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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SIPP & Investments

My DC pensions have now been transferred to my SIPP. Yay!

The downside has been the drop in fund prices so my transfer has already resulted in a loss of value of approx £2k – so disheartening. That’s the issue with a transfer and immediate investment – you take the hit based on the timing. My timing was off 😦

I cannot touch it for another 5 years so they have some time to recover. It’s not worth much and really needs to grow considerably to make it a viable income source at 55. That just leaves my DB pension which I am not touching (and can’t touch until SPA) and my current employer DC pension. I will just keep pushing money into the SIPP and employer pension and try to pick up the tax relief advantages while they last.

With the budget on Monday, the scaremongers are out pushing rumours of pensions being the target area and get top-ups in now while you can. If you haven’t used up your previous year’s allowances you can use that to top up so surely that’s not a big issue for some.

Once I leave my current employer I will transfer that pension into my SIPP too. Which is getting close just because of the stress – mainly due to the ‘sh*’ I have to put up with. It’s a bit toxic to say the least and the bullying nature of the management has surfaced again recently – wonder if they all suffer from SAD as it seems to get worse at this time of year. I got the ‘you are incompetent’, ‘how can I trust you’ type barrage of abuse the other day. I had to sit in a meeting and put up with the venting aggression from the senior management, I wasn’t the only one on the receiving end but after a while you just get sick of it. I can completely appreciate the current media coverage on NDAs and their use to pay people to leave rather than tackle the issue of bullying/harassment in a business. My employer has no HR department so you have nowhere to go other than just resign. Sounds a bit like Westminster. Plus how do you tackle bullying when its the senior managers in the chair? (Its unprofessional and I am getting sick of it – I have never worked anywhere like it. Its seen as ‘the-norm’ and accepted practice, fear prevails).

I have another meeting next week which contains bad news. I am expecting another barrage of abuse. I am considering just getting up and walking out saying ‘If I am so bad sack me, I will go and clear my desk and leave now’ – the positive – it would mean I wouldn’t be held to doing 3 months notice.

How do you stand contract-wise/legally if you have to give 3 months notice but want to leave immediately? Its laughable but then you feel they have brought it on themselves and deserve it. What’s the point of ‘FU money’ if you don’t use it to escape a bad situation.

I have watched my investments going down as the markets react to the global instability. I keep investing but with talk of a crash it makes you feel nervous of investing and seeing your account balances drop each time rather than grow or remain level. My accounts were all red when the last crash happened, I was working so just didn’t worry and just kept thinking, I’m investing for the long-term, they will recover. It’s a slightly different feeling when you may be about to pull the plug and rely on your funds to support you just as they plummet into the red. I am trying to diversify but it doesn’t seem to be enough at the moment to balance the roller coaster ride.

I need to have a really good look at my finances, if I do leave my age will prevent me getting another job. It shouldn’t be but it is, ditto looking of a part-time role. They just don’t exist as quoted in the Guardian article : Stress/Part-time working.

I know I sound ‘doom and gloom’ its just the time of year with the clocks changing and the SAD environment. I just feel like hibernating…..

Sept 2018 Update

Its been a long time since I last posted, mainly because the summer has been good and I’ve been out and about enjoying it rather than weekends writing posts.

I’ve not lost my FI path, I am happily trundling along. I have been shuffling funds around in between outdoor activities such as sorting out my garden and enjoying the warm weather. I have been reading about other’s travels (ourtour & dossers diary)  and looking at what I would like to do when i reach FI freedom.

I still feel depressed by work and the environment with ‘The Man’ just continues to go downhill. My micro-manager boss announced out of the blue that he was leaving (not even working his notice properly) – the office grapevine is that he was asked to leave. A new external boss was announced, all cloak and dagger behaviour. The announcement was in the form of an all company email! They didn’t even tell the team affected first. The new boss started last week. Wow, what a change, the new boss is never in, in fact they hardly ever speak to any one in the team/office. Its a plus and benefit in one sense for me.

The plus side is that my fitbit charge is saying that my resting pulse rate has gone down quite a bit since the arrival of the new boss, maybe because I’m not being micro-managed every hour of the office day. Yay!

I so feel like quitting the job though. Its not the best place to work but it seems that there isn’t a good workplace at the moment. Watching people around me on the road to burnout. I am not going to work in London which is the only set of job offers on the table. I don’t want the commute.

I meanwhile am trying to stay positive when outside the office.  Trying to focus on stashing my cash, sorting out my tax return and prepping to leave – keeping that eye on FI freedom. Everyone around me in the office is in a panic and fearful of losing their job – if they want to lay me off, they can. I can go do something more useful instead, like cycling and getting fit.  I am using the fitbit to prompt me to increase my activity levels as I feel unfit and unhealthy. I will not let ‘The Man’ get me down.

There is more to life than working for ‘The Man’ so need to focus on the escape dreams and plans. I have been planning some holiday time – a week in the Lakes (so I can go walking and cycling with family). Also a short trip to London to see a show and some museums and experience some sights and delights. As others have said, there is no point living like a hermit and so frugally that you feel unhappy but also there is no need to splash the cash and waste money when some canny discounting and voucher surfing can undercover the deals to keep the cost down and the experience count high.

I will continue to keep a positive outlook and get some FI updates on here to show how my fund is growing. I feel I am making progress this year and now have to tackle moving my old paid up pension funds to a SIPP. I saved my full ISA allowance last year so need to do the same this year and I’ve just re-mortgage my BTL and reduced the payment so the margin is better and will help to offset the increased BTL taxation. I will look to sell the BTL when I have given up my job and have dropped down into the lower tax band.

So glass of red wine in hand I will enjoy this evening and plan my weekend ahead. What red wine you say!! A glass isn’t too unhealthy…. plus the wine didn’t cost me anything. It was payment for letting my neighbour use my garage to store some of their ‘stuff’ while they had work done on their house.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Mid life crisis

all I keep reading at the moment is mid life crisis problems with jobs. It seems I am not alone with the feelings I have and the job I do.

Last year, in my late 40’s, I found myself in a similar position, having worked for my current very large private sector company for 10 years. Despite an excellent salary, I found myself bored, demotivated and bracing myself for yet another few years of constant organisational change. With no desire or passion to start my own business, I was encouraged to look for another role outside the organisation and what I found was far worse. Infact, my peek at the outside world made me realise that I should not take for granted the colleagues I worked with, my internal reputation and credibility, and the benefit of understanding how to navigate and get things done in a large complex organisation, all of which would have to be established if I moved somewhere new. So instead, with the support of my husband, I have put together a five year escape plan which involves paying off our mortgage and piling as much money as I can into my pension. In the meantime I am doing my best to manoeuvre myself onto some interesting projects and focusing on my work life balance and well being. At the end of five years, I’ll be over 50, institutionalised, and will no longer fit with the brave new world which will make me a prime candidate for redundancy! Best advice is to have a goal (or a dream) and a plan of how you are going to get there and don’t delude yourself that the grass is always greener.

This is a Response comment to someone who says they are fed up with their job but feel tied due to their age, financial responsibilities and lack of opportunities. I feel the same as the response, I look elsewhere yet see jobs are worse, the grass is not greener outside, the current job is vile and the politics is getting worse and I am trying so hard to keep smiling and just tick over as I feel so bored my brain switches off as soon as I walk through the office entrance. I just nedd to take the money, focus on things outside work to try and bolster my spirits and demeanour and plan my FI route out.

just another 2 months before I can sort my BTL mortgage out and become more flexible and save a space much as I can while I have a salary. Make the most of it and quit the rat race. Have some time off, then look for something interesting to do.

 

 

Holiday time !!!

It’s that time of the year when I ditch work for 2 weeks and get away from it all. The work s*** gets me down so this holiday will help me recharge ready for the next onslaught of politics and madness.

i have been enjoying the sun, timed it right to get the great May weather in the UK. I’m in Scotland enjoying the slightly cooler temps but still plenty of sunshine and blue sky days.

i have spent the time reading up on other FI blogs and the ourtour ventures. I do wonder about a motor home or camper and travelling, it would work well where I am now. I have driven up to Scotland and now spent the whole time either walking or cycling so haven’t used the car once. Just hired a place to stop, but wonder about a camper?

I have seen many people with camper vans touring, mainly Dutch couples. I have never done this before, although my family (aunts, uncles and cousins) have had campervans and travelled around. I have only ever camped (tent) or hired a static van on a site. With the sky so blue and the day so open for anything I look at my FI options and what I really want to achieve.

i want to escape for the same reasons Jason did on ourtour. The stress and s*** of the office politics and stupid management targets. I could spend all day reading, walking, cycling and seeing the sites. It is so restful and I just don’t want to go back to work.

i have surprised myself by doing over 182 miles on bikes over the past week! So good for the soul and health. Meeting people and sharing experiences and sights. Could do this every day.  Would be so much fitter and healthier in general.

Some great cooking, meals out and picnic spots. I ponder even more the camper travel life, would I enjoy it all the time or should I opt for a similar ourtour style, mix it with a uk base and the odd contract job. Choices, choices..

i want to get my BTL mortgage sorted so I have no restrictions on it, I.e. min salary and payment flexibility …. oh and a good interest rate…. then I can relax… at the moment I have to have a min salary of £20k as a mortgage condition. My FI income does not fit that criteria.

this holiday is making me really think over my future path and the directions I wish to take as part of an FI future.

make hay while the sun shines ….

Off to explore, enjoy life and generally reflect on the place I really want to get to…  I will worry about the s*** of work when I get back.

buzz…buzzz…buzzz…..

What’s your motivation to reach FI?

It’s a question that has many answers. I read other FI blogs and see how others approach this question and how they use it as a motivator to reach their goal.

Some approach FI by accident due to redundancy/windfall and look at the job market making them realise how they : hated the job / stuck in a rut / obsolete skills / want to do something else  (delete as appropriate).

Some approach it by having the ‘AH HA’ moment where they step back and look at their life and wonder :  why am I doing this job / ‘there must be more to life than this’ / where’s my life gone / how did I end up here? (delete as appropriate).

Others set out with an intention right from the start of their working life to step on and step off as quickly as possible. Generating enough income to step off the treadmill and walk another path for the remainder of their life.

My original thoughts were just a teenage dream before I really started working where I had the view that I just wanted to get a ‘high-paying job’ earn enough money to save a ‘pot’, leave my job and use this ‘pot’ to fund my craft activities and still survive knowing that I didn’t have to rely on my crafts to supply an income.

Work life began and I became trapped into the ‘status anxiety’ aspect of my life being defined by my job. I lived to work rather than working to live. I enjoyed it, working for a FTSE100 company, the responsibility, the long hours, the challenges, the push to perform at all cost. Then redundancy strikes, it spins you out of the circle and you look back into that bubble and realise how stupid you were. You are dispensable, your job does not define your life – well if it did, it doesn’t now.

That wake-up call made me focus again on saving hard, being frugal and changing my direction and views on where my life path goes. I am nearly there, so near and yet so far, reaching that final line is the hardest step. The light can be seen and its brightness is growing stronger by the month but it keeps running away like a rainbow’s end.

I took a ‘break’ from working and reset my focus. I took a new job – not ideal but ok – it started off well. I’ve been doing this job for 18 months now and it has had its ups and downs. I am saving hard and feel I am getting there now. ISA, SIPP and pension are all going in the right direction. The FI path is looking stronger, while the job itself becomes more traumatic by the week. I stick it out with the view that I just need to keep going for a bit longer to finally step over the finishing line.

Why this navel gazing? Well, the role is expecting me to lie (‘white lie’) to people. My boss has told me off once for telling senior managers the truth when I should have used ‘white lies’. I have received the “do what I’m told and I will protect you” chat too. Then I was told to ‘fudge figures’ on a spreadsheet to hide my boss’ mistakes/errors. Now, about to be reprimanded again for telling seniors the truth, telling lies only comes back to hit you later as you trip over them. Maybe I have had a charmed life, I have never had to experience this type of office behaviour. I don’t like working in this kind of office environment, it goes against my moral compass.

The job I do bores me, it’s not really my core role/skill-set, its a “nearest equivalent”, it does not thrill or inspire me. I am a creative/problem-solver type and I am not exercising my brain – I am leaving it at the door each day – playing office politics. I am feeling my brain-cells slowly dying in the process. Career-wise, I have ended up in a niche technical role for which jobs are few and far between. Recruitment agents have said they will struggle to find any openings for that role. Which is why I am doing this “nearest equivalent” job. I need to widen my skill set and re-train to get the certificates that employers now require you to hold. Do I really want to spend £5k+ of my own money on training for just a few more years of work in this field?

That’s why I want to get off the career treadmill, my current expertise has limited opportunities and employers are not interested in having someone like me, they make do with cheaper more generic types.

I want to revisit other skills that have laid dormant for years and re-awaken them and start getting that spark of inspiration and thrill into my life. Start by doing things for fun, then see if they could be turned into a side-line income stream.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You only live once and need to feel you have lived it to your best.

 

 

Pensions – Why are they so bad?

It’s that time of year when  I receive pension statements. I do wonder what the point of a pension is as every year their value may increase (a little) but their payout forecast just drops and drops each year.

This year my paid up personal pension is quoting a ‘massive’ £283 PER YEAR pension when I reach 60 – Wow that is really going to give me enough to live off! ** I did look at re-starting this pension but they want me to get a solicitor to sign off forms to prove my identity!? WTF ?! They know where I live, they have history on me and can check the DD details and ID check me electronically – I still pay contributions to them for something else – so why do I need to provide all this info, just so I can restart monthly payments as a fixed rate ( due to their rules(?) I can only pay in the amount that I was when I stopped it. Which is a pittance anyway).

I stopped it because it was a pension I took out when I first started working and my employer at the time did not have a pension scheme. I then moved job and wanted to join my new employer’s really good company scheme (it was a final salary!) – at that time you couldn’t have two pensions on the go so I had to stop this one. My final-salary pension is now deferred as I have left that employer and I know what that will pay out from 65, they currently guarantee me an annual value. Can I be sure it will still be there when I reach 65 – possibly not if BHS, Hoover, etc… are anything to go by?

The next pension statement was for my personal pension (a stakeholder) which I still contribute to, a small but regular payment. If I retire at 55 (I set the age to this when I opened it to give me flexibility to drawn from that age onwards if I wanted to), I will receive a whole £850 PER YEAR. Not even enough to pay my annual council tax never mind monthly living costs.

The next pension statement received is from my current employer pension scheme. Now, this scheme is a money-purchase – I don’t know anyone who has an active final-salary one now. It’s value is open to fluctuation and heavy interpretation anyway. If I continue to work for my present employer until I reach 65 (which I very much doubt – given the fact that I am looking to leave), I can potentially claim a pension of £3,000 PER YEAR.

I don’t get to claim my state pension until 67 due to the government changes, which could change again between now and then. I also cannot get a figure out of DWP either as due to opt-out years, my state pension value will have a deduction due to SERPs opt-out years, which they will not calculate until I actually reach state pension age. So all I know is that it will be less than £8k per year as I will have opt-out deductions.

That’s why I am so glad I am investing separately to gain some control over my future with savings via ISAs and a SIPP, I can see the value when I want to and do something about it. Well, at least try to do something about it! 🙂