Part 57

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I talk a little bit about The Expanse, Pound Cost Averaging and provide an important update regarding my BTL purchase.

Quote of the Week

The Expanse is one of the best sci-fi stories out there.  Maybe even the best.  I’ve read a lot of good sci-fi this year and I’ve just started my second watch of the show in anticipation of the new season coming out next month.  The books are written by two guys who use the pen name James S. A. Corey for their work.  The ninth, and final, book is due out in 2021 but the TV series is going to end after the sixth season.  This has not gone down too well with the fanbase with many pointing to the allegations surrounding cast many Cas Anvar as the main reason for the cancellation.  I think this probably has something to do with it, but I suspect part of the reason relates to the story post-book six.  The Expanse has a long running arc that joins each book together, but there are smaller arcs within the series.  A closer inspection of the titles of the books, which at first seem random and cool, actually carry a deeper meaning and explain what the book is about.  Although, you’ll only get this after reading.  There are a couple of ways to split the books.  Some people argue the books can be paired up with one and two, three and four, five and six all telling their own stories, with books seven, eight and nine telling the final part of the story.  I prefer the other approach which splits the books into a trilogy of trilogies.  Either way, the last three books are the most “out there” parts of the story.  There is also a jump in the narrative with thirty-years passing between book six and book seven, and the ending of book six could be seen as a decent ending overall, even if some questions are left unanswered.  

In respect of the quote I’ve chosen for this week.  I think it’s relevant to many people who are struggling with health problems, whether physical or mental.  Sometimes you can sink into a rut so slowly that you don’t even realise.  Little by little, depression can take hold and you don’t realise it.  It’s a little bit like taking a selfie everyday for a decade.  Comparing one day’s picture to the next will not highlight any difference, but if you compare the first and last picture, you will definitely see a change.  I don’t know what the answer is.  Some people don’t feel “right” again.  Some people do “recover” but not to how they were pre-problem.  We can’t always get back to how we were, but we move forward and become something different.  I think that’s the journey I’m on now with my mental and physical health.  There have been times I’ve felt worse and there have been times I’ve been in more pain.  However, this is the worst combination of things I’ve had to cope with.  I don’t know exactly what I need to do to feel “right” again, but I know that one day in the future I will wake up and know that I feel “right”, until the next time at least.


Weekly Update

I mentioned last week that our dishwasher had broken down, and we’d ordered a new one.  We have finally had it fitted, but I just want to take this opportunity to state that John Lewis are awful.  For some reason, I keep expecting them to demonstrate basic levels of customer service and each time they manage to surprise me with their incompetence.  

The dishwasher was to be delivered on 26/11.  I was given a two-hour slot between 13:00 and 15:00.  I live in a city-centre apartment.  The roads around us are partially closed off due to Covid-19.  The council wanted to help the local bars and restaurants by allowing them to spill out onto the street.  It’s a measure that has been widely welcomed by local residents.  The roads are narrow with extremely limited parking.  So, in a moment of wisdom, John Lewis decided to try and deliver to this address in a massive lorry.  The driver called and asked where he could park.  I explained he would just have to find somewhere.  The driver refused and left, stating that the delivery would have to be made in a smaller van.

The thing is, although the roads are narrow with limited parking, it’s no different to parking on many residential roads out in the suburbs where both sides of the street have cars parked one after another.  It’s absurd to use massive vehicles to make deliveries to residential addresses, especially when you have paid extra for installation and recycling of your old appliance.

The John Lewis customer service team were utterly useless and rude.  I’m not in a good way at the moment, and talking on the phone is very difficult for me.  Yet, John Lewis would not speak to my partner even with my permission.  In terms of logging a complaint, they refused as it did not meet their definition of a complaint.

The following day, they did return in a smaller van yet still had problems parking.  I thought they were going to cancel again, but credit to this driver who just dumped the van outside and cracked on.  There were some other issues with the installation that annoyed me, like them putting things on our dining table without asking and throwing their jackets on our sofa.  It’s just rude.  After an hour or so, the dishwasher was installed.  

If you thought that was the end of this, you would be wrong.  The dishwasher is now leaking.  I spent an hour on the phone with a customer advisor who was about as unhelpful as it was possible to be.  I asked to speak with their manager and she just put me back in the queue. 

I really, really hate John Lewis.


We’ve also had a little scare with our cat, Sweep.  He’s an older cat we adopted a couple of years ago.  We believe he is now 19-years-old.  There was an incident where he was panting heavily and could not walk properly.  After half-an-hour or so he was fine.  The vet thinks it’s Sweep’s heart that is starting to give out.  We had to have him checked over by a cat cardiologist a few months ago, so it’s not that surprising but it is still upsetting.  Sweep seems fine most of the time, but it’s starting to become more obvious that he is an old cat.  He is spending more of his time sleeping and he’s not eating as much as he used to.  I’ve no regrets about adopting him though.  He’s been my best friend for the last couple of years.  He is great company and the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met.  Just as I’m typing this he has used the little step we fashioned for him to climb on the sofa.  He can’t climb or jump much anymore.  I’ll miss him so much when he’s gone.

Health Update

I’ve not heard from the hospital regarding my pill camera results.  I’ve got a few aches and pains in my neck and shoulder, but that’s par for the course for me.  I’m no better in respect of my mental health.  The days are just blending into one and there doesn’t seem to be anything changing.  My weight is increasing due to my poor diet and the gym being closed.  I’ve written before about how I struggle with my diet in the evening.  It’s obviously a symptom of stress and depression, that I comfort eat.  I don’t know what the answer is though.  I’m also waking up through the night and eating.  I remember mentioning this to my therapist back when I was still speaking to her, and she suggested I put locks on the cupboards.  I mean, really?  

Night Eating Syndrome is a recognised thing, but it’s not widely known.  I looked on Reddit to see if there was a sub for it, but it’s not very active.  I should probably speak to the GP about it, but at this point it just feels like one thing after another.  

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £16,651.67 (up £526.15 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £325.00 (no change from last update).

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £225,230.67 (up £526.15 from last update).

Credit Card: £915.53 (up £803.07 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,099.37 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £143,014.90 (up £803.07 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £82,215.77 (down £276.92 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £164.90 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

Although I’ve had another good week for my ISA, I’m not too happy that my credit card balance has increased.  It was inevitable though, as I needed to replace our dishwasher and I also had to pay for a few other bits and pieces.  It will come down again over the next few months.  I just hate having debt. 

BTL Update

At last we seem to be making some progress with the BTL purchase.  We now have a completion date penciled in for December 8th.  Hopefully, we will be able to find a tenant before Christmas.  The whole process has been dragging on for some time, with our offer being accepted on July 16th.  The vendors have been great though, and I hope they are very happy with their new home.  On December 9th, my business partner will be meeting the agent at the property and I will post some pictures of the property on that week’s blog.  


Pound Cost Averaging

I’ve talked about PCA a few times over the last few months, but I thought it was a good time to bring it back up now.  Over the last few weeks the stock market has shot up and the gains for my ISA have been incredible.  Those gains, however, were only possible because I continued buying shares when the market was low.  Many amatuer investors get nervous when the market drops and stop buying shares, but that’s precisely when you should be buying more because when the market bounces back your gains are magnified.  There is one stock I’ve talked about before, which I felt was trading way under value.  For months I was buying that stock at a certain price, but following the election results in the US and the Covid vaccine news, that share increased in value by over 50%.  The best part is, even with that increase it is still trading at roughly half the 52-week high for that stock.  

Sometimes the best advice is the most simple advice, and when looking at stocks the phrase “buy low, sell high” is as simple as it gets.  The frustrating thing is that many amateur investors jump on a stock when it’s already peaking and then sell as the stock drops.  Unless you have insider knowledge or have really done your research, you cannot time the market.  It’s the time in the market that is most important.  Spread your investment over time and let your investment grow.  This is the best way to make money out of stocks. 

A Quick Request

I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media.  I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021.  Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at


Part 56

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I talk a little about my beliefs and my approach to life. 

Quote of the Week

I was sent this quote and asked for my thoughts.  It’s one of those quotes that seems positive at first but is not going to be helpful for all people, in all situations.  With the pandemic having ravaged the world for a year or so, many people are struggling with their mental health.  This is being exacerbated by some people boasting about all the things they’ve been able to do in lockdown, such as learning new skills or getting fit.  There are a lot of people with mental health struggles, which has been made even more difficult because of the social isolation that comes with lockdown.  For those people, simply getting by from one day to the next is a victory.  The additional pressure of expectation, be it expectation of learning another language or training for a marathon, is not helpful.  Sometimes, apparently motivational phrases can be demotivating. 

The point I’m making was alluded to in an audiobook I’ve just finished, Everything is Fucked by Mark Manson, where the author explains how people make a commitment to change but then fall down under the weight of expectation.  They then set a new goal, and the cycle repeats, all which combines to hammer the self-esteem of many people.  Sometimes goals have to be broken down into the smallest of chunks to encourage people to achieve them, but even then the slightest stumble on the way to achieving that goal can destroy a person’s self-esteem.  

It can be argued that there is another interpretation to the above quote, and that surviving from one day to the next could be the “where you want to be tomorrow”, but that would be quite a charitable interpretation, I think.  Every person is different, with their own unique struggles and circumstances.  I’m not saying that people should not strive for change, but we can’t judge all people by the same set of criteria.


Weekly Update

It’s been a horrible week with much of it anchored around my hospital visit on Tuesday, which I’ll come on to in more detail in the health section.  There have been a couple of other frustrations though, with my coffee machine and dishwasher both developing faults.  A few weeks ago I spent several hundred pounds on a new Nespresso machine that makes a wide range of drinks from espresso to latte.  I noticed that the machine was leaking water and after contacting Nespresso they arranged to pick the machine up the following day and provide me with a loan machine.  The problem is that the loan machine has not been cleaned since the last person used it, and the water coming out of this loan machine is filthy.  I’ve run water through it several times and it’s no better, so I don’t feel comfortable using it.  I’ve since contacted Nespresso again and explained that I want my machine repaired urgently.  I’m not too happy at it needing repair after just a few weeks of use anyway.  

The second frustration comes from our dishwasher not closing properly.  It’s an integrated machine that was here when we bought the apartment eight-years ago, so it’s had a decent amount of use.  I’ve tried repairing it without success, so I’ve now had to spend money on buying a replacement and for it to be installed, with the old machine being disposed of.  When I look at replacing equipment like this, I look at the cost compared to the life of the previous machine.  It cost £400 for the new dishwasher, with £110 for installation and removal of the old machine.  That works out at £63.75 per year for the old machine, or just over £1 per week.  That’s not too bad, I think. 

On a completely unrelated note, I did put together a Star Trek meme that has amassed over 2,000 likes and upvotes between Facebook and Reddit.  I’m quite proud of that effort, if I do say so myself.  In order to fully appreciate it, you need some familiarity with Deep Space Nine and with memes in general:

Health Update

For a number of years I’ve suffered with IBS-type symptoms and have had to endure some rather unpleasant tests.  I recently saw my gastroenterologist who advised I have a pillcam procedure, which is where you swallow a camera inside a pill.  The camera then moves through your body taking several images each second.  You then pass the pillcam, retrieve it and return it to the hospital for the results to be analysed.  There were several things about having to do this that I was dreading.  The first part was taking the Moviprep drink that flushes your body of all food waste.  I trust I don’t need to go into too much detail regarding the mechanics, but the taste of the drink is horrible.  The last time I had to take this drink, I vomited shortly after and had a migraine for a few days after.  It was not quite as bad this time, but I did not finish the full dose as I was dry-heaving after a while.  

The second part of this process involved retrieving the pill.  This involved a kit that the hospital supplied, including a sieve, plastic cup and magnetic wand.  I will leave it up to your imagination as to how this works, but as someone with OCD regarding cleanliness you can probably imagine the stress this caused.  Fortunately, I passed the pill just thirty-six hours after swallowing it and I’m now waiting on the results.  

My last round of tests with the consultant a couple of years ago suggested I may be in the early stages of developing Crohn’s disease.  It’s not something I know much about, and so far I’ve managed to avoid consulting Doctor Google.  

All of the stress associated with this procedure has left me with a headache that’s lasted from Monday through to Saturday, as I write this.  In some ways my mental health has been a little better, but in some ways I’m just as bad, if not worse than the last couple of weeks.  I imagine my mental health as a series of scales for things like depression, anxiety, stress, frustration and so on.  It’s possible for me to move up and down the different scales independently of each other.  Mental health is so complicated and it’s difficult to explain one’s own feelings as some meaning is always lost once you try to put those feelings into words.


Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £16,125.52 (up £444.10 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £325.00 (up £150.00 from last update).

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £224,704.52 (up £594.10 from last update).

Credit Card: £112.46 (down £67.46 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,099.37 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,211.83 (down £67.46 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £82,492.69 (up £661.56 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £164.90 (up £0.09 from last update) (target £2,000).

A good week of gains in the stock market, and with a further investment made into my Fuck It Fund.  I would have invested more into my Premium Bonds but it looks like the BTL purchase is nearing completion, so I’ve kept £300 on one side in a separate pot which means when I cash in my bonds, I will not have to cash in quite as much.  I suspect that once we are ready to complete on the BTL, I will need to cash in approximately £18,000 of those bonds, which will leave me with roughly £3,000 to start saving from again.  We are hoping to secure a second BTL late Q1/early Q2 of 2021, and will be using stocks to supplement the deposit needed.  This is one reason why I’m now eager for the stock market to rise so as to maximise the value of each unit I’ll need to sell.  

E + R = O

Event plus reaction equals outcome.  Or, in the words of Viktor Frankl, between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

How would you describe yourself in three words?  It’s one of those questions that is thrown around in interviews or ice breakers.  My answer to that question over the years has generally been made up, and the answers have never sat well with me.  How do you describe yourself?  Do you look at behaviours and habits? Physical characteristics? Mental illnesses?  

I remember sitting alone on New Years Eve of 2015 knowing that my life was about to change.  It had to change.  I had a similar epiphany but for different reasons just a few months ago, which has led to my current mental health crisis.  I’ve not found much, if any, help from counselling or therapy, but instead I’ve found a lot of wisdom and solace in Stoicism.  The writings of Marcus Aurelius in particular have been a great help.  It’s incredible to think that his thoughts are being read almost two-thousand years later.  I would argue that the world would be a better place if more people took lessons from Stoicism than from the texts of the world’s major religions.  

The first word I would use to describe myself now, would be a Stoic.  There’s not a point at which you are, or are not, a Stoic though.  There’s not a badge or certificate, or test to be passed.  Stoicism is as much a process as a philosophy and no one can be perfectly stoic as it runs contrary to human emotion.  What is Stoicism?  According to Wikipedia; 

“Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain, by using one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.”

It is said that Stoicism derives its name from ‘stoa”, the name given to covered walkways in Ancient Greece where philosophers would lecture between the iconic stone pillars.

There are some parts of that definition that I don’t fully agree with, such as being part of “nature’s plan”.  However, the idea of acting logically, fairly, justly and trying to avoid irrational reactions to what fate befalls me is appealing.  Writing in more detail about Stoicism would take hundreds of pages, and is beyond the scope of this blog.  However, should you want to read more about it, I would suggest Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as a good place to start.

The second word that comes to mind is Nihilist, defined by Google as:

“A person who believes that life is meaningless and rejects all religious and moral principles.”

The universe as we understand it will die a heat death in billions of years, or possibly in a “big crunch”.  Or maybe this is all a simulation.  Maybe our three-dimensional bodies are just shadows cast by our four-dimensional selves, or maybe we are just figments of a superior being’s daydream.  In any event, reality has existed for billions of years before I was aware, and will no doubt continue for billions of years after me.  Now, before anyone jumps in I will just point out that it’s also possible that the universe begins and ends with my birth and death, much like the thought experiment with the tree and no one hearing it fall; does the universe exist if I’m not around to perceive it?  

Yes, I also blame the fish.

So, what’s the point in anything?  In a century or two, it’s highly probable that everyone currently alive will be dead.  Nothing that I do now matters in the grand scale of the universe.  In a hundred years, it’s probable I’ll be dead.  In two-hundred years, it’s likely no one will remember my name.  Life is just a series of moments until death, and we’re all just keeping ourselves busy until that moment when our flame is extinguished.  

If you’re read this far, then you’ll know that I would think of myself as a Stoic, and a Nihilist.  The third word may seem somewhat contrary; Humanist, defined on Wikipedia as:

“Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively.”

How do I reconcile humanism with nihilism?  Through stoicism.  

We exist and because of that, we need to deal with the fact we exist.  Pain and suffering are as real as joy and contentment.  As such, it makes sense to promote peace and prosperity as much as possible.  Some of you who know me will be familiar with a phrase I use, “it takes more effort to be an asshole.”  It’s a short life and we may as well do the best we can with it.  In a break with the normal format of this blog, I’ll end the discussion with a second Quote of the Week:

A Quick Request

I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media.  I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021.  Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at

Part 55

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week’s blog is a little different as I tell the story of a prank I pulled that sent shockwaves around international football (a very minor shockwave, but I like to be dramatic).  I also discuss my stocks and shares ISA and how it’s earned me a decent profit in the past few years.  First, as always, the quote of the week. 

Quote of the Week

This phrase, or ones like it, are often stated by those who are suffering as an attempt to make light of their situation.  The idea that one’s suffering is somehow invalidated because someone is worse off just doesn’t sit right with me though.  Granted, there are occasions when it’s right and healthy to check one’s own privilege, for example when a burger place puts the wrong topping on your order.  It’s not generally that big of a deal, and having a massive tantrum over it is neither healthy or helpful.  In those situations, taking a breath and remembering it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things is a wise move.  

The thing is, there are times when stating, “there’s always someone worse off” is not healthy.  It can invalidate your own feelings of pain, be it physical or emotional.  Sometimes, you need to listen to that pain, and acknowledge it fully so that you can take steps to work through it and resolve it.  Whenever a celebrity comes out as being depressed, there are always those people who say, “what do they have to be depressed about?”.  This is hugely ignorant of the nature of mental illness.  If the celebrity in question is also thinking, “there’s always someone worse off” then it will lead to a spiral of depression; the initial depression and then further depression about their seemingly unwarranted depression.  

Pain and suffering are unique to the individual.  Yes, there are people in war torn countries struggling for food and shelter, and that’s a real human tragedy.  However, a thirty-something professional woman in the UK suffering depression has no impact on those suffering in the war torn country.  That woman’s pain is unique to her; it’s independent of the war in the other country and the suffering it is causing.  Invalidating that woman’s suffering by pointing out the suffering of others is unhelpful and potentially worse than just saying nothing.  

Next time Starbucks gets your order wrong, just take a step back and remember there are worse things in life that could happen.  However, when someone is in real pain, whether physical or mental, please don’t invalidate their suffering.


Weekly Update

I am a football fan, albeit not as passionate as I used to be.  A combination of being a recovering gambling addict and being opposed to how the gambling industry has invaded football has turned me away from the sport.  However, I still follow football and keep up to date with my team, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.

This past week SWFC parted company with their manager Garry Monk.  He had been in charge for just over a year.  When the club was looking for a manager prior to his appointment, I decided to have some fun.  In order to understand the scheme I set up, I need to give a little background.

My girlfriend is Romanain and her family live in a village called Snagov, a little over half-an-hour from Bucharest.  It’s a lovely, quiet village with a mix of old and new houses and villas.  There is a large lake and plenty of friendly cats and dogs that roam the streets.  It’s a nice place; a home away from home.  A couple of years ago, when I was still gambling, I noticed that one of the matches being played had a team called Sportul Snagov.  I checked to see if it was my Snagov, and it was.  From that point on I made a point to find out everything I could about the club.  I started blogging about them, and I even made contact with the club’s officials and struck up a nice little relationship with them.  The club was flying high in the Romanian second division and battling against Academica Clinceni for promotion to the top division.  Snagov’s manager at the time was Laszlo Balint, a recently retired player who had played under a name I recognised; Dan Petrescu, who had played for my club, SWFC, in the 1990s.  It’s a small world in football.

Me and my favourite doggo, the lovely Nika, in Snagov. Below, Snagov in Spring and Winter.

So, when SWFC were looking for a manager last year I decided to have some fun.  I sent out a tweet just throwing his name into the hat, and I contacted Sky Bet to check what odds they would offer for Balint to become our next manager.  They offered 20/1, the same as was being offered for Mikel Arteta at the time.  Then, I went on Owlstalk (a SWFC message board) and threw his name out there, stating that a friend in Romania was at the airport at saw Laszlo Balint boarding a Wizz Air flight from Bucharest to Doncaster; the same route I take when coming back to Sheffield.  I looked up flight details to embellish the rumour with accurate details.  I then asked my Dad to send out a tweet that he had seen Laszlo Balint walking into Hillsborough, the SWFC stadium.  

What happened next was hilarious, at least to my fellow conspirators and myself.  The internet went into a small meltdown with SWFC fans furious that our chairman was considering appointing a relative unknown.  The link to our former player just made the rumour that much better.  Some fans threw tantrums and stated it was “typical Chansiri” (the name of our Chairman who had previously made some questionable managerial appointments).  Laszlo Balint’s odds started to shorten as people put money on his appointment.  After a couple of days, I had to come clean, and I posted a link on Owlstalk detailing what I had done, and the link is here:ászló-balint-fake-news/

A short time later, we appointed Garry Monk and the issue was forgotten about.  Fast forward to now…

Thinking that no one would take this seriously again, I threw Laszlo Balint’s name into the hat again.  Surely the SWFC fans online would remember this and not be caught out again… right?  Well, no…

Some fans knew it was a wind up but many, many more started talking about Balint in the same way as before; “typical Chansiri” etc.  A few were a little more open minded when they saw that Balint actually had a very respectable managerial career to date, and had just won promotion with UTA Arad to the Romanian Liga I.  Balint’s name once again found its way into the bookies and odds were offered at 16/1.  I thought this was the end of it.  I was wrong.

Local media and bloggers started reporting on the rumours.  Yorkshire Live even wrote a profile on the man.  At this point I was tweeting that it was all a wind up and posting links to the original thread on Owlstalk, but the rumour seemed to be taking on a life of its own.  Then, this morning I was sent a link to a Romanian media site that was running a headline on the rumour.  

I contacted Laszlo Balint a short time ago to explain the rumour and asked him for any comment.  He simply said he was very happy at UTA Arad, whom he referred to as a big club, and that he did not want to comment on any specific rumour.  I wished him all the best in return.

This saga should highlight a few points; first, do not believe people who claim to be ITK (in the know).  Second, bored people on the internet like to have fun.  Third, gambling based off unconfirmed rumours from someone you don’t know is just dumb.  

Health Update

I have been told by my own GP and an Occupational Health specialist that I’m not ready to return to work just yet.  As such, I’ll be off a little while longer yet.  The physical pain is getting better little by little, but the mental health side of things is still a struggle.  I’ve gone back to studying Stoicism and the writings of Marcus Aurelius.  I never cease to be amazed that this man’s writing is still being studied almost two-thousand years after he died.  If more people lived by his writing, and that of the other Stoics, than by the various religious texts then I believe the world would be a much better place.  I’ve previously found comfort in the words of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca, and so I’ve returned to some of those texts and it has made me feel a little better.  I’m going to search out some more books on Stoicism and I’ll write about it more in the future.

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £15,681.42 (up £2,950.57 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £224,110.42 (up £2,950.57 from last update).

Credit Card: £179.92 (down £60.29 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,099.37 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,279.29 (down £60.29 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £81,831.13 (up £3,010.86 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £164.81 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

An amazing increase in the stock market from last week off the back of the US Presidential Election and the news that there may be a viable Covid-19 vaccine.  Although it’s good news that the ISA is increasing in value, it does mean that from a pound-cost-averaging perspective I don’t get as many units of stock from my monthly investment.  What I’m hoping for now, is slow and stable gains.  Once we have completed our first BTL purchase, the plan is to use some of the funds in the ISA to put towards the second BTL purchase.  For that to be realistic in the next few months, we really need the stock market to continue on an upward path. Had it not been for Covid-19, I’m convinced I would have hit my investment income target this year. Unfortunately, the pandemic slowed the housing market and our BTL purchase, as well as cancelling many dividends. However, there’s always someone worse off…

Stocks and Shares ISA

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow investor the other day.  I had recommended this person invest in a stocks and shares ISA some time ago, and they followed my advice and made significant gains in the process.  The current value of their ISA was just over the amount of their total investment, but they had also made a withdrawal of over £2,000.  So, they had essentially earned £2,000 for nothing.  I hadn’t looked at my ISA in this way for some time, so I did a little digging.

Since I started my ISA with my current provider I have paid £15,400 in.  I have been charged £54.22 in fees, but it’s tricky to quantify this as initially the fees were coming out of my investment.  I have since arranged with the provider for the fees to come out of a separate pot.  I have earned £30.88 in dividend payments.  The current ISA value of £15,681 shows I am slightly up on my investment, but none of this takes into account an £800 withdrawal I made several months ago.  So, all in all, I’ve done pretty well out of this.  

I strongly believe that for most people investing regularly into a stocks and shares ISA is a wise move, especially if they concentrate on index trackers which follow the FTSE or S&P500.


A Quick Request

I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media.  I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021.  Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at

Part 54

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I will discuss the US Presidential Election.  I will also look at how many people are still uncomfortable talking about money and I’ll also feature a photographer who is taking advantage of the pandemic to hone his craft. First, the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

In a move that restores some order to the world, the United States of America have elected Joe Biden as their next President.  This puts an end to the absurd, hilarious and yet tragic Presidency of Donald Trump.  The outgoing President is not a nice man.  He’s a horrible human being and rightly joins the history books as a one-term President, which is one-term too many.  Right now, the world needs strong, stable and sensible leadership.  Trump is divisive, ignorant and dangerous in his stupidity.  He is not the man to govern the most powerful democratic country on Earth.  

The behaviour of the Trump camp before, during and after the election has been disgraceful, and childish in its approach to defeat.  It’s difficult to understand how this man was ever elected, but then I see the way that some of his supporters are behaving on the news and just shake my head in bewilderment.  The relationship that Americans, some not all, have with guns is slightly terrifying.  Seeing Trump supporters turn out in groups dressed in combat gear and armed with a number of firearms is just weird.  I’ve had this debate with a number of Americans over the years, and the pro-gun group always fall back on the constitution.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at the constitution but the document was written a long time ago and when the US was a fledgling country, it made sense for the general population to have the right to arm themselves.  However, this was in a time when the most dangerous personal firearm was a musket or rifle with a rate of fire of two to three shots a minute, with varying degrees of accuracy.  Weapons can now be owned that have rates of fire that measure shots per second.  If there is one thing that history has taught us time and time again, it’s that the law has to change with technological and societal development.  

I hope that Trump does not make life difficult and leaves office without too much resistance.  However, I fear that he will be as disruptive as possible and will whip up such an atmosphere of resentment that we may see rioting and violence on the streets of the US.  The sooner Trump fades into history, the better for everyone.

Weekly Update

I’ve been feeling a little off colour this week as I try to cut down on the tramadol for my pain.  It’s left me feeling nauseous and tired.  I’ve spent a lot of the time watching TV or listening to audiobooks, and I’ve been treated to some fantastic stories.

My partner has been pestering me for some time to watch a show on Netflix called Elite.  It’s a Spanish show, set in a prestigious private school.  Three children from working-class backgrounds are given scholarships to this school when their own school collapses due to poor construction.  The show is a muder-mystery told in flashbacks and is simply one of the best shows I’ve seen.  On Rotten Tomatoes the show has 100%, 91% and 100% for the first three seasons respectively.  Elite has a slick production with three-dimensional characters who can have you rooting for them one moment, before cursing them the next.  I cannot wait for the fourth season to come to Netflix and may very well go back and binge the show again before the fourth season.  

Another result of my partner’s pestering has been my listening to four books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which make up the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.  These books are set in Spain from the start of the 1900s and chart the course of the following fifty-years or so.  The books are told in a non-linear fashion and are loosely set around events involving a family of second-hand book sellers.  To listen to the description, it does not sound like the most exciting story but this series of books is simply one of the finest series I’ve ever experienced.  

In my life I have had the pleasure of reading some great series of books.  My favourite of all time is the Warlord Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell.  I’ve completed this trilogy a number of times.  I’ve also loved the Century Trilogy by Ken Follet, and the Three Body Trilogy by Cixin Liu.  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is right up there with the best of them.  

Health Update

I don’t have much to say about my health this week.  My physical condition remains the same, and with the gyms closing due to the lockdown, it’s unlikely I’ll get any exercise done before the new year.  My mental health continues to suffer but I’m trying, little by little, to do things to improve my situation.  The thing is my mood can change from minute to minute; one moment I’m fine and the next I’m in despair.  I honestly don’t know what the answer is, but keeping my head above water feels like a victory at the moment. 

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,730.85 (down £146.03 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £175.00 (up £75.00 from last update).

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £221,159.85 (down £71.03 from last update).

Credit Card: £240.21 (up £106.45 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,099.37 (down £357.06 from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,339.58 (down £250.61 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £78,820.27 (up £179.58 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £164.81 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

The last couple of weeks have seen the stock market dip a little.  This is due, in my opinion, to the uncertainty over the US Presidential Election and the series of lockdowns announced through Europe.  I’m hoping that in the coming weeks we will start to see some steady gains in the stock market, but I think we are in for a sustained period of instability.

A few weeks ago I wrote that the government might be best served extending the furlough scheme until the new financial year, and it seems as though they have agreed to do just that.  Hopefully, this will stave off a wave of job cuts in the new year.  Sooner or later though, these government schemes will have to be paid back.  I can’t see how taxing the working class more will make much difference, as most of the working class are barely above the standard tax threshold as it is.  So, it will probably be the middle class that takes the brunt of the financial pain.  


John Wildman – Photographer

In 2007 I began studying at the University of Central Lancashire, known as UCLan.  One day I was at the library and I had a Sheffield Wednesday picture on my desktop.  A man was walking past, a few years older than me with a big white beard.  He introduced himself as David and said he was from Sheffield and was a Wednesday fan as well.  We got talking and it turns out he used to live just up the road from where I lived.  This David became a good friend to myself and my girlfriend, and they both worked at the UCLan library.  In turn, they both befriended a man called John Wildman, who also works at the library.  I’ve never met John in person, but over time his name began dropping into conversation more and more.  Long after studying, my girlfriend would show me pictures that he had taken in, and around, Preston.  The pictures are incredible.  I’ve since become acquainted with John on social media and we share the occasional discussion here and there.  His work is extraordinary, and for someone with no formal training I am in awe at the technique and artistry his work demonstrates.  I spoke with John early last week and asked if I could feature some of his work on my blog, and he kindly agreed.  

I asked John to give a brief overview of how he discovered his love for photography, 

“I started out with photography a couple of years ago, a friend at work kind of got me into it, originally just used a smartphone, then borrowed cameras from my place of work, then saved up and bought my own camera. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to hone my skills during my bouts of exercise everyday. I’ve won three competitions on a photo competition site called Gurushots. I think everyone has a skill mine seems to be photography, it’s just a matter of finding out what that skill is. Plus you need to enjoy it and I find there is nothing better than walking through parks and countryside taking photos of wildlife. I specialise in wildlife but at the moment I am practicing with urban photography.”

I’ve mentioned to John several times that I believe his work could be put together in a book and I hope to see his work on sale soon.  If you want to follow John’s photography, here are links to his social media:

Talking About Money and Property

There is a Facebook property investment group I am a member of and whilst some of the discussions are interesting, most of the time I’m left frustrated by what I read.  Last week someone was boast-posting about how they had given up their job and gone into full-time property investing, and they’d managed to make a lot more money out of it.  That’s great and I’m happy for them.  However, they mentioned the concept of “burning the ships”.  For those of you who are not aware, the phrase comes from the Spanish conquest of South America.  In the early 16th Century the Spanish commander Hernan Cortez landed his troops in South America and then ordered them to burn their ships so they had no means of retreat.  They had a simple choice; win or die.  This property investor stated that he had resigned from his safe, stable job in a modern day equivalent of burning his ships so that he had to succeed at property.  Whether this is brave or stupid, or a combination of both, is subject to personal opinion.  In my view, promoting this approach is dangerous.  

There is a logical error known as survivorship bias in which things that pass some selection criteria or filter are remembered, and those that fail are forgotten.  This investor passed the filter and made a great living for himself.  We will never know if he would have failed or succeeded without burning the ships, but by promoting his success attention is drawn away from the number of people who would have tried the exact same thing and failed.  A quick google search will provide a number of examples of people who tried their hand at property investing and failed miserably, and it’s important to remember that people are more likely to promote their successes rather than their failures.

There is another online group I’m a member of, in which I talked a little about my financial plans.  The response was somewhat mixed with a couple of people praising my ambition and efforts to date, but most people were negative and a few were even abusive.  Below are some screenshots of the type of negative comments I was receiving:

There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding about what professional property investors do, and how they can help people. I admit there are rotten landlords, but there are also plenty of decent landlords who help provide housing for those people that need flexibility and for one reason or another, cannot own a home or simply don’t want to.

I went back to my Facebook property investing group and asked how other people deal with negative comments they receive for being a property investor, and someone shared a fantastic meme:

Ambitious people are always met with people urging caution, and this is not always a bad thing.  Caution is good in some respects and my own investment strategy is mostly “slow and steady”.  There are times when caution can become too negative though.  Friends and family can be well-intentioned but sometimes their negativity can beat you down.  It seems to be human nature that people don’t like to see others succeeding, as it makes them feel envious.  It takes a strong personality to look at someone succeeding and congratulate them.  It’s not always something I’ve been good at.  

One thing I have realised is that it’s important to surround yourself with people who challenge you, but also support you.  Who question you, but push you to learn.  Jim Rohn once said that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.  If you look at those people and are disappointed with the lack of support you receive, find new people.  If you look at those people and are not inspired, find new people.  If you look at those people, and objectively you are the most ambitious and successful, find new people.

A Quick Request

I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media.  I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021.  Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at


Part 53

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I will look back at my progress over the past year and discuss whether it is right for banks to charge fees for having a bank account.  First, as always, we start with the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

Is anyone actually happy?  Is happiness a sustainable, long-term emotion?  I don’t think it is.  I think that modern life is difficult, mentally more than physically for those of us in the UK.  I’m looking at this through my own lens, of someone in a professional, well-paid job, who has little to worry about in terms of food, shelter and so on.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I could not fully understand the struggles on non-white people when it comes to racism as I’ve not experienced that situation myself, and it’s the same principle here.  I can only understand my own situation.  Happiness is not something that modern life makes easy to achieve.

For the vast majority of people, life is a daily struggle of routine and monotony broken up with the occasional social gathering and many hours sat in front of a screen of one form or another.  Work and maintaining a home, not to mention children or other dependents, cut into our time so that we have little energy to do anything other than eat, sleep, work and repeat.  

The key to happiness is not physical possessions, as Heath Ledger states.  I believe the key to happiness is time, the most valuable commodity we have.  Time is something that we all have an equal amount of, in so much that there are 24 hours in a day.  However, not all people have the same amount of free time due to demands of work, child care, commuting and so on.  The only way to obtain more free time is to have enough money so that you can work fewer hours and/or delegate your household responsibilities by hiring cleaners, drivers, housekeepers and other employees.

The key point here is that whilst money cannot buy happiness, it can buy all the things that lead to happiness.  It’s also important to remember that more free time and money can’t magically cure depression.  However, having more free time and money does open up doors to treatments that might not otherwise be available.

Weekly Update

It has just been announced that the UK is entering a month-long lockdown of sorts.  It still does not go far enough in my opinion, as schools and universities will remain open.  I would go much further and close those institutions and begin a partial curfew in the evenings so that only those working in certain jobs are allowed to be outside their home at these times.  This pandemic is testing everyone’s mental health and resolve, but the virus hasn’t gone away just because we are frustrated.  The virus is still out there, and we still have the same problems in the NHS.  

We are going to be dealing with the virus for a long time yet.  We have to find new ways of working and living rather than engaging in partial shutdowns every few months.  I’m not sure what the answer is, and although I think a system of living with this virus is possible, I think it’s beyond the capabilities of our government to create and implement such a system. 

Credit: Have I Got News For You

Health Update

I’ve kept my weight the same this week which is better than gaining more.  However, it is still something that causes a lot of frustration.  My weight is also a source of concern where this pandemic is concerned as it has been suggested that those who are overweight are more likely to suffer complications if they are infected.  

I’ve had an appointment with my shoulder surgeon regarding the return of shoulder and neck pain.  His view is that the pain should not require any scans or surgery, and that physio should resolve the problem.  I’m not convinced.  Over the years I’ve had a lot of physio and with just two exceptions I’ve found most physios to be useless.

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,876.88 (down £483.74 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £221,230.88 (down £483.74 from last update).

Credit Card: £133.76 (up £19.23 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,456.43 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,590.19 (up £19.23 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £78,640.69 (down £502.97 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £164.81 (up £3.45 from last update) (target £2,000).

The stock market has taken a hammering this week with many economies showing signs of worry over future lockdowns.  Anyone who has spare cash to invest would do well to investigate the stock market for opportunities, with the assumption they complete thorough research over any investment.  There are bargains to be had, of that I’m convinced.  I’ve made a point to not recommend specific stocks because I don’t want that responsibility on my shoulders.  Also, I’m generally opposed to investing in specific stocks as I believe it’s safer to look at index trackers for the long-term.  Saying all that, I have recently started selling off some of my index funds that have made substantial gains and using the proceeds to snap up a particular stock that I am convinced is trading way under value.  When the market does recover, I’m convinced this stock will triple or even quadruple my investment.  I can’t talk about it in more detail without giving the game away, but if you do the research, there are bargains to be had.  

Annual Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (up £12,450 after 52 weeks).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,876.88 (up £6,357.88.74 after 52 weeks).

Fuck It Fund: £100.00 (down £750.96 after 52 weeks).

Property Value: £187,554 (up £15,054 after 52 weeks).

Total Assets: £221,230.88 (up £33,110.92 after 52 weeks).

Credit Card: £133.76 (up £133.76 after 52 weeks).

Residential Mortgage: £142,456.43 (up £8,177.32 after 52 weeks). 

Total Debts: £142,590.19 (up £8,311.08 after 52 weeks).

Total Wealth Figure: £78,640.69 (up £24,799.84 after 52 weeks). 

It’s now one-year since I started my FIRE journey in a methodical way and I’m pleased with the progress made.  The only negative is that I’ve not been able to move my first BTL purchase over the finish line.  The deal is still in progress but this new lockdown is probably going to delay things further.  I’d be surprised if we complete in 2020.

The figures over the last year make interesting reading.  My mortgage debt increased by £8,000 but this was countered by the increase in the lender’s valuation of my property which increased by over £15,000.  My credit card debt has fluctuated throughout the year as I use my card for day-to-day spending to collect air miles, and sometimes my payments to clear the card do not complete in time for the next part of my blog.  In general, I aim to run my credit card with a zero balance.  My Premium Bonds and ISA values have increased significantly, and it’s reassuring to know that when the market recovers my ISA will increase even further.

Paying off a mortgage is a marathon.

Looking ahead another year, I have some thoughts on where I would like to be.  I would hope that by the second anniversary of this blog, I will have two tenanted BTLs at a minimum.  I would also hope that my passive income for 2021 is much higher than for this year.  Had the pandemic not struck, I would have received much more dividend income in 2020.  Hopefully, 2021 sees a return to normal.  

Bank Account Fees

Ask yourself the following question; are banks right to charge fees for customers to hold bank accounts?

I’ve asked this question to a few people in recent days and the initial response has always been “no, banks should not charge fees for people to have bank accounts.”

However, when I follow up with the question, “why?”, people generally pause and think before acknowledging that it’s probably fair for banks to charge for bank accounts. 

Before we take a deeper dive into this question, it’s best to look at the history of banking.  However, the subject is very complex so I will do my best to break it down.  A full accounting of the history of banking would take up thousands of pages, but it is a fascinating subject. 


Imagine you are a farmer in Europe hundreds of years ago.  You want to sell your crops or livestock.  Instead of trading wheat for cows, for example, you need money.  So, you take your merchandise to the market and you sell your stock.  Now, you have a substantial amount of money.  You set off home but are robbed along the way, and you lose all your money.  If only there was a secure place in the town centre where you could store your money…

Banks serve many purposes and one of the major purposes is security; banks act as a secure storeroom for your wealth.


Using the above scenario, let’s assume that the farmer has sold his stock and instead of going home with his money, he visits the local bank and deposits his cash.  In return, he is given a receipt for his funds.  Our farmer has a long journey ahead of him, as he now wants to use those funds to purchase more stock.  Travelling with a small receipt is much more secure than a wagon full of coins, which would attract attention.  Our farmer arrives at his destination and agrees to purchase more stock.  He hands the vendor a slip of paper that the bank has provided guaranteeing payment upon presentation of this slip at the local branch.  The farmer leaves with his stock, and the vendor takes the slip to his bank where he exchanges it for cash, which he then deposits in his own account.

Banks not only store money, but allow for safe, secure transfers of wealth.

Emblem of the Knights Templar; a group which created a vast network of banks across Europe hundreds of years ago.


As banking developed, these financial institutions used the money they held on deposit to lend to those who needed to borrow.  Now, I could get into Fractional Reserve Banking, but it’s early in the morning and I’ve not had much coffee, so I’m going to keep this simple.  The banks use much of the money they have to lend to other customers, and it’s common for banks to only keep a fraction of what they hold on deposit for customers to withdraw.  The assumption is that not all customers will turn up at the same time to withdraw their cash.  The vast majority of the time, this system works well.  Without bank accounts, banks would not be able to offer loans, overdrafts or mortgages.  

Access to Banking

Banks are not charities, and the services they offer are with a view to making money for the owners and shareholders of the bank.  Access to banking is not a right; it’s a service which needs to be paid for, as the bank needs to pay for staff and secure systems to protect funds on deposit.  All these things cost money.

There are, broadly speaking, two types of fees that banks will charge; direct fees and indirect fees.

Direct fees are when banks charge a fee on a regular basis for you keeping your account open.  This is now typically monthly or annually.  In addition to keeping your money secure, the bank may offer other services such as travel insurance or emergency breakdown cover in return for the regular subscription.  

Indirect fees are when banks charge different rates of interest on balances that are in credit and those that are in debit.  Generally speaking, banks make money by charging higher rates of interest when you are overdrawn than the rate of interest offered when you are in credit.  The difference between the two rates is one way in which the bank makes money.  This is also applicable to the rates of interest banks charge on loans, which are typically much higher than the rates offered on credit balances.  

Banking is not a right; it’s a service that needs to be paid for.  Without banking, there are many ways in which life would be more difficult.  For a start, you would have to carry cash everywhere.  Not only is this not secure, it’s inconvenient.  It’s so easy now to use contactless payments for your morning coffee or your weekly shop.  Internet shopping would be impossible without banks.  Without banking, large-scale regulated lending becomes impossible which means the vast majority of people would not be able to buy their own home.  A lot of people look at banks and think they are responsible for the transfer of more wealth to the wealthy.  This is one way to look at it, but one could argue that without banks responsible mortgage lending would be impossible.  There are currently just over ten-million residential mortgages in the UK.  A large proportion of those mortgages are owner-occupier and not BTL.  Without mortgages, those people would have to rent, which would also transfer wealth from the poor to the already wealthy.  

Where finance is concerned there is rarely a simple answer.  Global banking is interconnected like never before, and when you dig deeper you find all the ways in which banking is at the heart of modern life.  So, next time you complain about banks charging fees, just remember that you are not just paying for your bank account but also making a contribution to maintaining our society.

A Quick Request

I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media.  I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021.  Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at

Part 52

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week is the 52nd part of the blog, which means I’ve been charting my journey to FIRE for almost a full calendar year.  As such, this week’s post is a bumper edition.  I will talk about the recent Presidential debate in the US.  I will also look at how my blog has changed over time, in addition to the usual updates.  I will also explain why I think gold is an unwise investment choice for most people.  As well as the above, I will also discuss Marcus Rashford’s attempts to feed the nation’s hungry children. First, however, the quote of the week.  

Quote of the Week

The last few years have been a journey of attempted self-improvement.  I found myself in a rut towards the back end of 2015 and knew that something had to change.  Shortly after this realisation, I discovered Audible and it’s now one of my greatest pleasures.  I enjoy listening to audiobooks more than any other form of entertainment.  One thing I’ve discovered is that you can learn valuable life lessons from fiction as much as from biographies and self-help books.  As I’ve started to think about fiction more, it’s led me to experience fiction through a different lens.  In the last few weeks I’ve gone back to a franchise I’ve loved since I was a young boy; Star Trek.  I’ve binged the whole series of Deep Space Nine, which I maintain is the best Star Trek show.  I’ve also watched certain episodes of The Next Generation, which is where my quote of the week comes from.  In the episode Peak Performance, one of the main characters, an android called Data, loses a game of strategema (a fictional strategic game in the show) to an alien.  This confuses Data as he should be unbeatable due to his incredible computing speed.  He removes himself from duty, believing himself to be defective in some way.  It takes the quote from his Captain, Jean-Luc Picard, to make him realise that sometimes you can do everything right, and still lose.  

This quote is extremely relevant to real life.  We live in a complex world where our actions and agendas are competing against billions of other people.  So much of our life is up to chance, and we fool ourselves into thinking we have more control than we do.  In some ways, this quote links in to the Serenity Prayer devised by Reinhold Niebuhr, commonly quoted as: 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Whilst I am not religious, there are words of wisdom in this statement as well.  All of this feeds back to Stoicism, a philosophy I aim to follow as much as possible.

Life is so complex we will never be able to understand why some things happen; they just do.  The key is to control what you can, whilst seeking to improve yourself.  I believe that it’s important to do the things you love to the best of your ability, whilst understanding that the process is often more important than the outcome.

Weekly Update

Presidential Debate

I stayed up to watch the debate between Trump and Biden and it did not disappoint.  I’m no fan of Trump, but I think he probably “won” the debate.  I don’t agree with his policies, but he was able to go on the attack throughout the whole debate which forced Biden on the defensive.  As a result, the debate was fought on Trump’s terms, with the President constantly jabbing at Biden with questions regarding alleged payments from foreign powers to the Democrat’s nominee.

In terms of policy, I found myself agreeing more with Biden.  In terms of who came across as a decent human being, it was no contest.  Biden comes across as a real, somewhat flawed, person.  Trump is a caricature; a joke.  The fact he is President is as tragic as Brexit and the rise of the Tory party in the UK.  It’s a symptom of the modern world in which facts play second fiddle to who can shout the loudest and longest.  Social media is a huge issue in this respect, where people will happily share incorrect statements of fact.  Whether there is a subsequent correction or retraction is often irrelevant as people tend to believe what they are first told.  

It is my hope that the US elect Joe Biden.  However, I don’t see him lasting a full term in office, let alone a second term.  He would be 78-years-old when sworn in, which I believe would make him the oldest person to take office for the first time.  I don’t wish him ill, but the facts suggest that his age may prevent him from lasting a full term.  I would expect that if Biden was to take charge, much of the heavy lifting would be done by his Vice-President and the rest of the team. 

Mortgage Advisor on FIRE – A History

At the start of 2016 I bought my own domain name;  I had a vision for a website that would be a collection of blogs, opinions and original work from a team of contributors.  I assembled a small group who, at first, contributed regularly.  I sought out collaborations with other bloggers to try and drive traffic to each other’s sites.  Despite a number of reboots, the site never took off.  Contributors came and went, with promises of submissions slowly grinding to a halt.  The main problem with the nature of the site, is that it needed to be updated in real-time for the sort of content we were posting, such as film reviews, football write-ups and so on.  The mobile editor for the site host was awful though.  It was practically unusable.  This meant the site could only be updated when sat in front of a computer.  

I still wanted to write, as I felt I had something interesting to say.  After reading a lot of books on finance and investing, I realised that I had a lot of opinions about money.  I wrote a few one-off blogs about financial topics for Now We Live and they proved popular.  I envisaged a regular finance-themed blog.  I needed a catchy name for the blog though.  I had been reading about a concept called FIRE, which is Financial Independence, Retire Early (there are a number of subtle variations such as Financially Independent, Retired Early).  As I’m a mortgage advisor, I took some inspiration from the film title Man on Fire and, there you go: Mortgage Advisor on FIRE was born.  

The early installments of this blog are, how should I put it, a little rough around the edges.  It took a few weeks to really find my groove, but the feedback I’ve been getting is that the current format is enjoyable and interesting.  I enjoy writing this blog and I’ve found that the act of writing it, and charting my journey to FIRE is keeping me focused and motivated even when the rest of my life has felt like it’s falling apart.  

One aspect of the blog I was never really happy about was the image of the blog, or the branding.  I felt it needed a recognised visual identity.  I am the least artistic person alive, but fortunately I have a friend in Romania who designs logos for a living.  He kindly put together a few ideas and the logo you see on the site is his creation.  Despite his protest, I insisted on paying him for his time.  I didn’t want to be one of those people who expect to pay artists in “exposure”.  We agreed on £40 and a beer the next time I’m in Romania, which seemed like a great deal.

The blog started in 2019 before anyone had really heard of Coronavirus.  I had hoped that 2020 would see my passive income start to accumulate, but the pandemic has impacted pretty much every aspect of life.  Although I’m frustrated at how some of my investments have performed, I have to count myself amongst the fortunate ones.  I’m alive.  I have my job.  I am financially comfortable.  

Moving into 2021, I am hoping that I’ll start to see my plans accelerate.  Once we complete on the first BTL, we should be in a position to acquire a second property early next year.  From that point on, with rental income from two properties, the journey to FIRE should gather pace.  

Health Update

Frustratingly, I’ve made little progress.  I have lost a small amount of weight, but it’s nothing to shout about.  Once I start to see consistent losses in my weight, I’ll feel better about myself.  

I had a strange experience a few days ago.  I had gone into the city centre for some food shopping and to get some fresh air.  It was not a warm day and I dressed in jeans, a short sleeved shirt and a zip-up hoodie.  When I returned home, I felt faint and I was drenched in sweat.  I could wring out my shirt, it was that bad.  I managed to shower and it occurred to me what might be wrong.  In order to explain, I have to go back a week or so.

I started experiencing neck and shoulder pain a couple of weeks ago, and stopped lifting weights until I saw my surgeon again.  Remembering the advice my surgeon and physio gave me last year when I had the other shoulder operated on, I made sure to take painkillers regularly.  Normally, I try to work through pain, but they explained that the body needs to be free of pain so that you can relax and not tense up.  Paracetamol was not touching the pain, and I’m allergic to many non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin.  Codeine doesn’t agree with me, so I turned to another option.  Late last year I was in extreme pain with my feet and ankles.  I was taking tramadol; a lot of tramadol, as it was the only thing that was touching the pain.  So, I started taking tramadol for my neck and shoulder, and it worked like a charm.  It was my intention to gradually reduce the dosage, but for various reasons I missed a dose, and then another, and before I knew it, I’d not taken any tramadol for over a day.  The withdrawal hit me like a punch to the head.  I was sweating, faint, had blurred vision, and I was both too hot and too cold at the same time.  So, I took some tramadol and tried to sleep.  I felt better a couple of hours later.  I’m gradually reducing the dosage and will taper off over the next few days.

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £13,360.62 (up £564.42 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £221,714.62 (up £664.42 from last update).

Credit Card: £114.53 (down £388.18 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,456.43 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,570.96 (down £388.18 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £79,143.66 (up £1,052.60 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £161.36 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

A fantastic week financially, which is due, in part, to a trade I executed at the start of the week.  A few months ago I invested approximately £4,000 in a US Equity Index Tracker.  At the start of this past week, it had increased in value by 15%.  I cashed in and used the funds to purchase more units in a specific stock that I’ve been accumulating for a few years.  That stock is currently trading at a very low price and I believe it will increase in the coming months and years.  The high point for this stock, in the last year, is almost triple the current trading price.  I think this is a safe trade to have executed, and I anticipate this will reap rewards in time.  

Attentive readers will have also noticed I have resumed paying into my Fuck It Fund again.  I will start putting a little bit aside each month because I want to have a completely liquid reserve fund.  This may not make financial sense, as I could have that money in bonds or shares at which point it would be fairly easy to access, but it’s more for my peace of mind.  

BTL Update

Our offer was accepted on July 16th and we started the conveyancing process immediately.  The vendors were also keen to move.  It was estimated that the transaction would complete at the start of October, but we find ourselves approaching November and we have not completed.  I sent the vendors a text message and a few minutes later they called.  It turns out they have been worried we would back out of the purchase due to the delays, which are the result of the property they are moving into needing further checks.  It does not seem to be a major issue and I received a message from them yesterday stating that it appears to have now been resolved.  So, I’m hopeful we should be able to complete the purchase in the next two-weeks.  

The difficulty now will be finding people to complete the minor repair work needed, and then finding a tenant, as Sheffield is under Tier 3 restrictions.  It will work itself out in the end though.  Investing in property is a long-term project, and there will be ups and downs throughout.  


There are a number of investors, business people and entrepreneurs who bang the drum for investing in precious metals, and gold in particular.  It is something I’ve looked into from time to time, but I’ve always stopped short of investing.  It’s never felt right, and sometimes you have to listen to your instincts even if many supposed “experts” are saying otherwise until you have educated yourself and established the facts for certain.  It was only in the last few days that I had an epiphany about what was troubling me with investing in gold.  First of all, let’s take a step back and define currency.

** A brief acknowledgement – what I’m about to discuss is extremely complex.  I’m only giving a very basic overview, so that my explanation of my opinion on gold will make sense and have context. **

In broad terms there are three types of currency; fiat, commodity and representative.  

In reverse order, a representative currency would be a currency backed by a commodity, such as a currency backed by gold, where the currency represents an amount of that commodity.

Commodity currency refers to a currency where the physical currency itself has value such as gold, silver or copper.  There are even historical examples of salt being used as currency, which is a fascinating topic in itself as it explains the origins of the term soldier and salary.  In the time of the Roman Empire, its armies were paid, to varying degrees, in salt  This in turn leads to the term soldier which can be roughly translated to “paid in salt”, and the word salary originates in the latin name for salt being “sal” and the payment that Roman soldiers received was known as a “salarium”.

A fiat currency is a currency that has value because everyone agrees it has value.  This is the sort of currency that the UK, the US and many other countries use.  Fiat currency is not backed by anything physical.  It’s an expression of the confidence people have in the country of origin and its economy.  

How does this relate to gold?

Some of you may have already joined up the dots.  Those who sell gold will often refer to its security of value.  They will argue that gold will retain its value even if the Dollar, or Euro or Sterling fails.  Gold allows wealthy individuals to sleep soundly in the knowledge that their wealth is secure.  The thing is, you buy the gold using the Dollar, Euro or Sterling, or any other fiat currency.  Why would this gold salesperson be willing to part with their secure commodity for an insecure and risky currency?  If their argument was valid, they wouldn’t.  

I don’t believe we will see the major currencies fail because the world is so interconnected now and there is simply too much riding on it.  We will no doubt see market crashes and market booms, but a full on failure of a major currency is something I cannot see happening.  Should it look like happening, the major economies would simply hit the reset button and I’m convinced everyone would just agree to start again.  

Marcus Rashford

I just want to finish up with a brief comment on Marcus Rashford and the issue of children from poor backgrounds not receiving free school meals.  There are a lot of arguments to be made against paying for these children to eat.  All those arguments are irrelevant.  If children are going hungry, they should be fed.  They are citizens of the United Kingdom and they should be cared for by the state if they cannot be cared for at home.  It’s the principle of triage.  You deal with the most urgent problem first, and the urgent problem is making sure children don’t go hungry.  Then, we can deal with the surrounding issues such as parents not budgeting, the lack of jobs, the lack of relevant benefits and the absolute horror show that is the current Tory government.

I have a huge amount of respect for what Marcus Rashford is doing.  It’s great to see a young man taking this government to task and utterly embarrassing them.  I can’t understand how anyone can argue that children should not be fed.  It’s also great to see local councils and businesses stepping up and promising to provide meals for these children.  

Thank you for reading this week.  If you have enjoyed this blog please share it on social media.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at

Part 51

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I will talk about the last book I read and how it made me angry, and after the usual financial update I will discuss some frustrations I have relating to the current pandemic. 

Quote of the Week

I have been trying to read more books from different cultures, as well as more books written by women this year.  It has opened my eyes to some fantastic pieces of writing such as Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel and The Three Body Trilogy.  I was looking forward to reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race because I expected a book with such a daring and provocative title to approach the subject with a critical, balanced and nuanced view.  I was wrong.  The book is simply awful, and the quote I’ve taken is just one of many examples of the bitter, hateful and racist tone it takes.  

There is no way I can sit here and understand what it is to be a person of colour in the UK in 2020.  I can listen to what people say about their own experience, and I can read what is written.  I can’t fully understand their experience though, so my comments are of limited validity.  Racism is wrong; it’s that simple.  It’s wrong and it shouldn’t exist, but it does and so we need to be able to have open discussions about it from all sides to try and eradicate it.  Reni Eddo-Lodge’s title is, unfortunately, not just an eye-catching title.  It’s pretty much what she believes.  In another quote she explains that white people cannot approach a discussion on race as an equal to a person of colour.  This is pure racism, and you don’t counter racism by practicing it in reverse.  I accept that I can’t understand what it is to be a person of colour, but I understand what it is to be on the receiving end of racism, because I have experienced it myself.

When I was younger, I went to a school where white people were the minority.  In my class of approximately thirty children, I was one of two white boys.  There was one white-girl.  The rest of the class was a mixture of children from Asia, the Middle-East and Africa.  I was on the receiving end of a fair amount of bullying that was racist in nature.  However, as I grew up and entered the adult world, that situation changed.  So, I say again, I can understand my experience of racism but I can’t understand a person of colour’s experience.  To say that we can’t have a discussion as equals is wrong, and does nothing to build bridges.  All it does is widen the divide between races.  

White Privilege is a real thing, and is something I’ve only come to notice fairly recently.  However, I’m no racist.  I don’t actively do anything to support White Privilege.  I speak out against racism where I can, but the book offers no practical advice about what people can do to help eradicate racism.  The book implies that white people are the problem, but also implies white people can’t help with the solution.  The book is a confused, rambling mess, and the author is an angry and confused individual.  I fear that this book will actually do more to damage race relations than to improve them.  Things get even more confusing in the latter part of the book where it starts up about feminism.  

This is the worst book I’ve read this year.  It’s badly written.  It’s angry, but not constructively so.  It makes one illogical leap after another, cherry picking history and making sweeping, and racist, generalisations about white people.  There is a discussion that needs to be had about race and racism.  That discussion needs to be honest and open, but this book adds nothing to that discussion.  It’s inflammatory, bitter and unhelpful.

I appreciate that racism is a very emotive topic.  I’m not trying to bash anyone who campaigns for equal rights, but this book seems to be about equal parts attacking white culture as it is promoting rights for people of colour.  There are some racist white people, but there are also decent, compassionate white people who believe in equal rights for all.  Categorising any group based on skin colour and labelling them a “culture” is so simplistic; it’s the sort of “logic” you would expect to see in primary school.  It’s possible to have white-on-white racism, which is something my girlfriend has experienced a lot in the decade she has lived in the UK.  She is Romanian and white, but her whiteness does not protect her from racism from white British people.  

Racism is not just a binary, or black-and-white, issue.  It’s complicated and it’s not going to be solved overnight.  It’s going to take a lot of work, and in terms of White Privilege in the UK, it’s going to take a lot of introspection for the white majority to “check their privilege”.  This book could have been a rallying call for racism awareness, but it’s just an incoherent mess that undermines the few good points it makes with poorly reasoned arguments and lazy generalisations.  

Weekly Update

Another week where I don’t seem to have achieved much.  I’m still off work as my mental health is a mess.  I’ve also had some shoulder, neck and back pain that has stopped me going to the gym.  Paracetamol hasn’t really touched the pain, and because I’m allergic to other painkillers and antiinflammatories, I’ve had to revert back to tramadol.  I don’t want to be taking it for long, as it can lead to addiction.  It has helped a great deal with the pain though, so I’m going to start winding down the dosage over the next few days and see how I am.  

This past week has seen my best friend, Sweep, celebrate his 18th birthday.  We adopted him in December 2018 and it’s possibly the best decision we ever made.  We don’t know a huge amount about his previous life, but from what we’ve been told he lived with his brother, Sootie, with an older couple.  This couple had some health problems and one of them passed away and the other was admitted to a care home.  Sootie ran away and Sweep was passed to a cat shelter.  We made a conscious decision to adopt an older cat as they tend to be overlooked.  He is amazing.  I love him so much that I can’t adequately put it into words.

Sweep is a chilled out cat.  He can’t run very quickly and can hardly jump.  We have fashioned him a little step to get up on the sofa, and our bed has a little ledge around the side which he uses to help himself up.  When we talked about getting a cat, we had agreed he would not be allowed on the bed.  It didn’t take long for the rule to go out of the window.  Now, I love nothing more than waking up in the middle of the night with Sweep curled up on the pillow next to me.  

I don’t think Sweep is like a typical cat.  Although he likes to spend a little bit of time on his own, he follows us around the apartment.  He loves attention and to be curled up on our laps.  I have a routine where at least once a day I will lie down on the bed, and he will jump up on my chest and rub his head against my face for a few minutes before settling down and purring on my chest.  There is no other feeling like it.  I’ve always cared about animals, but the connection between this living, breathing animal and myself is something I’d never felt until we adopted him.  

Although we might be crazy, we manage an Instagram account for Sweep which you can follow @

Health Update

No progress again this week.  I just don’t have the mental resource to fully deal with my weight.  I’m like a computer with too many applications running.  I need to clear some of them, so that I can allocate more processing resources to dealing with my weight.  I know what I need to do, but comfort eating is my major vice; when I’m stressed or depressed, I eat.  

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,796.20 (down £198.37 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £221,050.20 (down £198.37 from last update).

Credit Card: £502.71 (down £10.90 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,456.43 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,959.14 (down £10.90 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £78,091.06 (down £187.47 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £161.36 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

After a couple of weeks of gains in the stock market, there has been a little dip.  By the time of the next blog I will have been paid again, so some of my investments will change accordingly.  I’m hoping that by next week I will have some sort of update regarding the BTL purchase.  It seems to be dragging on, considering our offer was accepted in mid-July.  

My credit card balance is not coming down as quickly as I’d hoped but we are having to find a new routine, financially speaking, as my girlfriend is doing freelance work and the income from that is irregular.  As long as it comes down week-on-week, that’s the main thing.  

Covid-19 and Lockdown

I don’t get the thought process that goes on inside some people.  When the government announces that an area will be going into lockdown (a phrase I hate, but it seems to be the generally accepted term) they have to give some notice.  They can’t just announce it with immediate effect as there are a lot of factors involved.  So, when they say that an area will be going into lockdown in two-days time, I would personally take this as a sign to start preparing now.  Some people, however, seem to take it as a signal to have a party in the street.  The scenes in Liverpool a few days ago were shameful.  Yes, you may be fit and healthy and covid may just give you a little cough.  What about the people you pass the virus on to?  What about the elderly who are at the end of the chain of transmission?  

I was talking with a friend a few days ago and she was angry about the attitude towards those with underlying medical conditions, as she has asthma.  There seems to be an impression, in some people at least, that underlying medical conditions relate to people being seriously ill.  This is not the case.  An underlying health condition can be asthma, or high blood pressure or a thousand other things.  These people were not “going to die of something else anyway”, which is something I’ve sadly heard from a few people as justification for the number of deaths we’ve experienced.  Some of those with underlying medical conditions may have been terminally ill with something else, but they could have simply had asthma.

There seems to be two attitudes that are really unhelpful in tackling this pandemic.  There is an attitude amongst some people that their perceived freedoms should not be impacted in any single way.  These people want to be able to socialise freely and not wear masks.  They believe that saving lives is not worth some temporary and minor inconveniences.  Then there are those who don’t believe what the experts are saying.  They may believe that the pandemic is some form of global hoax or conspiracy.  Or, they may just believe that masks are ineffective, and because of that we shouldn’t take any precautions at all.  Ultimately, this all comes down to a lack of critical thinking.

When fighting covid-19, there are no realistic defences that are completely effective.  So, we take a layered approach.  Masks will stop some of the transmission.  Frequent cleaning of hands, surfaces and handles will stop some of the transmission.  Social distancing will, again, stop some of the transmission.  The idea is that when all these tactics are employed together, their combined effect is to drastically reduce the rate of transmission.  Some people think that because a mask is not 100% effective, they should also not bother with social distancing.  It’s enough to make my head hurt.

“More People Die Of The Flu”

Another phrase that makes me facepalm.  Setting aside the fact that this is not true, it’s also illogical.  The thinking here is that we shouldn’t take precautions against covid, because the flu kills more people.  Let’s try another example;

Just under 2,000 people died in UK road accidents in 2019.  However, more people die of heart disease each year, so why should we do anything about road safety?  It’s a completely illogical argument.  

Thank you for reading this week.  I know it’s been a bit of a rant. If you have enjoyed this blog please share it on social media.  My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Part 50

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I will talk a little about process vs outcome, and look at my 2020 reading challenge.  First, the quote of the week.

Quote of the Week

If you ask most people whether anger is a positive or negative emotion, I would suggest most people immediately think of it as a negative emotion.  It can make people bitter and resentful, and if they are strong with The Force it can lead them to the Dark Side.  I’m starting to think that labelling emotions as either positive or negative is as simplistic as saying certain words are good or bad.  Words, like emotions, don’t have value; they are tools that a person can wield to achieve an outcome.  Regular readers will remember that I have referred back to Viktor Frankl who argued, “between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”

Anger does not always have to be destructive.  It can be constructive.  Anger can be a source of motivation and drive.  It’s all about how the emotion is used and how it’s focused.  The power of anger lies not in the emotion itself but in terms of our response.  I read an interesting response to this quote on Reddit where a user stated that hate can be a powerful driving force because it’s easy to sustain.  Acting out of love may not be fueled for long as love needs two people to maintain the feeling.  Hate, however, requires only one person to feel the emotion and that feeling of hate can be the driving force for self-improvement.  It might seem counterintuitive to argue that hate can be a positive thing, but again it’s not that hate itself is positive as it is all about the response to the feeling.  

Weekly Update

I’m not yet back at work.  I’m finding it difficult to do much of anything right now, or to be more precise, anything that requires thought.  I’m able to go for a daily walk and I’m still going to the gym.  Anything that requires thought, such as studying or reading, and even writing this blog, is a real challenge for me right now.  I’m not even close to being in the right mindset for a mentally demanding job.  Sleep is difficult to achieve and maintain for me at the moment, which is making me feel drained a lot of the time.  I’ve also had my dosage of antidepressants increased from 50mg to 100mg per day.

Due to the fact I’m not really doing much, there is not a great deal to say about my week.  I’m walking.  I’m working out where I can.  I’m listening to audiobooks a lot because it’s less demanding than reading a physical book or ebook.  I need to keep doing the right things, such as exercising and eating well, and then in time the meds should start helping.  

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day about therapy, as they’ve had a really positive experience with it.  Since I’ve become more open about my own mental health struggles, a lot of friends and acquaintances have contacted me privately to talk about their own experiences with therapy.  From all those people, only two have found it useful and positive.  I don’t just need someone to talk to; I have people I can talk to and vent to if needed.  What I need is more practical, long-term tools and skills to help cope with my anxiety, stress, depression and anger.  The thing is, I just don’t have the mental energy to look for a new therapist right now and to then go through my whole story and situation once more.  

2020 Reading Challenge Update

I’m way behind on my reading challenge this year.  2020 has been an absolute clusterfuck for me in terms of my personal life, and my physical and mental health.  As a result, I’ve not read anything like as much as I did in 2019 where I finished 104 books.  To date, I’ve finished 43 books in 2020.  In July, August and September I have finished nine books;


35. Rejoice: A Knife To The Heart by Steven Erikson ****

36. The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu *****

37. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu *****


38. Death’s End by Cixin Liu *****

39. Recursion by Blake Crouch **


40. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ***

41. The State of Affairs by Esther Perel *****

42. The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu *****

43. Neurotribes by Steven Silberman *****

The highlight of this last quarter was the Three Body Trilogy by Cixin Liu.  One positive to come from 2020 is the amount of excellent science-fiction I’ve read.  Those who know me well are probably sick of me banging on about how great The Expanse is but the Three Body trilogy of books blew me away.  It’s China-centric, which is refreshing as a Western reader, but it’s also just a brilliant story with well-developed, complex characters.  The trilogy deals with humanity’s first contact with an alien race, but I can’t say much more than that without spoiling the story.  A few weeks ago, news broke that the trilogy is being adapted for television by David Benioff and DB Weiss, who brought Game of Thrones to the small screen.  Although I’m a huge fan of the trilogy, the author is the focus of some criticism for being a supporter of the Chinese government’s building of internment camps in the Xinjiang region.  I don’t claim to know much about this as I don’t follow Chinese internal politics.  However, it does raise the old argument about whether art can be enjoyed if the artist has questionable beliefs.   

Health Update

Another week where I’ve gained weight, despite lots of walking and visits to the gym.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it all comes down to diet.  Weight loss is overwhelmingly down to diet.  Exercise is great for general health, but you can’t exercise away a bad diet.  For example, an hour of lifting weights (depending on your body composition and intensity of workout) will burn anywhere from 100-300 calories.  However, a grande latte from Starbucks contains 190 calories.  If you add a muffin to that, you’re looking at a total of approximately 600 calories.  It’s so much easier to consume calories than to burn calories.  The vast majority of your calorie consumption comes from your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories your body burns at rest.  My BMR, depending on which calculator I use, is anywhere from 2,100 to 2,200 calories per day.  So, as I mentioned before, it’s difficult to exercise away a bad diet when a couple of chocolate digestives provide the calorie content to fuel an intense gym session.

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,994.57 (up £595.57 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £221,248.57 (up £595.57 from last update).

Credit Card: £513.61 (down £21.39 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,456.43 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,970.04 (down £21.39 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £78,278.53 (up £616.96 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £161.36 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

The stock market has shown more improvement in the past week, which has helped take my total wealth figure to the highest it has been since I started this blog.  The £80,000 mark is looming closer and I would love to pass that figure by the end of the year.  I doubt I will though, as when my BTL purchase completes some of my funds will disappear on legal fees and stamp duty.  If we see a sustained period of stock market growth, it could make up for the funds lost to the BTL but I’m not counting on it.  If we enter another general lockdown I can see the market declining again.  

Process vs Outcome

Although I talk a lot about outcomes, like hitting certain wealth milestones, it’s important to take a step back from time to time and remember that the process of investing is more important than the outcome.  I can’t control the outcome, in that I can’t control what the movement of stocks will be from one day to the next.  However, if I control the process of investing regularly and let pound-cost-averaging work its magic then I know that over the long-term, I will make money.  It can be difficult to separate the emotion from this though, as when you see the stock market tumble it can feel like you are losing money.  It’s important to remember that losses and gains are only realised when you sell.  Some of my stocks have dropped in value by 40%, but I’m still snapping those shares up because over time I believe they will recover and pound-cost-averaging means I’m getting more units for my money.  

If you concentrate on investing primarily as an outcome, then it’s too easy to get sucked in to checking stock values daily and stressing over market fluctuations.  It took me a long time to distance myself emotionally from my investments.  So, whilst I check my stock value weekly it is purely for tracking my wealth figure for this blog.  I find that checking the value, and writing this blog, is helping me stick to the process.  It keeps me on track.  

Focusing on designing and implementing an investment process means that the outcome will come about organically.  If you focus on the outcome it’s too easy to get drawn into bad practice such as speculative investments and gambling.  Then, once you are in that mindset it can lead to further destructive actions like chasing losses and “churning”, which is trading stocks too frequently, in the hope of catching a winner, which results in much of your investment being lost to fees and taxes.  

Investing should be regular, and largely automatic, once you have created a process that is appropriate for your strategy and risk profile.  

Thank you for reading, and if you have enjoyed this blog please share it on social media.  My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Part 49

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  A short post this week due to my mental health resulting in a bad case of writer’s block.  

Quote of the Week

There is a tendency for people to attribute their own success to their own ability, with their failures attributed to bad luck or circumstance.  However, when assessing the behaviour of others we have a tendency to do the opposite. 

This can be a dangerous cognitive bias when people are in difficult situations. It’s also a common problem with compulsive gamblers as they attribute successful bets to their own judgement but losing bets are put down to bad luck. 

In life it is wise to have plans in place for when things go wrong, because things will go wrong at some point.  This doesn’t make you a negative person. Having plans in place allows you to maintain a positive outlook safe in the knowledge you have a safety net. 

My safety net was my Fuck It Fund. However, with interest rates being so low it did not make sense to keep a lot of liquid cash.  This doesn’t mean I have no safety net though. I have a credit card with a substantial credit limit which currently has over 95% of the credit unused. I also have stocks that can be sold in a dire emergency.  As interest rates increase I will start to allocate resources to my Fuck It Fund, but for now it makes more sense to put as much as I can into stocks to take advantage of pound-cost-averaging. 

Weekly Update

I am still off work. My mental health is not great and I’m trying to go easy on myself. I’m taking daily walks and listening to my audiobooks. Audible is a fantastic service. Although I still enjoy reading, listening to a well-narrated audiobook is a great pleasure.

This week I have had to face facts and admit that I’m not ready to sit my next exam for the financial advisor qualification.  As such, I have postponed the exam indefinitely.  I’m simply not in the right frame of mind.  I normally look forward to writing this blog each week, but in recent weeks I’ve found it more difficult to write and this week has been the worst case of writer’s block I’ve experienced.  

At the start of the week it would have been my Grandad’s 82nd birthday.  He passed away just over two-years ago leaving behind his wife, my Grandma, who he had been married to for decades.  They had an eventful life with my Grandad serving in the Royal Navy.  They spent many years living in Malta when he was serving aboard H.M.S. Surprise.  He was a strong man, and a hard worker.  He supported a large family and after he retired, my grandparents would spend a lot of time back in Malta where they had many happy memories.  He is missed greatly by myself and the rest of the family. 

Health Update

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’m aiming to get to 100kg by Christmas.  So far I’ve made absolutely no progress towards that goal despite stepping up my exercise.  It all comes down to diet, and unfortunately my diet at the moment is awful.  Some people turn to drink or other recreational drugs when they’re depressed or stressed.  I turn to comfort food, which in a way is just as harmful as some drugs.  If you overeat, you put on weight.  Putting on weight leads to obesity and this can lead to many serious health problems.  I know what I need to do, but I just can’t bring myself to stop snacking in the evening.

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £12,399.00 (up £439.54 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £220,653.00 (up £439.54 from last update).

Credit Card: £535.00 (down £104.06 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,456.43 (down £358.26 from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,991.43 (down £462.32 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £77,661.57 (up £901.86 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £161.36 (up £50.00 from last update) (target £2,000).

A good week with my assets increasing in value and my debts decreasing.  I think the stock market gains may be an anomaly, as I expect President Trump’s diagnosis of stupidity Covid may spook the markets.  I might be wrong, but uncertainty seldom leads to long-term gains in the market.  

I also won £50 on my Premium Bonds in October’s draw, which takes my winnings in 2020 to £150 in total.  It’s still a better return than what I would have earned in an instant access savings account considering I started the year with around £8,000 in Premium Bonds.  

Next week I will provide an update on my 2020 reading challenge and take a look back at the books I’ve finished in July, August and September.  

Final Notes

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great week.  If you enjoy Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, please share the blog on your social media.  If you have any questions, please get in touch on Twitter (@nowwelive01) or Instagram (@david_scothern), or leave a comment on this post.

Part 48

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I will talk a little about the Dunning-Kruger effect and how it relates to both the coronavirus pandemic and financial advice.

Quote of the Week

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people overestimate their ability or knowledge.  It explains how believing in your own ability or knowledge is not the same as having ability or knowledge.  We have all encountered people who seem to be overconfident or arrogant about their own ability.  Unfortunately, this can occasionally be dangerous and an example of this would be Donald Trump who continually promotes his own expertise on various subjects despite the evidence showing his complete incompetence.  

One of the negative consequences of the proliferation of knowledge through the internet is that many people believe themselves to be experts after a quick look on Wikipedia.  I’m a fan of Wikipedia; I think it is a fantastic tool that helps provide an overview of any subject I’m unfamiliar with.  It’s a starting point to learning though, and not the end.

The coronavirus has been a hot topic for almost a year now.  I’ve heard opinions on the pandemic from all angles and everyone from taxi drivers to bar staff, from professional athletes to shop assistants seem to think they know the answer, as do I.  The thing is, my opinion is not as valid as those opinions held by the medical experts, and neither are those opinions held by the taxi drivers or athletes.  

We are all entitled to our opinions but that does not mean our opinions are all equally valid, and this is something that a lot of people cannot accept.  We have been conditioned to believe all opinions are equal, and it’s eroding the concept of expert knowledge and respect for authority.  I’m not saying we should all blindly follow the orders of authority figures.  It’s right to question things, but it should always be with the understanding that we don’t know as much as we think we do.


Most of the time, the Dunning-Kruger effect is just a harmless cognitive bias but when it comes to things like a global pandemic it can be deadly.  I’m going to use the example of wearing face masks.  The effectiveness of face masks is debatable.  There are many different types of face mask which are effective to varying degrees.  I’ve heard people say things like “why do I need to wear a mask if everyone else is?” or “why do we need to socially distance if masks work?”  These are prime examples of people not understanding the difference between risk elimination and risk management, but they think that they know more than the experts who are recommending these measures.  Dunning-Kruger does not explain all of this resistance to authority.  Some people are just resistant to authority generally and if this overlaps with Dunning-Kruger it can be a perfect storm of ignorance and a misguided belief in one’s own expertise, whilst doing the opposite of what one’s told just because it’s contrary to the advice of the authority.  

Coming back to face masks for a moment.  Face masks are not going to protect people from coronavirus completely.  They offer some protection.  This protection is enhanced if more people wear masks; the more people wearing masks, the greater the protection to society.  If masks are combined with social distancing, the protection is increased further.  The risk is never eliminated completely as that is not possible.  The more barriers you erect, the more protection you have.  It’s that simple.

Weekly Update

I’m still off work as I’m not right mentally yet.  I’m having difficulty sleeping and concentrating.  Just writing this week’s blog is an effort, whereas it is usually something I look forward to.  I have been keeping up with the gym though, and I set myself a goal last week of walking at least 10,000 steps a day.  I managed to do that Sunday through to Saturday but then my knee started aching, so I’m having a break from that for a day or so.  

I have my next exam coming up for my financial advisor qualification but I’ve postponed it as I can’t concentrate on my studies either.  I’ve been spending a lot of my free time listening to audiobooks, playing BlockuDoku on my iPhone or watching Deep Space Nine on Netflix.  I’m not the sort of person that is generally happy to just sit around and do nothing, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to do anything more productive right now.  I think I need to learn to not feel bad about feeling bad.  

Health Update

I’m not managing to lose any weight despite all my exercise but to be fair, my diet is not what it could be.  I need to get a handle on my diet and it’s generally fine through the day.  However, once we get to around 8pm, it’s like I feel the need to snack.  It’s frustrating but I don’t know what the key is.  

As regular readers, and those who know me well, will know, I have had a long history of physical and mental health problems.  In recent years I’ve started to believe that there must be an underlying cause that explains the myriad of health issues I’ve experienced.  I think I may have found that unifying cause but I need to investigate it further and seek medical advice, as there’s nothing worse than self-diagnosing via Doctor Google.  

When I know more, I may talk about it here but I do think that there are limits to how transparent a blog should be.  I’m also conscious that this is a blog primarily looking at finance and investment, and it’s not a health blog.  

Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £11,959.46 (down £225.74 from last update).

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

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £220,213.46 (down £225.74 from last update).

Credit Card: £639.06 (up £639.06 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,814.69 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £143,453.75 (up £639.06 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £76,759.71 (down £864.80 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £111.36 (no change from last update) (target £2,000).

A huge drop in my Total Wealth this week which is mostly down to the fact my credit card balance has increased.  There are two factors behind this; first of all I’ve not paid the card off as I just didn’t get around to it.  There is some normal day-to-day spending on there which I normally pay off right away, so that will be corrected for next week.  However, there is a second factor which is that I’ve had to replace my Nespresso machine.  My trusty Nespresso Expert machine has broken down beyond repair and I’ve replaced it with the Atelier machine.  I didn’t plan on replacing the machine just yet, but coffee is one of the few vices I have and the idea of going more than a day or two with coffee filled with me a cold dread.  I love the new machine though.  It looks fantastic and the coffee it makes tastes great.

The stock market continues to plod along.  In the last few months I’ve invested over £2,000 into my ISA but the value of the ISA has actually decreased.  It’s not a major concern right now, as I’m still accumulating units and when the market recovers, my gains will be realised.  I will need the market to recover at some point in the next few years if I’m to stay on track to retire by age 40 though.  

Dunning-Kruger and Money

A few days ago someone mentioned that I would be better off using my savings to pay down my mortgage. This is another example of Dunning-Kruger in action. This person was not in full receipt of all the facts, such as the fact my current mortgage rate is 0.1%. A rate that low is practically unheard of, and so it makes more sense to keep my money invested where I can get a better return. 

There is a lot of uninformed advice out there in the financial world. In this blog, I try to stay clear of giving specific advice and instead aim to educate and give general guidance.  The key point to all this is that no one knows as much as they think they do, myself included. 

I’m hoping that within the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to confirm that our BTL purchase has completed.  Other than that, I’m afraid that’s all I have for now.  

Final Notes

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great week.  If you enjoy Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, please share the blog on your social media.  If you have any questions, please get in touch on Twitter (@nowwelive01) or Instagram (@david_scothern), or leave a comment on this post.