April 2020 Net Worth Update

I feel like I am getting into the swing of life in lockdown. I must admit I did struggle before Easter, but since our time off over the long week I seem have learnt to better work and live at home and personally am feeling more on an even keel.

It is really humbling to hear about and see how people are responding to the crisis, particularly our NHS and other key workers. I feel sheltered from it with most of my family and friends working at home or being furloughed. I want to understand what is going on in the UK and abroad so I am watching the news, I am very much a news junky but am rationing myself … just a little.

I am still behind blogging both writing and reading – have loads of ideas for posts but for some reason the garden and kitchen deep cleans are taking my attention! This and my financial education in more general is something I want to prioritise for the next few months. Let’s see how I get on!

Getting to figures, where are we for April then? I have continued with a savings rate of 40% and topped up my investements with £572 from cash – the change in my net worth has been an increase of £1550 or 1.3% from last month (small yeah), however I am down 1.4% from the end of 2019 (small boo).

Actions from March

  • The main activity was to have the April MCR FIRE – Friday 17th April, using Zoom – I think it went really well and I will try and do a separate update. It was different of course, we used Zoom, and there were I think about 30 people, most from the North but some from farther afield, including fellow FIRE chasers from the London FI group. We had a couple of presentations from D and M and lots of discussion, which continued well after the ‘formal’ part of the evening.
  • Am dong OK keeping sane, positive, and connected, Have built up many a new habit of Zoom family calls, quizzes with friends and work colleagues. Have also been enjoying online festivals through United We Stream and Open Mic Nights e.g. One Mic Stand – am going to do a post on what I’ve been up to in lockdown in response to Saving Ninja’s Thought Experiment challenge.
  • … and not drinking too much cheap cider. A big fail here I have to admit.

Personal Expenditure last month

Total expenditure for April £194 which is 29% down on my monthly average and 26% of what I actually allocate for my personal expenditure. It does still amaze me that I can spend £200 and not supposed to be leaving the house, however it is all reasonable. The main expenditure of presents including some nice folders for mother’s day (£77.95), charity contributions (£46.90) and ‘Entertainment’ which now consists of books and booze! I am accruing some of my allocated personal expenditure to buy a new phone, and if I have any money left I will invest it.

Action for next month

Next month I really want to concentrate on my own personal financial education, this involves reading more including finishing ‘The Simple Path the Wealth’ and other FI books – I currently have, ‘Your Money or Your Life’, the Choose FI book and David Sawyer’s RESET on my to read list. I also want to use the blog to reflect my reading, deepen my understanding and take action. I am also doing FI101 ChooseFI’s online FI course.

At work, I and a colleague are our team’s ‘well being champions’. We are using the six ways to well being to support and engage each other in well being activities. The six ways to well being include, connect, take notice, be active, keep learning, give and care. There is nothing about financial well being so am planning on putting something of my own together for colleagues.

March 2020 Net Worth Update and MCR FIRE meet up change of venue (now online)

Well that was painful, unexpected and, new word of the year ‘unprecedented‘! Such a lot has happened in the last 10 days / 2 weeks hasn’t it? I am getting used to the new normal; working at home, the joys of virtual pub quizzes, having Zoom family gatherings and missing my daily cycle.

Am a bit behind with blogging generally so am hoping social distancing will give me more time to devote to thinking and writing about FI and engaging more with the FI blogging community. I must admit I have been avoiding blogs and blogging over last two months or so – partly I was away for 2 weeks on holiday, work has been busy but I think I also have been avoiding it all on purpose, bingeing on BBC news, indulging in a bit of catastrophising and getting used to new habits.

I am not going to reflect on what Covid-19 has taught me about financial markets and life in general or how I am spending my time in lockdown for this post. Just the numbers, here goes, since last month Feb 2020 and despite a savings rate of 40%, my net worth has decreased,

  • – 3.00%
  • – £3,622

Actions from December

  • Research Investment Trusts, what are they, how do they compare to funds and identify if they could provide more stability in providing a reliable income from investments when I FIRE.
    • I did a bit of research but am waiting for the April MCR FIRE meet up online to hear how M using them to support his FI
  • Research contributing to a pension when taking a pension, confirm how it works, if there are any restrictions and how it could fit into my FIRE strategy.
    • Complete. Understand this is still possible the amount you can contribute is restricted to £3,600 (individual contributions £2,880, tax relief £720).
  • Research the fund tips and decide if I would like to invest!
    • Not done, need to revisit
  • Think about the next FIRE meet up in the new year and see if a more structured session would be of interest – in fact D, Weenie and I have already been having an email exchange about the next steps.
    • Complete! We had a great meet up in the Salutation 21st Feb, we had a relaxed round table chat about who were are, how we came to FI etc and a presentation by Weenie on her approach to FI, great to see new faces and met the FI blogger FU man chu. Matt posted a summary of the evening on The Lemon Fool
  • Set up a mailing list so that anyone who attends the meet ups, whether they are a friend of a friend, use Facebook, Twitter or read blogs are aware of future events.
  • Additional quotes and a more detailed budget for the cellar conversion.
    • Still thinking about this, did a more detailed budget, but Covid-19 has put a bit of a blocker on this, so am pausing

Personal Expenditure last month

Parking doing this, mind elsewhere – am assuming with social isolation that ‘Entertainment’ budget line will be severely reduced!

But since I last blogged I do want to check in with myself, maybe the last time for at few months, of some of the social activities I have enjoyed,

  • 2 weeks travelling in Southern India – Tamil Nadu and Kerala
  • MCR FIRE meet up 21st Feb
  • Art of the Brick – Arty Lego Exhibition at Northern Warehouse Manchester, with my nephews and their families and lunch at Carluccio’s (now unfortunately in Administration), my Xmas gift to them
  • Afternoon tea at Cloud 23 celebrating my friend’s 60th birthday
  • A canal boat trip with All Board from Sale Marina to Dunham Massey with friends – this was my Xmas present to them. We had lunch at the Axe and Cleaver and they even bought out Xmas crackers for us!
  • Met up with my 4 old school friends for drinks and dinner
  • Wine club with my friends (just before lock down – we were very very drunk)
Kodaicanal Tamil Nadu India

Action for next month

Keeping it simple this month

The main activity is our have our April MCR FIRE – Friday 17th April, is now going to be online using Zoom. Come and join us, you don’t even have to be in Manchester or the North West now.

Also am aiming to stay sane and positive, keep connected, and not drink too much cheap cider.

The power of the pot

I’ve been using ‘pots’ for years now to earmark funds for specific purposes. I started off simple, just the one or two pots. My oldest pot is ‘monthly spends’ a slush fund for discretionary expenses; booze, cinema, trips out… all that good stuff.

My pots are usually virtual rather than physical; current, savings accounts etc. But I have used physical pots (actually an empty tin of Uncle Jo’s mint balls) to squirrel money away.

Dave Ramsey talks like he invented potting (my snideness hides huge fandom, the subject of a future post), but calls it ‘The envelope system‘, having an envelope for each budget category, usually discretionary categories that it is easy to over spend on e.g. groceries, or going-out. Cash is put in each envelope so you ear mark your spending for that category – and his rules are, no money in the envelope no money to spend.

Putting a virtual or physical ring fence around funds for different spending categories is so simple but so powerful.

It allows you to see your progress toward specific goals.

It creates enforced scarcity so you don’t over spend.

It provides focus – a specificity which which drives good behaviour e.g. more intentional spending or increasing the drive to save.

It makes measurement simpler, and we all know what happens when you measure.

It provides transparency and clarity about what is happening to your money, where its going, showing either your priorities or your excesses.

Level 1 potting

It must be over 20 years since I started potting – this level one potting was mainly for my monthly spends as well as a pension and stocks and shares ISA pot.

I have always found separating off my monthly spending, all that lovely fun stuff that can just have your money disappearing into a round here and a lunch there, a corner stone of managing my money. This is the only account I have and do sometimes use an overdraft on. Even though I do have money elsewhere I would not use it for my monthly spends, opting instead to go into overdraft, suffer a fee and have to recoup the money from the next month.

Level 1 potting

Level 2 potting

When I really started getting intentional with my spending, and it may have coincided with my partner and I getting married and joining our finances, I can’t quite remember, but I took the potting up a level! Pots for household expenses, savings and home improvements were born. Like monthly spends household expenses is another cornerstone of managing expenditure. I kick myself that it took so long to get it set up. My finances were stabilising and my income increasing enabling me to save and think ahead on how to finance significant activity such as home improvements. This pot has allowed me to finance some very expensive but absolutely gorgeous sash windows!

Level 2 potting

Level 3 potting

I have now reached potting nirvana – a full set of pots where every pound is accounted for. This is a very recent state of financial affairs. I listen to Dave Ramsey on loop and he prescribes the every dollar budget where every single dollar is accounted for. With level 2 potting there was money hanging around, some of it I classed as an emergency fund, some of it I used for holidays or propping up other pots, basically it was a a bit sloppy and ill disciplined. So I set up two new pots, holidays and Xmas. I have set up an account with a local credit union for Xmas spends to support community based ethical saving and lending. I also decided to define more clearly my emergency fund and inspired by Maven Money podcast (espisode 142) have put £5,000 emergency fund into Premium Bonds.

Level 3 potting

Now ever pound is accounted for so I can now track my priorities and my excesses!

Are you a potter? Are you Level 1, 2 or 3?

MCR FIRE Meet up February 2020

First MCR FIRE Meet up of the new decade! 21st February 2020 from 6pm, informal presentations from 7.15pm. ‘The Salutation’ was a hit in November so we are heading back.

Something a little different this meet up – as well as the usual informal evening with the opportunity to meet like minded FIRE chasers, it will include an informal presentation and discussion on ‘The  FIRE journey and investing for FIRE’.

Getting there

Address: The Salutation, 12 Higher Chatham Street, Manchester, M15 6ED, just 10 mins walk from Oxford Road Station.

Car parks: There are a number of car parks near by as well as some street parking near Manchester Metropolitan University

Get the train: 10 mins south of Oxford Road station

Map of Salutation from Oxford Rd Station

All welcome at whatever stage in the journey!

2019 Year in Review / 2020 Goals

Have really enjoyed other blogger’s year in reviews and goal setting for 2020, am a bit late to this party and have changed my mind on goals for 2020, slimming them down and trying to be more focused. Here goes!

2019 was a good year financially, with significant, for me at least, improvements to my net worth however you cut the pie. Whether I measure just my cash and investments, whether I include the BTL or my own home in the calculations, all figures are on the up and are improvements on last year. See the updated net worth in £s in my Net Worth page.

My Financial Year in Numbers

The idea that what gets measured is improved has definitely come true for me this year – I have definitely got into better habits this year in terms of

  • increasing % of savings in investments
  • decreasing the % of my total net worth in cash, but still a way to go
  • monitoring my monthly spend so I can 1) be honest with myself, 2) look at how to reduce spending and 3) be realistic about what passive income I need for FI
  • setting up more squirrel pots so I manage Xmas and holiday expenditure better

I have continued to consume lots of personal finance and FIRE content largely by podcasts. I listen to Dave Ramsey every day! Check in with ChooseFI regularly and love my UK based podcasts of Meaningful Money, Money to the Masses and Maven Money.

Also this is the year when I have started reading blogs, blogging myself and making more connections with other people in the North West interested in FI. I have been involved in two MCR FIRE meets up and have got a lot of encouragement, motivation, tips and knowledge from like minded people. I have also started reading more of my fellow FIRE chaser’s blogs as well as being more active on Facebook include the ChooseFI Manchester UK Facebook.

2020 Goals

So what about my goals for 2020. I am a goal setter and sometime goal achiever! This year I am going to be focusing on goals in 3 areas

  • Financial
    • Increase savings rate to 40%
    • Increase in net worth to exceed or at least be in line with 2019 figures i.e. 28% increase in net worth
    • Increase savings / income by £2,000 with side hustles / squirreling / being more ruthless with budgeting
  • Personal
    • Focus on well-being and get a better better work / life balance, leave work on time, sleep better and don’t self medicate – which will leave me more time, energy and head space to do more of the things that make me happy
  • Preparation for FI
    • As well as all the the financial goals above, I also want to work on getting myself and my partner ‘on the same page’

December 2019 Net Worth Update

A great month to finish the year, a significant increase in this month, however a good bit of this was due an accounting error, an omission of a cash account. It also included as last month another £1,000 of my cash used for home improvements. This month’s net worth,

  • 2.6%
  • £3,033

Actions from last month

  • Reduce the amount of personal expenditure categorised as ‘Misc’.
    • Reduced it down to 22%.
  • Review the ROI numbers after the initial cellar conversion quote and consider getting at least 2 more quotes over the next month. After which agree a plan to save the money and a timescale for the conversion.
    • Not yet received my quote but got a finger in the air amount was on the high side – but even so it was over 5% ROI. Have set up a squirrel pot to save a monthly amount and am planning on undertaking the work within the next 12 months. I will be getting a couple more quotes and doing a detailed budget in January.
  • Confirm that my cellar conversion plans fit into the ‘Rent a room’ scheme.
  • Research Match Betting.
    • Still not done. In my head this is this is time consuming and difficult. I need to look at a way to carve out some time and break it down into manageable chunks.

Personal Expenditure this month

Carried on monitoring my personal expenditure during December. December is obviously an expensive month but I have been squirreling away money monthly for Xmas presents so my general expenses isn’t much more than usual, in fact its a bit less!

  • Family Christmas meet up
  • Junkyard Golf with work colleagues
  • Works Xmas meal at a lovely restaurant in Manchester
  • Family birthday celebrations
  • Stereo MCs at Manchester Academy
  • The musical Gypsy at the Royal Exchange
  • General Xmas and New Year celebrations with family and friends

Action for next month – most of these are taken from MCR FIRE Meet up in November

  • Research Investment Trusts, what are they, how do they compare to funds and identify if they could provide more stability in providing a reliable income from investments when I FIRE.
  • Research contributing to a pension when taking a pension, confirm how it works, if there are any restrictions and how it could fit into my FIRE strategy.
  • Research the fund tips and decide if I would like to invest!
  • Think about the next FIRE meet up in the new year and see if a more structured session would be of interest – in fact D, Weenie and I have already been having an email exchange about the next steps.
  • Set up a mailing list so that anyone who attends the meet ups, whether they are a friend of a friend, use Facebook, Twitter or read blogs are aware of future events.
  • Additional quotes and a more detailed budget for the cellar conversion.

MCR FIRE meet up #3 29th November 2019

MCR FIRE meet up #3

  • Venue = 10/10 – a lovely relaxed venue – food and real ales available
  • Atmosphere and conversation = 10/10
  • Fire fans = 10, 6 fans from September meet up
  • Pints of cider = 2
The Salutation
Salutation Pub

A great night on Friday 29/11 at the Salutation Pub for the 3rd MCR FIRE Meet up. A great venue, the staff were really helpful in organising us a corner. It is a lovely old pub with a great atmosphere and they have the option of a great separate space to hold more intimate gatherings. It was busy but not too busy and very easy to hear conversations. There was 10 of us, 6 of us from the September meet up and 4 new friends, three P, H and J who came all the way from Wigan!

My favourite conversations….

  • D from the share group and M were keen to see the meet up try out a a different approach and have presentations and talks – a more structured agenda to mix up the evening. They both said they would be willing to kick us off and share their insights and expertise.
  • Great to see B and her partner D again and we had an interesting discussion on ethical lending using Credit Unions. BBC Money Box recently had a programme on Credit Unions, what they are and how they work. One thing I took away was that they need new savers to ensure they can meet lending demands. So I made a commitment at the meet up to set up a Credit Union account in the New Year to act as a separate squirreler pot for Xmas savings.
  • Don’t know how we got around to talking about it but M clarified for me that I could still pay into a pension after I take my existing DB pension and benefit from tax relief. I am not aiming to hang up my working boots completely after I FIRE – I will probably still be doing some paid work – completely of my own choosing of course – so what a great idea to get a 20% boost to my investments through saving into a SIPP?
  • One issue I have been mulling over is how do you get a reliable income from investments after reaching FIRE? M mentioned his use of Investment Trusts rather than Funds in his strategy to ensure a stable income from his investments due to the fact they can reserve some of the income they receive from the investments they hold, allowing them to pay these dividends out to investors during less profitable years.
  • Got a couple of fund tips from P, ‘Lindsell Train Global Investment Accumulation’ and ‘Fundsmith’.
Thank you https://www.pexels.com

I did ask people where they heard about the meet up, most find out about it from Weenie’s blog, D’s share society of the ChooseFI Manchester FB group. So there is no one way to communicate to interested FIRE chasers, so thought it might be helpful to have a mailing list to capture all attendees details to make sure they are updated about future events. Let’s see how it goes.

Next steps / take-aways

  • Research Investment Trusts, what are they, how do they compare to funds and identify if they could provide more stability in providing a reliable income from investments when I FIRE.
  • Research contributing to a pension when taking a pension, confirm how it works, if there are any restrictions and how it could fit into my FIRE strategy.
  • Research the fund tips and decide if I would like to invest!.
  • Think about the next meet up in the new year and see if a more structured session would be of interest – in face D, Weenie and I have already been having an email exchange about the next steps.
  • Set up a mailing list so that anyone who attends the meet ups, whether they are a friend of a friend, use Facebook, Twitter or read blogs are aware of future events.

And now to you …

  • What were your highlights of the evening?
  • When shall we meet again?
  • Would you be happy coming to the Salutation again?
  • Would you be interested in more structured session?

November 2019 Net Worth Update

At last a month where net worth is worth reporting! And I had to use £1,000 of my cash for home improvements. This month’s net worth,

  • 0.72%
  • £1,082

Actions from last month

  • Get someone in to do a high level quote on converting our cellar into a small apartment, then done a ROI / factor into my annual income when I FIRE
    • I have one contractor booked in for later this week, so will report back next month on the amount quoted. I did do a review of the ROI and it is looking very favourable with a return on investment of 50% occupancy of 10%, however this was for the lower cost estimate. The ROI reduces to 6% for the higher cost estimate. Both are OK with me as this is tax free if the income is part of the ‘rent a room’ scheme. I need to do my research to ensure it is.
  • Do some background reading on Match Betting as I aim to try it out in December
    • Haven’t done this, have been very busy at work and this is looking like another job. I will see how I feel in December and progress with it then.
  • Take some stuff to the charity shop
    • Two visits!

Personal Expenditure this month

Carried on monitoring my personal expenditure during October, and as month, most of it on entertainment / going out. I had some good times this month

  • Went to see Romesh Ranganathan – great night out.
  • Saw Kate Tempest at my favourite music venue in Manchester, the Albert Hall – an amazing artist.
  • Did an Escape Room with colleagues from work – we got locked in!
  • Went to Holmfirth Winery with my ‘Wine Club’.
  • Had a lovely weekend away in the Lakes as part of an Outdoor Conference.
  • Drinks with FIRE friends at the 3rd MCR FIRE meet up 29/11 – write up on its way!

Action for this month

  • Reduce the amount of personal expenditure categorised as ‘Misc’.
  • Review the ROI numbers after the initial cellar conversion quote and consider getting at least 2 more quotes over the next month. After which agree a plan to save the money and a timescale for the conversion.
  • Confirm that my cellar conversion plans fit into the ‘Rent a room’ scheme.
  • Research Match Betting.

The Light Bulb Moment

Knowing the path is different from walking the path

Knowing other people are planning on retiring early or have done so is different from knowing you can do it.

There is a process of awareness raising, understanding the concept, internalising it, having a mental shift and then thinking that’s me that is, I can and will do that.

Taking action consistently every day, week, month and year, and educating ourselves in the personal and financial activities needed to reach FIRE are important, but a key part of the journey is having that mental shift – it could be a one off epiphany that gets you straight there, a series of incremental nudges or a general dawning which shifts thinking.

Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com from Pexels

Metaphors

I wonder if for some it may have been like becoming a born again Christian, an immediate conversion, a paradigm shift. Not for me it has been more like a combination of slow realisation, walking some part of the path, and various pennies dropping.

I have been thinking of metaphors to describe the revelation, realisation and mental mind shift that takes place when moving to an FI mind set. Weenie describe it as ‘Being Tangoed’, ‘Taking the Red Pill’ as in the Matrix. I’ve used the term ‘The Epiphany’ in my post ‘How did I get here‘ – you could say ‘Light Bulb Moment’, an ‘Awakening’ but it doesn’t quite describe the full journey for me.

Thank you https://www.pexels.com/

I have had a couple of number of major and minor epiphanies. The first one as I’ve said before looking round for all the money I had ‘saved’ being child free and finding diddly squat. The second was the period after seeing a financial adviser. I saw one as I knew I was holding too much cash and not investing enough in a Stocks and Shares ISA. However I hadn’t actually understood or internalised just how much the balance was wrong. And since then – over the last couple of years I have increased by investment to x 9 the original amount and decreased savings to almost 0.

Boiling Frogs

The change or action needed is not always so obvious. We all know about the boiling frog fable don’t we? It ‘describes a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death’ (good old Wikipedia). Apparently this myth has been debunked, frogs do notice when when the water gets hot, however you know where I am coming from don’t you? Things change around you so incrementally you don’t notice – but suddenly something catches your eye, you really look and you are surprised by the extent of the change.

It has happened to me lots of time noticing my parents growing older, friends losing weight, the change face of a run down part of Manchester, Ancoats, which is now one of the city’s trendiest. I know the poor boiling frog isn’t a nice metaphor but it does describe that sense of changing and not changing.

It has taken me a lot of time to consume content and learn (at least what I used to think were relatively) complex concepts; get into the FIRE mind set, good budgeting practice, understand tax wrappers, what is involved in buy to let, how pensions work, what is a platform, what is a fund, how to compare investments, how to invest…phew…and loads more. However the biggest epiphany / awakening / dawning of all is realising that in all this complexity the truth is very simple … embarrassingly simple – don’t spend on silly stuff, take action, invest as much as you can in low cost track funds and be patient.

I think I’ve just swallowed the Red Pill.

What metaphors do you use to describe your journey, did you have any Red Pill moments, or have you been simmering away with the frogs?!

October 2019 Net Worth Update

Another lame month for net worth increase despite keeping up my 38% of gros income savings rate. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that we are in it for the long haul. this month my net worth increase is…

  • basically 0!
  • £62
Oct 2019 Net Worth

Actions from last month

Investigate the DC part of my pension and do some scenario-ising around using it as a bridge between when I want to FIRE and taking my DB pension – avoiding at least some of the penalties of taking by DC pension early. 

  • I did sit down and do this but my analysis went a different way – basically I don’t think I have enough years to build sufficient funds to leave work and defer my pension for a year or two or three, however what I did look at was
    • reducing the tax free lump some and increasing my annual pension by up to £1,500
    • reflecting on the reality that if I did want to leave my job at 55/57 I could but if I want to do some big stuff like buy that camper van, big ole holidays and basically live full fat dream life I will need to earn an extra c8k pa before state pension
    • So I need to reflect some more on
      • how full fat I really do want
      • what is the easiest / quickest / most fulfilling way to earn 8k a year
      • the obvious of saving more!
      • creating a passive side hussle based around converting our cellar into an airbnb

Selling on eBay

  • Not as lucrative as I had hoped – netted about £25 instead of my goal of £60. I ‘ll carry on and sell the odd item I think has most chance of getting a decent return. But I thought for the effort and return I’d just take the stuff to my lovely local RSPCA charity shop, let them get the income and I can put this down as my charity donation for the month.

Personal Expenditure this month

Personal Spends Oct 2019

Carried on monitoring my personal expenditure during October, and as month, most of it on entertainment / going out. I had some good times this month

  • my partners birthday
  • catching up with an old work colleague
  • seeing Jeanette Winterson at the Manchester Lit Festival
  • seeing my favourite singer Richard Hawley (cat nip for middle aged women!)
  • having my old school friend J come down for a couple of days, to see some live music, have cocktails and a nice meal out 
  • my annual old college mates reunion / catch up in Leamington Spa

Will keep monitoring, its giving me a realistic baseline for what I need for FI if nothing else.

Action for this month

  • Get someone in to do a high level quote on converting our cellar into a small apartment, then done a ROI / factor into my annual income when I FIRE
  • Do some background reading on Match Betting as I aim to try it out in December
  • Take some stuff to the charity shop