Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E. This week’s post focuses on non-financial topics. We have had a tough decision to make regarding our cat, Sweep. I also highlight some frustrating customer service received. First, the Quote of the Week.
Quote of the Week
When I was studying at university, I attended the annual Darwin Day Lecture at which Richard Wiseman spoke. It was a fantastic lecture, and in celebration of Charles Darwin, Professor Wiseman told a story about the time Darwin used homeopathy to treat an illness he was struggling with. Shortly after using the homeopathic treatment, Darwin felt better. Many homeopaths use this example to support their claims that homeopathy works. After all, who better to support it than one of the most celebrated scientists in human history? Like with most things, the full story is more complicated.
During the lecture, Professor Wiseman described how Darwin looked back on his experience with homeopathy and made the point that his recovery may have been inevitable without the treatment. Without a comparison, there was no way to know what the impact of doing nothing would have been. This point is the very reason why we use control groups in many areas of scientific research. I’ll use a very basic example.
Imagine a study where you are looking at the impact of caffeine on memory. You have a group of people and you give them a list of words to memorise. A short while later, you ask them to recall the words. Then, you allow them to study the list again, before testing them a second time. During the study, the participants are asked to drink 500mg of caffeine. As the participants move through the study, their rate of recall improves. So, you celebrate your finding that caffeine improves memory. Again, it’s not that simple though. The improvement in performance could simply be due to the participants getting better as they repeat the exercise. To really look at the impact of caffeine on memory, you would need a second group that completes the same study but without taking in caffeine. You would then compare the results to see what difference in performance was present between the two groups.
There are some situations where using a control group is not ethical or possible. One such example is the use of face masks to limit the spread of Covid-19. I’ve seen many people claim that masks are not doing anything, as the virus is still spreading. The thing is, we don’t have a basis for comparison and we have no way of knowing for certain how different the pandemic would have been without widespread mask use. Just because masks have not completely eradicated the virus, it does not follow that masks are completely ineffective. To fight Covid-19, we are trying lots of different things like masks, social distancing and increased hand washing. None of these measures will completely stop Covid-19, but taken together we can be almost certain that they have reduced the severity of the pandemic.
It seems that every company I deal with has major issues with customer service. It’s getting to the point where I’m nervous buying anything for fear there will be problems. I’ve written in previous blogs about the issues I’ve had with Nespresso and John Lewis. The latter is pretty much sorted, in that we’ve given up trying to get a satisfactory resolution. The Nespresso saga rumbles on, though. The brief version of the story is that I bought a new machine from them in September. It developed a fault in November. They loaned me a machine whilst mine was taken for repair. They proceeded to lose my machine and the loan machine was unusable. Then, they gave me a new machine for free. It was a basic model, not like my state of the art machine. The only problem with this new machine is that it doesn’t work. So, I’ve ended up getting a full refund on the original machine, and I’m left with two broken machines; the gift they gave me as an apology and the loan machine. They are supposed to collect the loan machine next week, but instead attempted to collect it today – a day I specifically said I was unavailable.
I experienced another example of rubbish service in relation to my BTL purchase. I’m obliged to provide a cooker for the new tenants, and so I ordered one from a local company that was recommended to me from someone who knows all about my recent issues with the bigger companies. I had arranged for the cooker to be delivered and installed on Tuesday last week, and I received confirmation of this. Then, the day before they called me to explain they had made a mistake and they could no longer deliver on Tuesday, but could do Wednesday. I was not given an exact time, but rather a vague indication of “mid-morning”. I took the opportunity to have a first-hand look at my new property, and took a portable phone charger and bluetooth speaker so that I was not completely bored out of my mind. I did not reckon for the cold though. Empty houses do not keep heat. I had three layers on and a hat, and I was cold. I waited for over two-hours and when they turned up to install the cooker, it was faulty.
I then got a refund and just asked the agent to arrange a cooker. It cost a bit more money, but I’m just at my limit in terms of bad service. Fortunately, the agents have been great and I’m hopeful that this is the start of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
I’ve mentioned my cat, Sweep, a few times in this blog. He’s an elderly cat that my girlfriend and I adopted in December 2018. When we adopted him, we knew he was either 16 or 17-years-old. His health has been fine until recently. A few months ago it was discovered that his heart was starting to fail. A few days ago I noticed that he seemed bigger around his stomach, like it was swollen or bloated. I’ve also felt that he’s not been himself. He seems more tired and sad. He’s eating and drinking fine, but he’s not been his normal self. I looked back at some videos of him from a few weeks ago, and my girlfriend and I both agreed he was now much bigger.
A few weeks ago he had an incident where he was unbalanced and panting heavily. We were told by the vet this was almost certainly due to his heart problems. I suspected that this bloating was also due to his heart, and after we saw the vet this was more-or-less confirmed. Sweep is now 18/19-years-old. The vet stated that they could do lots of invasive tests and scans, but all it would do is satisfy curiosity. At his age, it would be more harmful to put him through that stress. The bloating is a fluid build up and his weight has increased from 4kg to 4.8kg in just a few weeks, due to this accumulating fluid. There is a small possibility it’s a tumour, but the vet seemed quite sure it was related to Sweep’s heart.
Following this update we were given a choice; more tests, or a course of medication to reduce the fluid build up, or we let Sweep go to sleep for the last time. We have chosen to try him on these meds to see if the swelling reduces. He is going back to the vet on the 23rd of December, at which point if he is not better we may have to say our final goodbyes to him. It was always going to be the case, when adopting an elderly cat, that our time with him would be short. The last two years have been amazing though, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. He is the most loving, affectionate cat I’ve known. He is great company and my best friend. I don’t want him to suffer though. I hope these meds help, but the vet stated that the prognosis was “not good”. I don’t believe in the power of thoughts and prayers, but my beliefs are instead rooted in the power of action. Too many older animals are left to live their final days alone in shelters through no fault of their own. If you are considering a pet, I strongly encourage you to adopt and to not overlook the older animals.
I’m taking things day by day. I’m not happy with my weight, but the fact is I’m unlikely to make major progress until the start of 2021. I went to the gym a few days ago for some light cardio but it was way too busy. I don’t think I’ll be going back to the gym until things calm down with this pandemic.
My mental health is not much better. It’s like I’m a computer with too many tabs open, or Internet Explorer trying to open one tab. It just causes my brain to overload.
Premium Bonds: £2,500 (up £500 from last update).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £16,123.07 (up £123.04 from last update).
Fuck It Fund: £400.00 (up £75.00 from last update).
Residential Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Property Value: £124,500 (no change from last update).
Total Assets: £331,077.07 (up £698.04 from last update).
Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).
Residential Mortgage: £141,740.98 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,375 (no change from last update).
Total Debts: £235,115.98 (no change from last update).
Total Wealth Figure: £95,961.09 (up £698.04 from last update).
Investment Income in 2020: £185.90 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).
The investment income for this year has been way lower than anticipated, but there are people having to cope with much worse due to Covid-19. Looking ahead to 2021 there is some talk that dividend payments may resume, which will generate some income for the stocks I hold. If I can get the BTL tenanted early in the year, I’m hoping to bring in approximately £5,000 in investment income through 2021.
The financial side of this blog is a little shorter this week, due to what I’ve already talked about above. I just want to take a few paragraphs to offer some advice regarding Christmas spending. Many people go overboard trying to outdo each other with lavish gifts and over-the-top feasts. The average UK family will spend an extra £800 at Christmas, according to the Bank of England. Considering how many families live from one payday to the next with hardly any savings, it’s probably safe to assume much of this spending is on credit cards. This is dangerous enough most years, as that debt can linger on for months until it’s repaid. In the Brexit/Covid-19 era, it’s even more dangerous to do this. I fear a major economic downturn in the first few months of 2021. Christmas just isn’t that important in the big picture. My advice is to be modest, and restrained in your spending. Many families will get together this year missing parents, siblings or children due to Covid-19. The greatest gift we have this year is that we’ve made it through with our health and sanity intact. If you are going to spend, I would suggest you support local business.
This is the last update before Christmas, and so I hope you have an enjoyable and safe time.
A Quick Request
I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media. I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021. Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve. I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media. Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger. If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.
My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat
Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at darrenscothern.com.