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.

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.

 

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.

October Summary

The end of October already, I can’t believe that this year is nearly over. Yet another month flies by and I can’t tell where it has gone. It started off quite busy with a wedding to attend and then at the end a load of expenses. I have kept my food expenses well below the budget this month, so that has helped to balance out the overspend on other areas. I have started seeing the Christmas goodies and adverts, only 8 more Mondays until Christmas. Oh, BAHH HUMBUG!! I have never been much of a fan of Christmas, my work life has involved working Christmas as a peak time so it was never a joyous time for me. I guess I will need to sort out Christmas presents over the next few weeks. What a scrooge I am….lol…

Now, historically this month is a bad month for me, it includes a whole host of expenses to keep my car on the road and prep the house for winter. I do walk and use my bike as much as possible now and the amount of mileage is going down. When I was working in my last-but-one job, I was having to commute over 100 miles per day and I was ramping up the mileage on my car and spending a lot if time getting the car serviced and buying fuel (on a company fuel card…) to keep the day job ticking over.

Now that job is all over….well….any job at the moment, the car is sitting happily in the garage taking a break, like me. Hopefully over the next year I can try and get the car back down to the mileage expected for its age. In the meantime, I have been quite happy with the amount of money I am saving on travel costs. The car happily motored up to the wedding at the beginning of the month, so it gets a good long run out periodically. I have also been able to drop the mileage for the insurance quote. Whatever happens though, the cost of insuring your car just seems to creep up each year. With the new increase in insurance tax too from 3 to 9% hasn’t helped. I am still paying £15 more than last year couldn’t get it any cheaper without hiking up the excess to something stupid.

I am now on my new utility fixed plan, again, the costs just go up. I searched for the best/cheapest deal and even then I still see that the unit costs have risen. I have managed to keep the standing charges the same as in reality that is the bit that hits me the most as it is a fixed cost and so the benefits kick in if you can get a good unit rate to go with it. It was great when I was on a no standing charge tariff but the government killed that off when it brought in the new rules over each supplier only being able to offer 4 deals and all with standing charges.

I will just keep adding layers and wear my thermals more this winter! This month I also had the boiler serviced ready for the cold weather. With all this fog, rain and the clock change it is feeling cold and gloomy. So I thought I better get everything in order. I have also noticed that most of my neighbours are doing the same thing. There seems to be a lot of house maintenance going on; new kitchens (can’t afford one of those on my non-working budget) and outside maintenance –  trees trimmed and gardens cleared for the winter. (Most of those jobs I have been doing myself when the weather has been good).

On the finances front, my cash has been reducing – as expected as I eat into it. I am restocking my cash fund with dividends and trying to live off those alone and leave the investment growth part untouched. My investments are now beginning to pick up and I have ended the month on a positive growth figure. Overall this year, my investments are up by 10%. That isn’t bad when I look back over the past 3 months were growth figures were near flat or negative.

I have started working on some side hustle projects with a view of seeing if I can earn some money that way. I have been researching other sellers and looking for good tips and I will hopefully be able to get something up and running soon. I am still in the planning/building stage but hopefully I can get something underway soon.

In some kind of ‘fate’ incident, one of my old workplaces has a job going – similar to one I did before I was made redundant. It would involve working in a different team and they have moved offices since I last worked there so on first impressions it would feel like a new place. The new jobs are to encourage movement and provide some career progression for those that are still there (something they lack – due to dead-man’s shoes syndrome). I have been told about the jobs and asked if I would apply. It would involve line managing a team where there is no training opportunities, no pay rises or other incentives to increase productivity and encourage them but heavy appraisal frameworks to weed out under performers. With so much lack of movement, the team members get stale and eventually, they either become zombies, picking up their monthly paycheck and ‘doing enough to get by and pass their appraisal’ or they move to find pastures new and find something that gives them growth and stimulus before they lose their minds to zombie-ism. (Is there such a word???)

It was this lack of fresh challenges and variety that made it easy for me to accept the redundancy and leave when I was there. Looking back, they did me a favour as I have had a great subsequent job which was completely different and was a real motivator, it had the variety and the chance to move around and learn new things; until the company went bang…. Then moving to a bad job which I eventually quit.

Needless to say, I have refused the offer to apply – it is just too similar to the old one, I would get bored really quickly so will hold out for something else, if it was a completely different job, I would be tempted. I did wonder if I would regret it but at the moment my body doesn’t seem to be complaining at me. My inner voice isn’t hitting me with noise! I am therefore not expecting to find anything until the new year at least. The recruitment for the new year will start to pick up soon and I hope that agents will read my comments about wanting a local job – not one in London!!!!

As my accountant warned me: I maybe enjoying this non-work status too much!

Being able to control my daily timetable and actually relax is good. I have noticed that I have started to sleep really well and haven’t had a headache or anxiety attack for ages! Just goes to show how the job was getting me down and I was just trying to battle on and stay with it hoping it would get better. Leaving has been a good choice even if it has messed up my chances of getting another one – quitting does not go down well, people see you as a problem case. Good job I am following a FI/RE path and able to survive….I am a FI/RE prepper! (just search the term prepper … there are some unbelievable people out there prepping in the UK. I was listening to a radio show that was talking about prepping and how it is growing in the UK).

Autumn already

Well, this was the point when I would consider my views on working. I had planned to have 3 months off and see how I feel. I would start looking again and see what is on offer.

I have dabbled in the job pool and have applied for a few jobs in the last month but although some have led to interviews (some times multiple interviews) , none have actually resulted in an offer of employment. This experience has not made me feel desperate to re-join the workforce.

On the FI front:

I have run out of things on my current to-do list and now need to make another one. I have been watching my honey pot fluctuate below the FI threshold and then balance out at around the FI marker.

I have been focusing on cutting my costs and moving my money around to get the best growth opportunities. I have sold some shares in my ex-employer and now need to buy into another reasonable dividend healthy stock. I am watching the market and waiting for my price point to appear. I have put a few limit orders in already but the price hasn’t dropped enough yet.

In the mean time I have started to look at my FI routine for the next few months. Having sampled the interviewing process, I don’t have that big urge to go back into the work arena at the moment, and if employers are being picky over who they employ then why can’t I be picky over who I work for.

Autum Instead of worrying too much on the job market I have been outside enjoying the start of autumn and the autumn colours. Also attending the last of the sports events I enjoy as the season closes and the winter season begins. I have been out cycling, walking taking in the air and enjoying a few beer festivals. I have started taking my camera out to capture the jewel colours and have started to relax.

I have a wedding to attend in a few weeks time, so I have been sorting things out ready for that, a few days away in Newcastle. The only downside is that there are Rugby World Cup matches on at the same time so it could be a bit busy and hectic. As long as we can get taxis to/from the wedding venues to our hotel we should be OK.

I had an invite to meet up with some old workmates, they were holding a leaving do for a colleague who is moving to another job. I didn’t feel like going as they would only be talking about the office politics and stories that mean nothing to me any more. I don’t see them socially that much as I live nearly 30 miles away.  I don’t have any interesting stories to tell and with no job on the horizon they would only wonder why I’m not making huge efforts to find new work —- maybe because I don’t need to!

Life is short and I am beginning to realise that I need to get out there and do some of those things on my bucket list and also to not worry so much about the pressures of life and just live it.

The transition from working to non-working life can take its time to settle and it is still a roller coaster of emotions. From the fear of losing your job when you are an office slave – to the fear of running out of money when you are FI living.

The rat race… what is the lure?

I have had yet another interview for a job last week. I applied and very quickly received a call from the HR department arranging an interview within days. It all happened very quickly and I was told I would find out about the decision quickly too —- BUT —- I haven’t, it has gone quiet again.

Now, I think I answered the questions quite well. They told me lots about the workplace and the role and I actually felt sold on it. I had been a little unsure before I went for the interview as the job specification was not very detailed and so I wasn’t sure if it would suit me. Walking around the place and meeting the people helped to get a better view.

Now that it has gone quiet, I feel that this means that it is a ‘No’. Its disappointing as it seems that my ‘summer holiday’ is actually having a bit of a detrimental effect. Leaving my last job without having another one to go to seems to be being viewed in a bad light.

I haven’t been a sofa-surfer during this time, watching day-time TV until I could have this as my mastermind specialist subject. I haven’t been touring the world on a condensed gap year either! I am a hard working type and I have worked in an area that has meant working long hours and weekends. Why can’t I have a break and then re-enter feeling recharged and ready for the next challenge.

I was reading an article recently on a charity worker who was working long hours and was tired. They had a sense of pride in what they were doing – as I did in the roles I have had. I could agree with their comments on missing out on social meetings with friends due to workloads – or last minute crisis that meant you have had to be the person to go in (because others had said no).

What hit me was their comment — “I started to feel ill – nauseous with lots of headaches.”

That was ME! That was how I was feeling while working at my last place.  Their doctor said these were due to burnout and stress. They were signed off by their doctor, off work for 2 months at least, they have returned to work now – it looks like they were able to return to their original job and now actively looks for a healthy work-life balance.

They have learnt to toughen up and say ‘no’. (You should be able to say ‘no’ and not lose your job!)

Something I need to do too, but first I need to find the right job. It is frustrating at the moment, job hunting is a full-time job itself and finding that “right one” is even harder when you are competing with at least 50 others for each application. I will keep plugging on and see what happens, I will ignore the stock market affects on my net worth and keep searching for a new job. I am just glad I have my FI pot to support me.

Appraisals and Reviews

Aren’t they great!

During my 3 months of freedom, I have achieved quite a lot of things on my long-standing ‘to-do list’, mainly related to work on the house, learning, reading and exercise. I am now finding that as the summer is over and the holiday season is ending, my ability to met up with friends and family is drying up as they go back to work and their new workloads pickup and reduce their availability.

I am now starting to wonder about joining the rat-race again. Unlike other FIREs who have a family and a strong friendship circle, I live on my own and lack that daily human contact and could do with some conversation. Most of this is my fault, I have let work commitments and ‘duty’ get in the way of personal life. I should have said “No”.

Reasons I left my last job included: the poor management, aggressive environment and disrespect for employees. I was also having terrible headaches and finding it hard to go in. I think I was having mild panic attacks which really worried me – and concerns me about re-joining the rat-race. The final straw was a review to fill in and what was ridiculous was the lack of direction and motivation that it evoked in me when it is supposed to motivate you.

It was obvious from my role in the organisational structure there were no promotion routes (other than my line manager’s job)  – the only goals that could be set were: to met and learn more about the business departments (I was a new employee) so trying to fill the form in was very hard. Anything I came up with was rejected as either a ‘jolly’, not measurable or not challenging. I couldn’t put things down based on my ‘next assignment’ as the manager couldn’t tell me what I would be doing next. I felt disillusioned. I couldn’t see where I was going in the company – and there seemed to be no direction just immediate short-term deadlines.

Talking to my contractor work colleagues, they commented on how they don’t have to worry about reviews and appraisals. It got me thinking that my return to the workplace maybe better as a contractor or temp. You go in, work your hours and leave without the office politics and monthly/quarterly/annual reviews which are actually stifling motivation rather than encouraging it.

Appraisals and reviews are great when you are young and training is offered – I found then useful then – but once you are in the latter working years, career ladders are not so easy to climb when there are only 2 or 3 rungs left? Training courses are few and far between, if offered. It means that quite often the only way you can progress is by leaving the company or be explicit and say your target is to take your line manager’s job! At one place I worked, the review was just seen as a way of ranking employees and then using this as a basis to reduce head counts when times were tough.

Now when it comes to FI targets, I could fill in the form with a list of goals – but I didn’t think my employer would be too happy in goals based on releasing me from the workplace.  🙂

The review form:

List your career path/vision goals:

Goal – Objective – KPI – Target Date

1- What has gone well since your last review?

2- What are you proud of?

3- Is there anything you have struggled with or are concerned about?

panic I currently have a ‘fear’ of joining the rat-race given this recent experience so I need to take my time and review my FI goals and personal targets. I need to appraise my skills and work on my self-confidence and self-belief. This experience has knocked my confidence big-time and made me questioned my ability – “can I really do the job?” – I was beginning to question this given the flack I was getting. I need to take my time and find something that fits rather than let the voice of ‘fear’ make me jump into the first thing that comes along. That was one of my FI goals – providing space to chose and to have choices rather than rush into things.