Quick with the puns but considered with investment strategy

Cameron Jackson works for Queensland Urban Utilities and his main responsibility is to secure environmental licenses for 27 sewage treatment plants. He admits that some people might call it a crap job. He’s such a good sport; he lets the puns flow! 

But when it comes to his investing Cameron is all business. He has spent years focusing on his super and salary sacrificing. But with his children starting private school, some of his investing will need to be reallocated.

His kids already have small portfolios and are eyeing the cars they might be able to buy in a few years. Cameron is interested in the lithium stocks and might pop along to Orocobre’s AGM when the time comes to get an in-person update.

Cameron Jackson tells Buffy Gorrilla his greatest loss was with Dick Smith Electronics and how he likes to spend about an hour per week checking on the markets.

Cameron, can you tell me a little bit about what you do in the world out there?

Yeah, well I work for Queensland Urban Utilities, which is a water utility in Southeast Queensland and I’m in environmental planning.  So, my job is to get our environmental licences for our 27 sewage treatment plants, and then try to work out how we’re going to manage another million people coming into Southeast Queensland over the next 20 years or so.

Do you have any idea how you’re going to do that?

We’ve got some pretty good ideas.  Generally, innovation is going to be our key thing to somehow upgrade the facilities in a cost effective way.

When does that start or are you already on it?

Already on it.  We have master plans that we continually update looking at the forward population projections and try to work out how we’re going to manage all that sewage that all those people are going to give us.

I don’t even know how to respond to that.  Do you enjoy your job?  [Laughs]

Well, some people might say it’s a crap job!


But our work does flow in every morning.

I feel like the puns are endless with this conversation, Cameron.  Have you always been in the sewage business?

Yeah, well I started as a graduate chemist and Brisbane City Council had a laboratory to do all the testing of water and sewerage, and worked my way up into an environmental planning role 25 years later. 

Excellent.  And what is it about investing that first attracted you to it?

I suppose I was fortunate in a way when I joined up Brisbane City Council they had compulsory superannuation.  So, right from day dot I had to put 5% away of my money through salary sacrifice and council would put in 14%.  So, right from day dot I was investing and I didn’t really know about it.

Were you active in managing your super or you were just kind of putting the money away and forgetting about it?

I was only 20, so it went away but the good thing about it was you didn’t miss it because it happened from day one.  So, I reckon it should be mandatory for everybody to do it.  You learn to live on 5% less, and I’ve done it ever since.

Great, and when did it become more apparent that you needed to actively manage your money?

Probably not until my super grew to over maybe $100-150,000.  Up until then you’re sort of – I find in your 20s you’re doing other things.  It was probably not until I started a family that I started looking at it more intensely.  Lucky for me I had it in a high growth environment.  I think I got advice somewhere along the line that said just chuck it in there and forget about it, and so that worked well I guess over those early years.

Then what have you done since then, are you still actively doing salary sacrifice with your super?  Have you broadened your interests in investment?

No, still kept that 5% salary sacrifice going.  We might have to change that soon, my kids are starting to go into private school so I might need that extra money to make ends meet.  But generally always been more in shares and equities than property.  I’m just starting to more recently over the last couple of years, look at self-investing part of that superannuation through various service providers really.

How do you go about choosing your service provider, what’s on your list?

For about 23 years we had to use the council superannuation fund.  It was generally just I suppose in the latter time, moving money between the allowed investment options within the one super fund and more recently I’ve diversified some money into another fund that allows a self-invest option where you can invest in ASX300 shares directly.

How do you choose the shares that you’re going to invest in?

Well, that’s where the Constant Investor comes in handy.  I discovered Alan Kohler probably about 5-10 years ago and sort of liked his philosophy and general information and so I use him or the Constant Investor info as a guide and then do my own research and do a bit of conviction investing I guess you’d say.

What are some of the conviction stocks that you have purchased?

Well, when I started I did put some money in Dick Smith and soon realised that investing in something I don’t know much about probably is not the right way to go.  So, that’s probably my dog investment over the last couple of years.  Who knows, I might get some back on this class action, you never know.  Then I decided because I’m a chemist by trade I need to invest in something I can understand so mixing environment and chemistry together I ended up with lithium.  I’m a big believer in green energy and electric vehicles, I like that theme at the moment or over the last couple of years.

Have those been performing pretty well for you?

Yeah.  Some of the stocks have done well.  This year they’ve gone back a little bit and that’s just really a buying opportunity I see and then I’ve gone into a couple of – just put a few per cent into real blue sky junior miners hoping they can hit the pay dirt on the realisation that half of them are probably going to go by the wayside, but hopefully the ones that do well will do really well.  Probably my best investment has been Clean TeQ, got into there a few years ago at 12 cents and they’re probably my star stock.

How often are you spending checking in with your investments?

I’d probably do an hour a week, half an hour reading Alan’s weekend briefing and a half hour doing my own sort of mucking around.

How long do you spend watching a stock before you’re ready to make that investment?

Well, if it’s miners I’ll read their previous reports, look at their investment presentations.  For juniors, I’ll read all their feasibility studies and then I’ll go and talk to the process engineers in our section here and ask them some questions, particularly if they’re having problems and they’ll give me the confidence whether they can fix it or not and so it’s sort of a mix of I guess life skills and broader investment advice from The Constant Investor and people like that.

What do you think about infrastructure investment?  Obviously being on the ground in Queensland with the one million people that are going to be coming, do you think that’s an area that you might look at in the future?

Probably not directly.  I think the big super funds are going more that way, so I think I’ll leave that to more the experts.  But knowing that that’s probably investing the big super funds, you’re going to buy more of that type of asset class going forward.

You mentioned you have children, are you getting them on the investing bandwagon? 

That’s an interesting story.  I’ve been putting money away for them for a few years, I think that may be up to a couple of grand and they’re only getting 2% interest, and I sat them down and I said, ‘Do you want to drive a nice car or a 10-year-old beat up car when you’re 18?’ and they decided to go for the nice car, so I put their money into a mix of juniors.  One of those was Clean TeQ.  So, their $2,500 has gone to about $10,000 in the last two years, so they certainly got interested in shares pretty quickly.  [Laughs]

How often are they checking in with their stocks?

My son who’s 10, he’s got the watch list on his phone, so I think he checks them daily now.  My daughter’s not so keen, she’s more into dance and those type of things.  She’s just happy for the quarterly update.

They don’t go to the AGMs with you yet?

No, I haven’t been to an AGM myself.  They’re few and far between in Brisbane, but maybe Orocobre might have their AGM in Brisbane and we can go along and hear if they’ve fixed up their lithium plant in Northern Argentina or not.

Besides paying for private school for your two children, what are your other investment goals?

Well about 13 years ago we were going to buy a new house in Brisbane and we looked around and the one we wanted we missed out on and then for $100,000 extra I realised we could get a two-block house instead of a one block.  I sort of went way above my budget back then and we ended up buying a two-lot with the investment that at some point we can do something with the other lot.  I’ve sort of had a property investment hooked into my home and then the rest has really been shares.  I do have a mix, I guess in a way, of property and shares, but I thought investing in a tax-free asset might be quite useful later in life.

How much longer do you think that you’ll be working and do you have your eye on retirement?

Well, I’m a little way off yet, the kids are just to enter private school, so another eight years of school fees and I’m not 50 yet, so I think I’ve got another – 60 might be a nice date if I can get everything to work.

Excellent.  Well, and at this rate your kids might be able to pay for their own private school!

[Laughs] That would be nice wouldn’t it!

Fingers crossed!  Well, Cameron, thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it.

No worries.  Thanks for ringing me up and it’s been nice to have a chat.