Part 167

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss my surgery at the start of the year.  Also, some frustrating developments with our service charges.  

Weekly Update: 

There’s only one major talking point this week: the surgery I had on Tuesday 3rd January.  For over a year I’ve had a large kidney stone which is too big to pass naturally.  I’ve been waiting on surgery that’s had to be cancelled twice due to Covid.  I got a call between Christmas and the New Year saying I could come in on the 3rd, so I thought I should get it out of the way.  It didn’t really go according to plan though.

When I arrived at the hospital I was taken for a CT scan to ensure the stone was still where they thought it was.  Then, I was taken to Theatre Admissions Unit (TAU).  Over the course of a few hours, I had a few tests and talks with the urologist and the anaesthetist.  The first issue that cropped up related to the anaesthetic.  The consultants did not feel it was safe for me to have general anaesthetic, so I was encouraged to have a spinal injection.  

The spinal injection was not as fun as it sounds, and it didn’t sound like fun to begin with.  I’ve had a spinal tap before, and I remembered well the feeling of the needle pinching into my back.  When I was taken to theatre there were three nurses chatting with me to try and take my mind off what was to come.  It mostly worked.  The lead nurse was explaining, whilst walking behind where I was sitting on the bed, that I was about to have a cold spray on my back.  As she was explaining, the other two nurses stood in front of me.  Just as the nurse was saying, “I’m going to count to three and…” but before she finished she sprayed me anyway.  Now, I know you may not believe me, but I honestly didn’t swear.  I might have invoked the name of Jesus but I definitely did not swear.  

The nurse apologised but explained when people expect it, they tense, and they’ve had people injure themselves because they flinch when the spray hits them on the count of three.  Anyway, I know her game now and I’m wise to it.  In all seriousness though, the nurses and doctors were great.  Absolutely no complaint from me.  

Anyway, the spinal injection took hold and I couldn’t feel anything from my sternum to my feet.  Some time went by in theatre before the urologist popped his head over the curtain they’d erected under my chin to explain they couldn’t get to the stone because the channel running between my bladder and kidney was too narrow.  So, they’ve had to fit a stent to widen it, and I’ll need to go back in for further surgery in a “couple of weeks” potentially with a third, minor procedure if they need to leave a stent during the second one.  So, all in all, not a great outcome.

The aftercare by the staff in recovery, and back in TAU, was great.  Considering all the bad press NHS workers, especially nurses, get it’s fine work they do, really fine work (bonus points to whoever gets the reference here from a recent-ish BBC show).

I left the hospital around 19:30, I think, and by 21:30 I was home, showered, and exhausted.  I stayed in bed until 17:30 the following day, only leaving to go to the toilet or throw up (gross, sorry). 

I’m typing this on Saturday afternoon and I’m still not close to 100%.  I’m hoping the next appointment comes through quickly so I can get this issue resolved.  Next time though, I’m going to see if there’s anything we can do about having a general anaesthetic because this spinal injection really didn’t react well with me.  A general might not be optimal from their perspective but surely the short/medium-term side effects on the patient are relevant.  Obviously, I will abide by their expertise but I think I need to have a clearer idea of what the issues are.  The anaesthetist seemed a cool guy though, and he gave me drugs, so yeah he can go on my Christmas card list. 

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2023 Goals

Click here to see my 2023 progress (opens a new tab). 

What Am I Doing?

TV: Killing Eve (Season 4), The Tourist.

Audiobook: The Others by Jeremy Robinson.  Blink by K. L. Slater.

We really enjoyed The Tourist on iPlayer.  It’s a six-episode show that starts with Jamie Dornan driving through the Australian outback.  He’s involved in a car accident and loses his memory.  What follows are his attempts to work out just what the hell is going on.  With a style similar to Coen Brothers’ work, and maybe a little Tarantino mixed in, it’s a very entertaining ride.  It takes a lot to grab me on TV now, but this show definitely did.  Highly recommended. 

We’re three episodes into Killing Eve’s fourth season and it’s not very good.  It was never a particularly believable show and was something of a guilty pleasure.  Also, I could watch Jodie Comer in anything and still be entertained to some degree.  But yeah, this season sucks so far.  I might not even finish it.

As part of my 2023 book challenge, I wanted to read/listen to more work by female authors I’ve not experienced before.  I fired up Audible, browsed the Plus Catalogue, and the first one that popped out was Blink by K. L. Slater.  The story is told from two points in time; three years ago, and the present day, and relates to the abduction of a young girl.  I would say the book is probably best experienced without much advanced knowledge.  One issue I have with a lot of stories involving children is that I find the kids absolutely insufferable.  In Blink, K. L. Slater created a compelling character in the little girl, and I was really rooting for her.  Rather than the girl being a device to cause tension and anxiety for the mother, she felt like her own character, with her own agency.  The story twists and turns, and although I had some of the broad strokes figured out ahead of time, I still enjoyed the journey.  I can’t remember the exact quote, but the best plot twists are ones that, with the benefit of hindsight, were inevitable yet unexpected.  

There were a couple of points that knocked the star rating down from a 4*/5* to a 3*.  I didn’t find the mother to be someone I could relate to, or empathise with.  Also, I found the way the school operated to be somewhat convenient for the plot, but that’s just a minor issue.  On the whole, I enjoyed the book and it get me gripped.  I would read more from the author.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £19,350.00 (no change). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £65,928.40 (+£2,337.30). 

Fuck It Fund: £0.00 (no change).

Pensions: £55,995.45 (+£891.43). 

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

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

Total Assets: £526,255.85 (+£3,228.73).

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Loans: £10,000.00 (no change).

Residential Mortgage: £179,595.11 (-£432.97). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,015.74 (-£85.72). 

Total Debts: £294,610.85 (-£518.69). 

Total Wealth: £231,645.00 (£3,747.42).

Investment Income in 2023: £25.11 (target £8,500).

The stock market seems to have had a good start to the year, and my mortgage payments have landed.  The increase in my assets, and decrease in debts, have pushed my total wealth to the second-highest figure since I started this project.  

It feels as though we’re on the final straight to the start of the new tax year, at which point I’ll be able to start investing in my ISA again.  The transfer of my equity in the BTL to my investment partner means that I need to build new income streams as soon as possible to improve on 2022’s investment income.  

The first investment income of the year comes from my trusty Premium Bonds and a little residual interest.  Although our tenants are still paying rent in January, it will be used up by the costs of instructing the agent to complete the moving-out checks, as well as a couple of “just because” fees.  

Service Charges

Regular readers will know that Oana and I live in a city centre apartment, in a great part of Sheffield, that just last year was regarded as one of the top fifty coolest neighbourhoods in the world by Time Out magazine.  This came just a couple of years after being awarded Best Place to Live in the UK by a national newspaper.  In short, there are a lot of great things about living in Kelham Island.  The service charges are not one of them.

Our current management company have been looking after the development for a couple of years now, and during that time our service charges have increased from approximately £1,100p/a (paid half-yearly) to approximately £1,700p/a.  See graph below:

We’re waiting on an explanation for the continued increase, the latest of which is 6% (other residents have noted increases between 6%-20%) despite us all receiving an email a few days ago warning of “average increases” of roughly “1%-2%”.

I’m giving the management company time to explain as my interactions with them have been overwhelmingly positive.  However, I’m very concerned about this increase and the general trend.  We were told that they had to increase last year due to a one-off expense.  Also, our insurance coverage has been reduced as we can (apparently) no longer obtain flood cover.  From the start of 2015 to now, we are looking at an almost 50% increase.  That’s unsustainable, and some owners will struggle to pay it.  

I also don’t understand why there’s such variability in the increases.  Why are some owners looking at 6% increases and others 20%? Someone, somewhere, at some point, got something wrong.  Either the old management company was not charging the correct amounts, or the new company has got something wrong.  It just doesn’t seem right.  Hopefully, as more information comes to light, it will all make sense.  As I said, I’m giving our current management company time to respond due to our previous interactions.  As things stand, service charges and ground rent will be almost £2,000p/a, or to put another way, more than I pay for electricity or council tax. 

That’s all for this week.  Thanks for reading.  Please remember to like, and share, this post.  

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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