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 from Pexels


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

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

Top 5 important truths I have to unlearn

I love Maven Money podcast though I know Andy Hart, the presenter can be a bit Marmite. I have been inspired by episode 123 ‘Top 10 Important Truths We Have Had To Unlearn with John Ndege‘. It has made me reflect and write about the received wisdom or unchallenged assumptions I have taken as ‘truths’ – which have ultimately influenced my approach to money, personal finance and FI. These ‘truths’ are quite ingrained and it has been interesting to unpick them and think about how they have driven my thought patterns and behaviour.

You work, stop work and retire
I am not alone on this one, this is the received wisdom of most people I think. We have three phases of life, education, work and then when the government dictates we move into a third phase of our lives – retirement. For me there are two possible images of retirement; a brightly coloured future where we finally have the time and money to do what we want – full of travel and indulging our hobbies and interests – but we are in our sixties! Better pack it all in before we got too old and frail. The other image is something less colourful, a time of continued worry over money – and again we are in our sixties! – with potentially another thirty years of counting the pennies, turning the heating down.

This is a lovely image of an older person.
But this is the image I had of what a retired person looks like.

This ‘truth’ had me thinking I had to work full time until at least 67, it seemed dictated to me; out of my control.

Shifting my mindset to FI has challenged this ‘truth’ to realise, I don’t have spend all those productive years working full time, I have choices and I can shape my own future through being more intentional in my present.

Only rich people can retire early
This is linked with the above ‘truth’ for me, only people fortunate enough to have a a wealthy background or a ‘well paid’ job can retire earlier than when the state decides. This ‘truth’ tells me a) I am not in a position to have sufficient wealth to make my own choices and b) it takes a long time and / or difficult choices to become that wealthy.

Shifting my mindset to FI has challenged this ‘truth’ to realise a) there are always people richer than me but I am in a fortunate position and b) with focus it does not take as long as you think and the choices don’t have to be that difficult.

I am apparently in the top 2% of the worlds richest people and I have a higher income than 79% of the UK population. I don’t feel rich but those statistics challenged me to see my situation more objectively. Rather than focus on what I don’t have, focus on what I do have, and how to lever the benefit.

It does take time to accumulate enough wealth to be FI. That is a ‘truth’ but how long depends on when you start, what decisions you make about how much to invest and how much is enough. I don’t see most of the choices I make as negative – as can’t do’s but rather as can do’s, but for a future me.

Having a career and doing well is important
My work and doing well at work has always been important for me. I was the first in my family to go to University and progress to a job in Higher Education. My job has not just been a means to and end but an end in itself, a symbol of achievement.

This ‘truth’ had me too closely associating my self worth with ‘doing well’ in a professional job. Shifting my mindset to FI has challenged this ‘truth’ allowing me to think whatever I choose to do, or not do – is me doing well. I want to live different lives, I want to work in a garden centre, as an estate agent, in the booking office of my favourite cinema! And any of these choices are my choices and my choices are good enough!

Being interested in finance is boring at best and means you are an uncaring capitalist at worst
I found my feelings about this ‘untruth’ difficult to articulate, but here goes. I was brought up in a left leaning house and I had the idea I wasn’t interested in money, I was interested in people, in more important concepts such as education, equality, fairness, art and creativity. Money had to be earned and there was no stigma in that, but investing in the stock market was exploitative and not something I was interested in. This is less an ‘untruth’ more of a misunderstanding, a lack of knowledge or understanding of the relationship between wealth creation and creativity, that the stock market is all around us, in our cupboards, living rooms and on our drives. This ‘truth’ made me think I had to choose between money and my principles and values, which meant I did not engage early with the basics of wealth creation including saving and investing. Though I was never a debt head or an over consumer. So when I did start getting more interested in personal finance I was a little embarrassed about it, it seemed at odds with my values. I felt I / it was boring and a bit crass / low brow… if that makes sense. It sounds odd now I am writing it! Unlearning this truth has opened up a whole new world to me that I find interesting and stimulating, I don’t care if others think it is boring and shifting my mindset to FI has helped me see the obvious, money is the lever to a life truly of my own making and does not contradict any values I have of fairness or equality.

Managing finances and investing is complex
Yes the ‘truth’ is finance and investing is very very complicated, very specialist, not something I can or want to get get my head around. This ‘truth’ has led to avoidance and missed opportunities. It has led to me being in my late 40s / early 50s thinking what the hell have I been doing with my money. I have consumed quite a lot of content on personal finance, largely through podcasts, which has me unlearning this ‘truth’ – the new ‘truth’ is it is embarrassingly simple for normal people like me – of course there is lots of complicated stuff out there – but I am shocked that the basics of budgeting, saving, investing in passive funds for the long term, which is really most of what I need to know, is fairly straight forward!

Am sure I am still working under many an illusion finance wise but what about you, what truths have you had to unlearn, what impact have they had on your journey to FI?

September 2019 Update

One more month of squirreling, and what has it brought? Not as much as last month even though my savings rate is the same.   My net work increased by…

  • 0.43%
  • £492

Nothing did very well this month, however one silver lining was I received my annual statement from my DB pension. I googled the transfer value and it is £273,106 (the calculator gives a range and I take the lower number), which is £35,023 increase from last year. Yippee!

Actions from last month

  • Reinvest the RMG dividend due in Sept
    • Update: done, the princely sum of £37
  • Increase investing and reduce saving. Invest the £225 of the £250 I usually save
    • Update: done, from this month I am starting investing a total of £670 into Vanguard Lifestrategy 80% Equity per month instead of £445
  • Monitor my spending to see if I can increase my savings and investment
    • Update: this was a bit of a surprise, I did monitor my spending quite diligently. I am a fan of cash but to help me monitor my spending I used my debit card 95% of the time. Bearing in mind, this expenditure is purely my personal money for eating out, drinks with friends, clothes, weekends way etc, and came to £831.11 – with £200 on eating out and drinks down the pub. I did though have some exceptional one off expenses
      • nearly £300 on a 5 day cycle holiday in Scotland
      • £75 on a handmade woollen cape for my nephews wedding

In the end there was very little money left over in September to invest, however it did motivate me see if I can manage my going drinking and eating, I do enjoy it but maybe a month every now and again, I challenge myself not to. Not October though, I have lots already in my diary!

Action for this month

Following on from the FIRE meet up in September I am planning on 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 may then have an action to increase my DC contribution in additional to or at the expenses of my S&S ISA.

Inspired by TEA’s post ‘That stuff is money…‘ I am committing to selling stuff on eBay during October. I don’t have anything major just some books and stuff so aiming for £60.

MCR FIRE meet up 27th September 2019

My 1st and and Manchester’s 2nd!

  • Venue 7/10 – J said it was too noisy
  • Atmosphere and conversation = 10/10
  • Fire fans = around 15
  • Pints of cider = 2
The Well Area in the Rain Bar

A great night last Friday at Rain Bar Manchester for my first meet up with other FIRE chasers. Some venue issues, it was noisy, they finished food early and they didn’t reserve the area as I agreed. However all this didn’t spoil the evening at all. I met lots of lovely new friends and learnt a lot and have some actions for the coming months.

My favourite conversations….

  • Talking match betting with W and K – both gave me some tips, confidence to give it a go and offers of help.
  • Using a SIPP as a bridge between your FIRE and DB Pension date with M – this has had me thinking how I could use my combination of a DC pension pot and a Stocks and Shares ISA rather than take my DB pension early. Taking the DB pension early is subject to penalties so I need to do some analysis on how I can use the DC pension pot and ISA investments as a bridge, at least for a year or two.
  • Had a good chat with B and her partner D, B is interested in doing a FIRE podcast, good luck B – looking forward to seeing how you progress this.
  • Met J, a long time FIREer – probably before FIRE was a thing – who talked about being FI since Margaret Thatcher came to power! How impressive. This was at a time when you had to fill out forms and send your investment instructions by post!
  • Chatting with S who is in the same sector as me.
  • Finding out about the North West Shares Group with DW and starting to think about some joint activity / attending their more formal investment club skills share meet ups.
Thank you

We also discussed ‘coming out’ to friends and family about our FIRE journey. It was interesting to note and reflect that many of us don’t share our FI aspirations and goals. B said she did share her savings with one friend and the conversation didn’t go well. W thinks when they talk about RE with colleagues they think she is banking on winning the lottery! I do have a couple of friends who are financially flexible / near independent through frugality and saving rather than investing. However I am still in the FIRE closet (albeit with the door open) so I could not be more surprised when after about an hour into the evening who should turn up but a good friend who lives 40 miles away and I haven’t seen for a while! I’ve been outed, my cover blown. I and Namaste Marn (a pseudonym!) had a good catch up, a laugh about the randomness of the evening and made a pact to try match betting in a couple of months.

Next steps / take-aways

  • 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.
  • Read up on and watch the match betting videos recommended by W and set a date with NM to start our match betting challenge!
  • Chat with other FIRE chasers and DW about a possible more formal joint meet up with the investor club.
  • Get our next meet up in the diary, November or January anyone?

And it didn’t end there…

As if talking match betting and SIPPs with complete strangers but now new friends and meeting up with NM wasn’t random enough – as me and NM were leaving RAIN Bar and discussing if they were coming back to mine for the evening, or taking the train home a young man came up to us wanting directions.

He was looking for his friend’s flat near a McDonald’s, but not the one he’d just passed. We pulled out our phones to help. While chatting we found out he was a drag artist called ‘Tallulah Tampax’ from Potters Bar, had just got off a train from Blackpool, where he’d left his phone down a drain and needed to get to his friends’ flat near the other McDonald’s – which was actually in Salford – and be on the door at Napoleon’s on Canal Street in full drag and high heels in an hour!

After messing about and trying to give him directions – I am a good map reader but it was quite late, I’d had a couple of ciders! I gave up and said – ‘look let me get you an Uber’. Whooooah you are saying why are you prepared to spend £3.97 on a complete stranger when you could invest that and get £10.77 in 20 years time at 5%! It might be worth saying he guessed my age 10 years younger than I am. NM and I waived him off with the advice to pay it forward, he got in the cab, didn’t look back or return our wave. Oh well.

  • What where your highlights of the evening?
  • When shall we meet again?
  • Where shall we meet?
  • Would you be interested in more formal learning session with North West Share Group?

August Update

Let’s talk numbers. This month I saved the usual 38% of my gross salary as usual with around 17% into cash and S&S ISA, and increased my net worth (exc DB pension) by

  • 0.85%
  • £1,259

My S&S ISA did OK with growth of 0.85% excluding my regular monthly investment. Am still hanging on to my Royal Mail shares hoping for them to crawl back up to the purchase price, so the £68 increase is good but I know I should sell and cut my losses. No growth in my DC pot despite investing £241, looking on the positive side – buying low(er).

Actions for next month

  • Reinvest the RMG dividend due in Sept
  • Monitor my spending to see if I can increase my savings and investment
  • Increase investing and reduce saving. Invest the £225 of the £250 I usually save

My first ever blog post….argh

Hello my name is the squirreler and I love personal finance. I love that it provides me with tools, techniques and a mindset to achieve my goals – but I love reading about it, listening to podcasts and messing about with spreadsheets just for the fun of it!

I think about it as like my love of maps, again I love that they help me understand where I am, visualise where I want to be and how to get there, but actually I just love maps, the beauty and utility of them.

So why am I starting a blog, what do I want to get out of it and why do I think you might be interested?!

I’ve been quietly getting on with my financial independence journey before I had even heard of FIRE, and now I am ready to start talking about it. No-one likes to talk about money do they? It is seen as boring, something personal (akin to talking about your sex life), self centred or braggy, a touchy subject… take your pick.

Well I am outing myself (slowly!).

I want to

  • Document my journey – have a record for myself at least
  • Understand myself more, my biases, world views and challenge myself – there is nothing like writing it down, trying to create coherence from fragments of ideas to really understand what you think and why
  • Explore ideas, reflect on my journey and the journey of others, learn and take action to improve
  • Get feedback and challenge from others
  • Engage and network with other bloggers

Why should you be interested?

I have no idea, I do hope people find it interesting and useful and I will always challenge myself to suggest actionable tips and take aways’ (if just for myself).

But please bear in mind, I have no financial qualifications or credentials and nothing I write constitutes advice – I am just an ordinary person trying to do something which I, at least, think is extraordinary – be financially independent and live my best life.