Where are we heading?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is going on at the moment?

All I hear on the media is doom and gloom. Living costs rising fast and prices just shooting upwards each week. The talk of stagflation and the markets kicking all over the place. I am fearful of a recession, a long one at that, I want to sell my BTL in the next 12 months and I cannot start the process for a few months yet. Yet again my plans are being scuppered and ripped to shreds. I will have to serve a section 21 and it will hit at just the wrong point in the year (winter). Not the best time of year to sell or try to get a property vacated. I fear that it is going to cost me a lot to get the place sold too, i.e. carrying a void house for months. Putting the property onto the market when there is a recession is not helpful as I could end up losing money, which was not the idea. I just wanted somewhere safe to put my redundancy money, then later sell and make a little bit of profit to cover costs and provide the equivalent to a reasonable rate of interest (~ 6%) on the invested money as that was better than a savings account ( ~1%). I think that idea has burst.

If COVID has not hit I would have initiated the process in 2020 and I would have been out of the rental market by now. I worry about the selling process as I watch my neighbour moving. They sold their house in November 2021, by open house and sold same day, but they have only just moved out, that’s 6 months to complete. Ouch! I guess some of that was due to a long chain, although it has taken my aunt 4 months to complete and that involved an empty house on one end and a first-time buyer on the other.

I was told by a friend that the area where my BTL property is is very competitive and that houses are selling fast (within days), they have a relative who has bought in an adjacent area and they were saying that they had to chase properties quickly as they were going as quick as they appeared on the market. I am not so sure this will be the case when I come to sell mine, this economic situation is not looking good. The property has low running costs so may appeal to a downsizer or a first timer trying to get on the housing ladder, its a 2-bed mid-terrace. It depends on what happens this winter with energy costs. I wonder if there will be any buyers at the start of 2023 when my property is likely to appear on the market? (If I can get the tenant out)

Any words of wisdom from BTL landlords out there?

Would local letting agents help me find a landlord who would be willing to buy the place with sitting tenant?

Am I better putting an empty property on the market and widen the potential buyers?

Dilemmas……

Try not to panic….

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

As it is Mental Health week I though I would post something related to mental health. So no, this is not a post about financial market panic … read on of you wish ….

I am focusing on my health in general at the moment both physical and mental and one thing that I read recently about agoraphobia made me think about my own experiences of panic/anxiety attacks. This is something that has creeped up on me slowly over the past few years. I think some of this is sadly linked to being female and of a certain age, that M* word again.

I started having the odd attack while at work. It normally happened when in our daily stand up meeting. There would be about 20 to 30 of us all crammed into a small meeting room. There was no air and if I had to stand, squashed up with others I would start to feel faint and struggle to breathe. The main trigger seemed to be the heat, if the heat in the room became too high I would start feeling really dizzy, I would feel that there was no air and I would almost collapse. I would try to leave the room or be by the door so I could make a quick exit.

I had episodes before when I had either felt faint or actually fainted. A previous occasion I was at a leaving party and we had gathered in a large pub and although there was plenty of space, I felt trapped and started feeling dizzy and turned white and nearly fainted. My work colleagues helped me out and after 5 minutes I was fine. They wanted me to see my GP and see what was up. The GP wired me to an ECG machine but couldn’t find anything wrong. The GP never mentioned this being any kind of anxiety or attack of any kind and I was just carried on. They just said they could not see anything wrong with me, so I just carried on.

At my last job, I would start having these attacks again while in the office. Again, when in meetings or just after meetings. I think they were linked to the stress of the environment. They involved feeling dizzy, faint and finding I couldn’t breathe (well, I could but it just felt like I couldn’t) a tight chest and feeling ‘enclosed’ or trapped.

Since stopping work the number of instances has dropped. I had one encounter in a pub which was just after lockdown eased and I walked in and the pub was relatively packed and the heat of the place hit my like a huge wave. I became so hot within seconds I had to sit down and felt like I was going to pass out. The place felt claustrophobic and I was struggling to breathe (or felt like it – I was breathing ok really). I sat with a cool drink and after 5 minutes I felt much better. My head stopped banging and my body temp dropped down to normal.

Another happened at a gig, again in an enclosed space. It was fine to start but as the place became packed and the heat in the place started to increase I started to feel strange. My head started to throb, my body temp started to climb and I found it hard to breathe. I felt claustrophobic and had to get out. I tried to make it to the exit and actually fainted as I reach the cooler air outside. The faint lasted seconds, just enough time for me to hit the floor (I just felt like I had stumbled) and people helped me to recover with a cool drink and a sit down. Again, within minutes I was fine. I have tried to not avoid such places as I don’t want this to restrict my life. So recently I returned to the same location to see a different band. This time the place was not so packed and although I felt apprehensive I succeeded in attending the whole gig with no incident.

It seems that there is a common trigger, a combination of enclosed space, lots of people, heat and a perceived lack of fresh air. Its a shame as I cannot control this and really don’t know if I ever will. I spoke to my sister and she has similar experiences and she thinks it is something genetic. I really don’t know, all I do know is that I have to accept it and try to stop it affecting my ability to get out and do things. I have checked my fitbit but it does not show anything unusual with my pulse or heart rate during these events.

I try to remain positive and enjoy my FI life. I will hopefully find a part time job in the future which will suit me and fit my lifestyle. I am learning to accept it and work with it.

If you enjoy my ramblings and want to buy me a coffee – click here.

Monthly Update – Apr 22

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

I have tried to enjoy April and the Easter break. I avoided the worst of the holiday crowds and ventured out with my partner to visit local towns/countryside and go out and about on our motorbike to a few cafes and enjoy the sunshine and good weather. I even managed to go and see a band play – the last time I saw these play was the month before lockdown happened.

Like many, I have been trying to keep my costs down and determine the consequences of the cost of living crisis and the impending fuel bills. I still do not know where my utility account will be moved too. I have been avoiding much of the news as it is so depressing and I am trying to stay positive.

At the end of April my net worth is down another 3%, so its not good when I see my investments and net worth dropping. Ok, I know I am drawing off them now so I can expect a drop but I am also trying to gain some growth so that my income balances out my expenses so I can live a FI life and not have to seek out full time work again. On that note, I have been looking for part time work but nothing going at the moment of interest. So I will keep doing the online work even though it does not pay well as it is giving a little bit of cash.

I have started receiving my tax certificates and my notice from HMRC to submit a tax return. I think I may have a little bit of tax to pay for the last tax year. As things started to open up and companies started to recover I received some bumper dividend payments.

I have also received a letter from my old employer saying that they are ditching moving my DB pension to a pension company who will then become responsible & liable for the supply of my DB pension benefit. I am waiting to see what that really means. I was banking on this as a baseline for retirement at state pension age. The letter suggests that the DB value may be reassessed and I may not get the amount I was expecting when transferred to the pension company – really annoying way of getting out of paying what was promised. I was going to use my DC pension to carry me to state pension age – but this may not pan out as well as first thought.

I have had a large repair expense on my rental to fund this month and I am beginning to think about selling the property. It is starting to cost me more in maintenance and the rental rules are increasing which makes it not profitable as a single house landlord. I entered this by accident rather than design and the rules are growing and I would rather have my money back and look to place that elsewhere and lower my potential stress levels. I know that house prices have gone up but with the current climate I may find it a hard and slow sell. I can’t initiate anything until the current rental contract is up and I will have to issue a section 21 to initiate the process of obtaining the property back from the tenant. I have to assume that the tenant will be reluctant to leave as looking at the local market there are no equivalent rental properties available. So I need to be prepared for a long repossession and sale process while still having to cover the basic costs (mortgage, tax, etc.) I have had a look at the past property sales but nothing has sold in the immediate area for months so it is hard to gauge the market and how easy or hard it will be to sell.

I am preparing to go on holiday soon and paid the balance so that will be great to get away from home and have a change from my normal environment. I could do with getting away as the good weather appears. I have a wanderlust and am so glad I am not in an office looking out at all the sunshine. I can be the master of my day and determine what I want to do based on the weather.

Income

On the income front, I have earned more doing surveys that on the online platform, yet again. Watching my investments decline and net worth drop is a bit worrying now I don’t have a working income.

I have started to withdraw money from my matched betting accounts – although one account is a painful process. My original card has been replaced and I now have to register a new one and wait until this is completed before I can withdraw money. To make it even more annoying, I have to deposit money with this new card before I can use it to withdraw to…. Other accounts have just let me change the card details. I am not sure I will continue with match betting, I just don’t find it stimulating enough even though the profits are tax free, which is an incentive. I just cannot get into a rhythm and I don’t seem to get many offers to make it worthwhile. I’m not their preferred punter. I should have tried withdrawing money before to make this process easier. My bad! Its easy to add money into the accounts but near impossible to remove it!

Expenses

My main expense this month have been rental repairs. With limited access and inspections during lockdowns the house has a few issues that have built up and now need to be resolved. It is now eating into my income and making this an unprofitable income stream. In addition to the taxation increases and the new rules coming in it will be impossible to comply with them without spending huge amounts of money to upgrade. The main one is energy rating. At the moment it is ok but I need to get a new energy cert next year – which will be required if I want to sell anyway. In a few years the minimum rating level will be increased and to get my property to comply will require considerable outlay… It’s a small mid-terrace and to go up a level, the recommended upgrades are solar panels and/or a heat pump. There is not much roof or wall space to squeeze these in never mind the upheaval of retro fitting the interior.

Month End Summary

With my net worth dropping and cost of living rising, I am worried how this will affect my long term plans. I would rather not have to find full time work again. I would rather use FI to bridge my transition into retirement at SPA.

I have some maintenance costs on my own property to complete this year and the increasing prices mean I am fighting a moving target. I have the time now to arrange them but do I have the money? My FI funds need to support both the repair outlays and my normal living costs without ending up being unable to do any more than heat my home and eat in the years ahead.

Monthly Update – Mar 22

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

Well, here we go ! The UK cost of living and the fuel cost rise is now active. I was one of the many who supplied readings to try and lock my fuel prices at the correct rates rather than have the estimate and have the monthly bill calculated at the higher rate. I am still waiting to see where I will be moved to as my current energy supplier went bust a few months ago and is currently being run by a government appointed company. When I looked at my new rates, I am now having to pay double for my standing charge. I cannot do anything to mitigate that hike, I have no control on it, all I can do is try to cut down on my usage but I don’t think I can do any more than I am already. Some years ago I had a energy deal which did not have a standing charge, I just paid a little more on the units and it worked really well for me. The government pulled this type of deal and now we are forced to pay a standing charge. I feel that we are being scammed, the energy sector should not have been privatised as the money is going abroad and I keep hearing how we are paying for other counties to give their consumers discount and help with their bills. That’s my view, I don’t think infrastructure should be privatised but its done now. I now wonder if I should have gone for the solar installation deal that was on offer but the ROI at the time meant I would not get any benefit. If I did that calculation now, it could have been worth it. It is what it is now. I read stories on how heat pumps are no good in UK homes and they actually cost more to run that gas systems. It some point I will re look at solar as that seems a better option for me.

At the end of March my net worth is down 5%, so I have managed to recover a little of the growth from last year. I really need my investments to grow so they can sustain me.

The good news this month is that I have received a very nice tax free annual interest payment from NS&I, these index linked savings accounts are not available to buy any more. It was a nice sum to receive compared with the meagre sums from other savings accounts. It just helps to keep the value of these savings in line with inflation. I also won £25 on premium bonds too.

As the end of the tax year approaches, I have started to review my income and I may have to pay some tax this year. My dividends picked up considerably last year due to special payments and is well over the dividend allowance, in combination with my income (rent + online income) I think I will just breach the personal allowance and will have to pay tax.. Shame, I was so close. I will let my accountant work it out as I have some expenses that I can claim which may just pull me back under the allowances.

I also appear to have dodge the virus this month. I spent about 5 hours in an indoor location with someone who later tested positive for COVID and I spent the following week wondering if any cough, sniff or headache was the virus. I did LFTs every few days which remained negative, others in the group also remained negative so I await the next exposure.

Income

On the income front, I have earned more doing surveys that on the online platform, again. I have stopped doing them now until the new tax year begins as I think I am over the tax allowance. As my dividends have now started to pick up I may not need to do my online work any more which is great news. I was doing it as a stop gap during the pandemic. Watching my investment decline and net worth drop has made me think about the sequence of returns risk and how I stopped working at just the wrong time.

Although, if I have continued at my last job, I would have been laid off – so I have been in control of my own path rather than be dumped. I do feel sorry for the P&O staff. It reminds me of my second redundancy when we were treated badly. The parent company called an all staff meeting and announced the sale of the company, due to a employment contract anomaly were were told we had two options, not sign a contract amendment and be immediately made redundant (with 1 month’s pay – we did not qualify for redundancy) or be sold with the company to someone else. I signed the amendment alongside others thinking we may retain our jobs under new owners. But when the company was sold, we were immediately made redundant as the new owner had bough the rights but not the people. So ended up being made redundant with 1 month’s pay any way.

Expenses

My main expense this month have been household repairs. After the storms, my fencing was broken and I had to get it fixed. Luckily, it just needed new post supports (the wooden posts has rotten at the bottom and split) rather than panels – the fence just wobbled in the wind – the repair was not cheap (seller’s market!). I had concrete godfathers fitted. A large expense but cheaper than a whole new fence as the main fence is in good condition. The fence should now last a good few years. The guys did a good job, digging holes and filling with concrete and I managed to find them, recommended, through a local group on facebook.

My other largest expense has been my car. I had to get it MOT’ed this month to keep it on the road. I needed some suspension repairs done (again, not cheap- advisory from last year) and then I had it serviced and MOT – which is passed with no advisories, YAY! I am glad I am not commuting for work as the cost of fuel is just madness. I agree with some people on YouTube who are saying how expensive it is to live in the UK and the West in general. Prices just seem to keep going up yet when looking back on historic costs, some were higher than now but not impacting consumer prices and the cost of living like it is now. So is there actually some underlying profiteering going on here?

Month End Summary

With my net worth dropping and cost of living rising, I am worried how this will affect me as I try to drawdown and find ways of being FI. The inflation rates negate any gains. The only positive is the pick up in dividends, which I hope will continue. I have started investigating how to best place my cash so it is not being eaten away by inflation but is accessible for living costs.

I am just glad the summer is getting nearer and I can go out and enjoy the sunshine.

Monthly Update – Feb 22

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

Well, what a year so far. At the end of Feb I have lost 7% of my net worth. It is a short month but plenty has happened. Pretty much everything is down and with the cost of living rising I am worried how this year is going to end. The government are ending all the COVID restrictions – but not necessarily all the legislation and rules that went with it. A war has now begun in Eastern Europe which has crashed the markets and begun a fear of additional division.

The energy crisis is getting worse. I am still waiting to see where my account will be reassigned since my energy supplier went out of business. I have received my new energy rates and from April my electricity standing charge will increase by 70% ! Yes, given that the future is electricity only and that we will be driving electric cars in the future, it makes sense for the utility companies to start piling all the increases onto electricity rather than gas rates. New houses will be built with electricity only and with car charging being the norm, the fees for electricity use will climb. I cannot see prices being reduced.

I am trying to stay positive, at least I am not living under the nightmare of invasion and I feel sorry for Ukrainians trying to find safe places and flee for their lives.

Income

On the income front, I have earned more doing surveys that on the online platform, again. I have been trying to build my new side hustle. No sales yet and I am doubting it will but I can but try. It may take 6 months to see any sales, so I have to wait for some time to see if anything will happen. I will be glad when the warmer weather appears, it may help my mood. Like others, I am now sick of the winter and need some sunshine and some positivity to lighten my mood. Watching my investment decline makes me think about the sequence of returns risk and how I stopped working at just the wrong time. Since I quit, there has been a pandemic and now a war with its associated economic turmoil. I am trying to survive on my savings and leave the investments to recover and maybe I can then look to draw from them in a few years when the markets have picked up. I will continue to spend some time doing some social things while I still can.

Expenses

My main expenses this month have been social, going out and trying to enjoy life while I can. Meeting up with people and having a laugh. I am enjoying not working and want to maintain this lifestyle. I have spoken to a few people who are working and they are envious of my free time and spending my day doing other things, like walking & cycling to improve my health. I met up with an ex work colleague who has now decided that they are officially retired. They have updated their linkedin profile to indicate this too. They have a few more years to go until they can claim their state pension but just want to enjoy life while they can and have their health to do so. They can afford to retire, although they need to adjust their finances, they have recently received an inheritance and will use that to fund their early retirement.

Month End Summary

With my net worth dropping I am worried how this will affect me as I try to drawdown and find ways of making the pot last. The inflation rates negate any gains. I have started investigating the repossession options on my BTL and I am expecting, given the current climate, that I will have to go down the court eviction route so need to look at the costs required for this and then look to sell. Not sure what the house market will be like at that point given the cost of living crisis and economic conditions.

I will just keep pottering along and determine a route to survive this downturn. I will hunker down and try to find positive things to focus on and keep a smiling and be grateful.

Honey Pot Drawdown Plan

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have been spending my time researching and reading articles and guides on how to construct a drawdown plan. The winter weather has been too bad to do anything else, so I have focused on the question : How do I manage my honey pot and get it to serve me well over the next few years and consider myself FI?

I did the original ‘target FI income’ x 25 calculation to obtain my FI target figure years ago and my Honey Pot has reached that total, in fact it passed that figure last year but has, due to current market conditions, crash to just above this target. I expect it to drop below this level very soon.

I quit my job 2 years ago, I was not intentionally retiring permanently, just having a break from working for a while. I was intending spending this time traveling and experiencing things I had been unable to do due to work commitments. I needed a break from the work grind. The pandemic hit and smashed my plans and I have been living through the pandemic on cash reserves, rent and any side income. This has proved to work for now and to make sure I am ok, I have been living on about 70% of my target FI income to give me a buffer. During the pandemic this wasn’t too hard as the lockdowns prevented me from doing any leisure expenses other than a 2 week holiday in the UK last year. But now the world is opening up, I want to get out more.

I now need to do some serious number crunching to see how I can fare over the long term. I want to be able to draw enough from the Honey Pot to live without a job being necessary. I want to be able to go out and do things, travel and complete life experiences and not run out of money.

Now, unlike some other FI bloggers I follow, I do not have a dependent partner or children. This has its pros and cons. I have less to worry about from a financial dependency viewpoint but it does mean I don’t have the benefits of joint finances or shared expenses. I cannot therefore use economies of scale to help reduce expenses and living costs are therefore higher for me.

I watched a few YouTube videos recently on lifespan, I have used a few sites and my forecasts suggest I have a 25% chance of living to 95. I have been working on plans running to 95 and a little beyond just so I can make sure I have a margin of error. We don’t know how long we really have but I can only use forecasts and look around at close family relatives as a genetic guide to what is possible. Anything can happen, nothing is guaranteed.

I have to therefore allow for a minimum of 42 years in my plan. I don’t need to preserve my Honey Pot for others so I can focus on one life. I have been looking at pension income and when these will become available. I have 14 years until I reach the current state pension age(SPA), when I can claim my state pension (which is less than the full £9k as I do not have the full 35 years entitlement) and also gain access to a company DB pension which when added to the state pension will equate to 75% of my ‘FI target income’. I would therefore need my other investments to top up the difference at this point.

I have also read articles saying that once we reach the age of 75 our spending decreases so maybe my FI target income figure could be reduced, I will maintain it for now so I can assume ‘the worst case scenario’.

I am using a 3% SWR to determine how to drawdown my ISA and SIPP (when I can access it). I have some shares to sell too, the majority of which are from an ex-employer and accrued from sharesave schemes during my employment with them. These currently provide some dividend income which I add to my annual income stream. My intention is to sell these off in stages over the coming years to utilise CGT and add to my cash pot – any extra, I will invest to provide some additional growth.

I have also been reading about variable SWRs and maybe I should use this as a way of living now; draw a higher SWR now and then phase it downwards to 3% as I reach SPA and determine what the actual top up rate would need to be from my ISA and SIPP at that point.

There are quite a few ideas running around my mind at the moment. I need to find a good site to enable me to do some scenario simulations and see what the success outcomes are.

I am excluding my BTL from these plans at the moment. I am looking to sell the BTL soon so I can release money tied up in it, after expenses and taxes I should have some additional cash to replenish cash pots or investment accounts. This is a area I am separately running scenarios for.

I have plenty to keep me occupied and I have a few spreadsheets on the go at the moment. I am trying to model scenarios and determine the best plan and have a few variants to use should things go awry. This maybe more important than ever as I look at the stock market and the world news which is currently looking bleak.

If others have suggestions or useful info and tools that could help with this I would be happy to hear about them. Feel free to add them in the comments below.

In the meantime, I will ponder options, run scenarios and determine a number of routes I can take and determine if I am truly FI.

Monthly Update – Jan 22

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

Well, what a start to the year. By the end of Jan I have lost 5% of my net worth. Pretty much everything is down and with the cost of living rising I am somewhat worried what this year will bring. I have started the year spending time doing ‘free time’ stuff. I have started going out more and trying to cycle, walk and enjoy the best of the dry and sunny weather. I have also started working on my new passive income idea. I am not sure it will fly but I will give it a go. It may take a few months to get some sales to appear – if they ever do.

I am not good at marketing and with others having the same idea and with costs now rising, discretionary spending curbs my mean this idea will not fly. I have taken a break from the online platform as the volume of work and the pay rates are so low it really is not worth my time. I received some dividend income this month and this has surpassed the total income received from my online working for the whole of last year. With dividends being paid, I now wonder if it is worth the point of carrying on with the online platform.

I had another interview for a job but it really was not going to happen. Just as I had my interview, the government changed their advice to ‘go to the office’. Although the person who suggested the job to me was saying I could work remotely, it was quite clear during the interview that the successful applicant must work in the office. They may have some staff working remotely now but they do not intend taking any more on in that capacity. The commute to the office was prohibitive, it’s about an hour and a half train journey away so not really very practical.

My net worth has started the year down by 6%. I have lost half of the gains from last year. Pretty sad when I am looking at how to survive off it and cope with the inflation and cost of living rises now occurring.

I am still waiting to see what happens with my energy supplier. I just pay the bills and wait to see what happens. I dread to think what the costs will be from April. Other than sitting in a cold house with no heating on I have done everything I can to keep my usage down. The government offer of a rebate on council tax to offset the energy bills does not really do much for me. The rebate is the equivalent of one month’s council tax payment so really does not help much.

While speaking to others, we find this £200 energy ‘loan’ is a bit of a fudge too. It’s just an interest free loan and with fingers crossed that the rates lower over the next few years to help flatten the curve. I cannot see how this will happen. These new energy changes such as multiple variable day rates coming in just adds to the complexity of tracking usage. Energy is going to get more expensive for all. Can you work and live in the off peak times to cut your usage?

I was shocked to read the article about someone with solar panels and an air source heat pump who is paying £99 per WEEK for electricity! That sounds like a very bad installation and does not make me feel very comfortable about fitting any of those ‘green, energy saving’ options.

Income

On the income front, I have earned more doing surveys that on the online platform this month. My rate of pay is better from surveys even if participation is capped each week. I will keep watching for online work now and again but am wondering about getting a part time job. I will continue working on my new passive income idea and see if that takes off, I am enjoying doing it even if it does not earn me any income. I am feeling more down with life and really not interested in going back to the IT grind. Something different is needed as I just don’t feel any passion for that job any more. I will be glad when the warmer weather appears, it may help my mood.

Expenses

My main expenses this month have been birthday gifts and meeting up with people. I am enjoying not working and want to maintain this lifestyle. I have a few large expenses next month which I have been focusing on so I can manage my money and expenses accordingly.

Month End Summary

I am pleased with the dividend income this month as that was a real boost for me. I just need dividends to keep on coming this year. With my net worth dropping I am worried how this will affect me as I try to drawdown and find ways of making the pot last. The inflation rates negate any gains. I cannot access pensions for a few more years yet so need my ISA, shares, rent and cash take the strain. I spoke to some others about my BTL and want to look at selling it in 12 months. I am now looking at what I need to do to get possession of the property so I can sell it. In the area, there have been no recent sales so it is hard to see how much it will go for and also if it will sell. I had a look at Zoopla but their estimates are WAY off! There is no way the house is worth the money they are suggesting. With selling costs and taxes I may just get my invested money back and break even.

I will just keep pottering along and see how long I can last before I have no choice but to get another job.

Micro Workers (Part II)

Photo by Soumil Kumar on Pexels.com

Well, I thought I would do another review and update on how I am getting on working as a ‘microworker’. I have been doing this kind of work for a while now and I have found that over this time the work has changed considerably.

I first started doing this in the early days of the pandemic and lockdown in 2020. It was impossible to find work as offices had shutdown and the job market had come to a halt. If I wanted work the only two roles that seemed to be going were delivery driver or supermarket assistant. Neither of which I wanted to do as I did not want to exposed myself to the virus as this was pre vaccines.

So I jumped on the micro work path. I could work from home and just log in when I wanted and do as much or as little work as I wished. I signed up with a number of different sites which offered online micro work. Most of them did not seem to have much work going though. Existing users were saying the pandemic had affected work available. With client businesses shutdown they had little work to offer. I managed to earn some money working some data jobs (mainly for a large tech company – which has obviously done well out of the pandemic).

The main site I used offered links to additional online platforms (after passing tests & criteria) so once I had managed to gain access to the other platforms I had access to a wider work base and pay was directed via the main site. This payment route had its pros and cons. The main site operates in Euros and the additional sites operate in US dollars. So when payments were transferred to the main site they were converted and additional fees where taken by the main site. I had no control over the transaction fees or the exchange rates so had to accept the rates charged, the main site was obviously taking a nice chunk off the payments so was gaining income from the users while they worked the additional platform. It meant that they did not need to worry if they had no work to offer directly, they could just push users onto the other site and take a chunk of their earnings.

I sadly tracked my earnings and below is a graph for my monthly earnings on the micro platform.

microwork earnings

The blue line represents the main site and the orange line is the additional platform. When I first started, I did not check the orange platform much for work so earnings were low, there is also a lead time on the payments so sometimes the earnings would not get credited in the same month. In October 2020 I started to check the site more often and found more work available (the main site was bare) so about 70%+ of my work came from the additional platform.

As the winter of 2020 continued I managed to earn most of my earnings off the additional platforms as there was little to do on the main site (indicated by the narrow gap between the graph lines). In Dec 2020, they even offered a bonus, which I managed to achieve which increased my earnings but as the new year began and the site access started to widen to more countries globally, the ability to access and successfully gain work began to get harder. I don’t think I did too badly as I had a steady stream of earnings, it was hard to achieve the monthly target I had set myself but as 2021 continued the ability to keep working began to falter. I found that the competition for work was growing and it became impossible to access work and so my earnings started to fall. I think I need to work US hours as time zones definitely began to affect work availability.

From August 2021 onwards the platforms started dropping pay rates as they found they had a huge supply of users and based on geolocation they could keep dropping rates knowing that they could use the cheaper workers to complete the work. As 2021 came to an end, I found it really hard to get work on any of the sites. The pay has dropped considerably and most UK and European workers have started to drop off the site and find alternative work. The final straw for some UK workers was the removal of one of the payment routes (blamed on Brexit) as that now means additional fees have to be paid to withdraw your money via a different provider. With minimum transaction value thresholds it means the small sums earned are now hacked down to nothing as the fees take most of it away.

Now these online micro platforms are predominantly based/originate in the US and looking on the user forums for these sites, it is clear that the US users are now being affected by the changes over 2021 and are also complaining about the poor earnings opportunities and availability. For some this formed part of their nomadic life but they are now having to find other ways of bolstering their income. If I want to gain access to a bigger pool of work I would need to work US hours. looking at times of postings on the forums when work is active, I would need to work between midnight and 4am UK time. I do not want to do that.

I am having to seek alternatives. I have some other sites which provide sporadic micro work. One, has even upped its rates as the number of jobs has dropped. I get about two jobs a month on there, it does not seem to have recovered from the pandemic. When I first signed up it was providing about 10+ tasks a month. They email when jobs are available – so I can see how the work has dropped off.

I have never been able to achieve the monthly earning targets I had set myself and I have just about managed to earn the same annual amount as I did for the 2018/2020 tax year. I think 2022 will just get worse if the current earnings trend continues. It has dropped off so much, it is becoming a self fulfilling prophecy as I get reluctant to even login to find no work to do (or work that is paying so poorly it is not worth touching).

Monthly Update – Dec 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

December has been a bit of an odd month. I have been finishing off some house jobs and preparing for Christmas. I have been good and tried to find useful gifts for people and cut back on over indulging on useless (wasteful) gifts. Christmas has been quiet and scaled back for me. Only one group event for a friend’s birthday. We all tested ourselves before we met as one of the party is still recovering from major cancer surgery. Everyone made the most of the event. A few of the attendees had had COVID before the vaccines were available and explained the extent of their illness. Luckily none of them required hospital treatment and have now had vaccines and boosters. I had an interesting conversation with someone I had never met before (a friend of a friend). They were telling me how they feel down with their job and want to quit. They caught COVID, lost loads of weight and now feel so down with their job and work life. They are a year older than me and seem to have some good savings and they were interested in how I was managing to live without a job. They have gone away to go through their finances and see if they can ‘retire’ early. They have a well paying job with healthy savings and a good pension and they have just inherited a house and looking at whether they should sell it or rent it out. It was interesting to compare notes and it made me feel good to be able to live without a ‘proper’ job and enjoy some freedom. I don’t have the luxury of a potential inheritance so have to earn and build my FI fund.

I think I am still going through the phases of ‘retirement’, I have had the ‘grief’ stage for a while now. It has lingered due to the pandemic and I have been struggling with the status anxiety of not having work. I have no real sense of meaning or purpose at the moment, made more so by this pandemic. I am getting out a bit more now and meeting others and listening to other’s work issues has made me feel more relaxed and confident over what I have done. The anxiety of not working is starting to ease as I don’t feel so worried about what people think. I saw a review for my last employer and it was very scathing, I am so glad I left that place. It hasn’t got any better and the review was pretty damaging, with a quote to avoid working there.

I had a pet sitting job which I completed just before Christmas, So a little bit of extra income earned and it was enjoyable. I was also supposed to have a repeat session in Jan but they have cancelled. They had booked a ski holiday in Austria but this was cancelled due to the Austrian lockdown. It would have been good to earn some extra money but hey, it is not a big problem at the moment.

My net worth has ended the year well and is 10% up, mainly due to the recovery of indexes and in the latter part of the year, an uplift in dividend payments as companies start to recover and restart dividends. So even though I am using and depleting cash to live, I am managing to offset this with income from investments.

I am still waiting to see what happens with my energy supplier. I just pay the bills and wait to see what happens. I dread to think what the costs will be next year. The rumours of large increases in April are worrying. I need to assess my usage v. charges. I don’t think I can reduce my usage any more than I currently have. Other than sitting in a cold house with no heating on I have done everything I can to keep my usage down. If anything it’s the increase in standing charges and unit costs which increases my bills and I cannot prevent this.

Income

On the income front, I have converted some online earnings to GBP so I can use towards Christmas expenses. Compared to last year I have not earned anything like as much online income this month. It has been really poor. I really need to look at other sources of income and see if I can diversify and increase passive income so I can go out and about and spend time enjoying life rather than tied to an online portal. At the moment it would be better for me to find a part time job give the earning rates per hour as it would be a more lucrative use of my time. I feel I am giving my time away for free.

My ISA has received some good sized dividends this month, the most I have received and I hope this growth trend will continue into next year. If I could get this value paid every month then I could happily stop looking for additional income sources and just live.

I have been looking at drop ship and other ventures which I could possibly use to generate some cash in a more passive way. I did setup another betting account and made another small profit on match betting but would need to add more money into the accounts to get them to generate some additional profit. I assume others are moving money around the accounts which feels like a grind to earn a few pounds.

Expenses

My main expenses this month have been related to Christmas, birthday gifts, meals out and meeting up with people to celebrate Christmas and the end of the year.

Month End Summary

I am pleased with how 2021 has ended from a financial viewpoint. My net worth has increased by 10% and my ISA and pension funds are looking healthy. I am still drawing down cash and leaving my ISA untouched so I can try to get the benefit of reinvested income. Some of my cash accounts have raised their interest rates, not enough to make a big difference. I will continue to look at moving some of my cash to generate a better return. I see that the markets wanted to try and end the year up. My passive income has improved and is higher than last year. I have dividends already declared for next year/month so that will be a great start for 2022. I just need things to keep moving in a positive direction so I can make next year better than this one and continue to move through the ‘retirement’ phases and get a more positive view of life and future.

Monthly Update – Nov 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

November has been a ‘review’ month. My net worth dropping makes me anxious and I have been looking at long term finances to see how my plans work. Now that the days are shorter I have started looking at jobs on my house. I have fixed a few plumbing issues and re-grouted and tidied up the bathroom. I have also been looking at the house generally, after the storm the other day it has become apparent that some of the double glazed windows have draughts and need new seals. I have been watching videos on how to fix this and will look to do this once the weather gets better. I also need to look at the door which is draughty and again I need to adjust the door which looks doable. Again, another task for a warmer day. I will look at temp fixes until I can get this done, it will be cheaper than getting someone to do it, although I will need to get someone to have a look at replacing the glazing units that have failed. I have checked and all the south facing windows need doing, so that will be a large quote to fix.

Looking at house repairs I have quite a few to do now and I have also found that I have a problem with my conservatory. It is slowly dropping and there are cracks in the brickwork and frame. I have ‘googled’ this and found a very similar problem, it seems it is quite common due to construction methods, and given the issue my only permanent solution is to replace the conservatory completely. I have followed the advice of sealing the cracks and monitor the movement, it is not too bad at the moment but it will get worse and will then need to be demolished and rebuilt. Ouch, my house is 25 yrs old and is falling apart. These modern houses just don’t seem as good as older ones. I had an Edwardian house before and it was much easier to fix and the build quality was much better than now, solid not flimsy. The materials they used were more sustainable and they were constructed to enable repairs. (Why does everything need to be plastic! UPVC being a prime example!) And you could find tradespeople who could fix them too! So with the roofline to do too I have a lot to get fixed and they are large outlays. I will have to phase this over the next few years and some I cannot do until I can access my SIPP and use the lump sum to pay for it. It would have been good if I could have used my lump sum for some fun rather than repair jobs.

I have started looking at how to incorporate these costs into my financial plans and try to work out when and how to fund them. This also determines if and when I need to find a job so I can fund them.

My net worth is dropping, mainly due to the drop in the markets recently, it looks like they are beginning to recover. I should have bought into the market while it was down but I have other things to preoccupy me.

My energy supplier has gone bust. It is now being managed by the government while they decide how to split up the customer base. I will just keep an eye on the costs and determine what impact this has on my outgoings. I will need to wait and see who I get moved to then look at pricing and see if I am better to move to an alternative or not. I just need to not worry about it and keep plodding along.

I caught up with an ex work colleague who has been through the wars recently with bereavement and redundancy to cope with. It was good to see them as it has been 18 months. Their redundancy was their third and due to age they are saying they cannot find another job.( I was made redundant with them a few years ago so used to this new cycle of redundancy as part of working life). Their CV is being rejected at the first hurdle and they are now looking at retirement. We worked in similar roles and finding hard to find a new one, the sector is changing so much these roles seem to have disappeared or changed making our skillsets a non match. We discussed the idea of alternative part time work and how that may be a good option, but again, there is nothing good around at the moment. Comparing notes, they have observed the same issues I have. There are some part time roles out there but you have to be available 7 days per week, able to work any day (at short notice) and any shift. No ability to choose days or hours, no flexibility.

Income

On the income front, I have been converting online earnings to GBP so I can pay myself and the exchange rates do not help but some money is better than none. It will help to fund Christmas. Dividend earnings are down too as dates have changed, some delayed, and my dividend earnings are down based on last year.

Looking at the year as a whole, my income is down a little bit on last year but it does cover my expenses for this year so far, so I am managing to keep my expenses lower than my income.

I have had a bit of a break from the online platform so my earnings are well down this month. The work is drying up again too. Users are commenting on the low levels of work so I am trying to scan each of the platforms I use to find any income.

Expenses

My main expenses this month have been related to going out and meeting people. I have a few expenses brewing as I need some work doing on my car to prepare it for its MOT next year.

Next month is going to be a more expensive month due to the time of year, with Christmas looming I have gifts to buy and a few birthdays gifts to source. I am not really sure what to buy and I don’t really feel like going out and about. I really do not like this time of year and it makes me feel down.

Month End Summary

I am still going. I have some extra income from a few house/pet sitting jobs lined up in the next few months and I am feeling up and down at the moment. Good, as I can see some income sources. Bad, as I can see unexpected expenses and some long term large costs looming. I will just have to keep going and FI funds have enabled me to survive with little or no work. I can be grateful to be in this position. I have now been free from a full time job for 23 months and by the end of December I will have been free for two years. Its not quite how I imagined it or how I wanted it to be. But hey! I am still going.