Have I retired?

Mmm, an interesting question as I talk to ex work colleagues and meet strangers on my travels. We compare notes on workplaces and work in general. Some common themes are appearing making me want to make my retirement more permanent.

I don’t think I am retired YET as I am looking at work options, I have not dismissed returning to a workplace. I even had a job interview last month. But I am getting disillusioned with the workplace, especially the role I was performing and that view is growing as I hear more stories of the workplaces around me, as I seek places to work.

My recent job interview was a red flag. I didn’t have a good vibe about it as the agent was unable to provide full info on the job role. The company matched my business sector and ticked some of my requirement boxes. My CV was of interest to the employer. Well…. It turns out, when interviewed, that I did had some subject area experience but I felt it was a loose fit. The role to be performed was ‘sensitive’ and would involve staff restructuring and job losses on successful completion. The project was critical path, it needed to be completed by a fixed date. No slip allowed. The clock was already ticking. I would be expected to run this project where there would be team conflict and resulting staff loss – so a lot of stress and pressure then! Running a team of reluctant participants. NOT WHAT I WANT IN A JOB!

The project would result in the participating team members being made redundant at the end. It was an automation project and the company had already started to seal those cost savings into future business plans but hadn’t got the solution in place and the job would involve getting that solution in place ASAP to fit the date.

It was being offered as a permanent job but given the project, I couldn’t see it being the case. I could see it ending once the work had been completed. The timescale was within 12 months so they could legally dismiss me with no pay out and I would have no comeback.

A bad role, surprisingly enough I didn’t get it. It may have something to do with my responses to some of the questions as the role become more clear in the interview. I had no intention of continuing the selection process. I had jumped out of a frying pan and was not interested in landing in a hot fire! My blood pressure is down to normal, I don’t want to go back to high blood pressure and the fear of medication to reduce it.

I just don’t seem to have much luck on the job front as my network has been depleted. It’s not what you know but who you know these days and I don’t know anyone as they are retiring or downshifting. I am not sure I want to go back to what I was doing based on recent interview experiences. I used to enjoy the work, it was creative, fun, dynamic and I worked in teams that gelled – no conflict or fear. It has changed, the creativity has gone and there is more fear, conflict and pressure, I don’t want the stress and burnout any more. The conflict workplace is not for me. I am fed up of being in meetings where the attendees almost physically fight each other when they disagree.

I don’t want to be working in a individualist place where team is a loose term and competition and conflict is rife as people try to retain their job and fear dismissal. I think this was becoming the case before the pandemic but the pandemic has pressed the booster button and it is rapidly spreading into more and more companies. RIP a friendly ‘team’ workplace.

Is it just me or is the workplace becoming less human? We are expected to work like robots, be available 24/7 and work on projects that automate and ultimately remove us from the process.

Role on Atlas ! We just need universal wage and we humans can retire for good.

I am classing this time as an adult Gap Year … at the moment … but maybe this will change to retired.

Monthly Update – Aug 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

August is over and its been another good month where I can enjoy the sunshine and get out and about. I have got myself some LF test kits for COVID and have started testing myself now I am out and about. I have tested negative so far and will continue to check for symptoms as the UK opens up and people ‘relax’ and the opportunity for catching the virus increases.

My net worth is remaining steady. Dividends have started to appear in my account and although they are not as great as previous years, the income is good to see. That’s a big relief as I was beginning to worry that I would start eating into my capital and so I have been monitoring my outgoings to keep within budget.

Income

On the income front, the share dividends received this month have helped to increase my passive income. I won again on my premium bonds too, this month it was £50 so that is nice tax free income to receive.

My shares have fluctuated again in August but I am just holding them and watching for the dividends to be declared. Any dividends will be split between investments and monthly expenses. I can’t sell any more this year without incurring CGT. I have no immediate need to sell them so will slowly release them over the next few years.

I have received a few ISA dividends this month too which have been auto invested in more units which has helped to improve my ISA balance. Watching this track upwards after last year is a positive feeling.

I have continued to try and find some online work. The sites I use have again been slow this month. The Summer months are poor but I have managed to nearly reach my monthly target. This money will be used to cover expenses and enable me to avoid taking profit from my ISA.

I have started to ponder getting some part time work. Now that the UK is opening up the job market will hopefully start to pick up and maybe I can find a stress free job. I don’t want to work in a stressful job environment any more. My last role was so stressful and bullying it was literally killing me and I feel so much better for leaving. I can tell from my job interviews that my stress levels start to increase at the thought (fear) of another bullying workplace and my blood pressure rises. I have managed to avoid blood pressure medication so far. I have managed to increase my fitness with the cycling and walking I am now able to do in what would have been office hours.

Month End

I feel grateful for my FI fund and it is supporting me well. I can continue to ponder my long term options and in the meantime enjoy some recreational activities. I am feeling more relaxed as freedoms start to appear. Maybe I am starting to feel the benefits of FI freedom. I hope this can continue and I can class myself as finished with the workplace for good.

Toxic Work Culture

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I was catching up on my reading this week. I do enjoy using my free library app to read books and magazines, it’s been so good during the lockdowns. I have forgotten about my last job and am starting to relax again now that lockdown is easing and I can go out and feel more free to do things.

So I found it quite amusing reading an article on Toxic, High Stress Work Cultures. I can see the funny side because I have escaped it. The article outlined the characteristics of a toxic work culture and after reading, it made me think about my last role which ticked the boxes!

The points highlighted were:

  1. Constant focus on things people are doing wrong and correcting problems with minimal positive feedback when things go right.

Yes, I experienced this every day. It was constant moaning and groaning from the managers and pretty much every day there was some kind of outburst in the office due to the ‘incompetence’ of an employee. If there was any good news it was not thanked or celebrated in any way. I can count on one hand the amount of times I heard the word ‘thank you’ for any help or work completed. Meetings would be be all about nit picking the presentation pack apart and looking for typos or incorrect use of the corporate style rather than the actual content/subject of the pack.

2. Lack of appreciation or recognition for the work that people do.

Yes, there was no ‘thank you’ or any general positive feedback. It was always negative and cutting. I remember when I was leaving and in one meeting one of the suppliers in attendance thanked me for my contributions and work on the project and wished me well for my future. They then turned to my senior management team who sat quietly and then through clenched teeth they agreed and also said ‘thank you’. It was painful to watch as I could see that there was no genuine meaning in it.

3. Bureaucracy that has too many layers to move forward.

I don’t think they had a layer problem but they did have a management problem. The managers just didn’t want change and would reject ideas that would involve expenditure or operational amendments. This became especially so if it involved operational changes that may require team changes, increase/decrease of staff.

4. Leaders who focus on control and micro-management.

Yes, this was evident with the seniors sticking to their offices and refusing to go to certain parts of the building as they didn’t want to talk to the ‘lower levels of staff’. Read into that whatever you wish but I thought it was really bad. There was this status and control aspect that seemed to permeate through the management team. It was quite common for the senior managers to walk past you in the corridor and not acknowledge your presence or existence. They were also constantly on your shoulder and overseeing every aspect of a task if it was of critical importance to them.

5.Little concern for the happiness or well-being of employees.

Yes, this was illustrated when any employee was ill or if work environments required health and safety checks. They would brush them off or panic if they thought they were legally liable. Only then would some kind of well being be thought about. When my work colleague had a brain aneurysm in the office, the managers panicked and said ‘could we be deemed liable and the cause of this’ . They didn’t seem to be concerned with the employee’s health at all. Luckily she survived due to the quick recognition of the ambulance crew who arrived to treat her. She was whisked off to a major hospital and spent 8 hours in the operating theatre. She survived and is doing well now but it took her a long time to recover and it was touch and go, she had a 50% survival rate. So glad she survived and she looked well the last time I saw her.

6.Staff are expected to sacrifice their personal lives for the job with long hours and little downtime.

Yes, this was expected every day. Dependent upon the work emergency, people were expected to work what ever hours were required to fix it. I can now see why some of the more long serving employees would see something start to kick off and they would run for the door and hide before they would be called upon to help. It was left to the new more recent employees to pick up and fix. It was like some kind of ‘pass-the-parcel’ and it didn’t help to create a happy or gelled team. If you did work into the night or weekends to get things fixed, there was no acknowledgement or thanks. Again, it was expected and there would be no financial reward or time off to compensate for the additional hours worked.

I am just so glad I escaped and in one piece too. My work colleague left at the same time as we had both had enough of the environment. I know that isn’t a reason to FI but it is a reason to have a FU fund so that you can have choices. You have the ability to escape these environments and recover. You have the ability to find somewhere else that is not toxic.

I hope to find a better, non toxic place to work so I can be happy. If not, then I am looking to make my current ‘break’ more permanent. I have my spreadsheets out and looking at what can be done in each future year to enable me to stay free from work.

Lockdown has made a lot of people think about their workplace and the pressures experienced. I have a few contacts that are now leaving their work either to have a break, retire or to find something else to ease the pressures that have taken their toll. I am seeing more jobs appear and as I read the job descriptions and the glassdoor reviews I can see that they are toxic and stressful. It doesn’t bode well for the future as I hear more people say they are looking to escape a workplace that they once loved but have either now seen the light or has turned onto a toxic place due to the pandemic.

Those who have a good workplace should be grateful as it appears that some places are changing and I have a couple of contacts who are telling me how their workplace has changed for the worse and they are looking for lifeboats and an escape.

I think there will be a few more people seeking out the FI path and looking for ways to escape the grind. It it a worthwhile pursuit as it gives you choices and options in your life. It is a hard path when you first start but as you get nearer the end you can see the benefits and the rewards for following it as you look back at the view…….

Monthly Update – Jul 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

July has been good although I have gone over budget for the month. I have been enjoying the good weather and freedoms and going out and visiting local places and enjoying pubs and outside spaces. I have had a few expected expenses this month, annual insurance renewals. I even received a renewal quote and it was LOWER than last year. I guess the pandemic has helped to reduce risks and resulting premiums.

My net worth is remaining steady. Dividends have started to appear and I have seen that more will follow in the next few months. I have already been plotting them into my calendar. So after the taps were turned off last year they now seem to be trickling back. That’s a relief as I was beginning to worry that I would start eating into my capital to live.

Income

On the income front, the share dividends received this month have helped to increase my passive income. I won another prize on my premium bonds, this month it was only £25 – but better than nothing. Now my tax return has been completed I now have an idea of how much I can earn before any tax will become payable. So I can look at other ways of increasing my income knowing that tax will not be payable yet.

My shares have roller coasted in July with the reactions to pandemic news. I am glad I sold my shares when I did as the money has now been re-invested in my ISA and it is having a smoother journey.

I have received a few ISA dividends this month too which will be auto invested in more units so it will continue to snowball.

After my break from the online work last month, I have returned and tried to earn some cash again. The summer months are historically quiet and seem to be so at the moment. I set myself weekly and monthly targets and I am unable to reach them at the moment. I am about 50% down for the month but I am earning something and it is better than I did this time last year so there is some positive to take from that. I have broadened my work to other sites and trying to filter them all into one account and make the best FX conversion as they pay in either US dollars or Euros. One site has removed the SEPA payment method for UK users due to brexit. We have to use other payment services that charge transaction fees so now losing between 2% and 4% on earnings as it crosses the banking systems depending on the service used.

Month End

I still feel glad and grateful that I have a FI fund and it is supporting me. I can continue to be selective on my job hunt and in the meantime go and do a few activities. I can enjoy the summer and get out and about and try to pick and choose my places to visit wisely. Having the ability to chose how to spend my time has been great and I am feeling more relaxed now as things seem to be easing up and freedoms start to appear. Maybe I am starting to feel the benefits of FI freedom.

Zero Tax

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I have just had my tax form back and due to my job free year I am now classed as a non tax payer! WOO HOO!

I haven’t been one of those for years, well, decades ago in fact. So this year will currently be the same, a non taxpayer as I am not earning enough money to exceed my tax allowance. All my rental income falls within my allowance so I have no tax to pay. My extra earnings haven’t pushed me over so I have a buffer before any tax is liable. My tax free savings continue to grow (slowly) and rollercoaster around with the markets. My net worth is slowly growing, although looking today the markets are getting a hammering because its UK freedom day – I can see this going badly for the UK. (So my net worth WAS slowly growing) The market dashboard is pure red and all my holdings are down. (sigh)…

I don’t think all the restrictions should have been removed all on one day – but hey – it seems we are on the ‘herd immunity’ path involving a ‘let it rip and see who’ survives plan. I will continue to keep away from populated places and am wary of getting a job in this climate if employers are expecting their staff to go into offices when the Delta variant is clearly transmitting at a rapid pace. I keep reading the job posting descriptions anyway and they are long with lots of skills, responsibility and full time. All either directly specify office based – or say hybrid (read full time office as the long term). As I read between the lines they also mean working 40+ hours per week too. I am getting jobs from agents which involve long commutes, the latest was a job in Manchester, not an easy commute having done it by train for meetings with a supplier whose offices were in Manchester. I have seen another one, it’s reasonably local ( a one hour commute away – if no traffic incidents) and again, its working with international teams so would require me to work UK + other country hours!

That has been the problem with IT roles for me recently. I have had to work the UK hours as the management would not let me work flex hours to balance the international hours work for meetings with other country teams. At one point I was working both sides of the clock with meetings and comms with a US team as well as having meetings and comms with Australian and Indian teams. Then having to have UK meetings in between. The senior managers expected me to answer their emails/phone calls at whatever time of the day they were working and I refused to answer when it was outside UK hours. They would be visiting the US or Australia so I just made it clear that they would have to leave me messages and I would work them in UK hours.

I would love a job that worked UK hours only and that is why I am feeling like finding a part time job. I want some time for ME now. I have had enough of working all hours and would like some time for me. I am enjoying my free time and as I listened to an audio book the other day : “Time is a type of wealth” and I would rather have some TIME than having to collapse on the treadmill of the rat race. I am looking at other ways of making money, after the photo site I was using went pop I have been pondering other options. Their operational model was ideal for me. I need to start researching other suppliers and other selling channels and see if I can find a similar model that is working. I am not good at selling myself and producing my own designs means becoming a brand, I like my anonymity. So I will continue to prioritise enjoying the sunshine, listening to audiobooks and pondering options for making some additional money to top up my funds.

And the storm clouds continue….

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So where has the sun gone? The positivity in the air has evaporated?

I was hoping all this talk of the opening up of the UK economy may help my job search … but it seems not.. for me anyway. My recent applications have been unsuccessful and it now seems that I can no longer get to the interview stage and being kicked out earlier in the process. {SIGH} Agents keep sending jobs which require me to commute long distance (they are supposedly ‘remote’ but for how long?). I need to rethink…..

Age has been the cause for one of my recent rejections – so maybe my FI status will become a permanent one by default. Pushed out of the rat race by ageism. Another was due to experience – I didn’t have enough years experience on a specific product to be classed as suitable for the next stage. It’s a seller’s market and they can ask for however much experience they like. It doesn’t matter if you have the aptitude or the flexibility to learn – they don’t want employees to learn on the job, they want employees that already have the knowledge. Previously I have been offered and taken on jobs with no experience of the specific product, just the subject area was enough, I learnt on the job and succeeded in delivering the project and learning about the specific product along the way (Win, Win in my eyes). That does not seem to cut it at the moment. Even though some times not knowing the specific product is an advantage too – you challenge its features and stop blinkered views due to a product’s perceived ability.

I was reading an article on job application advice and the advice to one person (a woman in her 50s) was that you need to network and the only way to get a job is via friends. Oh joys! All my network friends are either retiring or losing their jobs so my network for job recommendations is shrinking fast. I contacted an ex work colleague the other week and they were happy as they are retiring after 30 years with the same company. I contacted another ex work colleague and they have just been made redundant, they were told a few days ago. They had tried to find me a job in their company before, so that is a closed door. They are finishing at the end of the month too, a rapid departure. They are near retirement age so I think they will not bother looking for another job either. Others I have contacted are down with their job and ‘wish they could be like me’ and not working as they are stressed out and tired of all the zoom meetings. They are tied to their job by financial commitments, they fear losing their job too as their company’s financial status is uncertain.

I have had a few days break from the online working platform and it seems that the work has dropped off too. I have been reading the user forums and the underlying comments seem to indicate that the work drops off around now and does not pick up again until autumn but the pandemic has messed up the cycle so people are not too sure on the future work potential. What is for sure is that the pay rates are dropping and the opening of the platform to more countries especially those hardest hit by the pandemic (Brazil and India) has meant that the owners can drop pay rates and use this to their benefit. The global economy at work, as we have seen before, its the ‘race to the bottom’ in action and utilisation of the cheapest work force where ever they are in the world.

I have also found that the platform I used to launch my photo selling portal has also gone POP! I noticed that I couldn’t access the site a few weeks ago, I thought it was a ‘blip’ as there had been general internet outages. I went on holiday so didn’t bother looking further. Now I am back I can see that this wasn’t some technical ‘blip’ and the hosting servers have gone. The company’s main website is dormant, although still accessible, and their social media channels have stopped being updated, their last posts was a few weeks ago. I have been trying to search for company news but cannot find anything about them going POP – but they must have collapsed. I will have to have a look at other possible photo/print platforms and see if it is worth trying again. I am not sure if it is. The market looks saturated and without an outlet it is a waste of time. I need my starting overheads to be low as I am not a natural salesperson. I am a ‘doer’, I get things done and a problem solver which was ideal for the roles I have performed in the past. It’s why I have been looking for passive income streams.

I need to ‘think positive’ and start looking at other ways to earn some money, especially now that I have completed my tax return and seen how bad my income drop has become. It’s a matter of ‘keep calm and carry on’.

Tax Return

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

Well, it’s that time of year when I need to fill in my tax return for the previous tax year.

What a sorry state of affairs that is. It isn’t until I collated all my paperwork that I now see how much of a drop in income I have had and how the pandemic has decimated my income. I left my permanent job at the end of Dec 2019 and spent the time between then and Apr 2020 just relaxing and having a break from working – I needed a reset and a chance to recover from what was a toxic workplace. My plan was to start looking for new work around April 2020 as that is when the new tax year starts for most UK companies and they look to new projects and recruit new people. BUT…. the pandemic hit….

So I found it hard to find any work in April last year and spent the time doing volunteer work sewing scrubs for the NHS. After the volunteering dropped off I looked for some online work (as the job market had collapsed) to fill the gap and have worked a two sites but the pay is terrible and below UK minimum wage – but as you are classed as self-employed the minimum wage rule does not apply. I could work from home, avoid the chaos outside and avoid exposure to the virus. Anyhow I have continued to do this while seeking work and not claiming unemployment benefit. I didn’t want to be made to apply for EVERY job going, I would like to be selective and not made to apply for roles that were obviously not going to employ me because I am over qualified or no experience or as the case seems to be now – too old! It’s a seller’s market and the recruiters are being very picky and didn’t want the negativity or the depressing rejection letters and emails in high volumes just to ‘tick the boxes’ for the job centre. I read posts from people who have applied for 100s of jobs with no success.

Anyhow, I have just completed my tax return for the last year and it makes terrible reading. My savings income has dropped considerably as I compare the previous declaration to this one. OUCH ! the interest rates have plummeted so much and although I can now apply the £1000 saving allowance, my savings interest is nowhere near that threshold compared to previous years. Previous years were above this threshold so I would have had some benefit, but not now. My dividend income has crashed too with, again, a considerable drop in taxable dividends. My biggest dividend paying share stopped all payments and still has not restarted them. I check the news and press but they have no intention of restarting dividend payments any time soon. I know I have sold some shares and moved them into my ISA to make future gains tax free but another OUCH ! I can see that my subsequent fund purchases (I am diversifying out of single shares) are growing/paying dividends but not to the scale they were. Based on my original income, I could be FI but now with the drop in passive income I am not so sure.

I have continued to pay into my pension and have paid in the max I could based on the ‘non earner’ rules. I may have been able to pay in more but I am reluctant to when I may need the money to accessible now.

My rental income has been the only constant fortunately, but again I am looking at when to sell the property and get out of BTL and use the money to live instead. The tax-free accounts have faired the best and my ISA has improved which has counter balanced the really poor taxable income sources.

I await to see what my accountant thinks of my situation and what tax I have to pay, if any.

Monthly Update – Jun 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

June has been a quick month for me. I had my birthday this month too so a chance to celebrate and meet a few people. I have had my second COVID jab and managed to get out a few times which has improved my mental health.

Financially, my net worth has ended the month up 1% on last month. I can see that the moving of funds from shares to ISA has proved to be useful and my remaining shares have started to pick up again and some dividends have been paid. I am managed to keep my net worth at a balanced level as I draw down my cash and let my investments grow and balance the outgoings while staying invested.

Net Worth graph

Income

On the income front, some more share dividends were paid to add to my funds. I also won £50 on my premium bonds. I invested the funds from my old employer share sale this month, I used this year’s CGT to sell and popped that money into my ISA as part of this year’s allowance.

Shares

My shares have roller coasted over the past few months. I sold some in Feb and then another load in May so I can move them into my ISA and take advantage of my ISA allowances for last year and this year.

My ISA is now picking up as a consequence of the two lump sum investments either side of April and I am buying global funds to diversify and spread the risks rather than have money in a single company.

ISA growth 2021

With my holiday and my birthday I have taken a break from the online work and so my earnings this month are down and will continue to be down next month as some earnings are not credited for a month. I have been looking at jobs but nothing really appeals. Again, the jobs are full time, long hours and expected to be in the office as soon as this is possible. I have been contacted by a few agents with possible roles but they are the same ones as last month, which suggests the employer is not finding the right candidate – or are being very picky. One involves a particularly horrid commute so I have rejected it. I would like something local and have less of a painful commute. The novelty of sitting in motorway traffic queues died off for me years ago. I applied for a role that sounded interesting but because I do not have ‘enough’ relevant experience they have immediately rejected me. I am sure they have a huge amount of applicants as the sector is quite popular in the area and its an employer’s market. I also wished an ex work colleague good luck as they are counting down the days until they officially retire. They can draw their pension now so have decided to do so. A few of my working friends are saying how they are feeling tired and just want “out”. Some are looking at their finances to see if they can do it, others know that they cannot due to their financial commitments.

— This makes me grateful for my FI fund as it is giving me the freedom to sit as an outsider and relax. —

My NS&I savings have renewed, I didn’t get much interest but I will hang onto them as a diversification. I have just heard about the new Green Bonds – I will have a look at those and see if they are any good – Has anyone seen the info on these? Do they seem attractive ?

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have been to a gig and enjoyed every minute of it, seeing a band play live is a novelty. I am now looking at other adventures and places I could visit that will not be too populated.

I have also just seen that I have won another £25 on my premium bonds. Happy Summer Days !

Staying Healthy

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Well, after such a great holiday where I was exercising every day I have crashed back to my sedentary life. I am putting on weight and have been during the last lockdown. The combination of weather and dark skies meant I struggled to exercise as much as I needed and with the cold weather comfort eating I have piled on the pounds and really need to get rid of it. I thought my job was bad for me as I sat around in an office desk most of the day but at least I did get some movement, being at home has reduced my activity levels to non existent. I enjoyed my holiday and I got out and about enjoying the exercise but I also noticed how much additional weight I am carrying and I so need to LOSE IT!

I am a woman of a certain age which means I am now going through the menopause which is wreaking havoc on my body and mind. I started getting symptoms a few years ago and part of the reason I left my last job was because I couldn’t function due to the brain fog, anxiety and fatigue due to insomnia. ( I have read a number of articles on women leaving the workplace because of menopause. I was hoping not to be one of them but have joined the statistics now. There was no help available at my last place. Their view was get on with the job or leave. – They had no new projects and they didn’t want to pay me any redundancy, so leaving did them a favour. – Cynical I know ! )

The brain fog meant I was struggling to think sometimes and was being bullied and generally derided for not being ‘on the ball’. If I forgot something I was seen as incompetent. The workplace was unforgiving and I had panic attacks brought on by my anxiety which was reducing my threshold levels so things I could do with my eyes shut became major anxiety generating events. God – I felt so stupid and thought I was going mad. I couldn’t cope with the negativity and panic attacks and when the project finished I decided to leave and have some ‘Me time’. I have worked continuously for over 25 years so a break was well overdue. I have found that the brain fog has actually started to get worse, I had a really bad day while on holiday where I just couldn’t think at all. I was just responding with “I don’t know” all the time as my brain was just frazzled, I just couldn’t think straight.

Insomnia

The insomnia did start to ease once I left my job and I was hoping that I would recover enough that I could consider getting a new job. But – during the last few months the insomnia has come back with added intensity. I have been trying to sleep but do not want to resort to medication as that is not good over the long term. I wondered how I would be while on holiday as I wanted to use that as a control and see if the lockdown was a major cause – I still had sleepless nights but due to the exercise I was managing to sleep a few more hours than before. A step in the right direction, so how to I improve it even more?

I looked for something to help me. I have started a sleep course. I am using sleepio and have a free sign up, it is used by the NHS and was created in the US, it is a CBT self-help course which lasts 6 weeks, it can be access for free via some UK GPs. I managed to get a free link.

Sleepio.com

Free signup link here : Use the code : G69JAN

I am hoping this will help me get back to a decent level of sleep and help me on the road to recovery. I didn’t know this but lack of sleep / poor sleep can also make you put on weight so as well as trying to increase my exercise levels to reduce weight I also need to improve the quality of my sleep. I am only a week into the course so no idea if this will help or not, time will tell.

Fitness

I also need to improve my fitness. I want to be able to cycle more and look at some longer cycle rides and possible do some cycle touring in the UK as a way of travelling while COVID restricts holiday options. Now the weather has improved I need to get into a fitness routine and crank up the exercise to try and get rid of the excess weight and feel better about myself. I have never been so overweight or so down. I need to find ways of motivating myself and improving my outlook. My self confidence is at an all time low. I guess I am having post-holiday blues. I need to get myself into a better mindset and be more positive and regain my self confidence and self esteem. I have started some yoga and kettlebell sessions using YouTube channels to get some variety in my sessions and get into a routine. It is giving me some focus as I try to work out what to do next. I feel like a write-off but need to give myself a kick and motivate.

Monthly Update – May 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

May has been a bit of a wash out generally. I have not been able to do as much exercise as I would like. I have felt somewhat down with the limited activity but have had the motivation of my up coming holiday to cast some brighter light on the days.

Financially, my net worth has taken a bit of a hit from the markets and I ended the month down 1% on last month. I have been preparing for my holiday though, I had to move my holiday from last year and the new date has arrived and I ended the month on holiday in Scotland.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as the lockdown is only just easing. The normal hotel stops on the way up were possible. I had to download 2 different apps to track & trace in Scotland. The weather also improved during the holiday, so I ended up being able to have what felt like a normal holiday. Other than checking in and out and sitting in sectioned off seating, as per COVID rules, I had a great time. It felt so long overdue and I enjoyed every minute and every activity as though it was my last. Being able to see another part of the country was great, I felt my batteries recharge and my whole demeanour changed and I smiled more than I have for a while. I hired a bike and cycled nearly 200 miles and soaked up the great weather and the wildlife. I could cycle so close to wild animals (deer, squirrels, rabbits, hares and even weasels) without them fleeing so quickly. Some great sights and with the sunshine and warm weather it felt like a really good restorative break. Something I was hoping to do last year to shake off the ‘toxins’ of my last job.

Income

On the income front, some more share dividends were paid this month to add to my funds. Not much but better than nothing. I also sold down some of my old employer shares, I have used this year’s CGT to sell down and I will pop that money into my ISA as part of this year’s allowance.

I have been trying to earn more money online but the volume of users has now grown so much the site has been crashing. There appears to be some good jobs being published at a fixed time every day. This means everyone logs in to work it and its resulting in the site crashing. I think there are users using bots to poll and grab the work too which means it is almost a DDOS attack, the site crashes and no one can do anything until the jobs have gone. I have had poor earnings as a result so I have given up working and am taking a break for a few weeks either side my holiday. I changed my payment supplier and have already seen a better return from exchange rates and I will just have to monitor the work options as it is looking like I will have to find another way of earning money. I have been looking at jobs but nothing really appeals. Again, the jobs are full time, long hours and expected to be in the office as soon as this is possible.

My NS&I savings have renewed, I didn’t get much interest and it will just get worse over the next few years but I will hang onto them as a diversification. I will review my other accounts and see if I can move things around to gain better interest where ever I can. My passive income is dropping and I am trying to find ways of increasing it and make my money grow without losing capital.

Tax Year

I have received my tax paperwork for last year from my accountant so I will fill that in and see what tax I have to pay. I have my online income to declare but I haven’t earned enough to trigger any tax or NI payments so if I want to accrue any credits towards my state pension I will have to pay a top up contribution.

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have returned from my holiday. I was a bit concerned on what I would find on holiday but it was better than expected. It has been good for my mental health and I so needed to have something ‘normal’ to do. I found out from the holiday neighbours that the owner of the self-catering place I was staying in has sold up. I had wondered if the lockdown and lack of income last year has encouraged them to sell up and get out of the holiday let market. I also found out that there had been a fire in the place I was staying and I was the first visitor since the repairs were completed.

On the journey up I had never seen so many motorhomes and caravans. The towns I visited were packed so I had to look for quieter locations and enjoyed the cycling and walking in the countryside away from the crowds. The locals were saying how they were glad of the tourists and others were saying how accommodation costs had risen two or three-fold and they knew people who were raising prices to recoup their losses from last year. Some of the cafes/shops I normally visit had gone bust and others were struggling to survive. There was lots of positivity though and with the sunshine it was great to sit outside and chat to people, at a social distance! The B&B places that would normally be fully booked had vacancy signs up and limited occupancy. They are missing the foreign tourists who would be travelling around, stopping off in different places every so many days and filling the rooms.

Now I am back home and the weather is better I will try to stay positive and active and look at ways I can live without a job as I am really feeling down with the work situation. My anxiety levels have been bad with regard to working and I am not wanting to go back to the rat race and the toxic environment I was experiencing. Until COVID is over I cannot see opportunities arising which enable me to move into a better environment. Why take on someone you have to train when there are plenty of people out there who can do the job and qualified from day one. I need to seriously rethink my life path.