Part 109

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I report on a horrible week for the stock market.  Also, a change of plan for the next BTL purchase.  I take a look at some basic investing rules, and how someone should start their investment journey.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Another week and another comedy performance from the Tory government.  This time, it was Nadine Dorries, the UK Culture Secretary, who was in front of a select committee and she did not understand how Channel 4 was funded.  The station is publicly owned, yes, but it receives funding through its advertising and commercial operations.  For the Culture Secretary, the person who runs the organisation that owns Channel 4, to not understand how it is funded is embarrassing.  In any sane, competent government this would be the most embarrassing incident for the month, and possibly for the year.  This is the Tory government led by Boris Johnson though.

Earlier in the week our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made a speech at the CBI conference in which he;

  • Referenced Peppa Pig; a children’s TV show about a pig.
  • Made “vroom vroom” noises when talking about Tesla cars.
  • Compared himself to Moses, coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.  

Fuck me, I wish I was making this up.  I need to go get some painkillers and a coffee. 

Right, I’m back.

If we had anything resembling competent opposition, then this government would be taken apart.  We don’t though.  The whole political landscape here is a mess.  

Weekly Update

I only had to work Monday to Wednesday this week.  A combination of some fortunate scheduling and careful use of holiday time means I will be off from Thursday just gone, until Thursday this coming week.  I’ve timed this to coincide with the release of two books I’ve been impatiently looking forward to.  The first is Mind Bullet by Jeremy Robinson.  This year I’ve smashed through many of his books, and I’m now friends with the author on Facebook.  He’s a cool guy and we have some fun back and forth.  His books are great and can be read standalone or, if you have a keen eye for detail, you can spot all the links in the shared world he is creating.  I’ve completed one of his shared universes which is based around kaiju and the attempts to stop them.  This is known as the Nemesis Timeline.  For the last couple of years, Jeremy has been creating the Infinite Timeline and I can’t stress how much I’ve enjoyed it so far.  The image below shows the structure of the timeline, which I’ve used with permission from Jeremy:

Also this week I’ve been told I definitely need surgery for my kidney stone.  This is due to take place on Friday 10th December.  It’s possible, or rather probable, that my blog that week will be a limited affair.  

In addition to all this I’ve been talking plans through with my investment partner, and we’ve decided to change our approach slightly.  He is looking for somewhere to buy following the sale of his home that he shared with his wife, whom he is going through a divorce with.  As I’m younger than my investment partner, I suggested buying somewhere for him to rent from me.  He’s agreed and that’s the approach we will look to take.  This will provide a further investment property for me, with a tenant I trust completely.  As we are related it would not be a straight forward BTL purchase, and will almost certainly need to be a second home loan.  However, once he leaves that property I will be able to remortgage the property to a simple BTL.  

The week finished with some frustration.  The new Covid variant has hammered the stock market, and in the financial update later in this blog you will see the impact it’s had on my investments.  Speaking of Covid, I had my booster vaccine on Friday.  No side effects a day later, but some of them can take a few days to present.  Still, it’s better than having Covid. 

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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: 108).

I’m still smashing through books and it’s going to be interesting to see what number I finish on.  I’ve just finished Mind Bullet, as mentioned earlier, and need a new book to start.  The thing about books is that it can be very difficult to choose.  Films and TV shows have trailers, books have a cover and some blurb.  For audiobooks, I tend to gravitate to certain authors and narrators.  I’ve been enjoying my science fiction stories recently, but all the books I see out there now, are seemingly war stories in a science fiction setting.  I want more “real science”, or stories that are based on a foundation of science, such as the Lady Astronaut series, or The Expanse, Seveneves, and so on.  Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £19,400.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £41,602.13 (down £2,089.37 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £2,200.00 (up £100.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £797.54 (down £63.88 from last update). 

Pensions: £51,578.67 (down £573.17 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £461,186.34 (down £2,626.42 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £456.16 (up £349.95 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £167,164.52 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,000.74 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £260,621.42 (up £349.95 from last update).

Total Wealth: £200,564.92 (down £2,976.37 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,450.39 (target £5,000).

One of the most severe losses I’ve seen in a single week since starting this blog.  It’s not an actual loss unless I cash in the investments, though.  The only impact is to my ego, so not that important overall.  The last few weeks of the year are probably not going to see much in the way of gains.  The stock market will bounce back fairly quickly, I think.  My credit card will probably take some more abuse before 2022.  With just one more wage due before the end of the year, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to add much to my investments.  

BTL Update

We received notice that our tenant wants to leave, and they will vacate the property mid-December.  It’s come at a good time, to be honest.  We were in the process of switching letting agent due to the extreme level of incompetence demonstrated by our current agent.  Now that the property will be empty, it makes the transfer much easier and simpler.  We will have the chance to do some minor bits to the house, like fresh painting and a deep clean.  I suspect the garden will need someone in to bring it up to scratch.  Then, we can remarket with our new agent.  From what we’ve been told we should be able to market the property for 10% more than what it was previously let for.

We have also suspended our search for a second BTL, as I mentioned earlier.  Instead, we will look for a property for my investment partner to live in.  This will be a purchase between my girlfriend and I, and everyone will benefit from the arrangement.  My investment partner will benefit from cheap rent, and my girlfriend and I will benefit from a further property.  

How to Start Investing

The most common type of question I see on financial forums relates to getting started investing.  Investing and financial management are not explained in school, so people tend to learn about money from their parents.  If someone’s parents are broke, then it’s highly likely their children will also struggle financially.  To start investing you don’t need to know complex financial concepts.  You don’t have to know anything about different financial instruments.  The first step is to get a handle on your own finances, and to understand where your money is spent.  In order to invest, you need your income to be greater than your expenditure.  Some people advise you to make a list of all your commitments, and then base a budget around this figure.  I think this is poor advice, as it’s not going to produce a reliable snapshot of actual spending.  The only way to get accurate information is to go over old bank and credit card statements.  Three months worth should be enough, and this will show you a more accurate picture of spending, rather than the idealised version you tell yourself.  

If your income is greater than your outgoings, then you need to check what debts you have.  Can these be paid off? Do they have high rates of interest?  Some debts need to be paid off as soon as possible.  Some debts can be allowed to endure for years, such as mortgages with a low rate of interest.  Once you have a better understanding of what your net financial situation is each week, or month, you can then start to save and invest.  

There is no magic bullet to investing and building wealth.  It takes time.  It takes research.  It takes a lot of patience.  What investing does not need to be is complex or mysterious.  In my opinion, the steps to financial management are:

  1. Work out your net financial position each month by looking at past spending.
  2. Prioritise your debts.
  3. Use excess funds to pay off most urgent or expensive debts.
  4. Once you have cleared the most pressing debts, you can use your money to start building a reserve fund.  This fund should provide enough money to cover the basic cost of living for several months.  
  5. Once the previous steps are all complete, you can then start learning about more interesting types of investment, such as property, stocks, funds and so on.  

The key point is that investing needs to be built on a solid foundation of minimal debt, good financial education and a patient approach to the process.  Once money is invested, it should be left alone unless there are unusual circumstances at play.

Obtaining a good financial education can be difficult because there are a lot of bad financial communicators out there.  Also, for UK investors it can be frustrating when many books on investing or FIRE are written from a US perspective.  Some lessons are universal, such as to spend less than you earn.  Others, not so much.  I’ve never had a 401k, but to a US citizen, these are a huge deal. 

One final rule from me; if you don’t understand an investment, do not put money into it.  You should be able to correctly explain the nature of the investment to someone in basic terms.  If you cannot do this, you don’t understand the investment.  If you don’t understand an investment, you are just gambling.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 108

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I tackle a reader request, and look at pensions.  Also, a brief look at HS2.  It is only a brief look because once I start on Tory incompetence, I find it difficult to stop.  Also, the usual financial updates, and another disappointing property viewing.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

HS2 is going to be a national embarrassment, even more so than it already is.  Faster connections between the northern cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds is just not needed.  Sheffield to London, on the train, can be done in a fraction over two hours.  Under HS2 the same journey could be done in around ninety minutes.  Am I the only one not seeing a huge amount of value for money here?

This project was conceived with the idea of improving access to the capital from the north.  It was supposed to make commuting easier when travelling for work.  However, Covid has demonstrated how easily the transfer to remote working and video conferencing could be completed.  In an age where climate change is a hot topic (maybe not the best way to phrase it), I don’t see the sense in pushing forward with a plan that has limited benefits for a huge cost.  I keep thinking that the government must see sense, but then I remember this is the same government that got Brexit wrong, championed herd immunity, fucked up using Excel to keep important Covid data, and spent eye watering sums of money on useless PPE contracts and an inadequate test and trace system.  

How does the Tory party, and Johnson, still have any support or credibility?

Weekly Update

I’ve been so tired this week.  I’ve not been sleeping well, and whilst that is normal for me, it just seems to be affecting me more recently.  I’m also having some truly batshit crazy dreams.  One recent example was when I was running through a forest trying to escape Godzilla fighting a giant Tom Cruise.  I don’t believe that dreams hold any sort of mystical meaning, but I think it’s possible dreams could point to anxieties that you have.  I’m not consciously worried about a smackdown between Giant Tom Cruise and Godzilla, but maybe I should be?

I had the second part of a scan at the nuclear medicine department of my local hospital.  Nuclear medicine sounds awesome, but I have not yet developed any superpowers.  If I could have any superpower, it would probably be telekinesis.  I’d love to think I would use this power for good, and noble causes.  However, based on the fact I love to wind people up, I would probably end up using my power to mess with people.  

Life is just boring right now.  It feels as though we’ve had two years of just waiting for Covid to be over.  I am itching for a holiday, and to sit by the sea with a cool breeze blowing in.  There is a place in Malta, in the old capital M’dina where you can sit on the old city walls.  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but you can just sit there with a pizza and a beer, and just look far into the distance.  As M’dina is elevated, you can see across much of the island, and then out into the Mediterranean.  I never get tired of that view.  

Pensions

Approximately two-thirds of the working population in the UK pay into a pension, yet there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of what pensions are.  Most people understand that you pay into a pension, and then at retirement you receive an income.  However, this is like a person knowing that a car moves on wheels; there is no understanding of the mechanisms underpinning a pension, or in the example of a car, how the turning of the wheels is powered.  

So, what is a pension?

According to Wikipedia: “A pension is a fund into which a sum of money is added during an employee’s employment years and from which payments are drawn to support the person’s retirement from work in the form of periodic payments.”

According to Nutmeg: “A pension is a tax-efficient way to put money aside for later in life, to provide income for when you retire.”

These definitions explain, in basic terms, what a pension is.  However, there is no explanation of how a pension works.

There are, broadly speaking, two types of pension; defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC).  With a DB pension, sometimes called a final salary pension, you are told what the end benefit will be if you contribute to the pension.  Contrary to what some believe, a final salary pension does not mean you receive your final salary amount as an annual pension.  The amount you receive will be based on a calculation, where your length of service (in years) is multiplied by your final salary.  The resulting figure is then multiplied by a fraction, which could be 1/40, 1/60 or 1/80, or any other fraction, and this is known as the accrual rate, i.e. you accrue 1 point for each year of membership of the scheme.   

An example of how this is calculated:

If you have an accrual rate of 1/40 and your salary is £35,000, in the first year you will have built an annual pension of £875; 1/40 of £35,000.  After twenty years service, you will have built an annual pension of £17,500.  Using the same figures, but with an accrual rate of 1/80, you would have an annual pension of £437.50 after one year, and £8,750 after twenty years service.

DB schemes are less common now as they are expensive for companies to honour.  The benefit to the employee is a commitment from the business that could last for decades, whereas in the past this may have only been a commitment for a few years.  

The other, now more common pension, is a defined contribution scheme.  In a DC pension you build up a pot of money through regular deposits.  This pot is then usually invested in funds, unit trusts, individual stocks and other financial instruments such as bonds.  The idea is that the value of the investment grows over time, and at retirement the fund value is used to purchase an annuity; in simple terms, an income for life.  

Most pensions offered by employers and most SIPPs are DC.  With this type of scheme, the value of the pension can be calculated at any point; it’s just the sum total of the value of the underlying investments.  So, when you want to transfer the pension from one provider to another, common practice is to cash in the investments, and then transfer the amount to the new provider in the receiving currency.  Then, the money can be allocated to the investments the person wants.  On a side note, if the market dramatically shifts mid transfer, this can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.  If you cashed in one hundred shares for 50p per share, but then the share price drops to 25p per share, you could in theory double your shareholding.  Trying to time this is something I would not recommend under any circumstance.  

So, a DC scheme is simple to value and to transfer.  What about a DB scheme?  A DB scheme has no intrinsic value, because you are paying for a benefit, not a product.  Think about it in these terms; a DC scheme is a savings pot.  A DB scheme is like a subscription, and the longer you subscribe the better the service you receive.   

In my experience, it’s rare for it to make sense to transfer out of a DB scheme.  If you want to move your pension from your old employer that offered a DB scheme, to your new pension provider that only offers a DC scheme, there needs to be a way to value the DB scheme.  This is where the Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV) comes in.  There are a series of calculations that determine the CETV, which are modified depending on length of service, and time until retirement, for example.  

Pensions are a total mystery to many people.  I think this is why, when you ask a group of people to explain their pension, they can only tell you the absolute basics of their provisions.  If you are in the UK and you are under the age of fifty, I would not be relying solely on the state pension. There will never be a better time to start planning for your retirement than right now.  

Note: before taking any action with existing pension policies, or taking out new pensions, please seek independent advice that is based on your own circumstances.  There might be more appropriate ways for you to save for retirement.  

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 122.6kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 106).

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £19,400.00 (up £400.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,691.50 (down £243.23 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £2,100.00 (up £400.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £861.42 (down £144.84 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,151.84 (down £183.57 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £463,812.76 (up £228.36 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £106.21 (down £328.72 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £167,164.52 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,000.74 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £260,271.47 (down £328.72 from last update).

Total Wealth: £203,541.29 (up £557.08 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,450.39 (target £5,000).

The first post after payday always sees a nice boost to my Premium Bonds and Fuck It Fund.  My shares have been temperamental in the last week, with daily fluctuations swinging from substantial losses to impressive gains.  

Now that my girlfriend is coming up to her first full wage since starting her new job, we should see some of our joint finances stabilise.  We’ve increased our mortgage payments and the credit card should start having a zero balance from week to week once Christmas is over.  

The decision to pay the mortgage off faster was a tough one.  On one hand, debt has never been so cheap.  However, rates are almost certainly going to start increasing.  Our mortgage is now £50,000 higher than when we started in 2012.  Once we have secured a second BTL property we should be able to remove our residence from the equation, which would mean no further advances.  This should mean we can start to hammer the mortgage and see some equity built in time for us to sell once we hit FIRE.

By the time the next part of this blog goes live, we will have transferred our BTL management to a new agent.  This will be a massive relief.  Our current agent is utterly and completely useless.  

I had hoped that by now we would have found our second BTL, but the viewings we’ve recently completed have been disappointing.  We attended a viewing last week that was a real effort to get to.  We were both tired from work, and it was a lengthy journey.  The property looked great online, but in person it was a huge disappointment.  It would have needed approx £20,000 of work to bring it up to spec.  I don’t know what agents achieve by hyping up properties, only for viewers to be disappointed.  

I have some time off work coming up, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take in some more bookings and find our next investment.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 107

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the developing issue in UK care homes as staff who refuse the vaccine are sacked.  Also, an update on our BTL search, and a rant about customer service (again).  First up, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week 

We have been living with this pandemic for almost two years, yet people still refuse to get vaccinated, refuse to wear masks when it would be sensible to do so, and refuse to comply with reasonable requests to socially distance and abide by lockdowns.  Ignorance is no longer an excuse.  The information that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of vaccines is freely available online.  I’m not talking about propaganda pieces, but rather the research that went into the development and creation of these vaccines.  I blame no one for not knowing something, but willful ignorance; the active resistance to learning is something that frustrates me.

In the UK there is a story developing where those working in care homes have to be fully vaccinated, or be medically exempt, to continue in their role.  If the workers refuse, they lose their job.  No jab, no job.  

There are arguments, some of them compelling, that state a person should not be forced to undergo a medical procedure.  At first glance, this might seem like common sense.  However, the more I think about this the more uncomfortable I am with that being a sweeping rule.  

In any civilised society, you give up certain freedoms for the good of the whole.  Some examples are not making excessive noise in residential areas late at night, or agreeing to dispose of rubbish in bins instead of just on the street.  There are also laws about not intentionally placing other people in danger, for example by driving whilst under the influence of drugs.  

If you are working in a care home you are more likely to come into contact with people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly or those who are medically compromised in some way.  As such, I believe it’s only right that the people employed to look after these care home residents should be fully vaccinated to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.  No vaccine is perfect, and it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of passing covid on completely.  This is why we have layers of protection, such as masks, vaccines, and extra cleaning.  It’s why cars have seatbelts and airbags.  It’s why pharmacies have your meds checked multiple times.  We are talking about risk management, not risk elimination.  

The argument that each care worker should have the right to refuse the vaccine is, in my opinion, a spurious one.  Many jobs have criteria that have to be met for someone to be able to carry out that job.  When you are employed to care for the health and well-being of other people, your rights do not exist in a vacuum.  

I don’t like to see people losing their jobs.  Covid has impacted all aspects of our lives.  I couldn’t sit here and side with the care workers when I would refuse to have my elderly relatives cared for by workers who were not vaccinated.  It would be disingenuous for me to pretend otherwise.

Weekly Update

I’ve managed to wreck my ankle (again) with no obvious cause (again).  I’ve been having treatment on my left ankle for some time, but in the last few days, my right ankle has started hurting again.  On Friday it became so bad I could hardly place any weight on that side.  I’m sick of these problems now.  I started having trouble with my ankles in late 2019.  It’s been two years of pain.  I just want to be able to walk without pain.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  

On Friday I attended the hospital for a SeHCAT scan.  I’ll wait whilst you google it.  

The science behind it is fascinating, as a radioactive substance is used to track bile acid malabsorption.  I need to go back to the hospital next Friday for repeat scans, at which point I should have a clearer picture as to whether bile acid malabsorption is what’s causing many of my health problems.

My girlfriend had her citizenship ceremony and is now officially a British citizen.  It doesn’t change much as she had indefinite leave to remain, but at least this secured her ability to stay and work here in the UK.  Guests were not allowed, which was disappointing as I would have loved nothing more than to have my photo taken next to a massive portrait of the Queen *sarcasm*

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 122.6kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 105).

I’ve now hit my 2021 goal of completing 104 new books.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading or listening now though.  This month sees the release of the final book in The Expanse series, as well as the latest Jeremy Robinson book, Mind Bullet.  Yes, the rumours are true and I have booked a week off work to allow myself to fully enjoy these.  

As I’m not even close to hitting my weight loss goal, I’m going to take a step back from it in the short term.  My ongoing ankle problems, not to mention the fact I have a massive kidney stone that will probably need surgery, means I have so much on my mind that I should probably go a little easier on myself.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £19,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,934.73 (up £251.74 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,700.00 (up £50.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £1,006.26 (up £135.07 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,335.41 (up £888.54 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £463,584.40 (up £1,325.35 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £434.93 (up £302.21 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £167,164.52 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,000.74 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £260,600.19 (up £302.21 from last update).

Total Wealth: £202,984.21 (up £1,023.14 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,415.65 (target £5,000).

Some good-looking figures this week, with my assets increasing nicely.  My credit card balance has increased but this was to be expected.  It’s going to fluctuate a little between now and mid-January as Christmas, the New Year and my girlfriend’s birthday all come around.  There are also some bits we need to pay for in our apartment, like decorating and some new furniture.  

BTL Update

On Saturday we attended two viewings of potential properties.  The first was near our current BTL and the second was a fair bit further out.  The first property was a dump.  It would have needed a full refurb, which is not what we want.  This was also not clear from the photos or description on the listing. It’s quite annoying when this happens and I’m not sure why agents bother making a property seem better than it is on the listing.  All it does is create a false impression and when the person views the property they are going to feel pissed off that their time has been wasted.  

The second property was very nice inside.  It has been lovingly maintained and will make someone a great home.  There were negatives though.  The property is next to a very busy road.  From the sofa in the living room to the road, it’s no more than four meters.  A family with small children would be constantly worried about their kids somehow getting out onto the road.  Another downside was that directly across the road is a pub.  The main bedroom overlooks the main road and faces the pub.  I can see this being noisy.  Finally, the washing machine was in the backyard inside a small cupboard.  There was no cover, so if you wanted to do laundry in the rain you would get wet.  

Overall, the negatives were too much for the positives and with an asking price that we felt was at least 20% too high, it was never going to work out.  For an owner-occupier, like a couple downsizing, it will probably be a comfortable home.  For us, it’s back to research.

The criteria we have agreed on, is that we will not spend more than £120,000.  The property needs to be ready to rent, and we will only consider properties which require minimal repair work or decorating if they are not immediately ready to be tenanted.  What I found surprising was just how much interest the first property we viewed has.  The agent told us they were booked solid for viewings, and they’ve already had an offer just under asking price from a cash buyer.

Customer Service Rant

There is one thing that is starting to annoy me more and more about dealing with companies, and it’s when you have to call them.  Almost every company has recorded messages on their phone lines explaining that you can do most things, or answer most questions, by going on their website.  The general tone suggests they’d rather not have to deal with your call.  It’s 2021 and the internet has been around for over two decades.  The overwhelming majority of people do not enjoy calling up their bank, energy supplier, or broadband provider.  Most people will go online and try to get an answer to their question that way.  When they can’t, they have to call up.  It’s aggravating to then have to listen to repeated messages about how it’s “easier to go online”.

Not too long ago I had to deal with an issue with John Lewis, who are the absolute worst when it comes to customer service.  Their website was sending me in a loop without answering my question.  So, I called up.  I spent ages on hold whilst being told I could do what I needed to do online.  I gave up waiting on the phone and went back to the website.  I managed to open up a live chat, at which point I was told I’d need to phone up.

If you are a business and you are going to offer a phone number to your customers, please don’t make them out to be assholes for having the audacity to call up.  Almost every one of them will have already tried to do what they need to do on your site.  The fact they are calling is a sign that your online service is not good enough.  So, take down your recorded messages proclaiming that it’s easier and more convenient to visit your website.  It’s annoying and insulting.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 106

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I touch on the COP26 summit, and take a look back over a tiring week.  Also, some major developments in my finances, and some thoughts on how to tackle the climate crisis.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week 

Boris Johnson appearing to sleep through part of COP26, whilst not wearing a mask.

The leaders of the world have come together to talk about the climate.  This should be a positive thing, except for the fact I don’t think anything will be achieved.  It would be incredible to live in a world where these leaders came together and put together a realistic plan to get us out of this mess.  Instead, I predict soundbytes with promises of action before a return to business as usual. 

With the UK hosting this conference, it was a great opportunity for us to present the world with a dignified, intelligent leader.  Instead, we have Boris Johnson.  A few minutes spent googling his history will tell you all you need to know, and if he was just a celebrity we would laugh at him.  The dangerous fact is that Johnson is our Prime Minister, and his incompetence could, and during Covid probably has, cost lives.  

The climate issue is one of those problems that requires a multigenerational, global response.  Unfortunately, our system of party politics does not lend itself to thinking outside the normal election cycle.  Personally, I’m just hoping that there is a game-changing discovery made that allows for abundant, cheap, clean energy to be deployed around the world.  It’s not just the deployment of clean energy that we need though.  We also need an improved system of grid storage; that is the means to store energy when we have a surplus so that we can draw upon those reserves when needed.  

I don’t think there is one magic bullet to solve the climate crisis, but there are a few things we could do to help reduce our impact on the climate.  One change would be to eat a more environmentally friendly diet.  The carbon footprint from eating meat is much higher than eating fruit and vegetables.  I’m not arguing for global veganism; we need meat as part of a healthy diet.  However, when we have a steak, we don’t need a 350g steak.  For a healthy diet, we only need a fraction of that.  We don’t need a double cheeseburger.  We don’t need a double portion of chicken wings.  If we reduce the amount of meat we consume, we will help the environment.

One way I would change the energy industry would be to give each household an energy allowance, which is free.  This would be similar to how we have a tax free allowance on income.  The household allowance would be based on the number of people living at the address.  Anything used above the allowance would then be charged, and as you use more energy it gets progressively more expensive.  This would encourage people to be mindful of their energy use.

The third major change I would make would be to the transport sector.  I would invest in energy efficient buses, trams and trains.  I would also invest heavily in the associated infrastructure so that public transport becomes the preferred method of transportation.  This would be the proverbial carrot.  The stick would be to make owning, and running, environmentally damaging vehicles cost prohibitive.

Between electricity, heating, agriculture and transport, more than half of greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for.  As much as people claim to be frightened of the impending climate crisis, I don’t see many people willing to eat a little differently, or dress a little more warmly in the cold, or make changes to how they travel.  

Weekly Update

It felt like a long week as I’ve been working long hours and on my day off in the week I had a lot to do.  On Thursday I was at the hospital for a CT scan and I was supposed to be injected with a contrast which helps with the resolution on the images produced.  So, I’m in the scanning room lying down on the table.  There are two radiologists; one man and one woman.  They try to find a vein on my right arm but they have no joy.  As they withdraw the needle, blood starts running down my arm.  Not a great start.  They move on to my left arm.  After ten minutes of trying to find a vein there, they give up and move back to my right arm.  Following more stabbing they admit defeat and move back to my left arm.  At this point, they’ve been trying to find a vein for over twenty minutes.  Finally, they do it.

If you’ve never had contrast injected before, it’s a strange sensation.  There’s a feeling of warmth that starts in your head and moves down your body.  Then, you feel like you are about to lose control of your bladder, but you don’t.  It’s just the dye moving through your system.  The scans were routine following the injection of the contrast.  I just need to wait for the results, which I should get next week.  

This weekend my girlfriend and I are celebrating our 14th anniversary.  Technically, our anniversary was a little while back, but as one of our gifts to each other we booked tickets for the ballet; specifically Merlin by Northern Ballet.  We’ve seen a number of productions by this company and they are fantastic.  Merlin was possibly our favourite with the staging, production and direction being incredible.  The performance was captivating, and (although I think the word is overused) epic.  

Attending the ballet nearly went very wrong though.  We thought the performance started at 19:45.  We arrived at 19:20 and the outside of the theatre was deserted.  It turned out it started at 19:15.  We missed the first couple of minutes, but as they also had a slightly delayed start there was no real detriment.  We were not the only ones late either.  There were eight others who got the times mixed up, including a lovely couple from Connecticut that we spoke to for a while.  

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 122.6kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 100).

Monthly Goals – November

1 – Complete my annual book challenge.

2. Reduce weight to 118kg.

I am up to 102 completed books in 2021.  I would be shocked if I’ve not hit the annual total by the next part of this blog.  The last few books I’ve finished have not really grabbed me.  Bad Pharma was interesting, if a little repetitive.  I need a good series to get stuck into.  As always, any recommendations would be appreciated.  The full reading list in the link below will give you an idea as to what I enjoy:

Reading Lists

My weight loss is not happening.  I have good days, which are then undone by bad days.  I need to get back to the gym.  When I work out, my eating habits generally improve.  I had a more detailed look at the data from my smart scale, and it suggests the age of my body is closer to 43.  I’m 38.  I’m surprised the gap was not bigger, but I still need to rectify this.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £19,000.00 (up £4,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,682.99 (down £587.42 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,650.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £871.19 (down £6.18 from last update). 

Pensions: £51,446.87 (up £651.11 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £462,259.05 (up £4,082.51 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £132.72 (down £1,163.05 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £167,164.52 (up £9,609.37 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,000.74 (down £18.29 change from last update). 

Total Debts: £260,297.98 (up £8,428.03 from last update).

Total Wealth: £201,961.07 (down £4,345.52 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,415.65 (target £5,000).

We completed a further advance on our residential mortgage for £10,000.  Some of those funds have been used for non-investment purposes immediately, whilst the remainder has been placed in my Premium Bonds until it is needed a little further down the line.  There’s no point keeping that balance in my bank that pays virtually no interest.  

I’m quite heavily exposed to banking shares and the Bank of England’s decision to keep the base rate at 0.1% absolutely hammered those stocks.  Fortunately, the rest of my portfolio bailed me out.  The following day’s trading saw some of those losses clawed back and I’m confident that this is just a short-term blip.

Our search for the next BTL continues, but there is not a lot out there in our area right now.  All we can do is keep searching and eventually something will turn up.  On Sunday I’m meeting with my investment partner so we can try and focus our efforts and agree what our search criteria should be.  We have been approaching our search in a fairly haphazard manner, so hopefully this meeting will create a sense of focus.  

The reality is that buying a house just before Christmas is not ideal.  It’s a difficult time to find a tenant, and when a property is unoccupied in the cold it can lead to problems with the heating, and the water pipes.  Despite all this, it would make even less sense to turn down a deal just because it’s not the most convenient time of the year.  

I’m almost where I need to be in terms of my fund for the next BTL.  Moving into 2022 I will stop putting as much money into Premium Bonds and start allocating more towards my ISA for when my allowance refreshes in April.  If I can build up a sizable pot between now and the start of the new financial year, it will put me in a good position to once again max out my ISA allowance.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 105

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  It has been two years since I started this blog.  This week I look at time as a resource, and how retirement is defined by how much money you have.  Also, a look at where my readers come from, and which posts have been read the most.  The financial update reports a huge increase in my wealth this week, thanks to an unexpected gift.  This week’s blog finishes with a discussion over what to do with my residential mortgage in light of rumours of a base rate increase.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Time is the most precious resource we have.  It is the one resource we can’t make more of.  Once it is spent, it’s gone.  This is part of the reason why I hate waiting for people who are late.  Things crop up and it can be no fault of your own for being late, but if it’s just because of poor timekeeping, then you are showing the ultimate disrespect for the other person.  You are saying that their most valuable resource is not worth as much as yours.  

A huge part of why I am working relentlessly towards FIRE is because I only have a finite amount of time.  Every second I’m working for someone else is a second I can’t use to enjoy life.  I’m exchanging my time for money, so that I can ultimately exchange my money for time.  

I read somewhere recently that retirement is not a function of age, but rather a function of money.  Once you hit a savings or investment goal, you can then retire.  For some people that target amount could be a simple total value, say £1,000,000.  For others, like myself, it’s more about the income received.  Ultimately, I want to have a net passive income of at least £1,500 per month.  Once I hit this, I’ll feel safe taking early retirement.  

The relationship between time and money is something that, in my experience, not a lot of people think about in detail.  When people talk about how money is “the source of all evil” or think about the accumulation of wealth being a dirty subject, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding about what money is.  Money isn’t the objective.  Money is simply a tool to create time and freedom.  Far from being a dragon sitting on a mountain of gold, having wealth provides the time and freedom to live your life instead of spending most of your waking hours working.

Weekly Update

I’ve had a busy week between work and attending different medical appointments.  I’ve had some blood tests carried out to try and find out what’s happening with this infection I’ve been fighting for the past few weeks.  Also, I’ve had more physio on my ankle.  The pain I’m getting in my ankle is really starting to annoy me.  I’ve been dealing with ankle issues on and off since 2019.  I just want to be able to walk without pain.

Except for work and different medical appointments, there is not much to report from the past week.  There has been a lot of second-hand stress I’ve been feeling as those close to me have been going through their own trials and tribulations.  It seems as though they are moving past those issues now, and I’m hoping we all have a clear run until the end of the year.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.  It really does mean a lot.

My Readers

I’ve started paying more attention to where my readers come from and what posts get the most views.  It’s been fascinating looking through the data.  Unsurprisingly most of the people reading this blog come from the UK.  However, following that there are some interesting findings.  In order of where most of my readers come from, the top ten are:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Ireland
  4. Canada
  5. India
  6. South Africa
  7. Australia
  8. Spain
  9. Germany
  10. Romania

So, who are you?  How did you find my blog?  What are your FIRE goals, hopes, and dreams?  I’d love it if you get in touch either through my social media or email.  I’ve already met some cool people through this blog and would love to meet more.  So, please reach out if you have questions or just want to have a chat.  

Most Popular Posts

I figured there is always going to be a bias towards older posts as they have more time to accumulate views, but again looking at my most popular posts has proven interesting.  In order, here are the ten most popular posts on my blog from the past year:

  1. Sheffield Wednesday Football Club
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 100
  4. Part 101
  5. Part 99
  6. Part 103
  7. Part 76
  8. Part 78
  9. Who, What, When, Why?
  10. Part 75

The Sheffield Wednesday post was written back in June this year. I’m active on a Wednesday message board and I shared the post there, so it’s probably not a great shock for it to be my most popular post.  I think there are more people interested in football than FIRE.  

As for the other posts, I’m not sure what has made them so popular.  I’ve recently discovered that my blog is listed on several indices of recommended FIRE blogs around the world.  It’s probably the case that those lists are directing more traffic towards my site, in addition to (what I hope is) word of mouth spreading my blog.  The real key to a blog becoming successful is social media shares.  This is the hardest thing to achieve; getting people to share and promote your blog.  If you are reading this and enjoy my writing, please do consider sharing each post.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.7kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 100).

Monthly Goals – October

1 – Reach 100 completed books.

2 – 200,000 steps in October.

3 – Reduce weight to 117kg.

I think it’s safe to say that my weight loss and walking goals are not going to happen.  The weight loss just isn’t happening at all.  In terms of the number of steps completed in October, I’m on 135,322 steps so far.  Unless I walk 65,000 steps today I will miss that goal.  

In more positive news I have now completed my 100th book of 2021.  I should easily hit my 2021 goal of 104 new books.  

Monthly Goals – November

1 – Complete my annual book challenge.

2. Reduce weight to 118kg.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £15,000.00 (up £8,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £44,270.41 (up £1,045.07 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,625.00 (up £125.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £877.37 (up £10.59 from last update). 

Pensions: £50,795.76 (up £960.73 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £458,176.54 (up £10,141.39 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £1,295.77 (up £246.91 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £157,555.15 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,019.03 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £251,869.95 (up £246.91 from last update).

Total Wealth: £206,306.59 (up £9,894.48 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,415.65 (target £5,000).

A very good week, as I’m sure you will agree.  This was boosted by an unexpected £8,000 gift which I deposited straight into my Premium Bonds.  Also, the stock market has moved in a favourable direction for me.  I’m quite exposed to UK banking and it seems like the recent talk about the Bank of England base rate rising has nudged the stocks in the right direction for me.  

My credit card continues to increase, but this is not a surprise.  As my girlfriend is just getting into her new job and we have things we are working on in our apartment I knew this balance would take a short-term hit.  It will be reduced to zero before too long though.  

Two Years On

I first got the idea for this blog whilst on a cruise around the Norwegian fjords in 2019.  I was listening to, and reading, some financial books and thinking about my future.  I remember looking out to sea and thinking there has to be more to life than working 9-5 and having brief moments here and there to enjoy life.  The recent realisation that I’m autistic has also factored into my thought process and adds extra motivation to my desire to achieve financial freedom.

The progress made in two years is incredible.  When I started this project, my total wealth (assets minus debts) was £53,840.85.  It’s now a little over £200,000.  It’s so frustrating that I did not start this earlier.  Had I adopted a more structured approach to my finances earlier, I would be in a much better position now.  It’s dangerous going down that road though, because you can just keep asking, “but what if?” and this leads to madness.  

Although my total wealth is looking very positive, I am disappointed not to have more BTLs by now.  Much of this was outside my control with Covid impacting the housing market, and also impacting on the amount of income I was expecting through dividends.  

As I’m now at the halfway point of my project, I need to make sure that I use these next two years wisely.  I don’t want to have to keep working after 31/12/2023.  It’s all going to be about acquiring more BTLs going forward.  We have started the search for the second property, and hope to complete a deal before the end of the financial year.  Then, from April 2022 to December 2022 we need to complete at least one more deal, but ideally two more.  Once we have 3-4 BTLs behind us, things will start to snowball as the rental income can be reinvested back into the pot for the next property.  Compounding gains are awesome. 

My Residential Mortgage

I’ve been faced with a difficult decision over the last few days.  My mortgage is currently on a Bank of England base rate tracker, which has been fantastic for the past few years.  However, with all the talk of rates going up I have been debating whether to switch to a new fixed rate.  My tracker is incredibly low and it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll never get a rate like it again.  On the other hand, the fixed-rate I’m eligible for is only 0.71% above the tracker I’m on.  This would mean an increase of approximately £30 per month but it fixes the payment for two years; in other words until the end of my FIRE journey.

I decided to have a chat with a mortgage advisor and see what the numbers look like if we take the fixed-rate and borrow an extra £10,000.  Our mortgage payment at the moment is roughly £500.  We could take the extra £10,000, secure a new fixed-rate, and take ten years off the mortgage and the payment would be £700.  I think that’s a great deal all around.  I’m not usually a fan of paying off cheap debt, as the money can be used elsewhere.  However, with rates looking likely to rise, paying the debt down faster means rate changes have a lesser impact as the debt will be lower when the deal ends.  It also means we will have more equity when we come to sell, or remortgage to a BTL, when we are ready to move.  

The increase in payments is going to have a negligible impact on our finances now that my girlfriend has a new job.  Based on some rough and ready number crunching we should be in a position to invest around £2,000 between us each month.  When people ask why we don’t have kids, or a car, I just point out this fact.  

What do you think is going to happen with interest rates moving forward?  Have you made any changes to your mortgage in light of recent speculation?

As always, thank you for reading.  Please reach out with any questions or if you just want to chat about FIRE.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 104

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I take a brief look at the possibility of a further lockdown in the UK.  Also, how I was subject to a social media pile-on.  There are the usual financial updates, and the start of our search for the second BTL.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

We’re getting to the point where it’s a question of when, not if, we have another lockdown.  I’ve got mixed feelings about lockdowns.  When they are enforced, they can be a great way of fighting pandemics.  Limiting contact between people reduces the transmission of the virus, which can allow the health service to treat people without causing the whole system to collapse.  

The problem is, many people refuse to follow the instructions of a lockdown.  These people think the rules don’t apply to them.  This attitude, when combined with a lack of education or a belief in crackpot conspiracy theories, is a dangerous combination.  It leads to people ignoring expert advice and leads to the virus running rampant for much longer than is needed.  It is this group of people that are then most vocal about lockdowns not working.  The mental gymnastics needed for this to make sense is impressive.  

Linked to all this is the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the name given to the idea that some people are so uninformed that they don’t realise how uninformed they are.  These people are so far behind everyone else, they think they are in the lead when they’re actually in danger of being lapped.

Our illustrious leader, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson **oh we’re using our made up names** is like a walking, talking Dunning-Kruger example.  I have about as much faith in Johnson to guide the UK through Covid and Brexit as I do for the Tory party to stick to their manifesto promises.  This government only gets things right when it involves the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.  It’s sickening.

Weekly Update

I may have mentioned it once or twice in the past, but John Lewis’ customer service sucks.  For a retailer that is supposed to be about quality, they really are awful.  My issues with this “partnership” go back over a decade. The first incident I had was when I bought a set of dining chairs and one of them was faulty.  This led to the chair breaking as I was sitting on it.  I landed hard on a solid wooden floor and injured my back.  I went into the store and they treated me like something you’d scrape off your shoe.  So, I went down the legal route and won a payout of £3,000.

When we moved into our apartment in 2012, we ordered some matching bookcases and a desk.  They delivered the bookcases but not the desk.  They kept saying they were out of stock, and this went on for months.  Eventually, they discontinued the range, but we still had no desk.  After a lot of time on the phone with them, they eventually got me a similar desk.

We have then had issues with exercise equipment; an exercise bike I bought was impossible to put together.  The instructions had no relevance to the product delivered.  I bought a games console from them that was faulty, and the staff in the store were rude and unhelpful.  

You would think all of this would put me off buying from them, but because I’m a complete dumbass I thought I’d give them another opportunity to disappoint me.  I ordered a new washing machine from them.  They tried to deliver to our apartment in a massive lorry that would not possibly fit into our development.  I would have thought that the person planning this delivery would have noticed it’s a city centre apartment and checked if the lorry would fit.  The only thing I can think is that, much like their Sheffield store, the person planning the delivery did not have electricity on every floor.

After some back and forth we were able to get the washing machine delivered.  We now come to the latest John Lewis clusterfuck.  Last November we ordered a new dishwasher.  Getting it installed was difficult, because they couldn’t find a place to park.  Eventually, it was installed and we were more or less content, despite the unit being fitted slightly wonky and there being some moisture leakage.  These were not hills I was prepared to make a stand on, so we just let it go.  A little over a week ago the new appliance broke.  I called the customer service line and waited over an hour for the call to be answered.  The agent told me I had to phone the manufacturer.  I kept a polite tone, but in no uncertain terms told them I was not going to make another call.  I bought it from John Lewis.  They gave me a two-year guarantee.  They can sort it.  I was promised a call back on Monday or Tuesday this week.  That didn’t happen.  So, I took the hit and bought a new dishwasher from elsewhere.  This is what I call the John Lewis Stupidity Tax.  

In other news, my girlfriend has passed all the necessary steps to gain UK citizenship.  She will be attending the ceremony soon, where she has to pledge allegiance to Lizzy, and promise to uphold the laws and values of the country.  I commented that I might turn up and start chanting, “one of us” but guests are allowed due to Covid.  It’s been a big couple of weeks for her, as she’s also started a new job.  This role will be her most challenging to date, but also the best paid.  I’m proud of her and know she will do well.

Social Media Pile On

I was subject to a social media pile on for the first time.  It’s not a nice feeling.  It came from a property investor network group I was part of.  I created a post which was a little rant about how useless our BTL agent is.  Readers of this blog will know we’ve had issues with them all year.  Well, we had yet another issue with rent last month, with the agent not knowing if it had been paid or not.  Late last week, the agent emailed to explain the tenant had reported the heating as not working.  I’ve got a few friends who are plumbers, so if it was going to be a big job I would rather get someone I know and trust on it.  However, the agent stated they could send someone to have a look at what was going on.  I replied that it was fine to send them up to investigate, but I wanted to know what work needed doing before they actually did anything.  I didn’t receive an update, despite asking several times, until the middle of this week.  I was concerned that my tenant would have no heating and wanted to make sure I was upholding my responsibilities as a landlord.  

Based on my previous experience with the agent, I just knew what was going to happen.  The plumber they sent would have gone, and done the repair without any feedback to me first.  This is exactly what happened.  The cost was £78 and this is what everyone in that social media group fixated on.  I was receiving comments like, “what the fuck do you expect? It’s £78 ffs.  That’s cheap”, and things like, “you’re obviously tight if you don’t want to pay £78.”  The attacks started getting really personal, so I left the group.  

A few points; I never said I was unwilling to pay.  I wanted to know what work was needed, because if it was a big job, which needed new parts, I could do this more efficiently via one of my friends.  Also, for a big job I would rather trust my people, than the agents’ people.  This is because at no stage in the relationship has our agent done something right the first time.  As it turns out, the heating was repaired simply and it only cost £78.  That’s a relief.  However, the agent once again acted outside the authority I gave them.  That’s the problem.  Not the monetary amount, but the principle that I can’t trust the agent to act in accordance with a simple instruction.  

I lost my temper a little with the agent, and they have agreed to make a contribution towards the work that was completed.  It’s now the end of the road for them, though, and we’ve started the process of switching to another agent.  The manager of our current agency has asked for another chance, with promises that she would be our sole point of contact.  She promised this before, and that did not happen.  Also, why wait until your customer is so pissed off they are going to voluntarily pay hundreds of pounds to transfer their business to a competitor? Once your customer has been pushed to that stage, it’s just too late.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.  It really does mean a lot.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.7kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 98).

Monthly Goals – October

1 – Reach 100 completed books.

2 – 200,000 steps in October.

3 – Reduce weight to 117kg.

I’m not making much progress with my weight loss.  It’s just so difficult to maintain a healthy diet when you’re stressed, and working from home in a sedentary job.  Throw in my health concerns and it can’t be surprising that I’m not exactly eating the ideal, balanced, diet.  

My reading challenge is progressing well and I’m within touching distance of completing 100 books.  I should hit my monthly goal for reading, and I suspect I’ll hit the 2021 goal of 104 books with several weeks to spare.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,000.00 (up £450.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,225.34 (down £137.16 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,500.00 (up £150.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £866.78 (up £42.12 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,835.03 (up £654.78 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £448,035.15 (up £1,159.74 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £1,048.86 (up £734.07 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £157,555.15 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,019.03 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £251,623.04 (up £734.07 from last update).

Total Wealth: £196,412.11 (up £425.67 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,088.85 (target £5,000).

It’s nice to see a sustained period of growth in my total wealth, which has been boosted by the recent property value increase but is underpinned by the consistent gains in my ISA over the last couple of months.  It’s frustrating to see my credit card balance increase once more, but it was unavoidable with the need for a new dishwasher. 

My income increased a little but I’ve resigned myself to falling short of the £5,000 target for 2021.  Still, it’s an improvement on 2020 where I achieved less than £200.  Last year was a strange one though, as many expected dividends were cancelled due to Covid, which also put back the purchase of my BTL.  I suspect I’ll end up with around £3,500 of investment income for 2021, which is fairly respectable considering where I am on my FIRE journey.  

BTL Update

The search for the second BTL has started.  There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the first BTL, such as being more selective with viewings.  When I looked for my first investment property, I was viewing anything and everything.  This was a huge waste of time.  The key moving forward will be to filter out as many properties as possible without leaving my apartment.  I should only visit a property if there’s a real chance of a bid being submitted.  It would be fantastic to have a second deal over the line before the end of 2021, but that would be almost miraculous.  I think it’s more realistic to aim to complete by the end of the financial year.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 103

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I cover the horrific murder of MP David Amess.  Also, a lengthy update on the previous week.  I take a look at some significant financial changes and also discuss my fears about achieving FIRE.  Due to recent events, there is no Quote of the Week, as I pay my respects to murdered MP Sir David Amess.

Sir David Amess MP

From Sky.com

I’ve decided to not run with a Quote of the Week in this post, and instead want to take the opportunity to pass my condolences to the family and friends of David Amess, who was brutally murdered in his constituency surgery.  This is the second time in five years that an MP has been killed as they worked, with MP Jo Cox killed in 2016.  

We have a proud tradition of democracy in the United Kingdom.  Yes, it has faults, such as corruption, and nepotism, but there are still many hard-working people in government and the civil service.  We have a level of access to our politicians that is far more open than other democracies.  It would be a shame if that access was revoked, but it would also be understandable.  I might not agree with the Tories, and I might find some of the members of the cabinet to be despicable people but I don’t wish death on them.  

The repercussions of this murder will be felt for some time to come, and I can see many MPs being reluctant to have face-to-face consultations with their constituents moving forward.  There will no doubt be a security review regarding how the public access their MP, and I can’t help but feel that with the death of another MP we are all going to lose something special from our democracy.  

Weekly Update

There was an Indian restaurant in Sheffield called Aagrah that was excellent.  We had eaten there many, many times over the last decade.  It was always the first example we used when talking about restaurants that had managed to sustain excellent food and service.  Over the summer they rebranded to Wazwan.  The result is not good.

Take a hot starter, and then pile up a load of cold ingredients on top. The result isn’t great.

Four of us dined there on Tuesday and it was an awful experience from start to finish.  The only silver lining was the chance to catch up with our favourite waiter who has known us for a long time.  He was his usual friendly and attentive self, but he was let down by everything around him.

We ordered drinks at the same time we asked for poppadoms.  A few minutes later we ordered our starters.  The poppadoms arrived and were eaten.  The plates were taken away.  Our drinks had not arrived.  By this point, it had been almost half an hour since we ordered them.  As the starters came out, our drinks were also delivered.  

The menu for Wazwan is much smaller than for Aagrah.  The prices are also much higher.  I don’t generally order according to price.  I order what I like the sound of.  I’m fortunate enough to not have to worry too much about price.  This will become important later.

The quality of the food was poor.  The starters were tiny, and cold when they should have been warm.  The taste was ok, but the texture and temperature was all wrong.  The mains followed the same theme; smaller portions and lacking the depth of flavour that you got with Aagrah curries.  It was just spice heat, and little else.  

We had to ask for the bill a few times but it was not forthcoming.  Eventually, I stood up and went to the bar and explained that we needed to leave and we wanted to pay the bill.  After two attempts the bill was correctly generated.  As part of the reopening, the restaurant had an offer of 50% off the food.  Four of us had a starter, a main and we shared one naan and two portions of rice.  We had two cokes, two pints of lager, and two pints of shandy between the four of us.  All in, the bill was £87; and that’s with the food having 50% off.  The four alcoholic drinks came to over £25.

We were all disappointed but we headed back to our apartment and chilled out with some mugs of tea and conversation.  It felt like a return to normality.  My girlfriend and I turned in, and our dining partners headed home.  During the night I was not well.  I felt nauseous and threw up a little.  Our dining partners were also sick.  It’s safe to say we will not be eating there again.

As the week progressed I started experiencing symptoms of my UTI from a couple of weeks ago.  I was in a lot of pain and was passing blood again.  Luckily I was able to get to speak with a GP quickly and get more antibiotics.  I also have an upcoming appointment with a urologist.  Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious and we can get to the bottom of what is going on.  I have felt rough AF in the last couple of days with fever, chills, and waking up drenched in sweat.  

To top all of this off, our dishwasher developed a fault.  The power button became stuck and could not be dislodged.  Looking at the frame of the appliance, I figured I could unscrew the outer casing and force the button back into place.  It took some time, but I managed to get the casing off and fix the issue with the button.  In the process of doing this, I managed to irreparably break the dishwasher in several other ways.  Yes, I know, I’m a dumbass.

Kaiser Spiegel

I read some interesting comments from various autistic people on Twitter, detailing how they find it easy to become attached to inanimate objects like stuffed toys, or ornaments, for example.  Well, this struck a chord with me because my girlfriend and I have a huge collection of stuffed toys, ornaments, and fridge magnets.  The stuffed toys started as a joke when we first met in 2007.  I bought her one for her birthday, and from that point on we were always buying them for each other.  We then started to talk about their names, personalities, and so on.  Eventually, we had this huge menagerie of dogs, wolves, bears, owls, and more, that all had names and personalities.  It’s….. a little out there, I know.  For us, though, it’s just a fun diversion.  

Anyway, how does this relate to autistic people?  It turns out that other autistic people have this same trait, in that they anthropomorphize inanimate objects.  One person who commented on the thread described how he became upset when he found a teddy bear abandoned in the street.  He took it home, cleaned it and it’s now part of his home.  This comment reminded me of something similar that happened to my girlfriend and me in Hamburg a few years ago.

One night, after dinner, we were walking back to the hotel.  It was raining, but not too heavily.  In the distance, near our hotel, was the office for the magazine Der Spiegel; a popular publication that is known for investigative journalism.  As we were walking, we noticed on the pavement a small fluffy toy.  We think it’s an owl, but can’t be sure.  Anyway, we looked at it and considered leaving it, but we both immediately assigned it a personality.  It became something else, something more.  We took it back to the hotel, then back to the UK, and it now sits on one of our bookcases in our home office alongside other owls.

You’re probably wondering what the term Kaiser Spiegel has to do with this.  Well, because we found it near the offices of Der Spiegel, we thought Spiegel should be part of its name.  For a title, what else is more German than Kaiser? Hence, Kaiser Spiegel.  

I am fully aware of how batshit crazy this all sounds, but it doesn’t harm anyone and we both get a lot of fun out of it.

Kaiser Spiegel

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.  It really does mean a lot.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.1kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 96).

Monthly Goals – October

1 – Reach 100 completed books.

2 – 200,000 steps in October.

3 – Reduce weight to 117kg.

No major progress on weight loss this week, and only one new book finished although I have almost finished book 97.  Also, another impact of not feeling too good this week has been a drop in the number of steps I’ve taken.  It’s almost like when my mind sets a target, my body laughs and goes, “yeah that’s not going to happen.”

I need some suggestions for new books, preferably something that is hard sci-fi.  I feel like I’ve exhausted the range.  I tried Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds but could not get into it.  It’s generally quite rare for me to quit a book partway through, but for some reason, it just did not click with me.  So, if you know of any good sci-fi out there, please leave a comment.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,550.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,362.50 (up £1,410.53 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,350.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £824.66 (down £27.14 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,180.25 (up £315.45 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £446,875.41 (up £1,698.84 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £314.79 (up £257.68 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £157,555.15 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,019.03 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £250,888.97 (up £257.68 from last update).

Total Wealth: £195,986.44 (up £1,441.16 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,019.14 (target £5,000).

Some fantastic progress from my stocks and shares ISA this week, which is pushing my total wealth ever closer to £200,000.  My credit card has gone up again due to a crossover with spending and not putting a payment through in time.  However, it’s probably going to increase over the remainder of 2021 with the dishwasher breaking down.  We had a contingency fund for the apartment but with having our bathrooms refurbed a few weeks back, that fund was depleted.  It will be ok in time, and once my girlfriend starts earning a full salary from November, we will be able to clear the debt and move forward.

Pensions

When it became clear that the move to Romania was off the table, I was able to start thinking more long-term.  A large part of that was related to my pension through my employer.  I have a fantastic benefit whereby my employer more than doubles any employee contribution.  I was expecting a large drop in my monthly take-home pay, but it was not quite as drastic as I’d feared.  

Investing in pensions is a good way to get free money, because you get the tax relief on your contributions and, if you have a generous employer, you get their contribution on top.  Assuming I stick with the higher contributions for a couple of years it should turbocharge my pension fund.

Two Years of Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

Next week is part 104, but the first post of the blog was made on November 1st, 2019.  Which post should be the two-year anniversary? It doesn’t matter I suppose but when I look back at the last two years it’s been the most eventful of my life.  At times, I’ve been pushed to the absolute limit where I feared I might break and never recover.  

I’m not the same person I was when I started this blog, and although the overall goal has remained constant, the reason for chasing that goal, the “why” has evolved.  Achieving FIRE is now as much about preserving my mental health, as achieving financial independence.  

I sometimes feel that my recovery from the horrific year that was 2020 has not been complete.  It’s almost like I did enough damage control to function, but I’ve not had the time or mental and emotional space to fully process what I went through.  I am a little concerned that when I do hit FIRE, I may experience a period of depression whilst I figure out who I am now.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 102

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the decision to ban Roy “Chubby” Brown from Sheffield’s City Hall.  Also, I take a look at the recent takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi-led consortium.  There are some developments in my financial position and a new section added to the blog.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

A few weeks ago the council that runs Sheffield, my home city, decided that a comedian could not perform at our City Hall.  The comedian in question is Roy “Chubby” Brown.  This has caused a bit of a debate within the city.  Some people are saying this is infringing on free speech.  Others are saying that it’s a great move because this performer is bigoted.  

Free speech does not mean you can say anything you want without consequence.  Freedom of speech is primarily designed as a protection against being imprisoned for having different political, religious, or societal views.  Freedom of speech only extends so far, and it ceases as soon as groups become attacked, insulted, or victimised.  Freedom of speech does not give people the right to be racist, misogynist, or homophobic, to give just a few examples.  

Comedy is a strange one because it is often used to bring people to book.  Comedy can be a very effective weapon to criticise corrupt politicians, for example.  Some comedy can be dark, and it can be controversial.  Comedy will always cause debate about what is acceptable and what isn’t.  However, I don’t see how anyone can defend “Chubby”.

As the saying goes, nothing you say before “but” matters.

CONTENT WARNING – THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS QUOTES THAT ARE OFFENSIVE.  I’M QUOTING TO PROVIDE CONTEXT.  THE VIEWS STATED ARE NOT MY OWN.  I OPPOSE ALL FORMS OF LANGUAGE AND BEHAVIOUR THAT ARE RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC, OR JUST GENERALLY INTOLERANT OR TOXIC.  

A few years ago, a journalist from Vice attended a performance from “Chubby”.  The language that was reported was unacceptable decades ago, let alone by the standards of the 21st century.  

https://www.vice.com/en/article/jmb4k4/roy-chubby-brown-gig-133

Words like n****r, P**i, as well as insults regarding the appearance of different people of colour.  I don’t understand why or how this is supposed to be funny.

In addition to this, his acts are full of profanity.  I don’t generally mind swearing and I can get pretty creative when hurling insults at people.  Thing is, I don’t bring race, gender, sexuality or other protected characteristics into it.  Using words like “cunt”, or “twat” in almost every sentence is not creative, or humorous.  It’s just childish, shock value.  It’s the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree.  

As a people, we should be better than this.  I don’t buy the argument that he should be free to perform and it’s up to the individual to either buy tickets or not.  Where do we draw the line with this logic?  Do we permit people to run shows where they promote slavery? Genocide? What about people promoting the subjugation of women in a Handmaid’s Tale scenario?  As a society, we have to have limits on what is considered acceptable.

Weekly Update

I’m done with the antibiotics following the infection that resulted in my being transported to hospital via ambulance.  I wouldn’t wish that infection on anyone.  It was horrible.  

I’m back at work full time following my holiday.  My employer has been so supportive of my mental and physical health issues over the last few years.  Following my recent absence, we discussed what changes could be made to accommodate me.  I put forward several suggestions and every single one was granted.  I didn’t ask for anything major, but the changes have made a huge difference to my stress levels.  Before these changes I was seemingly always stressed and was getting through an average of four paracetamol a day.  This week, I think I had four paracetamol all week.  I’ve felt like a weight has been lifted.  

On Wednesday I had a nice meal with my girlfriend at Albie’s, a cafe I’ve mentioned before.  They do great food and make very nice coffee.  It’s great to see local businesses come through the pandemic alive and well.  I’m looking forward to when I can next pop in for a bagel and coffee.  

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.  It means a lot.

Click on the image to be directed to my supporter page.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.1kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 95).

I’m not going to hit my weight loss goal by the end of the year.  I’ve less than three months to lose almost 30kg.  The year has just flown by and there’s always been something that has prevented me from cracking on with exercise, whether that’s been health flare ups or life just throwing up problems I’ve had to deal with.  

On the other hand, my reading challenge is going very well.  I’ll probably hit my target by the end of October, possibly early November.  Audible is a fantastic service.  I don’t know what I’d do without it.  Through listening to books I’ve started interacting with authors and narrators on social media, some of whom I’m now friends with.  It’s great to finish a book and then be able to talk through it with the people who wrote it.  

Monthly Goals – October

1 – Reach 100 completed books.

2 – 200,000 steps in October.

3 – Reduce weight to 117kg.

I’ve decided to start tracking monthly goals as it allows for more immediate feedback.  Although I may hit the target of 104 completed books this month, I don’t want it to feel like something I have to do.  100 books is a very achievable target for the end of October.

I love walking but sometimes I don’t have the motivation to get up and go.  200,000 steps over the month average out at around 6,500 steps per day.  This will be tough, but achievable.  

Seeing as though I’m not going to hit my original 2021 weight loss goal, I need to amend my targets.  Losing 3kg in a month should be doable.  I need to regain control over my eating habits, and I need to start lifting weights again.  Structured exercise at the gym always helps my mental health, which is something that has impacted me for much of 2020 and 2021.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,550.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £41,951.97 (up £760.37 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,350.00 (up £350.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £851.80 (up £93.48 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,864.80 (down £714.90 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (up £2,251.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (up £1,452.00 from last update).

Total Assets: £445,176.57 (up £4,191.95 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £57.11 (down £193.98 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £157,555.15 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,019.03 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £250,631.29 (down £193.98 from last update).

Total Wealth: £194,545.28 (up £4,385.93 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,014.46 (target £5,000).

The quarterly house price index has been updated and both of my properties have seen increases in their estimated value.  In real terms, it doesn’t mean too much as something is only really worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  The one thing that the valuations do impact is our ability to borrow more money on our mortgages.  There is not quite enough equity in the BTL to release funds, as the minimum amount we can apply for is £10,000 and the maximum loan-to-value is 75%.  Another increase in line with the latest increase should free up enough equity for a further advance on the BTL, but for now, we’ve got to be patient.  

Our main residence has increased in value which means we should be able to complete a further advance in the near future.  We are limited to one application every six months, and we last completed additional borrowing in June this year.  We are going to wait until early 2022 and then see how much we can release.  

This week saw some gains in my ISA and crypto, but some losses in my pension.  I don’t think it’s anything to worry about though, and it’s just part of the normal fluctuations in the market.

Money and Football

Newcastle United has been taken over by a Saudi consortium that is backed by the country’s Public Investment Fund, which in turn sees Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a leading role.  Some critics are claiming this is a way for the Saudi leadership to gain control of a football club to improve their image.  

Saudi Arabia is a country that has a fair few detractors.  I’m not going to embark on an in-depth investigation of the controversies that surround it, but I’ll highlight a few recent events that should give people pause for thought.

In 2019, the Saudi government executed someone by crucifixion.  This was part of a series of 37 executions which are usually carried out through beheading.  

Until 2018 women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.  

Also in 2018, the Saudi government lured Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the ruling regime, to their embassy in Turkey.  Jamal was murdered and dismembered.

In recent years the Saudi military has launched several airstrikes against civilian targets in Yemen.  

The treatment of non-Muslims, or those who renounce the Muslim faith, is barbaric.  Also, the treatment of LGBT people is horrific and includes many forms of torture.

What is disappointing, but not surprising, is that many fans are being fooled by a slick PR campaign.  These fans see the potential riches that will be poured into the club, and whilst they dream of signing world-class players, they don’t question where the money is coming from.  The Newcastle fans are not alone in this.  When you peek behind the curtain, you find that many football clubs are owned by people or companies that have questionable reputations and histories.  The takeover of Newcastle is just another reason why I’m losing interest in football.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 101

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I look at the murder of Sarah Everard.  Also, some updated logos for the site, the usual financial updates and a look at Spoon Theory.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I can’t even imagine the terror that Sarah Everard must have felt in her final hours.  Some cases touch the public consciousness in a way that others, for some reason, do not.  This case has raised all sorts of questions about female safety, male privilege and obeying perceived authority figures.  

Sarah was approached by her killer, a police officer, and no doubt did what the overwhelming majority of the population would do; she complied.  The police have now said that if you are approached by a lone police officer, you are within your rights to challenge them.  This advice has proved somewhat controversial.

The fallout from this case will continue for some time, but there are already reports that the police missed opportunities to remove the killer from the streets.  The police in the UK do not have a great reputation amongst the general public.  Some of their perceived inadequacies are due to budget cuts and the reduction in absolute numbers of police on the streets.  However, there also seems to be institutionalised incompetence in certain quarters, as well as an attitude of looking after their own.

There are increasing calls for Met Chief Cressida Dick to resign.

In an ideal world, women, children and men would be able to walk the streets at any time without fear of being attacked.  In an ideal world, one would be able to leave their doors unlocked, or let their children play outside without being in eyesight at all times.  We don’t live in an ideal world though.  We can strive for that, and we should strive for that, but we will never get there because some people are unable to live in that ideal world.  For all of human history there have been murderers, rapists and pedophiles.  

What is the Answer?

There are two approaches, I think.  We need to work towards the ideal, whilst at the same time putting measures in place to reflect the reality of the world we live in.  There is no magic bullet here.  We need a combination of education from a young age about social responsibility, and a drive to make people aware of the privilege they have, be it white privilege, male privilege, economic privilege and so on.  We also need to accept that there is no substitute for police patrolling the street and for community police officers to be known within their local area.  In the UK we have a fantastic tradition of policing by consent.  For this to be effective, the institutions of law enforcement need to be transparent.  There needs to be real accountability to the public.  Also, there needs to be actual police on patrol.  

The tragic truth of the matter is that, for as long as there are humans, there will be violent crime.  It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  As a people, though, we could and should do better.  

My thoughts are with Sarah’s friends and family.

Weekly Update

I’ve been off work for much of the week as I had booked time off to finish up the work to our bathrooms.  As it happens, that work was completed much sooner than expected, so I used that time to relax following my infection.  I’m pretty much back to normal, but I’m still lacking energy.  Also, in a strange turn of events I’m finding I no longer have the same taste for coffee.  For those who know me, this must come as a huge shock.  There are certain factors in life that are constant; the Tories are evil, water is wet and David likes coffee.  I’m still having the occasional coffee, but rather than four or five a day I’m having one a day.

There is not a huge amount more to tell from me this week due to my illness.  However, there has been some great news for my girlfriend who passed her UK citizenship test at the first attempt.  I had every confidence in her, and she can now proceed with the final steps of becoming a full UK citizen, just as the country is struggling with Covid, has left the EU, has no fuel, hardly any fresh food and is looking forward to a cancelled Christmas.  Apart from that….. Yay?

I think it’s a little bizarre she had to take the test in the first place.  She has lived here since 2010, and has completed a degree, as well as some postgrad qualifications.  She has a number of other professional qualifications and pays her way in tax and national insurance.  She also speaks English better than her native language, as she studied in British and American schools.  Did she really need to know when Charles I was executed, or be able to quote Hamlet?  I reckon I could ask a dozen British people at random and most of them would be lucky to guess the right decade, or century, for the execution of King Charles I.

A Brief Interlude

Awesome new logo for my Buy Me A Coffee page from Stefan Triculete.

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.  It really does mean a lot. Click on the image above to be taken to my supporter page.

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: 93).

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,550.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £41,191.60 (up £133.48 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,000.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £758.32 (up £40.22 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,579.70 (up £311.85 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £207,807.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £134,098.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £440,984.62 (up £485.55 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £251.09 (up £251.09 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £157,555.15 (down £495.24 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,019.03 (down £24.11 from last update). 

Total Debts: £250,825.27 (down £268.26 from last update).

Total Wealth: £190,159.35 (up £753.81from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £3,014.46 (target £5,000).

Another steady week with my two mortgages being paid down a little.  My credit card went up because I didn’t quite make the payment in time following my illness.  It should be back down by next week.  I received rental income this week which pushed my 2021 investment income above £3,000.  I don’t think I’ll quite hit the £5,000 target, but in 2020 I didn’t even hit the £2,000 target.  So, definite progress this year.  

In the next two weeks the index values of my properties should update.  I’m hopeful that this will allow me to pull out more equity to use towards our next BTL.  If the valuations don’t move in that direction, it’s not a huge issue at the moment.  I’m no longer working under such urgency to try and hit FIRE.  I have until the end of 2023.  As I approach the halfway point of my journey, I’m happy with the progress made.  My total wealth has increased from approx £50k to almost £200k.  I’ve gone from zero passive income, to around £300pcm on average.  The foundations are there, and I just need to keep doing what I’m doing.

I Don’t Have Enough Spoons

Spoon Theory is something I’ve only recently become aware of.  First developed by lupus sufferer Christine Miserandino, it has now been adopted by the autistic community to explain how mentally exhausting dealing with the neurotypical world can be.  

In basic terms, spoon theory states that we all have a number of spoons which represent our mental and/or physical energy.  Each activity uses a number of spoons.  Once the spoons are depleted, we no longer have enough left to do anything else.  For example, you might have five spoons one day.  Food shopping may use two spoons.  Getting showered and dressed may take another spoon.  Dealing with public transport to and from the supermarket may take two more spoons.  By the time you get home with your shopping you don’t have any spoons left over to cook, clean and eat.  So, you order in.

There is no set number of spoons each activity takes.  It’s unique to each individual, and can even vary for the same person depending on their mood and circumstances.  It’s an interesting way to conceptualise the idea of mental energy though.  It’s also great shorthand to be able to state, “I don’t have the spoons,” in response to a request and have it understood what you mean.

I’ve always conceptualised this idea in a different way, by imagining my mental stamina as a computer.  It can happily deal with basic processes all day without an issue.  However, as more processes are opened, like work, socialising, household chores, worrying about health and so on, more and more processes are competing for limited computer memory.  We all know what happens when a computer has too much going on.  It slows down.  Applications crash.  The machine can overheat.  In extreme circumstances, the machine burns out and needs repair.  

This is why people often breakdown over seemingly trivial things.  It’s not so much that the issue at hand holds special significance.  It can simply be that they have no more resources left to allocate to this new problem, and it becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  

Quarter 4 – 2021

It’s looking like the latter weeks of this year will be a little quiet.  My girlfriend starts a new job in a few weeks, but until then I will be subsidising both of us which eats into how much I have available to invest.  As she starts to earn more money, we can go back to a more proportional split in our household income which will free up money for investing.  

What I’m really hoping for is to secure a second BTL before the start of the new financial year so that I can look to maximise my ISA allowance for 2022/2023 as soon as possible.  In any case, my finances are looking healthier than ever and if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I will hit FIRE eventually.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 100

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  In what should have been a celebratory post, now that my FIRE journey has hit 100 weeks, I ended up being delayed.  To my readers, I apologise.  Hopefully you will understand why I was late.  This week’s blog is a little different with no weekly quote.  The first part focuses on my eventful week.  The second part looks at my investment strategy in more detail.  

Weekly Update

Apologies everyone for the delay in posting.  I usually schedule the blog to go live at 09:30 each Sunday, but I was not well enough to do that.  Fortunately, I had written most of the end parts of this post during the early parts of the week.  So, the delay… I was taken to hospital late Friday evening by ambulance.  I was not in a good way.  I had a temperature of 39.2, I was light headed and everything had a feeling of unreality.  I couldn’t think straight.  Also, when I peed, it was painful.  

I have been a staunch defender of the NHS for some time, but I’ve also stated in several blogs that I feel it needs huge reform to cope with an aging population and different health demands.  This week was my worst experience with the NHS for a long, long time.

I started feeling off on Wednesday.  We have been having our bathrooms refurbed and because both bathrooms were out of commission at the same time (to speed up the overall job) we booked a hotel from Monday to Thursday so we could shower and freshen up.  As we were preparing to leave on Wednesday evening I did not feel good.  I was light headed and it felt like withdrawal from Sertraline, which is something I have on prescription.  I’d had a problem with my latest prescription where the GP had messed up with some of my meds, which meant I had to go without a few of them from the previous Saturday until Tuesday; but Sertraline was not one of them.  I figured I was tired and stressed from having three guys in the apartment from 08:00 to 16:00 working on the bathrooms.  It was noisy and disruptive, however they have done a fantastic job.

The following morning I tried to get through to my GP for an appointment but I wasn’t successful.  At my GP you have to call on the day and hope you get through before the appointments are taken up.  That evening I got worse and filled out the NHS 111 online form.  However, it was difficult to complete because many of my symptoms did not fit into the binary options given.  I called the 111 line and spoke with a lady who went through the same questions and stated she would get an out of hours GP to call me within six hours.  As it was 22:00 and I was spaced out, I went to bed.  The out of hours GP called but I couldn’t understand him due to his strong accent.  I was exhausted, drained and hoped a good night of sleep would put me right.  I was ill enough to need help, but not well enough to get there myself, when he suggested I come to the hospital.  I said I would try the GP in the morning.

Friday morning I woke just before 08:00 so I could start ringing when they opened.  At 08:42 I got through.  All the appointments had gone.  I was incredulous.  The receptionist was absolutely no help, and I had a choice; A&E or the walk in centre.  Either option would require a lengthy wait which could easily be 6-7 hours.  I wasn’t well enough to go through that.  So, I stayed home.  Later that evening I got worse.  I filled out the 111 form again, and after just a few questions it stated I needed to call 999.

The lady who answered the ambulance line was not particularly helpful either.  Here is a little transcript of what happened:

999: Is the patient breathing?

Me: Yes.

999: I asked if the patient was breathing?

Me: Yes.

*a few other basic questions*

999: Is the patient responsive?

Me: I’m the patient.

999: You said the patient wasn’t breathing.

Me: No, I didn’t.

999: Yes, you did.

Me: No I didn’t, but whatever.

The ambulance turned up a few minutes later.

At this stage I am absolutely exhausted from dealing with this short call.  I had no energy at all.  I also think I might have been hallucinating.  The paramedics came in; two men, one with a laptop asking questions and the other one observing and taking my vitals.  My temperature at this point was 39.2.

The guy with the laptop was a complete douche.  He asked questions and interrupted my answers.  When my answers didn’t fit into the box on his form, he tried to get me to change my answer.  He was abrupt and did not come across as caring.  They said I probably had a nasty UTI and that I would almost certainly need antibiotics.  I had been thinking this when I called the GP Thursday, but I digress.  They asked what I wanted to do.  Did I want to go to hospital?  Not if I could avoid it.  Could they not write me a prescription for the meds I needed?  No.  

The paramedics called the out of hours doctor but they would not prescribe without seeing me.  So, hospital it was.  The two paramedics marched down the corridor of the apartment whilst I stumbled several meters behind, hardly able to maintain balance.  I made it to the ambulance and collapsed on the gurney and just willed for the journey to be over.  

I was taken by wheelchair into the ambulance section of A&E.  I sat there for some time, not sure exactly how long, but I was desperate to pee.  Someone wheeled me around and said they’d be back in a few minutes.  I went to the loo and stumbled back into the chair, where I waited.  And waited.  Eventually, a nurse asked me if I was ok.  I mumbled something and she took me back to A&E.  I was then wheeled into a public waiting room with people who were not patients.  I was in a wheelchair and just left in the middle of the room.  Some time later I was taken to a bed but I needed to pee every few minutes.  The nearest bathroom was down the corridor.  In my state it was a massive effort, but seeing as though no one was around I had to do this every few minutes.  Now, not to be too gross but at this stage I started peeing clumps of blood.  It was painful.  That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

After a couple of hours I saw one of the doctors and she was lovely.  She explained I had an infection and sent me home with antibiotics.  

Result?  I suppose in a way, yes.  However, this could have been nipped in the bud by my GP much sooner had they got a system of booking appointments that made sense.  It’s difficult to express just how ill I felt, and how ill I have been feeling since.  I spent most of Saturday asleep, and most of today (Sunday) asleep also.  

So, that’s why my blog was late and I hope you will forgive me!

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 117.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 91).

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,550.00 (up £50.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £41,058.12 (up £353.60 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,000.00 (up £250.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £718.10 (down £72.06 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,267.85 (down £296.64 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £207,807.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £134,098.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £440,499.07 (up £284.90 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £88.04 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,050.39 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,043.14 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £251,093.53 (down £88.04 from last update).

Total Wealth: £189,405.54 (up £372.94 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,745.57 (target £5,000).

Investment Strategy & My Road to FIRE

From reading the blogs and message boards regarding FIRE, it seems as though the most common approach is to invest as much as possible in index funds and then wait for compounding to do its thing.  After enough time, there should be enough value in the funds to retire.  A popular approach is to aim for your desired annual salary x 25.  So, if you wanted to have an income of £20,000 once you hit FIRE, you would be aiming for a total investment value of £20,000 x 25; a total of £500,000.  This is linked to the idea of the Safe Withdrawal Rate, which I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, which is the amount of money you can take from your investment each year without eroding the capital sum by the end of your projected lifespan.  

I’m not comfortable with this approach because there are too many unknowns.  You could work to build up your FIRE total, but then find you run out of money too early because you miscalculated your SWR.  Also, you could end up living much more frugally than necessary and die with money in the bank.  I’m also not keen on eroding the capital value of an investment.  So, my approach to FIRE is probably different to those of other people.

My approach is to build up a portfolio of Income Generating Assets.  In the build up phase to FIRE, I reinvest as much of that income as possible.  Then, when I am receiving the desired income from my investments I can retire.

My Desired Income

Within the FIRE community there are different definitions and types.  For example, there is Lean FIRE, and Fat FIRE, but there is also Part-Time FIRE (known as BaristaFIRE), as well as several others.  The definitions all share the same goal of full or partial retirement at an early age.  Where they differ is in how much income you are hoping to retire with.  Lean FIRE is based around retiring early with a very frugal or restricted lifestyle.  Fat FIRE is the opposite; retiring early with a comfortable income that allows you to cover the basics and have money left over for luxuries.  

What I don’t like about these definitions is that they aren’t particularly specific.  Two people could aim for Lean FIRE but have radically different numbers in mind.  Everyone is different and everyone has different ideas of what constitutes frugal or luxury living.  It is this lack of specificity that led me to work towards a numerical target instead.

My first goal is to achieve a level of passive income that will cover my basic living costs.  To do this, I need £850pcm.  So far in 2021, I’ve averaged approximately £300pcm.  I’m not that far away from meeting my basic living costs, and I suspect I may hit this goal late 2022, possibly early 2023.  Whilst ever I’m working, though, the passive income I receive is going back into the pot and turbocharging my race to the finish line.  

My second goal is to achieve enough passive income to cover my basic costs, but also allow me to live at my current standard of living.  To do this, I need a passive income of £1,200pcm.  The third and final goal is to advance to a position where my passive income grants me a higher standard of living than what I currently have.  This figure could be infinitely high because I could choose to draw the line anywhere.  However, my mental figure that just “feels right” is to have passive income of at least £1,500pcm.

Getting from A to B

If I was to follow the traditional path of investing in index trackers until I build up a large enough balance, and assuming I use the x 25 calculation, I would need an investment value of £300,000.  Assuming I was maxing out my ISA contributions it would take a long time to get to this figure.  Also, the ups and downs of the stock market mean it could take longer to arrive at that figure.  It’s just too uncertain for me to pin all my hopes on this strategy.  Make no mistake, I like stocks and funds.  I just don’t want to rely solely on this type of investment.  

Unless you want to take the risk of setting up your own business, there is only one realistic way of getting a lot of passive income relatively quickly, and that is through property.  The common refrain is that property is risky, expensive, too much hard work and has too many unknown variables.  All of this is true of any asset class though.  Any investment approach depends on you having done your research, and investing with your head and not your heart.  The numbers have to stack up if the investment is going to be worth it.  Let’s look at these points in turn.

Risk

There are a few risks with property, almost all of which boil down to the tenant.  There is the possibility they might not pay rent and/or they might trash the property.  The simple way to reduce this risk is to properly vet your tenants.  Many “problem” tenants will go for the easiest opportunities because they know that it’s not worth the effort going through checks, referencing and filling out a fairly simple application form.  It’s not worth it when they can just phone up an ad from the local paper and reel in an inexperienced landlord.  

It’s impossible to eliminate risk.  Life is a risk.  All you can do is manage the risk.  You could invest in a fund, and then find that the global economy goes through a horrific crash that lasts for years.  There could be a major war that devastates the holdings within the fund.  There could be a global pandemic even more severe than Covid.  If you manage the risk and educate yourself around property, then you may very well find that the risk is not quite as extreme as you first thought.

Expense and Profit

Another common argument against property is that it’s expensive and there is little profit to be made.  Tax laws have been tightened and when you factor in mortgage payments, agent fees, and budget for maintenance and void periods, it all eats into your profit.  However, there are perfectly legal and simple ways to minimise your expense and it all comes down to research.  It’s about knowing the area, the people that live there, the type of tenant you want to attract and how many stages there are to applying to rent the property.  I’m not talking about subjecting potential tenants to my own version of the Squid Game (new Korean show on Netflix – it’s amazing).  I’m talking about performing referencing and credit checks, and then once they have moved in, just be a decent landlord.  Fix issues as they arise.  Most tenants are honest, decent people.  

With property you get the advantage of capital gain and regular income.  Using the Buy, Refurb, Refinance model you can quickly build up a property portfolio.  You do this by using the bank’s money to help fund your next deposit.  I’m not going to cover this strategy in too much detail right now because I’ve blogged about it before and there is a wealth of information out there.

Potential Return

The BTL I have now, has a mortgage payment of approx £180, on interest only.  Insurance is roughly £20, and the agent takes £72.  Once my investment partner and I divide what’s left, we earn £150 each.  It might not seem like a huge amount, but there are other things to consider.  First, we keep some money in reserve to build up a contingency fund.  Second, we overpay slightly on the mortgage as a hedge against non-payment of rent.  We round our mortgage up to £200pcm.  Also, money is kept on one side for our tax bill each year.

Assuming that future deals mirror this one, more or less, it can be assumed that each property will return £300pcm.  To get to £1,500pcm passive income, I need at least five properties I own solely, or say three I own solely and then four I have a fifty/fifty share of.  

None of the above factors in the income received from stocks and funds either, so it’s entirely possible I could smash through the £1,500pcm passive income goal and go much higher.  We shall have to wait and see.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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.