Getting Your Finances in Shape

September 12th 2019, Martin Wilcocks

If you’d have been sat with me two and a half years ago, on a freezing cold January morning in 2017, in a small grey office at the back of Lewis Bailey’s Gym in West Kirby, you’d have heard this conversation over the rain lashing against the windows…

Lewis: Hi Mart, what’s happening then pal?

Martin: I’m 45 years old, and I’ve been going to the gym for five years and I just can’t seem to put any real muscle on, or get rid of all of this spaghetti and Barolo”. (I was pointing to my waistline).

Lewis: What’s your gym routine?

Martin: Well, I go 4 or 5 days a week, jump on the treadmill, run as fast as I can for 2 miles, then I just do high intensity lunges and weight work. But it’s just not working out for me.

When Lewis had finally stopped laughing, he told me that I was doing it all wrong. He could see instantly that my body shape was an ectomorph.

Lewis: Mart… you’re an ‘Ecto’, you can’t afford to run! Any muscle you’ve been putting on, you’ve just been running it all back off again!

Getting Nowhere Fast

In terms of my fitness, I’d been getting nowhere fast (and I’m not just talking about running on the treadmill). Lewis jumped into action and started drawing up a plan for me, but he was honest from the off about results. It was going to take me over 18 months to develop the fitness and physique I wanted. We started the very next day and I committed there and then to four days per week. Those who know me know that I have to crack on immediately. I can’t delay or think too much about stuff. If it needs doing, it gets done there and then or I just get really frustrated.

I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly horrific it was in the first few months. Just pure torture. It got a bit easier as we progressed, but I learnt very early on why 90% of people give up. After nine months of foundation work, we started the development stage, with more and heavier weight training. It was just as difficult, but by then I was committed. Twelve months in, there was no going back, and we soon moved into what Lewis calls the performance stage, which is when I’m happy to say I started to see real results.

Today, after two-and-a-half years of four-days-a-week gruelling gym work, I calculate I’ve done 520 hard hours of proper training. I reckon I’ve done well over 35,000 lunges – and let me tell you, I’ve felt every single one of them!

My fitness progress – before and after training with Lewis

Making it Work

I made it work by removing every single barrier and obstacle. You know – the ones that end up being used as excuses. I set myself a firm routine, a winning system, and I stuck to it. Nothing gets in the way of this. Repeat: nothing. Even on holiday, I make sure there is somewhere to train. No excuses.

This is where the similarity with investing comes in: I have a system, and I stick to it. It comes back to the same principles for a successful outcome.

The only difference is that when it comes to investing, the shoe is on the other foot. I get to be the one calling the shots, drawing up the plan and setting the targets – all, of course, for the good of my clients.

The Wilcocks & Wilcocks System for Investment Fitness

  1. Equities: In your investment portfolio what really matters is going all out in equities, rather than bonds or faffing around with ‘asset allocation’. Exposure to equities as much as possible is the way forward, even during retirement years, contrary to what some journeymen may say. Scoring low on a risk test doesn’t necessarily mean you have to invest the majority of capital into bonds just because a network-based investment adviser or bright spark at the FCA says they are less risky than stocks. This is nonsense.
  2. Large cap; small cap; value cap: You invest in the globally developed large cap market; you have tilts to the small cap and value cap markets. You repeat this again in the emerging world with large cap, small cap and value cap. Done. You do not mess with the structure. Repeat: you do not mess with the structure. Small-cap and value-cap equity exposure alongside main market large-cap equity will give uplifted returns over time.
  3. Rebalance: You rebalance when necessary or just top up the laggards when things drop off. Remember: the falls have always been temporary, but the rise is permanent. In the last 60 years, large cap throughout the developed world has done around 10% annualised through good times and bad. Small cap, 15%. Value cap, 14%. For more on this, see my videos.
  4. Control costs: You need to keep overall costs (adviser/fund/platform/custodian) to circa 1.3% per annum so that the drag on growth is low, and you don’t fall prey to what I call the £64 Billion Problem
  5. Keep on keeping on: It’s vital to avoid panicking and selling out. Keep calm when the markets tank and everyone else’s behaviour is erratic. In fact, doubling up on any regular contributions to your portfolio when the markets do tank means your capital will go further and you’ll be in a great position to benefit when the markets start to rise again.

In my opinion, that’s pretty much what it takes to make – and importantly, keep – people wealthy and their investments healthy. I hope you take something from my post that makes a positive difference in your life.

Photo showing Martin's progress in April 2019.

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