Reading Matter

I have been trying to de-stress and I have been doing that by reading. I have been reading the following two books and trying to follow some of their advice. FIRE still burns inside me. I am on the journey and researching and checking that I am on the right route.

Your Money or Your Life – Vicki Robin

I have been reading the updated version. I have been using the calculations to determine where I am on the path. I have also tried to encourage by partner to read it. He’s a spender and although he is changing his ways he still has habits. Ones that only he can personally change so hopefully this book will open his eyes too.

Early Retirement Extreme – Jacob Fisker

A classic FIRE book. Who else can provide you with examples on achieving the goal.  I am not young and trying to reach FIRE by 30. I am in my 50s and just want to give up work and span the years between now and my state pension age when I can collect my state and company pensions. I have plenty to be grateful for and I wish I could be more DIY like Jacob. I have worked hard and now want to look at doing things that are non-money earning but bring me happiness.

Skills :

I would like to learn more skills to self-serve. I am chuffed as I managed to change an electrical socket and a broken light switch the other week. Electrics was something my old partner was good at. That is the only thing I miss about him, his skills at sorting out electrical issues – LOL !

Plumbing and general skills to help with saving costs on house maintenance would be great for me. I can paint, tile, lay carpets, make curtains, put shelves up but things like electrics and plumbing are a “black art”. Plus the government are making it harder for people to do DIY by creating rules over what must have certificates and proof of tradesman installation or servicing. etc… etc…

Trying to find a good tradesman to come and do these types of jobs is getting harder too as they know they can pick and chose their work. It is easier for me to find someone to build a new house extension that fix a broken tap!

The madness of life and today’s society?

What books are you reading?

Are there ones you could suggest I read?

Let me know in your comments….

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New Tax Year – New Me?

Well, I have been very quiet and not really posting much, mainly because I have been keeping my head down and just working (in the hell hole) and saving hard.

I have started receiving my tax certificates and also my letter reminding me that I need to start filling in my tax return for last year. So I have started to collect the relevant paperwork and looking at the values its looking good.

Its been a hard year for me, work has been traumatic, resulting in lots of pressure, a change in boss and constant toxic management politics. Observing the senior management decision making (or not) is just driving me mad. My illness in Jan resulted in days off work (unpaid) and lots of flack from the managers  (‘How dare I be ill’)  !

My only positive is that when reviewing last year’s savings I have done well, saving over 60%+ of my income. I have fully funded by ISA last year and put quite a bit of money into pension schemes to collect tax relief and any allowances while I am still working.

I am now seriously thinking of leaving work, the pressure is building again as the project I work on reached its final stages! Yes, nearly there!!! I just want to see this go over the finish line – its been a marathon and being so near the end – I just want to walk (stagger) over that finish line rather than admit defeat with just yards to go. I can at least feel some kind of achievement and ‘success’ then I can leave it to someone else. The new boss is bringing change, which is fine – no problem with that, its just that its slow due to the office politics and lots of pressure and threats to cancel holidays and performance reviews are flying around. We have lost (dismissed) rather than gained people which is putting more pressure on those that remain – as everyone fears for their job. I have had no holiday this year (just the odd day plus the recent bank holidays) and have 2 weeks booked off in a few month’s time and I am being told that they can make me cancel it and work!  (So unfair) Morale is at an all time low.

I cannot tell if it is just threat or real. Can I just refuse and leave with immediate effect? Is this possible ? What are the rules under employment contracts? My contract is pretty bland, just says I have to give x months notice…Some of my friends say I should ask for a cut in hours but that will not fly. Time to pull the rip cord.

I am becoming ill again which is my body telling me its time to go. I keep feeling guilty for leaving others with the burdens but – hey – I have to think about myself now. Stop thinking about others, its me !  I need to look after me ! me ! me!

 

Jan 2019 – end of month update

Yay! At the end of a chilly January and although cold, icy and snowy outside, its been warm from an investments viewpoint.

My shares and funds have recovered from the new year values and they are both looking more shiny and the addition of dividends this month has helped to lift their totals nicely.

I have now maxed out on my ISA thresholds for this year so I will just let the last 2 monthly auto payments complete to reach the £20k max value. Using my taxable dividends to top-up my ISA.

I have received my reduced salary due to sickness, my employer only pays statutory sick pay, so I have lost 3 days of pay and received a flat rate £19 a day for the rest of my time off sick. That equates to £2.50 per hour = where does minimum wage fit in with this then GOV?

I suppose that is where having money in the bank helps! I have an emergency fund to draw on plus I am not spending more than I earn each month and don’t have to worry about an overdraft. It just means I will not have as much money to save this month.

Roll on when I can pull the plug. My net worth is looking good so I am nearly there. In US dollar terms I am already a millionaire. Now that’s a great feeling, still have some way to go until I can say that in British pound terms.

I just need to make it generate a better passive income return so I am not selling funds to obtain the income.

I have started reading ‘Enough’ by Jack Bogle, having heard of his death I though it was appropriate to read this book. He had such a positive outlook on life and its something I need to do myself, think positively and if I fall down, stand up, brush myself down and walk on… The path continues and the need to blaze that trail to freedom is still there.

Let’s hope this year can continue to see positive progress and that “B*xit” doesn’t shower havoc on the markets.

Jan 2019 – mid-month update

The 2019 year has started off on a low note for me. My cold/flu/virus thing has turned into a full-on chest infection and I am now signed off work while I recover. As it’s a virus, no antibiotics for me; just sleep, painkillers and hydration.

It has given me a break from the coalface and so glad I received a tax rebate last month as I will need to use that this month to cover the reduce salary as I don’t get sick pay. I have completely switched off work and decided to rest to give myself a better chance of recovery having battled on last month and ending up in this position.

It has given me a chance to review last year’s FI activities and see the results of my efforts. I am still in the accumulation phase so need to make sure I make the most of the earning years.

1.Move passive income streams to tax-free accounts. My goal last year was to move taxable income into tax-free accounts where possible. This has resulted in a 30% increase in my tax-free passive income for the year – YAY; the downside is that my taxable income has dropped due to reduced dividend yields, not something I can control.

My aim is to reduce my savings and dividend interest to remain below annual tax thresholds and keep my tax bill down. Overall my passive income stream from savings and investments is down on the year due to the reduction in dividend payments in 2018. I am trying to get to a point where my passive income covers my expenses so I can be FI and not draw upon capital growth to supplement annual expenses. I am about 30% short in achieving my passive expense figure.

2. Increase contributions in my SIPP/Pension. I achieved that too, which is one of the reasons I received a tax rebate. I am nowhere near the max threshold for contributions but saving efficiently and obtaining a tax rebate for my contributions is useful while I am still employed.

The aim is to get a reasonable pension pot which I can leave to grow and then use when I reach NRA or have the option to draw from between the age of 55 and NRA.

3.Top-up my ISA to the annual max allowance. I have a monthly automatic contribution then make lump sum top-ups periodically when taxable dividends or other income arrives which would be best invested into a tax-free account. I am on target to achieve this as I did last year too.

I did spend more money on recreational activities than in previous years. It’s OK saving hard but when that make you feel too frugal and unhappy then it’s time to release the purse strings a bit to keep the motivation going to achieve FI. It’s a journey after all, can’t be frugal to the point of losing the fun and enjoyment in life. It’s a balance between being too Scrooge versus being a big-spender.

I need to look at the possible uplift in expenses this year due to baseline bill increases; utilities, insurances, etc. I moved utilities supplier last year and need to see if this is actually making a difference and if this was a good move or not. I do think that fuel utilities are under some cartel control as the increases in the costs seem to be excessive and even with the introduction of a price cap will not stop them from pushing prices upwards.

I have also managed to get an upgrade to my broadband without an increase in cost. YAY! I am sure I would save more by actually moving supplier but don’t really want to.

Some non-financial targets this year:

  1. restart some of my hobbies – I stopped doing them when work took over my life, now need to go back to them as they help to relax me and good for my health and well-being.
  2. read more books – they give me the escapism that I need from the working world, I live to work and I need to get off that treadmill!
  3. recreation – get active and walk & cycle more and get outside! It will do my health so much good. I have a too sedentary job and need to change this somehow. I feel tired all the time which shouldn’t be the case. I really enjoyed my break in the Lakes last year. Will be so glad when the daylight returns in the evenings, longer days will give me the impetus to go out and do something. I miss spending my weekends outside walking and getting out and active and feel I didn’t do enough of this last year.
  4. rekindle friendships – I have spent so much time not getting out and meeting people. It hasn’t done me any good. I need to get a life and get out there. Living alone means I spend too many hours on my own. My workplace doesn’t give me the social interaction I need.
  5. reinvent myself – I am mulling over a career change as I cannot continue to do the job role I do now, it’s too stressful and isn’t giving me the fulfilment I would like. Finding a part-time role is of interest so mulling over the options that are possible. This would give me the time to do other things and not feel so worn out and tired all the time.
  6. reduce my blood pressure – my blood pressure is slightly high, probably due to the lack of exercise/stressful job. When I exercise I notice it goes down to within the normal range. I have my own monitor as the docs were suggesting putting me on meds last January.

When illness strikes it makes you focus on what is good and bad in your life and I really need to make a difference this year.

All work and no play really isn’t good for SparkleBee.

 

December 2018

Wow, another year nearly over.

Where has the time gone?

I look at my investment accounts and I am lucky if they break even based on their net value at the beginning of the year. This uncertainty in the markets has hammered my investments. It’s depressing, I have been adding money monthly into my account and yet the overall net value is equal to the beginning of the year.

Its things like this that make the FI path a challenge. Trying to stay motivated and not allow these setbacks from getting me down.  I so want to give up my current job and escape the rat race. The bullying, toxic workplace continues to grind and everyone I speak to is not happy in their work. I have a new boss who is trying to bring change but he seen just the same barriers as I do. He is wondering if he has been sold an ‘pup’ too. The company talks but doesn’t act and follow through on its ‘plans’.

A positive to end the year, I have just received a nice tax rebate, only to use 1/3 of it to pay my tax owed in January. They give and take back in almost equal measure…lol….

I will be glad of a break and rest at Christmas. I have had an awful virus(flu) that has knocked me for six and I have struggled to work and tried to keep going. It’s a struggle to get out of bed but I try hard to keep moving. It’s lasted 3 weeks so far and I still haven’t shaken this yet. There has to be an end to this soon.

A happy Christmas to those who read my blog posts. They have been intermittent this year as my focus has been waning and I need to regain my mojo and focus on reaching that elusive FI goal.

Some New Year goals to set and keep in 2019!

 

 

SIPP & Investments

My DC pensions have now been transferred to my SIPP. Yay!

The downside has been the drop in fund prices so my transfer has already resulted in a loss of value of approx £2k – so disheartening. That’s the issue with a transfer and immediate investment – you take the hit based on the timing. My timing was off 😦

I cannot touch it for another 5 years so they have some time to recover. It’s not worth much and really needs to grow considerably to make it a viable income source at 55. That just leaves my DB pension which I am not touching (and can’t touch until SPA) and my current employer DC pension. I will just keep pushing money into the SIPP and employer pension and try to pick up the tax relief advantages while they last.

With the budget on Monday, the scaremongers are out pushing rumours of pensions being the target area and get top-ups in now while you can. If you haven’t used up your previous year’s allowances you can use that to top up so surely that’s not a big issue for some.

Once I leave my current employer I will transfer that pension into my SIPP too. Which is getting close just because of the stress – mainly due to the ‘sh*’ I have to put up with. It’s a bit toxic to say the least and the bullying nature of the management has surfaced again recently – wonder if they all suffer from SAD as it seems to get worse at this time of year. I got the ‘you are incompetent’, ‘how can I trust you’ type barrage of abuse the other day. I had to sit in a meeting and put up with the venting aggression from the senior management, I wasn’t the only one on the receiving end but after a while you just get sick of it. I can completely appreciate the current media coverage on NDAs and their use to pay people to leave rather than tackle the issue of bullying/harassment in a business. My employer has no HR department so you have nowhere to go other than just resign. Sounds a bit like Westminster. Plus how do you tackle bullying when its the senior managers in the chair? (Its unprofessional and I am getting sick of it – I have never worked anywhere like it. Its seen as ‘the-norm’ and accepted practice, fear prevails).

I have another meeting next week which contains bad news. I am expecting another barrage of abuse. I am considering just getting up and walking out saying ‘If I am so bad sack me, I will go and clear my desk and leave now’ – the positive – it would mean I wouldn’t be held to doing 3 months notice.

How do you stand contract-wise/legally if you have to give 3 months notice but want to leave immediately? Its laughable but then you feel they have brought it on themselves and deserve it. What’s the point of ‘FU money’ if you don’t use it to escape a bad situation.

I have watched my investments going down as the markets react to the global instability. I keep investing but with talk of a crash it makes you feel nervous of investing and seeing your account balances drop each time rather than grow or remain level. My accounts were all red when the last crash happened, I was working so just didn’t worry and just kept thinking, I’m investing for the long-term, they will recover. It’s a slightly different feeling when you may be about to pull the plug and rely on your funds to support you just as they plummet into the red. I am trying to diversify but it doesn’t seem to be enough at the moment to balance the roller coaster ride.

I need to have a really good look at my finances, if I do leave my age will prevent me getting another job. It shouldn’t be but it is, ditto looking of a part-time role. They just don’t exist as quoted in the Guardian article : Stress/Part-time working.

I know I sound ‘doom and gloom’ its just the time of year with the clocks changing and the SAD environment. I just feel like hibernating…..

Utilities – Renewal time

Well, it’s that time of year when I need to review my utilities and find a new rate for the coming year. I was on a fixed price deal which fitted my criteria last year. With all these rate rises and the way that electricity is climbing in price I feel like the utilities are pricing in the electric cars we will be driving in the next few years already. Electricity prices are rocketing away when I look at the kWh rates compared to the Gas prices being quoted.

When I looked at electric/hybrid car costs, none included the utility charges. You have to go to a 3rd party site to find a comparison calculator to find out the real cost of running a car.

My current energy supplier is one of the ‘big 6’; the fixed deal was fine but when I went to review the alternative tariffs for this year, they are saying that the standard variable rate option is the best for me! Well, that’s a surprise, as that is normally the worst deal. (Or is that just another marketing fake news item?) The fixed price deals they are offering add £20 per month! to my bills (when I currently pay £40 pm – that’s just too much!) and have removed all the ‘discounts’, ie dual fuel & paperless billing. I have also noticed that they don’t offer me all the plans that are available via the comparison sites – so they are trying to stitch me up by only offering limited more expensive options via their own site! – Rip OFF ! For that reason alone I am moving supplier this year, I have been pondering it for a few months anyway but this puts the cherry on the cake.

My current supplier’s cheapest alternative offer – a ‘smart meter’ plan – well, sorry but I am not having one of those. I was speaking to someone yesterday who said that they swapped to a smart meter and their fuel charges have gone UP. They also have the problem of moving supplier resulting in the meter becoming useless. These marketing quotes of smart meters saving you money is rubbish. If you don’t monitor your fuel usage then, ok they may be an eye-opener for you and enable you to save money when you realise how much fuel you are using just on ‘tick over’. But if you are like me and watch your fuel usage and take regular readings then you will find that a smart meter will MAKE NO DIFFERENCE.

So bye bye ‘Big 6’ and hello alternative, disruptive supplier. Ok, it means moving to a variable rate plan but with no exit fees I can monitor and move around if the rates seem better elsewhere. The move will save me £90 which is reasonable and on par with past renewals. It’s not the largest saving on the table but I am happy to pay a little bit more if the supplier has ECO credentials & customer service that they actually live up to.

I will become a utility ‘rate tart’ for the next year and see how the utility market runs. I have researched having solar panels as electricity is my highest use fuel source but it does not pay. My house isn’t south facing, so I will not get the ROI that’s possible with a south-facing roof. Shame I don’t have a large garden as I could do what all those farmers around me are doing (filling their fields with solar cells). I could setup panels in my garden. But, hey I wasn’t thinking about that when I first bought my house nearly 10 years ago. I will just continue to look at other options to reduce and conserve home fuel.

While reading other blogs and articles I found this:

utility-graph

Source: Santander and Bloomberg Article

Between 2006-2016 the cost of U.K. gas and electricity swelled by over 70% and this is without the huge increase in alternative fuel vehicles and the time bomb of closing power stations.