Opinions

I don’t like the example above. Too often I see two conflicting ideas confused; that everyone has a right to an opinion, and that everyone’s opinion is equally valid.

The first point is clear and I would doubt is the cause of much controversy; everyone has the right to their opinion. We get into more complex territory when it comes to voicing those opinions (such as racist or homophobic ones) or acting on those opinions (praying for someone to get better rather than allowing basic medical treatment). This leads me to the second part of my statement, and it’s simple; opinions are not equally valid.

Imagine you need to sort a water leak in your home. You have two friends you could call; an accountant or a plumber. The former might have some suggestions, but are you going to view their opinion with the same weight as the latter? Of course not.

We have a dangerous approach to opinions, in that we feel we have to give equal attention to differing views in the interest of “fairness”, or “equality”. However, if you are looking at homeopathy, for example, fairness would not be giving each side of the debate equal time to promote their opinions. Homeopathy has no credible backing. There has not been a single study, completed to an acceptable standard according to the scientific method, that has shown support for homeopathy. However, when daytime television, or talk shows have a “balanced panel” they don’t generally have 99 qualified and competent scientists, and then 1 homeopathic promoter. It’s generally going to be one of each. This promotes the dangerous impression that this is a balanced debate with roughly equal evidence for and against. It’s not. It really isn’t. As the joke goes, if you are offered treatment from a homeopathic practitioner, ask if they will accept an empty envelope that previously contained cash as payment.

Some opinions are just wrong. I’m not talking about matters of taste or artistic interpretation, but when people have opinions about basic facts that are demonstrably false, like the Earth being flat. Some people confuse opinion with fact. The difference is that you can have your own opinions but you can’t have your own facts. Or, to put it another way, facts don’t change to suit your opinion.

This might seem like a bit of a pointless blog post, but I would argue that thinking more about opinions will lead to more informed decisions. This can be very important when it comes to investment decisions. When asking for an opinion on investing, someone might claim that property outperforms stocks, or vice versa. Is this a fact or an opinion? What is the individual’s experience in investing? Is there an agenda influencing their opinion?

So, bringing this full circle, what does all this have to do with the picture I posted at the start? Well, both people have their own opinion on what the number is from their perspective. However, the person who wrote the number will have written it with the intent of it being a 6 or a 9. So, factually, one person is wrong and one person is right.

Ok, ok, before some of you get all riled up I admit it’s a basic example. The person who wrote the number could have been deliberately confusing things by writing it in such a way that it confuses the reader. Or, like art, there might be no single correct interpretation, and once the art is released to the public, it is up to the public to decide on their own interpretation. It just frustrates me when I see examples like the image I posted because it feels as though it’s taking an important idea and reducing it so badly that the important parts are lost.

Let me know what you think in the comments. If you like my blog, please consider buying me a coffee on the link below. Thanks for reading.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 145

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week’s blog looks at communication, in terms of respect, customer service, and the conflict between neurodivergent and neurotypical types of communication.  Also, more thoughts on being a millionaire.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I’ve had this nagging irritation in my mind for a while now.  I think it’s only started to crystalise following my confirmation of being autistic.  It comes down to communication and respect.  I’ve had to write, and rewrite this section a lot over the last few days.  At one point I was talking about friendships, and then I was talking about customer service, and I was talking about relationships with a power imbalance.  However, I couldn’t get my point across until I drilled deeper into what all these things have, or should have, in common; respect.

“Respect is earned.”

What a stupid statement this is, yet some people live by this quote.  

Why is stupid? Well, if you take this statement to its logical conclusion, you see that the default position is that everyone treats everyone else without respect until they have earned the right to be treated with respect.  If you take this approach, you are justifying acting like a complete asshole to everyone you meet until they act in a way that matches your imaginary criteria to “earn” your respect.  

Respect should be the standard position and the way your treat all people until they do something to throw that respect away.  In my experience, people who bang on about how respect is earned usually use this statement as an excuse to treat other people like trash.  It’s almost like how anyone who publicly says, “I’m a nice guy” is usually a douche.

The world would be a much better place if everyone engaged with other people from a position of mutual respect.  If you lift each other, then you’ll get further than trying to step over each other.

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”

Toxic.  This is “respect is earned” turned up to eleven.  

People are not machines, unfeeling and acting purely on logic.  Emotions come into play when people interact.  First impressions are powerful, but we sometimes reap what we sow.  Any interaction with another person can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and decades of psychological research have shown that we attribute the negative behaviour of others to their personality, and we attribute our negative behaviour to situational factors outside our control.  An example; you see a parent shout at their child in the supermarket, and you think, “what a bad parent.”  However, if you shout at your kid in the shop, it’s because you are exhausted, and have run out of patience after a very stressful day.

If we try to approach each interaction assuming the best of each other, we will be more likely to have a positive interaction, than if we treat our interactions as a winner-takes-all contest.

Weekly Update

A horrible week.  Long days working and the flat has been total chaos, but the end is in sight.  Everywhere except the living room and the kitchen has been painted.  The guys doing the flooring have worked very hard to get it done as soon as possible, and it looks great.  However, all the disruption alongside work has been mentally exhausting.  This week has been one massive blur and it’s difficult to point out any specific events.  It is looking like the majority of the work will be complete by next weekend though, and then it’s just a case of getting the furniture we need.

I can’t wait to get a proper bed again, as for the last few weeks we’ve been sleeping on a mattress on the floor as we move from room to room as the work is completed.  The next big task is getting all the new furniture delivered and assembled.  

I was starting to feel pretty rough towards the end of the week with head, neck, and elbow pain.  The lack of sleep was starting to takes its toll as well.  However, we dragged ourselves to Peddler Market which takes place every month near our apartment complex.  It’s a changing selection of street food, music, and pop up shops.  We had some beef brisket tacos, some loaded fries with a chicken and halloumi kebab, and a chicken tikka burrito.  We like to get bits from different stalls and share, and the quality this time was great.

Communication

There are many variations of this story about a guy calling his phone service provider to try and get a better deal.  Rather than just asking for a better deal, he takes a different approach, and it goes a little something like this:

Guy: I want to cancel my contract.

Agent: Let me have a look at that for you.

*few moments of silence*

Agent: Right, that’s your contract cancelled.

Guy:

Guy: What? Why? You just cancelled my contract without asking me.

Agent: You literally just asked me to cancel your contract, and that’s what I did.

Guy: but you didn’t offer me a better deal!

Agent: Yes, I have this thing where I listen to what people say and take them at their word.

Guy: but I didn’t want to cancel.

Agent: *rubbing temples* you literally said you want to cancel your contract.

Guy: that’s not what I meant.

Neurotypical communication is something I’ve struggled with, without actually realising what it is I’m struggling with.  It’s always been a problem, but I (somewhat uncharitably) just assumed some people are dumb.  As an autistic person, I tend to take people at face value.  If I ask someone, “do you want a drink?” and they reply, “no”, then I react to their subsequent anger at not getting a drink with confusion.  

Recession and The Bank of England

The Bank of England increased the base rate by 0.5%, bringing the overall base rate to 1.75%.  This is to try and combat inflation.  It’s like using a hammer to force a square peg in a round hole though; it’s clumsy.

Inflation is anywhere from 9% to 12% depending on who you ask.  This is way above the official target of 2%.  The Bank of England is supposed to be independent of the government, but I’m skeptical of what this independence looks like in practice.  To understand how interest rates are meant to combat inflation you need to understand supply and demand.  If rates go up then it’s believed people will have less money to spend.  This means that supply of goods and services is greater than the demand.  In this situation, prices are supposed to come down.  

The problem here is that we are looking at atypical inflation.  The cost of goods and services is increasing due to unusual factors, namely; war, pandemic, and Brexit.  

The war in Ukraine has restricted the global supply of basic foodstuffs. The war has also had a knock on impact on the cost of energy and oil. This, in turn, impacts on the cost of transporting goods on the global supply chain, as oil creates diesel and most cargo ships, trains, trucks, and so on, are fueled by petrol and diesel. The pandemic has impacted global trade as nations closed their borders for months at a time. Then, Brexit took us from the largest trading bloc in the world, the EU, and left us scrambling to complete trade deals with other countries. “Oven ready” my ass. The only thing Boris should put in an oven is his head.

People have less to spend because of factors outside the UK, and so hiking rates is only going to hammer those already struggling.  This section of society is not spending because they literally do not have the money to spend on anything that’s not vital to survival.  This is why the use of food banks has soared in the last decade.  

The Bank of England raising interest rates is not going to achieve much in the short to medium term, I fear.  I suspect rates will probably peak at around 3%.  Most residential homeowners with mortgages are on fixed rates with just a small proportion on variable or tracker deals.  These people will not see an immediate impact on their mortgage payments until their fixed rates come to an end.  Mortgage interest rates had been dropping steadily from the financial crash in 2007/2008 and bottomed out in 2020.  There has been a period of minor fluctuations and now rates seem to be climbing.  If you secured a two-year fixed rate in 2020, then you are probably going to be in for a shock when your deal comes to an end.

Now, I have to really emphasise that the following thoughts are NOT advice.  If you want mortgage advice, go to your lender or broker.  This is just a few thoughts about my own situation moving forward.

With a looming recession and rates increasing, there’s lots of talk about locking in for as long as possible.  I’m not sure this makes sense in every instance as I can’t see rates rising for more than 18 months before stabilising and coming down a little.  Something will give and force rates to drop as people struggle to deal with the cost of living soaring.  Interest rates are not going to stop the war, or help with the fallout of Covid-19 or Brexit.  Since the financial crisis of 2008, people have become used to low rates on borrowing.  It was never going to last forever, but those who are hysterically shouting about a return to double-digit mortgage rates in the months and years need to calm down a little.  We may very well return to those levels in the future, but returning to that level in the next decade at a minimum is just not going to happen.  

Customer Service Rant

I believe you can tell a lot about the culture of a business by the messages they have on their automated phone service, and by how easy it is to track down a phone number on their website.

If I call a company to discuss an issue, you can be sure I’ve tried to resolve the issue myself online first.  If the phone number you call makes you listen to repeated messages about “how easy it is to find answers on our website” I immediately think the company is lazy, cost driven, and not that bothered about the customer experience.  If you care about customer service, you will make your agents easy to speak with, rather than hiding contact information behind layers of pages on the website, and then making the customer listen to messages stating how easy it is to find information online.

John Lewis, in particular, was awful for this.  I remember trying to return a faulty item and the website stated I had to call customer services.  The phone number provided rambled on about how I could do this online, and then the agent who answered said I could do it online.  I followed their instructions, and it stated once again that I had to call.  

Seriously, if you are a decision maker in your business, make it easier for customers to speak with a representative of your company, not more difficult.  It’s also extremely frustrating when companies make their contact information impossible to find.  Zappos, in the US, are an example I often use of how to do good customer service.  From their home page (zappos.com) you scroll to the bottom and you click on contact info, and then you see their phone number.  You don’t see links to email addresses, contact forms, botchat functions and all the other crap companies pull to avoid speaking with you.  The first thing you see is a phone number.  John Lewis, on the other hand, requires you to click through several menus before the site begrudgingly offers up a phone number.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (4/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) ✅

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (12/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅
  11. Edward Aubry ✅
  12. Marina J. Lostetter ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter.

What I’m watching: 42 Days of Darkness on Netflix.

I’m still enjoying Hostage but this last week has not made it easy to actually read much.  I should have it finished by next week though.  I’m listening to the second book in the Noumenon series, after finishing book one earlier in the week.  The series tells the story of Earth’s “Planet United Missions”; a series of convoys sent into deep space to investigate strange phenomena.  The book follows Convoy 7, which is heading to a star that has several properties that defy our understanding of physics.  The missions take place over centuries with whole generations of crew living and dying as they travel to the target star and back.  Although a science-fiction story on the surface, there are some fascinating questions raised about the nature vs nurture debate, and what it means to be sentient or sapient.  I thought the first book was great for the first 75%, but the last part was quite weak.  Book two has started strong though, so I’ll try to judge the series as a whole once I’m done.

42 Days of Darkness is a Chilean show, based on a true story, about the disappearance of a woman from her home in a wealthy suburb.  It’s always refreshing to see a production from another culture, but the gorgeous backdrops of the Chilean country are giving both myself and my girlfriend wanderlust.  We only have two more episodes to watch and we’ve managed to avoid any information about how the case was resolved in real life.

Despite being gritty and dark, this show did manage to provide some unintentional hilarity.  In one scene, a relative of the missing woman is appealing to the public in a television press conference.  The woman then gives a menacing side-eye directly into the camera.  It’s like she wwas peering directly into your soul and did not like what she saw.  We must have replayed the scene a dozen times, laughing more each time.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £12,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £62,665.53 (down £50.61 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £800.00 (down £750.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £53,394.81 (up £837.04 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £229,159.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £147,876.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £505,895.34 (up £36.43 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £182,507.87 (down £666.84 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,316.74 (down £15.25 from last update). 

Total Debts: £287,824.61 (down £682.09 from last update).

Total Wealth: £218,070.73 (up £718.52 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

I had to dip into my Fuck It Fund to help with some of the work we are having done to our apartment.  Normally, I’d pay via credit card and then pay the balance off when my next salary comes through, but this tradesperson didn’t accept card payments.  I’ll build the balance up again soon.

With the start of a new month came my mortgage payments.  Other than that, just a few minor fluctuations with nothing else to mention.

More Millionaire Thoughts

Progress doesn’t happen on a straight line, or smooth curve.  There are peaks and troughs.  However, you can predict long-term returns by looking at how things have performed in the past and extrapolating forward.  It’s not an exact science but when it comes to predicting the future few things are. 

Looking back at my total wealth figure since I started this blog, I tried to work out the approximate weekly progress.  It appears that a 1% increase per week produces a fairly accurate description from Week 1 to Week 145.  Taking that 1% weekly increase forward, my total wealth would hit £1,000,000 by Week 295.  Based on that projection, I’m roughly halfway. 

I’m not saying this is definitely going to happen by this point.  The main thing is I’m making steady progress over the long term.  If I continue to make progress, my wealth will hit £1M eventually, and the more it grows, the faster it will continue to grow through compounding gains.  Taking the 1% projection further, the £2M mark would be hit by Week 365.  So, 295 weeks to go from roughly £50k to £1M, just 70 more weeks from £1M to £2M, and less than a year to go from £2M to £3M. 

I asked on a Facebook FIRE group at what point people felt like their investments were starting to grow through compounding gains.  Not a technical answer, but rather an emotional one; when did they feel comfortable with it.  The range of answers are below:

There are no right and wrong answers here, I was simply interested in what other opinions were out there.  One comment I liked was along the lines of, “I’ll feel comfortable when the compounding gains are greater than my own investment.”

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com

Part 144

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk rant about Bullshit Jobs.  Also, a reminder of why financial independence is so important to me as an autistic person is a neurotypical world.  There are some positive financial updates and the usual memes and gifs.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Well, maybe.  The strict definition of being a millionaire is having wealth and/or currency of at least one million units.  It’s easier to be a millionaire in Romania than the UK, because £200,000 would buy approximately 1.17 million lei.  

Being a millionaire is something that many have aspired to, most famously in the classic TV comedy Only Fools and Horses, where Del Boy would frequently tell his exasperated brother, “this time next year, we’ll be millionaires.”

On one hand, it could be kind of annoying, but you also have to admire and respect Del’s relentless optimism, ambition, and drive.  

I don’t necessarily need to be a millionaire.  I just want enough wealth to achieve my goal of being financially independent.  This isn’t just to hoard wealth or throw money away on insane purchases.  I want to acquire more time, but to acquire time you need money.  If you have enough wealth to survive, you don’t have to work.  If you don’t have to work, you have instantly opened up anywhere from 30-60 hours each week.  

I really hate having to work, but I understand why I need to work.  I hear people saying they love working, and they love their job.  That’s great.  Everyone should be able to do what they love, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.  What I’ve only just realised in the last year or two is that my desire to be able to quit paid employment is down to being neurodivergent.  As an autistic person dealing primarily with neurotypical people, in a world designed for and by neurotypical people, each day is a constant bombardment of conflicting sensory information, mixed social signals, and illogical relationships between words and actions.  This leads to burnout, which in turn leads one to think about how to escape this neurotypical prison.

Weekly Update

The work on our apartment will now continue into a third week, despite the original estimate being “a week or so”.  The guy doing the work seems nice enough.  He’s friendly and polite.  I do feel frustration at the slow progress being made though, and most days he works from roughly 9am to 3pm-ish, with a lunch of around 40 minutes.  

Our original quote was for the place to be painted, carpets ripped up and disposed of, and some furniture to be dismantled and disposed of.  We got rid of most of the furniture ourselves through charity collection and selling on Facebook.  We are still waiting on the living room and kitchen to be painted.  We believed that, under the carpets, there was wood flooring.  It turns out that is only partially true; some rooms have it and some don’t.  Those that do have the wooden flooring need it replacing anyway.  So, I get how and why that causes a delay, but still, to be entering a third week with not even all the painting done is just really annoying.

The contractors stated they could get the new laminate flooring fitted, but couldn’t start the job until August 22nd.  We can’t go on like this until then.  We don’t have a bed, or wardrobe, or sofa.  Our only seats are our office chairs, at our desks where we work from home.  We’re reluctant to move things about too much, knowing we’ll just have to move it back for the flooring to be done.

We think we’ve managed to get someone else in to sort the flooring next week.  If they can, I’ll be delighted.

The delivery of the new laminate flooring was hilarious.  Altogether there are 24 packs, with the total weight coming in well over 300kg.  The packs are unwieldy and can only be carried one at a time.  I thought I might be able to use our extendable trolley and cables to stack some of the boards on, and then transport them a few at a time.  However, lengthwise the boards wouldn’t fit on the trolley because the space between the handles was too narrow.  Also, width-wise was a non-starter as the boards are too wide for the doors and corridors.  This meant I had to carry all the boards by hand from the ground floor entrance to the lift, then stack the lift, then unload the lift, and then carry the packs down a few corridors and four internal doors.  I then stacked them outside our apartment door before transporting them into the room we are storing the other supplies in.  It was hard work and did my various physical ailments no favours.

Bullshit Jobs

A few years ago I read Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber.  It was funny, infuriating, and something I could relate to.  Graeber suggests that a huge proportion of jobs are pointless.  The man has a point.  

Many years ago, in between my time at the University of Leicester and the University of Central Lancashire, I worked for a major UK bank.  I’m not going to name them, but let’s just use the name Watnest for them.  They were the absolute shits to work for.  So much of their process and procedure was utterly pointless.  The bank was organisationally lazy, and I saw this at the three branches I worked for.  I’ll give one example from my time there.  I was asked to take charge of a daily process where reports from each cashier were collected, sorted, and filed.  What would happen is each cashier would print their own reports and drop them in a box.  The person collating them would then take all the reports out and spend half an hour simply putting them in order.  The first thing I did was to replace the box with a stack of paper trays, like the old school inbox and outbox trays before email.  Each tray was labelled with which sheet it was for.  The result was that each cashier had to spend an extra fifteen seconds putting the sheet in the right tray, but it saved thirty minutes every day for the person organising them.  The thing that really made this a bullshit job was that the reports were never, ever referred back to again.  (In truth, they could be needed for up to several months, but this doesn’t detract from my point as you will see). 

If no one hardly ever read these reports, why was this a daily task when the reports could be printed weekly, or monthly, with a daily breakdown?  I asked the question, and the answer was, “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

One job I always look back at fondly was working for a health insurance provider as a claims assessor.  It was a fun workplace, and some really great people worked there.  Even this business was not immune to bullshit jobs though.  Again, it is related to reports.  There was a time when we were all asked to record what we were doing in regards to claims, for example how many claims were new, existing, previous claims being reopened, and then to also record what the claims were for, for example, neck pain, knee pain, cancer, heart attack and so on.  It’s easy to understand why an insurance company would want to know this.  You would think that there would be systems in place to automatically track this sort of data.  Well, you would be right.  I raised this point and demonstrated how this could be done using existing reports, rather than asking dozens of people to painstakingly record their daily activity.  Nothing else was being recorded; just this information about claims.  The end result was that we all still had to manually record the data.  Just complete bullshit.  

These are tasks within a job that are bullshit, but there are entire jobs out there that are overwhelmingly pointless.  Take the IT worker who automated his job, allowing him to earn a salary whilst doing just a couple of minutes work a day.  That guy is my hero.  

If it works, is it lazy?

So many jobs now are tedious.  Many office jobs are done according to a flowchart, where “if A, then B” type decisions are made for you.  Sometimes these rules can be hidden under many layers of red tape, jargon, and policy summaries, but when you drill down into the detail, it’s a case of following the flowchart.  These types of jobs could be done entirely by AI and it wouldn’t even have to pass the Turing Test to complete the work to a satisfactory standard.  

I firmly believe that what frustrates most people in office-based work is that their job is seen as pointless, adding no value to society, that it could be largely automated, and that there is no room for personal decision-making.  

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (4/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) ✅

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (10/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: Torment by Jeremy Robinson.

What I’m watching: The Control Room on iPlayer.

I’m only a few pages into Hostage but my girlfriend enjoyed it, so I’ll give it a chance.  Torment is an older book by JR but it’s been released with new narration.  It was originally published under a pen name, as he was experimenting with a different style and genre.  The story starts with nuclear war and some survivors, who were in space during the brief conflict, return to Earth to find people hungry for human flesh. 

The Control Room was an interesting three-part thriller involving an emergency call centre worker who takes a call from someone in his past.  I found the first episode a bit weak, but it picked up massively in the final two.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £12,000.00 (up £4,800.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £62,716.14 (up £2,096.33 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,550.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £52,557.77 (up £439.46 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £229,159.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £147,876.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £505,858.91 (up £7,335.79 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £183,174.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,331.99 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £288,506.70 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £217,352.21 (up £7,335.79 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

Two huge points this week with my total assets smashing through the £500,000 barrier for the first time.  Also, my total wealth figure has recovered and then passed through my previous all-time high.  There will likely be further dips in the future but it’s a nice mental boost for my assets to exceed £500,000 in value for the first time.

I was able to release some funds to increase my Premium Bonds balance, and the stock market has performed well for me which benefited my ISA and pension values.  Next week will see my debts reduce as my monthly mortgage payments are made.  

I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got for this week.  I posted a brief blog the other day explaining that I’m stressed right now with all the upheaval at home and with my health.  Hopefully, next week I’ll be typing in an apartment that is largely finished.

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com

Spoons and Hit Points

It’s all about spoons.  Or hit points.  Or room in your inventory.  It could be any of these three concepts you use, or it could be something else, but I’m out of spoons, my hit points are at zero, and my inventory is full. 

I don’t think I’ll be able to put out a full, normal FIRE post this Sunday.  I should still be able to do the regular financial updates, but there’s just so much other stuff going on that, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I feel thin… stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

So, to summarise, I’m having to wean myself off my antidepressants because they are causing side effects which are having a significant impact on my quality of life.  I’ve been having intense night sweats which cause me to wake up several times a night.  This leads to constant tiredness and a feeling of just stumbling through life half awake all the time.  However, I’m starting to feel the impacts of the reduced dose.  I was taking 200mg of sertraline, but over the last few weeks, that’s been reduced to 125mg.  There’s a sense of melancholy constantly in the back of my mind.

In addition to this, my back has been playing up because I’m having to sleep on a mattress on the floor.  Our spacious apartment, with a main bedroom, a spare room used as my office, and a large living room area, has now been reduced to a living room with two desks, and a mattress whilst the work on our apartment looks set to drift into a third week when it was originally supposed to take “a week or so”.  This level of disruption would be bad enough for a neurotypical person with no mental health struggles.  For an autistic person struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, and a list of many physical ailments, it all just adds up.   

Speaking of physical health problems.  My arthritic hip (yes, arthritic hip at 38 years old) is causing a lot of pain.  Having to stand up from the mattress which is on the floor is more difficult than standing from a bed at a normal height.  Also, our en-suite shower has been out of use, meaning I’ve had to use the shower in the main bathroom.  However, the main bathroom shower is set in a bathtub instead of a shower tray.  Stepping over the bathtub causes a lot of pain in my hip as well.  So, I’m spending my days in a state of constant physical pain in my back and hip.

A few nights ago my foot was itching, so I scratched.  This was on the instep of my right foot.  The skin then peeled away across an area three-four inches long, and an inch wide, exposing the flesh underneath.  To say it stings would be like saying that a kick in the nuts is a little uncomfortable.  It’s not showing any major signs of healing, despite keeping it clean and bandaged.  Also, it hurts like a motherfucker when I have to put a shoe on.  

This isn’t meant to be a “woe is me” post.  I’m not asking for the violins.  This is a form of catharsis in itself.  In addition to all this, I’m working full-time in a job that can be, at times, very stressful as well.  Today has felt like I’ve been fighting the hydra; each head I’ve chopped off has grown back twice.

Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully, things will look up.  In order; I need the work to the flat to finish, which the bulk of it should be within a few days, I hope.  I need to get a new bed so I can sleep without stabbing back pain.  From that point, I should also be able to rest my hip whilst I wait for the next calamity.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a better week.

If you enjoy my content, please consider a donation to my caffeine fund using the link/image below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

CoastFIRE & BaristaFIRE: Thoughts for the Future.

There are several types of FIRE including FatFIRE and LeanFIRE, but I’ve recently discovered two other types; Coast and Barista.  

CoastFIRE is where you invest heavily in the early years and then let the investment compound without too much emphasis on adding to the investment pot during the coasting period.  An example of this would be saving heavily in your 20s and 30s, before winding down the money invested each month.  The total pot accumulated would then be allowed to compound until retirement.

BaristaFIRE is similar to LeanFIRE, in my opinion.  You invest enough so that your assets can cover your basic living costs.  Then, you can work part-time, as a barista for example, to give yourself some spending money.

Whilst it’s useful to have different terms for the different strategies in the FIRE community, it ultimately doesn’t matter what you call it as long as your strategy is realistic and budgeted.  

When I started my FIRE journey, I set the ambitious goal of FIRE by 40.  I was 36 at the time.  I’m now approaching my 39th birthday and I’m not as far along as I’d hoped, but I’m not too disheartened.  A lot has happened since I set my goal that was outside my control, and this will give me an extra safety net as it pushes me to work longer to accumulate a solid financial foundation. 

As I stood on the cruise ship looking out at the ocean in late 2019, thinking about my plans for the future, Covid-19 was still months away.  The war in Ukraine was still over a year away.  Brexit was still up in the air.  Inflation was much lower than it is now.  Although the cost of living was biting those in the more vulnerable sections of society, it was not something impacting the majority.  Had it not been for all these things, I would be further on in my FIRE project.  

I don’t have an expensive lifestyle, and my girlfriend and I lack two of the main expenses that most couples have; children and cars.  We like the simple things, and we don’t do alcohol or other recreational drugs, unless you count caffeine.  The point I’m making is that our expenses are few.  Our FIRE figure is low as a result.  

Our dream is to retire to Madrid once our finances are in order.  Using a few sources online, and talking to people who live in Spain, we believe that 4,000 Euros per month will allow the two of us to have a fairly comfortable life.  My girlfriend wants to continue working, and I want to study and write.  Assuming we each bring in 2,000 per month, current exchange rates assume that we need £1,700(ish) per month.  Obviously, these numbers are constantly fluctuating.  

As I look at my progress so far, it’s going to take a bit longer than I’d hoped to hit my target for FIRE by 40.  So, what are my options?

BaristaFIRE is probably the best fit for my plans.  There’s nothing stopping me from doing some casual work in Spain to earn a bit of pocket money whilst the value of my assets compound over time.

Last year I had a passive income of £3,771.  This year I’m on track for £4,700 – £5,000.  The lower end of that projection is still a 25%(ish) increase on the previous year.  Taking that projection and applying it to the future, it looks like this:

Now, I know that my working out doesn’t include inflation or changing currency exchange rates.  Including every single variable is counterproductive for this situation.  Either the numbers will work, or they won’t.  The only deadline here is my own self-imposed deadline, and if I don’t meet it, I can just extend it.  It’s not a big deal.  

One thing for certain is that I need to get that second BTL purchase completed as soon as possible.

Assuming I decide to go down the BaristaFIRE route and work whilst in Spain, it could bring the FIRE date forward.  Based on the current minimum wage in Spain, if I was to work 10 hours a week, for 46 weeks a year, it would reduce the amount I would need from passive/investment sources by just over £200 per month.

All of the above calculations have been completed as cautiously as possible, but I thought I’d end things on a more hopeful note.  Assuming the following:

  1. My BTL tenant continues to pay on time, in full for the rest of the year.
  2. My income funds perform as usual for the rest of the year.
  3. My estimate for the final dividend of the year from the stock I own is paid as projected by sources online…

Assuming all that, I could finish the year with £5,618 of passive income.  Projecting that forward would see my FIRE target achieved by year-end 2025.

However this all works out, the important thing is that I’m planning for the future and not just relying on a state pension.

Thanks for reading, and please like, share, and/or comment.  If you enjoy my content, please buy me a coffee at the link below.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 143

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I cover a range of subjects; the recent heatwave across Europe, a bit more on inflation following the post I published midweek, the usual financial updates, and a rant about streaming services.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

“1976 was worse” ~ various people

Climate change denial is something I don’t get.  I mean, it’s been obvious for decades that we are wrecking the planet.  Whether our increased industrial activity is directly causing climate change is irrelevant, I’d argue.  

I don’t think many would suggest that heavy industry, burning of fossil fuels and destroying the rainforests is a good thing for the environment.  We want biodiversity and we generally don’t like cities shrouded in smog. 

So, assuming for a moment that climate change is not due to human activity, why should we change our way of life? Well, what’s the worst that could happen? We stop using finite resources and switch to energy sources that are essentially limitless and clean?  We stop pumping carbon into our atmosphere and increase the quality of our breathable air? We help stabilise the natural world and preserve species that are in danger of going extinct? Cleaning up the Earth will do all these things, and if climate change is anthropogenic, we will also have the knock-on effect of reducing it.  

With the recent spell of extreme heat we’ve had in the UK, a lot of people have been banging on about 1976 and how it wasn’t “that bad”, ignoring the fact that there was a surge in excess deaths due to the heatwave at the time.  It’s easy to be blase about hot weather when it’s not had a significant personal impact.  In time, I’m sure we will see reports of the deaths this heatwave has caused.  It should be noted that, at the time of writing, it is thought that the July’22 heatwave has been responsible for over 4,000 deaths in Europe; mostly in Germany, Portugal, and Spain.  

Another point to note about 1976, compared to 2022; the highest recorded temperature in the UK in the 1976 heatwave was 35.9C.  In this recent heatwave the highest recorded temperature was just over 40C.  The average UK temperature for July is around 21C.

There is a point at which humans can physically not survive, in terms of the temperature.  Once our internal temperature exceeds 42.3C, the proteins in our body break down and to quote one article, we “turn into scrambled eggs”.  We have ways of regulating our internal body temperature; we do it every day without thinking.  It’s worth remembering that if the weather continues to get hotter, there could come a time when our access to the outside world is limited due to extreme heat.  This is already the case in some parts of the world where the midday sun results in most people taking a break for a few hours.

Weekly Update

I imagine that a lot of people had a similar start to the week, in that they were struggling with the heat.  Last Sunday we had to move our mattress from the bedroom to the living room, as we were preparing for the refurb of our flat.  The bedroom was emptied of furniture and we had to stack most of our possessions between the living room and spare bedroom/home office.  

On Monday the work started and we spent most of our time in the living room trying to survive the heat.  According to our, well I don’t know what it’s called.  It’s this old device my Gran had that predicted weather based on air pressure, and also has a mercury thermometer.  I kept the device after she passed, and it’s been hung on our wall since.  Anyway, the mercury touched 40C several times.  It was hot, to say the least.

Monday and Tuesday were just horrific.  It was a case of waiting out the heat and counting down the hours.  We had a few small USB fans dotted around the living room, but for much of the time they just blew out warm air.  I drank over eight litres of water from Sunday night to Tuesday evening.  

Climate change is a worry and we need a scientific breakthrough, such as via fusion power on an industrial scale.  Eating a little less meat, and cutting down on electricity use at home isn’t even a drop in the ocean.  The overwhelming majority of carbon emissions come from a small group of companies, and until they change their ways, dropping our central heating from 22C to 20C just isn’t going to do much.

Now, I’m not saying there is nothing we can do as individuals but our actions need to be focused in the right direction.  We can’t bitch and moan about countries like China and their carbon emissions whilst at the same time shopping for all our electronics off Amazon where those products have been manufactured in China.  We can’t pat ourselves on the back and say, “well the UK hardly emits any carbon” when all we’ve done is export our carbon emissions to other countries that build things for us.  Also, it would be wise to remember that the UK was the first country on Earth to start emitting carbon on an industrial scale.  

Anyway, coming back from that tangent, the rest of the week has been stressful as the flat is just a complete state with boxes piled up in the rooms not being worked on.  We are sleeping on a mattress in the living room, and our cat is just confused.  We have beds for her in each room and she would normally spend some time in the home office on her bed by the window.  She walked in there the other day and seemed confused as to why it was empty.  She looked up at me and gave a mournful-sounding meow.  Poor girl doesn’t know what’s going on, but it will be worth it in the end.  We’re only doing this work to give our sweet Poppy the best home for her retirement.  

I’ve not been massively impressed with how long the work is taking.  The guy doing the work each day is friendly, polite, and seems to take pride in his work.  It just seems to be going a bit slowly.  We were initially told the work would take a week, maybe a week and a half, but after a week we’re not even halfway through.  It’s frustrating.

This Week’s Tory Shambles

If you haven’t watched The Inbetweeners you might not get this reference, but do me a favour; load up a clip of Will from the show talking.  Close your eyes, and tell me that he doesn’t sound just like Rishi Sunak.  

We have a choice between Sunak or Truss.  It’s like the tagline from Alien vs Predator; “whoever wins, we lose”.  

I suppose on balance I would rather Truss win, for a few reasons.  First, the memes will be amazing.  Second, I think she’s not quite as vile as most Tories and I suspect her level of competence means she probably will not be able to do too much damage.  Sunak arguably has a little more going on upstairs, but he could probably still hide his own Easter Eggs for the annual hunt and finish last.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

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2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (4/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) ✅

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (10/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: I’ve just finished The Warehouse by Rob Hart, and have not started a new book yet.

What I’m listening to: Never by Ken Follett.

What I’m watching: D.B. Cooper: Where are you?

I finished another book, The Warehouse by Rob Hart, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It wasn’t a book that required a huge amount of thinking, but it was still an entertaining read.  I picked up on most of the twists early on, with one rather gross exception (which I will not spoil for other readers).  The story takes place in the near future where one business has monopolised internet shopping and many public services.  Millions of people live on company campuses where they rarely go outside due to climate change.  It’s dystopian and draws on influences like Brave New World and 1984.  It has an easy style to read and will keep you occupied for a few days.

I’m enjoying Never by Ken Follett.  I read his century trilogy a few years ago and thought it was brilliant, but I’ve not tried any of his other stuff (mostly because the TV adaptation of Pillars of the Earth made me want to stick pokers in my eyes).  I’m about two-thirds of the way through, and have no idea how it will finish.  The book looks at how small incidents can snowball into huge, international conflicts.  It’s interesting, but some of the characters are a little bland.  One random point is that I’ve learned a hell of a lot more about the Republic of Chad in Africa.  Much of the plot takes place there, and in typical fashion led me down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole.  My only major criticism is the way the daughter of the President is written.  It’s almost as though she is there so that the President has someone on whom to dump exposition.  It just feels a bit clumsy.

I have hit my target of reading ten new authors this year, through which I have discovered some fantastic authors.  I just need to crack on with some of the classics now.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,200.00 (up £2,200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £60,619.81 (up £1,810.69 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,550.00 (up £1,000.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,118.31 (up £1,378.45 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £229,159.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £147,876.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £498,523.12 (up £6,389.14 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £183,174.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,331.99 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £288,506.70 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £210,016.42 (up £6,389.14 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

Inflation

There’s a lot of talk about the cost of living crisis and inflation at the moment.  The headlines state figures like “9% inflation”, but this does not tell the whole story.  Many people up and down the country have to account for every penny they spend on groceries.  For these people, who are struggling to make ends meet, the true rise in inflation is much more serious.  

In January this year, blogger and author Jack Monroe highlighted the true extent of inflation.  In her article in The Guardian she explained that Asda’s own brand of dried pasta was 29p for 500g, but a year later the same pasta was 70p.  This is far greater than a 9% increase.  Also mentioned in her related Twitter thread, the cost of 1kg of rice was 45p.  A year on, the cost was £1 for just 500g.  A tin of baked beans increased from 22p to 32p.  From my own experience, a four-pint bottle of skimmed milk has increased from £1 to £1.50.  

If you don’t have to check the price of every item each time you shop, these increases may be missed.  After all, it’s just a few pence here and there.  However, if you are shopping on a rigid budget it can mean the difference between three meals a day, or just two.  Some google-fu suggests that the average UK adult can get by on £40 of food each week.  Such a budget does not allow for much variety or flexibility. 

There are some people who overspend because of a lack of financial education.  However, there are many people up and down the country who are running out of ways to make their income cover the absolute basic necessities of life.  There’s an argument that you can judge a society by how the poorest are treated, and viewed through that lens we have failed.

Streaming Services

Amazon Prime Video: £7.99pcm

Netflix: £6.99pcm (cheapest package)

Disney+: £7.99pcm

Apple TV: £4.99pcm

Now TV (Entertainment package): £9.99pcm

Paramount+: £6.99pcm

Streaming services are getting out of control and it’s to the detriment of viewers.  Back in the day, it was all about Netflix and Amazon and that was fine.  Approximately £15pcm for a wide selection of shows and movies.  Then, studios started getting greedy and we saw the choice of things to watch get diluted among many different services.  

I’m a fan of sci-fi, and I enjoy Star Trek and Star Wars.  Time was, I could watch Star Trek on Netflix, but all that content has moved from Netflix to Paramount+.  This means I no longer watch Star Trek.  New Star Wars content is now available through Disney+, but I refuse to pay for another streaming service.  

To subscribe to the services listed above would cost over £40 each month.  It’s just not worth subscribing to Paramount+ just so I can watch Star Trek, or subscribe to Disney+ just to watch the Obi-Wan Kenobi show.  I’m not alone in feeling this, so all that happens is people start sharing passwords.  Then, the companies come down hard on people who share passwords.  It benefits no one.  

Another point related to this is how shows have to be a huge hit immediately or they get cancelled.  Netflix and Amazon are especially bad for this.  The thing is, it’s a self-reinforcing cycle.  Viewers are reluctant to commit to a new show as they fear it will just be cancelled.  The streaming service looks at viewing figures for the new show and decides to cancel because it’s not getting the viewers.  I can’t be the only one who waits for a few seasons before watching most shows, just to make sure I get to see a complete story.

That’s all for this week, so I thank you for reading.  Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on the post, and if you enjoy my content please consider buying me a coffee via the links/images on this blog.

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com

The Hidden Risk of Inflation

The most common objection I hear to investing is the fear of losing money. It’s also the most misunderstood part of the game of money. Risk is unavoidable when it comes to money, whether you choose to invest or not, your money is at risk. A simple example;

If you had £50,000 in 2012, it would have the same spending power in 2012 as £71,000 has in 2022, based on the costs of goods and services measured by the RPI. However, if you had £50,000 in 2012 and let it build interest until 2022, your savings would total £57,000 (based on average rates on savings accounts in the last decade). So, a £14,000 difference. In that time, just leaving your cash in a “safe” bank account means that your money is worth 80% of what it should be worth according to inflation over the same period.

All investing carries risk, but it’s all about the type and level of risk involved. The key to successful investing is not risk avoidance but rather, risk management.

Take my Investment ISA as an example. Since opening the account in the 2018/2019 tax year, I’ve invested £58,300. In addition to capital gains, my ISA has generated £1,897.52 in dividends since it was opened.

Total amount invested + total income = £60,197.52

Current ISA balance: £61,162.54

The difference between the amount invested and total income, compared to the current balance isn’t that great. This is all ignoring the fact that I’ve withdrawn money from my ISA as well, which amounts to over £3,000 since opening the account.

Taking into consideration fees and charges for administering the account, I’m up approximately 10% on my original investment.

When looking at investments that are directly linked to the stock market it’s important to note that the value can change from one day to the next. So, if you need money to be instantly accessible for the face value, you should probably stay away from this type of investment. However, if you are leaving thousands of pounds in a basic savings account or cash ISA, that money is losing value every single day.

If you enjoy my content, please leave a tip in my virtual tip jar at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 142

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the first set of images from the James Webb Space Telescope.  Also, a look at the Tory leadership contest.  I also look at how best to pay my mortgage off.  There are the usual financial updates, and what I think is the cutest photo of my cat, Poppy.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Wow” Me, seeing the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope

This week saw the first images from the JWST released to the public.  These images are, simply put, jaw-dropping and stunning.  

I’m not going to debate the issues surrounding the naming of the telescope, but rather concentrate on the technology, which is just incredible.  We have been treated to the first image of another solar system, with planets clearly visible as they orbit their star.  We have crisp pictures of galaxies, nebulae, and individual stars further away than we’ve seen before.  I can see why some of those who work on the project have been reduced to tears at the beauty and scale of the universe.  It is just incredible.

Stephan’s Quintet: https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages
Carina Nebula: https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages

I hope that within my lifetime we will have even more powerful telescopes to see the finer detail of nearby star systems, where we can scan for signs of life, whether that be atmospheric markers or signs of space travel within those solar systems.  

Weekly Update

Our apartment is upside down at the moment, as we prepare for the work to be completed this coming week.  We are having most of our furniture replaced, and our carpets all taken up.  Also, the whole flat is being repainted.  

This is the first time we have done a full refurb on the place.  We bought it in late 2012 and are the first people to reside here.  The woman we bought from had bought the property off-plan for her daughter, who decided she didn’t want it.  The mother had carpets down on top of the lovely wooden flooring, and a fridge and washing machine installed.  So technically it wasn’t classed as a new build, but it may as well have been.  

It’s a bit stressful at the moment as we don’t have a sofa, and we have disposed of several bookcases and storage units.  We’re trying to empty the place as much as possible before the work starts, and it will make it easier to install new furniture going forward.

We gave some of our furniture to the British Heart Foundation, so they could sell it.  They arrived to collect our sofa and cuddler chair, but declined to take the sofa as the fire label had been removed.  The cuddler was ok though, as the label was still attached.  However, later that day, as I walked through our complex, I saw the fire label on the corridor.  It must have ripped off as they were taking it out of the building, so I wonder if they’ll be able to sell it.  

I’ve reduced my sertraline again this week. I was taking 200mg a few weeks ago, when the GP recommended I start dropping to a lower level. This is in response to my disturbed sleep and severe night sweats. I dropped to 150mg for a few weeks, and I’ve now reduced it to 125mg. I’m aiming to get to 100mg and then see how I cope.

Random Cat Picture

I was sat on our balcony the other day, and Poppy was on our table. I took a series of photos just as she yawned, and the last photo just as she closed her mouth is adorable and hilarious. See below:

THE TEETH!

This Week’s Tory Shambles

Another week where the Tories gave me plenty of material, but I’m going to just touch on the leadership contest.  I watched the debate on Friday night on Channel 4, and it was amazing comedy value.  Overall, I think Tom Tugeha… Tom Tudegn… Tom Tuhga…, overall I think that Tom guy came across the best.  He was calm, assured, and a confident public speaker.  His background in the military probably has something to do with that.  

Liz Truss was like a rabbit in the headlights I thought.  As I looked into her eyes I could see the faint spark of neurons firing in the void inside her skull.  However, none of this translated into any points that made me a Truss supporter.  I shouldn’t be too harsh, as sources tell me she is still trying to find her way out of the Channel 4 studio.

Penny Mordaunt gave a dazzling lesson in how to destroy one’s own campaign in record time, as she attempted to explain her stance on trans people.  She did not seem very comfortable in her own skin, and lacked the gravitas of a leader.  Maybe her gravitas has been diluted so much as to be ineffective, just like the homoeopathy that she has promoted.

I felt bad for Rishi Sunak as he seemingly struggled to balance behind his podium.  Rumours abound that he was given a box to stand on, so he could see over the dais, but I give these suggestions short shrift, as it would be a tall order to hide this from the viewing public.  The thing is, he finds himself with the most votes from other Tory MPs in this contest, meaning that he can stand head and shoulders above his peers, in his heart if not in reality (ain’t that right, Suella Braverman?).  

Kemi Badenoch was also present.  

Communication as an Autistic

Some people claim that autistics struggle to communicate effectively, arguing that we can’t pick up on social cues, and that we find turn-taking in conversation difficult.  For some autistics, this is true.  It’s also true for some neurotypical people.  It’s a bizarre point to make.  However, what I’ve noticed since I’ve started communicating with other autistics is a general sense that we seem to be more courteous in our communications, and seem to obey etiquette around turn-taking better.  

The one thing that really frustrates me, as an autistic communicating with NTs, is when a closed question is answered with a long-winded, irrelevant answer.  An example;

Me: what time are you coming over?

Them: well I’ve got to go here, and there, and do this, and do that, and then get dressed, and speak with so-and-so, etc etc etc…

Me: so, what time are you coming over?

Or, another one from this week:

Me: what year did you start your business?

Them: *long, rambling answer, without actually providing an answer*

Me: *waits a beat*

Them: *silence*

Me: So, what year did you start your business?

This is one of those situations where I’ve started breaking the imaginary fourth wall and staring at the camera I imagine recording my life.  Either that or I put my hands behind my head, sit back, and let out a long exhale.  

I’m not hammering NT people as a whole.  Some people are great at answering direct questions with a direct answer, and in my experience it tends to be those people trained in critical thinking.  Sadly, in this country, critical thinking is not taught enough.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (4/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) ✅

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (9/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Warehouse by Rob Hart.

What I’m listening to: The Physics of the Dead by Luke Smitherd.

What I’m watching: Nothing at the moment.

I’m not sure where I’m at with my weight at the moment.  The injuries I’ve been carrying, and the stress of daily life, have resulted in no gym visits for a few weeks.  I need to get back into a good routine.  Hopefully, this coming week will see to that as I’m due to be off work.  

I’m listening to a new Luke Smitherd book, but it seems it’s actually the first book he published.  Starting with his most recent work, The Stone Man series, and then coming back to the beginning, it’s clear to see how his writing has developed.  Not to say that The Physics of the Dead is a bad book, but it’s a bit rough around the edges.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £5,000.00 (up £4,450.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £58,809.12 (down £398.14 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £550.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £50,739.86 (down £211.90 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £229,159.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £147,876.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £492,133.98 (up £3,839.96 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £183,174.71 (up £19,900.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,331.99 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £288,506.70 (up £19,900.00 from last update).

Total Wealth: £203,627.28 (down £16,060.04 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,647.20 (target £6,000).

We completed the release of £19,900 from our residential mortgage.  This was to fund the work on our apartment, but it now seems that we may not need quite that much.  So, the surplus will be put on one side for future projects.  

This will be the last time we complete extra borrowing on our residential mortgage for some time.  The aim now is to reduce the debt as quickly as we can, so that when our fixed rates come to an end we have a smaller balance to transfer to a new deal.  

On our mortgage we have the following rates:

0.81% fixed until 31/01/2024 (approx £134,000)

0.91% fixed until 31/10/2023 (approx £18,500)

2.89% fixed until 31/07/2023 (approx £11,000)

3.04% fixed until 31/10/2027 (approx £19,900)

The question here is whether to focus on paying down the balances on rates that end in 2023, or concentrate on reducing the balance of the first part, which ends in January 2024.

When these fixed rates end, the balance will either transfer to the variable rate or I could move to a different product.  However, the likelihood is that rates will not be under 1% again for a long time. Although parts two and three end sooner, the balances are lower, meaning that the impact of rate increases on those parts will be lessened. 

This issue is one that many people up and down the UK will have to face as the era of cheap mortgages comes to an end.  On one hand, you have people who are already at the absolute limit of what they can afford.  Another increase in payments will likely cripple them financially.  These people need to seek expert advice about how to manage their finances moving forward.  On the other hand, there are people who have taken mortgages out with the lowest possible monthly payment, so they can have as much spare cash as possible each month.  For these people, it may be worth looking at the rise in interest rates as a prompt to voluntarily pay more.

A £200,000 repayment mortgage over a term of forty years will have a monthly payment of around £715 at a rate of 3%.  However, increasing the monthly payment to £770 will knock five years off the projected term.  The faster the debt comes down, the lower the impact of rate increases on the monthly payment.  

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com

“Objection! I have no confidence in myself.”

Only the Tories could be stupid enough to; 1) get themselves into a position where they have no confidence in their own party, and 2) respond to a motion of no confidence by rejecting said motion, and putting forward their own. This is due to the motion put forward by Labour mentioned Boris Johnson, which arguably goes against tradition. Take a look at this guy, though:

I mean… Just… I can’t even…

The no confidence motion means little at this point. The Tories aren’t going to slam their own party, despite how the situation has come about. These people have no shame, and their hypocrisy is so blatant it almost passes some people without being noticed. All these contenders for the leadership banging on about how they are different, ignoring the fact they’ve been part of this clusterfuck for years.

We can trace this shitshow back to Cameron, who organised the EU referendum with no expectation that Leave would win. At the time, I predicted that Leave would win, but I also predicted that the formalities of leaving the EU would never get through Parliament. For a long time I held to that prediction, but it didn’t come to pass.

When the results were in, Cameron walked away. May became PM and had an unenviable task. I think she only held on to power because no one else wanted the job. Eventually, she had to leave as the Brexit shambles rumbled on. Now, we have Boris leaving office after gaffe, after scandal, after embarrassment, after disgrace.

Covid would have happened regardless of Brexit, but had the Remain vote won would we have ended up with Boris as PM? I doubt it. Our economy might have been in a stronger position to ride out Covid had we been part of the EU. Who knows, as it’s all hypothetical.

Unless the Tories pull out a game changing policy, they are toast. I’m just not sure that Labour has enough power behind it to win a majority at the next election. We could see another coalition government, which would mean nothing gets done.

I can’t decide what is more amusing; this no confidence debacle, or Amber Heard’s legal team objecting to its own question in the recent trial?

One major concern I have about any new Tory leader, is how they will handle the economy. Most of them are pushing the line of tax cuts. However, you can only cut taxes if there’s money to be saved elsewhere. Unfortunately, there’s only one place I can see those cuts happening and that’s in public services; the sort of services that provide for the vulnerable sections of society.

The UK budget makes for scary reading as we spend tens of billions of pounds servicing national debt, and we carry a national debt of over £1T. Depending on where you look, and how recent the reports are, we spend around £70B just servicing the national debt, i.e. paying the interest on the debt. This roughly double what we spend on defence.

Tax cuts aren’t the answer. We’re already running a deficit of tens of billions each year. So, what is the answer? In short, there’s no magic bullet because of just how badly this country has been fucked by a decade of Tory rule, and this is the crux of the matter. The Tories put us in this position; do you trust them to get us out of it?

Part 141

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I take a look at two opposing methods of debt repayment; the snowball method and the avalanche method.  Also, the latest update on the index valuation of my property.  There are the usual financial updates, and I can’t let the week pass without talking about the recent political upheaval.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I like Michio Kaku, and I’ve read a few of his books.  He’s an American theoretical physicist, and a well known science communicator (i.e. someone who talks about science to the general public).  One topic I’ve seen him cover a few times is that of the multiverse.  The idea of a multiverse fascinates me; to think that there are other realities where you did something a little different and it created a whole new set of possible outcomes.  

Some people talk about the multiverse, whilst also talking about there being an infinite number of possible universes where every single possible outcome happens.  For a long time, I’ve felt that if we could prove the existence of the multiverse it would be the death knell of reward based organised religion.  Think about it, if you are judged for your actions in life with either heaven or hell, then how is that judgement fair if you simultaneously choose all possible actions across the multiverse?

One possible solution I had to this was the idea of NPCs; each reality doesn’t have coherent or “true” copies of you.  Rather, there is one “true” self that goes through life.  Whenever a timeline branches off, your real self continues down one branch, but a non-player character (NPC) version of you takes its place in the other realities.  Inevitably this would lead to realities where there are no “true” selves, in which case that reality blinks out of existence.  Other realities may have one “true” self, with the remaining population being NPCs.  Evidence to support this theory can be seen whenever you see Boris Johnson or Nadine Dorries speaking in public.  That vacant stare; the emptiness behind the eyes.

However compelling this idea is, it still doesn’t sit right with me.  I’ve never been able to put into words why, but I think I’ve hit upon the explanation.  

We talk about there being an infinite number of possibilities.  The thing is, the concept of infinite can’t be defined because any definition reduces the idea of infinite to finite.  So, whilst there may be an absolutely vast number of possibilities, there can’t be an infinite number of possibilities.  

Think about reality for a moment; the physical world is made up of particles.  There are atoms, which are the smallest units of an element that can exist.  You can go smaller though into the structure of the atom; neutrons, protons, and electrons.  If you reduce the physical world to the smallest unit we know of, you arrive at the Planck Length which is written as follows:

1.616255(18)×10−35 m. 

In simple terms, 0.0… and then a whole fuckload of zeros ….016m

Where am I going with this?  When we talk about free will vs determinism, an example of a pool table is often used.  The table is set with the balls organised in the traditional triangle.  Someone smacks the cue ball into the pack, causing the balls to bounce around the table.  Those balls collide into each other.  This is how you can picture determinism; from the moment you hit the cue ball, every interaction between the balls are set.  If you have a strong enough computer you can then model how the movement of the balls will play out.  The key factor here is that the pool table is not an infinite system; it’s a finite system.  The pool table has boundaries.  We suspect our universe has boundaries because we can only break down the universe into units so small, beyond which space, and by extension time, is indivisible.  If space and time can only be broken down so far, then you are left with a finite number of possibilities instead of an infinite number. 

Now, I find it fun to have these little thought experiments from time to time, and I acknowledge my ideas are probably riddled with incorrect assumptions and information.  The great thing about science is that we are always learning.  If you spot errors in my thinking here, please point them out and leave a comment.

Weekly Update

Much of this week, with the exception of work, has been spent arranging for work to be completed on our apartment.  We’ve lived here for just over a decade now, and in that time we’ve not changed our furniture or decorated.  In fairness, it was brand new when we bought it.  We are having all our furniture taken away, with most of it going to the British Heart Foundation to sell in their stores.  We are having all the carpets ripped up and replaced with wooden flooring.  Also, the whole flat is being painted.  The contractors have said it will take around a week, but it’ll be worth it once it’s done.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve had hip/groin pain for a few weeks.  I’ve seen a consultant and had some scans, and the result is that I have an arthritic hip.  Fantastic.  It doesn’t hurt all the time, but after I had the appointment I was in a lot of pain.  The consultant had to manipulate the joint to test how, and when, the pain was triggered.  It took a couple of days for the pain to subside.  The good news is that I can return to the gym, but I have to be even more careful. 

I finished up the week by meeting a good friend of mine for brunch.  It’s always good catching up as we have the same key interests; science fiction and ripping on the Tories.  Which leads me into….

This Week’s Tory Shambles

Nadine Dorries… I have no words… Just look at the state of this tweet from a few days ago.

She is congratulating Nadhim Zahawi on his new appointment as *checks image she tweeted* Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, if you read the tweet she states he will *reads tweet* “deliver for health.”

Is this surprising when she doesn’t understand how Channel 4 is owned and funded despite being the Minister for Digital, Culture, Media, & Sport. Is it surprising when she confuses the two codes of Rugby? Or when she gets confused over whether 96% of people support or oppose her plans?

If you ever think that maybe Boris Johnson doesn’t deserve the kicking he’s getting from all sides right now, just remember how his actions, and the actions of his government, led to thousands of needless deaths during the pandemic. Remember how his party ignored lockdown rules whilst the people of this country lost loved ones without even having the opportunity to say goodbye. 

Whilst the mass resignations are a positive, you have to put it in the following context, taken from a message a friend sent me:

“The Charge of the Lightweight Brigade”

This might be my new favourite quote. For those who don’t know, it’s a play on the phrase, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which was part of the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War, which saw a cavalry charge of British soldiers against a Russian force. The British cavalry were subjected to intense fire from three sides and they suffered heavy losses. There is a poem of the battle by Tennyson, of which I’ve shared my favourite part:

Anyway, back to my point. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, called the new Tory frontbench the “charge of the lightweight brigade”, as Boris Johnson struggled to fill his ranks following the avalanche of resignations he was buried under. 

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (4/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) ✅

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (8/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Warehouse by Rob Hart.

What I’m listening to: Weird. Dark. by Luke Smitherd.

What I’m watching: Thor: Love and Thunder (cinema).

I really enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok, and thought it was one of the best films of the whole MCU.  However, the fourth film in the Thor series is not very good.  I wanted to like it, but the humour was off, and it felt as though Thor’s character had regressed.  The villain of the piece, Gorr The God Butcher, was played by Christian Bale, and in typical fashion he went all in to his portrayal.  However, Gorr just wasn’t that menacing as the film fell into the trap of telling and not showing. 

Luke Smitherd’s audiobooks have been keeping me occupied.  I recently finished, In The Darkness; That’s Where I’ll Know You, and I think it’s one of his best works.  The book I’m listening to at the moment is a collection of short stories, and I’ve only just started it.

I finished My Dark Vanessa this week, and it was very well written.  It has one of the most compelling depictions of trauma and PTSD I’ve read.  The subject matter, child abuse, grooming, and sexual assault, is not pleasant, but it’s a very powerful story.  I’m not too far into The Warehouse yet, but should have it finished for next week.

Financial Update

Assets

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

Stocks and Shares ISA: £59,207.26 (down £551.77 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £550.00 (up £50.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £50,951.76 (up £644.51 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £229,159.00 (up £10,868.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £147,876.00 (up £7,013.00 from last update).

Total Assets: £488,294.02 (up £18,073.74 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £163,274.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,331.99 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £268,606.70 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £219,687.32 (up £18,073.74 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,350.20 (target £6,000).

The index valuations for my properties have been updated by my lender for Q2 2022.  Both properties increased in value by approximately 5%.  I’m in the process of drawing down some funds for our apartment to pay for the works being completed.  This will be the last further advance we do on our apartment for some time, with the cost of borrowing increasing.  Previous applications for extra borrowing have seen us charged a rate of less than 1% for those funds.  The rate on our current application is over 3%.  

As part of the additional borrowing application we are reducing the term of the mortgage by five years.  The payment is still very manageable and we may overpay above the new contractual payment.  The bulk of our mortgage is locked into a deal at 0.89% until 2024, and if we want to avoid a huge spike in payments we need to start chipping away at the debt faster.  

The Snowball and The Avalanche

There is a vast amount of information online about how to best pay off your debts.  I want to concentrate on two methods, known as the Snowball method (SM) and the Avalanche method (AM).

The SM encourages you to pay the minimum payment on all debts except your smallest debt, which you pay off as quickly as possible.  Then, when you have paid that debt off, you allocate the money you were using for those payments to the next smallest debt.  For example;

You have the following debts;

  • Credit card balance £500 (interest 12%)
  • Loan balance £7,000 (interest 3.5%)
  • Car loan £11,000 (interest 2.4%)
  • Mortgage £120,000 (interest 4.49%)

The idea is you pay the minimum payment for the loan, car loan, and mortgage.  You pay your credit card off as quickly as possible.  Then, you pay the minimum payment on your car loan and mortgage, whilst hammering away at the loan as fast as possible.

This approach does not take into account the different rates of interest on each debt, but it can be mentally rewarding and motivating as you see the impact of your payments sooner.  You can start ticking off the smaller debts and feel as though you are making progress.  It might not be the most efficient way of paying your debts, but there’s a lot to be said for easing the mental burden of having lots of small debts hanging over you.

The AM is very similar, but rather than ordering debts from smallest to biggest, you order them in terms of highest interest rate to lowest.  The drawback of this approach is that if your highest rate of interest is on a large balance, you can feel as though you’re not making progress.  In absolute terms, the AM may result in paying less interest overall, but working out the different total costs of debts with different rates and different terms can be tricky.  

I’ve often said that money is a game, and if you understand the rules it is much easier to be successful at the game.  However, like any game you have to enjoy playing it.  There’s not much point in sticking to a strategy that is causing stress, anxiety, and depression.  If the snowball method makes you feel better, then there’s an argument to be made for choosing it over the avalanche.  Using the above example debts, if you chose the AM, you would clear the credit card quickly, but then be stuck paying the mortgage for years whilst the two loans hammer you for interest for their full terms.

If you are in debt and want to know how best to pay it off or manage your finances in general, please seek expert advice from the usual sources;

StepChange

MoneyHelper

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com