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.

The woes of health

Something that is at the back of my mind when thinking about FI is health.

It may sound dark, but it is something that worries me and news over the past week has brought it to the fore. One of my relatives died of a brain aneurysm the other week. They were not very old. They worked hard and had their own business and financially supported their family. I am sure they had a stressful life and ended up dying peacefully ( I may add) at home while sleeping.

They are not the first case in the family and it is another driver towards thinking about our time in the world. I don’t want to sound morbid, I have things I would like to achieve and do before my time expires. I don’t want to spend all my time working and chained to a desk and never having the ‘freedom’ to achieve some of my dreams/goals. Why can’t I have a few months off to do what I want? (Only achievable by leaving a job because no-one wants to give you a sabbatical, its work or leave).

I have health issues related to stress and don’t want to end up  adding to these family statistics. I then went on to hear about another family friend whose partner died at work, a heart attack (they were only in there 40s). Again, they were stressed out and working too hard and it all became too much.

I realise, I must not let my job get to me and stress me out, if it does, I either need to learn to calm down and relax or leave.

My ‘freedom session’ last year was great for my health. I cycled regularly and felt the best I had in years. I am now back to sitting behind a desk all day and already feeling the pounds piling on 😦

My current plan is to work this job for a year and then review my FI status and whether to drop out and escape the prison again. Its these kinds on events that make you think about where you want to be and what you want to do.

The start of a new year

Wow, I have been offline for the past 2 weeks enjoying the Christmas season. I will be joining the working masses next week so need to enjoy the last few days of freedom before work hours rule my day.

I had an enjoyable time with my boyfriend and between the rain (gaps in the constant rain were few!) we managed to get out of the house for cycle rides and walks. A nice 21 mile bike ride over the festive season was great. I will miss my weekday bike rides and will now be restricted to the weekends until summer arrives and longer day light hours.

One thing I have learnt from my freedom break is that I don’t get out and exercise enough and that I can get great pleasure from cooking and getting out into the countryside more. I realised I was being too much of a lazy cook  and have cut down my food spending considerably and now have a routine which means I can continue to follow this new way while back at work. Healthy food, home cooked/prepared and filling!

Dropping out of the prison camp for a while has really done me good, I have recharged my batteries and had a chance to enjoy the countryside while others have been working. I have relaxed and managed to switch-off and step away from the consumer rat-race and the other work related consumer streams that exist. Sometimes you are so encased in the operation, you cannot see the wood for the trees. Stepping away from workplace has allowed me to see it for what it is and that removing myself  from the office politics and the back stabbing has really given me a chance to recover from the oppression.

As I begin a new year, my financial situation isn’t too bad considering my non-working status for 7 months of this year, my net worth is 5% up on last year (exc. property & pensions). As others have commented, you don’t realise how much of your net worth increase is down to your savings until you don’t have the income to save. When I was earning my annual net worth increase was around 12%.

I have enjoyed cutting down on my expenses and I have identified things that I really didn’t need and have reduced my spending considerably.

The past month has seen my investments decline in value as the markets ripple downwards. That’s not good and the honey pot value has dropped below the ‘enough’ threshold again. I know I have enough to survive for a number of years (whether it is ‘enough’ to carry me to my NRA, I’m not so sure) but joining the prison camp again will enable me to replenish the pot and try to gain some additional investments that should provide for my future.

I will be joining yet another pension scheme, so I will have yet another pension pot to content with. I will need to look at consolidation as I have a number of small pots that really need to be merged to gain any decent benefit, its just the terrible costs that are incurred that disappoint. Bringing them together results in charges which demolish their value considerably and is one aspect of the pension system that really annoys me. You can easily transfer a bank account between providers FOC but a pension?!? Everyone has to take a dip into the pot and take their ‘share’ before, during or after the transfer, leaving you feeling pillaged as you look at the remainder.

Now to get myself ready for the world of work and also make sure I retain certain aspects of my activities that I have built into my day during my freedom break. Time to make my plans and set my goals…..

 

 

 

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.

 

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 disappeared..no 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…..lol….?) – 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.

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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.

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.