Last updated: 24 September 2018
By Maynard Paton
This page outlines the resources I use to select my shares, track my portfolio and maintain this Blog. I hope you find the details useful.
If you have any questions, just contact me here or leave a Comment in the box right at the bottom.
I have used SharePad since 2015 and consider it to be an exceptional service.
The SharePad website has full details of what’s on offer, but in brief I use the service mostly for stock screening.
The beauty of SharePad versus Stockopedia and Company Refs is that SharePad allows you to filter on just about any combination of financial measure.
For instance, you can set up a screen based on all of these conditions:
* retained earnings greater than, say, 80% of net asset value, and;
* revenue per employee greater than, say, £50,000, and;
* a share price within, say, 5% of its 52-week low, and;
* director holdings above, say, 10%, and;
* net cash greater than, say, zero, and;
* a pension deficit of, say, zero.
You just can’t do such in-depth filtering within Stockopedia and Company Refs. Indeed, I have used both Stockopedia and Refs and neither come anywhere close to SharePad’s vast amount of fundamental data and stock-filtering flexibility.
SharePad costs £300 a year, and it’s the only investment service I pay for.
I must confess, I probably use only 20% of SharePad’s capabilities.
The service provides all sorts of intricate price charts, as well as comprehensive data on US stocks and the wider markets. E-mail alerts, multi-window layouts and something called the carousel are other features I have yet to really employ.
Anyway, SharePad does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee to give you time to assess the service without a full commitment. What’s more, special offers occasionally arise that allow you to use the service for three months for something like £30.
Plus… I have arranged with SharePad that you can enjoy your first month free if you subscribe with this link:
If you do join SharePad, please let me know how you get on through my contact page.
I opened a Youinvest account back in 2001 because the broker (then called Sippdeal) offered one of the first cut-price online SIPPs.
Since then, reasonable dealing charges, decent administration and an absence of major problems have kept me as a customer. Youinvest is now the first broker I consider when opening a new account — or as a new home for an old account.
In contrast, I have ended up using Selftrade following various stockbroker mergers. Years ago I had a comdirect account, which became Squaregain , which became Selftrade and then became part of Equiniti.
I have stuck with Selftrade as the trading costs are not too bad, and I have found the service is more likely to trade smaller-company shares ‘at best’ — and therefore without the use of limit orders — than Youinvest.
That said, the Youinvest website is easier to use, its dealing costs and other fees are cheaper, and the service even allows me to vote on EGM resolutions. The Selftrade website is awful.
I should add that both Youinvest and Selftrade suffered website problems during the sell-off that occurred immediately following the Brexit vote. Other (more expensive) brokers suffered similar difficulties, and I have resigned myself to being unable to deal during times of sudden market turmoil.
If you own funds, be aware that both services charge percentage administration fees based on the value of your fund investments. I own only individual shares, so my annual ‘platform’ fees are limited to a £30 ISA ‘custody’ charge (Youinvest), a £100 SIPP ‘custody’ charge (Youinvest) and up to a £48 ISA ‘inactivity’ charge (Selftrade).
No doubt there are cheaper broker options around. However, I would like to think my time would be better spent hunting for attractive investments rather than trying to save a few pounds moving to a new broker.
I record my portfolio transactions within MS Money:
This Microsoft package was discontinued during 2009, but I continue to use it because the thought of transferring all my trade details (dating back to 2004) to another application fills me with dread. MS Money actually works quite well, and provides the calculations for my Portfolio page.
My reluctance to switch from MS Money meant for years I ran an old Windows XP machine purely for hosting this package. Then I discovered VMware Fusion, which allows Windows programs to run on Apple Macs. So now I have a convoluted set-up, whereby I run MS Money on a Mac via Windows XP through VM Fusion.
A quick Internet search found pages such as this where MS Money can be downloaded for free.
I visit Investegate every morning to read the day’s regulatory stock-market announcements. This website is free.
I prefer Investegate to other sites, such as the London Stock Exchange’s own regulatory feed, because:
* only the important statements are shown (lots of technical announcements are ignored);
* the site’s design is simple and clear, and;
* you can sign up for e-mail alerts.
Investegate’s main drawback is the site’s slow loading due to adverts. But I can live with that.
I use ADVFN to check live share prices. I use the site’s free service, which gives live prices for about five seconds before being timed out. You simply register for a free account and then create a portfolio for price monitoring.
Importantly, I have installed the ADVFN app on my iPad. That way, when the free live-prices feed times out, the prices do not disappear from my screen.
On a desktop, the prices sadly disappear when the timeout occurs.
The other advantage of ADVFN’s iPad app is that you are not deluged with the adverts that appear on the desktop version.
Just so you know, I have never felt the need to pay for Level 2 pricing.
The only other investment resource I use regularly is Companies House.
The beta version allows you to download annual reports for all UK companies for free. Needless to say, the site is incredibly informative.
Of course, you can visit company websites for annual reports. However, Companies House allows you to dig back to the 1970s if need be for past accounts.
For real investigative investing, subsidiary accounts as well as the main PLC accounts can also be downloaded.
Maybe one day we will all have to pay for these downloads. But for now I am making the most of the free access.
I don’t bother with investment publications such as Investors Chronicle, MoneyWeek, Shares magazine, and so on. Having been a share tipster in a former life, I certainly don’t bother with any share-tipping services either!
I occasionally look at the ShareSoc events page for upcoming company presentations, organised by ShareSoc and others. I am not a ShareSoc member, but the events are still free to attend.
I have used Tsohost.com to host maynardpaton.com ever since I started my website during March 2014.
I chose Tsohost as my webhost because it offered:
* good online reviews;
* a value-for-money product, and;
* a one-click WordPress install.
At the time I had only a brief experience of webhosts through 123-reg, which back then did not offer a simple WordPress set-up.
I simply thought Tsohost’s service appeared far better, and I have been quite satisfied with how things have turned out.
For what it is worth, I pay Tsohost £60 a year to host up to six websites with up to 10GB of storage.
My maynardpaton.com domain name costs £12 a year and privacy protection — so my home address is not shown on pages such as this — is another £6 a year.
So all in it costs me £78 a year to run this site and have capacity to host a few others.
The cheapest Tsohost plan at the time of writing allows you to host up to three WordPress blogs. The monthly cost starts from £2.92 a month — or £35.04 a year — (before 20% VAT) using the firm’s Startup option:
Every Tsohost customer gets a discount code, and I am happy to publish mine to help you save a few pounds when joining the service.
My code is MAYNARDP10, and you simply type that code into the box as you join:
Then click the > to the right of the code to show the discount applied. If you go for Tsohost’s 24-month Startup plan, the saving should be £8.40 (i.e. £7 plus VAT) from the £84:
Sadly the discount code — and the free domain name — is valid only for the initial purchase. When it comes to renewal, you will pay the full price.
I must admit I have not really looked to see if there are better-value hosting alternatives available.
To be honest, I have not really felt the need to, and I would like to think the savings are too small to bother with. Furthermore, the thought of migrating a live website does fill me with dread!
For now at least, I am happy to stick with Tsohost unless its prices increase significantly or the service/support deteriorates badly.
My WordPress Theme and Plugins
Here’s a quick rundown of my WordPress set-up. Everything in this first batch is (or was) free.
1) WordPress 2012 Theme: Chosen for its simplicity and ‘responsiveness’ (how it displays on different screen sizes).
2) Akismet Anti-Spam: Comes installed with WordPress, and has blocked 20,000-plus spam comments, but proven fallible with newsletter spambots (see CleanTalk below).
3) Better WordPress Recent Comments: Now a very old plugin that puts the latest article comments in the sidebar.
4) Child Theme Configurator: The safe way to implement site/theme redesigns, with the fallback of easily deleting your changes if something goes wrong.
5) Comment Approved: Gives the option of an e-mail approval notification to anyone submitting an article comment. (I’m not sure if any visitor to my site has actually used this feature.)
7) MailPoet 3: A wonderful drag-and-drop newsletter designer.
8) MainWP: Allows multiple WordPress sites to be managed from one location. A massive time-saver.
10) TablePress: Creates all of my Blog data tables. Can be clumsy to use but I am not inclined to look for a better alternative.
11) The SEO Framework: Helps optimises my posts for search engines and Twitter. Tricky to understand at first but seems to be working.
12) UpdraftPlus: Backs up my WordPress sites to Amazon S3. Integrates well with MainWP (see above).
13) Wordfence Security: Very comprehensive security and traffic-monitoring plugin, although has proven fallible with newsletter spambots (see CleanTalk below).
14) WordPress Force HTTPS: Forces old http pages to https after installing an SSL certificate.
15) WP SpamShield: Was once free, but now only available as a paid-for plugin. Overrides Akismet (see above), but still fallible with newsletter spambots (see CleanTalk below).
I use just three paid-for plugins
I’ve spent money on the following:
1) Anti-Spam by CleanTalk: Quite simply the best defence against spambots around.
Place any newsletter sign-up box on your blog and you are likely to capture no end of dodgy e-mail addresses from spambots.
When I launched my newsletter, I received about 20 fake sign-ups a day:
Sadly Akismet, WP SpamShield and Wordfence all let the spambots slip through.
But a quick Google search indicated CleanTalk had already spotted the spam addresses:
With CleanTalk installed, I now receive two or three fake sign-ups a month, if that. The plugin is utterly brilliant for just $6 a year. And no stupid (re)captchas, too!
2) GPL Vault: Not everyone’s favourite website, but the WordPress licensing system means premium plugins can be redistributed at low or no cost by third parties.
I pay $87 a year to GPL Vault to access all sorts of expensive WordPress plugins, including WP Rocket — which speeds up my site by caching files.
3) CSS Hero: This neat plugin allows me to refine the look of my site without any specialist coding knowledge. I have used CSS Hero primarily to modify the input boxes and submit buttons on my Newsletter and Contact pages — their default layouts looked quite clumsy.
The headline cost is $29 a year for one website, but I managed to pay $19 during a sale.
I plumped for an unusual newsletter set-up in order to mitigate the long-term cost of maintaining a growing e-mail list.
Most bloggers adopt a service such as MailChimp, which is easy to use and offers a free service for up to 2,000 e-mail contacts.
However, breach 2,000 contacts and the costs can quickly ratchet higher. For example, MailChimp charges £24 a month for maintaining 2,001 to 2,500 names on your lists. Reach 3,000, and the MailChimp monthly cost jumps to a hefty £40.
Having collected 1,000 or so Twitter followers in three years — with barely any Twitter engagement — I was worried my e-mail list could balloon in a similar fashion and leave me broke with MailChimp.
So I looked for a cheaper, long-term alternative and found Sendy.
Sendy is a self-hosted newsletter software package that runs on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) server. The beauty of using Sendy and AWS for sending e-mails is that your first 62,000 each month are free, and then every further 10,000 cost only $1 (yes, $1!).
To cut a long story short, my annualised AWS server/e-mail costs are pretty much fixed in the £70 to £80 range and I don’t have to worry about list sizes or sending frequency.
In fact, so impressed I have been with Sendy and my new-found AWS skills, I have documented the steps I have taken so other bloggers can save £££ on their e-mail bills. Here is the website and full Sendy guide.
If you want to know more about my MailChimp alternative, just contact me here and I will do my best to help.