Jan 2019 – mid-month update

The 2019 year has started off on a low note for me. My cold/flu/virus thing has turned into a full-on chest infection and I am now signed off work while I recover. As it’s a virus, no antibiotics for me; just sleep, painkillers and hydration.

It has given me a break from the coalface and so glad I received a tax rebate last month as I will need to use that this month to cover the reduce salary as I don’t get sick pay. I have completely switched off work and decided to rest to give myself a better chance of recovery having battled on last month and ending up in this position.

It has given me a chance to review last year’s FI activities and see the results of my efforts. I am still in the accumulation phase so need to make sure I make the most of the earning years.

1.Move passive income streams to tax-free accounts. My goal last year was to move taxable income into tax-free accounts where possible. This has resulted in a 30% increase in my tax-free passive income for the year – YAY; the downside is that my taxable income has dropped due to reduced dividend yields, not something I can control.

My aim is to reduce my savings and dividend interest to remain below annual tax thresholds and keep my tax bill down. Overall my passive income stream from savings and investments is down on the year due to the reduction in dividend payments in 2018. I am trying to get to a point where my passive income covers my expenses so I can be FI and not draw upon capital growth to supplement annual expenses. I am about 30% short in achieving my passive expense figure.

2. Increase contributions in my SIPP/Pension. I achieved that too, which is one of the reasons I received a tax rebate. I am nowhere near the max threshold for contributions but saving efficiently and obtaining a tax rebate for my contributions is useful while I am still employed.

The aim is to get a reasonable pension pot which I can leave to grow and then use when I reach NRA or have the option to draw from between the age of 55 and NRA.

3.Top-up my ISA to the annual max allowance. I have a monthly automatic contribution then make lump sum top-ups periodically when taxable dividends or other income arrives which would be best invested into a tax-free account. I am on target to achieve this as I did last year too.

I did spend more money on recreational activities than in previous years. It’s OK saving hard but when that make you feel too frugal and unhappy then it’s time to release the purse strings a bit to keep the motivation going to achieve FI.¬†It’s a journey after all, can’t be frugal to the point of losing the fun and enjoyment in life. It’s a balance between being too Scrooge versus being a big-spender.

I need to look at the possible uplift in expenses this year due to baseline bill increases; utilities, insurances, etc. I moved utilities supplier last year and need to see if this is actually making a difference and if this was a good move or not. I do think that fuel utilities are under some cartel control as the increases in the costs seem to be excessive and even with the introduction of a price cap will not stop them from pushing prices upwards.

I have also managed to get an upgrade to my broadband without an increase in cost. YAY! I am sure I would save more by actually moving supplier but don’t really want to.

Some non-financial targets this year:

  1. restart some of my hobbies – I stopped doing them when work took over my life, now need to go back to them as they help to relax me and good for my health and well-being.
  2. read more books – they give me the escapism that I need from the working world, I live to work and I need to get off that treadmill!
  3. recreation – get active and walk & cycle more and get outside! It will do my health so much good. I have a too sedentary job and need to change this somehow. I feel tired all the time which shouldn’t be the case. I really enjoyed my break in the Lakes last year. Will be so glad when the daylight returns in the evenings, longer days will give me the impetus to go out and do something. I miss spending my weekends outside walking and getting out and active and feel I didn’t do enough of this last year.
  4. rekindle friendships – I have spent so much time not getting out and meeting people. It hasn’t done me any good. I need to get a life and get out there. Living alone means I spend too many hours on my own. My workplace doesn’t give me the social interaction I need.
  5. reinvent myself – I am mulling over a career change as I cannot continue to do the job role I do now, it’s too stressful and isn’t giving me the fulfilment I would like. Finding a part-time role is of interest so mulling over the options that are possible. This would give me the time to do other things and not feel so worn out and tired all the time.
  6. reduce my blood pressure – my blood pressure is slightly high, probably due to the lack of exercise/stressful job. When I exercise I notice it goes down to within the normal range. I have my own monitor as the docs were suggesting putting me on meds last January.

When illness strikes it makes you focus on what is good and bad in your life and I really need to make a difference this year.

All work and no play really isn’t good for SparkleBee.

 

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July – how’s it going?

Not too bad I suppose!?

I am still working and the project is still alive and kicking wildly and my boss gets more and more of a political nightmare everyday. I have tried to switch-off and stop letting the environment rattle me and press my buttons. Its getting harder to fight the voices in my head telling me to run. I should just sit back, not stress and pick up the pay cheque.

It seems so long ago since my holiday – when it has only been 2 weeks – oh dear ūüė¶

To try and ease the work situation, I have been doing some Yoga sessions – found them on YouTube – and they seem to be making a difference. As I spend most of my day working in a nightmare office then driving home to an empty house, I have plenty of time to overthink which is making me unstable. I have no-one to talk to, so sit and stew. I need to divert my mind from overthinking and distract it onto other things. The yoga is making a difference, my shoulders feel less tense and I am sleeping longer with less restless disturbances. Around me are people who are also p* off with their job, moral is at an all time low from the general vibes – so I should not feel like the only one. I can do the yoga sessions whenever I feel the need – on-demand. It’s good as I get better at it I can move onto more advanced sessions.

It’s been full on birthday season in my family. It was my birthday last month and I have had 2 family birthdays and a wedding to attend this month so far. I found an old dress and¬†altered it so I could wear it to the wedding the other week, loved doing that as its a skill I have. I use to make my own clothes when I was a student. But as time progressed, it has become cheaper to buy clothes than buy fabric and make your own – the global economy in action. I need to start doing some creative activities as that will soon divert my mind onto something more interesting and stimulating to me.

I can be quite creative and need to exercise that part of my brain again. It feels like my brain is dying with the lack of suitable stimulation. Listening to Mad Fientist the other day suggests yet again that maybe a bit of ‘burn out’ is present.

I have had another pension statement/illustration through Рyet another one saying I could get a forecast pension of £388 p/year on retirement. Yet again, nothing to write home about as the saying goes Рhere I am writing about in on my blog. Ha Ha! It worries me what I will have but it feels shocking for those generations younger that me.

I have been doing jobs around the house and sorting out insurance renewals for my rental and own home.  Things to take my mind off the troubles of work. I try not to watch TV especially the news which will just depress me.

I found some new books to read (kindle downloads) which may help me crowd the bad thoughts out of my mind. It’s nearly the end of the month and my finances are level tracking again. I should be glad that I am not losing money, I just don’t seem to be making it either, just balancing. I have just sorted out the rental info so I can submit them to my accountant and get my tax return completed for last year. The changes to the BTL environment will start to hit now as the phasing increases the tax burden.

I am now trying to setup some activities so that I have things to look forward to over the coming weeks. Breaking up the weeks and stop my overthinking.

Only a few more days left and I can then do my monthly update and see how its been.

Time to soldier on….

June – Monthly Update

This month seems to have flown by – some of this has been due to being on holiday! Two weeks off, travelling around Scotland. The weather has been great and I have felt very relaxed and carefree. I feel revived although I doubt it will last long.

I really don’t care about ‘The Man’, it’s been a terrible few weeks on the run up to my holiday and I …SOOOOO… needed to get out of the office. Another guy left the team too, he wasn’t liking the job and the office environment either ¬†– glad I am not the only one feeling this way! He has managed to find another job so has run as fast as possible out of the door…

It’s just a matter of finding a new job and getting through the stupid interview processes that are in place involving online tests and multiple interviews. It used to be a simple process now its a long cycle of assessments and probing. The sooner I can escape the better. Permanent roles just aren’t out there, it seems that they are being offered as fixed-term contracts only. The way of the beast now…. “Nuff Said!

I am currently in contact with a recruitment agent about a possible role but I don’t hold out much hope – plus I need to get time off work to attend an interview! Not good when I have just got back from a 2 week holiday – “You want MORE time off?“.

How have my finances done? Pretty good actually, my expenses this month are down as I have been away, my saving rate is higher this month as a result. My holiday is normally a walking one, so no retail therapy and expensive meals out. I have been quite frugal and have been trying to find any way of increasing my savings rate and cut costs. I don’t think I can cut any more off my costs. Looking at needs not wants.

My actual net worth is still plateauing – as much as I add to the pot, it is just treading water making up for the fall in investment values. Overall since I started on this FI path my net worth has increased 6% – not very good in comparison to other FIers who manage to get double-digit growth. I started off on the path really well as there were so many things I could do to make a difference, so in my first year I did make a double-digit % but since then it has dropped off. I have exhausted any more avenues to reduce costs.

I have a bad investment allocation and have been reviewing and re-balancing to gain some growth. Most of my funds are now in ETFs and I have moved into cheaper funds and cut account fees. I will have dividend tax to pay this year and I am moving the shares into ISA and SIPP accounts to try and prevent this in future years.

My shares from a previous employer (ShareSave and Share Option schemes) have been hit hard by the fluctuating market and the sector they are in has been hit harder than most. I cannot sell all in one go due to CGT so need to sell chunks each year and spread the risk across the market by buying funds. The share price is down at the moment and they have been giving out special dividends so want to balance the sell offs with dividend payments.

Pension accounts have been growing although the fund prices seem to have taken a dive at the end of this month but overall I am still making positive inroads on this part of my FI planning and taking advantage of employer contributions and tax credits. They will not be enough to live on until I combine with a state pension – if it exists when I reach 67. I commented on this in my previous post as the annual statements are just a joke.

Back to working for ‘The Man’ tomorrow and I really don’t enjoy going into work. I could do with trying to find another career path as my current career feels like a dead-end as I am really fed up with the ‘s***’ and ¬†BS that I have to put up with every day.

I hate being in an office all day and my health is really starting to be affected by it, my holiday has helped to illustrate this due to my lack of fitness. Need to find a way of rebalancing my life and getting my mojo back.

Self-confidence and Self-respect at an all time low in the work area of my life.

 

May Progress

After my last post, I have had another check on progress and updated my accounts. I am still saving 60% of my income but it isn’t making much of a dent on my net worth, this still remains flat.

When I first started off on this path, the growth was rapid and a lot of that was down to making changes to behaviour and spending that meant that I made quite big impacts on my net worth. These have now tailed off.

I hit a wall 2 years ago when I was made redundant for the second time. I took the first (and only job) offered so I could retain an income stream. Everyone else was getting a job and it would have looked bad if I hadn’t had something when we all ended our redundancy notice. It was a bad mistake, the place didn’t fit and I suffered it for 6 months to see if it would change but it didn’t so I just left. I had no job but felt better than sitting in a horrid work environment. I decided to have an ‘FI holiday’ and took 6 months off (3 months off as FI + 3 months actively job-seeking) before I was back in employment.

My net worth did drop a bit during my ‘FI holiday’ as I used my funds to live. ¬†(Well, my dividends were used as income! I did not use any capital). When I eventually found a job and starting earning again, my fund had lost some value but now was the time to grow it again.

Over the past year I have seen that my net worth has fluctuated. After the drop, I expected it to pick up but the external factors of Brexit and economic instability mean that my fund has not grown at the same rate that it once did. My dividend yields have dropped this year. Dividends within my ISA and SIPP are automatically re-invested but I am not making the same gains as I once was.

I am investing into my ISA, SIPP & pensions to use tax free allowances on a monthly basis and then any surplus into cash savings. I am considering pumping all the surplus cash into my SIPP and pensions but it means I cannot access this until I am 55.

My SIPP is currently recording a loss. I had opened the account by transferring two very small company pension funds (less than £2.5k each) into this account to consolidate them, then did a bulk buy to get the money back into the market, just as their prices dropped. I can see that the account is still in the red but this loss is reducing each week so it should move into profit by the end of the year. I am now topping up this SIPP account. While I have an income I will push money into saving hard.

The path seems to be faltering but I will try to continue to aim for the line. It seems so close and yet so far away too.

I am looking at side hustles and other income stream opportunities so I can move away from working for ‘The Man’ and working for myself with the support of an FI fund.

I am looking at any options so if anyone has any suggestions let me know…

 

 

HoneyPot Progress

I have spent some time this weekend reviewing where I am. How is my HoneyPot doing? When will I reach FI? I could possibly say I am FIRE now. The fund is looking pretty good and I am now seeing a positive increase rather than a negative return when I compare LY / TY monthly figures.

I am pushing spare money into my newly opened SIPP and I am currently showing a loss but I think that is due to the fees and the drop in my selected fund prices over the past few weeks. I will “keep calm and carry on”. This is a long term savings path and I need to keep saving hard and making the most of the tax free accounts available to me. While I am still working I want to take advantage of any tax breaks and plough spare cash in to useful diverse savings areas so I can feel happy with my HoneyPot over the long term.

It needs to last me at least until I can draw my state and final salary pension when I am 67 – if they still exist then? Can never tell what will happen with pensions either company or state ones.

To get a full state pension, I still need to contribute a few more years of NI into the state pot.

I have been browsing the job sites for any interesting jobs but nothing about. I will continue to browse and start rattling a few of my network contacts. I am thinking of changing direction just need to find the right thing. I am reading up on how others have changed direction and what the pros/cons have been so I can try and work out the best path to take so I don’t make the same mistakes along the way.

I don’t want a job in London and so its a bit sparse in my immediate vicinity. I will continue to browse. I have heard that someone I used to work with has been head-hunted and has been offered a job where they can work from home most of the time. I read the US FIRE blogs and plenty of them have managed to find a similar home-based role. I could do with something like that, with the odd trip out to face-to-face meetings.

Something similar to an old job I had and enjoyed where I was in a sense ‘field’ working and able to work from different work locations as well as home. It allowed me to ‘mix it up’ and vary the people I met and worked with and feel like I was ‘making the difference’ that provides that ‘self-worth’ that I crave.

I will continue to read around the blogs and research options and see what fits. I need to end the weekend on a positive note! Onward and Upward on the FIRE trail.

April Fool

The 1st April all ready. April Fool’s day in the UK and I wonder what will appear in the media today….

I have just spend a few hours doing my monthly review to see where I am financially. Its been a quiet month really, I have been topping up my ISA and SIPP with any spare money to reach any tax year limits where possible and I have been re-balancing my funds. So sold funds and bought others to try and diversify and re-balance my accounts as I hold too many UK funds and need to move some into Global funds. In the normal way for me, the funds I have moved into have dropped in value but I hope they will pick up and move back into the black in the future.

I don’t really like buying funds at this time of year as I feel that the funds get overheated as everyone is trying to use up their allowances so there is a spike. ¬†I will continue to review the re-balance activity over the following few months to smooth out the buying peaks.

Based on this month last year my net worth is up. Based on last month, I am down. The volatility in the markets continues and my investments seem to roller coaster rather than ‘bob’ along lightly. The sooner Brexit gets more settled the better.

I managed to fit in a long weekend holiday. A motorbike trip with my partner to Whitby to catch the sunshine. A nice ride round the York moors, a visit to Goathland and fish and chips in Whitby itself. The dry weather and blue skies were great. Although others had the same idea, so Whitby was heaving with people, cars queuing to get into the harbour area. Some very relaxing cafe stops in small villages on the York moors and pub meals in the evenings helped to re-charge the batteries. Being able to sit outside with a pint and take in the warm sunshine and views was great for my sanity. I need a few more weekends like this!

I needed the break from work as my head is about to explode. Why? Because my head feels like a football, being kicked between multiple managers (including my boss) as the office politics kicks in big time. I have receive multiple ‘verbal battering’ in meetings from various managers over the past month because I am being used as a deflection tactic by others and the scapegoat for other people’s inadequacies and failings. I have been well and truly hung out to dry by my boss too, so much for their comments about ‘having my back and supporting me’. They well and truly stabbed me in the back then tried to dress the wound with empty words afterwards. From what I can glean from others in the company, this scenario happened 2 years ago and resulted in my predecessor leaving! (as they were receiving the same treatment and decided that enough was enough).

The sooner I can quit this current career the better. It is no good for my health and I am fed up of being treated like dirt that can be shouted at and generally poorly treated. My head hurts.

I have been expected to put in extra hours this month and I have just continued to be barracked during this time too. I know I don’t work the kind of hours that some others do, I am not working a 12 hour day (work + commute) but to be fair I have done that and I feel I’ve had enough of it. “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt“, I just want a better work-life balance now. I have worked the long hours through my 20s and 30s and put in the effort and received no reward for it – other than to actually lose my job to redundancy. I want to slow down and get off the high-speed train and take a slower journey now that enables me to stop and do other things along the way.

I am being made to feel that I am inadequate and incapable of doing my job. The pressure and expectation is being increased and I am expected to perform. Well, I think I have had enough. My confidence has been squashed to nothing, I am now internally questioning my ability to do the job at all. My burnout limits just don’t seem to be at the levels they once were.

That is why I am on this journey to FI so I can have choices. To gain it I need to stick at this current job a bit longer and continue to save hard. I am so near and yet so far away…….

The Good / Bad News

The Good News:

I have been slugging away on getting garden chores completed as I get ready for the removal of the council garden collection service at the end of the month. I know – not really an FI thing as such – but it is a frugal living thing! Why pay ¬£40 pa when you don’t need to? It’s free therapy too.

I am nearly there now and ticking off the items on the to-do list quite swiftly. Its been good for my sanity too as the workplace is a real bind at the moment. Basically office politics is flying around big time with anger, frustration and back-stabbing going on. This just spurs me on to achieve FI and be able to walk away from all this stupid nonsense once and for all. I was on the receiving end of anger and frustrations last week just because I was given the short straw of delivering bad news, I was presented to the firing squad and bombarded with barbed words and fury. I am alive and still with a job at the moment.

Ah,well back to the garden and watching the lovely robins that are currently residing in the trees. I have planted up the free seeds I have received from the Woodland trust and have planted up all the herbs and chillies to supply flavourings for my food creations this year. I have stored a load of chillies from last year’s plant so if this year’s crop is as big as last year I will be onto a winner.

The Bad News

The budget – I have avoided the news this week and have now just caught up by reading Monevator’s post on the budget. What I wasn’t aware of is the change in Dividend Allowance. I heard all the noise about self-employed NI but not this sneaking in. I am affected by this as I do generate ¬£6k of dividend income outside a tax wrapper. Its basically, my old employer’s shares which I have kept. Up to now this hasn’t been much of a problem. I was accepting of the ¬£5k limit for this tax year – but going down to ¬£2k is not so good. I cannot sell down the shares fast enough without incurring CGT. I should have sold the shares and diversified earlier but ¬†have been nostalgically holding on to them as they have been providing a good return, 4%+ over the past 3 years as well as good double-digit growth and funding my ¬†6 month job-free gap.

I just need to offset this with changes in other areas and sell some and move this into my SIPP. I was reluctant to do this as I cannot then access their value again unto I reach 55. That’s the government for you, they mess up the savings rates then as people move into shares, they increase the taxes on that too.

It’s like diesel vehicles – OK, ignoring the air pollution bit for a minute – years ago, diesel fuel was considerably cheaper than petrol to buy and the MPG gap was considerable so for those travelling high mileage each year, a diesel car was a no-brainer choice. Diesel cars held their value due to this too. Petrol cars were for the city types/short distance commutes and diesels for those who travelled longer distances. Move on a few years and diesels were promoted heavily to everyone and the volumes on the roads grew until every city is full of them – and being used or short distance trips. As promotion of diesel continued, the price of diesel spiralled upwards until it is now priced higher than petrol and the MPG gap has narrowed substantially. Thanks to all that recent news coverage on air pollution, anyone with a diesel car is now suffering a loss in resale value and being seen as a bad citizen. They have been stung by the hype. If you now look at buying a hybrid or electric car -watch out as that is the next spin and hype zone ready for reaping in a few years time when it has reached a good ‘market value’.

Enough of my ranting and off to do some more chores while the rain has stopped.