Christmas tours

It’s that time of year when you catch up with friends and acquaintances that you haven’t seen for ages. That annual meeting to discuss what has happened and how things have changed since you last met.

I met up with some friends (a couple) I haven’t seen for about 14 months now. Our time slots just didn’t fit and when I was around, they weren’t and vice versa. This Christmas though I was able to catch up with them. One of them has just turned 60 this year and has decided to give up the freelance work and go back to a permanent job. He says he wants to earn some pension credits before he retires. He must have a reasonable amount of money, he must be in the “comfortably poor” scale as he owns 4 properties. Although I am not sure if most of his worth is in assets rather than liquid funds.

He had found that his freelance work has dropped off this year and he has had plenty of downtime and has struggled to find work. Normally, he has been really busy, even turning work away in the past, which is another reason why it has been hard to find a time slot when we were all available. So it was quite a surprise to hear that he has struggled to find work so much that he has now decided to move back into a permanent job and has accepted a role with a local company and starts there in Jan.

He is going to try it out for a while and may try and mix the permanent job with some freelance weekend working. He wants to gain some pension funds, i guess it is because he has been using property as his pension up until now. He has 5 years to try and build up a reasonable fund.

I am really surprised at the change as I always saw him as a freelancer right up until retirement. He follows a reasonably frugal path for all his investments in property. He is always careful with his money and seems to follow a FI style path. He was able to easily have time off and enjoy the breaks and live off passive income for small periods of time.

So we both start the new year at new jobs.


Back to the world of work

After having a freedom break for the past 6 months, I have now been offered a opportunity to go back to the world of work.

I don’t start working until the new year so I have a few more weeks of freedom before I have to set my alarm clock and join the commuters on the ant trail to work.

I am hoping that this will be a better place to work that the last job. Hopefully I will be treated as a person not a number. The place and the people I have met seemed friendly and welcoming, only time will tell.

I have enjoyed my freedom from the workplace and have had the chance to recharge my batteries and complete some things that I have been wanting to do for ages. I have learnt a lot about myself and that I also need something to occupy my day. During the summer months, I had plenty to do and activities to keep me out of trouble. What I have found is that I am still operating on the ‘live to work’ mentality and since the weather has changed and the summer volunteering activity season has come to an end, I have been looking for something to do.

People-watching is ok for a while but it becomes a little sad, sitting in the coffee shop listening to the vibrant table of retirees [who all appear to be retired from a single workplace, all in their 60s] having their weekly catch up and gossip.

All my workplaces have been at the other end of long commutes and my ex-work colleagues are all dispersed around the country and still working so daytime meet up opportunities are nonexistent.

So the lure of work has called and I have hopefully found a nice workplace. I know that if it doesn’t suit me, I can leave. I am not tied to The Man, I have a free-pass, I can leave the prison camp if I want to.

That freedom was a key goal of FI. The ability to chose to work and pick something that interests me when I do. I have started some hobbies that I had never found the time for before. It is now part of my routine and I can do them and still work. I have put the ground work in now during my time off and I can continue to practice and perfect them until they can become a side-hustle in the future.

I must finish my Xmas shopping and get ready for the new year. I am still following my FI path, growing funds when working and consuming them when I’m not.

Roll on 2016! A new year and a new start.

Lucky me

After feeling a bit down recently with the change in weather. I have not been able to do my target twice weekly bike rides.  I have had a bit of luck strike to cheer me up this week. I have won £25 on my premium bonds and also received a cheque through the post for £100 after winning a runners-up prize in a raffle!

So £125 of misc income this month will be really useful. I can use this to offset my Christmas expenses. I have been trying to keep my spending on presents down to stay within a budget and bought a few the other day only having to contribute £1.35 of cash as I used points from a loyalty card! RESULT!

I also received an HSBC dividend the other day so a bit more cash to add to my passive income totals this month. I am just waiting to see what dividends I will receive next month as these should be released as part of shareholder updates soon.

And….I have just received another dividend from Unilever this time! So my dividend income this month is up 3% from last year. I thought that Glaxo would be paying out this month but on checking, they are due in Jan.

Pension Pennies

Oh the joys of a pension statement.

I received my 6 monthly pension statement for one of my personal pensions today. Stark reading really, I can now see why I have been excluding my pension funds from my honey pot calculations.

I have continued to save £100 per month into this scheme even after quitting work, mainly to collect the extra tax credits, part of a diverse basket of saving options. The fund total has dropped since the last statement, [the funds are index trackers rather than managed]  so as well as the fund being down, my contributions have amounted to nothing.

It is this aspect of pensions which demoralises you. You save hard and get statements showing that the pension is worth less than last time – and that is with you contributing monthly. Ouch! It feels like I am treading water  (drowning) with pension schemes. Every time I move job, I am enrolled into another new pension scheme and have lots of small pots of money that need to be cleverly moved and consolidated to make any decent headway in the growth front.

Also, the pension forecast, no wonder people as really annoyed with pensions. I have been tracking the forecasts received over the years to see how they compare and each time I receive a statement, the forecast lessens in value! This time they have calculated the value based on a 5% annual return and a 3% inflation rate. So when I reach 55, in 8 years time,  I will potentially receive a pension of £620 PER YEAR , yep, per year when I really need that value PER MONTH to cover my basic living expenses, if I was relying on just a pension for support.

My sister had a pension statement through earlier this year and she said her pension forecast is for £750 per year and that is after she has continued saving right up to her NRA (approx 20 years), the pension is provided by the local council.

If the state pension does disappear before we reach NRA, I dread to think how we would live. My sister’s contingency plan is that we share a house and we split the living costs and use the money from selling one of our houses to fund our living. A nice idea, as the economies of scale kick in.

Right now, its time to update my pension spreadsheet and try and contact one of my other providers as I don’t seem to have received a proper annual statement from them for well over 2 years!


November Update

Well, I am now 6 months in to my ‘work freedom’. I don’t regret giving up my last job as the bully culture and lack of management resolution was too much to continue to work with. Respect for work colleagues is a key requirement of the office culture in my book. I want to enjoy my work not have to go in with a flak jacket and watch my back every hour of the day.

I met up with my old boss and ex work colleague last week and it was good to chat and catch up. My old boss is not happy with the way my last job worked out and has put that company on the ‘where not to work list‘. She has realised now how good her new job is and the office culture and environment is so relaxed and friendly. (My old boss is trying to get me a job there but there are no vacancies).

My ex work colleague talked about the reviews that have taken place at their firm and that everyone in the department has been given a poor review. The ‘you have survived‘ comment didn’t go down well either. It just shows how the workplace has changed. She says how everyone is fearful of losing their job. The fear exists as indiscriminate departures continue to happen on a periodic basis. The joy of work has well and truly wonder productivity is low if this is the case across the whole of the UK.

I also had the ‘fun’ of an interview the other day. I am not considering myself to be completely retired and if the right local job appears then I am happy to take it on for a while. I doubt I will get the job as it seems that the previous incumbent has left due to the pressure of trying to say ‘No’ to the directors, like spoilt children jumping up and down, they refuse to listen to the ‘plebs’ and want their way whether it is possible to achieve or not. I doubt I would last long there either but if they do offer it, I could earn some extra cash to fill my funds before jumping off the hamster wheel again after a few months. I think I am the ‘better than nothing’ option, although they would be worried that I could quit! (likely if they block me from having my 2-week holiday – which may just clash with the currently planned completion date for the project I would be assigned to – I wonder what my notice period is…….?) – Sounds like another bullying prison camp! I have left them to go hunting around the work network as they want to talk to someone who has worked with me before and get some feedback on whether I am worth taking on. The “boys club” at play in the job market again, the industry I work in is incestuous.

Its not what you know any more but WHO you know.


On the finances front, my ISAs have been converted by my provider and I have lost pretty much £20 on every fund conversion from the original ‘dirty charges fund’ into the new ‘clean’ equivalent. I have also lost my income from them this month due to the conversion, I normally get about £50 which is reinvested but this month I have only received £20. So yet another sting to the conversion. I just wonder what the new charging fees will be like next year?

Overall, even with these ISA hassles, my net worth has remained the same and I am sticking within my monthly budget, I am 12% up from the beginning of the year! I will probably over spend in December as it is Christmas and I need to buy presents. Although I was having a good chat with my partner the other day and he was saying how commercial Christmas is and how he hates the marketing pressure to buy stuff that is expensive – just to show how much you care for someone – when what really matters is the though! Now that could be just his way of saying he is not going to spend much money on me(!) ….or it could be that the consumerist lifestyle is finally beginning to wane and he too is becoming a convert to frugality and FI/RE.

He thinks his job is under threat too as new London based consultants have arrived to review the company structure and propose changes, he is worried that this will mean he loses his job as he is in his 50s and surrounded by younger more ‘adaptable’ types. He has been in this situation before at a previous firm when he was in his 40s and they made him redundant then, so what hope does he have this time? This has made him think about cutting his spending and looking at more ways to reduce his monthly expenses, he is pretty frugal anyway but he does get ‘gadget frenzy’ sometimes and buys new gadgets that he really does not need, just because he read a review on how good it is…Doh!!! He has just put some unwanted stuff on Ebay to sell so hopefully this will all help and be the start of a saving phase.

Now to get into the Christmas spirit and start looking at creating a relaxing Christmas day.