Part 133

Hello, and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss the recent crypto crash. Also, just to shake things up a bit, I take aim at the Tory party *Surprised Pikachu*. I also discuss my mental health and try to work out why my tolerance for the neurotypical world is reducing. First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

“My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing. So, I believe in the workplace environment,”

 ~ Boris Johnson

I really don’t want this blog to turn into a political piece, but our government is so incompetent I can’t leave it alone.  The thing about incompetence is that it’s not always deliberate or nasty.  It can happen because someone is promoted out of a position where they do the most damage (which helps explain why so many people in senior positions are utterly and completely useless, but I digress).  I don’t think that is what is happening here though.  Intelligence comes in many forms, and I don’t doubt that Bumbling Boris is intelligent in his own way.  I don’t think his incompetence is innocent though, nor do I believe the Tories are working for the good of the country.  

Let’s take a look at what has happened under our Tory government, and this is not an exhaustive list but rather what came to mind:

  1. Expenses fiasco.
  2. Windrush.
  3. Grenfell.
  4. “Cash for access.”
  5. “Piggate.”
  6. Brexit Referendum clusterfuck, linked with Cambridge Analytica.
  7. 2019 Prorogation saga.
  8. Covid-19; the transfer of billions upon billions of pounds from the taxpayer to companies with links to various politicians and members of the “elite”. 
  9. Partygate.

More recently, there have been stories such as the Freedom Bus Pass disgrace, which I covered in a previous blog.  There is the recent story about the bottle of champagne signed by Boris Johnson with an attached note from Oliver Dowden which shows the utter contempt with which these people view the public.  Yet, where is the outrage?

If only this was it.  A few days ago photos went viral on social media showing Dartford’s Tory council leader grinning like an idiot at the opening of a food bank.  The opening of a food bank should not be a source of pride.  It should be a source of absolute fucking embarrassment and shame.  As James Oh Brien said; “WTF are they all so happy about?”

So, back to Boris and his theory that people shouldn’t work from home because of their addiction to cheese.  There are millions of households across the UK where food is rationed, and people have to plan how every single ingredient is to be used.  How many people working from home will stroll to their fridge and cut a chunk of brie or blacksticks blue to nibble on whilst waiting for the kettle to boil?  I’m sure that the Tories would be able to spin this number just like they did with the covid testing numbers.  Another point about working from home; what would Boris know about working from home?  His office is based at 10 Downing Street.  His home is **checks notes** ‘motherfucker’.

The UK is in a strange, and worrying, place right now.  We are coming out of several national crises, such as Brexit and Covid.  The economy has been hammered, inflation is high and rates are increasing to try and stop inflation from getting further out of control.  The housing market will almost certainly take a hit in the coming months, and we have immigration policies that are on a par with some of history’s worst governments.  

Across the Irish Sea, there are developments that could easily lead to a renewed movement toward unifying Ireland.  The Tories have taken the Good Friday Agreement and shat all over it.  The details as to why would take too long to discuss here, but I suggest you read up on it.  It could get very messy.  To the north, we have increased talk of a new Scottish referendum for independence.  You can put money on the Irish and Scottish framing independence as a means of rejoining the EU.  If you look back at the regional results from the Brexit referendum, you will see that large parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to stay in the EU.  

I don’t make too many predictions, but I suspect by the end of the decade the Union could very well have broken into pieces.  If there is an Irish unification and Scottish independence you can bet that the Welsh will want a piece of that too.  Combined with the Ukraine war, climate change and the immense power that private companies now wield internationally, you can be forgiven for thinking “what the fuck is the point?”

Weekly Update

I’ve not been feeling great this last week.  It’s been creeping up on me slowly for a while I think.  At the back end of 2020, I was not in a good way.  My mental health was the worst it’s been.  With my recent autism diagnosis, I’ve been able to look back at my life with a new filter.  I can spot the times in my life when I’ve been in a very dark place mentally.  The gaps between those times seem to be getting shorter.  

I was talking to a fellow autistic recently and I explained that, since it became clear I’m autistic, my mental endurance, patience, and capacity for bullshit have been drastically reduced.  Apparently, this is a common thing amongst those identified as autistic.  Years of masking leads to emotional and cognitive burnout, which leads to mental breakdown.

Imagine a dam stretching across a large river.  The water builds and builds.  Eventually, the water is released through outlets so the pressure on the structure of the dam never overloads.  However, imagine what would happen if that water could not be released in a controlled way.  There would be floods.  The structure of the dam could be weakened.  With enough stress on the dam, it starts to crack.  Those cracks spread.  Water starts to burst through the cracks, and then the whole thing collapses and water surges down the river damaging everything in its path.  

The metaphor here applies to masking.  When autistic people mask, the water is building up inside their mind.  From time to time there will be smaller releases of the water pressure, but over time the stress becomes too great and the dam bursts.  Once it has burst, there is no rebuilding it.  The capacity to absorb that much mental stress can’t be recovered.  This is where I find myself now.  As I look at my situation now, and compare it to 2020, I am in a better position.  Stress can’t always be quantified though.  I might not have as much stress as then, but my defences are weaker now.  I don’t have the spoons I once had, or as I’ve recently heard it referred to, “I don’t have the hit points.”

I’m not sure what the answer is in the short to medium term.  I have lots of support personally and professionally.  It’s not always enough though.  My mood has been very low in the last couple of weeks.  The silver lining is that I know this is part of the cycle.  There are ups and downs, and I’m in the dip right now.  I will drag myself out of it in time.  It’s just a case of how long that will take, and hoping life doesn’t throw something unexpected my way.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 120.3kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading:

What I’m listening to: The Stone Giant (Stone Man – Book 3) by Luke Smitherd.

What I’m watching: Toc Toc (Netflix), Star Trek: Picard, This is Us (Amazon Prime).

I stumbled across an audible book called The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd, and proceeded to smash through it, and the sequel (The Empty Men) and I’ve almost finished the third book, The Stone Giant.

The first book starts with a stone man appearing in the centre of Coventry.  No one knows where it came from, and as people swarm around it, the stone man starts to move.  I can’t say much more without spoiling the story, but it’s a fascinating sci-fi/horror series set mostly in Coventry and Sheffield.  This in itself is great, as I can’t think of too many stories of this type taking part in my part of the world.

Earlier in the week, I watched an amusing film with my girlfriend called Toc Toc.  It’s a Spanish comedy where a group of people struggling with OCD arrive for therapy with a renowned psychologist.  It’s real slapstick stuff, but it also makes a serious point about how debilitating OCD can be.  My only criticism is that I think the film dragged slightly after the first hour or so, and would have been improved with some more ruthless editing.  On the whole, though, it was entertaining. 

Picard is just not very good.  It’s such a shame as the season started strongly.  It just feels as though the plot was written in a, “yeah, and what if then…” manner.  It’s like the plot was thrown together as fanfiction with little thought to the structure or pacing of the story.  I started watching the last two episodes earlier, but I was bored.  I always say that you can tell how engaging a show or film is by how often you look at your phone.  I found myself looking at my phone quite often whilst watching.  Nu-Trek isn’t great.  Discovery had potential.  I could ignore the contradiction to established canon in the first couple of seasons, but the jump to the future and “the burn” was so stupid it made my head hurt.  I’ll give Strange New Worlds a chance, but I’m not expecting much.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,600.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £42,132.53 (down £88.04 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £50.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £50,397.13 (down £1,521.99 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £218,291.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £140,863.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £470,333.66 (down £1,610.03 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £27.90 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,067.27 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,338.22 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £269,405.49 (down £27.90 from last update).

Total Wealth: £200,928.17 (down £1,582.13 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £956.15 (target £6,000).

A nice bit of income this week, which should be followed by even more next week.  I’m projecting that by the next post my investment income should be just under £2,000 for the year.  

The stock market continues to tread water with the occasional drop, and then mini-surge.  It’s frustrating that for the last thirty weeks or so, my total wealth figure has stalled between £200,000 and £210,000 with no sign of more consistent progress.  It doesn’t matter too much due to pound cost averaging.  Whilst prices are low, I get more units for my investment.  At some point though I will need the market to start increasing.

I’ve not seen many people boasting about their crypto gains lately.  I’m so glad I noped out of this Ponzi scheme when I did.  The whole thing is a house of cards waiting to crash, and it looks as though we will not be waiting too much longer.  In case you missed it, one of the more popular cryptos lost approx 99% of its value in a matter of days.  This had a knock-on impact on other cryptocurrencies.  There are stories in the news about people who had invested all their money in the Terra Luna token which went from $118 to $0.09, who have now had to take jobs they had previously described as menial.  I wonder how many of these people could explain their investment and understand it fully.  I suspect not many.  Some people have made insane sums of money through crypto, but their profit has come from many more people who have lost everything.  

All investments have risk.  Avoiding investments comes with risk.  There are no “risk-free” investments.  The only thing a person can do is manage the risk through a solid financial education.  I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll continue to say it; if you don’t understand an investment, you are gambling with your money.  When you gamble, the punter always ends up losing.

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:

http://www.darrenscothern.com

Part 132

“The 24 hour freedom bus pass was something I introduced.”

~ Boris Johnson

Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister was told about a pensioner who, in light of the economic clusterfuck he has presided over, has taken to using her bus pass to ride the bus all day so she doesn’t have to use her central heating.  Any normal human would react in the same way when faced with this story; upset, anger, frustration, and empathy, are just some of the emotions that normal people would feel.  However, not our PM.  Our PM felt it was appropriate to boast that he introduced the bus pass that allowed this lady to use the bus network as a means of keeping warm. 

We are *checks notes* the fifth biggest economy in the world.  The year is 2022.  We have people having to choose between warmth or food.  We have people using public transport to keep warm because they can’t afford the cost of energy, yet many of the major companies involved in energy production are making billions in profit every year.  It’s a complete disgrace, and it should be a source of national shame.  How do these politicians get away with it?

Let me introduce you to Nadine Dorries, a woman who makes Boris look like a classical philosopher.  Seriously, if Dorries was any dumber she’d have to be watered twice a week.  She is the Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so you’d expect she would have a basic grasp of her role.  You would be wrong.  Nadine Dorries referred to “downstreaming” films, but I can’t say for certain if she referred to them being “downstreamed” from the “interweb”.  She is also the one who failed to grasp the ownership of Channel 5 in an interview that is as entertaining as it is awkward. 

In any other line of work these politicians would not last a week.  It’s incompetence mixed with narcissism, and an inability to feel any sense of shame. 

If you have voted Tory, I want you to ask yourself a question; do you believe that the Tory party has the best interests of the people at heart? 

Now, back to Nadine Dorries.  In April 2021 there was an event attended by Labour representatives.  The Tory party has claimed that Kier Starmer broke lockdown rules, and has backed this assertion by sharing a photo of Starmer with another man eating some food.  There’s a slight problem with this claim and the accompanying photo; the man with Kier Starmer died in 2019.

If I met Nadine Dorries I would try and explain to her why this is an important point, but I have neither the patience nor the crayons to explain it to her in a way she’d understand.

Labour is far from perfect, but the Tory party is evil and incompetent.  

Weekly Update

The week started with a nice surprise.  I was browsing Facebook one morning and I saw an article from Bored Panda; 50 cutest animals adopted in April.  Imagine my shock when I saw Poppy on the list at number 16.  I had posted on Reddit a little after we adopted her, about how quickly she had settled in.  She’s great and I already love her.

On the subject of Poppy, we had our first adventure together on Thursday.  We took a walk around the block, and then a short tram ride to the vet for a check-up.  She was so well behaved and all the staff at the vet were fussing over her.  Poppy has that effect on everyone.  It’s all a ploy for food, I’m sure.  

I’ve never known a cat to eat such a wide range of food as Poppy.  I went to the gym one day and after a workout, I like a hit of protein.  I have a few packs of beef jerky on hand for when I get the craving; it’s low calorie, tasty, and a good source of protein.  So I tiptoe past Poppy as she’s sleeping.  I carefully pick up a pack of the biltong, and hide it behind my back as I start backing away from the living room.  Poppy opens one eye and looks at me.  I freeze.  She continues staring at me.  Under her gaze, I crumble and bring the pouch from behind my back like a child caught stealing from the cookie jar.  She jumps over the sofa and follows me to the spare room where I have my desk, and waits until I feed her a couple of strips of beef.  

We saw the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Friday evening; Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.  I’ve been losing interest in the MCU following the conclusion of the Infinity Saga.  I said at the time that the MCU should have been paused for a little while, like a year or so, to allow everyone to miss it and build anticipation.  As it happens, Marvel did the opposite and started cranking out more films and TV shows via Disney+.  I haven’t seen any of the shows, and there are a couple of films I’ve missed (Black Widow, The Eternals, for example).  I just don’t have the time or patience to commit to such a sprawling canon.  I don’t want to have to watch TV shows for films to make sense, in the same way that I don’t want to have to read a book for a show to make sense.  

I think Doctor Strange would have been a better experience had I seen WandaVision on Disney+, but that wasn’t going to happen.  On its own, I enjoyed the Multiverse of Madness.  It was what I term, “disposable fun”.  I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll watch it anytime soon.  The logical basis of the plot doesn’t stand up to modest criticism, but that’s the issue most superhero films have.  The action scenes were typical of other MCU films; creative and comedic.  For most MCU films I’ve managed to avoid spoilers, and I think for maximum enjoyment you should try to watch this film without reading spoilers.  I’d score the movie 6.5/10.

On Saturday we went to Peddler Market and enjoyed some great street food.  I tried an Indian take on the Canadian dish, Poutine.  This is food worthy of the gods and is chips, served with cheese curds, crispy onion, maple bacon, and gravy (although there are different takes on it).  The version I had was chips with a lamb curry sauce and pickled red chillis.  It was very nice.  My girlfriend had shawarma which was also very good.  We then shared some chicken tacos and they were incredible.  

A busy week was rounded off when I received my autism report.  It was a bit strange seeing it all reduced to a few pages of text, but I’m still relaxed about the whole thing.  Being formally identified as autistic doesn’t change who I am; I have always been autistic.  If anything, the confirmation has been a little bit like a weight being lifted.

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 119.4kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) (in progress)
  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading:

What I’m listening to: Dracula by Bram Stoker.

What I’m watching: MasterChef on BBC iPlayer.

I am thoroughly enjoying Dracula.  The story is gripping and the narration is excellent.  I can’t wait to finish it.  I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know the story, despite it being a classic.  

The latest season of Masterchef came to an end with Eddie emerging victorious.  Although I was rooting for Radha through the competition, I think Eddie was a deserved winner.  His food was consistently excellent, and he just seems like a really decent bloke.  I’m sure that all three finalists will go on to have successful careers with food.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,600.00 (up £50.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £42,220.57 (down £994.53 from last update).

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

Pensions: £51,919.12 (down £421.44 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £218,291.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £140,863.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £471,943.69 (down £1,315.97 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £27.90 (down £2,547.73 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,067.27 (down £398.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,338.22 (down £47.04 from last update). 

Total Debts: £269,433.39 (down £2,992.77 from last update).

Total Wealth: £202,510.30 (up £1,676.80 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £877.70 (target £6,000).

I found myself with the funds to pay most of my credit card off.  I would pay it all off, but you can only pay the outstanding balance; you can’t preemptively pay off pending transactions which I find annoying.

Our mortgage payments have been processed since the last blog, which always makes a positive difference to the balance sheet.  The Bank of England base rate increase seems to have triggered a drop in the value of my ISA and pension.  It’s just part of the volatility of the market.  The base rate is probably only going to increase as the year goes on as the BoE tries to slow inflation.  Some commentators are projecting a base rate of 2.5% in the early parts of 2023, with a rate of 3% by 2024.  

The Impact of the Base Rate

As the saying goes, “no plan survives contact with the enemy.”  The policymakers can plan to ramp up the base rate but the last few years have brought the Brexit referendum, Trump, Covid, and the war in Ukraine.  There are rumblings of a second Scottish Independence Referendum in 2023, and if the Scots vote to leave the United Kingdom, I can see the economy taking another pasting, which could very well see rates impacted once more.  

Assuming that the base rate continues to steadily increase we will probably see new borrowing slow, as well as a drop in spending generally.  This will, over time, lead to either a drop in property prices or, at the very least, a slowing of the increase in prices.  People tend to catastrophize things, but this is all part of the ebb and flow of the economy.  The key is to not overreact, but rather take a considered approach to how the current financial climate impacts your household spending.  

If you have not reviewed your mortgage recently, I would suggest you do so.  Speak with your lender and see what they can offer.  Remortgaging from one lender to another is time-consuming, and potentially expensive, with legal fees, valuation fees, admin fees, and product fees, all eating into any saving on the rate of interest offered.  I can’t stress the point enough; if you are in any doubt, speak with your lender and see what they can do for you.  Take expert advice, and don’t rely on scaremongering online or from uneducated sources.  

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:

http://www.darrenscothern.com

Part 131

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss the link between the mind and body, and how healthy actions in one can help the other. Also, more bizarre customer service, and why I can’t offer mortgage advice to those who contact me on social media.

Quote of the Week

“Healthy mind, healthy body.”

The most effective method I’ve found for managing stress, and depression, is exercise.  I love resistance training, and the feeling of success when I smash out that extra rep or extra few kilos of weight.  A routine of exercise always results in a better diet for me.  For some reason, it doesn’t work the other way around.  Eating better doesn’t motivate me to exercise more, but exercise pushes me to eat better.  

As science advances, we are finding more links between diet, sleep, exercise, mental health, and physical health.  This should not be a surprise, but for many people, it is, as the human body is a closed system and the mind is an emergent property of that system.  So, it stands to reason that a healthy body will promote a healthy mind.  I know, I know, it’s not always as simple as that.  People can be at the absolute peak of physical health yet be ravaged by crippling depression.  On the flip side, some people are impacted by severe physical disabilities yet have a healthy and positive mindset.  

All I can say is that for me, exercise is the best treatment for my mental health.  With a routine of exercise, I see my diet improve.  As I exercise more and eat healthier, my physical appearance improves, which boosts my mental health.  It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.  

The link between diet and mental health is often overlooked.  The body is a machine and like any machine, it needs an energy source; in other words, it needs fuel.  As the saying goes; garbage in, garbage out.  If you feed your body rubbish fuel, you’ll get rubbish performance.

I’m not going to rant about the state of the UK food industry, because we all know it’s shit.  So much processed junk, and even the fresh fruit and vegetables on sale in the supermarkets are of poor quality.  I mean, take the standard tomato on sale in a supermarket, and compare it to what you can get from an independent grocer.  Still, it’s better than nothing.  Eating healthy takes work and generally requires much more time spent chopping vegetables and cooking.  This isn’t possible for everyone, especially those who work 40 hour weeks and spend two hours a day commuting for work.  It’s easy to see how people turn to ready meals.  

We need a cultural shift but I can’t see it happening anytime soon.  The working class seem to have been brainwashed into thinking that working 40 hours a week, from 18 to 68, is what it takes to stay above the poverty line.  I’m so thankful for the small breaks I’ve had in life that have pushed me in the direction of FIRE.  There’s no reason why, in 2022, we have to work five days a week, 8-10 hours a day.  We could easily cut the working week by 20% with no loss of pay, or loss in productivity.  Other nations have shown how it can be done.  More time away from work would allow more time to eat a healthy diet and exercise.  It would allow people to recharge their mental batteries.  As a result, the strain on the NHS would reduce.  There is no downside. 

Weekly Update

Another week and another customer service nightmare.  This time the offending parties were Yodel and Nespresso.  I ordered some coffee capsules as a birthday present for someone.  I arranged for the package to be delivered when the recipient would be home.  Yodel stated on their tracking that if there was no one in, the item would be left in a safe place, with a card posted through the door and a photo of the item where it was left.  

The item was then “successfully delivered” to “neighbour” but the details for that neighbour made no sense.  Imagine a card stating the item was left at number 92, yet number 90 is the last house on the street.  It was that sort of confusion.  No card was left, and I couldn’t find a photo of the item on the tracking page.  So, I contacted Yodel’s customer support by live chat.  I explained the situation in detail.  The agent said they would investigate, and after a few minutes came back to me with a reply that was just telling me what I’d already told them.  The conversation went a little like this;

Me: ok

Yodel: Is there anything else I can help with?

Me: yes, you can tell me where the parcel is.

Yodel: As per my last message, it was left with a neighbour.

Me: All you did was repeat what I’d already told you.

Yodel: …

Me: …

Yodel: …

Me: …

Yodel: Maybe the item will turn up.

Me: Are you for real?

The conversation ended with no resolution, except that Yodel would try to contact the driver and find out what happened.  Yodel suggested I contact the company I bought from.

So, I called Nespresso.  When connected with their agent, she tried several times to take my postcode.  After stating my postcode several times, both using normal letters/numbers, and the phonetic alphabet, she got bored and terminated the call.  Maybe she needed an espresso.

I called back and spoke with someone who sounded like he’d just woken up, or was drunk, or both.  I don’t know, but he was so chill and slow with his speech I thought he needed a shot of adrenaline.  After 40 minutes of investigating, the agent said I should wait and see if the item turned up.

At this point, I was losing the will to live.  I explained that I would not be doing that and I wanted a refund.  I’ve never understood why it’s acceptable for courier services to hand over packages to neighbours.  After some time they eventually agreed to replace the order.  It should not be this difficult.

A few days later I received an email with the following photo:

Yes, this photo really cleared things up.

On Friday we tried a new bar/restaurant in our neighbourhood.  I had a scallop starter served with bacon, parmesan crisp, and a romesco sauce.  It was very nice.  For the main, I had a disappointing diavolo pizza.  Not enough chilli heat, and the pancetta was flabby (gross).  I had to scrape the chunks of pancetta from the pizza for it to be edible.  My girlfriend had a veggie pasta, and we shared a fudge cake.  Considering we had a coke each, the fact it came to over £55 was a little frustrating.  We don’t mind paying for quality food, but this felt like we’d had our pants down.  This was a place that promoted itself as authentic Italian.  It felt like a poor version of Pizza Express, but a more expensive version.  We will not go back.  

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 120.1kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading:

What I’m listening to: This is how they tell me the world ends by Nicole Perlroth

What I’m watching: MasterChef on BBC iPlayer.  

I’ve had to give up on my latest physical book.  I just don’t find the mental energy during the week to pick up a book and read.  My job is mentally draining at times, and I just can’t face picking up a book and reading.  I finish most workdays with a headache and just want to sit back and not have to think much.  

My current audiobook is a fascinating look into cyberwarfare.  My knowledge of hacking and coding is extremely limited, and this book is a real eye-opener.  It’s also slightly terrifying just how much of our daily lives depend on code, which appears to be open to hacking with minimal effort.

As regular readers will know, my girlfriend and I enjoy our food.  It should come as no surprise that we watch Masterchef as something of a guilty pleasure.  This week saw the semi-finals and has narrowed the competition to five people, with a winner to be crowned this coming week.  For a while, I’ve been thinking the final three will be Radha, Eddie and Pookie.  I don’t see any reason to change that prediction based on the semi-finals.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,550.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,215.10 (down £116.32 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £0.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £52,340.56 (down £225.91 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £218,291.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £140,863.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £473,259.66 (down £342.23 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £2,575.63 (up £1,412.19 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,465.27 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,385.26 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £272,426.16 (up £1,412.19 from last update).

Total Wealth: £200,833.50 (down £1,754.42 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £877.70 (target £6,000).

My credit card has taken more punishment as we’ve booked a second holiday for this year.  We had already booked a few days in Paris, but now we’ve also booked another week away somewhere else.  Having holidays to look forward to is a huge motivating factor, and hopefully, we’ll be able to start exploring more of the world.

Over the next few weeks, I’m expecting some further investment income to come through, with a decent dividend from one of the stocks I hold, and the start of rent coming from our BTL.

I’m considering a change of focus for the next few months.  I’m not that concerned about my credit card balance, as I know it will come down to zero again fairly quickly.  However, when we secure a second BTL, it might be time to consolidate and spend some time paying down my debts.  We’ve lived through a few years of exceptionally low interest rates but that is not going to continue forever.  Rates are already creeping up, and I don’t want to be caught unawares when my fixed deals run out.  

Asking me for Mortgage Advice and/or Financial Advice

As this blog has progressed I’ve started getting an increasing number of requests from readers for mortgage advice.  What started as one or two requests here and there, has progressed to almost daily requests with some days seeing multiple requests.

I appreciate the confidence people have in my ability, but I don’t work that way.  I’m not an independent mortgage broker.  I don’t work for myself.  Also, even if I was an independent advisor, I wouldn’t take work from people who contact me via social media because of the potential conflict of interest.  

I also receive numerous requests along the lines of, “I have £XXXX, what should I invest in?”  There are few, if any, one-size-fits-all approaches to investing.  I don’t offer answers, I offer questions.  If you want to learn about investing, you need to ask the right questions; What are my investing goals? What type and level of risk am I comfortable with? What can I afford to lose?  Asking the right questions, and educating yourself through different blogs, books, articles, and podcasts, will give you a range of opinions.  From this, you can find your own answers.  The one point I make time and time again, is that if you don’t understand the investment you are just gambling.  

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:

http://www.darrenscothern.com

Part 130

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss author Jeremy Robinson, and his Infinite Timeline. Also, a look at why companies such as Amazon have become so powerful. There are the usual financial updates, and some developments regarding my autism assessment.

https://bewareofmonsters.com

“One universe.  One end.”

I first stumbled across Jeremy Robinson’s work in 2021.  Since then, I’ve finished 49 of his books.  It’s fair to say I’m a big fan.  What I, and it seems many others, like about his work is the meta aspect to it.  Some of his stories are referenced as works of fiction by characters in his other novels, and the pop culture references come thick and fast.  The dialogue is always snappy and engaging and his characters talk like people you’d want to hang out with.  Compared to the Axis of Time series I’ve just completed by John Birmingham, where the dialogue was utterly cringeworthy, the difference is like night and day. 

The Infinite Timeline is the current shared world under construction by Jeremy.  It’s a collection of twelve novels, most of which can be enjoyed as standalone stories.  However, as you read more of these books, you realise there are crossovers and easter eggs all over the place.  The novels weave together a shared universe that spans all of space and time.  The scale of the project is immense, and the fact that Jeremy Robinson, and his editor Kane Gilmour, are making it work is a testament to their craft.  

The latest part of the Infinite Timeline, The Order, saw characters from several previous books come together.  I don’t want to say too much for those who haven’t yet read the story, but the teaming up of these characters made me mark out as much as when I watched The Avengers for the first time.

Many fans of this series have said it would be amazing on the big screen.  I see where these people are coming from, but I think it would work better as a big-budget series, as it would allow the characters to breathe more.  I think a series that focuses on the different threads coming together over time, like The Witcher, would work well.

I can’t wait for the final two books, Khaos and Singularity.  If you’re looking for something to binge on over the summer, check out the Infinite Timeline.  

Weekly Update

It’s been a busy week, which started with my girlfriend and I attending a veggie food market.  At first, we didn’t like the look of the food on offer but we tried a few things and were pleasantly surprised.  We had halloumi fries, karage cauliflower, and chips with a chaat sauce.  It wasn’t a mind-blowing experience but we gave it a try and it was nice to get out together.

Our little lady Poppy had a busy weekend with a friend coming over, and then my parents coming over to pay homage to our new feline master.  It was a busy Easter weekend, but enjoyable.

I started the working week on Tuesday with my autism assessment.  As expected, it was confirmed that I am autistic.  It hasn’t, and doesn’t, change anything about who I am.  Autism isn’t something you catch, and I’m the same person I always was.  What the assessment gave me was answers, which help explain parts of my past, and why I’m the way I am.

The assessment was mentally draining.  A lot of memories were brought up from long ago, and a lot of things were given a context that I’d not considered before.  I’m glad I pursued this, and the outpouring of support from the autistic community on Twitter was humbling.  I’ve told other people about being autistic and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  There are a few people who misunderstand autism, and who no doubt would have negative opinions, but I’ve just stopped giving a shit about their views.

Another highlight of the week was me passing 1,000 days without gambling. I’ve posted several times about my gambling addiction and when I was at my worst, I never could have imagined going 1,000 days without betting. It’s such a great feeling, and if you are struggling with your own gambling please feel free to reach out. There is an extremely supportive community of former problem gamblers on Twitter.

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 120.5kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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) (in progress)
  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: The Iliad by Homer

What I’m watching: MasterChef on BBC iPlayer.  Anatomy of a Scandal on Netflix.

I haven’t made much progress on my book this week as I’ve been wiped out after work.  I’ve spent most evenings drifting to sleep on the sofa.  I’ve started The Iliad for a second time, but with a different narrator.  I tried it a couple of years ago but the narration was awful.  This version is much better.  I’m still early in the story but so far I’m enjoying it.

We’ve started a show on Netflix, Anatomy of a Scandal, which is decent so far.  It starts Rupert Friend as a Tory MP who is accused of rape, with Sienna Miller playing his wife.  In many ways, it’s a bog-standard legal thriller, but there are a few mysteries being uncovered with hints at unreliable narration when different characters are remembering past events.  We’re halfway through and I’ve already called one of the major plot twists.  It’s not a show that’s breaking new ground but it’s something to pass the time.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,550.00 (up £10,550.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,331.42 (up £937.93 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £0.00 (down £4,200.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,566.47 (up £639.53 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £218,291.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £140,863.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £473,601.89 (up £7,927.46 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £1,163.44 (down £305.11 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,465.27 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,385.26 (up £12,500 from last update). 

Total Debts: £271,013.97 (up £12,194.89 from last update).

Total Wealth: £202,587.92 (down £4,267.43 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £877.70 (target £6,000).

A good week for income with an end-of-year dividend from one of my funds being paid.  We released £12,500 from our BTL, which was going to be used for a BTL purchase immediately, but we’ve had to put the brakes on that plan for now.  Each property we think we’ve found has then had a surprise waiting for us, such as the property already being under offer but this not being disclosed when viewing, or the property not being available on vacant possession.  So, our search continues.  To avoid the funds sitting in the bank account and not working for us, we’ve split the funds down the middle and have invested them until we are ready to move on a second BTL.

I decided to deplete my Fuck It Fund as I thought I’d need all the funds now for the reasons stated above.  I’m not concerned about having nothing saved for an emergency, as the funds are still mine but just in my Premium Bonds instead of a dedicated bank account.  If an emergency comes up, I can pull the money back out.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, etc…

Off the back of last week’s Amazon debacle, I was chatting with a few people about the necessary evils of mega-corporations like Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.  These businesses are huge and have made some people extremely wealthy.  I understand, to a degree, why people feel it’s obscene for such a small number of people to hoard such vast amounts of riches.  In a world where children starve to death, and where the elderly have to choose between heat or food, it is sickening.  The situation is not as simple as some make it out to be though.

I am going to make an assumption here, but I think it’s a fair assumption; of the people reading this blog, nearly every single reader will have a Facebook account, an Apple product, or have ordered from Amazon in the last six months.  I would say it’s probably as many as 99% of my readers.  Of those, many probably feel uncomfortable about the wealth held by Bezos or Zuckerberg.  The thing is, one cannot say that their wealth is abhorrent whilst also freely giving more money to them.  Yes, by all means, criticise their business practices and hold them to account for treating employees like crap, but these people are rich for a reason; they have created a service or product that people love, or have, to use.  

I’m going to take a little detour, but it’s relevant.  Where can you buy the best burgers? In my city of Sheffield, it’s probably Fat Hippo.  They make an incredible cheeseburger.  However, McDonald’s has way more customers and sells orders of magnitude more food.  There’s a simple explanation.  McDonald’s has a solid business model and burgers are made almost industrially.  There is consistency in their service and product.  You can walk into a McDonald’s in London, Bucharest, New York, or Amsterdam, and it’s the same experience.  It’s exactly the same idea as Starbucks.  They don’t make the best coffee, but the experience is the same the world over. 

The advantage these businesses have is that they sell in such volume that their markup on products can afford to be smaller.  Funnily enough, McDonald’s makes a huge amount of money from property, not food.  In fact, the former CEO of the company, ​​Harry J. Sonneborn, argued that McDonald’s is not a food company but a property business.  They make money from the rent paid by their tenants who operate franchises.  

How is this relevant to obscene wealth?  People want convenience, entertainment, and familiarity.  You can go to McDonald’s and get a cheap burger which they might only make a few pence profit on.  You can go to Amazon and order a notebook for which the margin may only be a few pence.  These businesses have created an unmatched experience that makes our lives easier in some way.  The main reason these businesses are successful is that they’ve produced something that people find appealing.  This innovation was possible because of the promise of vast wealth if the project was a success.  In short, it’s a necessary evil if you want to be able to order a book for next day delivery, or a 99p cheeseburger.

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:

http://www.darrenscothern.com

Part 129

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss some bizarre interactions with Amazon’s customer service agents. Also, a look at the way student loans transfer wealth. There are some more BTL updates, and all the usual financial information.

Quote of the Week

“Butternut crinkle fries.”

~ Michelle, Amazon Agent.

Despite knowing that Amazon is an awful business in many ways, it’s just so convenient to order from them.  They have a logistical chain unmatched by any other retailer.  The vast majority of orders I receive are fine, but every so often something happens that prompts me to contact their customer service and I usually come away from those interactions feeling dumber than when I started.

We had ordered a small storage box that comes flat packed, and you just unfold it and pop the lid on.  It’s a useful thing to have in our apartment, as it doubles as storage space and another place for our cat to sleep.  The packaging that this box came in was far too big and would have fit six or more of the item we ordered.  Instead, we had the one we ordered and then a huge amount of packing paper.  It was ridiculous, and annoying, as the packaging was so large it wouldn’t fit through the doors of our apartment building without twisting it to a specific angle.  It’s not just the environmental concern of using so much packing material for this type of item, but it’s the added work of gathering all the material and then taking it all the way down to the refuse store and stuffing the card and paper into the recycling bins.  

I figured I’d chat with Amazon and explain why we were frustrated with this.  It didn’t go well, as you will see from the screenshots below. 

I wasn’t after anything in particular, but I wanted to make sure they understood what I was unhappy about.  I’m still not convinced they understood.  For most items ordered from Amazon, it could even be argued that extra packaging is not needed.  Most things come in a plastic wrap once you’ve opened the box.  Just print a sticker and slap it on the item.  For items that need the extra packaging, so be it.  

The problem is that Amazon is so vast that they can afford to waste money on using packaging that’s too big.  When you get so big, you don’t have to get everything right and to a high standard, every time.  All you have to do is get most things done to an acceptable standard most of the time.  Once you make your sales process quick and easy, you have a customer who will put up with some inconveniences because it’s still more convenient than going to a store and bringing the item home yourself.  

It’s difficult to predict if anything will supplant Amazon as the king of retail.  The only thing I can think of is if a business can scale up 3D printing of things we need, and then have them delivered within hours or minutes.  This would cut down on warehouse space needed, and allow for items to never run out of stock so long as you have the raw material to run the printers.

Weekly Update

I’m just coming off the back of my late week, where I work until 8pm on Monday through Thursday.  It always leaves me drained, but I like the long weekend I get.  Obviously, this weekend is Easter, and that means Monday is also a bank holiday which means an even longer weekend.

One of the best things to come out of this blog is the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve forged.  The FIRE community is, for the most part, supportive and happy to share knowledge and experience.  One of my fellow bloggers at Quietly Saving has just celebrated eight years of writing about FIRE.  Another person I met through this blog has resigned from his job and is starting his own business.  For all the abuse our generation receives for being “lazy” or “unmotivated”, one just needs to look at those working towards FIRE to see their dedication and ambition.  

I was going to meet up with my Dad on Friday but we had to push that back, and he will be coming over on Monday.  On Saturday we had a friend over for food and a catch-up.  She is a lady we met on our trip to India back in 2020.  We got chatting and discovered we live close by in the UK.  So, she brought us over a lovely lemon cake and we made a Greek-inspired lunch, with grilled chicken, a Greek salad, flatbread, lemon and rosemary potatoes, and some tzatziki.  It was delicious.  

Next week I have my formal autism assessment, and later that same day I have a diabetes eye test.  The autism assessment can take several hours, and people I know who’ve had the assessment report that it’s emotionally and mentally exhausting.  The forms I received state I should be prepared for at least a three-hour appointment.

I’m expecting to be identified as autistic.  It’s not something that will bother me, and assuming my suspicions are confirmed it will be a relief.  For a long time I’ve felt alienated, and like I don’t quite fit.  Finally knowing why I feel like this will be a huge weight off my shoulders.  Much like the FIRE community, the autistic community are supportive and I know that my family and friends will have my back when I need it. 

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 120.6kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅

A slight increase in weight this week, but when I work late shifts I tend to snack more.  It’s the only thing that keeps me going on those long shifts.  A typical workday for me is 8 hours.  A late shift is almost 10 hours.  There will be ups and downs, but so long as the general trend is down, I’ll be happy.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: Final Impact by John Birmingham.

What I’m watching: MasterChef on BBC iPlayer.  Elite on Netflix.

I’m still making progress with my Newitz book, but when I’m working these shifts it’s difficult to pick up a book and read.  I’m hoping to have the book finished by next week though.

I’m on the final book in the Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham.  The narration is not grating on me quite as much now I’m used to it, but it’s still objectively awful.  The author also has no idea how British people talk in real life.  The series was written in 2007(ish), but the setting is 2021, at least initially.  The funniest thing about the story is how Prince Harry is a main character, and a badass SAS soldier at that.  It’s completely batshit crazy, but it’s good fun.  

I’ve been very disappointed with this season of Elite.  For a show that had relatable characters going through believable struggles, it’s become a parody of itself.  I’m only watching it because season five is only eight episodes long, and there are still a couple of original characters I’m invested in.  I’m not sure I’ll return for season six.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £42,393.49 (up £204.66 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £4,200.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £51,926.94 (down £381.29 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £218,291.00 (up £4,391.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £140,863.00 (up £2,833.00 from last update).

Total Assets: £465,674.43 (up £7,047.37 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £1,468.55 (up £264.27 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,465.27 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,885.26 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,819.08 (up £264.27 from last update).

Total Wealth: £206,855.35 (up £6,783.10 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £525.28 (target £6,000).

The valuations held by our mortgage lender for our properties were updated this week.  Both values increased by just over 2%.  Following the increase in our BTL equity, we have applied for a further advance to release some funds.  This will go towards our next property.  The application should go through next week, with the funds in our account by the next part of this blog.  

In a few months, we will probably look to release equity from our home.  Our apartment is in an area of Sheffield that is in huge demand.  Properties will be sold way above the asking price within days of being listed.  Agents are constantly mailing us to ask if we are interested in selling.  We had originally thought we might sell the apartment when we move, but we keep going back and forth on whether to sell or rent.  

We haven’t made any significant progress on another BTL.  We’ve identified potential properties but some vendors have unrealistic expectations, and some agents are just useless.  I can understand why some people have their heads in the clouds when it comes to a realistic price for their homes.  What I can’t understand is how so many agents make it so difficult to view a property, and so difficult to just find information about a property.  

Student Loans

The university industry makes a lot of people very wealthy.  Tuition fees have increased beyond reason and accommodation has become much more expensive.  There’s also the issue of textbooks being insanely expensive with some lecturers saying you have to buy the latest edition, when it turns out older editions are perfectly fine.  It’s a machine to print money.  This money has to come from somewhere though, and if students had to pay their way we would see a fraction of the young people going to university who currently attend.  

There are roughly 2.5 million students studying at UK universities.  Depending on who you ask, tuition fees vary across the UK.  Universities can charge what they want, up to a maximum of £9,250 p/a.  If I’m being generous and assume that the average fee charged is half that amount, then tuition fees in the UK amount to over £11.5 billion p/a.  Some people are getting very, very rich from higher education.

This money doesn’t just come from anywhere though.  A huge amount comes from student loans.  It’s estimated that the UK student loan debt will total over half a trillion pounds within a couple of decades.  Half a trillion looks like this; £500,000,000,000.00.

The thing is, student loans are not always paid back.  After enough time has passed, they are written off.  So, how is that money accounted for?  It doesn’t just disappear into the void.  That’s where the taxpayer comes in.  The whole student loan system works to transfer wealth from the taxpayer, to the wealthy, and it’s a disgrace.  It’s also absurd that children can apply for a debt that will potentially hang around their neck for thirty years until it’s forgiven.  It is far too easy to get a student loan.

The student loan system would not be as bad if a university education had not been devalued so much.  There are lots of students at university who lack the basic skills to study at a higher level, yet are allowed to attend university because of the insane amount of money they generate for the institution.  

It’s my opinion that university should be free for students at the point of use.  Universities should not be run for profit.  Instead, these institutions should be paid for by the taxpayer as an investment in the future of the country.  However, the eligibility criteria for university should be made more difficult with a greater emphasis on ability, potential, and work ethic.  Money and social status should have nothing to do with it.  Part of this reform would see other forms of education opened up for those who either don’t get into university or choose not to apply.  I’m thinking of a more structured form of apprenticeships where young adults can learn not just practical skills like plumbing, but also skills like coding, app design, cooking, with added options where they can brush up on the skills needed to get into university further down the line.  Everyone has a unique set of skills and potential.  Not all people are suited to education in a formal classroom setting.  Like the saying goes, you don’t judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree.

I have two student loans; an undergraduate loan, and a postgraduate loan.  I’m paying approximately £150 each month towards them.  I don’t class it as a debt for my FIRE plan, because it’s just there in the background, and I might fall under the earnings threshold for payments when I give up work.  My girlfriend has a postgraduate loan that was taken a few years ago for £10,000.  She has been making payments to it directly from her salary.  Somehow, in the five years or so since she took the loan, the balance is now over £12,500.  This is because the interest is more than the required payment which is based on income thresholds.  It’s a money-making scheme, and if we knew then what we know now, there is no chance we would have taken student loans out.

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:

http://www.darrenscothern.com

Part 128

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I ask the question, What does Financial Freedom mean to you? Also, the search for our second BTL begins, and details on our first holiday booking in a long time.

What does financial freedom mean to you?

Since starting this blog in 2019 I’ve noticed a slight increase in people talking about financial freedom.  They might not use the terms, financial freedom, FIRE, or financial independence, but the way they talk makes it clear that it’s the same concept they are discussing.  This could just be an example of frequency bias, in that once you become aware of something you start to see it more often.  Whilst this might play a part, I believe more people are starting to realise that our capitalist, profit-at-all-costs mentality is not right.  

The past few years have seen one calamity after another; Brexit, Covid, and the rise of politicians like Trump and Boris.  Now, we have the war in Ukraine.  On the face of it, it might not seem obvious why these things have contributed to an increasing interest in FIRE, but all these events have knocked the stock market, and/or caused many employers to cut staff numbers or even close down completely.

It’s never been more obvious that you can’t rely on a job, even if you’ve worked for the company for decades.  A business will drop you in seconds based on nothing more than a slump in the share price.  A CEO will sign off on a decision to make hundreds, or thousands, of people unemployed just to boost the company’s stock in the short term.  This sort of thinking is both a contributing cause of, and result of, things like Brexit.

For me, financial freedom is about buying time.  Time is the most precious resource we have.  Having financial independence means that you can choose what to do with your time, as opposed to having to put a third, or more, of your day towards making money for someone else.  

What about you?  What does financial freedom mean to you? What does your financially independent life look like?  Leave a comment, and let me know.

Weekly Update

When you don’t have anything planned it seems that one week just rolls into the next.  Time just passes by.  It’s all just routine.  I think much of this is a hangover from the pandemic where we’re just used to staying home and doing the basics.

Poppy has been with us for almost two weeks now and she’s still happy and settled.  She has such a crazy personality, and she’s a shameless beggar for food.  She will eat anything you put in front of her.  It’s impossible to have a meal in peace, but we love it.  The charity we adopted her from called to check how it was all going, and I explained it’s like we’ve had her for years as she’s settled in so quickly and seamlessly.

Older cats, and dogs, are so often overlooked in favour of adopting the younger ones.  People who do this are missing out as older animals have so much love to give.  Their personalities are established and they are used to being in a home.  Yes, it’s heartbreaking when you have to say goodbye, and you probably will not get as long with them before they pass.  For the animal though, the fact they’ve been rescued from a shelter and are given a loving home, means the world to them.

Apart from Poppy, the only other exciting news is that Oana and I have booked a city break for Paris later in the year.  As food lovers, we are excited to sample some top restaurants.  I’m a big fan of classical French cooking, and I’ll be in my element when we arrive.  

In addition to the restaurants, there are some places we are looking forward to seeing and we plan on taking a few trips away from Paris.  One place we want to visit is the Château de Chambord.

As the week comes to a close I find myself physically and mentally weary.  Being back at the gym and working full-time is tiring.  I need to push through until this routine becomes the new normal, and I’ll be fine.  It’s going to take a few weeks, but the hard work will be worth it. 

Sheffield Ceramics Festival and the war in Ukraine

Last weekend we visited the Sheffield Ceramics Festival at the Kelham Island Museum.  There are some great pieces of work and we enjoy having a leisurely browse.  We noticed one of the stalls had a fundraiser going for Ukraine through an auction for a custom teapot in the blue and yellow colours of the country.  The vendor was accepting bids, with the teapot going to the winner who then paid their bid as a donation to the DEC to support their work in the warzone.  Anyway, we won the teapot with a bid of £50.  We plan to give the teapot to our friend in Kyiv when we get to meet in person.

Although the war is still in the news, it’s not the overwhelming main story anymore.  I worry that the conflict will slip from our minds as the war drags on.  If you can help support our friends in Ukraine, please consider donating to the DEC:

https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal

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 120.3kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅

Another week of weight loss which is a huge boost to my confidence.  I need to keep going without going too hard, too soon.  It’s a lack of patience that has contributed to several injuries in the past.  I’m trying to be patient and not push my body too far at the gym, frustrating as it might be.  I remember reading, some time ago, an article that explained muscle strengthens faster than joints and connective tissue.  So, you can end up lifting more than the joints can support even though the muscles are coping fine.  This leads to joint problems.  How true this is, I don’t know.  It does make intuitive sense though, and there’s little to lose by being patient and organised in my approach to training.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham.

What I’m watching: MasterChef on BBC iPlayer.  Elite on Netflix.

I’m still plugging away with The Future of Another Timeline.  It’s not drawing me back to it, and it feels like an effort to read.  I know that if I get a decent amount of time on one side to smash through a few chapters, that will be the spark I need.

Trigger Warning: Sexual assualt and rape.

After completing the End of Days Trilogy by John Birmingham I have moved on to another series by him.  Weapons of Choice starts with a modern naval task force being transported through time, right into the path of the US fleet sailing to engage the Japanese at Midway during the Second World War.  The general plot and concept are interesting, but the writing, characterisation, and narration are absolutely awful.  There is also one specific part of the plot which feels wrong.  A character is raped, tortured, and murdered.  Although the act is not portrayed in the narrative, it is described after the event by other characters.  It comes across as clumsy, and in poor taste, and is reminiscent of the Women in Refrigerators trope.  The way it is written, the rape is completely unnecessary as a plot device and seems to be there just for shock value.

Elite season five has dropped on Netflix.  The first three seasons were fantastic television, but season four was poor, and season five doesn’t seem to be any better.  The show is based around the lives of students at an elite private school near Madrid, where some students from state education are given scholarships to the prestigious Las Encinas school.  Mixed in with the clash of cultures is a murder mystery when a student is found dead.  Elite also addressed many social issues, such as drug use, homophobia, sexual abuse, and the impact of oppressive parents on their children.  Those first three seasons were great, but once the main story wrapped up with the original cast, the show became less interesting and more style over substance.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £42,188.83 (down £1,226.45 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £4,200.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £52,308.23 (down £963.75 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £458,627.06 (down £2,190.20 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £1,204.28 (up £1,000.50 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,465.27 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,885.26 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,554.81 (up £1,000.50 from last update).

Total Wealth: £200,072.25 (down £3,190.70 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £525.28 (target £6,000).

My credit card balance has increased as we used it to pay for the Paris trip.  This will come down again in the next couple of weeks.  By the next part of the blog, I should have the quarterly update on the lender’s valuation of my properties.  I don’t have any advanced knowledge of what is to come, but I’m predicting a 1.5% increase. 

There’s not much else to say about my finances this week.  It’s the same old story of instability, with no sustained periods of growth.  Things will change for the better once the war in Ukraine is resolved, and we find a way to live with covid.  

BTL Update

We have a tenant moving in on Monday, which means we will be able to look at releasing funds from the BTL at some point next week.  We have also started looking for our second BTL property.  I think we’ve learned a lot from our first investment, and there are many things we are going to do differently.  If we can secure a property within the next three months or so, then we might just about sneak a third property purchase before the end of the year.

The key part of the model we are following is that you buy property, increase the valuation, and then release equity to put towards the next deal.  The more properties you have, the more you have building equity.  So, the pace of acquiring new property can increase with each new purchase.

You may remember my rant (rants) about estate agents.  In general, they seem to be getting worse.  I called about a potential property on Saturday morning and arranging a viewing was like pulling teeth, or sitting through a Boris Johnson speech.  After several frustrating minutes of repeating information to the bored-sounding agent, I was told someone might call me back to arrange something.  I know the address of the property so I’m tempted to just drop a note through their door.

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:

http://www.darrenscothern.com

Part 127

Hello, and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss a tweet that made me facepalm so hard I thought I’d been paid a visit by the Fresh Prince. Also, updates on our BTL now that we are having viewings. I also announce a new addition to my family, and highlight the work of an artist I’ve mentioned before. In addition to all this, I offer some advice for people feeling overwhelmed with all the jobs on their to-do list. First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Sometimes a facepalm just isn’t enough.  I don’t get this line of thought where people just assume everyone wants kids and that no couple is complete without kids.  Everyone I know who has kids has one, or more, of the following: a lack of time, a lack of energy, increased stress, little spare cash, and is at the beck and call of their offspring for a minimum of eighteen years.  Some people want that because they have love to give, and there are some great parents out there.  When I look at some of the relationships my friends have with their parents, I realise that I won the parent lottery.  The fact is, having children and “starting a family” whatever the hell that means isn’t for everyone.  I don’t look down on people who have kids.  It’s none of my business.  So please don’t look down on people who don’t want children.  

The term “starting a family” is a little offensive.  Are two people in a long-term, committed relationship, not a family? 

The Earth is overpopulated as it is and we would all benefit from a drop in global population through declining birth rates.  As populations become more educated and wealthy, birth rates drop.  I’m not making a value judgement here, it’s just an accepted correlation that’s been demonstrated many times.  It’s expected that over the next few decades, possibly by the middle of the century, population growth will peak and then reverse course across the globe.

There is a term for the projected number of people the Earth can carry.  As would make sense, the term is Carrying Capacity and estimates range from approximately 9 billion people to approximately 12 billion.  There are some fringe theories suggesting upwards of 20 billion, but I can’t see how that would work without some huge technological leaps and a change to our way of life.  However, just because the Earth could potentially provide for 9-12 billion people it does not mean we should strive for that.  Our planet is changing.  If climate change continues on its current path we will see a reduction in arable land, with some parts of the world becoming inhospitable.  

When the human body’s internal temperature exceeds 108 degrees F (42C), that person dies.  This is the level at which proteins break down, and the brain is damaged beyond repair.  In the grand scheme of things, 42C is not that warm.  In 2019, parts of the UK experienced temperatures of almost 39C.  I need to reiterate that there’s a difference between the external and internal temperatures we experience, but when it’s warmer outside you are at increased risk of your internal temperature rising.  In many wealthy countries, we have ice cold drinks and air conditioning to help.  In many of the regions most at risk, these luxuries are simply not available.

So, let me bring this point full circle.  In 2022 if you have a baby in the northern hemisphere, then it’s projected that child will have a carbon footprint of over 50 metric tonnes.  This isn’t a lifetime figure; this is an annual figure.  

If you want kids, all I ask is that you think about whether you are certain you want kids.  Also, don’t have kids to try and repair a relationship.  It will not work and it’s pretty shitty to bring a child into the world to try and make a relationship better.

Weekly Update

Another busy week started with a new addition to our family in the form of a 12-year-old lady called Poppy.  She’s absolutely beautiful, and she’s got a great personality.  Within a couple of hours of her coming home, she had settled down for a nap on my chest as I lounged on the sofa.  She is a small kitty, weighing in at 3kg.  Our two previous cats were 4-5kg.  She has the smallest meow, but she makes it clear when she wants feeding, which seems to be every time I venture near the kitchen.  I made a bolognese in the slow cooker and she loved the ragu.  As soon as we put our bowls down, she leapt up and started licking the plate clean.  So, when we had the leftovers the following day I made sure to serve her a little of the bolognese.  She licked the whole plate clean.

Poppy

We also received a painting we commissioned from artist Laura Slade.  We’ve had three paintings from her in total and we love them all.  We have a large frame with Sweep, our first cat.  We have a small painting of a Kingfisher because Kingfishers are awesome.  Now, we have one of our sweet Bobby.  He was such a great cat but I feel guilty because I think we adopted him too soon after losing Sweep.  It took some time for me to connect with him, but we did eventually.  The last few months of his life were happy.  Laura has done a fantastic job of capturing his innocence.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”?  I like the above version better.  

It took me a bit of time to work out the meaning of the phrase and I had to do a bit of google-fu to reveal why doing something badly was a good thing.  So, why is it worth doing something badly?  Let’s consider a few examples.  You are going through a period of depression and you have lots of things you feel you should be doing.  The house needs cleaning, and you need to cook some meals for the week.  You also need to do some exercise.  The problem is, it all seems overwhelming.  You feel like you need to clean the whole house until it sparkles.  You feel like you need to cook three different meals you can then reheat through the week.  You need to go to the gym and do a full weights workout.  After all, these are all things worth doing and so they should be done well.  Faced with such an overwhelming to-do list, you do what many people do and ignore all those tasks and sit in front of the TV all day.  

What if those tasks did not need to be completed to perfection?  What if you pick up the clothes off the floor and hoover the living room before calling it a day?  You’ve done more than the first scenario.  What if you cook one meal that will see you through the first half of the week?  It’s better than cooking nothing at all and having to rely on fast food or takeaways.  What if you go for a walk instead of lifting weights at the gym? It’s exercise and it’s better than sitting all day staring at a screen.  For many things in life, doing them badly is better than not doing them at all.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started back at the gym.  I used to love the gym and got to a point where I was in great shape.  I was fairly lean and was starting to build some mass.  Then, injury after injury brought me down.  I’ve been wanting to get back to the gym for a long time, but I’ve been too worried about getting my mental ducks in a row and waiting for the right time.  The right time is now, though.  I know more about my physical and mental limitations now, and so I took the phrase I’ve been talking about and applied it to my workout.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.

A Brief Interlude

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

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 121.0kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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 (1/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅

I’m continuing to lose weight and have dropped from a high of 125.6kg ten weeks ago to 121kg.  It’s not huge progress, but it is some progress.  It’s not just about how I look and feel anymore, it’s about making sure my diabetes doesn’t kick my ass.  

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: American Kill Switch: End of Days Trilogy Book 3 by John Birmingham.

What I’m watching: Star Trek: Picard, Electric Dreams, & This Is Us, all on Prime Video.

I’m making slow progress with The Future of Another Timeline.  It reminds me of another book I read called The Psychology of Time Travel.  It wasn’t great.  I’ll stick with this for now though.  It’s easy enough to dip in and out of.

I’ve been enjoying the End of Days Trilogy and it’s available via Audible Plus so I don’t even have to use credits.  The story starts with war breaking out across many countries.  It’s done in a fresh way though, with some creative tales of hybrid warfare.  The characters are all well developed and memorable, even if some of them are complete assholes.  This has been my first experience of John Birmingham but I’ve heard enough to look for more of his books once I finish the final part of this series.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £43,415.28 (down £1,087.19 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £4,200.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £53,271.98 (up £1,937.06 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £460,817.26 (up £849.87 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £203.78 (down £191.18 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,465.27 (down £393.35 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,885.26 (down £18.52 from last update). 

Total Debts: £257,554.31 (down £603.05 from last update).

Total Wealth: £203,262.95 (up £1,452.92 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £525.28 (target £6,000).

A mixed bag with losses to my ISA but gains to my pension.  My monthly mortgage payments have reduced my mortgage debt, and I’ve paid my credit card down.  Not a bad week but I would like to see a sustained run of gains for my ISA as I’d like to cash out some of my stocks to fund another property purchase.  I firmly believe that one stock I hold will increase in value over the next couple of years provided there is not another Brexit, Trump, Covid, or major war to derail things again.  

BTL Update

The work on the property is complete and it looks much better (images below).  The listing went live on Rightmove in the middle of last week and our first viewings took place on Friday.  There were nine viewings in total, with 25 people on a waiting list for viewings.  Some of those who viewed have been ruled out by the agent, but there are a few potential tenants there including some who have offered to pay more than the rent we are asking for.  I’m hopeful we will have a tenant soon, and maybe by the end of May, we will start seeing some income from this investment.

In less than a fortnight the index valuations of our properties should be updated.  I’m hopeful of an increase that will allow us to release some cash from the BTL.  We can take the mortgage up to 75% of the value of the property.  A 1%-2% increase would be enough for us to release £12k-£13k which we can then use to put towards another BTL.  I’ve said it before, but the first couple of properties are the hardest.  After that, it’s just a case of letting inflation and compound gains work their magic.

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 126

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I look back on a busy week, with a trip to Manchester and some developments on my BTL. Also, more information on my efforts to help my friend in Kyiv. There is no Quote of the Week this time, so let’s just get into it…

Weekly Update

It’s been a long, busy week, and as Saturday evening draws to a close I am exhausted.  My social battery has dropped to 0%.  I’m not complaining though, as it’s also been a great week.

It started last Sunday as we travelled to Manchester for a gig that has been pushed back several times due to Covid.  We were seeing Avi Kaplan, a former member of Pentatonix who has since gone solo and transitioned to a folk-country style of music.  His voice is fantastic and there was no drop in quality when seeing him live.  So many times I’ve been disappointed when seeing singers live as, without all the studio production tricks, they struggle to match expectations.

We left Sheffield early Sunday morning and stopped by a new cafe for breakfast, South Street Kitchen, which is in the Park Hill area of the city.  It looked great from the outside, and there was a nice-looking selection of cakes at the counter.  The service was not great.  Normally when you enter a cafe or restaurant you wait to be seated.  It’s a simple move from A to B.  Getting seated here was more like, A to B, to C, before ending up at D.  Not a very smooth process being told to wait here, and go there.  It put us on the back foot right away. 

The menu sounded good and we both opted for mushrooms on toast, and I had extra halloumi and my girlfriend had poached eggs.  The mushrooms tasted sour, almost like they’d been drenched in vinegar.  It was a strange flavour that did not go with the idea of breakfast.  The service for ordered food and drink was also bizarre.  The waitress came over and asked for our drink order.  We ordered and said we were ready to order food as well.  We were told we could only order drinks and would have to order food separately.  It was just weird.

A strange plate of food.

Manchester isn’t my favourite city.  I find it a bit dull most of the time, but we enjoyed our one night stay this time.  I booked us a table at a nice-sounding restaurant for an early dinner before we went to the concert.  We arrived at Sugo, an Italian pasta kitchen, and the smells as we entered were incredible.  We ordered starters;

The food was excellent.  We are fortunate enough to have eaten in some fantastic restaurants around the world, and the food here was right up there.  It was fresh, vibrant and tasty, and this was only the starter.

The main course was simply the finest plate of pasta I’ve had.  The orecchiette was freshly made, and the ragu was deep and full of flavour.  The shredded beef shin and pork shoulder added to the depth of flavour, and the nduja gave a little kick of heat at the end.  It was fantastic.

House Sugo – Orecchiette with a slow cooked beef shin, pork shoulder and nduja* ragu, parmesan

We arrived at the venue, Band on the Wall, about half an hour before the doors opened and there was already a queue.  We had debated whether to arrive a little later, or watch the support act, Toria Wooff.  I’ll admit to not having heard her music before but we played a few of her tunes a couple of days before and we enjoyed it.  She has a folk-rock style, which is not something I’ve heard much of before.  I’m so glad we got there to watch her perform as her voice was also great, and she has a sweet, humble personality.  We would happily pay to see her again.

Avi’s gig was amazing, and both my girlfriend and I were buzzing for days.  He opened with Born in California, and then Aberdeen (one of my favourites).  Some of his songs had a lot of crowd interaction and the atmosphere was fun, happy and energetic.  It Knows Me, Otherside, and Change on the Rise all got the crowd going.  We also discovered the talents of Kaleb Thomas Jones; singer, songwriter and guitarist for Avi, also acting as supporting vocals.  

We finished our Manchester trip with brunch the following morning at Federal, a cafe near the Arndale shopping centre.  We discovered Federal on a previous visit and really enjoyed it.  I had French Toast with white chocolate mascarpone and strawberries.  It was so good it was almost spiritual.  Oana had Turkish eggs, which she liked.  All in all, it was a great couple of days of food and music.

Ukraine

I’ve posted before about my thoughts on Ukraine and I just want to share a little about my good friend who is trapped in Kyiv.  I first met Yara on Reddit a few years ago as we talked about our shared love of books.  We exchange messages most days and have developed a real friendship.  When war broke out both my girlfriend and I tried to help in any way we could.  Yara is patriotic and loves her country.  She doesn’t want to leave but now feels like she has little choice.  I’m acting as sponsor for her, and two of her elderly relatives, to come to the UK.  The only issue is that they are struggling to get up to date passports.  Hopefully, she’ll get this issue sorted and be able to leave the fighting behind.  

Sweep and Bobby

Bobby
Sweep and his good friend, the Cookie Monster.

Regular readers know about my two old cats.  This week saw the first anniversary of the passing of Sweep, who was my best bud.  I still think about him every day, and my home office has pictures of him all along the wall.  He was the best cat and was so affectionate.  He helped me through a very tough 2020 when I was at the lowest point I’ve ever been.  I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, I hope I see my friend again.

Also, this week was three months on from Bobby’s sudden passing on Boxing Day 2021.  He was sitting on the sofa with Oana petting him, and he had some sort of seizure out of the blue and passed.  It was awful.  He was the sweetest, gentlest boy.  He was so pure and innocent, and I miss him too.  Sweep and Bobby never met each other, but I think they would have been friends.  We’ve been looking to adopt another older cat for a few weeks now without success.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to give another cat a loving retirement soon.

A Brief Interlude

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

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 121.4kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: The Radleys by Matt Haig

What I’m watching: Star Trek: Picard, & This Is Us, both on Prime Video.  Electric Dreams on Netflix.

I’ve had to temporarily give up on Moby Dick.  I wasn’t feeling it.  I’ll try again later in the year.  I have been listening to The Radleys by Matt Haig, and it’s very good so far.  Matt has a way of taking the supernatural, or sci-fi, and almost inverting it and making it seem human.  He is one of my favourite authors and I’m looking forward to seeing how this story ends.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £44,502.47 (up £299.77 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £4,200.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £51,334.92 (up £489.27 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £459,967.39 (up £789.04 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £394.96 (up £394.96 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,858.62 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,903.78 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,157.36 (up £394.96 from last update).

Total Wealth: £201,810.03 (up £394.08 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £525.03 (target £6,000).

No major changes with my assets, and my credit card took some hammer in Manchester.  It’ll be reduced to zero again by next week though.

BTL Update

I met the builders at the property this week and they walked me through the work they’ve completed.  The house looks much better, and the kitchen especially is a huge improvement.  The previous tenant has a lot to answer for, but the improvements made should increase the rent we can charge.  The agent has also visited the property to get photos and floorplans, and the property should be listed at some point next week.  

Once we have a tenant we can pull some of the equity out of the property and use that to put towards our next venture.  

There was another property-related development this week, which pissed me off.  It’s something that happens all too often and it doesn’t seem to get as much hate as it should.  Imagine you are looking for a new car.  You see an advert for a great car, awesome design and price.  You phone up the dealership and they state it’s still available.  You make an appointment to take the car for a test drive.  You turn up and find that the car is older than described.  The tyres are worn, and flat.  The engine is less powerful, and the fuel efficiency is terrible.  In short, it’s nothing like the advert.  This would not be acceptable for a car, so why is it seemingly acceptable for property?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve viewed many properties that have no resemblance to the listing.  I don’t know what agents hope to achieve with this.  I understand that they will try to dress up the properties they are selling, but when you go too far all you do is annoy the person viewing the property.  You waste their time, and your own time.  Surely if you list a property accurately you will only get interest from those who are willing to buy the property as listed.  I don’t see how a person would look at a listing online and think, “looks good” and then turn up and find it’s a shithole but still make an offer because the advert looked good.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, back to what pissed me off.  Someone I know is looking for a new place to live.  They found a property that looks great; the location, size, price and layout all fit the bill.  They viewed the property and made an offer, which was accepted.  However, the agent then decided to reveal that the property was currently occupied by a tenant and they could not leave until November.  Nowhere on the listing does it state the property is tenanted.  At no point in the viewing was it mentioned.  When this person mentioned they were looking to move as soon as possible, it was still not mentioned.  Why are so many agents so utterly and completely incompetent?

On that note, thank you for reading and I’ll be back next week.

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 125

Welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss gambling addiction, and then take a detailed look at corporate values. There are the usual financial updates and more information on our BTL refurb. First, the Quote of the Week:

The last few weeks have seen many people I follow on social media relapse with their gambling addiction.  Overcoming this addiction is so difficult.  I know that first hand.  It took me several attempts but it’s now been over 968 days since I last gambled.  One question that comes up time and time again from addicts, is whether it’s possible to gamble in moderation.

For the problem gambler, it’s impossible to gamble in moderation.  It just can’t be done.  The whole issue with having an addiction is that your behaviour is beyond control.  The gambling industry makes a big show of offering responsible gambling controls, but it’s all just bullshit.  It’s not a great control when you can just change the limits you set yourself.  

The whole industry is evil and preys on those who are vulnerable to addiction.  A House of Lords report just last year stated that 60% of gambling industry profits come from only 5% of gamblers; the addicts and those at risk.  In short, a few people and businesses are making a lot of money from the suffering of others.  It’s also important to remember that gambling addiction has the highest rate of suicide across all addictions.  

Once you are made aware of how much gambling has infiltrated daily life, you can never unsee it.  Gambling adverts are everywhere from TV, to radio, to social media, to YouTube videos and beyond.  I’m not arguing that gambling should be abolished because that’s unrealistic.  Humanity has engaged in gambling for as long as there’s been civilisation.  Outlawing gambling would drive it underground.  The key is to regulate it tightly enough so that there are too many barriers for the vulnerable sections of society to overcome, whilst not interfering with those who can legitimately enjoy the activity.  Driving gambling into the shadows will hide those struggling and be counterproductive in some ways.

Some parallels can be drawn between gambling and gun ownership.  In the US the subject of gun ownership is, to put it lightly, a touchy one.  Those who want to regulate gun ownership are not necessarily saying they want to outlaw gun ownership completely.  However, the hysterical section of those who want to keep the current laws scream about their rights.  It’s a debate that promotes binary thinking at the extreme ends of each side.  It’s the same with gambling.  Go on social media and look at the comments people make when posts are written arguing for better regulation, or for abolishing the marketing of free bet offers.  It’s worrying and embarrassing.

Weekly Update

I have an appointment for my autism assessment after two years of waiting.  I’m not worried about it, even though I fully expect confirmation that I’m autistic.  It doesn’t change anything about me; I don’t suddenly become different because I’m autistic.  If I am, I will have been from birth.  It’s not something that develops or something that you can catch.  It is what it is.  

I always find this week, in my four-week rotation at work, tiring.  I work from 10:30 to 20:00, Monday to Thursday.  I always have more headaches and sleep disturbances during this week in my schedule.  At least it’s over for a few weeks now.  

My friend in Ukraine is coping with the constant threat of being bombed in Kyiv.  I don’t know how she has the strength to keep going.  The whole situation is heartbreaking, and the response of the UK government is embarrassing.  The rest of Europe is opening their doors to these refugees and we just keep putting barriers up.  Regular readers will know of my links to Romania, and from what I’m told the people of Bucharest, in particular, are going that extra mile to help their neighbours.  

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been feeling unmotivated and generally melancholic.  A conversation I had left me feeling worse.  It’s not their fault, and I respect this person.  She was just the messenger and I have no ill-will towards her.  The message though, was one that I found hugely frustrating.

When I’m presented with something that makes no sense, I have this irresistible urge to point out that it doesn’t make sense.  It’s like an itch that needs scratching.  I spoke with someone I know well, who has a similar thought process to me and it was quite cathartic knowing I’m not alone in being exasperated with how so many people and businesses simply cannot think logically.

The issue I’m referring to is when people don’t consider the problem under discussion in the context of the wider world.  For example; you are looking for a new phone contract and you have two options.  Assume each option gets you the same overall product and contract:

Option 1: Phone and usage allowances cost £3,000.  Interest is charged at 6%.  You are going to pay the loan back over 36 payments.  The monthly cost is £91.05, and the total overall cost is £3,277.80.

Option 2: Phone and usage allowances cost £3,000.  Interest is charged at 2% if you pay a £100 fee.  The monthly cost is £85.90, and the total overall cost is £3,092.55 plus the £100 fee, so £3,192.55.

There isn’t a massive difference between the two scenarios but let’s also assume that you have a strict monthly budget of £90.  You also have £100 you are happy to use to pay a fee to get a lower payment.  You can then rule out the first option and are left with just the second option.  As luck would have it, the second option is also the most cost-effective overall.  Happy days.

Some people would suggest that the £100 has more value in your pocket than saving just a few pounds each month and over the term of the loan.  In isolation, this is a fair point.  However, we are ignoring the fact that you have a strict budget of £90pcm.  In this hypothetical scenario, if you want to avoid the £100 fee because the assumed saving is not seen as significant enough, you then have to take the loan over an extra year to bring the payment within what you can afford.  So, on to Option 3…

Over a term of 48 months, you would pay £70.24 each month with a total cost of £3,371.36, assuming you go with the rate of 6% that has no fee.  

A few questions to consider:

Is comparing the first two options a fair comparison?

The rates are different, so in one respect it’s like comparing apples and oranges.  However, that’s the basis of almost every comparison.  If you are hungry and only have £1, and you have an apple on sale for £0.90 or an orange for £1.40, you don’t go hungry because you can’t make a “fair comparison”.  You go with the most cost-effective option; the one that gets you the most bang for your buck.  With the phone scenario, you are getting the same phone and the same usage allowance with all options.  The choice isn’t between one phone or another phone, it’s a choice between how you pay for the phone, and when you look at the numbers, in the context of what you know about the person deciding (can only afford £90pcm and has £100 they are happy to use to pay a fee), there’s a clear best option.

Are arbitrary rules logical?

If you are working at a phone shop, and there is a rule in place that states you can only offer an option with a fee if the overall saving is the amount of the fee plus 50%, then what do you do when the saving is the fee plus 49%?  48%? The problem with percentages is that in some scenarios, a 50% difference could just be a few pounds if the fee is small in absolute terms.  If you state that the saving has to be a set amount of currency, you have the same issue but in reverse.  Context might be for Kings, but it should be considered for all actions.

Is there always a correct choice?

This is where language can be tricky.  Not every problem has a correct answer.  Some just have various partial answers that come with their own pros and cons.  Some problems might have multiple correct answers, and the only difference is how you get to that answer.  If you are dealing with a situation where there is no definitive solution, but rather a spectrum of possible solutions, then you need to take a step back and ignore the “how” and the “what”, and instead you need to ask “why”.

Start with Why

A few years ago I read a great book by Simon Sinek after watching his TED talk on the same subject.  Both the book and video are called, Start with Why. The message is simple; the people and businesses that inspire, that are innovative and successful start by asking why?  Why are we in business? Why are we doing this? Now, Simon makes it clear that the why isn’t about achieving a result.  It’s not enough to ask why and then answer, to make money.  It’s about finding out what your values are and then making those values the core of everything you do.  It reminds me of a quote I read in a journal article on Zappos, a US-based retail company selling shoes.  For years they had rave reviews from customers and staff about how they did business.  Zappos have a clear mission statement:

“To live and deliver WOW”

This is their why.  From that, their success is born.  Within ten years of starting business, Zappos was bought for over $1B by Amazon.  The quote I refer to is this;

The above quote can be found in a related article at Forbes.com.

There is an excellent blog on company values at toistersolutions.com, where values are discussed at length.  The blog states that most corporate values are too vague and open to interpretation.  For example, if a company states that it has “clear communication” as a value, what does it mean? How does that inform behaviour?  Also, shouldn’t clear communication be a fundamental part of all business?

Too many businesses get caught up on what and how, with no consideration of why.  I want you, dear reader, to think about your employer and see if you can work out their “why”.  If you can, I’d love to hear from you.  

Starting with why does not need to apply to business only.  It can be applied to your own life, and help you find purpose.  Do you have a personal why? Once again, I’d love to hear from you if you do.

A Brief Interlude

If you enjoy this blog, please consider buying me a coffee by clicking on the image above.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 122.4kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: Moby Dick, & If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens… Where is Everybody?

What I’m watching: Star Trek: Picard, & This Is Us, both on Prime Video.

The Future of Another Timeline is interesting so far, but with working long hours this week I’ve not had much mental energy to read.  

I’m listening to two books at the moment; Moby Dick with my girlfriend, and Where is Everybody? on my own.  Moby Dick is on my list of classics that I want to complete, but we’re only a short way into it so far.  The book on aliens is interesting as it attempts to offer a solution to the Fermi Paradox.  For those who don’t know, the Fermi Paradox asks why we haven’t found evidence of alien life despite the mind-boggling number of stars and planets in the observable universe.

I have my own theories on the Fermi Paradox, and I doubt there is a single solution that applies universally.  I suspect there are a few factors at play.  I could see Dark Forest theory being plausible, but I also have another idea but I don’t know if it has a specific name.  I’ll explain…

Our efforts to explore space come from a combination of several factors; a moon that is very large in comparison to our planet.  Most planets that have moons have a much bigger size/mass difference.  Our moon is clearly visible at night, and when viewed with the stars, it’s no surprise that our ancestors have looked up at night and wondered what is there.  Also, whilst it’s difficult to achieve escape velocity for Earth (approx. 11.2km/s), if Earth’s diameter increased by just 50% with no change to the density of the planet, achieving escape velocity using rockets would be pretty much impossible.  Our ability to achieve orbit, and explore our solar system neighbours is fortunate.  There could be many alien civilisations that can’t achieve space flight because escape velocity is too high, or because they lack the materials to build and fuel this type of project.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,000.00 (up £800.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £44,202.70 (up £3,237.82 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £4,200.00 (down £875.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £50,845.65 (up £1,086.15 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £459,178.35 (up £4,248.97 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £164,858.62 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,903.78 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £257,762.40 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £201,415.95 (up £4,248.97 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £525.03 (target £6,000).

The stock market has almost completely recovered my losses from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and my pension is looking a little healthier also.  I’ve had to draw some money from my Fuck It Fund, as my BTL needs a little more work.  On the whole, my finances are looking fairly positive as we approach the end of the financial year.

We paid a visit to the BTL this week and it’s looking much better.  A lot of work has gone into improving and repairing the property.  There is still a bit to do but we could be looking for tenants in the next week or two.  

I’ve decided to reduce my pension contributions for the next few months, as I want to have a little more cash to use for other things.  I’m wanting to max out my ISA allowance as soon as possible.  Also, once we can let out our BTL we will be able to release funds from the equity in the property.  This will help speed up the purchase of a second BTL.  Getting the first property is the most difficult.  The second one is almost as difficult, but from there it gets easier as income and capital gains compound more quickly.  

My income so far for 2022 is a little behind where I hoped it would be.  However, I’ll receive a dividend in May which should boost the figure significantly.  Also, I would expect that by then we will have a tenant in our BTL.  I’m not admitting defeat regarding the £6,000 target but I’m not going to be too upset if I miss it, so long as I beat last year’s total income of £3,771.93.

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 124

Hello, and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss the question that has been dominating conversations across the world; are there more doors or wheels in the world? Also, the usual financial updates, and some thoughts on the new financial year.

Quote of the Week

In the last week or so this question has been going around social media.  My first thought was the laugh, but then I started to think about it.  The key with a question like this is to define what a wheel is and what a door is.  It might sound simple, but there is room for a lot of debate within each term.  

What is a wheel?

A wheel is a circular component that rotates on an axle.  Wheels are located on planes, trains, and automobiles.  However, they are also found on shoes, suitcases, bikes, scooters, in hamster cages, on rivers and streams, on trolleys, and even in Lego sets.  

For the sake of this argument, I would suggest that wheels should be limited to those that facilitate movement, such as wheels on cars, trains, and so on.  I would not include wheels used in industry and power generation, like wheels found on rivers or in factories.  

What is a door?

A door is a moveable barrier allowing access into and out of a space.  Most people would immediately think of their front door, or perhaps a car door.  What about a cat flap on your house?  It’s a moveable barrier allowing the cat access in and out of the house.  What about doors on a Lego set? Or in a dollhouse?  What about doors on an advent calendar?

I think for the sake of this debate it would make sense to stick to doors that are designed to allow access for humans to buildings and vehicles.  I would also argue that a door is only really a door when it’s in place and acting as a door.  In other words, if you go to a building supply shop and see a stack of doors I would argue they are not doors, but rather potential doors.  They don’t achieve their door-ness until they are installed.

Now that the terms are defined, I think there are more doors than wheels.  I’ll explain why.

Almost every single building on Earth will have at least one door.  Modest sized homes will have; a front door, back door, a door on each bedroom, and potentially doors between rooms and hallways.  If you think about how many homes have people who own cars, it stands to reason that there are fewer cars than homes on Earth.  

Cars are not the only source of wheels though.  There are trains, planes, and other vehicles.  However, and this is the important bit, almost everything that has a wheel also has doors.  A car will have four wheels, but potentially five doors.

Weekly Update

It’s been my first week back at work after being on holiday for two weeks.  It’s always a shock to the system having to wake up for work, and it’s hit me harder than normal now that I’ve almost completely cut coffee out of my diet.  In some ways, it’s been a welcome distraction being back at my desk because I spent much of the time off work watching the 24/7 news coverage of the war in Ukraine.  It’s heartbreaking watching people fighting for their home against an invader led by an absolute madman.  I also worry about my friend in Kyiv. 

I had a meeting at my local surgery with a nurse to discuss my recent diabetes diagnosis.  It seems that I’m doing all the right things, but I still need to cut my portion sizes down when it comes to things like pasta, rice and potato.  I’m determined to beat this though, and it has been a serious wake-up call.

On Friday I picked up my new glasses and now that I’ve worn them for a little while I can feel the difference.  I’d used my previous glasses for five years and during that time my prescription changed.  My eyes are feeling less tired now.  

For a few weeks now I’ve been feeling that I’m not doing much.  I feel like I’m existing rather than living.  I’m not sure what the answer is.  The last couple of years have been, well, shit.  I had an extended period of awful mental health in 2020.  Strangely, it wasn’t anything to do with Covid, but that happening at the same time did not help.  Then, we have a war which threatens to spread across Europe.

A Brief Interlude

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

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 122.3kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  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.

My weight loss is continuing in a positive direction.  I’m not losing huge amounts but it’s a slow, steady journey to where I need to be.  I’ve got a few other books ready to read or listen to, so I should start making more progress on my reading goals once I’ve finished the Three Body Problem series.  

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: Death’s End by Cixin Liu

What I’m watching: Star Trek: Picard on Prime Video

I’ve almost finished the final book in the Three Body Problem trilogy, and it’s just as good as I remembered, which is to say it’s brilliant.  I was contacted by a student who asked me to complete a survey on the English translation of the series, specifically some of the Chinese cultural terms and concepts.  For anyone interested in sci-fi, I can’t recommend this work highly enough.

Star Trek: Picard has been an unexpected pleasure.  I thought season one was poor, but the first two episodes of season two have been excellent.  I’ve no idea where it’s going but it’s got me looking forward to the next episode.  It also feels like real Trek and not the badly written Discovery.   

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,200.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £40,964.88 (up £1,351.21 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £5,075.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £0.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £49,759.50 (down £634.50 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £454,929.38 (up £741.71 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £655.61 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,858.62 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,903.78 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £257,762.40 (down £655.61 from last update).

Total Wealth: £197,166.98 (up £1,397.32 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £425.29 (target £6,000).

The stock market seems to have bottomed out after falling off a cliff after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Whether it recovers to pre-invasion levels sooner or later, it will recover eventually.  I wouldn’t be too disappointed if the recovery takes a few weeks, as the new ISA allowance comes into effect soon.  If unit prices are low when I can invest more into my ISA, it means I can buy more units for less cash.  Part of me feels uncomfortable with this as it would mean the war is still ongoing, but the war will continue to its end no matter what I do with my investments.  

The work on our BTL is not quite complete but I’m hoping to be able to view the property in time to report back in next week’s blog.

Over the next few weeks, there will be a few financial developments, with the BTL being marketed for let again, and the new financial year starting.  I’m also expecting a bonus on my next wage which will help boost my investment pot.  

There is increasing talk about a cost of living crisis, and the war in Ukraine has had an impact on energy prices.  The pressure on the finances of many households is growing by the day, and for many people, there is no more cloth left to cut.  Certain industries should not be operated for profit, and energy is near the top of that list.  In a time where major utility companies are reporting millions, or billions, in profit, it just seems wrong for gas and electricity prices to more than double.  It would be interesting to see the impact of a national campaign where people simply refused to pay their energy bills.  

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.