The rise of service charges

I received a letter the other day to say that my bank share service is now going to charge an annual fee. It seems that they cannot offer the service for free any more (you just paid a flat transaction fee) and they will be charging an account fee from next year – which surprisingly enough is in line with the other investment and share platforms fees that have been announced.

So that now means I will be paying about £130 annually in service charges. I could move to one platform  to cut costs,  but I am always skeptical of having all my eggs in one basket. I do wonder about the risks if anything goes wrong with them so I like to spread the risk across different companies, they don’t have the same financial compensation support that savings accounts have.

It is still unclear to me what the change in fees will have on my investment accounts as I have quite a few funds that are being converted. Looking at the historic returns they have been good even with the charges hidden within (7%+ pa), the new funds are not so good (4%+ pa) + charges to pay? I will need to review them and look to move to other funds once things have settled.

To add to this I have had more news:

My credit card company is now changing its interest rate rules. Instead of it being fixed and easy to work out what you interest would be (not that I use that facility, I pay off any balance on my card in full each month) it will be changing to become variable from next year. It will now be linked to the BOE interest rate and will move up and down with this when it changes on a monthly basis. Luckily, the rate has been static for ages but it appears that the credit card company are expecting this to change next year so are changing the rules now in anticipation of future rises.

I wonder how many other companies will start doing this too?


Mid November and people watching

I cannot believe how fast this year is going. It is 6 months since I quit my job and do I feel bad about it?

No – not about leaving that office it was not a good place for me, it didn’t suit and I am so much happier.

Yes – I have recently been catching up with other blogs including “Living a FI” which comments about the nagging inner voice that has a go at you for not working. I am trying to beat it and ignore it. It will be a long-term fight after years of working and self-motivation, it is hard to switch off. I keep thinking I need to get a job – but do I really? The ‘do I have enough?’ question keeps nagging when you see your investments losing value this month.

I have been concentrating on getting out there and enjoying cycling and people watching. I have noticed the regular walkers and cyclists, most of them of retirement age. Others have been younger and have been with children, so either parents or child-carers.

I haven’t seen any people of my own age out, being ‘the guy/gal’ sitting looking relaxed and stress free.

I travelled to London this month to see the Celts exhibition at the British Museum. It was a treat for me and I didn’t realise how long it had been since I had visited the BM, I looked back, it was 2010 when I was last there…WOW…that long, just shows how work life had eaten up my free time and stopped me treating myself with outings.

It was a grand day out and I managed to get a reasonable deal on my train tickets, £25 return which given a rock-up on the day price can be over £100 one-way that was pretty good going. It did involve getting the slow train into London, it stopped at pretty much every station and had to wait at one while a faster train passed it. It was full and was a mix of commuters and students, there were a few people like me just travelling for leisure.

I arrived into the bustle of Euston station and I watched as the commuters steamed off the train at a high rate of knots to get to work. They must have understanding bosses to let get into work so late? (It was 11am).

I had researched a walking route to the BM as it isn’t really that far away and it actually was the same time-wise as getting a tube. The weather was great and it would save me the tube fare. I could enjoy the walk and just taking it easy. The route took me pass a Uni and through some garden squares which help to give that sense of green in the sea of concrete and tarmac. The roads were busy and humming with queuing traffic. Escaping this to walk through the gardens and watch the leaves falling from the trees was relaxing. I sat, ate my lunch and then continued on.

When I reached the BM, I came back to earth with a bump; crowds of children with their hi-viz vests on (gone are the days of uniforms and controlled kids!). The adults were struggling to maintain control of the kids, no discipline these days.

I had bought my ticket on-line (do not like the £1 admin fee = 5% of the ticket price! You don’t even get a ticket for that, just an email code number to present at the entrance). No queue to enter, once inside though, it was full of coach crowds of people. In the past when you went to an exhibition there was space and the ability to easily see the exhibits. This time I had to queue to see the items on display in the cabinets. The work was great, no problem there. Such craft and such skill. Even with all the technology and tools available today, we cannot create items with such perfect design and craftsmanship with so much intricate detail. These items were created to last, I wonder what items from today will still be here in thousands of years time? Not much, I’m sure.

On thing I have noticed is how the BM has changed. It is now just as commercial as any company. Originally you would get lots of information with the displays. Now, the info is limited and you therefore need to make notes and lookup details on the internet afterwards or buy the exhibition book at a mere £25. After I had finished viewing the exhibition, I was exited into the shop – of course – to enable me to buy my souvenirs. Plenty of things for the kids to spend their pocket money on.

I had time to walk around other areas of the BM, but first a drink and a sit down. I bought a drink in the cafe (my only treat, given the silly prices) and sat down and people watched. Plenty of foreign visitors and more school groups. Listening to conversations in full flow in French and German around me.

I then went to visit the rooms on my list: Europe (to see the saxon/celt/roman exhibits) again, I noticed that to get any good info, you need to get an audio guide (£££) and so I made notes so I could research them later. I then went to find the Greek and Assyrian rooms. I just love looking at the Assyrian reliefs. They are just so vibrant and again, skills that have been lost.

I tried to avoid the kids running riot around the rooms and find some peaceful areas to just sit and relax and take in the view. Soon it was time to leave, so retraced my walking route through the squares and back to the train station. The train I was planned to catch was one of the last ones before peak begins. Wow, when the train platform number was displayed there was a big rush to the train. I managed to get a seat and by the time the train left, the train was full, no spare seats and this was the 3:45pm train?

It was full of a mix of leisure passengers, like me, and commuters. Mid-week and commuters leaving the office before 5pm? How is that possible? I never left work until post-6pm, maybe London working is different?

Lots of people sitting reading work notes/tapping on their laptops. It was reasonably quiet until one person took a call. She was amusing everyone with her conversation. Talk of work/life balance and how she would not accept the job unless she can leave the office before 4pm so that she could have a personal life?

The facial expressions from some of the other passengers was a picture. I was talking to a guy the other week, who has no choice but to work in London, he gets up and catches a train at 5am and does not get home until after 8pm in the evening, he can’t leave work until after 6pm. He is shattered by the time he gets to the weekend and spends the weekend trying to recover ready for the next week. It made this person seem like a ‘Do you know who I am? type’ or just someone who has the ability to chose!

Wow, I have never had that much command on job offers. Its been a take it or leave it situation. I arrived back just before 5pm and walked home. A great day out and I am so glad that I am free of the workplace, after watching some of the commuters.

I sat waiting for the train in the morning, watching the commuter trains pass with lots of sad, unhappy and tired people travelling into work…another day…another dollar.

No wonder people are demotivated, we have become drones and work life drains us so much, it was a driver to go for a FI/RE option and I am glad to be currently taking some time out and enjoying the freedom from work while I can.

My FI/RE pot is currently below the value required to be FI, so it worries me that I don’t have enough but I just need to sit it out, the markets are tumbling again and I need to just hang tight and ignore it and learn to wait.

Now to find my next adventure outing and research and read.

October Summary

The end of October already, I can’t believe that this year is nearly over. Yet another month flies by and I can’t tell where it has gone. It started off quite busy with a wedding to attend and then at the end a load of expenses. I have kept my food expenses well below the budget this month, so that has helped to balance out the overspend on other areas. I have started seeing the Christmas goodies and adverts, only 8 more Mondays until Christmas. Oh, BAHH HUMBUG!! I have never been much of a fan of Christmas, my work life has involved working Christmas as a peak time so it was never a joyous time for me. I guess I will need to sort out Christmas presents over the next few weeks. What a scrooge I am….lol…

Now, historically this month is a bad month for me, it includes a whole host of expenses to keep my car on the road and prep the house for winter. I do walk and use my bike as much as possible now and the amount of mileage is going down. When I was working in my last-but-one job, I was having to commute over 100 miles per day and I was ramping up the mileage on my car and spending a lot if time getting the car serviced and buying fuel (on a company fuel card…) to keep the day job ticking over.

Now that job is all over….well….any job at the moment, the car is sitting happily in the garage taking a break, like me. Hopefully over the next year I can try and get the car back down to the mileage expected for its age. In the meantime, I have been quite happy with the amount of money I am saving on travel costs. The car happily motored up to the wedding at the beginning of the month, so it gets a good long run out periodically. I have also been able to drop the mileage for the insurance quote. Whatever happens though, the cost of insuring your car just seems to creep up each year. With the new increase in insurance tax too from 3 to 9% hasn’t helped. I am still paying £15 more than last year couldn’t get it any cheaper without hiking up the excess to something stupid.

I am now on my new utility fixed plan, again, the costs just go up. I searched for the best/cheapest deal and even then I still see that the unit costs have risen. I have managed to keep the standing charges the same as in reality that is the bit that hits me the most as it is a fixed cost and so the benefits kick in if you can get a good unit rate to go with it. It was great when I was on a no standing charge tariff but the government killed that off when it brought in the new rules over each supplier only being able to offer 4 deals and all with standing charges.

I will just keep adding layers and wear my thermals more this winter! This month I also had the boiler serviced ready for the cold weather. With all this fog, rain and the clock change it is feeling cold and gloomy. So I thought I better get everything in order. I have also noticed that most of my neighbours are doing the same thing. There seems to be a lot of house maintenance going on; new kitchens (can’t afford one of those on my non-working budget) and outside maintenance –  trees trimmed and gardens cleared for the winter. (Most of those jobs I have been doing myself when the weather has been good).

On the finances front, my cash has been reducing – as expected as I eat into it. I am restocking my cash fund with dividends and trying to live off those alone and leave the investment growth part untouched. My investments are now beginning to pick up and I have ended the month on a positive growth figure. Overall this year, my investments are up by 10%. That isn’t bad when I look back over the past 3 months were growth figures were near flat or negative.

I have started working on some side hustle projects with a view of seeing if I can earn some money that way. I have been researching other sellers and looking for good tips and I will hopefully be able to get something up and running soon. I am still in the planning/building stage but hopefully I can get something underway soon.

In some kind of ‘fate’ incident, one of my old workplaces has a job going – similar to one I did before I was made redundant. It would involve working in a different team and they have moved offices since I last worked there so on first impressions it would feel like a new place. The new jobs are to encourage movement and provide some career progression for those that are still there (something they lack – due to dead-man’s shoes syndrome). I have been told about the jobs and asked if I would apply. It would involve line managing a team where there is no training opportunities, no pay rises or other incentives to increase productivity and encourage them but heavy appraisal frameworks to weed out under performers. With so much lack of movement, the team members get stale and eventually, they either become zombies, picking up their monthly paycheck and ‘doing enough to get by and pass their appraisal’ or they move to find pastures new and find something that gives them growth and stimulus before they lose their minds to zombie-ism. (Is there such a word???)

It was this lack of fresh challenges and variety that made it easy for me to accept the redundancy and leave when I was there. Looking back, they did me a favour as I have had a great subsequent job which was completely different and was a real motivator, it had the variety and the chance to move around and learn new things; until the company went bang…. Then moving to a bad job which I eventually quit.

Needless to say, I have refused the offer to apply – it is just too similar to the old one, I would get bored really quickly so will hold out for something else, if it was a completely different job, I would be tempted. I did wonder if I would regret it but at the moment my body doesn’t seem to be complaining at me. My inner voice isn’t hitting me with noise! I am therefore not expecting to find anything until the new year at least. The recruitment for the new year will start to pick up soon and I hope that agents will read my comments about wanting a local job – not one in London!!!!

As my accountant warned me: I maybe enjoying this non-work status too much!

Being able to control my daily timetable and actually relax is good. I have noticed that I have started to sleep really well and haven’t had a headache or anxiety attack for ages! Just goes to show how the job was getting me down and I was just trying to battle on and stay with it hoping it would get better. Leaving has been a good choice even if it has messed up my chances of getting another one – quitting does not go down well, people see you as a problem case. Good job I am following a FI/RE path and able to survive….I am a FI/RE prepper! (just search the term prepper … there are some unbelievable people out there prepping in the UK. I was listening to a radio show that was talking about prepping and how it is growing in the UK).