Part 163

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss working for free, and how it creates more problems for employees.  Also, TV shows that were consistently good, and those that fell from grace.  There are the usual financial updates, and some more thoughts on 2023’s financial goals.  

Quote of the Week

I was chatting with a friend about their employer and some of the stuff that goes on there is just wild.  There’s so much work to be completed that people still log on to work when they’ve called in sick, which makes you wonder what the point of calling in sick is.  Also, people there will work until late at night, take calls from clients at unsocial hours, and even work whilst on holiday.  It’s crazy, and got me thinking about a quote I heard a while back, which goes something like, “if you work at your best all the time, then it’s no longer your best.”  The point is that people can only work for so long before needing a break.  The additional point, which is rarely discussed, is that if you always bust a gut to do your absolute best then it creates the expectation that you can do that all the time.  It might not be something that many people openly admit but the vast majority of jobs don’t need to be done to the absolute best standard; they just need to be done to a good enough, or acceptable, standard.

Expectations, from an employer, rarely drop.  It’s the nature of capitalism to expect more for less.  If you can complete X number of tasks in an hour when working flat out for a short period, then the expectation will be that you can do that as a matter of routine.  As an employee, you may feel under pressure to just take an extra hour a week to complete a task, despite knowing you will not be paid.  You might spend time on your week off work catching up on admin.  You might feel stressed whilst off work with the flu to complete some tasks.  The thing is, each time you do this you are raising expectations and making life more difficult for everyone moving forward.  Labour should not be free, but the increase in remote working seems to be creating a new normal where the workday doesn’t finish when you stop being on the clock.  Reports vary, but the consensus appears to be that the average salaried worker completes an extra 7-10 hours of unpaid work each week.  That is a lot of free labour.

There are times when it makes sense to be flexible, in cases where favours are exchanged, for example.  I’m not militant enough to say that no one should ever work extra.  Sometimes a bit of extra work here or there just makes good sense but it should never become the norm, or be expected.  Employers shouldn’t have to rely on free labour.  If a business only works because people work for free, then the business model doesn’t work.  People will literally work themselves into ill health and exhaustion for a job that will replace them like without a second thought.  There’s more to life than work, and not a single person will look back at their life from their deathbed and feel good about all the free work they completed.  Anyone who regularly works for free is betraying themselves and, by degrees, increasing the pressure on their peers to also work for free.

Weekly Update

I’ve just finished my first week back at work after a prolonged absence.  It’s always a bit of a shock to the system when you have an extended absence but I have a supportive manager and team, which has helped me transition back into a routine.  I have a lot of catching up to do before I start speaking with customers again but it will take as long as it takes.

I’ve done more socialising this week than normal.  Being autistic means I sometimes find socialising exhausting, but this week was different.  I had enough spoons to pay for everything I needed to do and when you’ve had long periods of time with a spoon shortage you learn to appreciate the times when you can end the day, or the week, with a small surplus.  

As regular readers will know, there have been more than a few times lately when I’ve had abysmal customer service.  This week I had a genuinely great customer experience.  So, I’ve been sorting through my Lego collection trying to bag up old sets that I’ve had for over thirty years.  Over time I have lost some odd pieces here and there, so I’ve been buying random pieces that Lego no longer sell directly from eBay.  A little while ago I found someone selling two pieces for a reasonable price.  I only needed one, but everyone else was charging big bucks for them.  So, I ordered these two.  They didn’t turn up.  The seller was quick to respond and offered a refund.  I waited a few more days but nothing appeared.  So, I got my money back and thought no more of it.  A bit of time passed and then the seller contacted me again to say he’s found some more of the pieces and wanted to give me first refusal.  I explained I technically only needed one of them, and a bit later he replied saying he’d popped them in the post at no charge.  I received them today.  

Things like this restore my faith in people.  The guy had no reason to get back in touch, but he did.  Small gestures can snowball; one kind act leads to another, and another, and before you know it lots of positive vibes are flowing all because of one person completing a small random act of kindness.  

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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 (24/10)

  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 ✅
  24. Brian Lumley ✅
  25. Steve Richards ✅

What Am I Doing?

Reading: Fake History by Otto English.

Listening: The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey

Watching: Dark on Netflix.

As I write this, I have just one more episode of Dark to watch.  For the first two seasons, Dark was fantastic and up there with some of the best TV of all time.  Then, along came the third season, which seemed to fall into a cycle of the same scene being played out time and time again.  It goes like this, Character A is going to do something, but Character B appears and says a load of vague stuff and claims that Character C is lying.  Instead of doing what Character C asks, Character A should do what Character B says instead.  All season three is just this scene being done over and over with a rotating cast of characters.  Any show that has a mystery at the core of the story has to give answers eventually.  As good as the first two seasons of Dark are, the third season is poor.

Talking about Dark with my girlfriend got us thinking about shows that have maintained a high level of quality over the entire run of the show.  The first one that came to mind was Breaking Bad.  Over five seasons it was never less than excellent television.  At its best, it’s without equal.  Another show that I think kept up a high standard of quality was Mad Men.  There are other shows that, in general, maintained a high level of quality but had some dips along the way.  Buffy ran for seven seasons, with season one not ageing well, and seasons four and five being divisive, but even within those seasons, there are episodes which feature on lists of greatest episodes across all television; such as Hush from season four which took place with hardly any dialogue.  Although there were low points, Buffy generally had a high level of quality and for the most part, stuck the landing.

What about shows that fell from grace? Lost was, arguably, the first TV show of the internet era to become a talking point for almost everyone.  However, it soon faded when people realised that the initial mystery was not going to have a satisfying answer.  As far as Lost fell, it couldn’t hold a candle to Game of Thrones.  For a few years, probably seasons three through six, Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon.  For those years the hype was justified as the show told a layered, nuanced story of political intrigue, with complex characters, with multiple plot threads that were gradually developing and coming together.  It’s actually kind of amazing that the last two seasons were so bad that not only did they anger people, but they actually made the previous seasons worse retrospectively.  What was a cultural phenomenon is now little more than a curiosity and a case of what could have been.  

On the subject of television, one of my all-time favourite series of books is being adapted for TV.  The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell tells the story of Arthur and the Saxon invasion of Britain.  Of the many versions of the story that have been published to date, this is the definitive version.  Having read the cast list though, I am worried it’s going to be a disappointment.  With any show that has a large cast, it’s important that you get at least the core cast right.  You can get away with a couple of duds here and there, so long as there’s at least one or two that hit the nail on the head.  There’s only one of the cast that I think they got right, and that is Simon Merrells as the Silurian king Gundleus.  You may recognise Merrells from a supporting role in the recent Amazon show Rings of Power, but I first saw him years ago as the manager of Harchester United in the Sky show Dream Team.  In addition to these roles, he played Crassus in Spartacus.  I think he’s got what it takes to play the part well, but Gundleus was only a small player in the books which makes me think that the show will make him a hybrid of other characters.  I’ll give the show a chance but I just can’t see it working.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,500.00 (+£8,705.00). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £64,185.77 (-£392.94). 

Fuck It Fund: £0.00 (-£1,675.00).

Pensions: £54,746.96 (-£1,026.80). 

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

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

Total Assets: £522,414.73 (+£5,610.26). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Loans: £10,000.00 (+£10,000).

Residential Mortgage: £180,028.08 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,101.46 (no change). 

Total Debts: £295,129.54 (+£10,000.00). 

Total Wealth: £227,285.19 (-£4,389.74)

Investment Income in 2022: £5,239.85 (target £6,000).

A few changes to go over this week.  As I’ve mentioned recently we have some final bits of work we want to complete in our apartment.  We’ve taken a loan to cover those costs and some of those funds have already been put to use.  I’ve also taken all the money from my Fuck It Fund and consolidated it in Premium Bonds.  There’s an element of clearing the decks to what I’ve done, as I prepare for 2023.  Having an emergency fund is important, but it doesn’t need to be instant access.  As long as the funds are accessible fairly quickly and you have a decent-sized credit card limit it takes something pretty drastic to put you under immediate financial pressure.  

2023 Financial Goals

Last week I highlighted my first two financial goals for 2023.  A little reminder;

1 – Acquire BTL 2.

2 – £8,500 investment income.

I’ve had some thoughts about other goals for the year.  I want to maximise my ISA allowance again, but I also want to start chipping away at our residential mortgage.  In 2023 we have two products on our mortgage ending, with the rate on the remaining mortgage ending in early 2024.  Although there are signs that mortgage rates may be coming down slightly, I don’t want to count on that.  The sub-account we have with the earliest rate to finish comes in July, with a current balance of just over £10,000.  Ideally, I’d like to be able to pay that sub-account off in full when the rate is up for renewal.  It’s not a priority, but it would be nice to have the option if rates are insanely high.  If at the point of renewal rates are low I might lock in again.  It’s a case of wait-and-see, I think.

Something else that is bugging me is my postgraduate student loan.  I owe a little over £5,000 on it and the balance is reducing each month.  It’s looking like I’ll clear the loan before I FIRE, so I’m wondering if it makes sense to hammer the loan and clear it ASAP so that the money taken directly from my salary is free to invest elsewhere.  It’s something to think about.

That’s all for this week.  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

One thought on “Part 163

  1. I probably work between 3-5 hours for free each week – wfh means I usually log on earlier and log off later. I do it because I no longer have a commute (aside from one day a week). My employer is only concerned that I’m available during the core hours (9-5) for the region I cover. I draw the line at logging on at weekends or when I’m on holiday, but apart from one day when I felt my worst, I was working while I had Covid because I was at home and because I just didn’t want to be behind on my work. I don’t expect anyone else to do this but I guess this does put pressure on others.

    Like

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