Part 157

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I look back on three years since I started this blog, and my FIRE journey.  There are the usual financial updates, and some more examples of poor customer service.  

Three Years On…

I started this blog on November 1st, 2019, and this post will go live on October 30th, 2022.  Within a window of a couple of days, this is the third-anniversary post.  So, what progress have I made?  Where did I expect to be on my journey?

November 1st, 2019 Financial Statement

Premium Bonds £8,250.00.

Stocks and Shares ISA: £6,519.00.

Fuck It Fund: £1,650.00.

Pensions: £32,150.00 (approx).

Residential Property Value: £172,500.00.

Total Assets: £221,069

Three Years on…

Premium Bonds: £9,160.00. 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £58,718.94. 

Fuck It Fund: £1,625.00.

Pensions: £52,191.15. 

Residential Property Value: £233,989.00. 

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £150,993.00. 

Total Assets: £506,677.09

It’s clear that some great progress has been made over the last three years but if I were to rate my progress against where I’d hoped I would be, I would have to say it would come under the heading, “underachieving”.  However, I think there are a fair few mitigating factors.

Brexit

The shadow of Brexit has loomed over us ever since the referendum result in 2016.  From that point until we left the EU, the stock market was subject to some intense variability.  Had Brexit not happened, I believe my ISA would have a higher valuation.  

Covid-19

My FIRE journey started less than six months before the UK went into lockdown.  The pandemic has hammered the economy, and I believe some of the provisions for home buyers during this time (such as the SDLT offers) contributed to heating the housing market more than was necessary.  We’ve seen some, frankly, unreal house price growth in the last couple of years and the housing market has been incredibly competitive.  Had this madness been avoided we would almost certainly have more than one BTL property on the books by now.  

The War in Ukraine

Russia’s war of aggression in Eastern Europe has had many knock-on impacts on our lives here in the UK.  The most obvious is the impact on our energy bills.  Our household energy bills have more than tripled despite us halving our usage in kWh.  It’s just insane.  Had our energy bills remained sensible, all the extra money we’ve paid on bills would have been assigned to investments instead.

Cost of Tory Greed Living Crisis

In addition to the above points we are living through a period of inflation not seen in decades.  All these factors in combination have gradually worn away at the proportion of my income I’ve been able to allocate to investments.  

Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng, and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

The damage done to this country by these three Tories, in particular, makes me angry.  In just a few weeks Truss and Kwarteng essentially ruined lives.  Think about it like this… Imagine the UK population as the owner of an antiques store.  The owner hired two new members of staff; Truss and Kwarteng.  These two came into work on their first day and took baseball bats to thousands of items of stock.  The whole store was ruined.  The store owner fired them.  All is well, yes?  Well, no.  They might have been fired, but this action does not unfuck the damage done to the store’s stock.  

As for ABdPJ, I hate this guy.  When I see his face on TV I feel an almost physical revulsion and hatred for him.  It’s not just that he was a poor leader.  He was dishonest in his personal and professional life.  He revelled in ignoring scientific advice at the start of the pandemic as he boasted about shaking hands with people.  Under his leadership the government wasted tens of billions of pounds on PPE contracts.  There’s the clusterfuck over the test and trace system.  Failure, after failure, after failure.  If it was just wasted money that would be bad enough.  It wasn’t though; it was wasted money, lies, and thousands upon thousands of avoidable deaths.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not trying to compare the impact that ABdPJ’s leadership had on my FIRE plans with the pain and suffering many people went through due to the death of their friends and family.  I’m only mentioning it here because it did have an impact on my plans, but that impact is such a minor thing compared to how many people suffered due to Johnson’s actions.

Weekly Update

A week dominated by poor customer service, unfortunately.  I’ve posted a few times about poor customer service and I’m convinced it’s getting worse over time.  I suspect this can be, in part at least, traced back to those in front-line service roles being paid minimum wage.  There are a few movements ongoing around this, such as Act Your Wage and Quiet Quitting.  Major corporations pinching pennies by paying minimum wage when just a modest uplift would have almost no impact on their bottom line. £1p/h more might not sound like a lot, but for someone working 40 hours per week, it’s at least £160pcm more (pre-tax).  Ultimately, if you can’t pay a decent wage and make a reasonable profit at the same time, then your business model doesn’t work.

All companies make mistakes because companies are made up of people, and people are far from perfect.  However, if a business has in place policies and procedures that assist when things go wrong, along with good quality training and support, then mistakes will be quickly resolved to the satisfaction of the customer.  Ikea seemingly do the opposite.  

Ikea Training Day One

“If it’s complicated, just hang up the call.”

We had to deal with Ikea again to organise the return of our mattress.  This is part of their T&Cs where it can be returned for an exchange within 90 days of the date of purchase.  However, we had it agreed by one of their customer service managers that we could return for a refund instead of an exchange, so long as it was within 90 days.  

Anyway, we called their contact centre and explained the situation.  Note; we spent 20 minutes on hold waiting for someone to answer.  Then, after a few minutes of conversation, we were placed on hold again for over ten minutes.  The agent came back to repeat the policy that the mattress could only be exchanged.  So, once again I explained that I knew this and that she’d already said all this, but as I’d explained before we had an agreement from the manager (the full name of which we passed along).  Once more we were placed on hold for ages before they disconnected our call.  Over an hour on the phone and no progress was made.  This was actually one of the better instances of service from Ikea; yes, they set the bar that low.  As a result, we’re now back dealing with the CEO’s office.  

My girlfriend, Oana, had a pretty bizarre interaction with Skechers.  She signed up on the website for an offer as a first-time customer, which meant she got a discount on her first purchase.  She’s never had Skechers before and chose the size she thought would fit.  The trainers arrived but were too big, so she arranged to return them so she could get the next size down.  She was told she had to get a refund and reorder.  However, following those instructions did not allow for the discount on the smaller size.  Thinking this would be a simple issue to sort out, she emailed their customer service team to explain.  Their response was less than stellar:

Not only did they get my girlfriend’s name wrong, they ignored the basic facts.  

Rounding off the week we ordered in for dinner on Thursday.  A new(ish) pizza place called Rudy’s (part of a national chain) had opened in the city centre.  We had a table booked here in a couple of weeks but thought we’d try it ahead of time.  We ordered two pizzas and one garlic bread.  This is what turned up:

We had ordered through Deliveroo who gave us a refund, but seriously if you’re delivering pizza how hard is it to realise that you store the fucking thing flat.  The rider had blatantly shoved these in the bag on their side.  It wasn’t just the fact the pizzas looked like they’d been smacked about, the food was coated in a sheen of grease and oil.  It was just gross.  We called the restaurant and cancelled our reservation and explained why.  I understand the restaurant was not to blame for the way the food was delivered, but the volume of grease was just seriously off-putting. 

On a more positive note, I’ve signed up for a new meal delivery service called Field Doctor.  I struggle with various digestive problems and trying to find meals that are safe to eat without causing flare-ups is hard.  Field Doctor offer a range of low FODMAP meals which are thought to be better for those with certain digestive problems.  We had our first delivery on Friday and I tried my first meal, salmon teriyaki with brown rice, on Saturday.  It was very nice.  Hopefully, this service will make life a bit easier.

Movember

In 2017 I completed a cycling challenge for Movember.  Through the course of the month, using a stationary bike at the gym, I cycled the distance from Land’s End to John o’Groats.  I raised a few hundred pounds for Movember, and it was the most satisfying charity campaign I’ve been a part of.  

This year I’m raising money for Movember again.  I’m aiming to lose weight this year; 10kg in November for Movember.  I’ll share my fundraising page throughout the month and update on my progress.  

Why does Movember matter?  Over 500,000 men take their own lives around the world each year.  Movember fund research and services to help men of all ages with mental health.  Times are hard for us all, but even a small donation can make a difference.  You can find my fundraising page here:

https://movember.com/m/13607662?mc=1

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog but maintaining a website costs money.  If you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider donating 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 126.4kg).

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 (23/10)

  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 ✅
  13. S. J. Morden ✅
  14. C. J. Tudor ✅
  15. Greer Hendricks ✅
  16. Clare Mackintosh ✅
  17. Stephen Baxter ✅
  18. Pete Wharmby ✅
  19. Devon Price ✅
  20. Nick Jones ✅
  21. Nathan Hystad ✅ 
  22. J. P. Pomare ✅
  23. Max Hastings ✅

What Am I Doing?

Reading: Fake History by Otto English.

Listening: Necroscope by Brian Lumley.

Watching: War of the Worlds (2019).

After years of trying to convince me to read Necroscope, my Dad has finally succeeded.  I’m about halfway through the first book in the series and I’m enjoying it so far.  Much of the story is based in Romania and most of the places mentioned are places I’ve spent time in.  It always adds an extra layer to any story when the places are ones you know firsthand.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £9,160.00 (+£820.00). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £58,718.94 (+£5.64). 

Fuck It Fund: £1,625.00 (no change).

Pensions: £52,191.15 (+£487.95). 

Residential Property Value: £233,989.00 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £150,993.00 (no change). 

Total Assets: £506,677.09 (+£1,313.59). \

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Residential Mortgage: £180,898.62 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,279.23 (no change). 

Total Debts: £286,177.85 (no change). 

Total Wealth: £220,499.24 (+£1,313.59)

Investment Income in 2022: £4,705.26 (target £6,000).

No major changes in my finances this week.  Next week’s post will show the impact of November’s mortgage payments, but what I really need is for the stock market to start making serious gains.  

LeanFIRE

I was chatting with Oana about how much money is needed to cover my basic living expenses, i.e. LeanFIRE.  We arrived at a figure of approximately £1,300pcm.  By the end of 2022 I will have averaged around £450pcm investment income.  Assuming my projections for 2023 end up being accurate, I should average a little over £600pcm in investment income.  So, there’s still a way to go.

When I started this project in 2019 I had in mind a four-year timeline in mind.  It was always going to be difficult but I would rather set a tough goal and fail than an easy goal and smash it.  By aiming higher I think it pushes me to do more, and work harder.  I suspect that I’m still three full years away from FIRE.  The question is, can I continue with my current life set up and succeed over the next three years?  I suspect something will have to give somewhere.  The main thing is that I’m still getting closer to my goal, even if the pace of my progress is much slower than I’d hoped. 

Thanks for reading.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions in this blog are my own, and do not represent the views or opinions of my employer, nor should they be considered advice.

If you want personalised financial advice, seek an appropriate professional.  If you are in financial difficulty, seek advice via the resources below:

StepChange

MoneyHelper

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

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