Part 99

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I take a look at a controversial study involving autistic people.  Also, a closer look at my financial goals as we approach the end of 2021, shortly followed by the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.   First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Quote: “#StopSpectrum10K”

This is a story that I’ve been loosely following for a while.  The basics are that researchers, some of whom are from the University of Cambridge, are looking for 10,000 autistic volunteers to supply samples of their DNA.  This material would then be analysed to identify what genetic triggers there are for autism.

In response, the autistic community has rallied together and opposed this study citing concerns about how the DNA will be stored and used in the future.  Another major concern is that this is just the thin end of the wedge where the end result is eugenics.  

Thankfully, the study has now been put on hold.  However, many of those who are behind the study have not made themselves easy to like or respect.  Simon Baron-Cohen, who is the public face of the research, has gone on record in the past with statements that are alarming.  What has been more frustrating for many is the attitude of a vile woman on Twitter, who is commonly referred to as “The Ambassador”.  This person has aggressively bullied, and then attempted to gaslight, several in the autistic community including a high-profile advocate for autistic people.  I know he doesn’t want to be the centre of attention, so I’m not going to refer to him by name, but he is autistic and a great source of information and wisdom for those wanting to know more about autism.  

I recently told some of my coworkers that I’m autistic and the reaction was fine and there was no drama.  I think it helps that I’ve worked with many of these people for a decade now, so they realise that I am still the same person.  I’ve heard stories of people stating they’re autistic and then finding that people talk down to them, or talk to them in a patronising way.  

Although there have been great strides in understanding and accepting mental health issues in the UK, there are still some things that are severely misunderstood.  One of those things is autism.  There is nothing inherently wrong with being autistic.  The difficulties that autistic people encounter in life is due to the world being set up for neurotypical people.  Every autistic person is unique, and they don’t all need the same support or accommodations to be made.  For example, all I need is a little more structure in my day and to not be overloaded with too many things at once.  Some autistic people may need more, or less, support in the workplace or society in general.  

The key thing to remember is that autism is not an illness.  It’s not something you can catch or be cured from.  Any study that is supported by those who have stated publicly that they want a cure for autism, or those who are proponents of eugenics, should be a concern for all of society.  Once we start down the eugenics route, where does it stop?

Another important point to note with Spectrum10K is the reluctance to actually engage with the Actually Autistic community.  If you want to find out more about something, you discuss it with the people with first hand knowledge.  If you want to know about Buddhism, you talk to Buddhists.  If you want to find out more about the struggles of ethnic minorities in low income areas, then you talk to ethnic minorities in low income areas.

Weekly Update

This week saw my return to work, where I spent much of the time catching up on emails, memos and new policies.  I have a new widescreen monitor which is huge, and I played about with the settings and have converted it to two screens within the single monitor.  This means I have three screens on which to work; my laptop screen and the two screens on the monitor.  For the job I do, I could probably use four screens but that might be considered overkill. 

Much of the rest of the week was taken up with medical appointments.  I had physio on my ankle, which has been a problem for almost two years now.  I should have had an appointment with the dentist to fit a nightguard, as I grind my teeth in my sleep.  However, it appears my dentist has covid and so my appointment has been rebooked for the next available slot; November 25th.  I finished up the working week having my flu vaccine.  I had some mild side effects, such as a sore arm and headaches, but on the whole it is worth it for the protection it affords.  

My home city, Sheffield, is a major university hub with at least 60,000 students in attendance each year.  With one of the universities here announcing a return to face-to-face teaching I am concerned this will cause a spike in covid cases.  With the best will in the world, I don’t expect the majority of 18 and 19 year olds to adhere to social distancing during freshers’ week.

It’s been quite an eventful week when I think about it.  We also had to take Bobbity to the vet on Wednesday for surgery.  He had to have most of his teeth removed.  Prior to him being adopted by us, it looks like he had some gum infections.  We’ve tried to treat them but it was not successful.  So, most of his teeth have been removed.  He’s been very brave about it, but I don’t think he was happy his murder mitts were also trimmed.  

When Bobby came back from the vet he was still high on the anaesthetic.  He was swaying all over the place as he tried to walk.  We tried to get him settled but he wouldn’t stay still.  He just kept beggering for food! Over the course of the next couple of hours he started to come around.  We made chicken burgers for dinner that evening, and it was obvious he had recovered as he jumped up on the sofa next to my girlfriend and kept pawing at her for some of the burger.  When that didn’t work, he climbed over her to start attacking the plate directly.  He really is a little fatso but we love him.

Bobbity at the vet.
Bobbers as the anaesthetic wears off.

As the week drew to a close my MacBook Pro decided that it had lived a long enough life, and decided to go to the big Apple store in the sky. Now, as much as Apple frustrate me, my MacBook lasted for nearly a decade. Every other laptop I’ve had has lasted a year or two. I have no complaints over the quality of Apple products. So, I’ve stumped up for a new MacBook Air. It’s brilliant. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to be one of those people that find any excuse to talk about their new tech. Honest.

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).

Some major progress with my weight loss but I suspect some of the decrease is down to normal fluctuations in weight.  Still, it’s a good feeling.  I’ve finished an interesting book this week; Vaxxers, by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green.  It’s the story of how the Oxford vaccine was created to combat Covid.  Although I know some of the broad strokes when it comes to vaccine development, this was a great learning experience.  For anyone who is antivax, I would recommend reading it.  However, the past has shown that education is not the key to changing beliefs amongst crackpot conspiracy theorists.  Anyway, once more for the people in the back; vaccines are safe, masks don’t make you ill and wind turbines don’t cause cancer.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £40,704.52 (up £1,417.69 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £750.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £790.16 (down £6.13 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,564.49 (down £388.27 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: £440,214.17 (up £1,023.29 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £88.04 (up £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: £251,181.57 (up £88.04 from last update).

Total Wealth: £189,032.60 (up £935.25 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,677.85 (target £5,000).

It’s nice to see my wealth increase after the dip caused by cashing in some of my Premium Bonds.  I didn’t quite get my credit card payment through in time for the balance to be zero for this update.  Other than the normal fluctuations in the stock market, there is little to talk about this week.  I get paid on Monday, which should see some of my investments increase.  However, for the short to medium term, I will not be investing as much as usual.  My girlfriend quit her job after being bullied and harassed by management.  I’m not going to go into much detail, but I saw first hand what happened and it was awful.  She has my full support in leaving that job to preserve her emotional health.  

New Plans and Priorities

Now that our move to Romania is off the table, we have been thinking about what we want to do.  Neither of us want to remain in Sheffield forever.  The world is too big to stay in one place, and we want to explore.  We are thinking about possibly moving to Spain, either in Madrid or somewhere close to Madrid.  It’s a city we both love and my girlfriend is familiar with the language.  Also, having done some research on the cost of living, it is not as high as we expected.  It’s only a tentative plan right now and things could change.  

Although the cost of living is not as high as expected, it is still much higher than living in Bucharest; which was our original plan.  So it will take longer to achieve the level of financial independence needed.  I believe I can still do this by the end of 2023, but had the plan for Romania still been valid we could have achieved FIRE a year earlier.

The change in direction means a change in priorities.  As we have more time to spare, we are going to concentrate on improving our apartment in more depth.  Also, the extra time means I can allocate more resources towards my ISA and pension.  I have changed my pension contributions to the maximum level that is matched by my employer.  I’ve also tweaked some of the contributions to my own SIPP.  Moving forward, I want to finish accumulating my Fuck It Fund, and then I can turn back towards our second BTL.  

So, here are my upcoming priorities/goals:

  1. Increase Fuck It Fund to £5,000.
  2. Increase pension pot to £100,000.
  3. Acquire second BTL.
  4. Max out ISA allowance for financial year 2022/2023.

Some of these goals will take a little longer to achieve, such as increasing my pension and acquiring the second BTL.  I should be able to hit my Fuck It Fund goal in the next 4-6 months, which will be just in time for the new financial year.  This then means I don’t have to save towards my Fuck It Fund and can concentrate on the other goals.  

100 Weeks

Next week will be my 100th weekly blog post for Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  It has flown by and I can still remember when the idea for this blog first appeared in my mind.  I was on a cruise around the Norwegian Fjords.  Between destinations I sat on our balcony looking out to sea whilst listening to an audiobook about investing.  I knew that I wanted to retire early, but I didn’t know how to order my thoughts or how to keep myself on track.  It was from this that Mortgage Advisor on FIRE was born.

Since my first post, this blog has evolved and some of the earlier posts seem a little clunky and basic now.  No doubt there will be more changes to come in the future.  If there is anything you would like to see from this blog going forward, or anything you want to see discussed next week, please leave a comment.  

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 98

From my visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in 2017.

I can’t believe it has been twenty years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  It was such a surreal day.  I was just finishing up my day at sixth form and it was my 18th birthday.  I made the decision to go ahead with my birthday celebrations, on the basis that life must go on and cancelling would be letting the terrorists win.  I appreciate there were arguments for postponing my party, but I think it was one of those decisions where there wasn’t a right and wrong choice; just a selection of bad ones.  

The world has changed a lot since 9/11.  The fact that the day signalled my official entry to adulthood, and now there are adults who were not even born when the attacks happened makes me feel very, very old.  

The US and UK recently pulled out of Afghanistan, handing the country back to the regime that harboured many terrorist training camps.  Has anything improved as a result of the near twenty year occupation of Afghanistan? It’s an impossible question to answer as we don’t know what the alternative would have been.  We don’t know how many terrorist plots were foiled as a result of the War on Terror.  However, we don’t know how many terror attacks were carried out because of the War on Terror.  A lot of brave soldiers gave their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the many civilians who died.  No matter what your political leanings and opinion on those conflicts, I think it’s important to remember that the soldiers were all people, with families and friends who mourned their passing.  

So much of what is happening in the Middle East can be traced back to how the Western nations, and primarily the UK, drew lines on maps to create artificial countries with little to no consideration of the culture, religion and geography of the region.  It’s a horrible mess and I can’t work out what the answer is.  One suggestion would be to just leave the whole region to itself and let time sort it out.  This will, I believe, lead to a number of conflicts and a prolonged period of civil unrest.  Many people will die.  There is also the possibility that the region will end up becoming a safe haven for terrorist training camps.

Weekly Update

I’ve been able to fit in a few things this week that were only possible due to our returning from Romania early.  We should have been there until 10/09/21, but events outside our control led to our return.  I’ve caught up with a friend I’ve not seen in a while and had plenty of walks.  I was also able to fit in a check up with my gastroenterologist, as I’m still struggling a little.  The upshot is I have to have a colonoscopy, which if you don’t know what it is, I’d just enjoy your ignorance.

I was also able to get out for a nice day with my girlfriend, as we took in some cafes, museums and a leisurely meal during the mini heatwave we’ve had in Sheffield.  I don’t know where the intervening twenty years have gone since my 18th birthday on 9/11.  I never would have imagined where I’d end up, or that I’d be on course for early retirement.  Had someone told me at age 18 what I know now, I’m convinced I would be comfortably retired by now.  I’m not talking about knowledge of future events.  I’m talking about the principles of money and investing.  At age 18 I was utterly and completely clueless.  I thought going to university was the natural route, and that I would get a good job off the back of a degree.  

The worst thing most kids can do now is go to university.  Unless you are studying a degree that has a natural progression to a career, such as medicine, law, architecture, etc, then I don’t see the point.  Yes, there are social aspects to university but when we talk about social aspects we’re really referring to drink and sex.  Neither of those are exclusive to university.  If you are determined to go to university shortly after finishing school, I would suggest getting a full time job and working for two to three years, investing as much as possible.  That money can then work for you whilst you are studying, which provides a safety net upon graduating.  The other advantage to waiting to go to university is that you get some real world experience, and mature as a result, before starting your degree.  

Anyway, back to my birthday. I received another great homemade card from my girlfriend. She has a real talent for this sort of thing. I’m not generally a fan of shop bought cards, but I love these handmade cards and I love seeing how happy she is at making them. Below is a selection of some recent cards she has made for me.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.6kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 89).

A slight increase in weight, but that could just be the result of daily fluctuations.  With weight loss it’s all about the trend, so I just need to stay on top of it.  

I’m speeding towards my reading goal for the year and will probably have it finished with time to spare.  I’ve completed a sci-fi trilogy this week which was disappointing.  It’s the Proxima Trilogy by Brandon Q. Morris.  The premise sounded interesting, in that Earth’s first contact with intelligent alien life comes from a distress signal from the Proxima system.  The aliens are going through some unknown catastrophe and need help.  So, humanity sends a ship.  Unfortunately, the series was incredibly dull.  I only finished it because the books were fairly short and I was holding out hope there would be a twist or some other payoff that would place the story in another context.  It was not to be, and the story was just dull.  The only reason I gave the trilogy two-stars instead of one was because of the fascinating approach to technology and alien ecology.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,500.00 (down £15,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £39,286.83 (up £12,441.80 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £750.00 (up £575.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £796.29 (up £166.38 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,952.76 (down £10.90 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: £439,190.88 (down £1,827.72 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £566.95 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 £566.95 from last update).

Total Wealth: £188,097.35 (down £1,260.77 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,442.73 (target £5,000).

I cashed in £15,000 of my Premium Bonds in light of our change of plans.  We had originally intended to move to Romania once I hit FIRE, but we are now thinking a little differently.  As we were looking at moving to Romania in 2022, there was a sense of urgency to increase cash flow as quickly as possible.  Now, I have a bit more breathing space.  This extra time means I was able to max out my ISA allowance.  I can then use the surplus monthly income to increase my Fuck It Fund and replenish my Premium Bonds over time.  

Some of the £15,000 was put to one side for my girlfriend as I wanted to help her with a few bits.  An additional amount was used for our cat’s upcoming vet bill.  The remaining amount was used to fill up the ISA with the leftovers going in my Fuck It Fund.  

Another change I’ve made, now that I don’t need to save like crazy for my next BTL deposit, is to increase my pension contributions through my employer.  I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic scheme where my contributions are not just matched by my employer but blown out of the water.  So, moving forward my workplace pension pot should increase rapidly.

National Insurance

I’ve blogged before both on this site, and my previous one at Now We Live about how the NHS needs more funding.  I’ve even discussed a new “NHS Tax” as a possible way forward.  I believe the NHS should continue to be free at the point of use, but the fact is we have an aging population and a drain on medical staff due to their working conditions, Brexit, and Covid, amongst other issues.  The drain on the NHS, the State Pension and the care sector is only going to get worse.  Something needs to happen.  In principle I am not against this extra tax burden.  However, I can’t say I’m happy about how this has come about.

The UK government is far from competent, in my opinion.  There are certain people in, and actions from, our government that also lead me to question their integrity.  Corruption is the word of the day here.  All one has to do is google “PPE scandal UK” to be presented with numerous reports about hundreds of millions, and possibly billions of pounds being wasted on questionable PPE contracts.  

Had the PPE money been spent more sensibly, perhaps this increase in NI payments would not be necessary?  Who knows… What is a kick in the teeth to many people is that the government seems to be targeting this increase at the poorest parts of society, and that this follows the reduction in Universal Credit payments to many recipients of the benefit.  

Another factor that should not be overlooked is that the UK’s response to Covid has been an embarrassment, with so many changes in policy and many lockdowns that have been only lightly enforced.  Rather than a short, sharp break to allow Covid to burnout, we have just dragged this pandemic on through sheer incompetence.  All of this has contributed to the massive drain on our finances.  Had we seen a better response, we might be in a much stronger financial position now which would also mean these NI raises would be unnecessary.  It might not seem like there is a direct link between the lockdowns and the rise in NI contributions, but fewer lockdowns would have meant fewer employers going out of business, fewer store closures and more people in employment, which in turn leads to more tax and NI revenue for the government.  

It’s not just the government response that has been embarrassing, but also the response of much of the UK population.  I regularly see posts and comments from people on social media that ramble on about how lockdowns don’t work and that they will not adhere to them.  The mental gymnastics on show here is quite astounding.  These people don’t realise that the reason lockdowns haven’t worked is precisely because people don’t adhere to them.  You might think that popping to your elderly parents as just a one-off isn’t a big deal.  You might think that having a mate over for a meal isn’t that serious, because it’s just a one-off.  The problem is, if just 1% of the population do this each week, that’s roughly 700,000 “one-off” breaches each week.  With an R value of between 0.9 and 1.1, which is the current estimate, this would mean that every ten infected people would be estimated to infect between nine and ten other people.  

No one lives in a vacuum.  Where a pandemic is concerned there is no such thing as a one-off.  We all have a responsibility to minimise the risk of catching the virus and passing it on.  So, have your vaccine, wear a mask and if we have a lockdown, please adhere to it.  

Luke’s Law

A gentle reminder that if you haven’t checked out the petition re: Luke’s Law, please do so.  If you agree, please sign.  If you don’t agree, please think about why you would disagree with something that has the potential to save lives; then sign.  

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 97

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I highlight the case of Luke Ashton, who took his own life following a battle with gambling addiction.  Also, an update on our return to the UK much earlier than planned.  I discuss some major changes to my FIRE plans, and also mention Nika, a sweet dog in Romania that I loved who sadly passed away.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I’ll never stop talking about gambling addiction.  It’s such a misunderstood issue and is not symptomatic of a lack of will power or mental strength.  It’s a mental illness that kills people, and problem gambling has the highest rate of attempted suicide compared to other addictions.  The pandemic has only made the problem worse for many people.

Twitter has an active community of ex-gamblers who had their own struggles with addiction.  Some of them have relapsed through the pandemic, but the support is always there.  The stories of how people were allowed to place bets with little to no checks being completed on the source of the funds are, sadly, all too common.  Even worse are the stories of problem gamblers trying to quit, only to be pulled back in by “free bets” and offers from the gambling companies.  This is like a heroin addict who stops taking the drug, only to be lured back in with free drugs.  It’s wrong, and there needs to be tighter regulation of the industry with laws in place to stop this from happening.

Luke Ashton took his own life after battling with his addiction for a long time.  His wife, Annie, is now left to raise their two children.  I’m not placing blame on Luke here.  He suffered from a debilitating addiction, and the betting companies fueled that addiction.  All the advertisements that talk about “responsible gambling” and “when the fun stops, stop” are just empty words that miss the whole point of addiction.  When someone is under the control of an addiction, they can’t just stop.  

Annie Ashton is now campaigning to have the laws changed and there is a petition open to try and achieve this change.  You can find the petition for #LukesLaw here.  Please sign this petition and share on social media.  No child should have to grow up without a parent because they were driven to suicide by unethical business practices.  It’s just wrong.  

If anyone reading this is struggling with gambling addiction, please reach out to someone.  There are some great resources online, and an active and supportive community on Twitter.  Feel free to reach out to me and I can direct you to resources that have helped me.  It’s now been 772 days since I last gambled and I would not have achieved this without outside help.  There is no shame in asking for help; it’s not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength.

Weekly Update

It’s been a whirlwind week as we arrived in Romania expecting a two-week stay, but unexpected events meant we had to fly home early.  Although we were only in Romania for a week or so, a lot happened.  Tragically, we had to say goodbye to Nika as she had lost control of her back legs.  She was such a sweet, loving and loyal dog who was full of joy.  I’m glad I got to be with her as she was put to sleep, even though I was in pieces as it happened.  Apparently, she perked up when she saw me for the first time in almost two years.  Normally, she would greet me with a big smile as she fussed around me.  This time, I came to her and knelt beside her as I gave her scratches behind her ears followed by a hug.  I’ll miss that doggo.

We didn’t get a chance to do much with our time in Romania, but on our last night we went for dinner at a great restaurant near the airport.  I had slow cooked beef that fell apart faster than Wednesday’s defence last season (football joke – I’m sorry!).  This was served with mash, mămăligă (a type of thick porridge made from yellow maize, which has the consistency of a softer mash potato), and mici (a type of grilled meat kebab made from beef, lamb and spices).  It was an amazing meal finished up with papanași, which is a doughnut made with a soft cheese served with sour cream and cherry compote.  It is one of my favourite desserts.

Papanași

The journey home to the UK was not great.  I felt absolutely awful in the airport.  My crohn’s hit me like a repeated punch to the gut.  I had stomach cramps for hours, as well as needing several trips to the bathroom at the airport.  It was not a great time.  I normally enjoy the flying experience and shopping in duty free.  Not this time though.  We needed some bottled water to take on the flight, so as my girlfriend was checking the gate information I went to a cafe to get the drinks.  A miserable looking woman approached with no greeting, and the conversation went like this:

Me: two bottles of water please.

Her: What?

Me: two bottles of water *holds up two fingers in the peace sign*.

Her: *takes three bottles out of the fridge and slams them on the counter*.

Me: I only wanted two.

Her: You said three.

Me: I asked for two.

Her: You said three.

Me: This could go on a while, but I really only asked for two.

The flight home was fairly uneventful.  The route from Doncaster to Bucharest is one of those where it’s not quite short enough to just sit and chill, and it’s not long enough to really get stuck into a show on your phone, or a lengthy book.  Also, I hate Doncaster airport.  It has awful transport links, no mobile signal and poor facilities.  I had arranged for a taxi to pick us up and paid extra for the “meet and greet” service.  I was a bit frustrated at the hoops I was asked to jump through by the cab company.  Also, the cab was not waiting for us and we were not “met” or “greeted”.  The cab driver said he didn’t want to incur parking charges that he would have to pass on to us.  So, what exactly is the point of meet and greet?  I’ve made a complaint to the cab company and they’ve informed me it will take five days to investigate.  I’m not sure what there is to investigate.  They have the images I’ve posted here from my whatsapp chat with the cab driver.

It was a long, long day and we eventually got to bed sometime around 3am on Thursday morning.  It was great picking up Bobbity from the cattery.  He was very well behaved by all accounts, and his health seems to be improving.  On the cab ride back home I was petting him constantly and he kept rubbing his head against my hand.  It was clear he had missed us just as much as we had missed him.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 119.8kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 85).

I didn’t read as much as I wanted to whilst I was away, but I’m still making good progress towards my goal of finishing 104 new books in 2021.  At the rate I’m going, I’ll probably hit that target by the middle of November.  I’ve also lost some more weight which is a huge positive for me.  Finding that I’ve dropped below 120kg is a massive psychological boost.  If I can get below 110kg by the end of October I will be delighted.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £21,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £26,845.03 (down £72.76 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £175.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £629.91 (up £76.53 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,963.66 (up £630.47 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: £441,018.60 (up £634.24 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £566.95 (up £404.93 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,050.39 (down £441.85 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,043.14 (down £18.20 from last update). 

Total Debts: £251,660.48 (down £55.12 from last update).

Total Wealth: £189,358.12 (up £689.36 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,440.09 (target £5,000).

My credit card balance increased due to changing our flights, arranging cabs and paying for our covid tests prior to flying and for our second day after returning to the UK.  There must be some serious money being made with these tests.  In Romania we paid the equivalent of £20 each for our tests.  Here, we could not find any for less than £115 each on the day we needed them.  It’s outrageous.  I understand that as I chose to go away, I should have to pay for the tests.  The NHS tests should be for those who need testing through no fault of their own.  However, £115 per person just seems like profiteering.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the test provider is linked to the Tory party in some way.  It’s disgraceful.  

A Change in Direction

Those of you who have followed my progress from day one will know that the plan has been to achieve FIRE and then move to Romania.  After talking through the plan with my girlfriend, we have decided to put that on the back burner.  Romania is still an option in the future, but we feel like we want to explore a little more before putting down roots anywhere.  We know that other places will have a higher cost of living, and so our FIRE deadline might be a little further away but that’s not a problem.  The more time I have to accumulate assets now, the more compounding will benefit us in the long term.  

My original FIRE deadline was the end of 2023.  I had been working towards achieving fire by the end of 2021 in my own mind though, but covid pushed a lot of things back.  So, I had accepted it would probably be sometime in 2022 before I could actually retire.  Now, I’m back with my original target date of 31/12/2023.  It’s not a problem though.  Every extra month I am working means more money being invested in income generating assets.  My future self will thank me for these extra assets.

As my plans have been modified I am changing my investment priorities.  I will be moving approximately £15,000 from Premium Bonds and using most of that to max out my 2021 ISA allowance.  Anything left over will go towards improving the apartment as we will now be living here for longer than planned.  In October, assuming that property values continue to rise, we should be able to complete a further advance on our BTL which will release at least £10,000.  This will be split with my investment partner, and as soon as he ties up some financial loose ends we will be able to move forward with our second BTL.  This will now be completed early in 2022 in all likelihood.  

I’m not too disappointed or frustrated by these changes to my plans.  It’s actually quite exciting.  The thing about investing is that you are always learning.  There is never a point where you know everything.  So, by having more time, I can put into practice new information to maximise my investment returns.

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 96

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the level of competence the UK government is demonstrating (spoiler: it’s not high).  I also touch on my journey to Romania, for my first visit since December 2019.  Also, I look at how to become a millionaire and the time it would take to achieve this.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I can’t recall a UK government being more incompetent than the one led by Boris Johnson.  It’s just one embarrassment after another.  In a time with no pandemics or wars, it could almost be funny.  However, we are living in dangerous times with Brexit, Covid and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan all requiring a coherent and well reasoned response.  We simply don’t have anyone capable of heading up that response in government.  The only thing this government is good for is being the subject of memes.  

Being in government is not like a normal job, or at least it shouldn’t be.  The concept of being on holiday from your role as a senior minister is bizarre.  It should be a position that is a 24/7 job, with the idea that you take your breaks as and when you can.  It should be a position that has enough support so that you don’t get burned out, despite the potential for long hours.  This is what a life in public service demands.  Saying all that, I don’t have an issue with a government minister taking a break.  The issue is one of perception.  Was it right for the Foreign Secretary to take a holiday abroad whilst the situation in Afghanistan was worsening by the hour?

If there is one thing that Covid has demonstrated, it’s that many jobs can be done remotely so long as you have a secure internet connection.  Had Dominic Raab cut short his break and set up a temporary office, where he was working tirelessly on this crisis, that would have gone some way to improving his image.  To think that someone, somewhere, thought that stating the sea was closed was going to extinguish this fire is just absurd, and only goes to show how out of touch the Westminster elite is.

Weekly Update

I started the week getting ready for the work to our bathrooms in September.  We needed some tiles for our bathrooms and I didn’t want to spend too much, as it’s just to make the place look a bit more presentable when we sell.  I had real trouble finding a company that would deliver all the way up to the apartment though.  Each firm I contacted would only do a curbside delivery which is always an issue when ordering heavy or bulky items.  I found some basic white gloss tiles and ordered 18 meter², which is the amount needed plus ten percent for breakages.  This meant we needed 18 boxes, with each box weighing 14.85kg.  

Our apartment block has two entrances; one which has a flight of stairs before you get to the lift, and another with a lift down to the ground floor.  The former results in a much shorter distance to walk, with the latter being at least twice the distance to walk to our flat.  The driver who delivered the tiles was just a courier and, although he was friendly, he could not help carry the tiles to our flat.  So, on Tuesday I carried all 18 boxes from the curb, up fifteen steps, and through two fire doors before getting to our apartment.  By the time I was done, I was seeing god and I’m atheist.  

As the week drew to a close, we started our journey to Romania.  Normally we try to get the bus from Sheffield to Robin Hood airport (also known as Doncaster-Sheffield airport, or DSA).  However, it seems that the direct bus service has stopped.  So, with time pressing we decided to take the hit and order an uber.  We have flown from DSA many times in the past, but not since January 2020.  The uber driver was fretting on the journey about paying a fee to enter the car park at the airport.  I checked the DSA website and it stated that there was a fifteen minute window for dropping off, for which you would not be charged.  

The driver proceeded to the wrong entrance for the airport, and then took us to another entrance which was for service vehicles.  Eventually, we ended up at the right entrance.  However, at the barrier, the driver was hesitant to push the button as he thought he would be charged.  After much dithering on his part, and we were getting stressed because it was just after 14:00 by this point, he suggested we jump out as it was just a short walk to the terminal.  Thinking this was the lesser of two evils, we agreed.  As we were getting our cases out of the book, airport security came up and stated they had fined him £100 and taken his licence number as he was blocking the entrance to the airport.  

We didn’t have time to hang around, so we set off walking to the airport.  As we joined the queue for the baggage drop, I noticed that the driver had not yet ended the journey, so I cancelled the trip on the app and sent a message to uber about what had happened.  I was worried the driver would try to hand the fine over to us.  However, I had a call from uber support and they are refunding the cost of the trip (over £40) and putting measures in place to make sure we are not paired with that driver again.  It was also frustrating that we had to ask him to wear a damn mask, but that’s another story I can’t be bothered with right now.

DSA is not a great airport.  It’s very basic and the only reason we use it is because it’s the only local airport you can get a direct flight to Bucharest from.  If you fly from Manchester, you have to change at Heathrow, Amsterdam or Munich.  This adds hours to the journey.  So, we just put up with it for the sake of a faster journey.

In the terminal there is no organisation, apart from a cordoned-off seating area at the Weatherspoon pub.  When the gate was announced, a wave of people marched to the desk with no discernable queue.  An announcement came out inviting those with priority boarding to come forward.  We paid extra for priority boarding just so we could avoid more hassle.  This meant we had to push through crowds of people to get to, what we thought was, the end of the priority boarding line.  However, as we got in line, some guy behind started talking in Romanian.  My girlfriend snapped back at him and wouldn’t tell me what was said until later, as she thought I would say something back.  She knows me well.  I don’t generally react to idiots, but if something does get my back up I tend to lose my shit.  What this guy had said was racist against British people.  So yeah, I would probably have reacted.    

This is the first time I’ve been back in Romania since late December 2019.  I flew back just before Christmas that year, and my girlfriend stayed until just after the new year.  The last time I was here, my blog was still very new.  Now, I’m writing this in a sleepy village in rural Romania early on Sunday morning as I’m wired from all the caffeine from the journey.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 82).

My weight loss stalled a little this week, and it’s going to be difficult to maintain in Romania due to the fantastic food there.  I’m looking forward to the lemon chicken my girlfriend’s family make, as well as the schnitzel that is served fresh from the pan.  There is also a soup called supa de galuşte, which is a clear soup with semolina dumplings with carrots and fresh parsley.  Some people choose to add vinegar, which is also my preference.  My favourites at the house are branza (Romanian cheese), with fresh tomatoes and vinete (aubergine which is grilled and pureed).  

I have also read some excellent non-fiction since the last post, such as The Skeptic’s Guide to Alternative Medicine, and Prisoners of Geography.  The former looks at the bizarre, and dangerous, alternative medicine industry and is a nice introduction to the subject.  The latter was fascinating as it delved into political history and how it’s been shaped by geography. 

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £21,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £26,917.79 (up £84.80 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £175.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £553.38 (down £40.58 from last update). 

Pensions: £49,333.19 (up £665.10 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: £440,384.36 (up £709.32 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £162.02 (down £1,929.48 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,492.24 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,061.34 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £251,715.60 (down £1,929.48 from last update).

Total Wealth: £188,668.76 (up £2,638.80 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,440.09 (target £5,000).

A great week that saw my debts come down massively.  I was able to free up cash through selling some things I no longer needed.  This money was used primarily to reduce my credit card, although I have put some cash on one side to help pay for the bathroom work we are having done in September.  

My total wealth is creeping towards £190,000.  Hopefully, a good week in the stock market will see that happen.  This week also saw my rental income hit my bank account, which took my investment income for the year to almost half my target.  In September I should see some dividends for the stocks I hold.  It’s looking like I will just miss out on the goal of £5,000, but I don’t think I will be too far off.  

Thoughts on the Future

One reality I’ve had to face is that I’m not going to be able to secure a second BTL on my own in 2021.  I could go for a lower spec property, but there’s no point.  My criteria for a property are fairly simple; three bedrooms, decent area and a price no more than around £140,000.  The market is so hot at the moment that people are paying way over the odds for these types of properties.  There will be a slight reset in the near future, and so I’m going to wait until early next year when, I hope, I’ll be able to secure a second BTL with my JV partner.  

In the meantime I am considering transferring some of my Premium Bond balance into my ISA.  I have £13,000 left from my £20,000 allowance for his tax year.  I could take that money from the Premium Bonds and replenish it between now and April 2022, when the ISA allowance refreshes.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Being a millionaire has often been considered the milestone by which people are considered rich.  However, inflation means that being a millionaire now is not as meaningful as it was fifty years ago.  Make no mistake, being a millionaire in 2021 through your own hard work is still a hell of an achievement.  I have started thinking about when I might hit this milestone.  The first thing we need to consider, though, is how to define being a millionaire.

I can think of the following definitions.  

  1. Having at least a million pounds in cash.
  2. Having assets and cash that are valued at over a million pounds.
  3. Taking your total assets, then subtracting your debts, and being left with a total value of a million pounds or more.  

I’m not a fan of the first two definitions, and I’ll explain why using an example.  Let’s call my hypothetical investor Derek.  He borrows £300,000 from four different lenders, meaning he has £1,200,000 in cash, but he also owes £1,200,000.  Derek uses this cash to buy twelve properties for £100,000 each.  However, there is a drop in property values meaning each property loses £10,000 value.  Derek’s portfolio is now worth £1,080,000.  Definition two would suggest he is still a millionaire, despite the fact he is technically £120,000 worse off than when he started and is now in negative equity.

In the UK, approximately 1 in 20 people are classed as a millionaire, according to the third definition.  This is actually more than I thought.  I would suspect that many of these people are millionaires in the sense that their property value has increased over time, as opposed to them accumulating wealth through cash, equities or other investments.  

So, how long will it take me to become a millionaire?

My total wealth at the moment is £188,668.  I’m 18.8% of the way to becoming a millionaire.  What follows is just my own personal preference, rather than being based on anything logical.  I would want at least half my wealth to be made up of non-property assets, such as stocks and bonds.  So, the real question here is how long will it take me to accumulate £500,000 between my ISA, bonds and pension?

As things stand, I have roughly £97,750 from those asset classes.  Assuming that my investments return 8%, which is in line with historical data, and that I invest £250 every month, my investments should be worth at least £500,000 in 17-18 years.  I would be in my mid-50s at this point, which is pretty good I think.  

What is interesting with these calculations is that the monthly amount saved has only a minor impact on the time taken to accumulate £500,000.  The biggest impact comes from the compounded gains.  For example, reducing the monthly investment to £100 but keeping the same investment term and rate of interest, you would still have over £420,000 after 17-18 years.  Compound interest is insanely powerful.  

There might be ways that I could speed up the timeframe for hitting this level of wealth but I’m content to follow the process rather than fixating on the outcome.  If I concentrate too much on the outcome, I risk losing sight of the basics which could have disastrous consequences.  Ultimately, slow is fast.  I know the process works, so if I follow the process I will achieve the outcome 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 95

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I touch on a few subjects, some of which I’ve covered in the past but I think they need addressing again.  I look at Dunning-Kruger in the context of vaccine safety.  Also, a look at the situation in Afghanistan and the tragic death of a young refugee in my city of Sheffield.  In addition to the usual financial updates, some thoughts on my plans for the next few months. Rounding out the blog for this week is a shout out to a great new cafe in Sheffield.  First, the Quote of the Week, where I once again troll social media:  

Quote of the Week

I do enjoy throwing a grenade into social media discussions, just so I can sit back and watch chaos ensue.  I’m known to many of my friends as a troll when it comes to social media, and yeah, they have a point.  My girlfriend is exasperated when I bring out my phone and ask, “who can I wind up tonight?” I’m not a malicious troll and I don’t aim to attack anyone specifically. It’s more a case of throwing out such absurd statements that it gets people wound up.

As serious as the Covid pandemic is, sometimes it’s best to use humour to make a point.  In all the times I’ve engaged with anti-vaxxers I’m yet to be presented with a compelling argument against vaccines.  Many of these people don’t know enough to know what they are against, or why they’re against it.  This is Dunning-Kruger in action.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where people overestimate their knowledge or skill.  It can also describe how experts underestimate their ability, but for now I just want to focus on the first point.  We are all subject to Dunning-Kruger; it’s just part of human nature.  The key is to try and recognise when you are falling prey to it, and then to mentally step back and look at the situation again.  

In terms of vaccine research, I’m not an expert.  I’m not even close to being an expert.  However, I am well read on the scientific method and I’ve studied psychology at undergraduate and postgraduate level.  So, I have a little bit of understanding when it comes to research.  Vaccine development is improving all the time, and I was not surprised that Covid vaccines were developed so quickly.  I think it’s a fantastic achievement that we were able to create, manufacture and distribute the vaccines as effectively as we have.  It’s an incredible achievement for humankind.  It was only possible because so many scientists worked on it, and because so much money and so many resources were thrown at the problem.  Where there is political will, an unlimited budget and large scale public support, we can accomplish almost anything.  

Keeping all the above points in mind, what is more likely; the vaccines are safe or some random person on the internet discovered something that the finest minds on Earth missed?

My faith in vaccines comes not from my own expertise in vaccine development, but from my understanding of the scientific method.  I put my faith in the experts who created the vaccine, and anyone who thinks that is risky needs to think about all the times they put their faith in experts for their own safety.  A common argument from the anti-vax brigade is that they will not use something if they don’t understand how it works.  Well, how many typical people on the street understand the physics of flight and aircraft design? How many people understand the mechanics of the combustion engine?  How many people understand how microwave ovens cook food?

I’m convinced that many people who are refusing the vaccine are doing it for attention.  Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe people are just that dumb.

Weekly Update

This week has been dominated by events in Afghanistan, which is understandable.  The wars in the Middle East have been foolish, and whilst I have enormous respect for our troops, I have nothing but disdain for the politicians that have brought us to this position.  After two decades of occupation, and trillions of dollars spent, and thousands of lives lost, one has to wonder if any progress has actually been made.  

Unless the West is willing to commit to a huge occupying force complete with investment in infrastructure, healthcare and education, I can’t see any way that these countries will join the international community and live at peace with their neighbours.  Whenever I think of the War on Terror, I realise that it’s an oxymoron.  Many people in Afghanistan are good, decent and kind; just like in most countries.  However, every person that dies from our drone strikes creates several more soldiers for the extremist cause.  Fighting terror with terror achieves nothing.  If we want to commit to stamping out terror, it needs to be done through diplomacy, education and investment in infrastructure and healthcare.  

The situation in Afghanistan had a tragic impact very close to home this week.  In Sheffield, at a hotel not far from where I live, a young boy fell from a window to his death.  It was later revealed that the 5-year-old was an Afghan refugee who was staying at the hotel with his family.  It’s also been revealed that this hotel has had the safety of their windows questioned over the last few years, but it seems little has been done to rectify this as the boy fell from nine floors up, according to some reports.  A quick google search for the hotel shows many windows being wide open, even on the higher floors.  

I don’t know what goes through some people’s minds.  As the story was being shared on social media, I saw several instances of people using the laughing emoji in reaction to the story.  I would like to give people the benefit of doubt, and assume they hit the wrong icon.  However, I’ve also seen some truly disgusting comments from people celebrating this horrific event.  Whatever your stance on the war on terror, refugees, religion, politics, we are all human and a child who has fled from a war torn country has died.  (Edit – since I wrote this, it appears that there has been at least one arrest made for comments made on social media regarding this incident).

TIGS

Regular readers will know that I like to highlight local cafes, restaurants and other independent businesses, and this week I want to give a shout out to TIGS, a cafe that has opened a short walk from where I live.  Although I’m not officially a vegetarian, I’m definitely eating less meat than I used to, and to the surprise of some who know me I was keen to try this vegetarian and vegan establishment.  

TIGS specialise in bagels and coffee; two of my favourite things, but this is a far cry from when I was living off Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston for a while.  The bagels here are fresh and tasty, and there is a real possibility I may be converted to facon, a plant based alternative to bacon.  I’ve also been extremely impressed with the coffees I’ve had from TIGS, and it’s going to be dangerous to my bank balance having TIGS, joining Gaard and Albies as places to get a great coffee.  

TIGS are located on Campo Lane, Sheffield and you can find their Instagram here.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 79).

I’ve been smashing through more of Jeremy Robinson’s books and loving the shared multiverse he is creating. I also finished a book called Unexplained, which looked at a series of mysteries and attempted to, well, explain them. Some of the cases were fairly simple to explain, I think, but a few are real head scratchers. If you have an interest in debunking the paranormal, I would recommend it. 

I gained a slight amount of weight this week, but that could be an anomaly as I got weighed at a different time of day than normal.  I would love to do more walking but my ankle has been quite painful in the last couple of days.  It’s going to be awkward arranging more physio in the near future due to our upcoming trip to Romania.  I’m looking forward to spending some time reading by the pool.  

Nika, Bobbity and Sweep

My girlfriend’s family in Romania have several dogs, one of which they took in as a stray when she was just a pup.  She has been the best dog they’ve ever had, and I’m talking about Nika…

One of my favourite activities in Romania is taking her for a walk in the forest.  She is so happy and full of life.  The last time we were there, in December 2019, she was clearly getting old and a few times her legs gave out as we walked.  She didn’t let it faze her though, and she still waddled along with that big smile.  

I’ve been dreading the news that she has passed away because I really wanted to see her again.  It appears that her time to cross Rainbow Bridge is drawing closer though, as she has lost use of her back legs.  I fear we will not make it in time to say our goodbyes.  

It’s been an awful couple of years for losing pets.  In late 2019 my girlfriend’s family lost another of their dogs, Max, to what we think was a heart defect.  He was a gentle giant, and very smelly! He also had a real love for life, and spending time with him in the garden at my (unofficial) in-laws was always fun.  

The most heartbreaking loss was Sweep, who was my best friend.  It’s been five-months since he went to sleep and I still miss him so damn much.  It’s taken some time to accept Bob, and I think in hindsight we adopted him too soon.  However, I’m glad we have him now.  He’s a very different cat to Sweep, but he’s still extremely cute and a real character.  Last night he decided to try and scale our shelves in the living room with not a care in the world for what he knocked over.  

Bobbity had an eventful day yesterday as we took him to the vet.  We normally get an uber there and back, but we couldn’t get a driver to bring us home.  So we took him on the tram and then walked the rest of the way.  He was so well behaved and not scared, as we thought he might be.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £21,500.00 (up £850.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £26,832.99 (down £1,339.34 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £175.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £593.96 (up £70.25 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,668.09 (down £194.50 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: £439,675.04 (down £588.59 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £2,091.50 (up £157.37 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,492.24 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,061.34 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £253,645.08 (up £157.37 from last update).

Total Wealth: £186,029.96 (down £745.96 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,110.65 (target £5,000).

My stocks took a pasting this week, and when coupled with the increase in my credit card it resulted in a sizable hit to my wealth figure.  I’m working on something that should see my credit card reduced to zero in the near future.  I have some items for sale which should bring in some cash that can go towards paying the card off.  Every time I think I’m going to start making progress in reducing the balance, something happens.  In this case, we had to pay for more meds for Bob.  

Starting from next month I’m going to start scaling back how much I invest in Premium Bonds.  I’ve decided to push the acquisition of another BTL back to 2022.  I’ve viewed a few properties and the market is just a little bit crazy right now.  There are signs that prices might start to fall slightly, and rather than scraping together funds for a property that’s lower spec, I’d rather wait a little until I can buy more with my JV partner when they have access to their funds over the next few months.  2022 should see two or three BTLs added to our portfolio.

Moving through the last few months of 2021, I want to try and concentrate on my ISA, to try and maximise my allowance for the tax year.  It’s crazy to think that there’s only four more salary payments due in 2021.  I have no idea where the year has gone, and mentally I still feel like it should be spring.  The frustrating thing for the next few months is that we’ll have to pay for surgery for Bobbers, and for some work that’s being done to our bathrooms.  It’s looking quite likely that rather than investing 50%-60% of my net salary, I’ll have to drop that to maybe 25% for the next few months.  It’s all part of the process though.  It’s the choice you make when you adopt a cat, and the work to the apartment will increase the value.

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 link 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 94

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss opinions and expertise.  Also, an update on my mental health and potential return to work.  I also discuss the predicted alien invasion that failed to materialise this week, and as usual the normal financial updates.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Here is a simple thought experiment.  Let’s say you are walking along the street with your loved one, and they collapse having had a sudden heart attack.  Two strangers rush over and suggest different actions.  One of these strangers you recognise as your GP.  The other is the owner of the local takeaway.  Do you listen to both of their suggestions or do you just tell the GP to crack on?  Whilst both strangers have a right to their opinion on the best course of action, to suggest that both opinions are equally valid is just absurd.  However, it seems that many people now advocate for society to treat all opinions as equally valid.  We see this on the news where presenters interview an expert in vaccines whilst having the competing view expressed by an anti-vaxxer; a stance that is very much in the minority.  These views are presented as being equally valid, when the reality is completely different.  It’s irresponsible to present these views as being equally valid.  If you have 99.9% of experts saying vaccines are safe, and then 0.1% stating vaccines are unsafe, and all this is coupled with decades of evidence showing vaccines are safe, to present both positions as being equally valid is wrong and dangerous.

I’m not saying experts should be trusted without question.  It’s crucial that experts are trusted within their field of expertise so long as the consensus of opinion is with them.  For example, I heard about an airline pilot who believes in the flat earth theory.  This pilot is an expert in their field and I would trust them to fly me around the globe (see what I did there) but seeing as though the overwhelming majority of pilots, scientists and humans believe the earth is round, I’ll go with the general opinion.  Just because someone is considered an expert in one area, that expertise does not bleed over into unrelated fields.  An expert in geology would not necessarily be an expert in diet and nutrition, for example. Here are two fantastic explanations of what I’m talking about:

Unfortunately I don’t know who to credit for the second quote, but if you know please leave a comment and I’ll update this quote with the appropriate credit.

Weekly Update – The Great Nozic Invasion

A (self proclaimed) time traveller from the year 2714 made a series of staggering predictions, which should have seen an invasion by an alien race known as the Nozic this past week.  The invasion did not take place and life continues as normal.  I had a little fun with these predictions, as I spun a tale of epic struggle as seen in the screenshots below.

I’ve spent much of the week stressed out, which is pretty much a normal state of affairs.  My increasing awareness that I’m not neurotypical has led to some understanding of why I feel, and react, the way I do.  This understanding has not led to any major change in how I feel though.  It’s like understanding that your toe hurts because you kicked the corner of the bed; you know why there is pain but you still feel the pain.  

Last week I mentioned that I have been signed off work and I’m due to return on Thursday this coming week.  I’m not ready to return, but it appears I have little choice but to return.  The stress of further absence will be more than the stress of working, and so I’m taking the least worst option.  I just need to stay focused on the end goal and keep working towards financial independence.  There is a good chance that I’ll be FIREd by the end of 2022 which would be a year ahead of my 31/12/23 deadline.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.2kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 74).

Another week of modest weight loss, but as long as I’m moving in the right direction I’m happy.  I would love to snap my fingers and be back at 85kg but that’s just not going to happen.  I’m a long way from being in that sort of condition again.  

I’ve been smashing through the audiobooks recently but I’ve had to give up on the physical book I was reading, 84K.  I hate giving up on something I’ve started reading but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick it up and continue with it.  I made it just past halfway but it’s so relentlessly grim and depressing.  I also found the writing style a little too out there with half finished sentences making up most of the text.  It’s a bold piece of writing and the story itself was interesting, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the book and continue with it.  My girlfriend, who is also a voracious reader, tried to read it several times but also found it too grim to complete.  

A few people have asked about my progress in studying for DipFA.  My progress is non-existent.  I just don’t have the mental capacity for another commitment.  My mental health is hanging by a thread most of the time.  Adding the pressure of studying to the mix would not be healthy or wise right now.  Also, with my progress towards FIRE being pretty rapid, I probably wouldn’t have much time to take advantage of the qualification.  So, there seems little point in continuing with those studies.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £20,650.00 (up £2,150.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £28,172.33 (up £210.53 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £150.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £523.71 (up £56.30 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,862.59 (up £362.74 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: £440,263.63 (up £2,804.57 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £1,934.13 (up £941.29 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,492.24 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,061.34 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £253,487.71 (up £941.29 from last update).

Total Wealth: £186,775.92 (up £1,863.28 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,110.65 (target £5,000).

I was able to free up some funds to boost my Premium Bonds balance.  Also, some modest gains in the stock market boosted my ISA and pensions.  My credit card balance has had a rocket strapped to it and it’s soared.  There have been some unexpected expenses that have cropped up, such as our washing machine breaking down.  I can’t complain too much as we’ve had it for almost a decade.  But the cost of buying another washer dryer, and having it delivered with the old machine taken away all costs money.  I’m not in a state of panic yet but I hate having credit card debt.  I’m working on a couple of things to try and get it paid down and I’ll update as and when something develops. 

Planning for FIRE 

I’m in a position where FIRE seems a long way off as the days seem to drag but when I look back at how quickly the last couple of years have passed I try to think about how I will look back at 2021 in a couple of years down the line.  I’ve spoken before about Lean FIRE and Fat FIRE; the former is having all your essentials covered by passive income, whilst the latter is having enough passive income to live your desired lifestyle.  I could achieve LF on £900pcm but FF would require a minimum of £1,500pcm passive income.  

I’m getting close to having enough money in Premium Bonds for a BTL deposit.  This will be a cheaper property than the first BTL I acquired but I’m still expecting a return of £250pcm after expenses.  Coupled with the return on my first BTL and my other investments, this would take my monthly passive income to around £500pcm.  There are two other things I need to happen; I need my shares to increase in value and I also need to sell my residence.  I owe approximately £158,500 on the mortgage but the same spec apartments as mine have been selling for over £200,000.  By the time I come to sell, I should be able to release a minimum of £50,000, which would be enough for another property.  In total, I’m looking at needing 4-5 BTLs before I hit FIRE.

iPhone Games

As regular readers will know, I love to listen to audiobooks.  When I’m out and about, I always have headphones on listening to a book.  When I’m at home, my favourite source of entertainment is listening to an audiobook.  Basically, I love audiobooks.  When I’m listening at home, though, I need to be doing something else whilst listening or my mind drifts.  It’s almost like I need something else to focus on, so that I can also focus on the book.  Puzzle type games are the best, but nothing that involves words or language.  So, I enjoy things like solitaire, freecell, candy crush, blockudoku and brick breaker.  The thing is, some of those games have lives which take time to build up once used.  What I need is a game that I can play for extended periods that does not rely on lives or lots of adverts between levels.  Any recommendations would be appreciated. 

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 93

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss the news that energy companies will be increasing the price charged to variable rate customers and those on pre-payment meters. Also, an amusing deal in the stock market and the usual financial updates. Finally, a less positive development in my mental health. First, the Quote of the Week:

In recent news Ofgem, the regulator for the UK’s energy industry, has agreed to increase the cap on what energy firms can charge customers for their standard variable tariffs and pre-payment meters.  It got me thinking about why we still need to pay for electricity at all.

Over the years I have loosely followed the development of renewable and nuclear energy.  There have been some really cool ideas put forward to move our planet from fossil fuels to renewable energy but it is not happening quickly enough.  Whether you believe in human made climate change or not (you should – it’s real) there is no down side to evolving from the finite supply of fossil fuels to the infinite (for our frame of reference) supply of renewable energy.  

In very general terms there are three sources of electricity; fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear.  If we are to create a more environmentally friendly energy network then we need to concentrate on moving from fossil fuels to nuclear, until such time that solar energy becomes more cost effective.

Why solar?

Generating electricity from wind and water is limited by the weather.  Sometimes you will get power and sometimes you will not.  It can’t be depended on 24/7.  The sun is always shining on part of the planet.  Ultimately we should be aiming for solar panels in space that beam the energy wirelessly down to Earth.  We have the technology to do this, albeit at a primitive level, and we just need it to develop so that the tech is cheaper and more efficient.  Imagine a world where all of our electricity is provided from vast solar farms in space.  No more coal, gas or oil fired power stations polluting the atmosphere.  Where is the downside?  

Once we arrive at a situation where we can harness the power of the sun we will move from a Type 0 civilisation on the Kardashev scale to a Type 1; which is a civilisation that can utilise the full potential energy of their own planet.  The question is whether we can get there before we destroy the planet.  It’s a race against time but sadly half the planet does not even realise we are in a race. 

Coming back to my original point, there is no reason we should have to pay for electricity.  We have the technology to build vast solar farms which could convert the sun’s energy into electricity.  I once suggested in conversation that we could build huge solar farms in the deserts of Africa.  This would provide a huge boost to the economy of the continent.  In addition to building solar farms in Africa, there are huge areas of land in Russia, Australia and the US which could be home to similar farms.  

Now, I have to admit that my original question, “why should we pay for electricity?” is a little misleading.  The amount of investment needed to create the future I describe is no small thing.  However, we are talking about creating an infrastructure that will reap almost infinite rewards.  Yes, solar panels need replacing and all technology is subject to wear and tear, but that is no different to the current energy infrastructure.  

In the meantime, until renewable energy production develops to a point where it’s a serious contributor to global energy demand, we need to get over our fear of nuclear power.  It is possible to create nuclear power stations that are safe.  We just lack the political will and the understanding of the general public that nuclear power is safe.  

The other major issue in switching to renewables is making sure that there is enough grid storage for times when demand outstrips supply.  The long-term solution would be to have batteries in each community that would allow for power to be saved for when needed.  Also, it should be a requirement that new homes are built with solar panels on the roof.  There are also exciting developments in solar tech which allows the panels to be integrated into windows.  

Weekly Update

I have been signed off work by my GP due to my deteriorating mental health.  I have felt it sneaking up on me for a while now as the impact of masking my true mental state from the world has caught up with me.  

One of the ways I describe my mental exhaustion is to use the example of a computer with multiple applications open.  The computer only has so much processing power, and the more demands you make of it, the slower it gets.  The computer will start heating up and you will probably hear it whirring more.  Eventually, applications will freeze and crash.  Sometimes, the computer as a whole will crash.  This is what my mind is like; too many applications open at once.

There are some applications which are unavoidable, such as the basics of day-to-day life.  Then, there are other demands such as interacting with the people around you.  Now, I use the word demand but this should not be taken as a negative.  I do not mean that the people are demanding, but rather that when one is in a certain state of mind interacting with anyone is demanding.

In addition to the basics of daily life, I have all my physical health problems.  My GP wanted to add two more meds to my daily set of pills but I refused.  I’m already taking a ridiculous amount of pills each day (18-20 depending on symptoms on a given day).  I was not going to add to that.  

I feel bad being off work again but I was approaching a point where I was going to explode.  The GP recognised that and told me I needed the time, and so here I am.  

I need to make sure that I do the right things to help my mental health.  I will be getting as much walking in as possible and listening to audiobooks, which have become my favourite form of entertainment.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.6kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 70).

I’ve lost a bit of weight this week which is a positive.  There is still a long way to go though.  I’ve also been hammering the audiobooks in recent weeks and have loved Jeremy Robinson’s work.  He is a sci-fi/horror author and many of his books are interconnected in both subtle and obvious ways.  He also has a lot of pop culture references in his work, which gives it an almost meta feel.  

I’ve been exchanging some tweets with Jeremy and he’s told me which order to best work through the books to prepare for what’s coming, which he termed “crossover madness”.  I should also give a shout out to narrator R.C. Bray who lends fantastic voicework to these books and brings the characters to life.  When you get a great narrator and a talented author, it’s as good as entertainment gets.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,961.80 (up £705.52 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £125.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £467.41 (up £21.66 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,499.85 (up £361.20 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: £437,459.06 (up £1,088.38 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £992.84 (up £71.57 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,492.24 (down £433.33 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,061.34 (down £18.18 from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,546.42 (down £379.94 from last update).

Total Wealth: £184,912.64 (up £1,468.32 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,105.57 (target £5,000).

A good week in most respects but I’m still a little annoyed that my credit card is maintaining a balance.  I keep paying it off and then things keep cropping up.  It’s frustrating but it will not get out of control.  One way or another it will get paid down over time.  It may take some hammer in the next few months though as we need some work done in our apartment.  

There was an amusing incident earlier in the week where I decided to sell some shares.  I placed a deal to sell £10,000 worth of shares and the next day, the share price dropped.  I had intended to use the money raised to put towards my next BTL deposit but I worked out that I could instead reinvest back into that stock and end up with over 400 more units than I started with.  So, in the space of two days I sold and bought £10,000 worth of shares and ended up with more units overall.  I didn’t plan on this and had no expectation of the share price dropping.  It was just one of those random fluctuations in the price and it’s already recovered and moved past the value it had when I originally sold.

I am considering taking a small loan to pay for some of the work we need doing in the apartment, and to pay for a few other bits and pieces here and there.  If I can find something with a low enough APR I may consider it.  I don’t generally like personal loans, but sometimes it can be better than using a credit card.  The thing about credit cards is that so long as you pay off the debt you have accumulated within a month, you don’t generally incur interest.  So even though I have maintained a balance for several months now, it’s been a balance that has been churning over and over.  If I’m needing to spend a few thousand though, it’s more difficult to pay that off in a timely manner using a credit card.  

BTL Update

I’ve started tentatively looking for a second BTL but it will still be a while until I have enough money saved to fund the deposit, legal fees and other costs.  If the right deal presents itself I can always free up cash from my ISA, but I’d rather avoid that if possible.  The next purchase will be a solo venture where as my first BTL was bought jointly.  My next property will probably be slightly cheaper.  The first BTL was outside our preferred budget but we were eager to get that first property bought.  If I can secure another purchase before the end of the year I will be delighted.

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 92

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the controversy surrounding the BBC commentators and Alana Smith.  Also, a return to conspiracy theories as a friend tries to convince me the Earth is flat.  Finally, a look at Benford’s Law which blew my mind.  First, the Quote of the Week: 

Quote of the Week

Although I have quoted Metro for this story, I could have picked from a number of different sources.  The short version of the story is that BBC commentators misgendered Alana Smith, the first (openly) non-binary competitor at the Olympics.  I have quite a few opinions on this, and it’s going to take some time to unpack them but I also should stress that I’m not an expert in this area and I can’t truly understand the struggles that this community experiences daily.  

I’m not sure if this incident came from a place of honest ignorance or deliberate disrespect.  So, using words like “outrage” and “disgrace” just seems a little too much and disproportionate to the offence.  Yes, there needs to be a discussion and there should be feedback to the commentators.  However, I’m just not comfortable with the trial by public mentality that can build momentum quickly and before you know it, the concept of presumed innocence is thrown out of the window.  

I understand the difference between sex and gender, and there could be an argument that the commentators were referring to Alana’s sex and not her gender, because the Olympics are categorised on the former not the latter.  Competitors take part in female events and male events; competitors are not organised based on how they identify.  This is clutching at straws somewhat to defend the commentators but if we are being charitable to the commentators we should remember that Alana was competing in the female category for her sport. 

I suspect this is going to be a huge issue moving forward, especially where trans competitors are concerned.  I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they live, so long as that choice does not encroach on the rights of others.  If people are not happy with the sex they had at birth; fine.  Live your best life.  Likewise, if people are not happy with the gender they were assigned; fine.  Live.  Your.  Best.  Life.  

It’s my hope that the commentators made a genuine mistake in how they referred to Alana and that it came from a place of honest ignorance.  People make mistakes.  Instead of damning them in the court of public opinion it might be better to just take a breath and move on.

As society becomes more open to those who embrace non-traditional identities, sports as a whole are going to have to adapt.  There have been a host of news reports about Laurel Hubbard, who was born male but transitioned to female, competing in the weight lifting event at the Olympics.  Laurel will compete in the women’s +87kg weight lifting on Monday 2nd August.  Some have said that Laurel has an unfair advantage over those athletes who were born female. Some of the competitors that Laurel will be competing against have openly stated it is unfair because Laurel previously competed as a male. This issue is a minefield, and it’s useful to remember the difference between equality, equity and justice come into play, as outlined by the image below. As we evolve as a society, sport needs to follow suit.

We have traditionally categorised competitors according to sex, and then body shape, size and weight.  Perhaps it is time for certain sports to embrace a different approach where athletes are categorised according to body composition and levels of things like testosterone with all sexes competing against each other.  Maybe there are other options I’ve not thought of.  

Flat Earth

Is the Earth flat?  Of course not.  The fact we have to explain this to adults in 2021 is cringeworthy.  However, I happen to know several Flat Earthers, or as I like to call them, “Sphere Skeptics” or “Globe Deniers”.  

A friend sent me a six hour video about Flat Earth theory and asked me to watch it.  I politely refused.  The thing is, I’m open to evidence about anything and that’s the great thing about science; it’s fluid and changes according to new research and evidence.  However, if evidence was uncovered that supported the idea the Earth was flat then it would be the biggest news story in human history.  I would not receive that evidence via a badly edited video shared on Whatsapp.  

I’ve written about conspiracy theories before but it’s worth revisiting a few points.  With any conspiracy theory, you have to ask, “why?”.  What is there to gain from the conspiracy? Let’s look at a popular conspiracy theory; the Moon landings.  

It is easy to understand why such a thing would be faked.  The Cold War was in full swing and the US and Soviet Union were engaged in a frantic race to be the first to land on the Moon.  By faking the Moon landings, the US would be able to undercut the Soviet effort and claim victory.  It’s obvious why the landings would have been faked.  We know it wasn’t faked because we can see evidence of the missions to the Moon with a decent home telescope.  Also, the sheer number of people that would have to be complicit in the conspiracy all but assures it would be revealed eventually. 

Now, think about the number of people that would have to be involved in a conspiracy to keep the nature of a flat Earth secret.  We have been able to demonstrate that the Earth is spherical since the time of the Ancient Greeks.  This was done by studying the movement of the sun and how shadows change depending on location and the time of day.  For fun though, let’s just complete a little thought experiment and assume that the Earth is flat and this fact is being kept secret.  A few assumptions from traditional Flat Earth theory;

  1. The Earth is squashed from the top, with the North Pole being at the centre of the map.  The Antarctic makes up the edge of the Earth.
  2. Space travel is impossible because we are in a bubble/dome etc.
  3. The edge of the planet is a giant ice wall guarded by agents of the conspiracy.

The circumference of the planet would be over 40,000km long.  This needs to be guarded, but because space travel is impossible there can be no satellite surveillance.  There could be a system of radar tracking stations and patrol boats, but there would still need to be actual guards patrolling the walls.  Assuming one guard every five hundred meters, you still need 80,000 guards and that is just for one shift.  Assuming three shifts a day, you need 240,000 guards not to mention cover for illness, holidays, accidents etc.  Then, you need to factor in the other roles that would support these guards such as tech support, engineers, medics, cooks, cleaners and so on.  

In addition to those people stationed along the edge of the world, you would expect there to be ships and aircraft on patrol.  There would need to be regular supply runs and trips to ferry the guards to and from their homes in the real world.  It’s impossible to estimate the number of people that would need to be involved at this point, but I suspect we are talking around a million or so.

In addition to those people involved in guarding the edge of the world, you would need people to be involved in the production of equipment for these agents.  The families of those working in this shadow organisation would also need to be held to secrecy.  There is also the point that the people working in this conspiracy would retire eventually and need replacing.  Based on this scenario it would not be unreasonable to suggest that over two million people would have to be involved.  

Outside the immediate conspiracy, everyone working at NASA, the ESA, the Russian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and the North and South Korean space agencies would have to keep the secret.  NASA alone has over 15,000 employees.  It is not only these people that need to keep the secret, but those working at Space X, Blue Origins and Virgin Galactic.  We are talking about millions and millions of people keeping the biggest secret in history for centuries with not one single scrap of credible evidence being leaked.  If you believe the Earth is flat, you need help.  This conspiracy would require so many people to be involved that those not involved would be the minority.  Coming back full circle though, no one has yet provided a compelling answer as to why this would need to be kept this secret.  

“But where is the curveeeee?”

It’s all about perspective.  The Earth is big.  Well, actually it once again comes back to perspective.  Compared to the sun, the Earth is small.  Compared to the level of mental gymnastics required to believe the Earth is flat, the Earth is tiny.  Anyway, we are like tiny ants walking across the surface of a football.  They are probably wondering where the curve is.  Another example is in the image below.  

A close up view of a tennis ball suggests that these things are actually flat.  What even is reality?

Weekly Update

This week has forced me to deal with people more than normal.  This is not good.  It’s mentally exhausting.  At the start of the week I had an occupational health review, which was actually pretty positive and some great suggestions were made.  I also had a dentist appointment and a physio session for the ongoing problems with my ankle.  It’s just so exhausting having to go through my medical history three times in one week.  

Following a great weekend last week where we caught up with an old friend, this week has been a dose of reality again.  I just feel as though I am wasting so much time doing things I don’t enjoy.  I keep having to remind myself that it’s all to help me achieve FIRE.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 67).

I’ve been loving my audiobooks lately and I’ve been smashing through Jeremy Robinson’s work.  I finished his Kaiju series and then devoured Infinity and Infinity 2.  I am now listening to NPC.  Robinson’s work is great and I love the interconnected universe he creates with characters, settings and events crossing over from one story to another.  

You may also have noticed that I’m starting to slowly lose weight.  For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier, and a little less.  Hopefully this trend will continue.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,500.00 (up £300.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,256.28 (down £157.22 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £125.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £445.75 (up £48.17 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,138.65 (up £122.27 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: £436,370.68 (up £313.22 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £921.27 (up £479.54 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,925.57 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,079.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,926.36 (up £479.54 from last update).

Total Wealth: £183,444.32 (down £166.32 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,105.57 (target £5,000).

A bit of a nothing week this week with hardly any change.  I know I’ve said it before, but I could really do with the stock market having a little surge in the coming weeks and months.  Now that I’ve started tentatively looking for a second BTL I would like to be able to use some of the gains in my stocks to fund the deposit.  It’s not essential as I will be able to accumulate the deposit one way or another, but an increase in my ISA value will just help speed things up.

My credit card increased again as I needed to pay for a few more cat related issues, and my dentist appointment.  It will start to come down again in the coming months but in the short term it may increase further as we have more vet appointments on the horizon.

Benford’s Law

I just want to finish up by talking about something I discovered this week; Benford’s Law.  It blew my mind a little but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense.  

Let me ask you a question; if you were looking through a list of the tallest buildings in the world and comparing their height, how often would you expect the leading number of each entry in the list to start with the number 3? Or 6? 7? Would you expect each digit from 1 through 9 to appear roughly equally?

If you thought that each number should be equally present (approx 11% of the time) you would be in good company.  You would also be wrong.

Under Benford’s Law it has been demonstrated time and time again that the leading number in any data set is 1 more than 30% of the time.  The image below shows the frequency expected for each number:

This law is so reliable that it can be used to check the validity of any data set.  If the numbers do not match up with Benford’s Law, the data set has almost certainly been tampered with or contains errors.  I love shit like this.  

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 91

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I touch on death, space exploration, and celebrate two years since I last gambled.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

As we get older the one certainty is that we will encounter death, whether ourselves or through those we know.  A few days ago I saw that someone I knew had passed away.  I was never particularly close to her, but she was very good friends with my girlfriend for a time.  It would be disingenuous to suggest that we were friends but I did not wish her ill.  Sadly, she passed away at a young age, survived by her parents and her baby.  No parent should ever have to bury their child but life is rarely fair or just.  My thoughts are with her family.

For some, the prospect of death is frightening.  My belief is that the fear is not so much about being dead, but rather a fear of how one will die.  It’s not a nice subject to consider but it is something I think we all should.  There are practical aspects to how your estate will be dealt with upon death.  Planning for death helps make these decisions easier for those you leave behind.  Even if you have no assets to leave, simply stating how you wish your body to be treated will take a lot of emotional pressure off those who have to organise the funeral on your behalf.  Far from being morbid, taking action to answer these questions is an act of consideration for those you love.  Being dead is not hard for the deceased, but it can be very difficult for those who are still living.

Weekly Update

It’s been one of those weeks where the days pass quickly but the hours seem to drag.  This is the reality of life in a pandemic where you spend most of your time at home working from your spare bedroom.  Part of me thinks it would be good to return to the office, but the bigger part of me prefers working from home and being able to just pop in and see my cat when I want, and being able to get a fresh snack from the fridge when I feel like it.  I do miss seeing some people face to face but, as someone who has misanthropic tendencies, the current arrangement suits me fine.  

The news story that caught my attention this week was the launch of New Shepard which carried Jeff Bezos and a small crew past the Karman Line 100km above the Earth which is considered by some to be the dividing line between our planet and space.  However, as cool as this launch was, it’s important to point out that there is still atmosphere 100km up from the Earth.  In fact, even at 400km away from Earth there is atmospheric drag on the International Space Station which needs frequent boosts to push it back into a low-Earth orbit.  So, although I think it was a cool launch in many respects, I don’t personally think it qualifies as a space launch.  It would be like jumping off a balcony and claiming you had flown.  

Despite it seeming like I’m putting a complete downer on the story, I think it’s actually an important milestone.  Space exploration is something I am very passionate about.  Sooner or later something will happen to this planet and it could wipe out our species in an instant.  It could be an asteroid, solar flare, nuclear war, a deadly pandemic, a rogue planet, climate change, or a gamma ray burst.  The one certainty is that eventually this world will no longer be able to sustain human life.  We need to branch out and establish colonies on other planets and moons.  Preferably, in other star systems as well but that is a long, long way off.

Although there is a lot of talk from various national space agencies, it seems most are content to just shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS.  It’s just not seen as a vote winner for politicians to promise huge funding for space.  The thing is, there is a huge trickle down effect from space exploration and there is a dedicated Wikipedia page just for spinoff technologies from NASA that we use in daily life.  I understand the argument that there are problems that need solving on Earth such as hunger, poverty and climate change but to suggest it is an “either or” exercise between solving these problems or exploring space is a false dichotomy.  There is plenty of wealth to do both.  If the governments are not going to force the issue on space exploration, then it falls to the mega rich to do so.  The debate we need to have is around how to effectively tax the wealthy so that they pay their fair share to society.  

Spending on space exploration has been a lesser priority since the race to the Moon was won.  At the height of the space race, the US was allocating approximately 4.4% of the national budget to NASA.  In 2020, NASA received 0.48% of the national budget.  

I would love to explore space and I hope that space tourism will be easily accessible within my lifetime.  Failing that, I would at least hope to see our people land on Mars.

The week has been capped off by the visit of a good friend from my days at university in Preston.  Also called David, he came over on Saturday and we went for Mexican food with my girlfriend.  It was great to catch up after three years since we last met up and over the course of tacos, nachos, churros and drinks we put the world to rights.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 122.1kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 63).

I’ve found a new series of books to keep me entertained.  It is the Kaiju series by Jeremy Robinson.  For those who don’t know, the term Kaiju is a Japanese word used to describe any large creature like Godzilla.  This series of books is a separate universe apart from Godzilla and the like.  In fact, the books frequently reference popular culture with characters name-checking Cthulhu, Star Trek and the X-Men to name just a few.  The humour in these books is great and although they are serious books, they don’t take themselves too seriously.  I still have a few more books to complete before finishing the series but I’ve seen that the author has written many other sci-fi books so I should be busy for a few months yet. 

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,200.00 (up £700.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,413.50 (up £211.04 from last update).

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

Crypto: £397.58 (down £3.75 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,016.38 (up £318.21 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: £436,057.46 (up £1,350.50 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £441.73 (up £262.30 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,925.57 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,079.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,446.82 (up £262.30 from last update).

Total Wealth: £183,610.64 (up £1,088.20 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,105.57 (target £5,000).

A decent week financially with my assets increasing in value and some more investment income being received.  The mini-slump in my ISA seems to have been halted with some modest gains recorded this week.  My credit card took a small hit as we had to pay for Bob’s latest visit to the vet.  He’s having a full set of blood and poop tests to see if we can work out what’s going on with him.  

As we progress through Q3 I am moderately happy with my progress towards FIRE.  I had hoped to have a second BTL behind me but that will take as long as it takes.  Covid has turned the world upside down and so long as my loved ones and I have our health, that’s the main thing.

I’m working on something that should see my Premium Bond total hit £20,000 by the end of next month and once I hit that target I will probably scale back the investment into those bonds and start trying to build up my income generating funds in my ISA.  

When we arrive in October, the index values of my properties should update again and hopefully they will increase once more.  In order to release funds from the BTL, I’d need it to increase in value by approximately a further 5%.  

Gambling

Regular readers will know about my struggles with gambling addiction.  Well this weekend marks two years since I last gambled.  It’s gone so quickly in some ways.  To those struggling, you have my support and if you ever need someone to talk to you can find me on Twitter, where there is a great network of people helping each other recover from this addiction.  

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com. 

Part 90

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week, in the 90th part of the blog, I look at masking again, in addition to looking at the fallout from England’s defeat in the EURO final.  Also, another frustrating interaction with the agent managing our BTL.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from Darren’s excellent blog which discusses autism, and as I read his latest post this part really stood out to me.

I have sometimes stated that there are different versions of me.  There’s the version of me that goes out into the world and interacts with people, and there’s the version of me in private.  It’s only recently that I’ve discovered the concept of masking, which relates to hiding your own mental health, and basically just acting a part.  It’s like the idea of faking it until you make it.  Where masking and faking differ is that faking it relates to specific behaviours, and masking relates to changing the majority of your personality.  Masking is emotionally and mentally exhausting.

There is a level of mental exhaustion that comes with operating in a neurotypical world, filled with neurotypical people, when you are not neurotypical.  I’m starting to feel that exhaustion wearing me down more every day.  Like the quote, I am also called grumpy or miserable pretty often and it is quite hurtful.  It’s easier to just laugh it off, because most people don’t want to hear the real reason why you appear as you do.  Most people just don’t understand what feeling non neurotypical feels like.  So, like the quote states, it is just easier to laugh it off or fall back on the easy reply of, “I’m just tired.”  There is an element of truth in the explanation of being tired, but just like saying someone dying of thirst needs a drink, it does not convey the full depth of feeling or suffering.

I have struggled a fair bit this week.  I’m still not sleeping well and I had a mini anxiety attack, which thankfully did not last too long and I was able to ground myself quickly.  It’s instances like this that reinforce the need for my journey to FIRE.

Weekly Update

Our cat, Bob, was supposed to have his teeth removed this week but it didn’t happen.  He has an upset stomach which we’ve been trying to treat and the vets were not comfortable operating on him with this ongoing stomach issue.  It was felt the stress of surgery would be too much, and so it has been postponed until we get this under control.

I don’t think I can look back over the week without touching on the EURO final, with England losing out to Italy.  The racist abuse of Rashford, Sancho and Saka is disgusting and, sadly, not surprising.  There are just too many morons out there who can’t watch football without a belly full of alcohol.  I’m convinced that part of the reason we see so much racist abuse in football is because of the bizarre relationship we have between football and beer.  It does not excuse the racist abuse, rather I think it’s part of the explanation.  I also think there are a minority of people who, due to lack of education and the absence of a moral compass, think it’s funny to abuse players on social media.  

In our society we have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt and this, unfortunately, makes it very difficult to prosecute cases of abuse on social media.  All it takes is for someone to claim they were hacked or that someone else was using their account, and the situation becomes pretty complex.  Just because someone has a post on their social media account, it does not mean they definitely posted it.  I think the actual cases of people being hacked is extremely low and in almost every case the person who owns the profile is responsible.  However, we can’t assume that someone is definitely guilty until we prove them guilty.  

I don’t know what the answer is to tackle racism in football but the answer probably lies in tackling racism in society.  At one end of the spectrum is the awful, hateful bile that is directed at black people, and those of other cultures and religions.  However, the other end of the spectrum has all the casual racism, with “jokes” about different religions, cultures and skin colours.  This casual racism needs to be tackled instantly so that it stops being a gateway for people to gradually behave in increasingly racist ways.  One excellent piece of advice I remember reading, and this can be used against racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry, is to ask the person making the racist, sexist or biggoted comment to explain it.  They will probably then respond that their comment was “just a joke” at which point you explain that you don’t understand the joke and you want them to explain it.  

Coming back to the football itself, the match was so frustrating to watch.  We had Italy on the backfoot for much of the first half and then we just seemed to retreat deeper and deeper in the second half.  When Southgate decided to bring Rashford and Sancho on in the 119th minute just to take a penalty, I knew it was a mistake.  The two players are exceptionally talented and Rashford is a hero to this country who has done more to oppose the Tory government than the Labour party has done in a decade.  The issue here is that football, and penalty shootouts especially, is not just about technical ability.  Once a game goes to penalties, luck is such an important factor.  Another important factor is psychology.  Rashford and Sancho came into the game cold.  They had hardly kicked a ball through the whole competition.  Anyone who has followed football, or played football, knows that it can take a little bit of time to grow into a match when you are brought on part way through the game.  I would have rather seen the players brought on earlier or not at all.  Southgate gambled and lost.  He could have easily gambled and won.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I would keep Southgate as manager, so long as he wants the job, because in his short time leading the national side he has restored pride in the team.  We have a young group of players and the country has rallied behind them in a way I’ve not seen in a long, long time.  There is a World Cup next year but I don’t know if I will be able to bring myself to watch it, due to the human rights record of the host nation.  It will almost certainly not happen but I would love our team to stand up and refuse to participate due to the human rights issue.  I feel it would only take a high profile stand by one nation for the whole ridiculous enterprise to come crashing down.  

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: 61).

Another week of progress with my reading challenge.  The last few books have been a little disappointing, with the exception of the latest one, Project Nemesis.  This was a Kaiju story and was completely batshit crazy, and I loved every minute of it.  It’s the first book in a series and I can’t wait to start the second book.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £17,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,202.46 (down £406.10 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £0.00 (down £525.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £401.33 (down £37.39 from last update). 

Pensions: £47,698.17 (down £164.57 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £207,807.00 (up £8,452.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £134,098.00 (up £5,454.00 from last update).

Total Assets: £434,706.96 (up £12,772.94 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £179.43 (down £554.55 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,925.57 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,079.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,184.52 (down £554.55 from last update).

Total Wealth: £182,522.44 (up £13,327.49 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,388.77 (target £5,000).

Although my total wealth has increased a lot since last week, this is because of the index valuations of my properties updating and not because of any change to my more tangible assets.  My ISA has now decreased in value for three consecutive weeks, which is a little disappointing.  It will not last forever though and these blips are to be expected. 

I made the decision to use my Fuck It Fund to pay off my credit card because the 0% period was coming to an end.  It’s frustrating to have to dip into that fund, but it’s not like the money has been lost.  I could have paid more of the card from other funds, but those funds are being held back to pay my excess on my private health insurance and to pay for Bob’s vet bills.  

Letting Agent

I’ve posted previously about the problems we have had with the agent managing our BTL.  I thought it was all resolved.  I was wrong.  Our tenant was signed up in February to a standard six month AST.  As they are in receipt of housing benefit, we requested a guarantor which the tenant provided.  A few weeks ago the agent informed me they were going to start renewing the tenancy and they wanted to charge me for the privilege.  Due to the issues I’ve had with the agent, I explained I wanted the tenancy to revert to a rolling monthly agreement, as normally happens when an AST ends.  I was told this would be fine and the branch manager informed me she was taking personal charge of our account because of all the issues we had to this point.

At the start of last week I was pretty annoyed to get an email from their renewals team stating they had begun the process of renewing the tenancy but our tenant would not be able to provide a guarantor on the new AST.  I was not happy.  A lengthy back and forth ensued and we are now back where we originally started; the tenant will revert to a rolling tenancy.  

Once this tenant leaves the property we will be sacking this agent.  We are reluctant to sack them mid tenancy because of all the complications that will arise.  I’ve spoken with a couple of other agents and they’ve said that, although management can be changed mid tenancy, it’s more complicated and things can go wrong.  For now, as long as the tenant continues to pay on time, I am hesitant to rock the boat.  

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com.