September Summary

Another month completed:

I have just reconciled my accounts for this month and it has been a pretty dismal month with the stock market volatility, my investments have lost quite a bit this month. I did top up my Unilever shares this month but all in all its a bad month on the investment portfolio side. I would like to top-up again as I sold some old employer shares a few months ago and now need to re-invest and re-balance my portfolio.

My ISAs, shares and pension are down, I have continued to invest some of my spare cash into my ISA to drip feed into the market and try and capitalize on any future growth and dividend potential. I don’t include my pension in my honey pot totals as I cannot access it until I reach NRA so thought it best to exclude it from the pot evaluation. Which is a good thing as the pension drag would not help the current figures.

My expenses have been really good this month and I have reduced them considerably. I have been keeping my grocery expenses below my monthly budget and I have tried to keep any discretionary spending to a minimum by going out cycling and walking as much as possible and enjoying the good weather. I have been trying to keep my entertainment down to anything that is free and although I have been out a few times to meet friends I have kept my spending in check. My only weakness has been buying some Aldi cycling gloves for the winter – £4.99! They have a good review and they should hopefully help me continue to cycle once the weather changes. I managed to get the last pair in my size!

Cycling has helped to relieve any stresses I may have due to my ‘non-working’ status. I did have an interview for a job at the beginning of the month – which I didn’t get – their loss! 😉  (That sounds big-headed but I’m not like that – really!)  I have been looking for work but finding nothing interesting or suitable. Its been 5 months now and I don’t regret leaving the last job. I just should have thought a bit harder on how I was going to get another one after the freedom novelty wears off and what that would be.

A few agents have come forward with possible work options but they involve working in London, which I prefer to avoid. They wouldn’t pay as my net income would be considerably less than working locally due to the extortionate train fares. One of my old bosses is currently working in London and he hates it, he has stuck it out now for 2 years and wants a local job so he can get some personal life back. There just isn’t anything going! He’s had enough, something I found when talking to a lot of people who had worked in London, they had found the commuting wearing, over 3 hours every day is not good, BTDT.

I met up with my old boss from a previous job this month and she is concerned that I am not working. She can understand why I left my last job and is glad she didn’t get offered work there too. She doesn’t like the one she is doing but it is better than nothing. She can’t see why someone isn’t taking me on, maybe because the jobs are just not there! She spoke about someone who we worked with who has just moved to a really cushy job: 5 mins from home, stress-free environment, reasonable working hours and a good salary. – What more can you ask for! Yes please – I would like that too.

Having a look at my net worth and the starting point at the beginning of the year when I was working, I was averaging a net worth growth of 12%, since quitting work my net worth has dropped to 9% as at the end of this month. This goes to show how your savings while working give you a false sense of growth, once this is removed I can see that my monthly growth is fluctuating wildly with the stock market, it has been negative on a few occasions. My ISAs for the past 2 years are in the red due to the drop in index tracker funds.

At the moment, my honey pot value is below my original FIRE target and if it continues to drop then working again will be required (not immediately) or I eat into the capital which isn’t something I would like to do with a 20 year span between now and my NRA. That is also assuming I will actually have a company DB pension to claim when I get there!

Ah well, I will continue to enjoy the good weather and ignore the market roller coaster – other than for top-up purposes only 😉

Super Moon

One thing with not having to get up for work in the morning. You can see the super moon and eclipse and not worry about sleeping in the next morning.

I managed to get a few pics of the moon. My camera isn’t the best and I really need to treat myself to a new camera and a good telephoto lens but given the situation I can’t kick myself too much. Being able to actually see this with my own eyes was the best bit.

It is not visible to the UK again until 2033, I will be 65 at that point and I’m sure I will not be so fussed at staying up through the night to see it …or may be I will? Only time will tell.

Moon_BeforeMoon_phase2 copy

I started viewing the moon before it actually started to turn red so it was some time before the redness started to appear…

Moon_phase7 copy Moon_phase11 copy

My camera hasn’t the best sensor in the world. I bought the camera some years ago and the sensor technology has increased considerably since then. As the moon reached totality I couldn’t capture the image with my camera it was just a red blur. But seeing it was the most magical thing.

If nothing else, I can be grateful for being free from work at the moment as I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to view this spectacular event for its whole duration.

Card Protection Insurance

I had one of those card protection insurances under scutiny, mine was with Barclaycard. It was an automatic thing and it was given out free for the first year then automatically renewed. I had this for a few years until I realised it was a waste and cancelled it. I found that my house insurance actually covers the non banking part too, so I was double insured!

Anyhow, I received the claim form from AI and I dutifully filled it in and sent it back, today, I received my compensation cheque. I will pay this in ASAP, it comes with a tax voucher as the interest is taxable so if you are a higher rate taxpayer you will need to declare the interest. It was a nice surprise and helps to reimburse me for a few hundred pound.

I just need to look for a good place for this unexpected money so it grows 🙂

Working in ‘older years’

Having an interesting time listening to the ‘Money Box’ radio programme on people who are trying to either re-join the workplace after retirement/redundancy or wanting to work after reaching pension age.

In most cases, this seems to be people who fit into the following categories:

  1. People who have been made redundant – used their redundancy to live on and have a break and are now trying to get back into work. (They are finding that they cannot get a job due to age discrimination…hard to prove!)
  2. People who need to continue to work – they have a pension but it isnt good enough to live on and need the extra money.
  3. People who are being made to retire – compulsory redundancy ages. This is unlawful. The exception are people doing physical jobs as it is within the law to force you to retire. It would need to be done under a medical test rather than just on age alone. They would need to prove that you are physically unfit to perform the job then they can force you to retire.
  4. People considering contracting/self-employment as a way of re-entering the workplace.
  5. People delaying their state pension – they are working and want to continue to work, delay taking their pension to enable it to increase so they can retire later once they can reach a decent pension amount.

I am not at that stage yet, I am only late 40s and already hitting employment issues as people are not interested in recruiting me unless I have the ‘exact’ experience. I am having to network to see if there are any work options available. I would like to work for a few months each year and have time off in between work placements. I have written off the possibility of a permanant locally based job as there just doesnt seem to be anything around – scarce is not the word – more like rare.

A nice part-time job would be great but in the role I currently perform it is very rare to find a part-time job. I would therefore need to look at an alternative job role where my experience could be applicable or re-training would be required.

The expert suggests finding work via agencies to assist as this will help to prevent ageism that would stop you from entering the workplace when applying direct. Plus applying to DIY and garden centre chains as they are very receptive on taking on older people due to their experience.

Autumn already

Well, this was the point when I would consider my views on working. I had planned to have 3 months off and see how I feel. I would start looking again and see what is on offer.

I have dabbled in the job pool and have applied for a few jobs in the last month but although some have led to interviews (some times multiple interviews) , none have actually resulted in an offer of employment. This experience has not made me feel desperate to re-join the workforce.

On the FI front:

I have run out of things on my current to-do list and now need to make another one. I have been watching my honey pot fluctuate below the FI threshold and then balance out at around the FI marker.

I have been focusing on cutting my costs and moving my money around to get the best growth opportunities. I have sold some shares in my ex-employer and now need to buy into another reasonable dividend healthy stock. I am watching the market and waiting for my price point to appear. I have put a few limit orders in already but the price hasn’t dropped enough yet.

In the mean time I have started to look at my FI routine for the next few months. Having sampled the interviewing process, I don’t have that big urge to go back into the work arena at the moment, and if employers are being picky over who they employ then why can’t I be picky over who I work for.

Autum Instead of worrying too much on the job market I have been outside enjoying the start of autumn and the autumn colours. Also attending the last of the sports events I enjoy as the season closes and the winter season begins. I have been out cycling, walking taking in the air and enjoying a few beer festivals. I have started taking my camera out to capture the jewel colours and have started to relax.

I have a wedding to attend in a few weeks time, so I have been sorting things out ready for that, a few days away in Newcastle. The only downside is that there are Rugby World Cup matches on at the same time so it could be a bit busy and hectic. As long as we can get taxis to/from the wedding venues to our hotel we should be OK.

I had an invite to meet up with some old workmates, they were holding a leaving do for a colleague who is moving to another job. I didn’t feel like going as they would only be talking about the office politics and stories that mean nothing to me any more. I don’t see them socially that much as I live nearly 30 miles away.  I don’t have any interesting stories to tell and with no job on the horizon they would only wonder why I’m not making huge efforts to find new work —- maybe because I don’t need to!

Life is short and I am beginning to realise that I need to get out there and do some of those things on my bucket list and also to not worry so much about the pressures of life and just live it.

The transition from working to non-working life can take its time to settle and it is still a roller coaster of emotions. From the fear of losing your job when you are an office slave – to the fear of running out of money when you are FI living.

Inner strength – lessons to learn from volatility

With all this uncertainty in the stock market it can be very unsettling and tests even the most hardened investor. My mailbox is being bombarded by messages from investment blogs/companies – saying “it is a buying opportunity”, “is this the time to sell XXX”, “Should you sell now and get out of the market”, “what to buy while the stock markets are low”, “sell X now and buy Y”, etc….

They are out to make their money whatever the state of the market. There are a few things that seem clear, volatility is normal and to be expected. We need to understand this and not emotionally react to the sea of red when stocks drop. It is a hard lesson to learn: how to relax, keep your head and understand where your risk thresholds are.

As someone who is drawing on my FI pot at the moment, seeing its value drop below the “enough” marker is unsettling. If you are someone who is still earning and on your FI path, you see this as an opportunity to buy and invest in stocks at a lower price and if all goes well, ride the increase in value over the long term.

You start to view your stock portfolio carefully and scrutinize the shares – “Have I picked the right companies?”, ” Do I have the right balance?”, “Am I feeling worried and disturbed by the loss in value?”. “Should I cut my losses?”.

Maybe its time to re-evaluate your risk profile first. Are you prepared to ride out the storms and accept the risk? The biggest risk is your emotional self. It is the hardest part of this path and in life, making a decision and accepting the risks and understanding the consequences. It applies to all part of your life, all the choices you do or don’t make. Only you are responsible for the decision you make. You cannot blame and sue others for your mistakes – well you can try and plenty in the US do. Ultimately decisions are down to you.

If you panic, you could possibly be in a worse position than if you carefully considered your options and take your time. A rash decision could take its toll and you could look back later and wonder why you did it. You need to learn from this and understand yourself and what you are happy to accept as the outcome.

Look at your contingencies, if you haven’t got any, then look at creating some. Evaluate your risks and options to cover them. What does volatility mean to you? What would it mean financially? What would stop you thinking this way? Do you need a cash pot / bonds / stable stocks that are not affected by the current volatility?

Start that personal profile review, identify the risks and what you need to do to mitigate them.

The rat race… what is the lure?

I have had yet another interview for a job last week. I applied and very quickly received a call from the HR department arranging an interview within days. It all happened very quickly and I was told I would find out about the decision quickly too —- BUT —- I haven’t, it has gone quiet again.

Now, I think I answered the questions quite well. They told me lots about the workplace and the role and I actually felt sold on it. I had been a little unsure before I went for the interview as the job specification was not very detailed and so I wasn’t sure if it would suit me. Walking around the place and meeting the people helped to get a better view.

Now that it has gone quiet, I feel that this means that it is a ‘No’. Its disappointing as it seems that my ‘summer holiday’ is actually having a bit of a detrimental effect. Leaving my last job without having another one to go to seems to be being viewed in a bad light.

I haven’t been a sofa-surfer during this time, watching day-time TV until I could have this as my mastermind specialist subject. I haven’t been touring the world on a condensed gap year either! I am a hard working type and I have worked in an area that has meant working long hours and weekends. Why can’t I have a break and then re-enter feeling recharged and ready for the next challenge.

I was reading an article recently on a charity worker who was working long hours and was tired. They had a sense of pride in what they were doing – as I did in the roles I have had. I could agree with their comments on missing out on social meetings with friends due to workloads – or last minute crisis that meant you have had to be the person to go in (because others had said no).

What hit me was their comment — “I started to feel ill – nauseous with lots of headaches.”

That was ME! That was how I was feeling while working at my last place.  Their doctor said these were due to burnout and stress. They were signed off by their doctor, off work for 2 months at least, they have returned to work now – it looks like they were able to return to their original job and now actively looks for a healthy work-life balance.

They have learnt to toughen up and say ‘no’. (You should be able to say ‘no’ and not lose your job!)

Something I need to do too, but first I need to find the right job. It is frustrating at the moment, job hunting is a full-time job itself and finding that “right one” is even harder when you are competing with at least 50 others for each application. I will keep plugging on and see what happens, I will ignore the stock market affects on my net worth and keep searching for a new job. I am just glad I have my FI pot to support me.

Investment rollercoaster

I was hoping the stock markets would settle a bit but they still seem to be running a rollercoaster ride. I have sat back and let them waver and have not invested any of my share sale amounts into the companies I am watching as their prices are fluctuating wildly from day to day. I do want to pick some more shares up at a good price though.

I have managed to buy a few shares with cash sitting in my share ISA. I bought a few Sage shares to top up the holding in there and currently these have increased in value since my purchase. I would like to buy some but I will have to wait a few months until the next dividend payments are due for this ISA account. Having the cash invested now will hopefully pay off in the long-term. Sage was one of my original dividend selections and it hasnt performed too badly over the years.

I guess the investment offices are just beginning to fill with workers now that the summer holiday is over and the kids are back at school. Sitting on that beach watching the stocks has now been swapped for the office environment. I hope that some stability and level-headed control can be implemented to calm the markets.

Autumn wonders

With all this free time I have been able to concentrate on cooking and cutting down on my spending.  I have been spending about £15 per week on groceries/household goods and that is great news for me!

This has also resulted in getting outside and collecting free fruit – blackberries and apples – so that I can experiment with making my own jams and chutneys. Now, it maybe that making my own jam isnt the most cost effective thing to do as jam can be bought quite cheaply relative to buy the ingredients and making it yourself but you get that added – special ingredient – your own time and invented flavours! You can make the jam exactly how you want it. So in this vain I have made my first test batch of blackberry and apple jam. I only had to buy the sugar, everything else was free!


I already had a spare glass jar to use, so I just needed to sterilise it and make the jam. My first batch is pictured above. I am really chuffed with it as it was giving off such great aromas as I was cooking it. It tasted great and so I am hoping that when I crack it open later on in the year I will be reminded of the fun I had picking the fruit and making the jam. I need to make another batch but need to collect some emoty jars first. I have placed the fruit in the freezer so that I can save the fruit until I have enough jars to make the batch.

After finding a great source for free apples while out riding my bike, I now have quite a few apples to use so my next experiment will be a spicy apple chutney. I am researching recipe ideas at the moment and had bough the vinegar (76p) as the basis for the chutney creation.

I am currently collecting jars to use for this next experiment. I just love apple chutney and I normally buy a brand which costs about £1.70/£2 per pot. I have calculated that if I can make my own chutney using the apples I have and experiment with the flavourings to mimic the commercial version I should be able to make a batch which would be the equivalent to 30p per pot!! A big difference in costs and this would mean I would save on my food bills over the winter and have a tasty supply of chutney. If they are good and I dont eat them all, they could also make good presents at Christmas.

This cooking lark is quite addictive! – recipe ideas

I have been reading the site for a little while now but haven’t tried any of the main menu plan ideas and thought it was about time I mixed in some of the main meal recipes. I love chickpeas and lentils so thought I would try out some of the recipes from meal plan 1.

I have just made the lentil soup and am pondering whether to make the chickpea crumble or go for my usual spicy chickpea (a cranks recipe  – book reference ). An old student friend of mine used to cook this as her staple dish. It was great and if you had leftovers and cooked those on another day, the flavours had infused even more and it tasted hearty and comforting.

The spicy chickpea recipe uses frozen spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes and some spices to create a comfort food dish which is great with flatbreads or rice.

I am continuing to focus on my grocery expenses and reduce them but also maintain my health living plan. I make my own yogurt saving on the cost of buying the equivalent quantity of yogurt from the supermarkets and enjoy making my own breads – mainly flatbreads and pittas. Although there is a fruit loaf recipe on Lesley’s site that looks interesting – it is listed in one of the later meal plans – may give that a go.

I have been batching up blackberries I have picked over the past few weeks so I can have a go at making my own jams/jelly as an experiment. I have also been looking for any ‘free’ apples while out on my bike rides. Still looking for a good source of free apples to join the blackberries. 🙂