Zero Tax

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I have just had my tax form back and due to my job free year I am now classed as a non tax payer! WOO HOO!

I haven’t been one of those for years, well, decades ago in fact. So this year will currently be the same, a non taxpayer as I am not earning enough money to exceed my tax allowance. All my rental income falls within my allowance so I have no tax to pay. My extra earnings haven’t pushed me over so I have a buffer before any tax is liable. My tax free savings continue to grow (slowly) and rollercoaster around with the markets. My net worth is slowly growing, although looking today the markets are getting a hammering because its UK freedom day – I can see this going badly for the UK. (So my net worth WAS slowly growing) The market dashboard is pure red and all my holdings are down. (sigh)…

I don’t think all the restrictions should have been removed all on one day – but hey – it seems we are on the ‘herd immunity’ path involving a ‘let it rip and see who’ survives plan. I will continue to keep away from populated places and am wary of getting a job in this climate if employers are expecting their staff to go into offices when the Delta variant is clearly transmitting at a rapid pace. I keep reading the job posting descriptions anyway and they are long with lots of skills, responsibility and full time. All either directly specify office based – or say hybrid (read full time office as the long term). As I read between the lines they also mean working 40+ hours per week too. I am getting jobs from agents which involve long commutes, the latest was a job in Manchester, not an easy commute having done it by train for meetings with a supplier whose offices were in Manchester. I have seen another one, it’s reasonably local ( a one hour commute away – if no traffic incidents) and again, its working with international teams so would require me to work UK + other country hours!

That has been the problem with IT roles for me recently. I have had to work the UK hours as the management would not let me work flex hours to balance the international hours work for meetings with other country teams. At one point I was working both sides of the clock with meetings and comms with a US team as well as having meetings and comms with Australian and Indian teams. Then having to have UK meetings in between. The senior managers expected me to answer their emails/phone calls at whatever time of the day they were working and I refused to answer when it was outside UK hours. They would be visiting the US or Australia so I just made it clear that they would have to leave me messages and I would work them in UK hours.

I would love a job that worked UK hours only and that is why I am feeling like finding a part time job. I want some time for ME now. I have had enough of working all hours and would like some time for me. I am enjoying my free time and as I listened to an audio book the other day : “Time is a type of wealth” and I would rather have some TIME than having to collapse on the treadmill of the rat race. I am looking at other ways of making money, after the photo site I was using went pop I have been pondering other options. Their operational model was ideal for me. I need to start researching other suppliers and other selling channels and see if I can find a similar model that is working. I am not good at selling myself and producing my own designs means becoming a brand, I like my anonymity. So I will continue to prioritise enjoying the sunshine, listening to audiobooks and pondering options for making some additional money to top up my funds.

And the storm clouds continue….

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So where has the sun gone? The positivity in the air has evaporated?

I was hoping all this talk of the opening up of the UK economy may help my job search … but it seems not.. for me anyway. My recent applications have been unsuccessful and it now seems that I can no longer get to the interview stage and being kicked out earlier in the process. {SIGH} Agents keep sending jobs which require me to commute long distance (they are supposedly ‘remote’ but for how long?). I need to rethink…..

Age has been the cause for one of my recent rejections – so maybe my FI status will become a permanent one by default. Pushed out of the rat race by ageism. Another was due to experience – I didn’t have enough years experience on a specific product to be classed as suitable for the next stage. It’s a seller’s market and they can ask for however much experience they like. It doesn’t matter if you have the aptitude or the flexibility to learn – they don’t want employees to learn on the job, they want employees that already have the knowledge. Previously I have been offered and taken on jobs with no experience of the specific product, just the subject area was enough, I learnt on the job and succeeded in delivering the project and learning about the specific product along the way (Win, Win in my eyes). That does not seem to cut it at the moment. Even though some times not knowing the specific product is an advantage too – you challenge its features and stop blinkered views due to a product’s perceived ability.

I was reading an article on job application advice and the advice to one person (a woman in her 50s) was that you need to network and the only way to get a job is via friends. Oh joys! All my network friends are either retiring or losing their jobs so my network for job recommendations is shrinking fast. I contacted an ex work colleague the other week and they were happy as they are retiring after 30 years with the same company. I contacted another ex work colleague and they have just been made redundant, they were told a few days ago. They had tried to find me a job in their company before, so that is a closed door. They are finishing at the end of the month too, a rapid departure. They are near retirement age so I think they will not bother looking for another job either. Others I have contacted are down with their job and ‘wish they could be like me’ and not working as they are stressed out and tired of all the zoom meetings. They are tied to their job by financial commitments, they fear losing their job too as their company’s financial status is uncertain.

I have had a few days break from the online working platform and it seems that the work has dropped off too. I have been reading the user forums and the underlying comments seem to indicate that the work drops off around now and does not pick up again until autumn but the pandemic has messed up the cycle so people are not too sure on the future work potential. What is for sure is that the pay rates are dropping and the opening of the platform to more countries especially those hardest hit by the pandemic (Brazil and India) has meant that the owners can drop pay rates and use this to their benefit. The global economy at work, as we have seen before, its the ‘race to the bottom’ in action and utilisation of the cheapest work force where ever they are in the world.

I have also found that the platform I used to launch my photo selling portal has also gone POP! I noticed that I couldn’t access the site a few weeks ago, I thought it was a ‘blip’ as there had been general internet outages. I went on holiday so didn’t bother looking further. Now I am back I can see that this wasn’t some technical ‘blip’ and the hosting servers have gone. The company’s main website is dormant, although still accessible, and their social media channels have stopped being updated, their last posts was a few weeks ago. I have been trying to search for company news but cannot find anything about them going POP – but they must have collapsed. I will have to have a look at other possible photo/print platforms and see if it is worth trying again. I am not sure if it is. The market looks saturated and without an outlet it is a waste of time. I need my starting overheads to be low as I am not a natural salesperson. I am a ‘doer’, I get things done and a problem solver which was ideal for the roles I have performed in the past. It’s why I have been looking for passive income streams.

I need to ‘think positive’ and start looking at other ways to earn some money, especially now that I have completed my tax return and seen how bad my income drop has become. It’s a matter of ‘keep calm and carry on’.

Tax Return

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Well, it’s that time of year when I need to fill in my tax return for the previous tax year.

What a sorry state of affairs that is. It isn’t until I collated all my paperwork that I now see how much of a drop in income I have had and how the pandemic has decimated my income. I left my permanent job at the end of Dec 2019 and spent the time between then and Apr 2020 just relaxing and having a break from working – I needed a reset and a chance to recover from what was a toxic workplace. My plan was to start looking for new work around April 2020 as that is when the new tax year starts for most UK companies and they look to new projects and recruit new people. BUT…. the pandemic hit….

So I found it hard to find any work in April last year and spent the time doing volunteer work sewing scrubs for the NHS. After the volunteering dropped off I looked for some online work (as the job market had collapsed) to fill the gap and have worked a two sites but the pay is terrible and below UK minimum wage – but as you are classed as self-employed the minimum wage rule does not apply. I could work from home, avoid the chaos outside and avoid exposure to the virus. Anyhow I have continued to do this while seeking work and not claiming unemployment benefit. I didn’t want to be made to apply for EVERY job going, I would like to be selective and not made to apply for roles that were obviously not going to employ me because I am over qualified or no experience or as the case seems to be now – too old! It’s a seller’s market and the recruiters are being very picky and didn’t want the negativity or the depressing rejection letters and emails in high volumes just to ‘tick the boxes’ for the job centre. I read posts from people who have applied for 100s of jobs with no success.

Anyhow, I have just completed my tax return for the last year and it makes terrible reading. My savings income has dropped considerably as I compare the previous declaration to this one. OUCH ! the interest rates have plummeted so much and although I can now apply the £1000 saving allowance, my savings interest is nowhere near that threshold compared to previous years. Previous years were above this threshold so I would have had some benefit, but not now. My dividend income has crashed too with, again, a considerable drop in taxable dividends. My biggest dividend paying share stopped all payments and still has not restarted them. I check the news and press but they have no intention of restarting dividend payments any time soon. I know I have sold some shares and moved them into my ISA to make future gains tax free but another OUCH ! I can see that my subsequent fund purchases (I am diversifying out of single shares) are growing/paying dividends but not to the scale they were. Based on my original income, I could be FI but now with the drop in passive income I am not so sure.

I have continued to pay into my pension and have paid in the max I could based on the ‘non earner’ rules. I may have been able to pay in more but I am reluctant to when I may need the money to accessible now.

My rental income has been the only constant fortunately, but again I am looking at when to sell the property and get out of BTL and use the money to live instead. The tax-free accounts have faired the best and my ISA has improved which has counter balanced the really poor taxable income sources.

I await to see what my accountant thinks of my situation and what tax I have to pay, if any.

Monthly Update – Jun 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

June has been a quick month for me. I had my birthday this month too so a chance to celebrate and meet a few people. I have had my second COVID jab and managed to get out a few times which has improved my mental health.

Financially, my net worth has ended the month up 1% on last month. I can see that the moving of funds from shares to ISA has proved to be useful and my remaining shares have started to pick up again and some dividends have been paid. I am managed to keep my net worth at a balanced level as I draw down my cash and let my investments grow and balance the outgoings while staying invested.

Net Worth graph

Income

On the income front, some more share dividends were paid to add to my funds. I also won £50 on my premium bonds. I invested the funds from my old employer share sale this month, I used this year’s CGT to sell and popped that money into my ISA as part of this year’s allowance.

Shares

My shares have roller coasted over the past few months. I sold some in Feb and then another load in May so I can move them into my ISA and take advantage of my ISA allowances for last year and this year.

My ISA is now picking up as a consequence of the two lump sum investments either side of April and I am buying global funds to diversify and spread the risks rather than have money in a single company.

ISA growth 2021

With my holiday and my birthday I have taken a break from the online work and so my earnings this month are down and will continue to be down next month as some earnings are not credited for a month. I have been looking at jobs but nothing really appeals. Again, the jobs are full time, long hours and expected to be in the office as soon as this is possible. I have been contacted by a few agents with possible roles but they are the same ones as last month, which suggests the employer is not finding the right candidate – or are being very picky. One involves a particularly horrid commute so I have rejected it. I would like something local and have less of a painful commute. The novelty of sitting in motorway traffic queues died off for me years ago. I applied for a role that sounded interesting but because I do not have ‘enough’ relevant experience they have immediately rejected me. I am sure they have a huge amount of applicants as the sector is quite popular in the area and its an employer’s market. I also wished an ex work colleague good luck as they are counting down the days until they officially retire. They can draw their pension now so have decided to do so. A few of my working friends are saying how they are feeling tired and just want “out”. Some are looking at their finances to see if they can do it, others know that they cannot due to their financial commitments.

— This makes me grateful for my FI fund as it is giving me the freedom to sit as an outsider and relax. —

My NS&I savings have renewed, I didn’t get much interest but I will hang onto them as a diversification. I have just heard about the new Green Bonds – I will have a look at those and see if they are any good – Has anyone seen the info on these? Do they seem attractive ?

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have been to a gig and enjoyed every minute of it, seeing a band play live is a novelty. I am now looking at other adventures and places I could visit that will not be too populated.

I have also just seen that I have won another £25 on my premium bonds. Happy Summer Days !