How I started investing at 15: AIA member shares her journey
Marina Cardillo (MC): Tell me about your investing journey
Helen Pagnin (HP): My investment journey started early, at the age 15, thanks to my father George, who is also an AIA member. I got my first job at 15 and my father encouraged me to put almost all my earnings into savings and shares. We constructed a portfolio together and the investments primarily consisted of large cap stocks such as Telstra (ASX: TLS), BHP (ASX: BHP), CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) and Wesfarmers (ASX: WES). Later, I sold my portfolio to fund our first home at the age of 26. Watching my portfolio grow and experience the power of compounding returns sparked my passion for equities. My dad has been an incredible mentor to me, encouraging me to invest in financially sound companies from an early age, with the key focus on becoming financially independent. Both my parents migrated from Greece to escape financial hardship, so they really value education and hard work.
When my husband and I sold a share in a family business, I was a young mother. Rather than return to full time employment, I wanted to invest the funds and obtain a regular income to substitute our wages. My husband made a career change and was studying full time, doing a PhD. This was the beginning of a new phase of my investment journey and drove me to invest in income generating assets such as commercial property, property trusts and managed funds. At this time, I also set up a self-managed super fund as well as my own equity portfolios.
I have now been investing full time for over 10 years.
MC: That’s an interesting journey. What role has the AIA played in your investing career?
HP: My father introduced me to the AIA and I have found the conferences and events really valuable, particularly in the early stages of my investment journey. The AIA gave me access to many credible, smart and entertaining investors and fund managers. I left my first AIA conference* feeling inspired and motivated to invest in international/local managed funds, property trusts, etc.
MC: Has your strategy and investment approach changed over the years?
HP: I’m now more confident to make my own financial decisions and no longer use managed funds. This has resulted in higher returns, and I like the fact that I am constantly learning and evolving, developing a personalised investment approach. Around 80% of my portfolio is committed to stable financially-sound businesses, this includes CSL (ASX: CSL), Cochlear (ASX:COH), ARB Corp. (ASX: ARB), Wesfarmers (ASX: WES), ResMed (ASX: RMD), ProMedicus (ASX: PME) However, I also like to invest a small amount in the small cap space, in hope to find the next market darling. I often trade stocks in hot sectors if I see an opportunity.
MC: What are some of the other benefits of being an AIA member?
HP: A benefit of being an AIA member is that it gives me an opportunity to make some wonderful friends, those who are often older and wiser than me. Another great benefit is the investor conference, where you get to meet new and interesting people and learn from their investment experiences, both good and bad.
I have formed a strong friendship with Angie Elis who I meet at a conference many years ago. We have formed an investment group with other private investors, and we regularly meet to discuss investment ideas and we regularly share information with each other. We often organise meetings with company management that we are interested in investing in.
MC: How forthright do you find management teams of listed companies?
HP: Most management teams are happy to meet with you, particularly those from small cap companies. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and understand the business and its competitors. I have been a long-term holder of the Accent Group (ASX: AX1) and a recent highlight was being included in their investor day. It was wonderful opportunity to meet with the senior management, tour their head office and stores. And gain an insight to future vision of the business. The more you know about a company and its management, the more confident you feel holding a position, particularly if the business is facing short term headwinds.
MC: Are your decisions based on fundamentals? What about technical analysis?
HP: My decisions are primarily based on the fundamentals of a company, but I also look for growth companies in sectors that have strong tailwinds. For example, lithium, uranium, copper, nickel etc.
I use broker reports, Morningstar, Stock Doctor and Marcus Today to find investment ideas. I use the Vector Vest System to assist me with technical analysis of stocks. I find it useful as it prompts me to make sure that my portfolio is aligned with the overall trends within the market. For example, I have currently reduced my positions in discretionary consumer stocks, and I am overweight in mining and energy stocks. I try to maximise my returns this way and I also sleep better at night.
MC: There's a big move towards passive ETF investments. What do you think about this trend?
HP: I spent hours researching companies and making investment decisions, mainly because I enjoy it and find it rewarding. At times, I wonder if I should only invest in ETFs, reduce my stress and go to a few more lunches. The only ETF I currently hold is the semiconductors ETF. But if you're a younger investor, who doesn’t have the time or passion for equities then I’d suggest ETFs are the way to go.
MC: How do you keep records for your portfolio? Are you a spreadsheet person or do you use a specialised software program that helps record transactions?
HP: I use Sharesight as it is linked to my portfolios, property trusts, properties, brokers accounts and I can also add my international shares. All the transactions are recorded automatically. I can benchmark my performance against the major indices which keeps me accountable for my performance and assists with decision making. I can see what my overall returns are.. This keeps me accountable to myself and the family and helps me meet my financial goals and objectives.
*The AIA Annual Conference 2022, with the theme “Riding the Wave of Megatrends”, is being held at the Marriott Hotel, Surfers Paradise, from 27-30 March. Keynote speakers for the conference, with the theme Riding the Wave of Mega Trends - Investing for the Future, include futurist Shara Evans, renowned economist Saul Eslake, global economics expert Jonathan Pain and venture capitalist and entrepreneur Mark Carnegie. These leading experts will share unique market insights and exclusive investment ideas and opportunities for the coming years and the next decade.
With 40 presentations over four days, there is something for everyone – from beginners to experts. To find out more or register, click here https://web.cvent.com/event/7fa5273c-b835-4434-9695-780fd7977f40/summary.