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Sunday, 22 November 2020

Vanguard new website access finally working - and it still sucks

After almost one month, half a dozen online messages with various photos of ID, a selfie of myself holding the ID, and then the back of the ID, and two phone calls to customer service (to get action done within one day, rather than the usual 10-day wait for someone to get around to responding to an online message), I finally got my online access to the new Vanguard website. Well, for ONE of my accounts (our SMSF investment). My other Vanguard account is collateral on one of my margin lending accounts, so I will no longer have ANY online access to that account. Why? Because the new, improved website lets you apply for and redeem units online, with funds going automatically to your linked bank account. So, as the margin lender has the units as security for a loan, they can't permit you to transact online and have the funds transferred straight into your personal bank account.

Makes absolutely no sense to me, as all they need to do was disable access to the online transaction page for any accounts where that are on a margin loan. Or, simply set the bank account details to be the cash account that is linked to your margin loan account, and disable online changing of bank details (which would probably be a good idea, as if your online Vangard account was hacked (or they have a data breach), then a hacker could log in, change the bank account details, and then redeem off your entire investment.

The website also doesn't really offer any new functionality aside from being able to make online purchases and redemptions of units. And even that looks problematic, as it seems that if you sold units the funds would go automatically to your linked bank account. Which doesn't seem a sensible way to do things if you want to move funds from one Vanguard investment to another, to change asset allocation or do a rebalancing.

The whole website redesign seems mostly geared towards making the UI specific for use on mobile devices such as a phone. Which is fine, except that the website lacks rudimentary OS detection (so when viewed on a laptop the display looks like it was designed for Kindergarten kids to use, with hardly any data on the screen and everything in a massive font).

Moving to the new website also meant that the existing (paper based) retail funds are now 'closed' to new investors (existing investors can still add to their holdings in these funds - for the moment). That meant that they were no longer listed in the fund unit price lists under 'products', and I had to make another phone call (and wait for the CSR to seek advice from her supervisor) to find out that the old funds unit prices were buried on back page of the website, which was not easy to find without specific instructions (I've now saved those price data pages as 'bookmarks' on my browser).

The other problem with the old funds being 'closed' to new investors is that this usually means that those funds eventually get would up entirely (in my past experience this usually happens after 12-24 months), which will then mean having to move our current investments into the equivalent, new ETF fund. Great, except that this will mean and sell/buy transactions, so we'll get some realised capital gains while I'm still in accumulation mode (paying 10% tax within our SMSF on long term capital gains), rather than the 0% tax rate that would apply in a few years' time when my super account is in 'pension mode'.

Unfortunately there's no way to avoid that, as closing our existing Vanguard investments to move them to another product provider (eg. Dimensional Funds) would also result in a CGT event.

The CGT implications probably aren't all that dire however, as we already switched investments around within Vanguard in February and then again in June as we moved from 100% High Growth to 50% bond and 50% conservative funds back in Feb, and then moved to our current allocation of around 50% Conservative and 50% Growth (with monthly new investment going into the High Growth Fund) in June.

I was thinking about moving us back into our long term 100% High Growth asset allocation back in October, as it appeared that the markets might improve in the long term, but there was a bit of a dip due to the 'second wave' (or 'third wave' in the case of the USA) of Covid-19. However, as I couldn't access the new website I didn't have an opportunity to do the transactions online, and with the significant market gain over the past month or so, it looks like I missed our chance to rebalance at a 'low'.

At this time I'm undecided whether to switch the 50% that is currently sitting in Conservative into the High Growth Fund, or wait a bit longer and see if there is a market correction/buying opportunity during the US/European winter when Covid-19 deaths might peak before vaccinations get rolled out in significant numbers during 2021.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Net Worth: OCT 2020 part 2

Finally got access to the new Vanguard website - it tool almost a month after the old system had been turned off and I tried activating my login to the new system. I was able to update our SMSF estimate and finalize the other figures required for my end of month net worth calculation and have updated my monthly entry in networthshare

During October the value of my geared share portfolios had declined by $6,226 (2.1%) but this was offset by my estimated superannuation savings increasing by $6,131 (0.51%). The estimated value of our home increased slightly, increasing the value of my share by $1,814 (0.22%). We continued to slowly pay of the relatively small balance remaining on our home loan, so my share decreased by $254 (0.62%). Overall, my net worth increased by $1,973 (0.07%) during October to $2,643,488. The stock market has been performing strongly so far this month, so my NW for the end of November seems likely to have improved considerably.

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Indulging my doomsday fantasy

As a 'prepper lite' I had previously bought a selection of cheap (~$100) radiation detectors (0.05-99 uSv/hr), but although they seem quite precise (but not calibrated) for measuring normal background levels of gamma radiation and can indicate small increases in gamma radiation levels (e.g. if held close to an old thorium-enriched gas mantle or a piece of depression era 'uranium' glassware) they would not be of any use for civil defence (e.g. measuring significant radiation levels from a 'dirty bomb' terrorist attack, nuclear accident (not that Lucas Heights research reactor is capable of a serious nuclear incident), or if there was fallout from use of nuclear weapons).

So I finally bought myself some antique (cold war vintage) gamma radiation detection instruments that *might* be of some use (if ever needed). Without spending $395 to have them calibrated by ANSTO (and they'd probably laugh at anyone wanting these 'antiques' calibrated anyhow) they won't provide reliable measurements. But hopefully they would at least provide an indication that they was a problem (significant radiation levels) and let me know that evacuation or shelter-in-place was required (you don't have to know exactly how much radiation there is, as just knowing there is significant radiation tells you it's time to take action).

What I bought (on eBay) was a CD V-777-2  radiation detection 'kit' (well, at least that is what the vintage box says, but the actual items included were not the original set) that consisted of a CD V-715 model 1A survey meter, two 100R dosimeter pens (CD V-740) and a Bendix CD V-750 model 5b charger (plus some cool original instruction manuals etc.) for US$90 plus US$30.25 postage and US$17.03 import charges (GST). Total cost was A$189.57. A second purchase was for an IEH CD V-750 model 5b charger and three 200R dosimeter pens (CD V-742) that were supposedly "tested", for A$20.70 + A$39.76 postage and GST = A$59.46. Unfortunately only two of these three dosimeters will charge and zero properly (the third one can be charged and set to zero, but drifts towards FSD at a rate of several R every minute, so is totally useless. After recharging/zeroing many times over several days it was still no good, so I binned it. I've emailed the seller to try to get a replacement sent out for free, or get a few dollars refunded).

After charging and zeroing the four working dosimeters I've checked the readings daily for several days and there was no noticeable drift. I'll check the readings each week to chart their rate of drift. Then repeat the process several times to see if their rate of drift is consistent (if so, the raw dosimeter readings can be normalised to compensate for the know drift rate to get more accurate readings). All dosimeters will slowly lose charge and 'drift' towards FSD without any exposure to abnormal radiation levels (normal background radiation levels provide around 30 mR per year, so won't affect a 100R dosimenter).

The V-715 survey meter I bought would have been made in the early 1960s (the final model 1B was produced in 1964), and my one is not stamped with a "R" after the serial number, so it has not been through the refurbishment process that FEMA used on their V-715s in the 1980s to improve their reliability and maintain their calibration longer. So far I haven't even put batteries in the V-715 and done a circuit test, so it is really only a conversation piece/antique.

So, all up I've spent about A$250 to get some working (but uncalibrated) dosimeters and a survey meter that is of dubious functionality (but as a modern survey meter such as a Fluke 481_DESI costs over $7,000 and even a RadEye G series palm sized survey meter costs around A$2,000, I'm not going to spend much for something that will probably never be used). There is a miniscule probability that I'd even need them, but if I ever did they are not the sort of thing you can get at the corner store in the event of a crisis (that's why I also have a few packets of potassium iodide tablets in my first aid kit).

BTW I was also looking around on eBay for some vintage (original) fallout shelter signs that usually cost around $50-$100 each, and came across a batch of ten that I was able to purchase for 'only' A$255 (plus $100 for shipping from the US to Australia). I'll probably keep a couple of the signs and try reselling the remaining eight signs locally (so postage isn't too exhorbitant) on eBay. If I manage to sell them off I might make some money to cover the cost of the signs I keep and the radiation detectors I bought ;)

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Friday, 13 November 2020

Lodged an amendment to DS2's tax return

A few months ago I submitted DS2's tax returns for the past several years (as the dividends from his share investments and interest on his bank savings slowly grew his income tax liability has slowly grown and now exceeds the franking credit refund). I initially hadn't bothered including his 'earned income' from busking, but then realized that without any earned income he wouldn't get the government co-contributions for the $1,000 undeducted contributions he made into his superannuation account in FY 2018 and FY2019. I did the amendment for his 2019 tax return and the result was a small reduction in the amount of income tax he earned (from around $35 to under $30 - I'm not sure why having more income reduced his tax liability - probably something to do with the low or middle income tax offsets?) and also resulted in the $500 government co-contribution for that FY turning up in his super account a few weeks later. When I get some spare time I'll do an amendment for the other year where he earned some money busking and made a contribution into his superannuation, which should result in another $500 co-contribution from the ATO into his super account. Every little bit helps, especially when it will have half a century to compound in a low tax environment before he reaches retirement/preservation age.

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End of October "12% solution" portfolio changes

After looking good for most of Sep/Oct (I was tempted to close out the QQQ position early when it had a good run - but decided to stick to the monthly trades recommendations and see how things go in the long term), QQQ tanked towards the end of the month.

For end of October the signal was to sell the QQQ holding and move those funds into IWM (iShares Russell 2000 ETF (All Sessions)): 60% IWM and 40% JNK.

The market spiked up on the news of the successful vaccine trial, and this added to the generally positive market movement as the US election outcome became clearer, so my "12% solution" portfolio is looking a bit healthier again as I write this. 

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Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Net Worth: OCT 2020

My end of month NW calculation has been delayed as I can't yet access my account information via the new Vanguard website that got rolled out on 19 October. I'll update my networthshare monthly entry as soon as I have the date, and update this post then.

I expect my NW to be done slightly this month, as the share markets took a bit of a dive towards the end of October. This will be slightly offset by a modest rise in the estimated value of our home (~$2K for my half share). The Sydney real estate market appears to have stabilised in the suburbs, although apparently the inner suburbs have seen some weakness as workers decide that they don't need to live close to work if they can telecommute (work from home). Apparently there has also been a bit of a boom in regional areas close to Sydney (such as Wyong and Gosford) which is also been attributed to the increasing viability of teleworking.

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