Meg Blumsom has been a lifelong investor, having started at primary school when she was encouraged to invest in savings stamps each week.
Meg, 70, says this savings habit continued into her adult life: “Back in the 1980s my husband and I tried to save regular small amounts when we had young children and were trying to pay off a hefty mortgages.
“At first this was just to get a three month buffer to our savings, then to add to our pensions. Gradually we became more adventurous, buying shares in companies and building societies as they were privatised. After the mortgage was paid off, we were able to save a lot more.”
Today, Meg — who is retired — and her husband manage their own investments. She has two main objectives: to maintain the value of her capital in case it is needed later in life to cover costs, but also to help her grandchildren, whether it is with university costs or getting onto the property ladder.
This focus on the next generation has made her think more carefully about her investment principles. She says: “Ethical investing is now very important to me. I don’t want my money doing harm.
“To this end, I have divested of any stocks and shares which contribute to climate change, or which had harmful practices, possibly hidden in various complicated fund structures. I now only use funds and bonds that have strong green credentials – in other words, no holdings in oil or gas or tobacco or flying.”
As well as screening out these “harmful” stocks, Meg also tries to adopt a more positive approach when it comes to picking individual funds and holdings: “More and more of my money is going into supporting sustainable investments and ones which strengthen communities.”
Meg, who lives in Gloucestershire, spent her life working in the public sector, so has a reasonable workplace pension scheme, on top of the state pension. Alongside this, she invests in a mix of bonds, Isas, a few direct shareholdings and Premium Bonds.
Through her Isa she invests in the Triodos Global Equities Impact fund. Triodos is an ethical banks, offering a range of investment and banking products. This fund, which was launched in 2013, aims to generate a positive impact and competitive returns from a concentrated portfolio of equities issued by large-cap companies offering sustainable solutions.
Triodos says it only invests in companies that meet its strict minimum standards, when it comes to issues such as sustainability. To do this, Triodos looks at sustainability factors alongside traditional financial metrics when assessing the long-term potential of any stock. It will also assess the impact of ESG (environmental, social and governance factors) on these drivers.
Morningstar gives this fund a three-star rating. Over the past three years it has delivered trailing returns of 9.78% for investors, and 12.08% over five years.
Meg has been pleased with these returns; she is looking for low safe growth, which has been comfortably delivered by this fund. Meg also uses Triodos’s crowdfunding site to source some direct investment opportunities.
Through this, the couple have invested in a community hydroelectric scheme in Lancashire and a community wind farm in South Gloucestershire. She has also invested in Thera and Golden Land Housing, a company which providers housing for disabled people.
She adds: “In the past we have chosen bonds in schemes that help offenders gain skills to go back to work, and in ones providing leisure centres in larger urban communities. I also like to help projects in developing markets, particularly through micro-banking and other similar schemes.
“We try to be a bit eclectic about what we choose while not having too many small investments to keep an eye on.”
Not all these small schemes deliver decent returns though. Meg has previously invested in a community energy bond which collapsed, largely due to the volatility in the domestic electricity market. She also bought options in some rare metal shares, on the basis that this company would benefit from developments in new technology, but this did not turn out to be the case.
She says: “In both cases the investments were, fortunately, a relatively small percentage of our overall portfolio. However, I would say that over the years we have also learned that stocks and shares were not always the best investments, even if you researched all the information and they seemed like winners.”
Over the years Meg has changed her investment strategy as the couples’ circumstances changed: “We used a financial adviser at one time, but decided that our own research was as valuable as ay financial advice.
“Now I would use a tracker fund, rather than a managed one, providing it was ethical. I can see that as I age it will become more difficult to remain an interested investor, but I have adapted to different investment environments over the years, so maybe I can continue to do that.
“We went through a period of high mortgage rates in the 1980s, when retired people then seemed to benefit from big savings; now, with no mortgage we have to cope with low interest rates generally.”
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