Monthly Update – Mar 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

March has proved to be a little better than expected.

Financially, my net worth has increased and I ended the month 3% up compared to my year end for 2020. This is a relief given that I have been living off my emergency fund and watched my shares and investments roller coaster over the past year. I completed as much work as I could on the virtual ‘gig’ site and equalled my Nov total so that has given me some extra cash. With the additional workers on the site and the currency fluctuations, the site has changed its currency ‘fees’ so I am not getting as much £££s as I was in Dec due to the poor exchange fees they have now started to charge. I am looking at ways to mitigate this so I can try to obtain as much value out of my work as I can. I have passed an English authoring test to enable me to access content work but no tasks have appeared yet. The content work should be offered on a site where I am paid in Euros but can hopefully reduce the exchange rate issues.

I have kept my expenses down this month and with lockdown, I have only been out to buy food & gifts (Mother’s day and my brother’s birthday). My brother has now had two birthdays in lockdown, not a nice feeling. Hopefully we will be out of lockdown my the time my birthday happens this year so I may be able to actually celebrate. My other expenses this month has been on my car, to keep it roadworthy, so the MOT and a new battery. Lockdown hasn’t been good for my car. I have only done 2,000 miles over the past year when I normally do about 16,000 – that’s a big difference ! So my car is now MOT’ed for another year and ready for use when we can travel further afield.

Job Hunting

I continue to keep an eye on the job market, but nothing interesting on offer at the moment. I will have to live off passive income and ‘gig’ work for the foreseeable future, which means that for this tax year I have been ‘freelance’ and had no full time employee employment – wow – I have never spent a whole tax year out of work. It also means that for the census I have had to put down that I am a freelancer.

With more people and ex-work colleagues being laid off and/or with the axe of redundancy over them, I don’t expect to find a new job soon. I have seen a few ‘nearly’ matches but they have a list of responsibilities that’s a mile long and the hours seem hard, long and arduous. I will have to start looking at other sectors where I can re-apply my skills. I am pondering a part-time job as I would like to change my work-life balance and not end up working the long hours I have previously done. A job within a less toxic environment would be bliss. I had a bad experience at my last workplace where a work colleague collapsed with a brain aneurysm after a traumatic office meeting. It was a 50-50 chance of survival for them, they were on the operating table for 6 hours, luckily they survived. I really didn’t want to go down the same path, I was having headaches and panic attacks and felt that it was the last straw for me so left while I still had my health.

Other Income

In a bid to find other avenues of income I have created a print website where I can upload my photography and any artwork and sell framed/unframed prints of my work. I now have to find ways of marketing the site so I can pick up some sales. I am not expecting a big success but if I can get a few sales via the site it will help to earn some extra income. I have posted links to ex work colleagues and business contacts. I am looking at how I can use Instagram to market my imagery and see if I can generate sales via that platform. I have signed up with some photo stock sites to see if I can sell images – all in $s again so will have the pain of exchange rates to deal with. I am no influencer and see this as a hobby and may give me more incentive to do more photography and also start doing some artwork.

I won another £25 on premium bonds this month so I already have £75 of ‘interest’ on my bond investment this year which is better than it would earn in a savings account and is tax free.

Some more share dividends were paid this month to add to my funds. It would be good if my other share holdings would start paying dividends but understandably they are holding back to maintain cashflow as they struggle with the effects of the current lockdown.

I managed to do some match betting this month, it was a bit dry for me last month, and I have increased the MB fund holdings. The total is slowly growing and as it snowballs the amount used for betting is improving and enabling me to obtain a wider range of betting options. I have grown my initial investment by 60% so far which isn’t too bad for a couple of minutes a month. All tax free too! I am only betting on the football as a ‘newbie’ and so the end of the football season will mean I will have to look at other sports to continue to earn a little bit of cash.

Rental

The good news is that the electrical work has been completed on my rental so I now have a compliant house. The certificate lasts for 5 years so this should help for a while as I ponder selling as the landlord rules continue to become more onerous. I will have to start considering when I should exit this sector as rules and regulations increase. It will be a hit to my passive income as this currently makes up a good percentage of it. It would mean looking at a part time job to provide a steady income source as its replacement.

Tax Year End

As the tax year end approaches I have been topping up my pension and ISA to their max so I can utilise the annual allowances using savings cash which is sitting earning no interest in their respective accounts. I have sold down shares to utilise my CGT allowance and have put this cash into my ISA and some into my pension. Hopefully this will be a long term good choice and I am already seeing some growth as prices rise a little. Based on my tracker, which shows the shares dipping due to the sale, the share trend has risen as share prices increase again so not looking too back. The cash injection in my ISA is already seeing an uptick too.

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have had my first COVID vaccine jab. I am now experiencing the side effects of headaches, stomach aches, sickness and tiredness. These are all minor compared to the possible affects COVID could have on me. I attended a large vaccination centre which was well run, very calm and efficient. So I am one of the 30 million to have received a vaccine in the UK. I have my second jab booked in so I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Can’t wait for the 12th April so I can go to a pub!

The Powerless?

I am watching the media and getting tired of the press coverage. It is annoying that you have to watch your back all the time when out alone. I have experienced ‘being followed’, I think the guy was actually just trying to unnerve me rather than actually do anything but it is the principle. They think it is funny to hassle women, he just kept laughing at me. I know it isn’t a female only issue, I know a guy who was attacked while waiting for a train by a gang of men – it was all caught on CCTV. The police arrested but never prosecuted the perpetrators. The world seems to becoming a harsher and more dangerous place.

When I was a schoolkid I was kerb crawled – the classic – Can you get in my car and show me where ‘X’ is – and NO I just kept walking and ignored the driver until they drove off. There was another occasion when a guy was hassling us while we waited at the bus stop for the school bus. It was reported to the police and next time it happened an undercover policeman appeared and arrested the guy. The police also did a ‘keep safe’ session with us to provide some guidance on what to do if it happened again. It means I cannot trust anyone and still find it difficult to help any male who comes up to me asking for help. I am sorry but after that experience I just don’t hang around. I may appear an unapproachable person but its a persona I have had to wear to keep safe. A sad fact of life.

The final straw comes when you get exploited because you are female. I have had the rip off sales patter for services so many times now I have become a terrible cynic. I have had to get male friends to obtain proper quotes for services to stop being ripped off. The latest attempt has been for house repairs. I have been quoted £11k for some replacement plastic guttering – ridiculous! It is just a joke, it should cost a fraction of that ! I know that guys get ripped off too but it seems to be more prevalent for women. The world just seems to be getting more aggressive by the day. This lockdown is not helping as it is fraying people’s nerves.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Solar – Is it worth it?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I thought I would pop this post up to see what others think. With the push to increase electric car use and reduce our country’s reliance on gas as a source of domestic heating (and electricity generation via gas powered power stations), we are being encouraged to change to use electricity rather than other fuel types.

When I was younger I was interested in solar as a form of domestic power supply and was an avid visitor of the CAT project in Wales ( https://cat.org.uk/ ). I think it is a good form of off-grid electricity generation. As I got older I found that the ability to install solar was expensive and not cost effective. I keep reading articles about the technology improving and the costs coming down but they still seem too high. I have looked at the costs a few times now, each time the numbers do not stack, I would be dead before I would break even on the installation cost. I know there were discounts in the past and a strange loan/lease scheme which back fired on home owners.

If the government is so taken with green energy, why don’t they force new build housing to have solar by default? Maybe it is because it will dent the profits of the house builders, but economies of scale should bring them down and if the government offered the right incentives to the builders it could work.

Retro fitting solar to an existing house is still too expensive. I have just received a letter from my council who are looking to do a group-buy scheme to try and get a better price. I have signed up ‘no obligation’ to get a quote and see what happens, the current average seems to be about £6k. This is still too much for me. I can but try and see if it is feasible to have solar and use it to heat my water and provide lighting and power. My heating is provided via gas and in the UK this is still the most cost effective form of domestic heating – storage heaters and electric heating is too expensive in comparison – I have never seen a good installation.

With the increase in electric cars I can see the price of domestic electricity just going upwards. Those saying how cheap it is to run an electric car will have a shock when the domestic electric price rises and we have larger energy bills. This is where solar would be a benefit, having less of a draw on the power grid and pushing any surplus back onto the grid would be ideal. If only my house already had solar

Has anyone had solar installed or considered it? Has anyone bought a house with solar fitted? What are the running costs? What are the maintenance costs? I have heard horror stories about problems selling houses due to solar installations. Has this been an experience for anyone?

Reading Books

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Well, as I spend time at home ‘idle time’ has increased as the ‘online gig working’ has slowed down. There are not as many jobs going and I have also found that with the change in user base I need to actually work US hours to pick up work which is messing up my body clock. I am therefore trying to rearrange my day so I can balance gig work with doing other activities within UK hours.

One good thing about lockdown is that I found the local council’s online library. All the books can be loaned for free, so great news for using my time more constructively. I have been reading and listening to quite a few books and I am currently reading “The Fear Bubble” by Ant Middleton. (This is coincidental, nothing related to his current media coverage!)

It is all about managing your fear and using it to your advantage. It also had some comments about negative people and how whoever they are, be they family or friends, you need to shake them off if they are causing you to spiral into a bad place.

The idea of focusing the fear, accepting its presence and then reframing it to your advantage and into a positive opportunity is good. Some mental exercise for me to do. I am not about to jump off a cliff or climb Everest but changing my mindset would be a good thing. I have been spiralling into a negative space due to the lockdown and the lack of contact with positive people and places. I have an inherent negative inner voice which I battle with constantly. When I am working and have plenty to do I can block it out but this lockdown means it is getting louder and pulling me into a dark space.

Reading is a great escape and makes me think about ways out of this and how to contain this inner voice and get on with life. I am creating a list and will post comments in future months about the books that I have found most interesting.

Have you found your local online library? Have you found some solace during this period of lockdown in books?

Post your comments on reading below….

Monthly Update – Feb 2021

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

So the end of February and the months seem to roll along and so does the lockdown. I have not really done much this month surprisingly. I have been doing my gig work and looked for work with no joy. Again, the market is a bit dead. The only jobs that come up are full time – requiring office attendance and requiring me to take a pay cut. So no joy on my scales – OK maybe I am being picky but I am fed up of taking what is on offer and having to suffer the toxic workplace that comes with it.. I don’t think I will see much of a change for a few months yet.

In the meantime I have sold down some ex-employer shares and popped the profits into my ISA to fill it up to the max for the year. I managed to get a good price and after selling, the share price dropped so, I have collected my profit and maxed my CGT and moved the money into my ISA. I will just invest in VWRL and let the market do its thing. I want to broaden and diversify my investments and have more global exposure and reduce my UK centric investments and also reduce my tax burden on share sales by utilising my CGT where possible. A positive this month was a win on the premium bonds so an extra £50 for me. My ISA and pension balances have been moving up and down and ended the month down. Typical, I could do with a lift and some positive news but the totals just keep moving downwards after a reasonable month.

Pros/Wins this month:

  • Dividends from Tesco and Vodafone
  • £50 win on premium bonds
  • Sale of ex-employer shares for profit & within CGT threshold

The only good news is that I may get my invite for the vaccine by the end of March and possibly by mid April at the latest, after that it may be easier to look for work knowing that I have some protection should I end up back in an office. I have been quite enjoying working from home and not having the rules of fixed hours and performance reviews. I miss the social contacts and the interactions from working and with no volunteering to do I lack purpose during this lockdown.

I have been out walking and cycling and generally trying to keep my fitness levels up. The recent cold weather and snow have not helped much but I have survived. I have been reading PF books and wondering what to do. I am wondering about looing for a part time job but it would mean doing something completely different. I would be out of my skill and comfort zone but able to flex my hours and work when I wanted. I would like flexibility and achieve the flex FI option.

With the month being a short one I don’t have too much to post. I find this month a bit too quick and a wash out, one where due to lockdown has been quiet and isolated. I am hoping that the good weather will arrive soon and the clocks change at the end of March which should rise my spirits. I have had no offers on the MB front so no increase in my MB fund this month. I have therefore just took a break from the MB scene and may look to pick it back up next month and create an account with another firm and try to make a little bit of profit through their offers until they stop too.

I am hoping that next month will be better and I have more to report.

Monthly Update – Jan 2021

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

Well, I spent Christmas with my partner as we are in a support bubble. It helped to improve my mental health as I was finding December and the lockdown really trying. We both found it improved our mental health and well being.

I attended my uncle’s funeral remotely, the funeral directors had arrange for the service to be broadcast over the internet. It was sad to not be able to attend, my cousin has said he will look to arrange a meeting to celebrate my uncle’s life later in 2021 when we can all actually meet. He is suggesting October.

I enjoyed Christmas, it is normally a quiet one for me anyway so it didn’t feel too different, other than the inability to go to a pub. The supermarkets seemed to be full and bustling and the social distancing was not evident so I would try to find quieter times to visit. As the 3rd lockdown began I remained with my partner. One positive of not working, I could stay and didn’t need to go back to my home. I have therefore been offline for the past few weeks and just chilled out trying to cycle, walk and generally relax and get my mental health back into a better place, avoiding social media and news. I have struggled to communicate and have shutdown some what so my posts are short and sweet at the moment.

I have had the EICR completed on my rental, it had been delayed due to the tenant refusing to allow the contractor in. At one point calling the day before the appointment to say they were isolating and therefore the visit had to be cancelled. The test has now been completed and it failed, I have to get the failed item fixed so that a certificate can be provided. It needs to be in place by the end of March 2021. Luckily the work can be completed in a day and power can be maintained. The contractor has been instructed to get the work completed asap. What is annoying is that the certificate lasts for 5 years but if the current tenant leaves I need to have a new one completed, even if the existing one is still valid. This feels like a money making cash cow for electricians and more red tape that makes me want to sell the rental property in the next few years. At the moment the rental income is useful.

On the investment front, my investments have increased this month and I now have a net worth greater than this time last year, YAY, so I have recovered from the falls caused by the pandemic and now starting to see growth and profit. This includes offsetting my current living expenses. I hope this continues and dividends have started to appear in my account which is a positive start to the year. I am about 6% up and I hope this will continue so I can relax and take the pressure off finding work. I am being picky on the work front. I am not applying for everything and anything as there is no point. I am being selective and continue to do my ‘gig’ work so I can at least cover some of my living costs.

I paid my tax owing for the Apr 20 tax year and await a statement from HMRC to confirm. I also need to look at what my tax could be for this year given I have just rental, some dividend and gig work income. I could claim JSA but I don’t want to be bullied into applying for every/any job so I need to look at how to get my NI contributions sorted so I can keep accruing credits for my state pension.

I have also received a letter from the NHS saying I can get a free flu vaccine. I need to see if they are still doing them, my GP has not contacted me at all. I need to see if a local pharmacy is offering them.

For COVID vaccine, I used an online calculator to see when I could qualify and it said August (based on 1 million vaccines being completed every week). I wonder when it will really occur? I have to wait and see. I think that means a holiday this year is out of the question. I moved my original holiday booking (in Scotland) to May this year – but that will now need to be moved, so depressing. I wanted something to look forward to.

Monthly Update – Dec 2020

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

The year is over. Thank God that has ended as it is a year I wish to forget.

In December I managed to get my Christmas shopping completed and due to the release of lockdown I could travel to see my partner who lives on his own and so is my Support Bubble. So glad of a support bubble as I would have gone up the wall completely during December.

Financially, my net worth increased and I ended the year only 1% down overall. This is a relief given that I have been living off my emergency fund and watched my share and investments roller coaster over the year. I completed as much work as I could on the virtual ‘gig’ site and equalled my Nov total so that has given me some extra cash. With the additional workers on the site and the currency fluctuations, the site has changed its currency ‘fees’ so I am not getting as much £££s as I was due to the poor exchange fees they have now started to charge.

I have kept my expenses down this month and with lockdown, I have only been out to buy food & Xmas gifts. My job application failed, I didn’t make it to the last round of interviews and will end the year with no job. I will have to live off passive income and ‘gig’ work. With more people and ex-work colleagues being laid off and with the axe of redundancy over them I don’t expect to find a new job soon. I will have to start looking at other sectors where I can re-apply my skills.

I continued to match bet using free bets and have increased the funds. The total is slowly growing and I can use the funds to snowball the amount used for betting as time goes on.

My elderly uncle who has was admitted to hospital and found on testing to have COVID sadly died. So a virtual funeral has been arranged for January.

Accidental FI ?

freedom – pixabay.com

It isn’t quite how I expected this year to go but I am accidently FI as with no job I am using my FI pot to support my living costs this year. I wanted some time off and broke the chains and escaped the rat race for a chance to relax, reset and have some ‘me time’. My anxiety and panic attacks were getting too much and I needed to escape.

I was going to spend this year getting work done on my house, travel/holiday a bit and go to some festivals and basically have some time out to relax and rebuild my health as my last job burnt me out with its toxic culture and I had had enough and needed the break. I was worried I would get a more serious health issue if I didn’t have a break and relax.

I expected to be back in a job by now having recharged my batteries and feeling more composed and focused but that is not going to happen. I have heard back from my recent job application and its a “no” so I am ending the year how I started, without a job. I cannot see it getting any better next year as the sector I work in has been hit hard by COVID lockdowns and the prospect of new projects is looking very slim. Some more of my ex work colleagues will be losing their jobs in the new year once the companies they work for have been wound up and sold off by the administrators. It’s bleak.

I am one of those who fit into the potentially ‘forced into retirement‘ category. I am trying to avoid jobs that are directed at younger people and I feel that ageism is affecting my ability to get another job. I will continue to look for work but not sure I will find any and I don’t have a good network to help me. In some ways I am glad I am not working as my body is telling me that it is not ready to go back to working. Especially the stressful type of job I was doing before, so I need to rethink.

I can be grateful for my FI path as this has provided me with the parachute to enable me to survive during this crisis and in some ways I am lucky and grateful as I haven’t had to work in unsafe conditions and have manged to limit my exposure risks. I have volunteered and enjoyed some alternative work and had a chance to read and learn some new things. If anything this pandemic has proven how useful it is to have an emergency fund and build some financial security to endure these kinds of unexpected events.

I have completed a few courses on subjects I have always wanted to learn more on but hadn’t had the time to do before. From that perspective I have been living an accidental FI life this year, it was unplanned but had proved to be a saviour and provide some safety in these unsettled times.

So following a FI path has many benefits and this year has proved how it can help in difficult times and enable you to survive and hopefully in the long term I will prosper. Maybe I will look back and see how this was the start of a new direction and the necessary break I needed to relax, reset and then move forward. Not so much a mid life crisis as a reset and move into a different direction.

I am so glad I am walking the FI path to hopefully a more fulfilling and happy future.

Monthly Update – Nov 2020

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

Yet another month complete and the year is nearly over. The good news is a vaccine which will help to change next year so we can start to get back to some kind of normal and hopefully I can actually get a holiday.

In November I have managed to go out a few times to some pubs before the new lockdown occurred and cycle quite a bit. I have taken advantage of the good weather to go out and try to keep fit and healthy. I have a few anxiety issues that have kicked off a bit probably due to the change in weather and the darker and damp days. The lockdown has been different and the lack of sunshine isn’t helping my mindset.

Financially, my net worth has increased a little and has ended the month <1% down on the beginning of the year, hopefully I will end the year up a little on last year – but if I break even I will be happy. With that in mind I have been trying to do as much work on the virtual ‘gig’ site as I can and have topped the highest monthly total so far. They have been running some incentive drives with additional bonuses being paid and the volume of work has increased too. Others on the site have commented that the work has picked up but there is the issue that for a UK worker to get the pick of the best jobs, you need to work US hours. I have either been waking early and doing some hours in the morning ( between 4am and 9am) or I have been working in the evening ( between 10pm – 1am) to pick up the jobs that are loaded in US hours. The ‘gig’ site has opened the market to India and their hours mean that they pick up the jobs before UK and European workers, this has resulted in UK and European workers having to change their hours to fit the publication of jobs. A prime example of the global market forces in action.

When I was working, I worked with teams based in India and USA and their workload was built and distributed to make positive and productive use of their core working hours (time zones) to enable work to be completed so that UK teams could pick results and have a continuous workflow.

I have kept my expenses down this month and with lockdown, I have only been out to buy food. After last months comment on the job market, I am currently in the job recruitment process. I have an interview scheduled next week and it could be that after starting the year with no job and no hope of getting a job, I may end the year with a job offer. I am not going to count my chickens and will continue to work on the assumption that I have no job and have to live off passive income and ‘gig’ work.

I am doing a course on SEO just in case I come up with a good idea and want to launch a more transactional site. Most of the principles being taught require a business website to gain access to the relevant tools which can help to increase traffic and potential sales.

I have continued to match bet using free bets as they are offered. I have increased the funds and total is slowly growing and I can use the funds to snowball the amount used for betting as time goes on.

Other than that, I continue to be frugal and keep exercising, I am trying to keep my Christmas spending down. I am glad that a vaccine is nearly available as it has struck my family and I have an elderly uncle who has gone into hospital with another illness only to be tested on arrival and told they have COVID too. So I am not sure what will happen as they don’t currently appear to be showing virus symptoms. What is odd is where did he get it? He has been shielding throughout this year and has little outside contact due to dementia. Only time will tell, I have no control over what happens and will have to wait for news on his progress.

I am now sitting in a Tier 3 zone so unable to do much…Stay safe in December….

Pension Transfer Complete

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

At last, it felt like ages, my personal pension has been successfully transferred and I now have everything in one place under a SIPP.

I was getting annoyed with the old company, they had sold on the business to someone else to manage and it would be run under the management style of the new company, which worried me.

I had seen new T&Cs appearing altering the way the account would be run and the funds were being transferred and altered to fit the new company style. The costs were going up for one thing and I didn’t like it so time to move.

So I completed all the paperwork and transferred it to the SIPP I have placed my old employer pension into. The fees are much lower and since I transferred by old employer pension it has been increasing nicely – even during this turmoil.

So I received my closing statement from my old company and I have been able to check the balance right up to closing and an email from my SIPP provider to say they had received the money and had invested it based on my instructions. So things are looking better. I have now setup a regular payment into this SIPP and will let this tick over. (Although I am not working, I can pay into a pension but it is capped under UK rules).

The closing statement was great and much better than my old employer pension company – they sent me NOTHING and I never got to see how much my funds actually sold for (other than working it out by looking at the transfer value) . I think they took money out of the final payment – thieves! As soon as they received my transfer request they locked me out of my online account and I was unable to see what my pension was worth or what its final transfer value was. disgusting customer service and behaviour!

Anyhow, I now have everything in one place and can now trace its growth and hopefully have a better idea of its potential total and annuity value in years to come.