Micro Workers (Part II)

Photo by Soumil Kumar on Pexels.com

Well, I thought I would do another review and update on how I am getting on working as a ‘microworker’. I have been doing this kind of work for a while now and I have found that over this time the work has changed considerably.

I first started doing this in the early days of the pandemic and lockdown in 2020. It was impossible to find work as offices had shutdown and the job market had come to a halt. If I wanted work the only two roles that seemed to be going were delivery driver or supermarket assistant. Neither of which I wanted to do as I did not want to exposed myself to the virus as this was pre vaccines.

So I jumped on the micro work path. I could work from home and just log in when I wanted and do as much or as little work as I wished. I signed up with a number of different sites which offered online micro work. Most of them did not seem to have much work going though. Existing users were saying the pandemic had affected work available. With client businesses shutdown they had little work to offer. I managed to earn some money working some data jobs (mainly for a large tech company – which has obviously done well out of the pandemic).

The main site I used offered links to additional online platforms (after passing tests & criteria) so once I had managed to gain access to the other platforms I had access to a wider work base and pay was directed via the main site. This payment route had its pros and cons. The main site operates in Euros and the additional sites operate in US dollars. So when payments were transferred to the main site they were converted and additional fees where taken by the main site. I had no control over the transaction fees or the exchange rates so had to accept the rates charged, the main site was obviously taking a nice chunk off the payments so was gaining income from the users while they worked the additional platform. It meant that they did not need to worry if they had no work to offer directly, they could just push users onto the other site and take a chunk of their earnings.

I sadly tracked my earnings and below is a graph for my monthly earnings on the micro platform.

microwork earnings

The blue line represents the main site and the orange line is the additional platform. When I first started, I did not check the orange platform much for work so earnings were low, there is also a lead time on the payments so sometimes the earnings would not get credited in the same month. In October 2020 I started to check the site more often and found more work available (the main site was bare) so about 70%+ of my work came from the additional platform.

As the winter of 2020 continued I managed to earn most of my earnings off the additional platforms as there was little to do on the main site (indicated by the narrow gap between the graph lines). In Dec 2020, they even offered a bonus, which I managed to achieve which increased my earnings but as the new year began and the site access started to widen to more countries globally, the ability to access and successfully gain work began to get harder. I don’t think I did too badly as I had a steady stream of earnings, it was hard to achieve the monthly target I had set myself but as 2021 continued the ability to keep working began to falter. I found that the competition for work was growing and it became impossible to access work and so my earnings started to fall. I think I need to work US hours as time zones definitely began to affect work availability.

From August 2021 onwards the platforms started dropping pay rates as they found they had a huge supply of users and based on geolocation they could keep dropping rates knowing that they could use the cheaper workers to complete the work. As 2021 came to an end, I found it really hard to get work on any of the sites. The pay has dropped considerably and most UK and European workers have started to drop off the site and find alternative work. The final straw for some UK workers was the removal of one of the payment routes (blamed on Brexit) as that now means additional fees have to be paid to withdraw your money via a different provider. With minimum transaction value thresholds it means the small sums earned are now hacked down to nothing as the fees take most of it away.

Now these online micro platforms are predominantly based/originate in the US and looking on the user forums for these sites, it is clear that the US users are now being affected by the changes over 2021 and are also complaining about the poor earnings opportunities and availability. For some this formed part of their nomadic life but they are now having to find other ways of bolstering their income. If I want to gain access to a bigger pool of work I would need to work US hours. looking at times of postings on the forums when work is active, I would need to work between midnight and 4am UK time. I do not want to do that.

I am having to seek alternatives. I have some other sites which provide sporadic micro work. One, has even upped its rates as the number of jobs has dropped. I get about two jobs a month on there, it does not seem to have recovered from the pandemic. When I first signed up it was providing about 10+ tasks a month. They email when jobs are available – so I can see how the work has dropped off.

I have never been able to achieve the monthly earning targets I had set myself and I have just about managed to earn the same annual amount as I did for the 2018/2020 tax year. I think 2022 will just get worse if the current earnings trend continues. It has dropped off so much, it is becoming a self fulfilling prophecy as I get reluctant to even login to find no work to do (or work that is paying so poorly it is not worth touching).

Monthly Update – Dec 21

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December has been a bit of an odd month. I have been finishing off some house jobs and preparing for Christmas. I have been good and tried to find useful gifts for people and cut back on over indulging on useless (wasteful) gifts. Christmas has been quiet and scaled back for me. Only one group event for a friend’s birthday. We all tested ourselves before we met as one of the party is still recovering from major cancer surgery. Everyone made the most of the event. A few of the attendees had had COVID before the vaccines were available and explained the extent of their illness. Luckily none of them required hospital treatment and have now had vaccines and boosters. I had an interesting conversation with someone I had never met before (a friend of a friend). They were telling me how they feel down with their job and want to quit. They caught COVID, lost loads of weight and now feel so down with their job and work life. They are a year older than me and seem to have some good savings and they were interested in how I was managing to live without a job. They have gone away to go through their finances and see if they can ‘retire’ early. They have a well paying job with healthy savings and a good pension and they have just inherited a house and looking at whether they should sell it or rent it out. It was interesting to compare notes and it made me feel good to be able to live without a ‘proper’ job and enjoy some freedom. I don’t have the luxury of a potential inheritance so have to earn and build my FI fund.

I think I am still going through the phases of ‘retirement’, I have had the ‘grief’ stage for a while now. It has lingered due to the pandemic and I have been struggling with the status anxiety of not having work. I have no real sense of meaning or purpose at the moment, made more so by this pandemic. I am getting out a bit more now and meeting others and listening to other’s work issues has made me feel more relaxed and confident over what I have done. The anxiety of not working is starting to ease as I don’t feel so worried about what people think. I saw a review for my last employer and it was very scathing, I am so glad I left that place. It hasn’t got any better and the review was pretty damaging, with a quote to avoid working there.

I had a pet sitting job which I completed just before Christmas, So a little bit of extra income earned and it was enjoyable. I was also supposed to have a repeat session in Jan but they have cancelled. They had booked a ski holiday in Austria but this was cancelled due to the Austrian lockdown. It would have been good to earn some extra money but hey, it is not a big problem at the moment.

My net worth has ended the year well and is 10% up, mainly due to the recovery of indexes and in the latter part of the year, an uplift in dividend payments as companies start to recover and restart dividends. So even though I am using and depleting cash to live, I am managing to offset this with income from investments.

I am still waiting to see what happens with my energy supplier. I just pay the bills and wait to see what happens. I dread to think what the costs will be next year. The rumours of large increases in April are worrying. I need to assess my usage v. charges. I don’t think I can reduce my usage any more than I currently have. Other than sitting in a cold house with no heating on I have done everything I can to keep my usage down. If anything it’s the increase in standing charges and unit costs which increases my bills and I cannot prevent this.

Income

On the income front, I have converted some online earnings to GBP so I can use towards Christmas expenses. Compared to last year I have not earned anything like as much online income this month. It has been really poor. I really need to look at other sources of income and see if I can diversify and increase passive income so I can go out and about and spend time enjoying life rather than tied to an online portal. At the moment it would be better for me to find a part time job give the earning rates per hour as it would be a more lucrative use of my time. I feel I am giving my time away for free.

My ISA has received some good sized dividends this month, the most I have received and I hope this growth trend will continue into next year. If I could get this value paid every month then I could happily stop looking for additional income sources and just live.

I have been looking at drop ship and other ventures which I could possibly use to generate some cash in a more passive way. I did setup another betting account and made another small profit on match betting but would need to add more money into the accounts to get them to generate some additional profit. I assume others are moving money around the accounts which feels like a grind to earn a few pounds.

Expenses

My main expenses this month have been related to Christmas, birthday gifts, meals out and meeting up with people to celebrate Christmas and the end of the year.

Month End Summary

I am pleased with how 2021 has ended from a financial viewpoint. My net worth has increased by 10% and my ISA and pension funds are looking healthy. I am still drawing down cash and leaving my ISA untouched so I can try to get the benefit of reinvested income. Some of my cash accounts have raised their interest rates, not enough to make a big difference. I will continue to look at moving some of my cash to generate a better return. I see that the markets wanted to try and end the year up. My passive income has improved and is higher than last year. I have dividends already declared for next year/month so that will be a great start for 2022. I just need things to keep moving in a positive direction so I can make next year better than this one and continue to move through the ‘retirement’ phases and get a more positive view of life and future.

Monthly Update – Nov 21

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November has been a ‘review’ month. My net worth dropping makes me anxious and I have been looking at long term finances to see how my plans work. Now that the days are shorter I have started looking at jobs on my house. I have fixed a few plumbing issues and re-grouted and tidied up the bathroom. I have also been looking at the house generally, after the storm the other day it has become apparent that some of the double glazed windows have draughts and need new seals. I have been watching videos on how to fix this and will look to do this once the weather gets better. I also need to look at the door which is draughty and again I need to adjust the door which looks doable. Again, another task for a warmer day. I will look at temp fixes until I can get this done, it will be cheaper than getting someone to do it, although I will need to get someone to have a look at replacing the glazing units that have failed. I have checked and all the south facing windows need doing, so that will be a large quote to fix.

Looking at house repairs I have quite a few to do now and I have also found that I have a problem with my conservatory. It is slowly dropping and there are cracks in the brickwork and frame. I have ‘googled’ this and found a very similar problem, it seems it is quite common due to construction methods, and given the issue my only permanent solution is to replace the conservatory completely. I have followed the advice of sealing the cracks and monitor the movement, it is not too bad at the moment but it will get worse and will then need to be demolished and rebuilt. Ouch, my house is 25 yrs old and is falling apart. These modern houses just don’t seem as good as older ones. I had an Edwardian house before and it was much easier to fix and the build quality was much better than now, solid not flimsy. The materials they used were more sustainable and they were constructed to enable repairs. (Why does everything need to be plastic! UPVC being a prime example!) And you could find tradespeople who could fix them too! So with the roofline to do too I have a lot to get fixed and they are large outlays. I will have to phase this over the next few years and some I cannot do until I can access my SIPP and use the lump sum to pay for it. It would have been good if I could have used my lump sum for some fun rather than repair jobs.

I have started looking at how to incorporate these costs into my financial plans and try to work out when and how to fund them. This also determines if and when I need to find a job so I can fund them.

My net worth is dropping, mainly due to the drop in the markets recently, it looks like they are beginning to recover. I should have bought into the market while it was down but I have other things to preoccupy me.

My energy supplier has gone bust. It is now being managed by the government while they decide how to split up the customer base. I will just keep an eye on the costs and determine what impact this has on my outgoings. I will need to wait and see who I get moved to then look at pricing and see if I am better to move to an alternative or not. I just need to not worry about it and keep plodding along.

I caught up with an ex work colleague who has been through the wars recently with bereavement and redundancy to cope with. It was good to see them as it has been 18 months. Their redundancy was their third and due to age they are saying they cannot find another job.( I was made redundant with them a few years ago so used to this new cycle of redundancy as part of working life). Their CV is being rejected at the first hurdle and they are now looking at retirement. We worked in similar roles and finding hard to find a new one, the sector is changing so much these roles seem to have disappeared or changed making our skillsets a non match. We discussed the idea of alternative part time work and how that may be a good option, but again, there is nothing good around at the moment. Comparing notes, they have observed the same issues I have. There are some part time roles out there but you have to be available 7 days per week, able to work any day (at short notice) and any shift. No ability to choose days or hours, no flexibility.

Income

On the income front, I have been converting online earnings to GBP so I can pay myself and the exchange rates do not help but some money is better than none. It will help to fund Christmas. Dividend earnings are down too as dates have changed, some delayed, and my dividend earnings are down based on last year.

Looking at the year as a whole, my income is down a little bit on last year but it does cover my expenses for this year so far, so I am managing to keep my expenses lower than my income.

I have had a bit of a break from the online platform so my earnings are well down this month. The work is drying up again too. Users are commenting on the low levels of work so I am trying to scan each of the platforms I use to find any income.

Expenses

My main expenses this month have been related to going out and meeting people. I have a few expenses brewing as I need some work doing on my car to prepare it for its MOT next year.

Next month is going to be a more expensive month due to the time of year, with Christmas looming I have gifts to buy and a few birthdays gifts to source. I am not really sure what to buy and I don’t really feel like going out and about. I really do not like this time of year and it makes me feel down.

Month End Summary

I am still going. I have some extra income from a few house/pet sitting jobs lined up in the next few months and I am feeling up and down at the moment. Good, as I can see some income sources. Bad, as I can see unexpected expenses and some long term large costs looming. I will just have to keep going and FI funds have enabled me to survive with little or no work. I can be grateful to be in this position. I have now been free from a full time job for 23 months and by the end of December I will have been free for two years. Its not quite how I imagined it or how I wanted it to be. But hey! I am still going.

Monthly Update – Oct 21

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October has been a ‘spendy’ month. I am so used to saving and seeing money going out of accounts and my net worth dropping makes me anxious. Looking back on previous years, Sep/Oct are months when my investments take a bashing, they normally recover so I just need to stop looking and just keep ticking along. It’s been a ‘spendy’ month due to annual expenses such as car insurance and tax. I also had my gas boiler serviced ready for the winter. I thought I should get the boiler checked and make sure it is running as efficiently as possible. I am hoping that this year is a mild winter so I don’t need to use it much (it only heats the house) so I am hoping that I can keep my costs down given the price rises. I am also waiting to see what happens to my energy supplier as they are on the brink of collapse.

I have watched my neighbour get the soffits/roofline/guttering replaced with UPVC on their house. I need that doing on mine too, its the age of the houses and I have noticed most need doing on my estate. They seem to be making a good job of it and I will have to look at getting that done next year. The houses have wooden soffits but most get changed for UPVC – so much for the planet! These guys look good, I will look to get them to quote. Oh the joys of house ownership – especially when they reach that age when lots of things need replacing at the same time – I need some of the double glazing replaced too as it has started to fail. It all starts to come along at once and when you’re not working and concerned about finances, it becomes a worry as they are large outlays.

My net worth is dropping, mainly due to the drop in the markets and this has hit all my investments; shares, ISA and SIPP. I am trying to keep spending in line with my passive income but this month has been hard due to the annual expenses. Dividends have appeared again which is nice to see, I am down this month on a YOY basis due to some of my ISA dividends being paid last month. Overall I seem to be matching last year’s passive income but could do with it starting to track upwards to the kind of income levels I was receiving pre-pandemic.

Income

On the income front, shares have paid out dividends and my ISA has received some income too which has been auto reinvested.

I have been trying to earn money on the crowd platforms I use but the last few months have been really poor with little work which means I am not reaching my targets. I use this money to supplement my income and give me some ‘spending money’ for entertainment such as going to the pub or for a meal out. This allows me to keep my main passive income working to cover my basic expenses; house bills, food and transportation.

The main online platform I use has too many workers on there and it now has so many it does not have enough work to supply the demand. It has dropped the pay rates down so much that some of the long-term users from UK and Europe are leaving as they find that the hourly rate has dropped way below their personal earning targets. They are finding that the earnings levels are just not there any more. They used to be able to earn good money from the platform and it was seen as a good ‘nomad’ income source. Now, the platform wants the cheapest labour to complete the jobs and the pandemic has provided them with the best opportunity to gain workers at cheap rates. They are continuing to recruit workers and the work is getting more competitive and the pay rates are dropping every week. See my Micro worker post here.

I use other online platforms too but they don’t provide consistent work. The test site I am registered with hardly has any work at all, I get maybe one or two test tasks a month. When I registered last year, I would get one or two tasks a week, now its one or two a month. Again it seems to be lacking work, they have also changed their payment rates and thresholds, they have actually increased the pay rates but the number of tasks has reduced considerably and you have to earn more before you can withdraw it. I have to laugh as some of the work has actually been for an ex employer.

The easiest alternative which enables me to work from home and for a few hours a week would be match betting (MB). Now, I did dabble with this last year and I did make a bit of money each month but I am not receiving the free bets any more which helped to gain the profits. It was not earning enough each month but I guess you have to build it up. The football season ended so the offers dropped off. I really need a ‘side hustle’ which will provide about £300 p/m – is it possible to do this with MB?

I would have to put some more money into the MB accounts and widen my account holdings to try and encourage the free bets back and look at the other betting offers. Is it possible to get a reasonable income from MB? How much money do I need to build up as a buffer to be able to make around £300p/m ? As its all tax free this would be a brilliant way of earning extra cash.

Expenses

I have had a few big expenses this month. Car insurance and tax (it’s the anniversary of my redundancy from one of my jobs which caused the biggest trauma/life change. It was this that spurred and initiated me onto my FI path). I have managed to reduce the costs. I have some other subscriptions up for services too that I do require, I have been looking at cheaper alternatives and have found some good ones which I will use at renewal point.

The gas boiler service is done. I haven’t had the boiler serviced for 4 years – wow, I didn’t think it had been that long – shows how my work life got in the way. It is ready for the winter but needs some parts replacing as part of scheduled maintenance so these need to be ordered and installed to keep it ticking over, more expense in the coming days which will tip into November’s expenses.

Other than that my expenses have been the usual ones such as council tax, utilities, food and the odd trip out to the pub.

Month End Summary

My FI fund is holding up well considering the drop in markets. For the year I am still in positive territory overall and given that October is an expensive month for me, I can feel relatively relaxed. I am on track for the year so just need to keep going for the next two months. I am enjoying the freedom to choose and will continue to focus on improving my health and spending my time wisely.

Micro Workers

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For the past year I have been working as a ‘micro worker’ rather than being an employee for ‘The Man’. It means I am doing digital piecework on a freelance basis and it has allowed me to work from home and work as and when I felt like it so fully flexible from the viewpoint of time. Earnings on the other hand are a different matter, you have to wait for jobs to appear and if you log in at the wrong time then you will spend the day waiting for a job to appear only to find that you have wasted a few hours anticipating work to find none. Some work can appear and keep you occupied for hours and earn a reasonable sum others just pay peanuts and not worth the bother.

I spotted an article on micro workers on the Guardian news site the other day.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/27/big-techs-push-for-automation-hides-the-grim-reality-of-microwork

This article focuses on the AI automation that is happening and has increased rapidly during the pandemic. In my last few full time jobs I have worked on projects which were automating operations so that less humans were required to perform the task or the employees increased their productivity so more throughput was possible without requirement to recruit more staff. I even had an interview recently for a job which would make the business participants of the project redundant at the end as the system would replace them. This article mentions the drive to automate and the growth in microwork which is the ‘grim ghost’ behind the AI expansion and how due to the pandemic it has increased.

It also comments on the competitive and poorly paying nature of the work. It does not pay well and does not guarantee work either so it is very much a side hustle and something to provide some extra money. It is not a way to earn a reliable income, although during the pandemic people turned to this as a way of earning some money while faced with lockdowns, workplace closures, lay offs and a frozen job market.

I joined the micro worker sector at the start of the pandemic as a way of earning some extra cash from home and not have to worry about finding a job. (Not that there were any going as the job market froze!) I have seen the articles professing the ‘digital nomad’ dream and how glamourous this can be…the reality is very different. Most of these ‘dream’ articles are old, pre-pandemic and originating in the US where this kind of work could earn a good income but the pandemic has crushed this.

There are plenty of crowd sites out there which offer these micro jobs, the tasks vary between analysing search engine results to analysing images for AI. The crowd platforms offer work from big companies directly, such as MTurk, or they link you to sites processing tasks for large tech companies which try to keep their name out of the lights but it is pretty obvious as a worker who these companies are. There are other sites that offer surveys which you fill in and earn payments in cash or vouchers.

The article mainly talks about the AI work which I have performed as part of my micro worker tasks. I have labelled images or tagged image to assist with AI learning. Some for major UK companies which involved analysing images from overhead cameras. I have also listened and graded AI audio, it is interesting how I now recognise these voices on TV, radio and online platforms. Some have paid quite well and did so at the start of the pandemic, as the pandemic has rolled on and the number of micro workers grew the nature of the work changed. The volume of tasks dropped due to lockdowns (while the number of workers grew) and the rates of pay dropped as the platforms have increased their workers across the globe. They have found they can reduce pay rates and ‘benefit’ from the cheaper global workforce.

I have found tasks which rate suitability of blog posts, so yes these micro tasks can involve content moderation too. While I work they are also collecting data on me and this data is also being used to profile the tasks that will be made available to me. I have even had tasks where I am checking the work that has been submitted from other tasks posted on the platform. Others have involved prepping data for use within other future tasks published on the platform.

I work on multiple crowd platforms so if one is dry for work I log onto another and look for work there. It has been useful for earning some extra cash but you cannot live solely on this means of income, especially in the UK.

It is not reliable, consistent or well paid. It is deemed as self employment and the rates do not equate to UK minimum wage, even though the sites have marketing material saying that they pay their workers fair rates based on country pay rules. With the proposed uplift in UK minimum wage next year, the gap will widen. Most sites pay in US dollars or Euros so with the currency exchange rates the result is an average hourly rate of about £3 or £4, if you are lucky. Gone are the days of £10+ per hour rates which were possible when I first joined..

I currently set myself a monthly target and was able to achieve this at the beginning but this is becoming harder to do as the pay rates dropped. Although work volume has picked up after lockdowns eased and more businesses began to operate, the pay scales and the worker volumes make it hard as everyone fights to work the highest paying tasks. To try to manage this one site has now imposed a daily earnings cap to ‘spread the work around’. Once a worker reaches the cap they are blocked from working until the next day. I haven’t encountered this yet but if I do I will just log off for the day and go do something else.

For some southern hemisphere workers this work is still well paid, although that is changing as the pay rates decrease. I have seen forum comments about the pay reductions. Each time a task reappears the rates are dropped. It has led to calls to ignore/boycott tasks until the pay rate is increased, this has worked a few times. The race to the bottom has begun and for workers in the northern hemisphere they are looking for alternatives, for those in the southern hemisphere their journey to the bottom has just begun.

At some point something will have to give and either this work disappears or pay rates will have to increase to tempt workers back.

Retirement Lifestyle

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I saw the article about UK retirement standards and the income rates required to live based on a set of lifestyle factors.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58883053

It made me look at my pensions and see where I would fit in this lifestyle scale. I have to wait until I am 67 before I can collect my state pension. I had a look at how much that would provide. At the moment I have 30 qualifying years (you need 35 for full entitlement) so I am short by 5 years. The DWP currently calculate my state pension value as £7.5k before deductions. I also had a company pension which was contracted out so that reduces my payment, the DWP give you an estimate figure of what that reduction is per week, so if I deduct that from my state pension forecast it brings the value down to £5.5k. Ouch!

I am going to enquire about topping up the lost year and also how best to fund the remaining years to see if that would be worthwhile and looking at the best ways to do this, assuming I do not pay any NI in the future via employment.

My company pension is a defined benefit one which was frozen when I was made redundant. This gives me an estimated total pension (inc. state pension) somewhere between the minimum and moderate standard of living according to this article, in today’s money.

I have a SIPP where I have consolidated a personal pension and a few DC pensions from my last few employers and this should provide some additional top-up unless I break into it at 55. As I am not employed at the moment I have been working through my worst case scenario where I don’t work and live off passive income/ISA savings and then use my SIPP to cover expenses until I reach 67. I am also looking at when best to sell my rental property and use this money to cover income between 55 and 67 so I can delay breaking into my SIPP until say 60 (or later) and then calculate the potential pension I could draw and how that would replace the rental income.

Inflation is a factor in all this and also how to best use the SIPP, do I drawdown or do I buy an annuity. If I assume that the current pensions do not grow but prices and standard of living do due to inflation, then by the time I reach 67 my pension will be about level with the minimum lifestyle standard.

I need to do some number crunching and look at what is the best way to approach this phase of life. Especially as I have some large house maintenance expenses that need to be covered between now and retirement which need funding from one of these sources be that ISA/BTL sale/ SIPP lump sum. Plenty to think about…..

Am I a Time Millionaire?

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I read the article in the Guardian and it made me think – Am I a Time Millionaire?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/oct/12/time-millionaires-meet-the-people-pursuing-the-pleasure-of-leisure

I think I am. I feel like the woman in the image who is walking along relaxing with an ice cream enjoying the stroll while others around me race around in a hurry. I have been saying recently how I feel I am not a time slave any more. I feel that time is not my master. It takes me as long as it takes to complete whatever tasks I set myself.

After spending years working between 42 and 55 hour working weeks and working different time zones and working day and night shifts I feel that I have been released. It is this feeling which makes me not want to go back to the treadmill and a full time ‘9-to-5’ job. I put the ‘9-to-5’ in quotes as most of the roles I have been employed in during the past decade have not fit that time frame. I would have to go back to the start of my working career to find a job that fits a ‘9-to-5’ definition. I felt I was a failure if I didn’t work long hours and I was not ‘getting on’ if I did not have the presenteeism that was expected by my employers. Long hours was seen as a badge of honour and the only way to get promotions. Being available 24/7, took its toll even if it did give me the financial foundations that has enabled me to do what I am doing today. The pain for the pleasure!

I now decide when I want to get up, what to fill my day with and I have been focusing on my health with cycling and walking high on my to do list. Especially while the weather is good, I will continue to focus on this and am really feeling the difference and in combination with some yoga sessions I am feeling happier now and relaxed. I have autonomy and that is such a good feeling and I don’t want to lose this.

Friends are saying how I look happier and that I am smiling more. I was always feeling down, tired and under pressure, especially in my last job where I felt under constant pressure to be more productive. Restless or sleepless nights are now diminishing. My work colleagues felt the same and we just felt exhausted and unappreciated. Even if we had fulfilled out targets and deadlines, the senior managers would not give any praise they would just ask for more. Nothing was even good enough for them; more, more, more was expected. Even my line manager had enough of it and left.

Anyhow, I want to keep my time millionaire credentials and find a way of balancing some work and life so that I can live in a more relaxed and calm manner.

I am not trying to worry about the current social/news issues, I cannot control them. Yes, I managed to find fuel and I now have a full tank which will last me a while as my mileage has now dropped considerably. I have saved loads on my car insurance renewal due to the significant cut in annual mileage.

I will wait for my request for my COVID booster, which is likely to be around December. I will also keep looking to see if I can get a free flu jab. I qualify for the free one but I cannot find anywhere locally that will do them. I may try to look further afield. My GP has no flu vaccine and has posted on their website that it is delayed and they do not know when they will receive their supplies. I have used the NHS site to find a local pharmacy which provides the flu vaccine service but none provide the free NHS flu jab. They only offer paid non-NHS ones. I looked on the local FB groups and people are posting that even though they have paid for a flu jab they are being cancelled by the local pharmacies as they are running out of stock or have no flu vaccine. So even though this is the best time to have the flu jab, as the flu season begins, I cannot find anywhere in the local area that will give me the free NHS flu jab. I will just keep using social distance to avoid the flu and as I don’t work in an office I don’t have the worry of catching the flu there. I have so many things to be grateful for.

I will continue to monitor my finances, I am not a financial millionaire but I feel like a time millionaire. A great way to think about life.

Monthly Update – Sep 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

September is over and its been an enjoyable month where I have been getting out and about. I have attended a few beer festivals and generally tried to enjoy the freedom and the good weather while it lasts. That’s why this monthly post is late as I have been busy going out and about.

My net worth is remaining steady, the trend line continues to be flat, which is good, a I try to maintain my spending in line with my income. Dividends have started to appear in my account and I have received the biggest monthly dividend payment this year, so that will help to keep me solvent. I was beginning to worry that I would start eating into my capital and September is normally a month where my investment values drop.

Income

On the income front, the share dividends received this month have helped to bolster my funds. I won again on my premium bonds too, this month it was £25 so that is nice tax free income to receive.

My shares have fluctuated again but I ended the month up and I continue to monitor dividend declarations to see if/when I will receive any additional income.

I have received a few ISA dividends this month too which have been auto invested in more units. The value has ended the month down after climbing during the earlier half of the month.

I have continued to try and find some online work. The sites I use have again been slow. I have managed to catch a few good income generating tasks and although I am not anywhere my target I have earned a higher total than last month and I have now earned 75% of last years total, so overall that isn’t too bad considering I have had problems earning anything on the platform over the past two months.

I have started to ponder getting some part time work. Now that the UK is opening up the job market will hopefully start to pick up and maybe I can find a less stressful job. I have been meeting more people who have been potentially offering ideas for work. I have had agents contact me about contract roles – I don’t want to setup a company and work contract even though the day rates are very good and enticing. I would rather have a PAYE job and been an employee and earn my NI credits and accrue some pension contributions however small. The roles involve commuting again, they are office based and due to them being contract they are 3 or 6 month max and seem very short term. Mainly to get some digital platform in place to enable the companies to survive. Sounds too stressful for me. I would just like to do my hours and leave, not be on call and constantly working the world clock to manage overseas workers.

Expenses

I have had a few big expenses this month which were unexpected. Repairs on my rental property which means I have consumed all my rent for this month. I expect some rent to be consumed by repairs and general expenses annually but this one was bigger than normal. I do need to start looking at when to sell the house, I will need to serve notice on the tenant to quit so I can sell. I will need to look at the selling costs, best time to sell and the possible profit achievable and what to do with that cash to support myself over the coming years. At the moment the income makes up a large %age of my monthly income. With the ISA growth dropping I do wonder if my ISA will support me as well as I would like if I had to start drawing it as a replacement for my rental income.

Month End

I feel grateful for my FI fund and it is holding up well given that September is a month when I see my net worth drop. I can continue to ponder my long term options and encounter others who may give me ideas on what I could do as a part time role. I am feeling more relaxed as freedoms start to appear and my lockdown anxiety is fading. I am enjoying the freedom of not working and being able to take the opportunity to do things during the working day and not have time as my master. I hope this can continue.

Have I retired?

Mmm, an interesting question as I talk to ex work colleagues and meet strangers on my travels. We compare notes on workplaces and work in general. Some common themes are appearing making me want to make my retirement more permanent.

I don’t think I am retired YET as I am looking at work options, I have not dismissed returning to a workplace. I even had a job interview last month. But I am getting disillusioned with the workplace, especially the role I was performing and that view is growing as I hear more stories of the workplaces around me, as I seek places to work.

My recent job interview was a red flag. I didn’t have a good vibe about it as the agent was unable to provide full info on the job role. The company matched my business sector and ticked some of my requirement boxes. My CV was of interest to the employer. Well…. It turns out, when interviewed, that I did had some subject area experience but I felt it was a loose fit. The role to be performed was ‘sensitive’ and would involve staff restructuring and job losses on successful completion. The project was critical path, it needed to be completed by a fixed date. No slip allowed. The clock was already ticking. I would be expected to run this project where there would be team conflict and resulting staff loss – so a lot of stress and pressure then! Running a team of reluctant participants. NOT WHAT I WANT IN A JOB!

The project would result in the participating team members being made redundant at the end. It was an automation project and the company had already started to seal those cost savings into future business plans but hadn’t got the solution in place and the job would involve getting that solution in place ASAP to fit the date.

It was being offered as a permanent job but given the project, I couldn’t see it being the case. I could see it ending once the work had been completed. The timescale was within 12 months so they could legally dismiss me with no pay out and I would have no comeback.

A bad role, surprisingly enough I didn’t get it. It may have something to do with my responses to some of the questions as the role become more clear in the interview. I had no intention of continuing the selection process. I had jumped out of a frying pan and was not interested in landing in a hot fire! My blood pressure is down to normal, I don’t want to go back to high blood pressure and the fear of medication to reduce it.

I just don’t seem to have much luck on the job front as my network has been depleted. It’s not what you know but who you know these days and I don’t know anyone as they are retiring or downshifting. I am not sure I want to go back to what I was doing based on recent interview experiences. I used to enjoy the work, it was creative, fun, dynamic and I worked in teams that gelled – no conflict or fear. It has changed, the creativity has gone and there is more fear, conflict and pressure, I don’t want the stress and burnout any more. The conflict workplace is not for me. I am fed up of being in meetings where the attendees almost physically fight each other when they disagree.

I don’t want to be working in a individualist place where team is a loose term and competition and conflict is rife as people try to retain their job and fear dismissal. I think this was becoming the case before the pandemic but the pandemic has pressed the booster button and it is rapidly spreading into more and more companies. RIP a friendly ‘team’ workplace.

Is it just me or is the workplace becoming less human? We are expected to work like robots, be available 24/7 and work on projects that automate and ultimately remove us from the process.

Role on Atlas ! We just need universal wage and we humans can retire for good.

I am classing this time as an adult Gap Year … at the moment … but maybe this will change to retired.

Monthly Update – Aug 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

August is over and its been another good month where I can enjoy the sunshine and get out and about. I have got myself some LF test kits for COVID and have started testing myself now I am out and about. I have tested negative so far and will continue to check for symptoms as the UK opens up and people ‘relax’ and the opportunity for catching the virus increases.

My net worth is remaining steady. Dividends have started to appear in my account and although they are not as great as previous years, the income is good to see. That’s a big relief as I was beginning to worry that I would start eating into my capital and so I have been monitoring my outgoings to keep within budget.

Income

On the income front, the share dividends received this month have helped to increase my passive income. I won again on my premium bonds too, this month it was £50 so that is nice tax free income to receive.

My shares have fluctuated again in August but I am just holding them and watching for the dividends to be declared. Any dividends will be split between investments and monthly expenses. I can’t sell any more this year without incurring CGT. I have no immediate need to sell them so will slowly release them over the next few years.

I have received a few ISA dividends this month too which have been auto invested in more units which has helped to improve my ISA balance. Watching this track upwards after last year is a positive feeling.

I have continued to try and find some online work. The sites I use have again been slow this month. The Summer months are poor but I have managed to nearly reach my monthly target. This money will be used to cover expenses and enable me to avoid taking profit from my ISA.

I have started to ponder getting some part time work. Now that the UK is opening up the job market will hopefully start to pick up and maybe I can find a stress free job. I don’t want to work in a stressful job environment any more. My last role was so stressful and bullying it was literally killing me and I feel so much better for leaving. I can tell from my job interviews that my stress levels start to increase at the thought (fear) of another bullying workplace and my blood pressure rises. I have managed to avoid blood pressure medication so far. I have managed to increase my fitness with the cycling and walking I am now able to do in what would have been office hours.

Month End

I feel grateful for my FI fund and it is supporting me well. I can continue to ponder my long term options and in the meantime enjoy some recreational activities. I am feeling more relaxed as freedoms start to appear. Maybe I am starting to feel the benefits of FI freedom. I hope this can continue and I can class myself as finished with the workplace for good.