Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E. There’s a lot to talk about this week, including a fantastic meal out for my girlfriend’s birthday, a couple of complaints I have had to make as a customer, a case of cold/Warrior Flu and some developments on a potential career change.
One of my vices is food, and I love fine dining. To some people it may come across as pretentious, but I love how food can become an art form. The way simple ingredients can be elevated in the right hands is incredible, and when this is mixed with the right atmosphere and service it can be such a memorable experience. In Sheffield there is a restaurant called Rafters and a few months ago myself and my girlfriend ate there for our anniversary. We agreed it was the best meal we have eaten in Sheffield and so I decided to surprise my girlfriend with a meal for her birthday. We went for drinks in their cocktail bar and their Experience One menu. It was an amazing night except for the sudden onset of a cold/Warrior Flu midway through the dinner service. That cold kept me off work all this week, but the meal was truly spectacular.
The meal started with a selection of small plates, alongside Thornbridge Stout and Black Treacle Bread, with a Henderson’s Relish Butter. Since watching Rome, I find it impossible to eat any bread without saying “Good bread, this.” My girlfriend found it funny at first, but several years later it seems to be wearing thin.
We then had Salt Baked Celeriac with nasturtium and hazelnut pesto, and a brown butter hollandaise. The next course was Moss Valley Port, with fermented barley followed by a chocolate, hazelnut and coffee dessert and an extra cheese course. With fine dining restaurants it is normal to have a few smaller courses in between the main dishes. Although each dish looks small, by the end of the meal you are well fed. It is the little things that set these types of restaurants apart. They realised we liked the bread, and so they sent us home with a free loaf from the kitchen. They saw on the booking it was a birthday meal, and so they made my girlfriend’s dessert a little fancier. It is these smaller touches which set Rafters apart from Joro, another fine dining restaurant in Sheffield. When dining in Joro, it seems like the expectation is that you should thank them for dining there. I’ve eaten in Michelin starred restaurants in other countries and it’s the service as much as the food which sets them apart.
As you are probably aware, from the title of the blog at least, I’m a mortgage advisor. There is potential for me to transition into investment advice in the next year or two and I’ve spent the day in Manchester meeting with a manager in that area. Over the coming months I will find out if I will receive funding to qualify to give that advice. It’s an exciting opportunity and I could really see myself thriving in that environment. For the meeting today I realised I would need to wear a suit but with my health problems over the last year or two, my other suits are a little tight. So, I decided to buy a new suit.
I did not want to spend a fortune and went to Next thinking I would get a simple suit that would see me through to when I can fit back in my other suits. I picked a suit off the shop floor and checked with a lady at the counter that I was fine to use the fitting rooms. I was quite shocked a few minutes later when a male member of staff opened the curtain on the fitting room with myself standing there in my boxer shorts. I was angry. It was not so much about another guy seeing me in my boxer shorts, but it could have been anyone in the fitting room from a child to an elderly man. It could have been someone with anxiety. The point is you don’t just start opening changing rooms at random.
I made a complaint in store, but the “manager” did not seem particularly bothered. I spoke with Next’s customer service helpline and they registered the complaint and sent me a £25 gift card. I bought a suit elsewhere but the whole incident made me very angry. It could have just been an innocent mistake, or it could have been predatory behaviour from a sexual deviant. I did not see the member of staff again as he had vanished from the shop floor by the time I was dressed.
In another example of poor service, I had to make a complaint to Virgin Money about the credit card I have with them. I run my card at an almost constant zero balance. I spend on the card to collect airmiles but hate leaving a balance on there for more than a couple of days. A few weeks ago, I spent £2,000 on new furniture but ended up cancelling the order. No big deal, the retailer was very accommodating and was happy to refund the order. However, the money had to go back to the original payment method. I called Virgin Money and explained that my card was at zero balance but a refund of £2,000 would be received in a few days. I wanted to know if this would cause a problem as credit cards are not supposed to have a positive balance. The advisor assured me it would not be a problem and I could either leave the balance as credit and use it up over time or have the money sent to my account. At no point was there any mention of fees for this.
A few days later, when the refund hit my account, I called up to move the money to my current account. At no point was I told there would be a fee. I was somewhat surprised to see a fee of £85 for a “money transfer” hit my account a couple of days after the transfer. I called up and queried the charge and was told it was because I had requested a cash advance. It was at this point I became quite frustrated and explained I was not borrowing money but was receiving a refund and at no point was I told this would result in a fee. I quoted the times and dates of my previous two calls and was told it would take five working days to investigate. I explained this was not acceptable. The total call time of both calls was less than fifteen minutes. I stated I would hold the line whilst they listened to the calls and rectified the mistake. Twenty minutes later it was confirmed I was not told about the fees and that they would be cancelled. Fair enough, I got what I wanted but it should not have taken the call in the first place. The lesson here is always check your statement and always question fees or charges. Although I got the fee back, it has shaken my confidence in Virgin Money as on two occasions I was not told about the fee.
Premium Bonds: £12,450 (up £950 from last week).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £8,251.23 (up £445.52 from last week).
F**k It Fund: £1,511.85 (up £350 from last week).
Property Value*: £173,501 (no change from last week).
Total Assets: £195,714.08 (up £1,745.52 from last week).
Credit Card Debt: £197.96 (up £197.96 from last week).
Loan Debt: £3,570.33 (down £230.16 from last week).
Mortgage Debt: £134,279.11 (no change from last week).
Total Debt: £138,047.40 (down £32.20 from last week).
Total Wealth Figure**: £57,666.68 (up £1,777.72 from last week).
Investment Income in 2020: £0.00 (Target £2,000)
*valued at £173,501 according to lender’s index.
**total assets minus total debt
It’s been quite the week with increases made to my different pots. My credit card will be back at zero next week, it’s just with feeling ill I have not made the payment yet. I am getting so close to my deposit target that I will have to start thinking about how to reallocate funds once I get my Premium Bonds up to £14,850. I am thinking that I might hammer the loan for a few months to clear it in full before throwing more money into my ISA before saving again for the second BTL deposit. I still have some time to decide on this though.
There was an interesting documentary on the BBC this week which looked at Property Investment Courses. The show focused on the story of Danny Butcher, a 37-year-old from Doncaster who killed himself after spending over £10,000 on property training courses. I’m not going to comment too much on the show, or this specific tragedy. I don’t know all the facts and I’m fully aware that any undercover investigation is coming from an agenda. However, it does seem strange that there is no regulation of businesses that offer property training courses. There is not a large leap from offering training to offering advice; and to offer financial advice you need to be regulated.
A few years ago, I attended a free seminar with a friend who is also a mortgage advisor. This was a property investing seminar and it was basically one big plug for the paid courses. As finance professionals we were sceptical of the claims being made but as I looked around the room I could see people who were desperate to make money and from talking to them in the breaks, it was obvious they lacked the knowledge and experience to realise that you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds for material that is often freely available online. I’m not bashing all property investment courses. I know there are some courses out there that add value for those who already have a foundation of knowledge and experience, and I am a passionate advocate for financial education in general. I just do not believe you have to spend insane sums of money to educate yourself. I’ve read dozens of books on finance and investing, but the total I’ve spent on those books is a fraction of what one of these courses would cost.
I would love to see accurate figures for the number of people that attend property investment courses and a follow up as to how many of those people make money from property over the following years. I’m not opposed to the concept of courses for property investing but I suspect the real value is in very specific courses that help people systemise HMOs, or Serviced Accommodation as opposed to courses that teach people how to use Rightmove.
My sympathy is with anyone who has spent money on these types of courses based on inflated promises. Property investing can be very rewarding but it’s hard work and it requires a lot of research. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Thank you for reading and if you have any feedback or suggestions for future discussions, please leave a comment. Next week I will have a look at Fear Setting and how this has helped me progress towards my goals.