I can’t believe it has been twenty years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was such a surreal day. I was just finishing up my day at sixth form and it was my 18th birthday. I made the decision to go ahead with my birthday celebrations, on the basis that life must go on and cancelling would be letting the terrorists win. I appreciate there were arguments for postponing my party, but I think it was one of those decisions where there wasn’t a right and wrong choice; just a selection of bad ones.
The world has changed a lot since 9/11. The fact that the day signalled my official entry to adulthood, and now there are adults who were not even born when the attacks happened makes me feel very, very old.
The US and UK recently pulled out of Afghanistan, handing the country back to the regime that harboured many terrorist training camps. Has anything improved as a result of the near twenty year occupation of Afghanistan? It’s an impossible question to answer as we don’t know what the alternative would have been. We don’t know how many terrorist plots were foiled as a result of the War on Terror. However, we don’t know how many terror attacks were carried out because of the War on Terror. A lot of brave soldiers gave their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the many civilians who died. No matter what your political leanings and opinion on those conflicts, I think it’s important to remember that the soldiers were all people, with families and friends who mourned their passing.
So much of what is happening in the Middle East can be traced back to how the Western nations, and primarily the UK, drew lines on maps to create artificial countries with little to no consideration of the culture, religion and geography of the region. It’s a horrible mess and I can’t work out what the answer is. One suggestion would be to just leave the whole region to itself and let time sort it out. This will, I believe, lead to a number of conflicts and a prolonged period of civil unrest. Many people will die. There is also the possibility that the region will end up becoming a safe haven for terrorist training camps.
I’ve been able to fit in a few things this week that were only possible due to our returning from Romania early. We should have been there until 10/09/21, but events outside our control led to our return. I’ve caught up with a friend I’ve not seen in a while and had plenty of walks. I was also able to fit in a check up with my gastroenterologist, as I’m still struggling a little. The upshot is I have to have a colonoscopy, which if you don’t know what it is, I’d just enjoy your ignorance.
I was also able to get out for a nice day with my girlfriend, as we took in some cafes, museums and a leisurely meal during the mini heatwave we’ve had in Sheffield. I don’t know where the intervening twenty years have gone since my 18th birthday on 9/11. I never would have imagined where I’d end up, or that I’d be on course for early retirement. Had someone told me at age 18 what I know now, I’m convinced I would be comfortably retired by now. I’m not talking about knowledge of future events. I’m talking about the principles of money and investing. At age 18 I was utterly and completely clueless. I thought going to university was the natural route, and that I would get a good job off the back of a degree.
The worst thing most kids can do now is go to university. Unless you are studying a degree that has a natural progression to a career, such as medicine, law, architecture, etc, then I don’t see the point. Yes, there are social aspects to university but when we talk about social aspects we’re really referring to drink and sex. Neither of those are exclusive to university. If you are determined to go to university shortly after finishing school, I would suggest getting a full time job and working for two to three years, investing as much as possible. That money can then work for you whilst you are studying, which provides a safety net upon graduating. The other advantage to waiting to go to university is that you get some real world experience, and mature as a result, before starting your degree.
Anyway, back to my birthday. I received another great homemade card from my girlfriend. She has a real talent for this sort of thing. I’m not generally a fan of shop bought cards, but I love these handmade cards and I love seeing how happy she is at making them. Below is a selection of some recent cards she has made for me.
2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021
1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg. (Current weight 120.6kg).
2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 89).
A slight increase in weight, but that could just be the result of daily fluctuations. With weight loss it’s all about the trend, so I just need to stay on top of it.
I’m speeding towards my reading goal for the year and will probably have it finished with time to spare. I’ve completed a sci-fi trilogy this week which was disappointing. It’s the Proxima Trilogy by Brandon Q. Morris. The premise sounded interesting, in that Earth’s first contact with intelligent alien life comes from a distress signal from the Proxima system. The aliens are going through some unknown catastrophe and need help. So, humanity sends a ship. Unfortunately, the series was incredibly dull. I only finished it because the books were fairly short and I was holding out hope there would be a twist or some other payoff that would place the story in another context. It was not to be, and the story was just dull. The only reason I gave the trilogy two-stars instead of one was because of the fascinating approach to technology and alien ecology.
Premium Bonds: £6,500.00 (down £15,000.00 from last update).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £39,286.83 (up £12,441.80 from last update).
Fuck It Fund: £750.00 (up £575.00 from last update).
Crypto: £796.29 (up £166.38 from last update).
Pensions: £49,952.76 (down £10.90 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: £439,190.88 (down £1,827.72 from last update).
Credit Card: £0.00 (down £566.95 from last update).
Residential Mortgage: £158,050.39 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,043.14 (no change from last update).
Total Debts: £251,093.53 (down £566.95 from last update).
Total Wealth: £188,097.35 (down £1,260.77 from last update).
Investment Income in 2021: £2,442.73 (target £5,000).
I cashed in £15,000 of my Premium Bonds in light of our change of plans. We had originally intended to move to Romania once I hit FIRE, but we are now thinking a little differently. As we were looking at moving to Romania in 2022, there was a sense of urgency to increase cash flow as quickly as possible. Now, I have a bit more breathing space. This extra time means I was able to max out my ISA allowance. I can then use the surplus monthly income to increase my Fuck It Fund and replenish my Premium Bonds over time.
Some of the £15,000 was put to one side for my girlfriend as I wanted to help her with a few bits. An additional amount was used for our cat’s upcoming vet bill. The remaining amount was used to fill up the ISA with the leftovers going in my Fuck It Fund.
Another change I’ve made, now that I don’t need to save like crazy for my next BTL deposit, is to increase my pension contributions through my employer. I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic scheme where my contributions are not just matched by my employer but blown out of the water. So, moving forward my workplace pension pot should increase rapidly.
I’ve blogged before both on this site, and my previous one at Now We Live about how the NHS needs more funding. I’ve even discussed a new “NHS Tax” as a possible way forward. I believe the NHS should continue to be free at the point of use, but the fact is we have an aging population and a drain on medical staff due to their working conditions, Brexit, and Covid, amongst other issues. The drain on the NHS, the State Pension and the care sector is only going to get worse. Something needs to happen. In principle I am not against this extra tax burden. However, I can’t say I’m happy about how this has come about.
The UK government is far from competent, in my opinion. There are certain people in, and actions from, our government that also lead me to question their integrity. Corruption is the word of the day here. All one has to do is google “PPE scandal UK” to be presented with numerous reports about hundreds of millions, and possibly billions of pounds being wasted on questionable PPE contracts.
Had the PPE money been spent more sensibly, perhaps this increase in NI payments would not be necessary? Who knows… What is a kick in the teeth to many people is that the government seems to be targeting this increase at the poorest parts of society, and that this follows the reduction in Universal Credit payments to many recipients of the benefit.
Another factor that should not be overlooked is that the UK’s response to Covid has been an embarrassment, with so many changes in policy and many lockdowns that have been only lightly enforced. Rather than a short, sharp break to allow Covid to burnout, we have just dragged this pandemic on through sheer incompetence. All of this has contributed to the massive drain on our finances. Had we seen a better response, we might be in a much stronger financial position now which would also mean these NI raises would be unnecessary. It might not seem like there is a direct link between the lockdowns and the rise in NI contributions, but fewer lockdowns would have meant fewer employers going out of business, fewer store closures and more people in employment, which in turn leads to more tax and NI revenue for the government.
It’s not just the government response that has been embarrassing, but also the response of much of the UK population. I regularly see posts and comments from people on social media that ramble on about how lockdowns don’t work and that they will not adhere to them. The mental gymnastics on show here is quite astounding. These people don’t realise that the reason lockdowns haven’t worked is precisely because people don’t adhere to them. You might think that popping to your elderly parents as just a one-off isn’t a big deal. You might think that having a mate over for a meal isn’t that serious, because it’s just a one-off. The problem is, if just 1% of the population do this each week, that’s roughly 700,000 “one-off” breaches each week. With an R value of between 0.9 and 1.1, which is the current estimate, this would mean that every ten infected people would be estimated to infect between nine and ten other people.
No one lives in a vacuum. Where a pandemic is concerned there is no such thing as a one-off. We all have a responsibility to minimise the risk of catching the virus and passing it on. So, have your vaccine, wear a mask and if we have a lockdown, please adhere to it.
A gentle reminder that if you haven’t checked out the petition re: Luke’s Law, please do so. If you agree, please sign. If you don’t agree, please think about why you would disagree with something that has the potential to save lives; then sign.
You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.
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Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com.