Part 86

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week is a slightly different post, as I talk about trolling on social media, and a little bit about literary theory.  Also, the usual financial updates and a huge change to my financial position.

I don’t even know where to start with this.  During the past few days I’ve noticed a little surge in crackpot, anti-vax conspiracy theories being posted on social media.  This seems to come in waves, and it’s always a source of entertainment for me.  I’m also known as someone who likes to troll on social media, and when my trolling mentality is confronted by batshit crazy beliefs, I can’t let it pass without comment.

Someone I’m acquainted with, let’s call her HSC to hide her identity, has been posting the most absurd theories in recent days. She has posted an incoherent ramble that stated the European Championships were being played to divert attention from the government’s plan to reduce the age of consent to 14, but in Scotland it would be lowered to the age of 10 for some reason. Now, make no mistake, I despise the Tory government but even I would be shocked if Darth Johnson tried to push this through Parliament.

Every now and then I like to throw a net out there and see how many fish I catch. As expected, HSC took the bait and hilarity ensued. I’m by no means a medical expert, but I have some understanding of the scientific method and some experience with logical thinking. Earlier today (as I’m writing this) I had a real back and forth with HSC about vaccines. She was insistent that the Covid vaccines should not be called vaccines as they are “not licenced”, to which I responded I would refer to vaccines as “God’s Magic Potion” if it made her feel more comfortable.

I love a good debate, and I love learning new things. I don’t get insecure when I find out I’m wrong; it’s a learning experience. However, there are some instances where two people are at such different points that reasonable debate becomes impossible. I will cite three examples from the behaviour of HSC.

  1. HSC claims that science can prove things. Anyone with a basic understanding of science will know that science does not prove things. Science is about testing theories. It’s about collecting and analysing data, and creating a catalogue of research that supports or opposes different theories. People talk about “laws” in science, like the “law of gravity” but scientists will tell you that these are not “laws” that are 100% “proven”. Science just doesn’t work that way.
  2. “Everyone who has a vaccine dies.” I used this statement to test whether HSC can think logically. She failed. The key here is to pay attention to the language used. I never stated that “everyone who has a vaccine dies because of the vaccine.” The point is, everyone will die eventually whether they have a vaccine or not. Think about it this way; all men are humans, but not all humans are men.
  3. I’m not a grammar nazi but there are times when you can tell whether someone understands what they are talking about by the language they use. This can be linked back to my first point about science not proving things. We can say that research suggests a particular point with varying degrees of certainty but if a scientist says something is proven, then it’s a red flag. Another red flag is getting a word completely wrong. HSC talked about the “ethicacy” of the vaccines. This is not even a real word, and I suspect she was talking about efficacy.

I ended the debate because, frankly, it was a waste of my time and I’d had my fun.  I wasn’t going to achieve anything more and all I was going to do was upset her.

Weekly Update

It’s been a bit of a confrontational week, which is a little disappointing.  I had a very minor disagreement with an author I like on Twitter.  This brings up an fascinating issue, regarding whether an author can claim ownership over the readers’ interpretation of their work once it is in the public domain.

I posted a tweet asking if I was the only person who detected sexual tension between two characters.  One of them is a woman who suffers extreme anxiety and the other is a man who is misogynistic and a bit of an asshole all around.  The author stated that there is no sexual tension and that I need to sit down and have a think about what it says about society if I felt the portrayal of these characters hinted at sexual tension.  

The thing about writing for the public is you can’t control the reader’s interpretation.  Words have power, and it is extremely difficult to wield that power in such a way that describes or explains the thoughts you are having.  The author may have an intention in their writing, but once the words are on the page and being consumed by the reader, it is the reader that creates their own interpretation.  The author may disagree with that interpretation, but they can’t say it is wrong because that interpretation is unique to that reader.  If you are still with me, please don’t think I spend all my time arguing with people on the internet.  I spend most some of my time doing this, because I’m a troll, but I do have other hobbies.  Honest.

Bob is continuing to settle in and we had to take him to the vet for a day of tests.  He was very well behaved and appears to have no major health issues, although he may need his teeth removed in the future due to a long standing gum infection.  I’m going to admit that it took me some time to connect with Bob because I was, and still am, grieving for Sweep.  However, Bob is a real character and is starting to show some of his personality.

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 123.2kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 50).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’m really enjoying my books at the moment and I’m now up to 50 completed in 2021.  I’m itching for some more quality science fiction, so if anyone has any recommendations I would love to hear about them in the comments.  I’m still struggling to lose weight and to motivate myself to get to the gym.  I don’t know what the answer is, but at some point I need to get a grip and start changing my routines.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £16,500.00 (up £15,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,384.18 (up £4,274.42 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £500.00 (up £198.30 from last update). 

Crypto: £473.97 (down £14.19 from last update). 

Pensions: £46,936.17 (up £164.45 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £419,793.32 (up £19,622.98 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £160.39 (down £10.07 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £159,392.09 (up £19,800.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,656.00 (up £19,789.93 from last update).

Total Wealth: £167,137.32 (down £166.95 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.97 (target £5,000).

A lot to discuss this week.  We raised some money from the equity in our home.  This was going to be used to help my family with a holiday and they were going to pay us back, but in the end the money wasn’t needed and so it was able to be directed towards my investments.  I put most of the money into my Premium Bonds with a smaller portion being invested in my ISA.  This extra cash should help speed up the plan to buy a second BTL property.  I also sold some shares that I held elsewhere which I had been unable to touch without paying tax and national insurance contributions.  However, that holding period recently ended and this should bring in approximately £700 in the coming days. 

I had hoped to reduce my credit card to zero for this week’s update, but vets are expensive.  I don’t mind though, as it’s part of having a cat. 

Looking at my finances I am hopeful of having a deal in progress for my second BTL by the time my birthday comes around in September.  Going into 2022 I need to have two properties earning income if I’m to have a chance of achieving FIRE by the age of 40.  

Before I wrap this week’s post up, I just wanted to remind you that you can sign up for email updates.  Near the bottom of the page there should be a button saying “follow”.  If you click that link and follow the instructions you can choose to follow the blog and receive email notifications when I publish a new post.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.  Also, if you are on Facebook please check out the Mortgage Advisor on FIRE page here.

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. 

Part 85

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I briefly discuss the concepts of truth, risk and expertise.  I also look at my FIRE number and explain why my Facebook account was recently restricted.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Another week down and, after over a year dealing with Covid, the stupidity still runs strong in some people.  Yes, the UK government has been grossly incompetent in handling the pandemic.  Yes, the lockdown sucks and I would much rather have the freedoms I enjoyed prior to the pandemic.  The thing is, the truth of the matter cares little for what you, or I, want.  The truth is we are in a pandemic and there is a long way to go. This isn’t like a game of football in the park where we get to decide when to stop playing; we do the right things and we beat the pandemic – it’s that simple. 

The amount of people out there that believe the lockdown is a form of social control is pretty scary.  These conspiracy theorists are great at imagining all sorts of secret plots to control us all, but they are poor at explaining why.  

One common argument I have seen from people who are refusing the vaccine, is that they want to know what they are putting in their body.  I take from this, that they want to understand the science behind the vaccine because simply knowing the ingredients does not tell you much.  So, if you agree that it’s a reasonable leap to go from, “I want to know what I’m putting in my body” to, “I want to understand how it works”, then that philosophy can be applied to almost all aspects of daily life.  For example, how many drivers understand the science behind how their car works?  How many tourists understand how their plane works? How many people understand how the different ingredients in their takeaway burger work to extend the lifespan of their food?  If you were to only use or consume that which you fully understand, you would have a very difficult and very short life.

Related to this is the concept of expertise.  I don’t need to know how a plane works because I trust the engineers and pilots to do their job.  I don’t need to know how a car works because I trust the people who designed it.  I don’t trust fast food, so I’ll not go there.  The point is that as part of a society we have to trust the people around us to do their jobs.  When you drill deeper, you can apply this to all sorts of aspects of daily life, such as trusting drivers to stop at a red light or trusting your pharmacist to give you the right medication.  

It’s never possible to eliminate risk entirely, and the best you can hope for is risk management.  This is something I’ve talked about before, but it’s worth revisiting again.  Many anti-vaxxers scoff at the fact that the vaccines don’t offer total protection.  Seatbelts don’t offer total protection from car crashes.  Shin Pads don’t offer total protection from crunching tackles on the football field.  Hell, armour and a shield didn’t offer total protection on medieval battlefields but even the spearmen of the time understood that some protection is better than none. 

We are all frustrated and stressed at another year passing by in lockdown.  It sucks.  I want a holiday.  I want to go to restaurants and bars.  I also understand that it’s not just about me.  The chances of me dying of this virus are remote.  That doesn’t stop me from being a carrier and passing the virus down the chain at which point someone will almost certainly die.

Weekly Update

I’ve been on leave from work this week and despite having grand plans to exercise or study, my time has been eaten up by other things.  I’ve spent some time out in the sun, which has been nice.  I’ve caught up with a few people, in a socially distant manner, and I’ve also just allowed myself time to relax.  

Bob has been to the vet for the first time since we adopted him and although he was quite vocal, he was well behaved and brave.  He is still coming out of his shell and learning that this is a safe, loving home for him.  As a result, we are starting to see more of his personality.  There are still some health concerns we have and I’m not completely convinced we were made aware of all his medical history, but it’s not important now we have him.  He has so much fur though, and when we brush him it just keeps coming off.  We have to make an effort to brush him because, like most cats, he grooms a lot and this leads to him throwing up furballs.

Bob having a snooze.

My Sheffield Wednesday related post generated a lot of traffic this week, and if you missed it you can view it here. The state of the club is just embarrassing but unfortunately I can’t see much changing in the short term except for the club, you know, ceasing to exist.

Although I’ve been on holiday from work, I have still had to spend more time than I’d like on the phone dealing with financial matters.  I’ve spent several hours dealing with my own residential mortgage, but I’ve also been dealing with a complaint with my old bank account provider that was first logged in February this year.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the rules around complaints in the banking sector, you have to give your bank up to eight weeks to investigate and attempt to resolve your complaint.  If they fail to offer an acceptable resolution in those eight weeks, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman either when their rejected resolution is offered or at the end of the eight week period.  

The bank provider made one mistake after another.  The complaint has been repeatedly closed and reopened despite me contacting them numerous times to explain I’m not happy with the offered resolution.  The bank has not contacted me once regarding the complaint.  So, in May I referred the complaint to the Ombudsman.  Since then, the Ombudsman have contacted me stating I have to give the bank eight weeks to resolve the complaint, which was confusing because you can only refer to the Ombudsman after eight weeks.  After several calls it was determined that the Ombudsman had just sent out poorly worded emails to me.

I received a notification from Facebook stating that my account had been restricted for 30 days. I am unable to “go live” or “advertise” on the platform during this time. My offence was posting a meme over a year ago. The offending meme is below:

I posted this meme back in the days of Trump when the US was, well, to put it bluntly, going batshit crazy in their (lack of) response to Covid. I don’t get why it took so long for Facebook to censor this and I suspect it’s probably an automated process using image recognition software.

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 48).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’ve finished a few books this week, including some fantastic sci-fi stories by Mary Robinette Kowal which make up The Lady Astronaut series.  The first book, The Calculating Stars is a prequel to a short story written a few years ago.  Following this, The Fated Sky was released which follows (more or less) directly on from The Calculating Stars.  Book three in the series is The Relentless Moon which is a sort of sidequel to The Fated Sky.

What I love about this series is the setting of the 1950s and 60s.  It’s a refreshing look at science fiction, looking back at the early days of the space race and asking, “what if?”.  In this case, the question is “what if a meteorite devastated the United States in the 1950s?”  It is this event that kick starts the series.  I would highly recommend this series of books to anyone interested in science fiction. Links to the Amazon listings for these books are in the images below. If you purchase the books using these links, you will help support this site at no extra cost to you.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £23,109.76 (down £238.19 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £301.70 (up £1.70 from last update). 

Crypto: £488.16 (up £12.40 from last update). 

Pensions: £46,771.72 (up £403.72 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £400,170.34 (up £179.63 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £170.46 (up £81.46 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,592.09 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £232,866.07 (up £81.46 from last update).

Total Wealth: £167,304.27 (up £98.17 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.97 (target £5,000).

A fairly steady week overall with some dips in my ISA being offset by gains in my pensions.  My credit card bill increased slightly but this is just down to not paying it in time to meet this week’s update.  Next week’s update should see some significant changes to my financial position but I’ll save that surprise until then.  

I was talking with a friend the other day and that conversation has been simmering away at the back of my mind.  I was explaining to her that when my plans for FIRE come up in conversation, most people seem to react badly.  The thing is, I’m not doing anything illegal or unusual.  I’m approaching my finances in a structured and organised way.  I’m prioritising some things, like investing, over other things, like having a car.  There are some people out there that love to work and to keep busy.  I, on the other hand, can’t wait until I can quit my job and do my own thing.  Then again, I’m not a social person and I’m quite happy in my own company.

I think that part of the reason so many people are taken aback by my plans is that talking about money is still seen as being unclean or uncivilised in some way.  It’s something I don’t understand, but many people are uncomfortable talking about money.  I suspect that this is down to the fact that money management is not taught in schools.  There is little, if any, education about interest, investing, settling a bank account, paying taxes or paying bills.  A cynical person might think this was deliberate to try and keep the rich and poor in their respective places.  

FIRE Number

I’ve seen a few posts recently where people talk about their FIRE number, which is the amount of money, or the value of their investments, they need to hit to achieve FIRE.  My number has always been based around a net income figure of approximately £1,500pcm (£18,000p/a).  This would allow me to maintain a standard of living I would be very happy with.  Assuming a 5% return rate, I need my total wealth figure to be somewhere in the region of £360,000.  If we assume a 6% rate of return, I would need a wealth figure of approximately £300,000.  I’m just over a year and a half into this project, and my net wealth is just over £167,000.  It would seem that I’m on the right track.  I’ve just had a look at what return we are getting on our first BTL and it’s 6.5%.  This is all looking quite positive.  

The important thing to remember is that these calculations are quite abstract.  Some of my investments do not generate income, but instead accumulate value.  Some of my total wealth is also tied up in pensions.  Looking purely at the income in 2021 so far, when my June rent is received, I will have averaged approximately £200pcm of investment income.  There is still some distance to go, but this will snowball as I accumulate more property and as the market recovers post-Covid.  

Before I wrap this week’s post up, I just wanted to remind you that you can sign up for email updates.  Near the bottom of the page there should be a button saying “follow”.  If you click that link and follow the instructions you can choose to follow the blog and receive email notifications when I publish a new post.

Edit: As I’m writing this the football match between Denmark and Finland has just resumed. My thoughts are with the Danish players and staff, and all Christian Erikson’s friends and family.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.  Also, if you are on Facebook please check out the Mortgage Advisor on FIRE page here; www.facebook.com/MortgageAdvisoronFIRE

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.

Sheffield Wednesday Football Club

September 29th, 1990 was when I first attended a Sheffield Wednesday match. I was seven years old and was taken by uncle (in all but name) who is the brother of one of our former players. It was an exciting time, as I had just started getting into football following the World Cup in Italy that summer. I know some people found that tournament to be dull, but for me it will always have a special place in my heart.

The 1990/1991 season was an incredible time to start my obsession with Wednesday. We had some incredible players, and we won promotion back to Division One (yes, football did exist before the Premier League), as well as beating Manchester United at Wembley to win the League Cup.

My interest in football would rise and fall over the years, but surprisingly there was little correlation with the success of the club. I can’t remember much of 1993-1995, for example, nor can I remember much of 2003-2005 as I was in an alcohol fuelled haze at university. I was obsessed in the late 90s though and hardly missed a home game, and had my first taste of travelling to see the Owls. My first away game was a win at Filbert Street, with goals from Wim Jonk and Benito Carbone.

The thing about Wednesday is that we should be a big club. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, or mean that we have an automatic right to be a big club. What I mean is, we have all the necessary ingredients to be a big club. Sheffield is the fourth largest city in England; bigger than Liverpool and Newcastle. In terms of population, Sheffield ranks fifth ahead of Leeds and Manchester (not the area of Greater Manchester though). We should be a big club sitting comfortably in the top half of the Premier League, occasionally flirting with Europe. If I take off my blue and white glasses, I have to admit that Sheffield United should also be a Premier League club. The thing is, Sheffield is not like other cities.

I’ve attended the University of Leicester and the University of Central Lancashire. I’ve mixed with people from all over the UK, and so many of them know nothing about Sheffield. Despite the size of the city, it’s almost hidden from public view, and we don’t do enough to capitalise on the rich history of the city, with the oldest independent football club in the world being Sheffield F.C., formed in 1857. Sheffield Wednesday followed just ten years later in 1867. We are an old club, steeped in history. To put this in historical context, Wednesday were formed just two years after the end of the US Civil War. All this history could very well be coming to an end in the next few weeks and months.

Sheffield Wednesday have been a state of steady decline, interrupted by the occasional good season, for almost thirty years. There is no single factor that led to this downturn, although some of the more commonly cited causes are the sacking of Trevor Francis as manager, to Dave Richards being more focused on his external career, to the club’s failure to stand by Paulo Di Canio, to the disastrous signings of the Scottish trio sometimes referred to as Phil O’Donnelly; Simon Donnelly, Phil O’Donnell and Phil Scott. If there is one thing that stands out at Wednesday, it is the ability to sign players on big wages and then let them go for nothing.

Over the years I have seen a number of quality players come to Hillsborough, perform well and then leave for an insultingly low price, or even nothing. Then, there are the players brought here on insane contracts who contributed little or nothing. I’m thinking of; Wim Jonk, Andy Hinchcliffe, Phil O’Donnelly, Emerson Thome, Dejan Stefanovic, Darko Kovacevic, Gilles de Bilde, Gerald Sibon, Benito Carbone, Paulo Di Canio, Glenn Whelan, Chris Brunt, Madjid Bougherra, Tom Lees, Adam Reach, Steven Fletcher, Gary Hooper, Jordan Rhodes, Fernando Forestieri, Almen Abdi… These are just off the top of my head, but when you dig deeper and look at some of the more recent loan signings, such as Will Buckley, Callum McManaman or Izzy Brown, it just blows your mind. I can’t even get started on the farcical way the club allowed George Hirst, Sean Clare and Liam Shaw to leave for almost nothing. Over the years, the amount of money the club has wasted on fees and wages is enough to make your eyes water.

As we approach the 2021/2022 season, The Owls will be starting in League One which is the third tier of English football. The club was relegated from the Championship by three points, after starting the season with a twelve point deduction (reduced to six on appeal). The penalty was applied because the club was deemed to have broken the financial fair play rules that are a complete fucking mystery (CFM) to myself and many other football supporters. This all related to the sale of the stadium by owner Dejphon Chansiri to *checks notes* Dejphon Chansiri. Although Wednesday are not the only club to have done this, and although the act of selling the stadium is not a breach of the rules in itself (so far as I understand) the issue related to how the sale was recorded in the accounts. I’m not going to go into detail about this side of things because it is another CFM to me.

I’m sure that you are probably wondering why the sale was necessary. The answer is that the club spent way too much money on transfers and wages for players that were not required. The club failed to sell when the time was right, and so players who could have brought the club a healthy profit such as Forestieri (signed for £3M and we rejected offers of over £10M) were allowed to walk away for nothing. The one signing that really sticks in the craw of many Owls fans is that of Jordan Rhodes. Figures quoted for the transfer vary anywhere from £8M to £10M, with wages of £25k-£50k per week reported. I’ll be conservative and assume the reality was at the lower end of that range. Jordan Rhodes will have cost the club, over his four-year contract, somewhere in the region of £13M. Now, I used to be a huge fan of Jordan Rhodes and was excited when we signed him, but this was before I knew the full extent of our crazy transfer strategy. Having left Wednesday, Rhodes will be remembered mostly for, allegedly, refusing to take a penalty in the play-off semi-final against his former (and now current) club Huddersfield. Wednesday lost that penalty shoot out.

A Glitch in the Matrix

Does Almen Abdi exist? I’m sure I’ve seen him play, so he must do. According to the archives, Abdi was at the club from the 2016/2017 season until the end of the 2018/2019 season. In that time, he made twenty appearances. He was signed for a reported £4M from Watford and would have been on a decent contract at the club. If we assume he was on £15k per week, then he would have cost the club approximately £6.34M. Then, there are the examples of Joost van Aken, David Jones, Will Buckley and Urby Emanuelson.

When you start crunching the numbers you see a depressing pattern of signing players and then hardly using them. You see a pattern of unnecessary signings that unbalanced the squad, and a failure to address the problems that all Wednesday fans saw when leaving Wembley in 2016. We needed a midfield monster. We needed pace. We got neither.

Followed the play-off final defeat in the 2015/2016 season, and the semi-final defeat in 2016/2017, the club needed change. The manager, Carlos Carvalhal, should have been replaced. It was nothing personal, it was simply the right time. Instead, we had one of the worst seasons in recent years. We had over a dozen first team players injured at the same time. We went game after game without a shot on target. We were humiliated at home by Sheffield United, who demonstrated that an effective team could be crafted with pace, power and hard work. We eventually replaced Carvalhal with Jos Luhukay. Don’t worry, I’ll wait whilst you look him up.

Right, you back? Great. I didn’t mind Jos that much, to be honest. At this point it was becoming obvious to many fans that the problems at the club ran deeper than who was manager. The players seemed too complacent and, depending on who you asked, were wielding too much power behind the scenes. Jos tried to forge a new, younger, side. It didn’t work. Jos left the club after almost a year in charge.

Our next manager seemed like a return to sanity as we appointed Steve Bruce, but not before giving him a few weeks to watch cricket. No, really. We let him delay starting his job because he wanted to watch cricket. Bruce had just come off the back of an awful year where he had health issues and lost both parents. I didn’t have too much of an issue with him taking some time. What really angered a lot of people was when he walked away from Wednesday to take the Newcastle job just weeks after being appointed. It was disrespectful. We then endured Garry Monk and Tony Pulis before ending up with Darren Moore. The calibre of manager appointed has not exactly been stellar.

Throughout all these managerial changes, there has been one man at the top, the owner of the club Dejphon Chansiri. If there is one thing his ownership has brought, it is some quality memes with Owlstalk boasting a 37 page thread dedicated to SWFC memes, of which there are some examples below:

Sheffield is a working class city with people that are, by and large, friendly and welcoming. Chansiri was welcomed to the city and the fans went out of their way to show respect to his Thai culture, such as when the stadium held a two minute silence before a match to honour the death of the Thai King in October 2016. The timeline of Chansiri’s ownership is batshit crazy interesting and there is a 19 page thread on this issue on the fans forum Owlstalk. A few highlights include

  • Having Buddhist monks bless the ground in April 2015.
  • Sale of replica kits being delayed weeks into the season in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.
  • Cakeball which is exactly what it sounds like.
  • Club 1867; a promotion so bad it failed twice.
  • The banning of BBC Radio Sheffield for a time in 2018.
  • Multiple transfer embargoes.
  • Several reported instances of players being paid late and/or reduced amounts.
  • Membership and ticket prices rising several times, despite fans being told their money does not make a difference.
An impressive feat of baking, that I can’t deny.

The list is pretty long and embarrassing. Despite the fans showing respect to Chansiri’s background and culture, I’ve met several fans who think that has not been reciprocated.

I don’t doubt that Chansiri had the best of intentions when he took over the club, but I look at his time as owner and cannot see it as anything other than an abject failure. The club is in a perilous financial state and has gone from being a stable, if uninspiring, Championship club to one that may not start the season. Wednesday no longer own their own stadium and have a squad of players that is small, and lacking in fight and ability. There is now talk of some of our remaining players walking away from their contracts due to not being paid on time. There are rumours of possible points deductions for the coming season. If you were a professional footballer, would you sign for a club in this situation? Doubtful.

Questions also need to be asked over the future of the manager, Darren Moore, and his coaching staff. I don’t know Darren Moore, but I would be amazed if he’s not asked himself whether it would be better to walk away now rather than face the coming season, where we could start on minus points with possibly the weakest squad the club has ever put together.

Some bookies have Wednesday as favourites to win League One next season and I just can’t understand how they arrived at this. There is honestly more chance of relegation next season unless we see major change at all levels of the club. We need a clean slate; a fresh start and I think the only way to achieve that is to force Chansiri to sell. I strongly oppose any form of personal abuse towards our owner. This isn’t personal. This is about the survival of the club, and the continuation of over 150 years of history. There are many fans who take pride in supporting their club through the good times and the bad. In most cases, this is the right course of action. However, in this instance, I think the best way to secure the future of the club is stop putting any more cash into it. The fans need to keep their wallets firmly closed. This is the only way to force a sale. It will, unfortunately, be a game of who blinks first. There is the possibility that Chansiri could just liquidate the club, and sell the stadium to a property developer. As things stand, I believe it’s a case of when the club dies as opposed to if the club dies. As the saying goes, if you find yourself falling, you might as well try to flap your arms and fly.

Thank you for reading this post on davidscothern.com. Please subscribe for email updates using the link at the bottom of the page. If you have enjoyed this post, please consider showing your support and Buy Me A Coffee using the link below.

Part 84

A shorter post than normal this week as, unfortunately, I just found myself running out of time to meet the publishing deadline.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from Jeremy Wasson, who appears to be quite an angry child.  In a Facebook thread that was discussing whether people should be vaccinated, I suggested (only half jokingly) that those who refuse the vaccine should be banned from public places.  Although trolling on social media is a source of great entertainment for me, I do wonder what goes through the minds of certain people that they feel this sort of abuse is a reasonable response.  In addition to saying I deserve death, young Wasson said I should “be hanged” and that I should “go be a communist somewhere else” and that I “don’t belong in America.”  My reply, that I don’t live in the US and that I instead live in a country with free national healthcare was, perhaps, a little below the belt.  

I think when Jeremy grows into adulthood he will be embarrassed at his childhood actions, and I shouldn’t be too critical as I also said some stupid things before I hit my teenage years.  

What is slightly concerning is the number of people that are just so angry at the prospect of being vaccinated.  These are people who claim that they want to know what they are putting in their bodies, yet I know they are smashing through at least one McDonald’s takeaway a week.

Weekly Update

This past week was my last working week before going on holiday for a while.  I need the break as I’ve been feeling physically and mentally exhausted for a while now.  I think part of that is down to the state of my mental health, whilst part of it is down to not sleeping well.  Either way, I’m looking forward to a break and getting some fresh air.

Our new cat, Bob, seems to be settling in.  He’s had two full weeks with us now and he is starting to relax.  We play regularly as I shine the laser pointer for him to chase.  He also has a selection of other toys he likes to chase and scratch at.  He has also ventured onto the balcony and started sitting on the chairs much like Sweep, our previous cat, used to do.

I did enjoy meeting up with a friend I’ve not seen since last summer.  She brought her partner and daughter along and we had lunch at a food hall.  It was the first time I’d met her partner but we didn’t get much chance to talk as their little girl was not feeling too good.  Hopefully we will get out again with my girlfriend for dinner before too long.  

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 44).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’m now up to 44 completed books but am yet to make any progress with my weight loss or DipFA studies.  I’m hoping that this break from work will start to push me in the right direction.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £23,347.95 (down £302.47 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £300.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £475.76 (up £40.76 from last update). 

Pensions: £46,368.00 (up £309.60 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £399,990.71 (up £47.89 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £89.00 (up £14.00 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,592.09 (down £357.45 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (down £18.05 from last update). 

Total Debts: £232,784.61 (down £361.50 from last update).

Total Wealth: £167,206.10 (up £409.39 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.09 (target £5,000).

I’m a bit disappointed that my ISA dipped slightly.  Much of my ISA balance is invested in a single stock, which has been steadily rising and is up approximately 20% over the last three months.  This stock is one that I will eventually cash in to fund some more BTL purchases over the next 12-18 months.  

I have started crunching the numbers in a little more detail in regards to my second BTL purchase.  I’ve said before that it will be a cheaper property than the first one we bought.  I still think we got a good deal on that first house, but we definitely had to look at a higher priced set of properties than we first intended.  I think it was just important to get that first deal over the line because it’s easy to get bogged down in analysis paralysis.  

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.

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.

Part 83

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I look at the concept of survivorship bias and how it relates to investing.  Also, the usual financial updates and a few pictures from Bob’s first full week as part of our family. So let’s get to the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

My quote this week comes from Darren Scothern’s blog, where this week he talks about survivorship bias.  This is such an important concept for daily life that a lot of people overlook, and I firmly believe that this lack of understanding contributes to the negative self-image that many people have.  Look at the quote below:

At first glance, it appears inspirational but I really don’t like this quote.  So much of daily life depends on chance.  There are people who work hard all their lives but never catch a break.  Then, there are people who happen to stumble on the right situation, at the right time.  There is an argument that you make your own luck, and there is some validity to this point.  The more you work at something, the more opportunities you have to succeed.  So, from that point of view you are making more chances for fortune to smile on you.  

So, what is survivorship bias? It’s a cognitive bias where people remember successful instances of an event whilst forgetting, or ignoring, the unsuccessful instances.  Derren Brown conducted a fascinating study to demonstrate survivorship bias using horse racing.  In his study, he recruited someone to place bets on a series of races under the guise of a “system” he claimed to have devised.  The TV cameras documented this person’s progress as they won each successive bet until they had amassed a nice pot of cash.  So, what was the system?

Derren Brown had actually recruited lots of people and he gave each of them a different prediction for the winner of each race.  If you have enough people, then it’s mathematically possible to formulate a different set of predictions so that at least one person is guaranteed to win each bet in a series of bets.  From the perspective of that one person, it appears that the system is magical.  From the perspective of the dozens of other recruits, it’s a failure.  However, until the documentary revealed the secret, many people would have thought the system worked.

Survivorship bias is relevant to many aspects of daily life and a lack of understanding can be dangerous.  I’m extremely critical of many “property experts” who claim they can teach you how to make serious money out of property in a matter of weeks.  These experts normally draw on their own personal experience and describe how they went from a boring office job to owning a million pound property portfolio in just a few months using other people’s money.  What they conveniently fail to tell you, or fail to really emphasise, is that the vast majority of people who try their hand at property investing will not follow that same successful path.  Some people will make a decent return.  Some may do quite well for themselves and transition from their previous job into property over time.  The thing is, some people will crash and burn, and some people could very well lose their lives because of this, just like Danny Butcher, a former soldier who took his own life after losing thousands of pounds trying to build a property business.  

The self-help industry is also something I’m critical of.  There are countless books out there written by people who gave up their job and relationship to go travelling and “find themselves”.  I find a lot of these types of books to be dangerous bullshit.  Some people will go travelling and have a great experience.  They will find inner peace and grow as a person.  I’m not doubting that.  Some people will do this and be better for it.  However, if you are going to write about your experiences, you have a responsibility to your readers to acknowledge that luck played a huge part in your experience.  For example, you could choose to go travelling in India and get mugged and beaten on your first day.  Or, you could travel around Thailand, spending all your savings on flights and spending money only to realise that you are still depressed at the end of it but now you have no job, no savings and you’ve left your partner as well.  For every person who succeeds with this, there are going to be many others who don’t, but those stories don’t sell books.

Weekly Update

Last week I briefly mentioned that we were adopting a cat called Bob, also known as; Bobbles, Bobbity, Bobbers, and Sir Robert.  He’s a sweet cat and he’s very nervous and easily scared.  For the first few days he barely came out of hiding.  He is slowly coming out of his shell though.  Although I like him (I like all animals), I don’t yet feel a connection with him like I had with Sweep.  Part of me thinks we might have gone for a new cat too soon, but my girlfriend really wanted to adopt another cat.  I’m not saying I was forced into it; it was a joint decision.  I was a little hesitant though and once we had Bob here, it brought back memories of Sweep.  

In the last day or two I’ve felt a bit more attached to Bob because I’ve made more of an effort to play with him.  He loves chasing after his toys and I brought back a laser pointer which he goes crazy trying to catch.  I hope he settles in our home and I hope I grow to love him as much as I loved Sweep.

Although more and more people are getting vaccinated, I still feel that the UK is opening up too quickly.  I get that businesses need to survive but how does one balance lives against the economy? Every aspect of the government’s response has been utterly incompetent.  The NHS workers have performed miracles during this pandemic and the vaccine rollout has been a great success.  We wouldn’t have needed such an urgent program had the initial response to the pandemic been even just barely competent.  This government has blood on its hands and, although I don’t think it’s likely, I would hope there are prosecutions for the farcical way the government has handled this crisis.  

My mental health is still not in a great place.  I need to get back to the gym, but I’m still having a few aches and pains.  I’m off work for a week soon, and I think I’ll use that time to gently test the waters and see what my body can cope with.  I’d rather try this when the gym is a bit quieter in the middle of the day rather than in the evening when it’s busier.  

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 43).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I have still not resumed studying.  I know I need to, but I lack the mental stamina for it at the moment.  Work is really draining me and it’s normal for me to have less motivation when I’m in a depressed state.  I am enjoying reading for leisure though and I’m up to 43 completed books in 2021, and I’m on track to meet my annual goal of completing 104 new books.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,500.00 (up £300.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £23,650.42 (up £881.68 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £300.00 (down £549.42 from last update).

Crypto: £435.00 (down £18.27 from last update).

Pensions: £46,058.40 (up £1,144.57 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £399,942.82 (up £1,758.56 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £75.00 (down £974.13 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,146.11 (down £974.13 from last update).

Total Wealth: £166,796.71 (up £2,732.69 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.09 (target £5,000).

A few changes this week.  I decided to close down my primary credit card because it was becoming increasingly difficult to service the card.  The only way to make payments was through the app, but it would frequently crash in the middle of making a payment.  Money would leave my bank account and then take days, and multiple phone calls to their customer service to resolve.  There was also the fact that it took a minimum of four minutes each call to choose the option you want because of the barrage of messages telling you that you would be better off using the app.  I’ve started getting increasingly annoyed by this approach from businesses when they spend ages repeating the same message on their phone lines.  I don’t think there are many people that prefer to call companies now.  So, if someone is calling a company it is probably because they can’t do what they need to do via the app or website.  Telling these people that they can use the app or website is just insulting the customer on the phone.  

Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest we will return to my financial update.  I had to use some of my Fuck It Fund to pay my credit card off.  However, I felt it was a worthwhile exercise.  I received some dividend income, in addition to my monthly rental income which has pushed my 2021 investment income to just over £1,000.  I may still fall short of the £5,000 target, as I had to use more of my savings to put right a few things with the BTL property.  My crypto balance is still taking a hammering but my stocks and pensions have increased in value substantially.  I was a little bit gutted that I just missed out on my total asset value going above £400,000.  Hopefully I can pass that milestone next week. 

Over the next few weeks I’m going to start looking for my next BTL property.  Unlike my first one, the next BTL will be a solo venture and it will not be as expensive.  The cost of our first BLT ended up spiralling to well over £130,000 once all the repair work was factored in.  It was a learning experience though and there are a lot of lessons I can take forward to the next property.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.

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.

Part 82

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk about customer service and the Covid vaccine roll out.  Also, some exciting news about a new addition to our family.  First, the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

There has been a recurring theme in my blog, where I blast companies that provide poor service.  I want to look at this from the opposite side though, and look at how good customer service is based on a relationship between the customer and the business.   

Everyone reading this, at some point, will have been offering a service or product and had a challenging customer.  There’s nothing wrong with being a challenging customer if you are polite.  It’s the lack of courtesy that ends up producing poor service.  

In the last couple of weeks I have had a number of friends in different types of business confide in me that they have been reduced to tears by customers who were nasty and abusive.  I don’t get this mindset.  It takes more effort to be an asshole than to just be polite, and a normal human being.  

Everyone has their own limit and their own red lines, which when crossed, result in that person shutting down.  The one that bugs me the most is when people just interrupt at every opportunity.  If you ask me a question, please give me time to answer it.  Also, understand that if you are talking to someone on the phone, or in a shop, even when you are talking to a manager the chances are they have absolutely no input in deciding policy.  If you shout and scream you may get what you asked for but this does not necessarily mean you were right and the company was wrong.  It just means the company made a business decision to pay you money to shut up and go away.

Some of the things I have heard customers say are just awful.  In a previous job I was handling a complaint for a customer who was stating that a member of staff had terminated their call.  Upon listening to the call, the customer had shouted that they hoped the staff member’s children “got AIDs”.  I mean, seriously? What goes through a person’s mind for them to say these types of things?

All companies will get things wrong, but in my experience most staff will go to great lengths to resolve errors for people if they are treated with civility and respect.  Simple things like saying, “hello” or asking “how are you?” at the start of an interaction can make all the difference.  It’s just basic human decency.

Weekly Update

Another week down on my journey to FIRE.  My mental health is still not great and I do spend a lot of time just doing nothing.  It’s like there is a complete absence of mental energy to do anything, and so I just sit and read or listen to an audiobook.  I need to get to a point where I can exercise regularly again because that has proven time and time again to be the best way of keeping me sane and content.  

I have some exciting news though.  We have a new cat.  His name is Bob, although I have taken to calling him Bobby, Bobbles, Bobbity and when we’re feeling a little more formal, Sir Robert.  He’s 12 and very nervous.  He has spent much of his time hiding but has come out a few times for food, head scratches and a drink.  We are just giving him space to explore our apartment and when he’s ready, he will settle down.

Bob came to us because his owner, who had him since he was a kitten, met a new partner who is allergic to cats.  She must be heartbroken at having to give up her friend of over a decade.  Animals aren’t just things that can be discarded.  They become family.  If my girlfriend was allergic to cats it would be awful.  It would be such a wrench but in the end I would help her find a new home.

I have had my second Covid vaccination and fortunately I did not have any real side effects this time.  I did feel a bit tired and light headed, and my arm is bruised.  This is a far cry from my first jab when I was shivering and had cold sweats.  The organisation behind the vaccine roll out has been fantastic.  My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to all those NHS workers and volunteers who are working on the vaccine project, as well as those researchers who created the vaccine.  It’s a testament to human ingenuity that we were able to create this vaccine so quickly, ignoring for a moment all the mistakes made by world governments in not controlling the spread more effectively.  

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 40).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’ve made good progress with my reading since the last post.  In the past week I have read an absolutely fantastic book called The Fuck It List by John Niven.  The book is set in the near future in the United States where Trump has been elected for a second term in office.  The protagonist receives a terminal cancer diagnosis in the first few sentences and decides to just, “fuck it.”  I will not say more for fear of spoiling it, but it was just incredible.  It was funny and horrific in equal measure.  The book seems primed for a film adaptation and I think the Coen brothers would be perfect for such a project.  I’ve popped the link to the Amazon in the image below.  If you use that link to purchase the book, it means I will earn a small commission.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,200.00 (up £200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £22,768.74 (up £101.47 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £849.42 (up £200.71 from last update).

Crypto: £453.27 (down £208.72 from last update).

Pensions: £44,913.83 (up £438.64 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £398,184.26 (up £732.10 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £1,049.13 (up £240.68 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £234,120.24 (up £240.68 from last update).

Total Wealth: £164,064.02 (up £491.42 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £476.35 (target £5,000).

By the time of the next post I should have received another instalment of rent, as well as some dividends from my stocks.  It might just take my investment income for the year to over £1,000.  I’m annoyed at my credit card balance because it should be much lower.  I’ve made several payments to the card but because Virgin Money’s systems are rubbish, the payments have been delayed.  

Cryptocurrencies have been hammered in the last few weeks.  I don’t fully understand crypto and that’s why I’ve not allocated a huge amount of money to it.  I’m concerned by the fact that these types of currencies are not backed by anything.  Their volatility also concerns me.  The other factor that I’m not comfortable with is the environmental impact of crypto.  Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of electricity and the carbon footprint of it is getting worse all the time.  Recent reports state that Bitcoin’s carbon footprint is roughly the same as New Zealand’s.  

I don’t know what the future holds for crypto but I just can’t see a world where all these competing currencies take over from traditional, national currencies.  There is too much at stake for the big economies of the world to have their currencies undermined.

How to do Business

I don’t like playing games or haggling when it comes to business.  I prefer an open approach where all parties just say it like it is.  All the cloak and dagger stuff just annoys me.  Just be transparent in how you do business and it’s better for everyone.

A few days ago our letting agent emailed to explain that our tenants contract is due to end in a couple of months and the agent wants to charge us £120 to renew the tenancy.  I exchanged a few emails with the manager of the local office and I was deliberately playing down how much I knew about tenancy renewals.  I explained that I wasn’t comfortable paying any sort of fee based on the service we’ve had so far.  The manager offered to reduce the fee by half.  I went back and asked why any sort of fee was necessary because when an Assured Shorthold Tenancy ends, it normally just reverts to a rolling monthly contract.  There is literally no extra work for the agent to carry out.  The manager came back and said that we could move on to a rolling contract at no cost.  The thing is, this option was never actively made clear by the manager.  All the communications were based on the assumption that we had to pay a fee to renew the tenancy.  

I know that if we moved to a different agent there would be fees to pay, but I’m almost tempted to do that just to give this agency the middle finger.  Throughout our, albeit brief, relationship they have been unclear with their communications.  It’s starting to become a pattern.  

For now, I think we will just stick with the agent whilst we have this tenant.  Once the tenant moves out I think we may look for another company.  Changing agents at this point just adds another variable to this situation which I really don’t feel like handling right now.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.

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.

Part 81

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week is a bit different as I didn’t have a subject in mind when I sat down to write.  All I had was my Quote of the Week.  So, what follows is me just writing…

Quote of the Week

So many people do not understand money, whether that’s debt or investments.  This lack of understanding leads to so many poor financial decisions.  If you don’t understand an investment, you are just gambling.  It’s that simple.

If you are considering an investment, you should think about whether you could explain the investment in basic language to someone with no financial education.  If you can explain it accurately, then great.  If you struggle to explain the investment, then you should really think carefully about proceeding and look to educate yourself.

The most common misunderstanding I see from people, when it comes to investing, relates to the stock market.  Many people see the stock market as risky and just a form of gambling.  The reality is, with a bit of education, it’s actually a very safe investment.  Since I opened my ISA in the 2018/2019 tax year, I have invested a total of £18,400.  My current ISA balance is £22,667.27.  This doesn’t take into account the money I have also withdrawn or the income I’ve received from dividends.

My ISA performance is extremely positive despite Covid-19 which wiped out my expected dividend income last year.  Since opening the ISA, I’ve received £48.48 income.  To put that into context, by the end of the month I’m expecting a dividend payment of approximately £250.  I would have received a similar amount last year from this stock had the pandemic not struck.  The big win is that I’ve withdrawn almost £3,000 from my ISA.  When you add that withdrawal to the current balance of my account, you can see that my ISA is up by roughly £7,000 on the amount I’ve actually invested.  That’s not a bad return.  

None of my actions have been mystical or speculative, but rather they have been based on a hell of a lot of research and education.  Had I invested my money in a savings account, there is no way I would have returned even a tenth of what I have through the ISA.  

This week’s quote can also apply to mental health.  I’ve been struggling in the past few weeks and I’ve had to increase my dosage of sertraline.  I’ve gone from 100mg a day to 200mg.  I’ve also been prescribed sleeping tablets, but they don’t seem to be doing much.  Can I explain why I’m struggling with my mental health? To a degree but I don’t fully understand it because I can’t explain it myself.  There are some things in my life causing stress that are temporary.  There are other things that are more permanent, and I just have to find a way of living with it.

I was asked recently if the pandemic had affected my mental health.  It’s a tricky one, and there’s not a simple answer.  The only way I can think to explain it is in terms of direct and indirect impacts on me because of the pandemic.  The direct impacts have been that I now work from home and that I’ve not been able to exercise at the gym.  Working from home is a bonus.  I was able to spend much more time with my buddy Sweep, who I miss every day now that he’s passed.  I will treasure those months I got to spend with him.  The gym being closed has stopped me from being able to exercise, and weight training has proven to be the most effective way of keeping my demons at bay.  The social aspect of the pandemic, in terms of cafes, bars and restaurants being closed, hasn’t really bothered me too much.  I’m not a drinker and I loathe nights out in loud bars and clubs.  The indirect impact on me has been more severe with people I care about struggling in various ways. 

Two things that I have been craving recently are a restful sleep, and silence.  I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night and woke up refreshed.  It was in another life I suspect.  I’m finding it harder and harder to get going in the morning, sometimes spending an hour or two just staring at the clock, then scrolling through my feeds, before looking back at the clock and thinking, “I should really get up.”  

Silence is something I’ve not experienced in years due to my tinnitus.  It’s not so severe that it bothers me all the time, as I’m able to zone out from the constant tone in my head.  Sometimes though, I would just love to sit in silence.  

Another part of my health that is frustrating is the amount of drugs I have to take on a daily basis. I’m taking 21 different tablets each day on prescription, not including the paracetamol or tramadol I’ve been taking for the various aches and pains I experience.  

My daily meds…..

Exoticca

Since last week’s blog I have shamed Exoticca on social media and the result is that the refund has been paid.  Their service has been unbelievably bad and I can’t understand how it’s taken over 420 days to issue the refund.  It’s just insane.  I don’t like to see people lose their jobs, but I would be amazed if this company survives the next year or two.  I have a voucher for £150 off a holiday with them, due to issues with my trip to India with them last year.  I’ll never use it, because to use it I would have to give them more money.

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 37).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

My weight loss has completely stagnated but that is not surprising considering my mental health.  I’ve only completed one new book this week which is a surprise, but I’m nearly finished with two others so I would expect to have completed forty books by next week’s post.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £22,667.27 (up £710.66 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £648.71 (up £16.40 from last update).

Crypto: £661.99 (down £88.63 from last update).

Pensions: £44,475.19 (down £1,245.83 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £397,452.16 (down £607.40 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £808.45 (up £63.29 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,879.56 (up £63.29 from last update).

Total Wealth: £163,572.60 (down £670.69 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £476.35 (target £5,000).

A strange set of numbers this week with my ISA increasing in value but my pensions losing value.  My crypto balance has proven to be quite volatile with the value rising and falling drastically on a daily basis.  My credit card debt continues to increase as I help subsidise our joint living costs.  However, my girlfriend just finished her first week in a new job and will be able to start contributing to the household finances again.  The next few months, as we move into quarter three of the year, should see a surge in my investments as I allocate more of my monthly income to my FIRE journey.  

Smart Meters

I recently switched my electricity provider from E.On, a company rivalling Exoticca for gross incompetence, to Octopus.  The service from my new provider has been excellent and because I used a friend’s referral code we both received a £50 account credit.  (Note: let me know if you want to use my referral code and we can both enjoy a further £50 account credit).  As part of the switch, Octopus arranged for a smart meter to be installed.  I was anxious about this because E.On had tried, and failed, to install a smart meter on three separate occasions.  It was done with no problem whatsoever through Octopus.  

So, why am I talking about smart meters? It’s simple; by analysing the data on our electric use through the smart meter we have reduced our electric costs drastically.  This chart shows how our usage changed after installing the smart meter. 

A combination of a slightly better tariff and more considered use of electricity has reduced our bill from £140pcm to £80pcm (Octopus thinks it should be £75pcm based on our reduced usage but I’ve rounded it up to build a little account credit for the winter).  Switching provider has saved £720p/a and provided us with a £50 account credit.  If you are thinking of switching your electricity provider, please consider Octopus and ask me for the referral code. 

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.

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. 

Part 80

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A slightly shorter post this week as I’ve not been feeling great.  I’ll be talking a little bit about the football club I support and some more abysmal customer service. 

Quote of the Week

Although I’m not as enthusiastic about football as I once was, I still support my local club Sheffield Wednesday.  To say that the last couple of decades have been a disappointing time to be an Owls fan would be an understatement.  Our fall from the upper tier of professional football has been well documented and most football fans who have followed the game pre-Premier League will know that we were once considered a big club.  That is no longer the case.  

In 2010 the club was in danger of going under.  We were rescued by Milan Mandaric, a Serbian businessman who has had a long relationship with football.  Under Mandaric we stabilised and looked to be making slow, but steady progress forward.  Then, we were bought by Dejphon Chansiri, a Thai businessman with family links to Thai Union Frozen Group who own brands such as John West Foods which I believe is the world’s biggest tuna producer.  

Now, I’m not going to focus too much on the way the club has been run.  There are countless threads on message boards such as Owlstalk that highlight problem after problem with the club.  Simply put, it’s been a complete farce.  A recent article in The Atlantic goes into a lot of detail about the issues with the club in recent years.  Chansiri has reportedly invested tens of millions of pounds and, apart from a new scoreboard, there is not one part of the club that has improved.  Now, instead of taking us from the Championship into the Premier League, we find ourselves relegated to the third tier of professional football once again.  

Exoticca

Last year I took my girlfriend to India for her birthday.  We arrived back in the UK just before we entered our first lockdown.  The trip was a bit of a disaster, in large part due to the incompetence of the travel agent in India that was appointed by Exoticca; the company over here that we booked with.  The decision to use Exoticca came from my girlfriend’s parents who had done a similar trip to India through them a couple of years before and had enjoyed it.  However, they had gone to a different part of India with a different local agent appointed.  

The parents were due to travel to China for an extended holiday from April’20 to May’20 which they had booked through Exoticca.  This was booked sometime in July’19 and cost £2,698.  The money was paid in two instalments.  Now, buckle up because shit’s about to get weird.

My girlfriend is Romanian and her parents live in Romania.  When they booked, this was all disclosed.  Exoticca had taken payment from them before for their previous trip to India but for some reason would not take payment from her father.  So, my girlfriend made the payment with her father’s card.  Exoticca stated they could not take the payment over the phone from Romania, but would let my girlfriend do it from the UK despite it not being her card.  This first payment was made in July’19 before anyone had any knowledge of Covid.  

As the date of the trip approached, it was clear that the holiday would not go ahead.  However, Exoticca still demanded that the second half of the payment was made.  My girlfriend’s father decided to make the payment as Exoticca were being a little forceful with their demands.  This second payment was made on February 26th, 2020.  The trip was cancelled on March 11th, 2020 as expected.  Exoticca stated a full refund would be provided within 30 days.  They still have not issued a refund.  It’s been 424 days.

(not) actual image of Exoticca’s accounts department working hard on customer refunds.

According to Exoticca part of the problem is that the booking was made as part of a wider booking.  My (sort of) in-laws had booked with friends to go on this trip and the lead name on the booking was the friend’s name.  Under that booking are sub-bookings for each couple and because the friend has already been refunded, their accounting system will not let a further refund be actioned.  Sounds like bullshit to me.  Another promise has recently been made regarding the refund, but their communications are patronising and unhelpful with most of the questions asked not being answered.  

There’s bad service, and there’s Exoticca.

Weekly Update

It’s not been a great week.  My mental health is not good.  It’s not just down to one thing.  I miss Sweep.  I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks in a lot of pain with my leg.  I’m probably experiencing some sort of withdrawal from the painkillers that I needed to take the edge of the pain.  I’m not happy with my health and the lack of exercise.  People close to me are struggling with their own problems.  In addition to all this, I just feel utterly and completely unfulfilled.

Now, lots of people will offer help and say that they’re there if I need them.  I appreciate all that, but unfortunately there’s not a single thing anyone can do to address the problems I face.  I’m the sort of person that wants to tackle problems head on.  I’m not generally one for wallowing in despair.  If I can’t do anything to change my circumstances, I just have to get on with the day to day stuff and hope in time this dark cloud lifts.  I know that some of my problems will end at some point.  There’s also the fact that the universe will die a heat death in a few trillion years, which will render all of existence meaningless, so there’s not much point sweating the small stuff. 

Winding in from the long term and back to the present, however, there are still things that I know will improve in time.  My leg will heal up and I’ll be able to start some exercise again at some point.  Also, as I continue progressing towards FIRE I should be able to start using my time to do things that actually make a difference and are fulfilling. 

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 36).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,000.00 (up £50.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,956.61 (up £538.41 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £632.31 (up £70.00 from last update).

Crypto: £750.62 (up £51.40 from last update).

Pensions: £45,721.02 (up £767.63 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £398,059.56 (up £1,477.44 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £745.16 (up £343.16 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (down £358.64 from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (down £23.92 from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,816.27 (down £39.40 from last update).

Total Wealth: £164,243.29 (up £1,516.84 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £467.64 (target £5,000).

My credit card balance is continuing to increase as I wait for my girlfriend to start her new job.  As we get into a routine with the new pay schedule I’ll start reducing the balance on that card.  The stock market is doing pretty well of late, or at least the holdings I have in my ISA are.  By the time I post next week, I’ll have made my monthly contribution to my ISA.  Then, the following week I’ll have been paid which will see my other investments increase.  The week after that I should have received some more rent and possibly more dividend payments.  It feels like I’m starting to generate a little momentum.   

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @advisoronfire. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.

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.

My Favourite Books

Since I discovered audible I have been able to enjoy books again. For a long time, I did not read many books because of the frequent headaches and migraines I experience. This, coupled with poor eyesight generally, made it difficult to actually read books after a long day staring at a computer for work. I started with audible on a trial basis and I was hooked instantly. I signed up for my membership in 2018 and have now finished over 230 titles. The bulk of my phone’s memory is taken up with audible books. I would go as far as saying that listening to audiobooks is now my favourite form of entertainment, surpassing film and television.

Fortunately the frequency of headaches and migraines I experience has reduced thanks to the medication I take. This has allowed me to start reading some physical books again, although the bulk of my “reading” is still in the form of audiobooks. I don’t understand people who don’t read. I’ve met many people over the years who seem to take a strange sort of pride in not reading. The written word is one of the greatest inventions of humankind. A collection of symbols can communicate the entirety of human history and describe the most outlandish creations of our imagination. Not reading is like depriving oneself of a sense. It’s just so bizarre to me.

Most people who know me are aware of my obsession with books, both written and audio. As such, I am often asked what my favourite books are. Each time I try to narrow it down I struggle because there are just so many incredible books out there. Also, my opinions are changeable and I make no apology for that. However, in this post I will try to narrow down my list of favourite books to my five favourite works of fiction and my five favourite non-fiction books. I will post images of the book as well, and if you feel compelled to buy the books clicking on the picture will direct you to the Amazon listing. Buying in this way will earn me a small commission and help support the costs of running this blog, and it will be at no extra cost to you. So, here we go…

Non-Fiction

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

This was the book that signalled the start of my journey to FIRE. The book is a game changer for everyone I know who has read it. Kiyosaki is a marketing genius because he managed to sell this book based on a single, controversial, statement; your house is not an asset, it’s a liability.

In a culture where we are conditioned to believe that owning your own home is a status symbol and an asset for the future, this is a statement that initially puts people on the defensive. However, I found that as I read the book my understanding of money started to change. There are no major practical lessons in this book. It’s not a how-to guide or a series of steps to acquire wealth. Instead, it’s a book about changing your mindset and I feel it’s a great place to start your financial education.

2. A Higher Call by Adam Makos

This book tells the story of the Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown incident from World War Two. As someone who has read extensively about the war, I had heard of this incident but I did not know the human side of the story. The main details of the incident are that in December 1943 an American bomber was returning from a mission over Germany. The bomber was attacked by German fighters and heavily damaged. Many of the crew were dead or dying. The plane was barely holding together. There was seemingly no chance the aircraft would make it back to Allied territory. Charlie Brown was piloting the bomber. One of the attacking German fighters was piloted by Franz Stigler. He approached the bomber and saw the injured crew. He saw the state of the enemy plane and instead of finishing them off, he flew in formation with them so that he could escort them out of German airspace.

A Higher Call is not so much about the incident, as it’s a fairly well known event from the war. The book is about how this event impacted both Brown and Stigler in the months, years and decades that followed. I will not spoil the book for you, because if you don’t know about the incident, I think you are best served going in to the book with as little information as possible. I finished the book in two sittings whilst I was in Romania. I remember finishing the book in bed with my girlfriend asleep beside me. I’m not ashamed to say that the book moved me to tears. A truly incredible, emotional story. A must read.

3. How to Own the World by Andrew Craig

This was one of the first books about money and investing that I read that actually contained practical, useful information. Many of the books I had read until this point had been great at changing attitudes and opening your mind to new ways of thinking. What they lacked was basic instruction about next steps. Andrew Craig’s book was excellent because it gave a lot of guidance about what to do, how to do it and why you should do it. Also, the book was written from a UK perspective which is unusual in the FIRE community as most information out there is Amerocentric. For those who want a useful starting point for investing, this is often the first book I recommend.

4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

This book is referenced by almost every book on psychology, philosophy and investing that I have read. It is also one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist, philosopher and holocaust survivor. His work is moving, insightful and a must read for anyone as the wisdom contained in the text is useful to any situation. Frankl is also one of the people I would choose, if I was to answer the question about which five people I would most want to have dinner with. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with a quote of his I have used a few times previously. It is a quote that informs the way I try to live my life;

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

5. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The oldest work on this list, having been written almost 2,000 years ago by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. I often wonder if he ever thought his work would go down in history as one of the most celebrated in Stoic philosophy. It is a testament to his writing that a mortgage advisor in 2021 can identify with much of what an Emperor from centuries ago is thinking and feeling. This says so much about the universality of human struggle. I believe that the world would be a much better place, if instead of teaching children religion, we taught them Stoicism. The writings of Marcus Aurelius would be a fantastic place to start.

I dedicate a lot of time to creating content that is, hopefully, interesting and engaging. I do this because I love writing and feel that I have things to write that people want to read. I don’t hide my content behind a paywall, but running a website costs money. If you enjoy reading my blog please consider showing your appreciation and thanks, and Buy Me A Coffee by clicking on the image. This will take you to my supporter page.

Fiction

1. The Warlord Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell

This is my favourite series of books and I have read them a number of times. I recently experienced them via audible and the narration by Jonathan Keeble was fantastic. The story is set in post-Roman Britain as the Saxons begin their invasion. This is not a fantasy telling of the story of Arthur, but rather a realistic version of the legend, set against a backdrop of religious revolution and political scheming. The writing is rich and emotive, and the characters are all fully developed. Whenever I go back to these books, I feel I am reuniting with old friends. The legend of Arthur has been butchered time and time again, to the extent that no filmmaker will probably touch the story again. It is just tragic, as this trilogy could easily fuel a series of films or a high budget show. If you enjoy The Last Kingdom, you will enjoy this, you just have to give it a chance.

2. The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest & Death’s End by Cixin Liu

I stumbled across these books by accident when I was reading about the Fermi Paradox. This in turn, led my to the Dark Forest theory which takes its name from a theory in the second book of this trilogy. The Three Body Trilogy tells the story of our first contact with an alien civilisation. It is told from a, primarily, Chinese perspective which was refreshing to a Western reader. I think the word “epic” has been overused, but it’s the only word that can truly capture the spectacle of this story. Although certain liberties are taken in the name of entertainment, the science is generally rooted in reality. This is more science fiction and less space opera. Unlike some other “hard science” books, this series has a real sense of emotion at its core. A few months ago news broke that Netflix commissioned a TV adaptation to be made by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the men responsible for bringing Game of Thrones to our screens. I hope that the Chinacentric setting is not lost, as it was a huge part of what made the books work.

The first book hooked me instantly as it follows a scientist who is coerced into investigating a spate of suicides by physicists who all claim that physics is broken. I don’t want to say too much more because it will spoil a real rollercoaster of a ride for you. My advice is, go into these books knowing nothing more than what I’ve told you. As a Western reader, the names of characters may be hard to remember at first, but please stick with it.

3. The Expanse by James S. A. Corey

I saw the show after hearing from a lot of sources how good it was. I never realised it was based on a series of books, which was in turn based on a game. That sort of genesis rarely works, however the show was excellent, and the books turned out to be even better. So far there are eight books in the series in addition to a set of novellas. The ninth, and final, book is due for release later in 2021.

The Expanse is set roughly three-hundred-years in our future. Earth has colonised the solar system and there are three factions engaged in a Cold War. The U.N. controls Earth and Luna. The Martian Congressional Republic controls Mars. Then, there is The Belt which is loosely under the control of Earth and Mars, with the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) battling the “inners” for independence. Against this backdrop there is political scheming which makes Game of Thrones look tame, and a shady conspiracy regarding the discovery of an alien substance which has the power to change life as we know it.

One of the main appeals of this series is the lived-in feel of the ships and colonies. Space travel in The Expanse is hard. There is no artificial gravity or magical devices to make food. There is no warp engines or hyperdrives. It takes time to travel between planets and the management of food, air and water is key to surviving on those long voyages. For those who like their science fiction to be, well, scientific, you should definitely check these books out.

4. The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

Another series of books that blew me away. The Century Trilogy follows the fortunes of several families in the US, the UK and Russia as they live through the First World War all the way through to the present day. Someone who read these books before me explained that they, “tell the history of the world.” He was right. The strength of these books lies not in seeing how the characters shape world events. This is not a Forest Gump type situation. Instead, this series looks at how the characters handle those events. It took me a while to warm to the writing, but by the time I was on the third book I was sprinting through the pages. Strangely enough, I can’t get on with other books by Ken Follett, but this series is fantastic.

5. Station Eleven & The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Ok, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Where my previous entries were all series of books telling one story, these two books are not directly linked. There are, however, some connections that perceptive readers may discover. Both books stand on their own as complete stories and it does neither book harm if you read them in isolation. My advice would be to read them in their published order; Station Eleven first and The Glass Hotel after.

What I’ve realised from writing this list is that the works of fiction that have stuck with me are those that have a deep, melancholic feel. The characters are all flawed and feel real. Some people prefer reading stories where the characters are idealised heroes with no flaws. Those characters are boring.

Emily St. John Mandel is an author I have only recently discovered but her writing is incredible. The emotion and atmosphere that she brings to her work is up there with the very best. I firmly believe that she will go down in history as one of the great authors of our generation.

Both books are told in a non-linear fashion, following different characters that overlap with each other, not realising the impact they have on each other. Again, I don’t want to say too much about the stories because I think you will enjoy them more going in blind, as it were. I can’t wait to read Emily’s next book.

Part 79

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk a little about my ongoing problems with my ankle and I go on a virtual tour of my local area.  Also, the usual financial updates.  First, the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

A bit of a cheat this week as I post a meme of the week.  I didn’t feel as though I could add anything to this message, and so I left it in the original form.  I’ve spoken about my health problems before and whilst certain aspects of my health improve, others don’t.  I no longer visualise my health as a single construct.  My health is like a series of scales all relating to different parts of my health, whether it’s my shoulder problems, migraines or my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety.  Recently, I’ve been in a lot of physical pain with my gout.  Yes, my gout.  I don’t know whether this makes me sound old, or really old.  As I type this my lower leg on my left side is in a lot of pain.  It feels like I have a series of skewers being forced through my leg whilst they are being twisted around.  To say it’s unpleasant would be an understatement.  The pain has been so severe as to keep me awake all through Friday evening into Saturday morning.  

The thing about chronic pain is that it’s constant and it starts to wear you down mentally.  For at least the past decade I have been in pretty much constant pain one way or another, whether it’s the frequent head and neck aches I get, or my shoulders or knees, my gout or stomach pain.  I’ve long thought that my variety of health problems must have an underlying cause that links them all together but investigations from a number of specialists have drawn a blank.  However, as I stated in a post a few weeks ago, I believe the glue that holds these pieces together could be that I’m autistic.  I’m waiting on an official assessment but the fact that my Dad is autistic (following an official assessment) and looking at my mental health, thoughts and behaviours over time, and having researched the subject at length, I would be shocked if I’m not autistic.

Please consider supporting the running costs of this site and blog by clicking the image above and buying me a coffee.

The prospect of being autistic does not bother me.  There are some ignorant people out there that do not understand autism but I think this is something that will improve over time.  It was not that long ago that depression was almost a taboo subject, but it is becoming more widely understood.  Over time, as neurodivergence is investigated and understood in more depth, I think society’s ignorance will start to erode.  

Weekly Update

I’m not sure where the week has gone.  It feels like one minute I was watching Line of Duty on Sunday and the next minute it’s the end of the following working week.  Life at the moment just seems really, really dull and repetitive.  The silver linings are my family, my girlfriend and my friends.  I am fortunate enough to have some great people around me, who are supportive and a rock on which I can lean when I’m struggling.  My parents in particular are amazing.  I’m so lucky to have two parents who have always had my back, even when they separated it was always clear that I had their unconditional love and support, and they should know that they have mine too.  It’s difficult for me to understand that some people don’t have that close relationship with their parents, as that is all I’ve ever known.  

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Since starting this blog I have also forged several friendships with other bloggers and followers of FIRE.  The FIRE community is, in my experience, pretty cool and always happy to share opinions and knowledge.  In a recent post I shared my frustration at how one FIRE group on Facebook was being moderated.  It was interesting that following that post I was contacted privately by people describing similar experiences with the same moderator.  This leads me nicely on to my next point…

There are some people who just seem to be a magnet for trouble or controversy.  Sometimes it is just bad luck that you happen to get several angry clients in a short space of time, just like it can be bad luck to have several failed relationships or jobs.  The thing is, over time the concept of regressing to the mean comes into play.  This is the idea that there will always be outliers or unusual events but over time things average out.  A basic example would be rolling two six sided dice.  On your first roll you might get double six.  On your second roll you could get double six again.  If you were to stop rolling the dice at this point, your data set is small and your results will be unusual.  However, the more times you roll the dice, the more you will see the results match the statistical likelihood of obtaining each combination of rolls.  In essence, the more data you have, the more confident you can be in interpreting the data and putting forward a theory.  If you lose one job, then that could just be bad luck.  If you lose two jobs, it could be extremely poor luck.  When you get to three, or four failed jobs you should probably start to question whether the blame is with you and not your employers.    

 2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.4kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 34).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £950.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,418.20 (up £1,298.82 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £562.31 (no change from last update).

Crypto: £699.22 (up £96.28 from last update).

Pensions: £44,953.39 (no change from last update*).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £396,582.12 (up £1,395.10 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £402.00 (up £236.88 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £140,308.18 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,145.49 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,855.67 (up £236.88 from last update).

Total Wealth: £162,726.45 (up £1,158.22 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £467.64 (target £5,000).

*Unable to check pension value as the online portal was undergoing maintenance. 

A great week for my ISA with the losses I incurred through cashing in a fund a few weeks ago regained due to some strong growth in my chosen funds and stocks.  It is also surprising because one of the stocks I am heavily invested in went ex-dividend recently which normally sees the price drop slightly.  This did not seem to impact on the share price at all.  The dividend is due to be paid towards the end of May and I’m expecting approximately £300.  All being well, by the end of the month my investment income for the year should exceed £1,000.  If I am to hit the £5,000 target by the end of the year, I need another BTL, or maybe even two.  Fortunately, things are lining up quite nicely on that front.  

Kelham Island

I am fortunate enough to live in a part of Sheffield that was voted the best place to live in the whole of the UK in 2018.  Kelham Island is a former industrial hub in the heart of the city.  It is referred to as an island because the main part of the area is surrounded on all sides by a river.  I bought my apartment in KI in 2012 which was just before a huge wave of regeneration.  Now, there are apartments springing up all around the area which is putting a strain on things like parking.  There is a real lack of places to park and whenever someone puts their space up for rent, it is gone within minutes.  

What I love about Kelham Island is the juxtaposition of the old industrial units that have been converted into apartments, bars or restaurants, and the newer developments like Little Kelham; a series of homes designed for green living.  The area is also incredibly popular with non-residents due to the fantastic selection of bars, restaurants and traditional pubs like the Fat Cat (which has its own brewery on the island) and the Kelham Island Tavern.  

My favourite eatery in the area is, without doubt, Pina, a Mexican bar and restaurant that serves the best tacos I have had anywhere in the UK.  They also have a coconut shrimp dish which is incredible.  It’s not just the food that makes this a popular place with the people of Sheffield.  The bar is dog friendly and the staff are all enthusiastic.  One thing I love to see is people who enjoy their work, and the staff at Pina really seem to love what they do.  I am delighted to see this independent business survive the pandemic and I can’t wait for my visit on June 7th.  

Although it is not technically in Kelham Island, Albie’s is pretty much across the road and so they have honorary Kelham Island status in my eyes.  This is primarily due to the fact they serve amazing coffee and great food, including a selection of bagels fit to burst with fresh fillings.  Like with Pina, I was so happy to see them come through the pandemic.  It’s amazing what friendly, enthusiastic staff can do for the fortunes of independent businesses.  I always, without fail, leave Albie’s with a smile on my face and a great cup of coffee.  

Another local business that I enjoy visiting is Kelham Deli and Produce.  This is a small shop nestled in behind Kelham Books and Music.  This deli has a great selection of cheese, salami, fruit and veg, as well as fresh bread.  In addition to this, they have shelves stacked floor to ceiling with locally produced chutney, relish, pickles, jams, and ales and beers.  It doesn’t stop there, however.  The store also has grains and pasta that can be measured out and bought with your own containers.  There are brownies and cakes for sale, and fridges with Our Cow Molly milk and ice cream.  From time to time we will visit the store and stock up on ingredients to make our own version of a ploughman’s lunch and I’m yet to be disappointed with any of the food on offer.  

So, that’s it for my brief tour of Kelham Island. 

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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.