Part 39

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I will reflect on my battles with gambling addiction now that I’ve gone a year without gambling.

Weekly Update

This past week I started counselling again to try and work through some problems I’ve been dealing with.  I was nervous about the session, not so much about talking with someone but more so about where the conversation would take me emotionally.  The session went well and although I did get emotional at times, I’m glad I did it.  I have another session this week and I hope this process brings me some mental and emotional peace.

As regular readers will know, I have a cat called Sweep.  He’s an elderly gentleman at almost eighteen-years-old.  We went to the vet today and it turns out he might have an irregular heartbeat so he will have to go back for more tests in a few days with a specialist cardiologist.  He seems ok in himself, but at his age health problems are likely to become more common.  

Our BTL purchase is moving forward.  We are looking for a managing agent to deal with the rent collection and tenancy agreement but have been left a little disappointed with some of the offerings.  There are a few options we are considering but one that is off the table is self-management.  I’m not looking to become a landlord, but rather a property investor.  The last thing I want is to be chasing rent or dealing with maintenance issues.  We are waiting to hear back from a couple of agents and we will then make a decision.  Every step of this process has felt much more complicated than it needs to be, but the reward will be worth it.  

We are considering selling our own apartment and downsizing to release more funds for investment properties.  I mentioned selling our apartment on our local Facebook group and have received over a dozen requests for more information and to be kept informed as to when we are officially up for sale.  It seems that the concerns over the fire safety of the building were somewhat exaggerated as the agent that manages the development has pointed out there have been several sales in the last few months.  

Health Update

​Current Weight: 112.9 (down 0.8kg from last update).

Current Body Fat: 37.3% (down 1% from last update).

BMI: 34.1 (down 0.2 from last update).

Weekly Goal: lose 0.75kg.

Ultimate Goal: 90kg.

Weekly Steps: 35,766.

A respectable level of progress this week but it needs to continue.  Healthy eating and exercise is all about forming habits.  I need to create good habits in order to produce week-on-week progress, and then the cycle becomes self-reinforcing.  

Financial Update

​Premium Bonds: £20,350 (up £1,100 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,174.35 (down £233.08 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £220,078.35 (up £866.92 from last update).

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £310.20 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £143,528.46 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £143,528.46 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £76,549.89 (up £866.92 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £86.36 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

The stock market has taken a slight hit in the last week, but it’s nothing major.  I’ve passed through the £20,000 mark for my Premium Bonds which leaves me enough cash to see this first BTL deal over the line with a little to spare.  I may turn my focus back to the stock market for the next few months to try and take advantage of the fact many stocks are in a dip at the moment.  This could be an ideal time to start hoovering up some undervalued stocks which would reap dividends in the future.  

Now that the deal for the first BTL is moving along, I need to start thinking about the timeline for the second BTL.  I’m hopeful that I will have the funds in place for my second BTL by Q3 of 2021.  I would like to have the funds sooner than that, but the fact it’s taken so long to start receiving rent to compound my savings, in addition to expected dividend income not materialising, has delayed my plans somewhat.  Assuming I do complete a second BTL by the end of 2021, it will leave me two-years to achieve my goal of FIRE by the time I’m 40.  This means that I will need to acquire at least two properties in 2022 and two more in 2023.  This might just see me to my net monthly income target of £1,500 – £2,000.

Gambling Addiction

I think it was around 2008 when I placed my first online sports bet.  It started well with a few wins, and when I started reading stories of other addicts it almost always started with a win.  I don’t really know when it got out of control but over time gambling started taking up more and more of my time.  It eventually got to the point where almost all my spare cash was going on gambling.  It wasn’t just the cash that bothered me though.  It was the fact it was taking up an increasing amount of my time.  My work suffered.  My relationships suffered.  My mental health suffered.  What started out with a couple of pounds here and there, escalated to betting hundreds of pounds on games I knew little about.  

I’m more fortunate than some in that I managed to stop my gambling before I got into serious debt.  I think my fear of debt was greater than the strength of my addiction, which is something I am extremely grateful for.  Just because I did not get into debt through gambling, it does not mean I escaped without financial consequence.  I have no idea exactly how much money I wasted on this addiction until 2017 or so.  From that point on I started tracking how far up or down I was.  Between those losses, and earlier losses from the start of my addiction to when I stopped in July 2019, I estimate I lost something in the region of £10,000.  It makes me so fucking angry.

I placed my last bet just before 11pm on July 24th, 2019.  I was at the gym that night and some bets had not come in.  I was pretty pissed off but there was a sense of relief because I knew I had reached my limit.  I had tried reading about this addiction and had looked up resources to help support me through the early days of giving up.  I knew I could go long periods of time without gambling as I’d previously gone over 500 days without placing a bet.  That came to an end when I was stranded in a tiny airport in Sicily alone on my birthday for fourteen-hours.  I found a podcast from a guy in the US called Jamie Salsburg.  His podcast is called the After Gambling Podcast and I smashed through years worth of episodes in the space of a couple of weeks.  It was this resource, more than anything else, that gave me the strength to push through one day after another without gambling.  I reached out to Jamie on Twitter a few weeks ago and we had a video call where we talked about all things gambling addiction.  It meant a lot that a stranger took the time to speak with me about this shared addiction.  There are some family and friends who know about my struggles with gambling and although they want to help, they can only do so much when they don’t understand the problem from the perspective of someone struggling with it.  

The gambling industry is not regulated strongly enough and the argument that addicts just need to exercise self-control is not only insulting, but it completely misses the point about what addiction is.  With any addictive behaviour, self-control cannot be exercised and that’s why it’s an addiction.  In the UK it is possible to create an account online with a betting company and spend thousands of pounds within minutes.  Often, identity checks are only carried out after you’ve already placed bets and want to withdraw cash from your account.  There are no affordability or credit checks either.  I’m enough of a realist to acknowledge gambling will never be eradicated, but I would hope that the industry evolves in the right way so that gamblers are protected from themselves.  

If I had complete authority to overhaul the gambling industry I would make affordability and credit checks compulsory.  Following these checks, the betting company would decide how much the customer could spend each month.  All accounts would need to be verified through ID before a bet could be placed.  I would also create a centralised database so that customers would be unable to create accounts with multiple betting sites.  This would not cure problem gambling, but every barrier that is erected helps filter out problem gamblers.  Some will slip through, but I would argue that an imperfect solution is better than no solution. 

Final Notes

Thank you for reading this week, and I hope you have a great week ahead.  If you are following F.I.R.E. or would like to know more about it, please get in touch via Twitter (https://twitter.com/NowWeLive01) or leave a comment on this post.  ​

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