Holiday time !!!

It’s that time of the year when I ditch work for 2 weeks and get away from it all. The work s*** gets me down so this holiday will help me recharge ready for the next onslaught of politics and madness.

i have been enjoying the sun, timed it right to get the great May weather in the UK. I’m in Scotland enjoying the slightly cooler temps but still plenty of sunshine and blue sky days.

i have spent the time reading up on other FI blogs and the ourtour ventures. I do wonder about a motor home or camper and travelling, it would work well where I am now. I have driven up to Scotland and now spent the whole time either walking or cycling so haven’t used the car once. Just hired a place to stop, but wonder about a camper?

I have seen many people with camper vans touring, mainly Dutch couples. I have never done this before, although my family (aunts, uncles and cousins) have had campervans and travelled around. I have only ever camped (tent) or hired a static van on a site. With the sky so blue and the day so open for anything I look at my FI options and what I really want to achieve.

i want to escape for the same reasons Jason did on ourtour. The stress and s*** of the office politics and stupid management targets. I could spend all day reading, walking, cycling and seeing the sites. It is so restful and I just don’t want to go back to work.

i have surprised myself by doing over 182 miles on bikes over the past week! So good for the soul and health. Meeting people and sharing experiences and sights. Could do this every day.  Would be so much fitter and healthier in general.

Some great cooking, meals out and picnic spots. I ponder even more the camper travel life, would I enjoy it all the time or should I opt for a similar ourtour style, mix it with a uk base and the odd contract job. Choices, choices..

i want to get my BTL mortgage sorted so I have no restrictions on it, I.e. min salary and payment flexibility …. oh and a good interest rate…. then I can relax… at the moment I have to have a min salary of £20k as a mortgage condition. My FI income does not fit that criteria.

this holiday is making me really think over my future path and the directions I wish to take as part of an FI future.

make hay while the sun shines ….

Off to explore, enjoy life and generally reflect on the place I really want to get to…  I will worry about the s*** of work when I get back.

buzz…buzzz…buzzz…..

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Gender Pay Gap anyone?

I know its been a while, my blog posts are pretty sporadic at the moment. Mainly because I haven’t much to say and I am just keeping my head down and saving hard so I can jump off the treadmill that’s work.

I’m not sure if anyone has been looking up their employer declarations and seeing where they stand on the gender pay gap issue?

Mine was quite enlightening – my current employer has a gender pay gap of 35% ! Yet the female ratios are over 60% at all levels. So how does that stack? Looking back through my employer history I started working for a company with a 1.5% gender pay gap and over the years that has moved to 1.6% to 2.3% to now which is 35%! Just shows what happens in a ‘small company’ and one with no formal response or plan to change this.

The work world is just demoralising at the moment, so many people I know are under threat of redundancy and someone who I use as a benchmark for jobs, a contractor, is currently between contracts and says he is struggling to find work. He hasn’t known it so bad. He normally only has a small gap between contracts but this time its been over 3 months and counting. I was also talking to a temp at work this week and she said this is the first job she has had for over 5 months when last year she was working nearly every month. She is now looking for a permanent part-time job and has a few interviews lined up.

Can you really trust these government stats that say unemployment is at its lowest. How can that be when there are so many redundancies happening and also imminent? Toys-r-us, maplins, etc…

Is this statistical massaging?

Closer to home, I have continued to save hard and making inroads on the path to FI. My ISAs are looking ok – not great but my vanguard funds are not star performers. I’m on the slow growth path rather than star buys and having to change deal to move to the next star fund.

With the new tax year started, I am now collating all my tax info for my tax assessment form. I cannot believe it but its been nearly 5 years since I became a landlord by using some of my redundancy payment as it was the best investment choice at the time. It’s now time to remortgage and want to find a deal which ticks the boxes; good interest rate, no redemption penalties (so I can sell up if the rules become too onerous), ability to over pay so I can be fully flexible. Oh and no minimum salary requirements as I could end up being a contractor in the next few years or FI and living off my generated income.

I have started doing some house updates on my own place; painting, repairs and general maintenance, so I have been busy offline and enjoying what was the ‘summer’. I need to have a good review of my FI situation and setup my goals for this tax year.

I will have a good look and post an update which is long over due.

 

 

 

 

 

Yet another depressing pension statement

Why oh why do these pension statements get more annoying to read each year.

Yet again the pension forecast is less than last year as they have now dropped the growth forecast <! again !>. Each year the annual pension forecast falls even though the pension fund value increases. This is one of my old AVC schemes which just becomes a joke. They have even put an example illustration of a negative growth rate.

An ex-work colleague was telling me to get a valuation on my old work DB scheme (final salary one). She is looking at taking the money out of the scheme because the number is so huge….. Well, I’m happy to keep mine as a DB scheme as at least I know at the moment what my pension will be when I reach pension age. She has a hubby who probably has a DB scheme too so when shared she may find that cashing in hers may be worth it as part of a couples financial plan. As a singleton, I don’t have that option so have to rely on my own schemes to fund my retirement, if I actually reach it.

My current plan is to combine all my separate DC pots nearer retirement age and look at a draw down option to supplement the DB scheme + state pension. At the moment, I have consolidated them down to a manageable number of accounts but still retain some risk mitigation. i.e. not have all my eggs in one basket.

I will continue to plough money in there and take the benefit of tax relief and take the max I can from my employer for their scheme which is 5%.

 

How long?

Wow, I have just seen that I haven’t posted anything since September. Shows how I have gone off-grid and just existed over the past few months.

It’s not that I have dropped my mojo for FI, it’s there and kicking. I have just reviewed my year and my net worth has increased by 6%. Not as good as some who managed to get a double-digit growth rate but I am pleased with my progress.

This year, I have re-balanced my portfolio and moved them into lower fee funds and tried to consolidate my finances and up the amount I save into my pension(s). It’s nice to see the graph plotting their growth upwards. I am trying to make my savings work harder for me.

I have scheduled the payment of my tax due, my HMRC SA form was submitted ages ago so my normal ‘xmas gift’ from the tax man was my statement letter landing on my doormat on the 20th December reminding me how much I need to pay by the end of Jan. It’s higher this year due to the changes in BTL rules and the taxation changes on savings.

I need to sort out my spreadsheets and publish my monthly results. This month my expenses have gone up (xmas gifts/spending) but I have still managed to save too. So I can feel pleased I have ended the month on a positive note and ended the year in a better financial state that I started it.

I am trying to remain in good spirits, ‘the Man’ I work for just gets worse by the day so I just hang in there and just laugh to take the pressure off and stop me going completely mad. I have started doing some yoga in the evenings to release the pressure value and feel better for this.

I should have been at work today but couldn’t get there due to the snow/weather. I am so glad I didn’t attempt to otherwise I would have sat on the A14 watching the snow and everyone else sitting there going nowhere for 5+ hours. I called my boss to tell him I wasn’t going to be in, he just said he wasn’t even attempting to go in and was working from home.

I can access my work email from home so found out that only 1 person for our department managed to get into work and that’s because his commute is a 10 minute walk! At least there isn’t a big expectation – well if there is – the company culture doesn’t seem to rub with the employees. I don’t think there were many in work and most of the senior boss are all on holiday this week anyway so whose there to complain!?

I don’t have any holiday left to use for this so I will just have to take it as unpaid leave. That’s fine, I can cope with that – my savings rates are doing well and at some point I will just pull the plug. There are plenty of days where I feel like saying “stuff the job, I’m off” because I have an FI buffer.

The day I step off the treadmill will be a great one – one to celebrate big time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading and Podcasts

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to read more that I have been of late. I have a list of downloaded podcast building up that I need to listen too and clear down.

Books:

I have the ‘Free Range Human‘ book and read chapters and sections periodically to motivate me.

I keep having dreams about buying a camper van and travelling for a while, with a dog (that I don’t currently own…on my list when I am FI) Funny… I guess its all that reading of the Our Tour website. It may also be a reaction to wanting some space and freedom after being cooped up in an office with bars on the windows. My cousin used to work for a company supplying motorhomes – like the BIG luxury ones. He used to deliver them around the UK and Europe for corporate events and to new owners and was even paid to deliver a brand new motorhome to its new owner and then drive it around with them and give them instruction for a week. He would be dropped off at a hotel at the end of the day and the owner would go on to their relevant overnight stop and he would be picked up the next day to continue the driver training. How about that for a job…

I keep looking at activating my very dormant/if not deep-frozen creative zone. Some years ago I wanted to do photography and did some courses and looked at how I could make a side-hustle of this. My first degree was in Art and photography was part of the course. I learnt the traditional methods including film and dark-room development. I also did digital work and still own a reasonable DSLR and some lenses. With the various social channels now available I could market my imagery more widely. I follow a sport which up to now seemed to have limited photography cover – but recently I have seen that the number of others entering this sector has grown so think I have missed that boat. Looking at it, its a competitive one too and quite a few people are putting images up for free, so probably good that I didn’t take that route, not as a main source of extra income.

I am looking at other options and will continue to work on some ‘creative stimulation’ projects to revive those dormant skills that are still there, just buried deeply and out of practice.

The Silk Roads  – Its a monster of a book – for me it is – so I am reading the odd chapter every so often. I am interested in the history and global trading has been around for years – yet we are still fed this idea that global trade is a recent activity… just reading the chapter on the plague and how it spread, where it spread and what its long-term effect was on the human race.

I have been listening to podcasts too.

Tim Ferris is OK, but I really get fed up of the 7 minute advertising intro before the cast begins. It’s more for humour that subject matter. I think I need to find something else for a while.

The Woman’s Hour : I used to really enjoy listening to these during my ‘FI break’ the other year. They are currently doing a craft prize and listening to the artists that will be part of the final exhibition are setting me thinking which is a really good thing! ( link).

I may look to get there and visit the exhibition. To inspire me.

I have also found a reasonable Yoga site with online sessions so I am currently doing these on a fairly regular basis. Its helping, I can feel the difference already, there is less tension on my body and muscles – I am sleeping better too!

Ending on a positive note – I will continue to create a reading list and start reading more. now that we are into Autumn and my ability to go outside reduces, I can replace this with the mental escape of a good book or two.

 

 

What’s your motivation to reach FI?

It’s a question that has many answers. I read other FI blogs and see how others approach this question and how they use it as a motivator to reach their goal.

Some approach FI by accident due to redundancy/windfall and look at the job market making them realise how they : hated the job / stuck in a rut / obsolete skills / want to do something else  (delete as appropriate).

Some approach it by having the ‘AH HA’ moment where they step back and look at their life and wonder :  why am I doing this job / ‘there must be more to life than this’ / where’s my life gone / how did I end up here? (delete as appropriate).

Others set out with an intention right from the start of their working life to step on and step off as quickly as possible. Generating enough income to step off the treadmill and walk another path for the remainder of their life.

My original thoughts were just a teenage dream before I really started working where I had the view that I just wanted to get a ‘high-paying job’ earn enough money to save a ‘pot’, leave my job and use this ‘pot’ to fund my craft activities and still survive knowing that I didn’t have to rely on my crafts to supply an income.

Work life began and I became trapped into the ‘status anxiety’ aspect of my life being defined by my job. I lived to work rather than working to live. I enjoyed it, working for a FTSE100 company, the responsibility, the long hours, the challenges, the push to perform at all cost. Then redundancy strikes, it spins you out of the circle and you look back into that bubble and realise how stupid you were. You are dispensable, your job does not define your life – well if it did, it doesn’t now.

That wake-up call made me focus again on saving hard, being frugal and changing my direction and views on where my life path goes. I am nearly there, so near and yet so far, reaching that final line is the hardest step. The light can be seen and its brightness is growing stronger by the month but it keeps running away like a rainbow’s end.

I took a ‘break’ from working and reset my focus. I took a new job – not ideal but ok – it started off well. I’ve been doing this job for 18 months now and it has had its ups and downs. I am saving hard and feel I am getting there now. ISA, SIPP and pension are all going in the right direction. The FI path is looking stronger, while the job itself becomes more traumatic by the week. I stick it out with the view that I just need to keep going for a bit longer to finally step over the finishing line.

Why this navel gazing? Well, the role is expecting me to lie (‘white lie’) to people. My boss has told me off once for telling senior managers the truth when I should have used ‘white lies’. I have received the “do what I’m told and I will protect you” chat too. Then I was told to ‘fudge figures’ on a spreadsheet to hide my boss’ mistakes/errors. Now, about to be reprimanded again for telling seniors the truth, telling lies only comes back to hit you later as you trip over them. Maybe I have had a charmed life, I have never had to experience this type of office behaviour. I don’t like working in this kind of office environment, it goes against my moral compass.

The job I do bores me, it’s not really my core role/skill-set, its a “nearest equivalent”, it does not thrill or inspire me. I am a creative/problem-solver type and I am not exercising my brain – I am leaving it at the door each day – playing office politics. I am feeling my brain-cells slowly dying in the process. Career-wise, I have ended up in a niche technical role for which jobs are few and far between. Recruitment agents have said they will struggle to find any openings for that role. Which is why I am doing this “nearest equivalent” job. I need to widen my skill set and re-train to get the certificates that employers now require you to hold. Do I really want to spend £5k+ of my own money on training for just a few more years of work in this field?

That’s why I want to get off the career treadmill, my current expertise has limited opportunities and employers are not interested in having someone like me, they make do with cheaper more generic types.

I want to revisit other skills that have laid dormant for years and re-awaken them and start getting that spark of inspiration and thrill into my life. Start by doing things for fun, then see if they could be turned into a side-line income stream.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You only live once and need to feel you have lived it to your best.

 

 

August – monthly update

Wow – another month over and I have just updated my spreadsheets. Ok, this month was good for dividend income. I received a good wedge of cash this month as a few companies pay out this month. I also had my regular saver account mature and pay my 6% interest. All done and closed, so back in there quickly to open a new one for this year and plough money into it on a regular basis. This year it will only play 5% which is still good compared to the savings account norm. It would be great if I could save more in there but it has restrictions which cap the total that you can save.

I have pushed money into my ISA and SIPP this month using the dividends received. My ISA account is about to have a platform move so I will then be unable to trade while this ‘transfer’ happens. That’s a bit of a pain, can understand why having done website re-platforms as a job role but its annoying when you experience it. In the meantime I track the growth, which is good this month.

All this positive news helps to give me focus and avoid the hell that is my working life. I know, people post that I should move, the pay is good and I’m in my “one-more-year” mode trying to just stick this one out to reach a threshold and then just call it quits! Hang my boots up and not work for a while – if at all. In another twist and turn, my counterpart on the supplier side of the project has resigned! just shows how s**t this project is. It just adds to the rubbish and office politics that I’m surrounded by. People are falling by the wayside as each month progresses. Being positive I have been doing things outside work to take my mind off all this rubbish.

So bank holiday weekend involved a visit to a velodrome to see a cycling event. So fabulous to see the tandems – yes tandems – doing over 25mph on the oval track. The added complexity here? The stokers were all blind! All trusting the front person to keep them on course and upright. Things like that just make your troubles seem so trivial. Some great time trails and points races seen. The para athletes were so inspiring. How to reset your mind.

I also managed to go to a T20 match. Now my grandfather was a real cricket fan and would watch the long matches – I really had no enthusiasm or patience. T20 mind was a really different thing – loved it! Something to tick off my bucket list. A great game and with the result known when you left at the end of the evening. Could easily do that again but the final is tomorrow! so will have to wait until next year.

Now looking to find some more fun experiences to do over the next few months – plus a weekend away somewhere.  More of this is good for my mind and body.

So crack on into September and keep this saving momentum up and reach that goal.

Nearly there…..