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 😦

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 – yet 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 – here 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….

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.