Part 97

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I highlight the case of Luke Ashton, who took his own life following a battle with gambling addiction.  Also, an update on our return to the UK much earlier than planned.  I discuss some major changes to my FIRE plans, and also mention Nika, a sweet dog in Romania that I loved who sadly passed away.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I’ll never stop talking about gambling addiction.  It’s such a misunderstood issue and is not symptomatic of a lack of will power or mental strength.  It’s a mental illness that kills people, and problem gambling has the highest rate of attempted suicide compared to other addictions.  The pandemic has only made the problem worse for many people.

Twitter has an active community of ex-gamblers who had their own struggles with addiction.  Some of them have relapsed through the pandemic, but the support is always there.  The stories of how people were allowed to place bets with little to no checks being completed on the source of the funds are, sadly, all too common.  Even worse are the stories of problem gamblers trying to quit, only to be pulled back in by “free bets” and offers from the gambling companies.  This is like a heroin addict who stops taking the drug, only to be lured back in with free drugs.  It’s wrong, and there needs to be tighter regulation of the industry with laws in place to stop this from happening.

Luke Ashton took his own life after battling with his addiction for a long time.  His wife, Annie, is now left to raise their two children.  I’m not placing blame on Luke here.  He suffered from a debilitating addiction, and the betting companies fueled that addiction.  All the advertisements that talk about “responsible gambling” and “when the fun stops, stop” are just empty words that miss the whole point of addiction.  When someone is under the control of an addiction, they can’t just stop.  

Annie Ashton is now campaigning to have the laws changed and there is a petition open to try and achieve this change.  You can find the petition for #LukesLaw here.  Please sign this petition and share on social media.  No child should have to grow up without a parent because they were driven to suicide by unethical business practices.  It’s just wrong.  

If anyone reading this is struggling with gambling addiction, please reach out to someone.  There are some great resources online, and an active and supportive community on Twitter.  Feel free to reach out to me and I can direct you to resources that have helped me.  It’s now been 772 days since I last gambled and I would not have achieved this without outside help.  There is no shame in asking for help; it’s not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength.

Weekly Update

It’s been a whirlwind week as we arrived in Romania expecting a two-week stay, but unexpected events meant we had to fly home early.  Although we were only in Romania for a week or so, a lot happened.  Tragically, we had to say goodbye to Nika as she had lost control of her back legs.  She was such a sweet, loving and loyal dog who was full of joy.  I’m glad I got to be with her as she was put to sleep, even though I was in pieces as it happened.  Apparently, she perked up when she saw me for the first time in almost two years.  Normally, she would greet me with a big smile as she fussed around me.  This time, I came to her and knelt beside her as I gave her scratches behind her ears followed by a hug.  I’ll miss that doggo.

We didn’t get a chance to do much with our time in Romania, but on our last night we went for dinner at a great restaurant near the airport.  I had slow cooked beef that fell apart faster than Wednesday’s defence last season (football joke – I’m sorry!).  This was served with mash, mămăligă (a type of thick porridge made from yellow maize, which has the consistency of a softer mash potato), and mici (a type of grilled meat kebab made from beef, lamb and spices).  It was an amazing meal finished up with papanași, which is a doughnut made with a soft cheese served with sour cream and cherry compote.  It is one of my favourite desserts.

Papanași

The journey home to the UK was not great.  I felt absolutely awful in the airport.  My crohn’s hit me like a repeated punch to the gut.  I had stomach cramps for hours, as well as needing several trips to the bathroom at the airport.  It was not a great time.  I normally enjoy the flying experience and shopping in duty free.  Not this time though.  We needed some bottled water to take on the flight, so as my girlfriend was checking the gate information I went to a cafe to get the drinks.  A miserable looking woman approached with no greeting, and the conversation went like this:

Me: two bottles of water please.

Her: What?

Me: two bottles of water *holds up two fingers in the peace sign*.

Her: *takes three bottles out of the fridge and slams them on the counter*.

Me: I only wanted two.

Her: You said three.

Me: I asked for two.

Her: You said three.

Me: This could go on a while, but I really only asked for two.

The flight home was fairly uneventful.  The route from Doncaster to Bucharest is one of those where it’s not quite short enough to just sit and chill, and it’s not long enough to really get stuck into a show on your phone, or a lengthy book.  Also, I hate Doncaster airport.  It has awful transport links, no mobile signal and poor facilities.  I had arranged for a taxi to pick us up and paid extra for the “meet and greet” service.  I was a bit frustrated at the hoops I was asked to jump through by the cab company.  Also, the cab was not waiting for us and we were not “met” or “greeted”.  The cab driver said he didn’t want to incur parking charges that he would have to pass on to us.  So, what exactly is the point of meet and greet?  I’ve made a complaint to the cab company and they’ve informed me it will take five days to investigate.  I’m not sure what there is to investigate.  They have the images I’ve posted here from my whatsapp chat with the cab driver.

It was a long, long day and we eventually got to bed sometime around 3am on Thursday morning.  It was great picking up Bobbity from the cattery.  He was very well behaved by all accounts, and his health seems to be improving.  On the cab ride back home I was petting him constantly and he kept rubbing his head against my hand.  It was clear he had missed us just as much as we had missed him.

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 119.8kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 85).

I didn’t read as much as I wanted to whilst I was away, but I’m still making good progress towards my goal of finishing 104 new books in 2021.  At the rate I’m going, I’ll probably hit that target by the middle of November.  I’ve also lost some more weight which is a huge positive for me.  Finding that I’ve dropped below 120kg is a massive psychological boost.  If I can get below 110kg by the end of October I will be delighted.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £21,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £26,845.03 (down £72.76 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £175.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £629.91 (up £76.53 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,963.66 (up £630.47 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £207,807.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £134,098.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £441,018.60 (up £634.24 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £566.95 (up £404.93 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,050.39 (down £441.85 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,043.14 (down £18.20 from last update). 

Total Debts: £251,660.48 (down £55.12 from last update).

Total Wealth: £189,358.12 (up £689.36 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,440.09 (target £5,000).

My credit card balance increased due to changing our flights, arranging cabs and paying for our covid tests prior to flying and for our second day after returning to the UK.  There must be some serious money being made with these tests.  In Romania we paid the equivalent of £20 each for our tests.  Here, we could not find any for less than £115 each on the day we needed them.  It’s outrageous.  I understand that as I chose to go away, I should have to pay for the tests.  The NHS tests should be for those who need testing through no fault of their own.  However, £115 per person just seems like profiteering.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the test provider is linked to the Tory party in some way.  It’s disgraceful.  

A Change in Direction

Those of you who have followed my progress from day one will know that the plan has been to achieve FIRE and then move to Romania.  After talking through the plan with my girlfriend, we have decided to put that on the back burner.  Romania is still an option in the future, but we feel like we want to explore a little more before putting down roots anywhere.  We know that other places will have a higher cost of living, and so our FIRE deadline might be a little further away but that’s not a problem.  The more time I have to accumulate assets now, the more compounding will benefit us in the long term.  

My original FIRE deadline was the end of 2023.  I had been working towards achieving fire by the end of 2021 in my own mind though, but covid pushed a lot of things back.  So, I had accepted it would probably be sometime in 2022 before I could actually retire.  Now, I’m back with my original target date of 31/12/2023.  It’s not a problem though.  Every extra month I am working means more money being invested in income generating assets.  My future self will thank me for these extra assets.

As my plans have been modified I am changing my investment priorities.  I will be moving approximately £15,000 from Premium Bonds and using most of that to max out my 2021 ISA allowance.  Anything left over will go towards improving the apartment as we will now be living here for longer than planned.  In October, assuming that property values continue to rise, we should be able to complete a further advance on our BTL which will release at least £10,000.  This will be split with my investment partner, and as soon as he ties up some financial loose ends we will be able to move forward with our second BTL.  This will now be completed early in 2022 in all likelihood.  

I’m not too disappointed or frustrated by these changes to my plans.  It’s actually quite exciting.  The thing about investing is that you are always learning.  There is never a point where you know everything.  So, by having more time, I can put into practice new information to maximise my investment returns.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com.

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