Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Also, some updates on the state of our BTL. There are the usual financial updates, and a brief look at how I track my financial progress.
Quote of the Week
It’s getting a little scary in the east, with Russia massing forces along their border with Ukraine. It seems that an invasion is imminent but we should remember that this conflict has been ongoing since 2014. This is not a new war, but an escalation of the Russian aggression that saw Crimea annexed seven years ago. Although it has not always been headline news in the UK, this protracted war has seen thousands of civilians and military personnel killed.
Unfortunately I can’t see NATO coming to the defence of Ukraine should Russia push further west. I don’t think the US, UK, or continental European allies have the stomach for the fight. This is not like bombing villagers on the other side of the world from untouchable drones controlled remotely. This would be a dirty, bloody business. I’m not saying I agree with leaving Ukraine to their fate, but I suspect that deals will be done via diplomacy to allow Russia to expand their sphere of influence whilst NATO issues a strongly worded statement. No doubt there will be sombre public statements from our leaders, with further sanctions levelled at high profile Russian politicians. Then, the war will be quietly withdrawn from the national news cycles.
The whole business is disgraceful because we are signatories to the Budapest Memorandum, signed in the 1990s, in which the US and the UK guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for them giving up their nuclear arsenal. Had Ukraine not handed over their nukes, it’s doubtful Russia would be as belligerent. It’s like Czechoslovakia prior to the Nazi invasion all over again.
I have a friend in Ukraine and she is angry and scared that her home is about to be taken over. It seems like we are happy to be friends with Ukraine, but only on our terms and only when the sun is shining. The very definition of a fair weather friend.
Diplomatically the western powers haven’t played this situation well for a long time. Did NATO really think it could encroach on Russia’s border and not provoke them? What happened when the USSR tried to put nukes in Cuba? The US threatened retaliation. Fortunately, sense prevailed back then and everyone realised war was not worth it. Hopefully, common sense prevails here and we don’t see an escalation in the fighting.
I’ve spent much of the week unwell. Nothing life threatening but enough to put me on the sidelines for a couple of days. I’m in something of a funk with my physical and mental health. Untangling the two is impossible as they impact each other. I’ve spoken before about Spoon Theory and there have been times recently where I’ve just felt like I didn’t have the mental resources to cope with everything going on. When that happens, it leads to stress, which then leads to problems with physical health.
A recurring theme with living where I do is that it’s very difficult to get tradespeople or utility providers out to complete work. There is a severe lack of parking in the area and what tends to happen is the people come out and can’t find anywhere to park, so they cancel the job. It’s very annoying.
A few months back we switched our electricity provider and on the whole they’ve been decent. We had a smart meter installed and it was great seeing the daily usage data. However, it stopped working properly in November and we’ve not been able to get it repaired. The engineer tried to attend on two separate occasions but couldn’t park in the area. So, we’re still waiting.
There is a lot to love about our neighbourhood and it was voted as the best place to live in the UK in one of the national papers a couple of years ago. This is because of the massive regeneration going on, with apartments mixed in with independent bars, cafes and restaurants. It is a cool area, but a lot of the businesses are starting to struggle in the week as they don’t get enough business because people can’t park their cars. It’s only going to get worse with hundreds of new apartments being built over the next year in the area.
Also this week, I’ve had several calls and emails from journalists asking for my comments on various financial stories. Another journalist is potentially running a story on my plans, and I’m just waiting to see if anything comes of it. It’s great that my blog is starting to get some attention, and it’s all extra motivation to see my plans through.
A Brief Interlude
I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site. I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com. It is a labour of love. However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation. I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card. Well, now you can! My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay. So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.
2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022
1 – Reduce weight to 90kg. (Current weight 125.6kg).
2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
- The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC)
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)
3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.
What Am I Doing?
What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts
What I’m listening to: Patriot: Chess Team Book 5.2 by Jeremy Robinson & J. Kent Holloway
What I’m watching: This Is Us
I’m absolutely loving the Chess Team series. It follows a team of US special forces who deal with terrorism and otherworldly threats. It’s such good fun, with equal parts horror, comedy, and some refreshing takes on myth and legend. The books have a main series, but then within the main series there are little spin-off stories, and this is why some of the books are listed as “Book 5.2” for example, as it comes between Book 5 and Book 6. The name of the series comes from the fact that the members of the team have call signs after chess pieces; King, Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight, and Pawn, with the leader of the team named Deep Blue, after the computer that beat Garry Kasparov; a chess world champion.
The sixth and final season of This Is Us has started up on Amazon Prime. The show follows a family across several generations and is a comforting show to watch. It’s like coming home to friends and family. It’s also very emotional in parts as it deals with racism, child abandonment, addiction, grief, and mental illness. A great cast armed with a great script makes the show binge-worthy.
Premium Bonds: £14,700.00 (down £6,000.00 from last update).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £45,655.70 (down £1,630.18 from last update).
Fuck It Fund: £3,500.00 (up £1,500.00 from last update).
Crypto: £460.50 (down £158.07 from last update).
Pensions: £51,333.41 (down £1,087.60 from last update).
Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).
Total Assets: £467,579.61 (down £7,375.85 from last update).
Credit Card: £0.00 (down £339.13 from last update).
Residential Mortgage: £165,657.38 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,958.17 (no change from last update).
Total Debts: £258,615.55 (down £339.13 from last update).
Total Wealth: £208,964.06 (down £7,036.72 from last update).
Investment Income in 2022: £129.51 (target £6,000).
I’ve had to draw down some Premium Bonds to put towards the repair work at our BTL. In total the work comes to almost £7,500. It’s a massive kick in the teeth. I went to the property on Saturday because the alarm was malfunctioning and going off at random times. We managed to get the alarm disconnected so that it should no longer annoy the neighbours. We spoke with the people living on either side of the property and bought them a bottle of wine and some chocolate as a small apology. We found some interesting information about the tenant who had been living there which made us quite angry. We’ve learned a few hard lessons from this property so far, and we’ll hold our hands up and admit there are things we’ve done wrong. However, there are also a lot of things that we had no possible way of knowing would go wrong. Once the work is completed we have some decisions to make about how to proceed with the property.
The stock market has taken a hammering this week, and between my ISA, pension and crypto account I’m down almost £3,000 without taking into account the bonds I cashed in. I’m not worried though; it’s just part of the cycle of the market and it will bounce back in time.
Spreadsheets and how I track my data…
I was supposed to write about this last week but life got in the way. Several readers have contacted me to ask how I track my progress, and why I insist on tracking it weekly. I’ll tackle the latter question first.
Coming from a long battle with gambling addiction I felt I needed a way to keep myself honest. Tracking my progress monthly, or quarterly, leaves too much time for me to slip up. With a weekly update that is posted publicly I have extra motivation to stay on course. As I see the balances increase over time, it becomes self reinforcing.
To track my progress I use Google Sheets which is free to use with a gmail account. Then it’s simply a case of having the week numbers down the vertical side and the type of asset on the horizontal. Google Sheets has a great tool for creating graphs with just a few clicks. Simply highlight the data range and hit the chart button. If it doesn’t create the type of graph you want, i.e. you want a bar chart and it creates a pie chart instead, you just open the options and scroll through the different types of chart. It’s very intuitive.
Updating the spreadsheet each week takes approximately ten minutes, and a further five minutes to create all the graphs. I sometimes run other checks on my data if I’m curious about something, such as asset allocation within my ISA.
If in doubt, fire up YouTube and there are lots of great tutorials on how to create spreadsheets via Google’s software.
You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.
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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.