Part 99

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I take a look at a controversial study involving autistic people.  Also, a closer look at my financial goals as we approach the end of 2021, shortly followed by the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.   First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Quote: “#StopSpectrum10K”

This is a story that I’ve been loosely following for a while.  The basics are that researchers, some of whom are from the University of Cambridge, are looking for 10,000 autistic volunteers to supply samples of their DNA.  This material would then be analysed to identify what genetic triggers there are for autism.

In response, the autistic community has rallied together and opposed this study citing concerns about how the DNA will be stored and used in the future.  Another major concern is that this is just the thin end of the wedge where the end result is eugenics.  

Thankfully, the study has now been put on hold.  However, many of those who are behind the study have not made themselves easy to like or respect.  Simon Baron-Cohen, who is the public face of the research, has gone on record in the past with statements that are alarming.  What has been more frustrating for many is the attitude of a vile woman on Twitter, who is commonly referred to as “The Ambassador”.  This person has aggressively bullied, and then attempted to gaslight, several in the autistic community including a high-profile advocate for autistic people.  I know he doesn’t want to be the centre of attention, so I’m not going to refer to him by name, but he is autistic and a great source of information and wisdom for those wanting to know more about autism.  

I recently told some of my coworkers that I’m autistic and the reaction was fine and there was no drama.  I think it helps that I’ve worked with many of these people for a decade now, so they realise that I am still the same person.  I’ve heard stories of people stating they’re autistic and then finding that people talk down to them, or talk to them in a patronising way.  

Although there have been great strides in understanding and accepting mental health issues in the UK, there are still some things that are severely misunderstood.  One of those things is autism.  There is nothing inherently wrong with being autistic.  The difficulties that autistic people encounter in life is due to the world being set up for neurotypical people.  Every autistic person is unique, and they don’t all need the same support or accommodations to be made.  For example, all I need is a little more structure in my day and to not be overloaded with too many things at once.  Some autistic people may need more, or less, support in the workplace or society in general.  

The key thing to remember is that autism is not an illness.  It’s not something you can catch or be cured from.  Any study that is supported by those who have stated publicly that they want a cure for autism, or those who are proponents of eugenics, should be a concern for all of society.  Once we start down the eugenics route, where does it stop?

Another important point to note with Spectrum10K is the reluctance to actually engage with the Actually Autistic community.  If you want to find out more about something, you discuss it with the people with first hand knowledge.  If you want to know about Buddhism, you talk to Buddhists.  If you want to find out more about the struggles of ethnic minorities in low income areas, then you talk to ethnic minorities in low income areas.

Weekly Update

This week saw my return to work, where I spent much of the time catching up on emails, memos and new policies.  I have a new widescreen monitor which is huge, and I played about with the settings and have converted it to two screens within the single monitor.  This means I have three screens on which to work; my laptop screen and the two screens on the monitor.  For the job I do, I could probably use four screens but that might be considered overkill. 

Much of the rest of the week was taken up with medical appointments.  I had physio on my ankle, which has been a problem for almost two years now.  I should have had an appointment with the dentist to fit a nightguard, as I grind my teeth in my sleep.  However, it appears my dentist has covid and so my appointment has been rebooked for the next available slot; November 25th.  I finished up the working week having my flu vaccine.  I had some mild side effects, such as a sore arm and headaches, but on the whole it is worth it for the protection it affords.  

My home city, Sheffield, is a major university hub with at least 60,000 students in attendance each year.  With one of the universities here announcing a return to face-to-face teaching I am concerned this will cause a spike in covid cases.  With the best will in the world, I don’t expect the majority of 18 and 19 year olds to adhere to social distancing during freshers’ week.

It’s been quite an eventful week when I think about it.  We also had to take Bobbity to the vet on Wednesday for surgery.  He had to have most of his teeth removed.  Prior to him being adopted by us, it looks like he had some gum infections.  We’ve tried to treat them but it was not successful.  So, most of his teeth have been removed.  He’s been very brave about it, but I don’t think he was happy his murder mitts were also trimmed.  

When Bobby came back from the vet he was still high on the anaesthetic.  He was swaying all over the place as he tried to walk.  We tried to get him settled but he wouldn’t stay still.  He just kept beggering for food! Over the course of the next couple of hours he started to come around.  We made chicken burgers for dinner that evening, and it was obvious he had recovered as he jumped up on the sofa next to my girlfriend and kept pawing at her for some of the burger.  When that didn’t work, he climbed over her to start attacking the plate directly.  He really is a little fatso but we love him.

Bobbity at the vet.
Bobbers as the anaesthetic wears off.

As the week drew to a close my MacBook Pro decided that it had lived a long enough life, and decided to go to the big Apple store in the sky. Now, as much as Apple frustrate me, my MacBook lasted for nearly a decade. Every other laptop I’ve had has lasted a year or two. I have no complaints over the quality of Apple products. So, I’ve stumped up for a new MacBook Air. It’s brilliant. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to be one of those people that find any excuse to talk about their new tech. Honest.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 117.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 91).

Some major progress with my weight loss but I suspect some of the decrease is down to normal fluctuations in weight.  Still, it’s a good feeling.  I’ve finished an interesting book this week; Vaxxers, by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green.  It’s the story of how the Oxford vaccine was created to combat Covid.  Although I know some of the broad strokes when it comes to vaccine development, this was a great learning experience.  For anyone who is antivax, I would recommend reading it.  However, the past has shown that education is not the key to changing beliefs amongst crackpot conspiracy theorists.  Anyway, once more for the people in the back; vaccines are safe, masks don’t make you ill and wind turbines don’t cause cancer.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £40,704.52 (up £1,417.69 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £750.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £790.16 (down £6.13 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,564.49 (down £388.27 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: £440,214.17 (up £1,023.29 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £88.04 (up £88.04 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: £251,181.57 (up £88.04 from last update).

Total Wealth: £189,032.60 (up £935.25 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,677.85 (target £5,000).

It’s nice to see my wealth increase after the dip caused by cashing in some of my Premium Bonds.  I didn’t quite get my credit card payment through in time for the balance to be zero for this update.  Other than the normal fluctuations in the stock market, there is little to talk about this week.  I get paid on Monday, which should see some of my investments increase.  However, for the short to medium term, I will not be investing as much as usual.  My girlfriend quit her job after being bullied and harassed by management.  I’m not going to go into much detail, but I saw first hand what happened and it was awful.  She has my full support in leaving that job to preserve her emotional health.  

New Plans and Priorities

Now that our move to Romania is off the table, we have been thinking about what we want to do.  Neither of us want to remain in Sheffield forever.  The world is too big to stay in one place, and we want to explore.  We are thinking about possibly moving to Spain, either in Madrid or somewhere close to Madrid.  It’s a city we both love and my girlfriend is familiar with the language.  Also, having done some research on the cost of living, it is not as high as we expected.  It’s only a tentative plan right now and things could change.  

Although the cost of living is not as high as expected, it is still much higher than living in Bucharest; which was our original plan.  So it will take longer to achieve the level of financial independence needed.  I believe I can still do this by the end of 2023, but had the plan for Romania still been valid we could have achieved FIRE a year earlier.

The change in direction means a change in priorities.  As we have more time to spare, we are going to concentrate on improving our apartment in more depth.  Also, the extra time means I can allocate more resources towards my ISA and pension.  I have changed my pension contributions to the maximum level that is matched by my employer.  I’ve also tweaked some of the contributions to my own SIPP.  Moving forward, I want to finish accumulating my Fuck It Fund, and then I can turn back towards our second BTL.  

So, here are my upcoming priorities/goals:

  1. Increase Fuck It Fund to £5,000.
  2. Increase pension pot to £100,000.
  3. Acquire second BTL.
  4. Max out ISA allowance for financial year 2022/2023.

Some of these goals will take a little longer to achieve, such as increasing my pension and acquiring the second BTL.  I should be able to hit my Fuck It Fund goal in the next 4-6 months, which will be just in time for the new financial year.  This then means I don’t have to save towards my Fuck It Fund and can concentrate on the other goals.  

100 Weeks

Next week will be my 100th weekly blog post for Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  It has flown by and I can still remember when the idea for this blog first appeared in my mind.  I was on a cruise around the Norwegian Fjords.  Between destinations I sat on our balcony looking out to sea whilst listening to an audiobook about investing.  I knew that I wanted to retire early, but I didn’t know how to order my thoughts or how to keep myself on track.  It was from this that Mortgage Advisor on FIRE was born.

Since my first post, this blog has evolved and some of the earlier posts seem a little clunky and basic now.  No doubt there will be more changes to come in the future.  If there is anything you would like to see from this blog going forward, or anything you want to see discussed next week, please leave a comment.  

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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