cadence Opportunities Starts Trading

I had decided not to buy more shares in the Cadence Opportunities (CDO.AX) IPO. But the stock closed at AUD 3.00 on the first day, up from the IPO price of 2.77, so perhaps I should have. Still haven't got our holding statement yet and it's not on Boardroom's website so it will be a while till we could actually trade it. They tried to raise AUD 52 million and only raised 15 million. So, it's surprising that it is trading above the IPO price, really.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Ruffer Investment Company Rights Issue

Ruffer Investment Company (RICA.L) launches a 1 for 4 rights issue at NAV. The stock has been trading for a small premium. This isn't very exciting and is a bit annoying as I just bought 4,000 shares for £3.05 a share. I had sold those shares for less than that to buy into the Regal Funds (RF1.AX) rights issue. I sold some Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) shares and used part of Moominmama's concessional contribution for the year to buy the shares. We have a total of 8,000 shares in the SMSF.

I don't think I'll be taking up the rights in the SMSF as I'd have to sell something else or make another retirement contribution. Maybe in Moominmama's account where we have another 8,000 shares.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Update on Australian Office Fund / Australian Unity Diversified Property Fund Merger

I have been planning to vote no on this merger for a number of reasons. The explanatory booklet for the merger has been released to the ASX. This provides details on the options to exist the fund. Though the unitholder meeting will be on 10 December, we have to decide by 8 December whether we want to exit the fund. However, we can choose to withdraw only if the merger goes ahead, so that is OK.

They are also offering to redeem a minimum of AUD 24.8 million of units if people want to redeem that much and maybe more than that if the merger is approved. If the merger isn't approved the cap will be at AUD 8.6 million. So, I plan to submit a withdrawal notice now and vote no. My guess is that only part of our investment will be redeemed if the merger doesn't go through. Anyway, we could always apply for more units again if we really wanted to in that case.

After reading all these details I am happier than I was about the proposal, but really would have preferred if they raised more capital instead. I would have been happy to invest in more units.

Auction in Our Development


After a few recent sales in the neighboring development, finally two houses were listed in ours. One was auctioned on Saturday. I went to the auction. The price was AUD 971k, which was a 66% increase on the original 2008 price. It is a record for our development both in dollar and percentage terms. The previous highest price was 850k back in 2015. This confirms that the recent sales in the neighboring development weren't flukes. There is another, smaller house for sale. It's one of those "by negotiation" ones. Neither an auction nor a listed price.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Changing Target Asset Allocation Again

 I still think it is useful to have one...

Reducing the bond allocation and moving it to the equity allocation including hedge funds.

Thursday, November 04, 2021


I was contacted by a head hunter today for a senior government position on the borderlines of research and policy. Normally headhunters approach me about academic positions, so this was a bit different. I wouldn't have to move for the job and I could plausibly apply for it. It would pay about double what I get now. I had a look at the "selection criteria", the current holders of the same level positions, and some reports they put out. I was already thinking that I would have a lot less freedom in such a position. The upside is I am a bit bored again with my career and it would be a new challenge. I felt positive when I saw the backgrounds of some of the people in those positions. But when I looked at the reports I felt mind-numbingly bored. Typical government reports with heaps of recommendations. I just don't think I could do it. So, I told the headhunter no, but recommended someone else.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

October 2021 Report

The run of winning months in Australian Dollar terms continued. We haven't had a losing month since March 2020. This is a 19 months run so far. As this was only a slightly positive return, it could become negative when all the unlisted investments report.

The MSCI World Index rose 5.36%, the S&P 500 by 7.01%, and the ASX 200 fell by 0.09%. All these are total returns including dividends. The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.7227 to USD 0.7518. We gained 0.07% in Australian Dollar terms or 4.10% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is gained 0.68% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to rise 2.54% in US Dollar terms. So, we underperformed the target portfolio benchmark and the two international indices but beat the HFRI and Australian indices. Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (currency neutral returns):

Private equity had the best performance but hedge funds contributed the most to performance followed by private equity. Several asset classes lost money. Gold performed worst.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Pershing Square (PSH.L) gained AUD 26k and Tribeca Global Resources (TGF.AX) gained AUD 25k. Both, and especially PSH, are still well below their net asset values.
What really didn't work:
  • Regal Funds (RF1.AX) lost AUD 27k following the rights issue and placement. Issuing more shares at NAV is sure to depress the stock price. Cadence Capital (CDM.AX) lost AUD 11k. The fall in the price of The Metals Company post-IPO is probably weighing down the share price.

The investment performance statistics for the last five years are: 

The first two rows are our unadjusted performance numbers in US and Australian Dollar terms. The following four lines compare performance against each of the three indices. We show the desired asymmetric capture and positive alpha against the ASX200 index. We are doing a bit worse than the median hedge fund levered 1.6 times. 

We increased our distance from our desired long-run asset allocation a little mostly due to the RF1 placement increasing our allocation to hedge funds. Private equity and bonds are both underweight and hedge funds and real assets overweight. I think having an allocation does make me think harder about overweighting in a particular direction but right now I am thinking of changing the allocation again by reducing the bond allocation to 5% from 10%. Our actual allocation currently looks like this:

Roughly two thirds of our portfolio is in what some consider to be alternative assets: real estate, art, hedge funds, private equity, gold, and futures. We receive employer contributions to superannuation every two weeks. In addition we made the following investment moves this month:

  • We participated in the Regal Funds (RF1.AX) rights issue and placement, buying 17k shares.
  • To help fund this, I sold 4k shares of Ruffer Investment Company (RICA.L). This was a bad move, as it immediately finally started increasing. 
  • I sold 25k MOT.AX shares (Australian corporate debt fund). The idea was to fund buying shares in the Cadence Opportunities IPO. But then I changed my mind about that.
  • I made a concessional contribution to the SMSF of AUD 20k for Moominmama for this tax year. This replaces her previous salary sacrifice contributions to PSS(AP).