Part 145

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week’s blog looks at communication, in terms of respect, customer service, and the conflict between neurodivergent and neurotypical types of communication.  Also, more thoughts on being a millionaire.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I’ve had this nagging irritation in my mind for a while now.  I think it’s only started to crystalise following my confirmation of being autistic.  It comes down to communication and respect.  I’ve had to write, and rewrite this section a lot over the last few days.  At one point I was talking about friendships, and then I was talking about customer service, and I was talking about relationships with a power imbalance.  However, I couldn’t get my point across until I drilled deeper into what all these things have, or should have, in common; respect.

“Respect is earned.”

What a stupid statement this is, yet some people live by this quote.  

Why is stupid? Well, if you take this statement to its logical conclusion, you see that the default position is that everyone treats everyone else without respect until they have earned the right to be treated with respect.  If you take this approach, you are justifying acting like a complete asshole to everyone you meet until they act in a way that matches your imaginary criteria to “earn” your respect.  

Respect should be the standard position and the way your treat all people until they do something to throw that respect away.  In my experience, people who bang on about how respect is earned usually use this statement as an excuse to treat other people like trash.  It’s almost like how anyone who publicly says, “I’m a nice guy” is usually a douche.

The world would be a much better place if everyone engaged with other people from a position of mutual respect.  If you lift each other, then you’ll get further than trying to step over each other.

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”

Toxic.  This is “respect is earned” turned up to eleven.  

People are not machines, unfeeling and acting purely on logic.  Emotions come into play when people interact.  First impressions are powerful, but we sometimes reap what we sow.  Any interaction with another person can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and decades of psychological research have shown that we attribute the negative behaviour of others to their personality, and we attribute our negative behaviour to situational factors outside our control.  An example; you see a parent shout at their child in the supermarket, and you think, “what a bad parent.”  However, if you shout at your kid in the shop, it’s because you are exhausted, and have run out of patience after a very stressful day.

If we try to approach each interaction assuming the best of each other, we will be more likely to have a positive interaction, than if we treat our interactions as a winner-takes-all contest.

Weekly Update

A horrible week.  Long days working and the flat has been total chaos, but the end is in sight.  Everywhere except the living room and the kitchen has been painted.  The guys doing the flooring have worked very hard to get it done as soon as possible, and it looks great.  However, all the disruption alongside work has been mentally exhausting.  This week has been one massive blur and it’s difficult to point out any specific events.  It is looking like the majority of the work will be complete by next weekend though, and then it’s just a case of getting the furniture we need.

I can’t wait to get a proper bed again, as for the last few weeks we’ve been sleeping on a mattress on the floor as we move from room to room as the work is completed.  The next big task is getting all the new furniture delivered and assembled.  

I was starting to feel pretty rough towards the end of the week with head, neck, and elbow pain.  The lack of sleep was starting to takes its toll as well.  However, we dragged ourselves to Peddler Market which takes place every month near our apartment complex.  It’s a changing selection of street food, music, and pop up shops.  We had some beef brisket tacos, some loaded fries with a chicken and halloumi kebab, and a chicken tikka burrito.  We like to get bits from different stalls and share, and the quality this time was great.

Communication

There are many variations of this story about a guy calling his phone service provider to try and get a better deal.  Rather than just asking for a better deal, he takes a different approach, and it goes a little something like this:

Guy: I want to cancel my contract.

Agent: Let me have a look at that for you.

*few moments of silence*

Agent: Right, that’s your contract cancelled.

Guy:

Guy: What? Why? You just cancelled my contract without asking me.

Agent: You literally just asked me to cancel your contract, and that’s what I did.

Guy: but you didn’t offer me a better deal!

Agent: Yes, I have this thing where I listen to what people say and take them at their word.

Guy: but I didn’t want to cancel.

Agent: *rubbing temples* you literally said you want to cancel your contract.

Guy: that’s not what I meant.

Neurotypical communication is something I’ve struggled with, without actually realising what it is I’m struggling with.  It’s always been a problem, but I (somewhat uncharitably) just assumed some people are dumb.  As an autistic person, I tend to take people at face value.  If I ask someone, “do you want a drink?” and they reply, “no”, then I react to their subsequent anger at not getting a drink with confusion.  

Recession and The Bank of England

The Bank of England increased the base rate by 0.5%, bringing the overall base rate to 1.75%.  This is to try and combat inflation.  It’s like using a hammer to force a square peg in a round hole though; it’s clumsy.

Inflation is anywhere from 9% to 12% depending on who you ask.  This is way above the official target of 2%.  The Bank of England is supposed to be independent of the government, but I’m skeptical of what this independence looks like in practice.  To understand how interest rates are meant to combat inflation you need to understand supply and demand.  If rates go up then it’s believed people will have less money to spend.  This means that supply of goods and services is greater than the demand.  In this situation, prices are supposed to come down.  

The problem here is that we are looking at atypical inflation.  The cost of goods and services is increasing due to unusual factors, namely; war, pandemic, and Brexit.  

The war in Ukraine has restricted the global supply of basic foodstuffs. The war has also had a knock on impact on the cost of energy and oil. This, in turn, impacts on the cost of transporting goods on the global supply chain, as oil creates diesel and most cargo ships, trains, trucks, and so on, are fueled by petrol and diesel. The pandemic has impacted global trade as nations closed their borders for months at a time. Then, Brexit took us from the largest trading bloc in the world, the EU, and left us scrambling to complete trade deals with other countries. “Oven ready” my ass. The only thing Boris should put in an oven is his head.

People have less to spend because of factors outside the UK, and so hiking rates is only going to hammer those already struggling.  This section of society is not spending because they literally do not have the money to spend on anything that’s not vital to survival.  This is why the use of food banks has soared in the last decade.  

The Bank of England raising interest rates is not going to achieve much in the short to medium term, I fear.  I suspect rates will probably peak at around 3%.  Most residential homeowners with mortgages are on fixed rates with just a small proportion on variable or tracker deals.  These people will not see an immediate impact on their mortgage payments until their fixed rates come to an end.  Mortgage interest rates had been dropping steadily from the financial crash in 2007/2008 and bottomed out in 2020.  There has been a period of minor fluctuations and now rates seem to be climbing.  If you secured a two-year fixed rate in 2020, then you are probably going to be in for a shock when your deal comes to an end.

Now, I have to really emphasise that the following thoughts are NOT advice.  If you want mortgage advice, go to your lender or broker.  This is just a few thoughts about my own situation moving forward.

With a looming recession and rates increasing, there’s lots of talk about locking in for as long as possible.  I’m not sure this makes sense in every instance as I can’t see rates rising for more than 18 months before stabilising and coming down a little.  Something will give and force rates to drop as people struggle to deal with the cost of living soaring.  Interest rates are not going to stop the war, or help with the fallout of Covid-19 or Brexit.  Since the financial crisis of 2008, people have become used to low rates on borrowing.  It was never going to last forever, but those who are hysterically shouting about a return to double-digit mortgage rates in the months and years need to calm down a little.  We may very well return to those levels in the future, but returning to that level in the next decade at a minimum is just not going to happen.  

Customer Service Rant

I believe you can tell a lot about the culture of a business by the messages they have on their automated phone service, and by how easy it is to track down a phone number on their website.

If I call a company to discuss an issue, you can be sure I’ve tried to resolve the issue myself online first.  If the phone number you call makes you listen to repeated messages about “how easy it is to find answers on our website” I immediately think the company is lazy, cost driven, and not that bothered about the customer experience.  If you care about customer service, you will make your agents easy to speak with, rather than hiding contact information behind layers of pages on the website, and then making the customer listen to messages stating how easy it is to find information online.

John Lewis, in particular, was awful for this.  I remember trying to return a faulty item and the website stated I had to call customer services.  The phone number provided rambled on about how I could do this online, and then the agent who answered said I could do it online.  I followed their instructions, and it stated once again that I had to call.  

Seriously, if you are a decision maker in your business, make it easier for customers to speak with a representative of your company, not more difficult.  It’s also extremely frustrating when companies make their contact information impossible to find.  Zappos, in the US, are an example I often use of how to do good customer service.  From their home page (zappos.com) you scroll to the bottom and you click on contact info, and then you see their phone number.  You don’t see links to email addresses, contact forms, botchat functions and all the other crap companies pull to avoid speaking with you.  The first thing you see is a phone number.  John Lewis, on the other hand, requires you to click through several menus before the site begrudgingly offers up a phone number.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (4/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) ✅

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (12/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅
  11. Edward Aubry ✅
  12. Marina J. Lostetter ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter.

What I’m watching: 42 Days of Darkness on Netflix.

I’m still enjoying Hostage but this last week has not made it easy to actually read much.  I should have it finished by next week though.  I’m listening to the second book in the Noumenon series, after finishing book one earlier in the week.  The series tells the story of Earth’s “Planet United Missions”; a series of convoys sent into deep space to investigate strange phenomena.  The book follows Convoy 7, which is heading to a star that has several properties that defy our understanding of physics.  The missions take place over centuries with whole generations of crew living and dying as they travel to the target star and back.  Although a science-fiction story on the surface, there are some fascinating questions raised about the nature vs nurture debate, and what it means to be sentient or sapient.  I thought the first book was great for the first 75%, but the last part was quite weak.  Book two has started strong though, so I’ll try to judge the series as a whole once I’m done.

42 Days of Darkness is a Chilean show, based on a true story, about the disappearance of a woman from her home in a wealthy suburb.  It’s always refreshing to see a production from another culture, but the gorgeous backdrops of the Chilean country are giving both myself and my girlfriend wanderlust.  We only have two more episodes to watch and we’ve managed to avoid any information about how the case was resolved in real life.

Despite being gritty and dark, this show did manage to provide some unintentional hilarity.  In one scene, a relative of the missing woman is appealing to the public in a television press conference.  The woman then gives a menacing side-eye directly into the camera.  It’s like she wwas peering directly into your soul and did not like what she saw.  We must have replayed the scene a dozen times, laughing more each time.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £12,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £62,665.53 (down £50.61 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £800.00 (down £750.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £53,394.81 (up £837.04 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £229,159.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £147,876.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £505,895.34 (up £36.43 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £182,507.87 (down £666.84 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,316.74 (down £15.25 from last update). 

Total Debts: £287,824.61 (down £682.09 from last update).

Total Wealth: £218,070.73 (up £718.52 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

I had to dip into my Fuck It Fund to help with some of the work we are having done to our apartment.  Normally, I’d pay via credit card and then pay the balance off when my next salary comes through, but this tradesperson didn’t accept card payments.  I’ll build the balance up again soon.

With the start of a new month came my mortgage payments.  Other than that, just a few minor fluctuations with nothing else to mention.

More Millionaire Thoughts

Progress doesn’t happen on a straight line, or smooth curve.  There are peaks and troughs.  However, you can predict long-term returns by looking at how things have performed in the past and extrapolating forward.  It’s not an exact science but when it comes to predicting the future few things are. 

Looking back at my total wealth figure since I started this blog, I tried to work out the approximate weekly progress.  It appears that a 1% increase per week produces a fairly accurate description from Week 1 to Week 145.  Taking that 1% weekly increase forward, my total wealth would hit £1,000,000 by Week 295.  Based on that projection, I’m roughly halfway. 

I’m not saying this is definitely going to happen by this point.  The main thing is I’m making steady progress over the long term.  If I continue to make progress, my wealth will hit £1M eventually, and the more it grows, the faster it will continue to grow through compounding gains.  Taking the 1% projection further, the £2M mark would be hit by Week 365.  So, 295 weeks to go from roughly £50k to £1M, just 70 more weeks from £1M to £2M, and less than a year to go from £2M to £3M. 

I asked on a Facebook FIRE group at what point people felt like their investments were starting to grow through compounding gains.  Not a technical answer, but rather an emotional one; when did they feel comfortable with it.  The range of answers are below:

There are no right and wrong answers here, I was simply interested in what other opinions were out there.  One comment I liked was along the lines of, “I’ll feel comfortable when the compounding gains are greater than my own investment.”

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com

2 thoughts on “Part 145

  1. Agree with you on the respect thing but not so sure about the drinks thing – if I ask someone if they want a drink and they say no, I’m not going to buy them one – why would I? Turn it around and if someone asks me if I want a drink and I say no, I’d be annoyed if they went ahead and bought one anyway, against my wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

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