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.

 

April Progress

Can’t believe its nearly the end of April already. I have received my tax return notice and will have to start collating all the info for submission. Now that savings interest is paid gross I have to see what tax I may need to pay and also what will be due on taxable dividends.

And what do you mean, we now have an general election on the 8th June. Ouch! Its bad enough with the local council ones. I am not a political animal and don’t really like the media coverage and hype that is being stirred up about Brexit. I have been trying to avoid this by evaluating things more closer to home.

I have been reviewing my work life at the moment as the job is getting toxic. I have been reading ournextlife.com and it makes interesting reading. I love the positivity and the analysis of the journey and the thoughts it provokes.  I particularly like the article on self worth & validation. I am someone who likes to feel that I am making a difference at work and that I am contributing to make positive steps for others. Getting a thanks for making a difference is more important to me than anything and gives me the self worth and fulfilment that has made going to work enjoyable and worthy.  That has been the draw rather than climbing the career ladder. I guess I have fallen into the “live to work” trap and in the past enjoyed my jobs and feeling rewarded by the positive comments from others for work delivered and achieved….making a difference….be that as a team or individual… I have received promotions along the way but have not wanted to strive for the higher levels of management and the heady heights of the career ladder.

In my current job that making a difference feeling is missing. Work is not providing any internal or external validation for me. It is not something that is present in the tasks I am performing at the moment. My contributions seem to be constantly questioned. I am being challenged at every turn and my every move interrogated to the point I now feel that I question my own ability to actually do the job. Micromanagement is kicking in big time due the the office politics, people trying to protect their own backs and putting me in the ‘scapegoat’ situation. Its a sorry state of affairs when a job turns sour. The politics of office life raises its sickly head and the dark clouds of a toxic environment start to billow around you. It has hit home harder his week as a work colleague has handed in their notice. They are not happy with their role and have found something new to move to, which will hopefully be better for them. I hope it works out well for them and also makes me realise I need to do something about my situation. I need to plan my escape.

Leaving work would resolve the toxic element but where would I find the self worth and the validation I seek? I have an innate passion for doing a good job and put my heart and soul into things. Where would I find that in a new job and eventually in FIRE?

I am not in FIRE territory yet, still on the journey with all its twists and turns. I suppose I could quit work and live off my savings for a while then look for something new.  A change of direction is needed. I did that the other year when the previous job I accepted turned out to be ‘not as advertised’. I jumped into a job too quickly after my redundancy and paid the price. What I do seem to feel is that the role I do just doesn’t fit me any more. Being a punchbag for others to verbally abuse and stress out is hard on my health. Headaches and pains abound and I wonder what it is really doing to my underlying health. As I walk into work I can feel the heavy chains wrap themselves around my body and a vice like grip squeeze the life out of my brain. I am the middle man with no ability to control or affect the situation. I don’t have that ‘teflon’ coating that seems to be required in this role, I am worn down and generally demoralised by the whole working world.

It’s making me turn the wrong way and make bad decisions. I am walking into stupid situations and making silly mistakes because my brain has disengaged. Stupid me!

I know I am ranting but need to let off the steam. An outlet for my anger is required and I need to calm down and get focused on moving on, moving forward. Frustration that I cannot expect being FIRE to completely resolve, how will it provide the validation I seek going forward. I need to find a hustle that gives me some focus and some self-worth. That need to achieve and get a feedback loop. That motivation and feeling of being valued has to come from somewhere, now in my working life and once I reach FIRE?

Where do I find it? When will I find it?

Where does the time go?

Its been a long time since I last posted on the site.

I have been busy and not really on much of an FI focus either. August has been a busy month for me. My work load has fluctuated in the treadmill and things are not too bad really. It is definitely a less stressful job to my last one and not getting any s* from people trying to preserve their jobs and fight to stay alive is a real blessing that I am starting to enjoy.

I have also had the ‘hassle’ of jury service. ‘The Man’ does not pay me for this ‘civil duty’ so I needed to keep this to a minimum so I could earn a reasonable monthly income. A benefit of my FI ways means that my expenses are far lower than my income so I can manage to cope with a loss of income for a short while.

With the bank holiday dropping within the jury service period, I only had to do 9 days – Woop! My duty is now complete and I am now waiting to see how much money I will receive as ‘allowances’ for the days I ‘attended’. It was nice weather so having a proper lunch time was pretty impressive, having time to go to a coffee shop and sit and take my time over lunch was great and going home early when dismissed from court was very much a novelty.

I realise I must take my lunch time break properly and relax and also go home on time once I am back on the treadmill. Once the clock clicks on home time I need to get up and walk out. I shouldn’t feel any duty to ‘The Man’, my job is just serving a purpose – one of gaining FI freedom.

I used to enjoy and find my job/career fulfilling. It gave me a sense of purpose and I had some status. Now, I just bumble along, no respect, no status – just a job.

I am now concentrating on my diary and fill it with experiences and outings that will make me feel happy but without excessive costs.

A good one was the heritage weekend – a chance to go to some places and not have to pay the ridiculous prices and see areas normally closed to the public. Really enjoyed that weekend and added in a trip to see a sport which I enjoy watching. Getting more activities into my diary is making a big difference to my well being.

My checkup visit to the dentist proved that this goal is being achieved. I don’t have the tension pains and jaw problems that I used to have!! Yay!!!   The underlying stress that twisted my muscles and tensed my body has gone. I am being released from the years of stress-filled employment with companies that sucked you dry – then dumped you without any guilt.

Roll on the day when I can say I am free from the need to work and gain the ‘choice’ to work.

ThriftyLesley.com – recipe ideas

I have been reading the ThrifyLesley.com site for a little while now but haven’t tried any of the main menu plan ideas and thought it was about time I mixed in some of the main meal recipes. I love chickpeas and lentils so thought I would try out some of the recipes from meal plan 1.

I have just made the lentil soup and am pondering whether to make the chickpea crumble or go for my usual spicy chickpea (a cranks recipe  – book reference ). An old student friend of mine used to cook this as her staple dish. It was great and if you had leftovers and cooked those on another day, the flavours had infused even more and it tasted hearty and comforting.

The spicy chickpea recipe uses frozen spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes and some spices to create a comfort food dish which is great with flatbreads or rice.

I am continuing to focus on my grocery expenses and reduce them but also maintain my health living plan. I make my own yogurt saving on the cost of buying the equivalent quantity of yogurt from the supermarkets and enjoy making my own breads – mainly flatbreads and pittas. Although there is a fruit loaf recipe on Lesley’s site that looks interesting – it is listed in one of the later meal plans – may give that a go.

I have been batching up blackberries I have picked over the past few weeks so I can have a go at making my own jams/jelly as an experiment. I have also been looking for any ‘free’ apples while out on my bike rides. Still looking for a good source of free apples to join the blackberries. 🙂