Remortgage

If there is one word that will make a mortgage advisor put their head in their hands, it’s when someone says “remortgage”, because almost every single time the word is misused.  

Things I’ve heard the word remortgage used to describe:

  • Borrow more money on an existing mortgage with no home move involved.
  • Switching to a new interest rate.
  • Changing the names on the mortgage account, because of marriage or some other life event.
  • Change of address as selling property and moving to another address (note: person not aware this requires more information as it could involve redeeming the mortgage, taking a new mortgage on a new property, or it could just be setting up a correspondence address).
  • Changing to a BTL mortgage.
  • In some cases, the person has not even known what they meant when using the word.

What does remortgage mean?

According to HSBC:

“If your mortgage is with another lender, easily move it to HSBC and you could get a better deal.”

According to Natwest:

“A remortgage is when you change the mortgage you currently have on your property, by moving it to a new lender.”

According to Barclays:

“Remortgaging means moving your mortgage to a new lender while staying in the same property. Our guide can help you decide if it’s right for you.” 

According to Santander:

Well, their website isn’t great but the term remortgage is used in the context of “remortgage to us” (i.e. to Santander from another lender).

As you can see from these examples, there is a broad amount of consistency with respect to the definition of the term remortgage.  

Why is this important to me?  Why is it important to you?

“Words have power.” ~ Darren Scothern

“Words have the power to both destroy and heal.  When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.” ~ Buddha

“There is power in words.  What you say is what you get.” ~ Zig Ziglar

In short, say what you mean or else people will think you mean what you say.  

The economy is in a bad state right now due to, well, **gestures vaguely at the Tory Party**

Also, the media have to shoulder some of the blame.  A quick glance through articles on The Guardian, the BBC, and This Is Money (don’t judge me, it was one of the few sites that isn’t hidden behind a paywall) all use remortgage incorrectly.  It’s almost as though people are being fed bullshit deliberately, but I’ve not got my conspiracy theorist hat on right now.  

All this brings me to my next point about words having power.  There’s been talk of “mortgage offers being withdrawn”, which is not strictly speaking true.  A mortgage offer is issued when the lender is satisfied with all the necessary checks on you, your income, and the property.  Offers can be withdrawn, but are generally valid for a few months (the exact length of time can vary according to a number of factors).  However, when you look at some of the news stories in recent days that mention “mortgage offers being withdrawn”, they either mean products have been removed from circulation (interest rates the lender were willing to grant to customers are no longer available) or the borrower had approached the lender to see what deals were available, before going away to think about it.  None of these are “mortgage offers”, and by not clarifying this point the media is complicit in whipping up a frenzy of panic amongst customers.

It might be the autistic in me but I swear when I hear terms being used incorrectly my blood pressure spikes.  

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Part 153

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  Well, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for some investors, and the mortgage industry is going crazy.  I discuss this, and how it impacts on my BTL plans.  Also, another look at spoon theory in the context of the knife hypothesis (I’m not making this up, honest).  Finally, a frustrating week of medical appointments and visits to hospital.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I’ve talked about Spoon Theory before, but I’ve only recently heard of The Knife Hypothesis (TKH).  Before I discuss the latter, I’ll just quickly recap the former.

Spoon theory comes from the idea that we all have a reserve of spoons each day.  The amount can vary depending on a range of factors, but for this example I’ll assume I’ve got 10 spoons.  Whenever we do something, we use up spoons.  Cooking a meal from scratch might use three spoons.  Making a call to your mortgage provider might use five spoons.  Eventually, you run out of spoons.  I’ve heard people talk about spoon deficit before, and TKH takes this idea and develops it further.  Once you’ve run out of spoons, you reach into the drawer and find only knives. 

Now, knives have their purpose and can sometimes be used for other things.  For example, you might use a knife to scoop out peanut butter but if you lick the knife you risk cutting yourself, whereas if you had licked the spoon the risk is lower.  So, TKH suggests that you can use knives to some degree but as they are not the optimal tool for daily activity you risk hurting yourself and others.  If you need a spoon but you only have a knife, then you really need to get more spoons.  Frustratingly the only tried and tested way to replenish spoons is to rest, and for autistics it involves finding a place that allows for relaxation and recuperation.  

Things that help me recover faster:

  • External quiet; little to no noise distractions.
  • Escaping to another world through a good audiobook or physical book.
  • Going down a Youtube/Wikipedia rabbit hole on a subject that’s interesting to me.  (Lately this has been analysing the logistical problems facing the Russian military in Ukraine).  

Things that stop me recovering:

  • Being distracted by competing demands for my attention.
  • Other senses being activated because of a funky smell or an uncomfortable texture of clothing, or an uncomfortable temperature. 
  • Knowing there are things that need doing, but not being able to face them because I’m out of spoons.

It can be a catch-22 situation; not having the spoons to do something, but not being able to recover them because you feel under pressure due to the things that need doing.

It has felt, in recent weeks, like I’ve been running on empty, or living in a spoon deficit.  If you stay too long in a deficit, it only leads to one thing – burnout.  I’m not talking about being shattered and having a good meal and sleep sorting you out.  I’m talking about a state of burnout that leaves you damaged in a way that you can never fully recover from.  

I’ve likened this situation, complete burnout I mean, to a flood.  Imagine you have a large river, and the river is dammed.  On either side of the river is farmland.  The farmland represents your physical and mental health.  The river represents the demands of daily life.  The dam is your ability to deal with with the demands of life.  In an ideal world, the flow of water is fairly stable and constant, with only minor surges here and there.  A fully functional dam is able to open and close valves to make sure the flow of water is constant, which in turn helps the farmland remain fertile.

If there is a period of heavy rain, then the river starts to surge.  The dam would then be utilised to make sure that the surge does not destroy the farmland down river.  However, if the rain comes down at a rate that exceeds the dam’s ability to control the flow of water, then the water backs up.  If this continues for long enough, the dam will start to crack.  Eventually, the dam bursts and a wall of water will race down river destroying everything in its path. 

Every person is unique; their river, farmland, dam, and so on are all different.  Some people are able to be very flexible in what they can deal with.  Other people are not.  Taking this idea on a step further, if your dam breaks and the farmland is destroyed, for many people they never fully recover the land that was lost.  Is this a perfect metaphor?  No.  I think it’s a pretty simple way to visualise how people can be overwhelmed, and how people may not always fully recover from trauma.  

Weekly Update

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve been to the hospital every day.  I had an appointment for some x-rays on my hands to investigate why my joints all hurt.  I also sliced into my thumb with a new knife whilst chopping tomatoes.  As it wouldn’t stop bleeding I rocked up at the minor injuries unit for them to stitch me back together.  I also made a few attempts to get some blood tests done via the walk-in service at the hospital.  However, the queue was very long each time I went, so I had to try again.  The idea of waiting in a cramped room for almost two hours where it’s noisy and warm… No.  Just no.  

I’m a bit pissed off as I’ve been unable to do any significant exercise with all of this going on.  The stress has led to more stress, as when I’m stressed, I get stressed about being stressed and it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.  I recently had a few other medical appointments, including my flu vaccine and covid booster.  Now that these vaccines are done, I’m hoping to not have to attend any other medical appointments in person for a while.

On Friday afternoon I had a further medical appointment.  It was the one that should have happened the week before where they had my name and date of birth wrong.  The call was, if I’m being polite, frustrating.  This call relates to a referral made on my behalf.  The person who made the referral wrote a detailed overview of the reasons for the referral.  You would expect that the person receiving the referral would have familiarised themselves with the report prior to the call.  However, the first 15-20 minutes of the call was the person reading the report whilst mumbling to themselves.  Following this, they put me on hold whilst they read the notes of a previous discussion I had with their service last year.  It was half an hour in before we actually started talking about the issues at hand, and at this point, I was not fully engaged with the process as I was just thinking, “surely there’s a more efficient way of doing this.”  The person I was speaking to further alienated me from the process by arguing, in a pretty hostile way, that self-diagnosis of autism is not valid.

To be clear, many autistic people can’t access the resources needed to get a formal diagnosis from a medical professional.  This can be due to the financial, emotional, and cognitive cost (it’s a stressful process, exacerbated if you need to fund it yourself).  Self-diagnosing is not something that autistic people tend to just do on a whim.  Almost every account I’ve read involves a person undertaking a lengthy personal journey of introspection.  The realisation of one’s own neurodivergence is not always a sudden, lightbulb, moment.  To claim that self-diagnosis, or self-identification, as autistic is not valid is insulting and ignorant. It was even more absurd to argue this point because I have a diagnosis from a medical professional, not that it should matter.

At this point, I was ready to just end the call but I stuck it out.  Unfortunately, the process left me completely drained and feeling worse than before I had the call.  It might result in some benefit later down the line, but I’m just not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze.  Thinking back, it’s a really strange hill for this person to die on, but it wasn’t the only one they chose to make a stand on.  We spoke about the next appointment I have with my GP, which is in a couple of weeks for a review of my medications.  This requires a specific type of appointment.  I told them when my appointment was, and the person stated I needed an earlier appointment.  I explained this was the first appointment they had.  I found it strange that this person felt it necessary to argue that it wasn’t the first appointment they had, considering they have nothing to do with my GP practice.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 124.3kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (20/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅
  11. Edward Aubry ✅
  12. Marina J. Lostetter ✅
  13. S. J. Morden ✅
  14. C. J. Tudor ✅
  15. Greer Hendricks ✅
  16. Clare Mackintosh ✅
  17. Stephen Baxter ✅
  18. Pete Wharmby ✅
  19. Devon Price ✅
  20. Nick Jones ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Good Samaritan by John Marrs.

What I’m listening to: The Shadows of London: Joseph Bridgeman Book 2 by Nick Jones.

What I’m watching: MCU in timeline order.

I really enjoyed the first Joseph Bridgeman book, And Then She Vanished, but the second book feels a bit forced so far.  I’ll give it a chance though, as I’m only very early into it.  The premise of the first book is that Joe, the protagonist, is looking after his younger sister one day.  She goes missing and is not found.  Fast forward twenty years into the future, and Joe is a mess.  During therapy, he discovers he can time travel.  From that point, he sets out to try and save his sister.  

The MCU marathon is in the home straight.  We’ve finished the Infinity Saga, and in the last few days have watched Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals.  Both were dull, and in some parts just cringeworthy.  As I see it there are three main problems facing the MCU at the moment; 

  1. Too much humour.
  2. Poor villains.
  3. Awful special effects.

Having watched the MCU in order in a relatively short period, you can spot where the humour starts to go wrong.  Thor: Ragnarok is a great film.  It refreshed the character of Thor, had a great aesthetic, and some great character moments.  Granted, the villain was still poor, but it’s easy to see why it has over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Around this time, the MCU peaked with Black Panther and Infinity War.  Endgame was still great, but the cracks were starting to show.  Fat Thor was divisive, and in my opinion a poor, childish, attempt at humour.  Following Endgame we’ve had the following films:

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • Black Widow
  • Shang-Chi
  • Eternals
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • Thor: Love and Thunder

The two Spider-Man films were decent-to-good.  Black Widow was, if I’m being generous, pointless.  If I’m being harsh, it was a mess.  The visual effects were so poor as to be distracting, and this issue was repeated in Shang-Chi where it was obvious that the characters in many scenes were simply standing in front of a screen displaying a background.  I’m sure there are many talented people working in the VFX department for Marvel, but a quick Google-fu suggests that these people are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.  It shows.

Here we have Florence Pugh in front of a screen showing the sky. I swear this is worse than the Power Rangers effects back in the early 90s.

I really wanted to like Thor: Love and Thunder, but I think it’s actually the worst entry to the MCU so far; yes, worse than The Dark World.  It was insultingly bad and created several plot holes that retroactively cheapen Infinity War and Endgame.  When I look back at the recent MCU releases, you have to back over ten films for the last “great” movie; Infinity War.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £9,700.00 (+ £4,200.00). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £58,779.95 (-£4,844.24). 

Fuck It Fund: £1,050.00 (no change).

Pensions: £53,334.62 (+£383.56). 

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

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

Total Assets: £499,899.57 (-£260.68).

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Residential Mortgage: £181,721.51 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,301.46 (no change). 

Total Debts: £287,022.97 (no change). 

Total Wealth: £212,876.60 (-£260.68)

Investment Income in 2022: £4,280.87 (target £6,000).

Since the mini-budget a couple of weeks ago my ISA has lost more than 10% of its value.  It will bounce back in time but it’s still annoying.  Our BTL plans are on hold until the housing market and mortgage industry settles down.  It’s insane how a few utterly incompetent people can fuck the economy so much.  If you missed it, you can click here for my midweek blog on interest rates and the Tory shitshow.

Until the dust settles the plan is simple; pay down debts and save any spare cash in Premium Bonds until the ISA window opens in April.

If you are looking at buying a property and/or increasing your mortgage debt, I would think long and hard about whether it’s a good time to do it.  Take some time out to carefully review your finances, and speak with a financial professional who understands your needs and circumstances.  In this type of economic climate the worst thing you can do is engage in kneejerk reactions.

Also, if you are hearing advice from talking heads on TV, radio, or the internet, ask yourself what their agenda could be.  During periods of instability, such as this, there are opportunities for people to become very wealthy.  A cynical person vulnerable to conspiracy thinking might feel like this clusterfuck was manufactured deliberately to facilitate a transfer of wealth from the general public to those in power.  It’s happened before, is all I’m saying.  

That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

More Interest Rate Shocks

Apparently, traders are referring to Liz Truss as “Daggers”, as in Dagenham, which is two stops after Barking.  It’s also rumoured that there have been letters of no confidence submitted against Truss who is less than a month into her spell as Prime Minister.  We used to joke about being two Leeds managers away from Christmas, but it seems we can amend the joke now as the UK faces further chaos and embarrassment.  What prompted all this, though?

The new-look government announced a “mini-budget” on 23/09 which led to the collapse of the £ against the $.  This is bad for our economy as we import a lot of stuff paid for in $.  If the £ can’t buy as many $ then we get less bang for our buck, so to speak.  It seems that not a month goes by without me pointing at something the Tory government has done, whilst shouting, “look, I told you they’re evil” but it seems the louder I shout, the less people listen.  

Time for a little detour… Imagine you are back at school and getting ready to sit an important exam.  You have a general idea of what to expect, but nothing more.  You study hard and achieve a decent mark.  However, one of your fellow students (who happens to be the son of the head teacher’s best friend) nailed the exam and got 100%.  Due to hitting such a high mark, this student received a bursary of £2,000 which doesn’t have to be paid back.  You later hear rumours that the head teacher leaked the exam questions to their friend, who in turn passed them to their son.  This is a messed-up situation, I’m sure you’d agree.  

Let’s look at another situation.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer is creating a new budget for the UK.  There are some concerns that the policies contained in this budget will result in the £ crashing.  There are rumours that the policies set out in the budget have been leaked, and that high-rolling traders, dealers, and investors are aware that the £ is likely to crash.  There is a flurry of activity where hedge funds short the £ (meaning they bet on the £ losing value).  Why aren’t more people absolutely raging about this?

In addition to the £ falling in value, and the stock market taking a hit, interest rates on mortgages are also being impacted.  There’s been a series of news reports suggesting hundreds of mortgage deals have been removed from the market.  There’s also talk of an emergency meeting of the MPC to raise interest rates again, before the next scheduled meeting.  Some have suggested the base rate could exceed 4% by the end of 2022, and 6% by next summer.  Should increases happen along these lines, then the UK risks an economic crisis the likes of which we’ve not seen for a long, long time.

This is what my residential mortgage looks like:

I always knew that low rates would not stick around forever, but even I had not expected the Tories to fuck the country so hard that we’d see rates go this high, this soon. Initially, I thought that the best way to tackle my mortgage would be to increase our payments to bring the balance down faster. However, on reflection, I think it’s best to do the opposite.

My plan now is to extend the mortgage term as far out as possible, which will bring the monthly payment down. Once this completes, I can then make overpayments that target specific parts of the mortgage. Using the avalanche method of debt repayment, I’d assign the overpayment to whichever part of the mortgage is going to increase first, and then the next one, and so on.

My thoughts are to tackle sub-account 9 first, then sub-account 10. The scary thing is the bulk of the mortgage that sits on 0.81% at the moment. When my various rates come to an end, the reversionary variable rate is now 5.74%. Assuming the whole mortgage reverted to this rate, our payments would more than double. Yes, we can look for a new deal at that time, and fixed rates are generally lower than the reversionary rate, but if rates continue to increase we could be faced with fixed rates that are higher than the current reversionary rate.

Once we’ve cleared 9 and 10, I’m thinking it might be best to start paying down the smaller sub-accounts so that the mortgage looks a little, well, cleaner.

What can you do?

My plans and thoughts are just that; mine. I have no idea what your circumstances are, or how you feel about financial risk. Whether you are concerned or not, I would strongly advise you to take some time to look through your mortgage. Familiarise yourself with how it is set up, and when your rates are likely to change. Speak with your lender, or a qualified mortgage professional, who can go through your mortgage, finances, and personal circumstances. The key thing is to be proactive, and not reactive. If you wait to see what happens with the market and interest rates in the news, it’s already too late as rates will have increased.

In times such as these, it’s important to remember that this climate of economic mismanagement will not last forever. Eventually, things will get better; it’s just part of the cycle of boom and bust. I suspect the government will have no choice but to scale back their economic policy, which will probably bring this government down. Several international organisations, such as the IMF, have criticised the actions of this government. This is huge news, and I think we’ll start to see some backtracking from Truss and Kwarteng in days, rather than weeks.

As always, keep calm and assess your own situation. Don’t make rash decisions that can’t be undone. Speak with your lender about your mortgage. Take stock of your finances, and perhaps most importantly, don’t bottle up your stress, fear, and worry.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please share on social media. If you want to support the costs of running this site, you can make a donation by clicking the image below.

Part 152

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the rise in interest rates, and the impact on the BTL market.  Also, I discuss autistic masking, and the brilliant book on autism by Pete Wharmby.  

Quote of the Week

“Autistic burnout is the complete collapse of interest in living.”

~ Pete Wharmby

I lived more than 30 years masking without realising I’m autistic.  Since unmasking, and engaging with the Actually Autistic community, so much of my past has fallen into place.  It seems that every week I find something out, which makes me think of my past and the penny drops.  There are some fantastic resources out there for autistics, and those wanting to know more about autism, such as my Dad’s blog.  Through my Dad I began following Pete Wharmby on Twitter.  He’s a former teacher and autism communicator.  From what I can tell he’s about my age, and he’s just released a book; What I Want To Talk About.  I finished this book in less than a day.  It blew my mind.  For extended periods of the book I felt like I was reading my biography.  It was at times funny, harrowing, upsetting, and insightful.  I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a tear or two as parts of my past were brought to the surface.  Anyone who wants a better understanding of the struggles autistic people go through simply existing in our world should read this book.

It’s not a biography despite having biographical elements.  Pete instead talks about the things that interest him; things he has been fixated on in his life, as one thing that seems to be common amongst many autistics is a tendency to retreat into hobbies, activities, or other things that interest them.  This is a level or two above just being interested in something, it’s not quite an obsession, but it’s close.  Acting in this way is a refuge for many autistics from the world.  It’s a chance to feel safe, secure, and shielded from the stress and anxiety of just being.  Due to the nature of these types of hyperfixations, autistic people can find themselves mocked for their interests, with many typical interests being seen as uncool, for example, having an interest in trains, or Lego, or professional wrestling, or science fiction and fantasy.  

One thing that clicked in my head reading Pete’s book, and listening to him describe his fixation on Star Wars, for example, is that things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Transformers, professional wrestling, and superhero stories like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is that at their core the stories are simple.  Yes, there may be twists and turns in the plot, with characters going through their own personal journeys, but when you break it down, the one thing they have in common is a simple battle of good versus evil.  These stories exist in their own, self-contained, reality and you know that it’s a story of good versus evil, and that it’s psychologically, emotionally, mentally safe.  This is probably, in some part, due to the fact we don’t have to worry about the complex nature of communication with neurotypical people, and all the physical and social cues that autistic people miss or just don’t understand.

For a long time I had to hide my uncool interest in things like Star Trek, or professional wrestling, because people would mock me for it.  This happened from a young age, all the way through school, and to some extent to present day.  The tragic thing is, for an autistic person, when you do this it is not just “gentle ribbing”.  Even something that a neurotypical person might thing is a small joke can make an autistic person feel hugely self-conscious, and it destroys the shelter they have from the outside world that is constantly pushing in on them from every direction.  If you know an autistic person, and they have an interest that you think is uncool, such as Star Wars, or cartoons, or professional wrestling, if you care about them, don’t demean their interests, even if you think it’s just a small joke.  You have no idea the damage it does to that autistic person.  They might fake a smile and a laugh, because that’s what they’ve had drilled into them since childhood; it’s all a part of masking, but inside that person will be suffering.  Let them enjoy their topic of interest; it does you no harm, and it’s not just a form of passing the time for the autistic person.  For them, it’s shelter.  It’s emotional safety.  It can be the sole thing that brings some joy to their life.  It can literally be the thing that saves their life.  

Oh, you’re being dramatic!

Depending on where you look the average life expectancy of an autistic person is anywhere from 36 years old to 54 years old.  Rates of suicide are much, much higher in autistic people than neurotypical people.  This is the thing, for autistic people, living in this world comes with constant level of stress and anxiety.  The safe shelters for us can be few and far between.  So just let us take what pleasure we can in the things that interest us, and if you’re going to make comments about it, just remember that your comment might just be nudging that autistic person closer to the edge of just giving up.  If you know an autistic person, just give them the space to take what pleasure they can without making them feel self-conscious about it.  Ask yourself, if you are going to make a “jokey” or “piss take” comment, what do I get out of this? If the answer is “a laugh” then you are just a cunt; it’s that simple.  Taking pleasure out of making someone else miserable is about the shittiest thing you can do in life.

/ end rant.

Weekly Update

I was supposed to have a medical appointment this week as part of an ongoing referral into some of the long-standing health issues I have.  As this was being done with a third-party my information was transferred across to this other organisation.  In this transfer, a couple of things went wrong (it happens, no big deal).  My date of birth was wrong by one digit and my surname had been subjected to an overly enthusiastic piece of spellchecking software.  I was supposed to get the phone call at 13:30.  My phone rang at 13:14.

Me: Hello

Them: Is that David Southern?

Me: It’s David Scothern.

Them: Oh, I think we have the wrong number luvvie.

Me: You probably have the right number but the wrong name.  Is this regarding XYZ?

Them: Yes luvvie.

Me: Ok, well I’ve emailed you a few days ago to correct my name.  There was also an issue with my date of birth.

Them: Oh, ok luvvie.  Well we’ll have to send this back to the admin team and then arrange another appointment.

Me: Why? There’s a clear audit trail and the errors are obviously typos.  It’s not like you have Daniel Scotland on your end, is it?

Them: Well luvvie it’s all to do with data protection.

Me: What do you mean?

Them: Data protection… So, is that ok luvvie?

Me: No.

Them: …

Me: …

Them: … what do you mean no?

Me: You asked me if it’s ok that you can’t help me now due to a simple mix up.  I’m telling you it’s not ok. 

Them: …

Me: …

Them: … well I have a nursing licence…

Me: That’s great.  Still doesn’t mean it’s ok.

I ended up just saying I wasn’t prepared to go around in circles anymore, especially as they had called ahead of time when it wasn’t exactly convenient.  To be clear, I’m not annoyed at the typos in my info; this sort of thing happens.  I rarely have an issue with a mistake being made, so long as the resolution is appropriate.  In this example, the resolution wasn’t ok.  It was just someone following a process without using any discretion or common sense.  

There seems to be a growing issue with companies being incapable of getting even the most basic things right.  I’ve posted in recent weeks regarding the issues with Ikea.  Well, I now have several different problems ongoing with Amazon and some third-party sellers.  We bought a rowing machine as we now have much more room following the works to our home.  I was told that the delivery would come on Monday via DPD but that wasn’t convenient, so I asked for it to come on Tuesday.  I received confirmation this was ok.  The delivery happened without incident, but when I opened up the box half of the parts for the rower were missing.  It turns out it is shipped in three packages that all arrive on different days.  I raised this issue with the seller, and their first move was to offer a 50% refund.  I’m not going to turn down such an offer, but I was surprised at how quickly this escalated.  Ikea offered £170 as a refund on an order of approximately £5k, and most of the stuff Ikea supplied was faulty.  Some random seller is giving me £300 back on a £600 rower.  

Now for the frustrating parts of dealing with Amazon.  We ordered a storage unit via a third-party seller we’ve used before.  The item was faulty.  Amazon have changed some of their policies recently, so rather than arranging collection of the item, they require you to sort this out yourself, and they then refund you.  I spoke with the seller directly and they said they would arrange a courier instead, and the courier would have all the necessary labels.  The courier didn’t turn up on the expected day, so I went back to the seller and explained I was unhappy.  The first thing the next day the courier buzzed our flat.  I took the item down and confirmed they had all the labels.  That was a month ago.  The item is lost, according to the courier.  The seller will not refund as they don’t have the item.  I’m pretty annoyed as it’s £50 we’re out because of this.  The box will be sitting in some corner of a warehouse collecting dust, and will probably be noticed months down the line.

Even Google knows what the score is…

We bought another item from a different seller, and delivery was due on Friday.  I happened to be looking at my phone when an alert came up saying the item had been delivered.  However, our buzzer didn’t go off.  I went to the postroom immediately but the item was not there.  I asked the seller what was going on and they sent a blurry image of some boxes in our post room.

Within a few minutes of the item being delivered, it was stolen.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the driver had something to do with it, as it’s the same courier who lost my other parcel.

I’m now done with third-party sellers on Amazon.  In addition to the examples I’ve given, we’ve had a lot more, minor, issues regarding product quality.  It’s just not worth the risk. 

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 124.8kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (18/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅
  11. Edward Aubry ✅
  12. Marina J. Lostetter ✅
  13. S. J. Morden ✅
  14. C. J. Tudor ✅
  15. Greer Hendricks ✅
  16. Clare Mackintosh ✅
  17. Stephen Baxter ✅
  18. Pete Wharmby ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Pretending by Holly Bourne.

What I’m listening to: – between books at the moment.

What I’m watching: MCU in timeline order. 

I’m finding Pretending by Holly Bourne fascinating.  It’s probably more aimed at women, but my girlfriend enjoyed it so I figured I’d give it a go as I was stuck for an actual book to read.  The book tells the story of a young woman who was raped by a previous boyfriend.  She now works for a charity dealing with sexual violence, and is struggling to understand men.  It’s quite harrowing but it keeps you turning the page. Our MCU adventure continues and we’ve recently finished Endgame, and have started the What If? series.  We’ve only watched the first episode, Captain Carter, and it was good fun.  The premise is what if Peggy Carter was given the supersolider treatment instead of Steve Rogers.  I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £5,500.00 (+ £1,500.00). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £63,624.19 (-£1,664.93). 

Fuck It Fund: £1,050.00 (+£50.00).

Pensions: £52,951.06 (-£1,216.46). 

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

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

Total Assets: £500,160.25 (-£1,331.39).

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Residential Mortgage: £181,721.51 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,301.46 (no change). 

Total Debts: £287,022.97 (no change). 

Total Wealth: £213,137.28 (-£1,331.39)

Investment Income in 2022: £4,280.70 (target £6,000).

Is BTL Dead?

This week saw the Bank of England raise the base rate by another 0.5%.  This was less than the expected 0.75% increase, but it still sees interest rates at their highest level in almost two decades.  This has impacted the rates available for BTL.  When we bought our first BTL, we were able to secure a rate just over 2%.  Now, for the same type of set up, we’d be looking at 4.5% – 5.5%.  If we were paying that level of interest on our current rental property, we’d be losing money.  Rents will increase, but it will take longer and it will not happen to the same degree.  Low interest rates were always a temporary thing, but back in 2019/2020 I didn’t think they’d increase so much, so soon.  However, a coming together of several once-in-a-generation events all at the same time has hammered the economy.  If we’d had competent government we may have rode this storm out, but instead of competence we have the Tories.  

I suspect that for the next couple of years, BTL is probably not going to be a profitable type of investment.  This is a minor point compared to the trouble I think many will face in coming months.  If you bought a property a couple of years ago, and went for the maximum you could borrow at that point, you could be looking at rates much higher than you hoped for.  Back in 2019/2020 there were rates for those buying a property at around 1%-1.5%.  Even with a reasonable loan-to-value, it’s looking like many people switching deals will be lucky to get anything lower than 3.5%.  I was speaking to a friend who is an independent broker about BTL rates, and he was telling me there are some lenders offering rates over 8%.  

Things will stablilse and correct themselves in time, but I think we will soon see falling house prices as supply starts to outstrip demand.  It’s a simple conclusion; many relationships break down over money.  Many couples will have bought a home, and find they are struggling to meet the payments.  This stress leads to break ups and more properties go on the market.  Eventually, rates will come down to encourage spending and the cycle starts again.  

If you are worried about affording your mortgage payments, speak to your lender as soon as possible.  Be open, and honest, about your situation.  The more information you give, the more likely you are to receive help and support.

Until the market settles down, I’ll be pausing my search for more BTL properties.  BTL isn’t dead; it’s just having a snooze.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Part 151

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A brief look at what is meant by free speech.  Also, a potential development in the search for our second BTL, and some thoughts on credit cards and the rewards on offer.  

Quote of the week

“Freedom of speech means I can say what I want.”

Freedom of speech, free speech, whatever you want to call it is not the same as being able to say whatever you want without consequence.  For ease of conversation, we talk about free speech but most people acknowledge that this does not mean you can just go into a bar and start shouting racist words.  There are limits to free speech, and those limits change over time as our culture and society change.

I’m not a fan of the monarchy or a supporter of any monarchy.  Some people are, and that’s their right.  Whilst I’m not a royalist, I wouldn’t go to a memorial and start shouting abuse at those who are royalists.  Why? Well, it’s a bit of a shitty thing to do, and it’s only going to cause trouble, and possibly result in violence.  There are limits to what is covered by free speech, and those limits are where free speech puts people at risk of harm, or attacks characteristics such as race, gender, and political leanings, to name just a few.  

There was an incident whilst I was away in Paris, where some guy says he stumbled upon an event to mark the accession of Charles to King.  He started shouting “not my king”.  He was then moved on by the police.  His supporters state that he shouldn’t have been arrested for exercising free speech.  It’s not that simple.  Look at what happened to the guy who shouted abuse at Prince Andrew; it nearly resulted in a punch-up.  Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.  If you go to a gathering of people and start shouting abuse, then you can’t go all Surprised Pikachu when you get confronted for it.  Basically, fuck around and find out.

The thing about free speech is that it does not exist in a vacuum.  Our values change over time, and so do our laws.  Determining what is right and wrong is not always easy.  We’re not talking about people protesting an oppressive regime, or trying to stop civil rights from being curtailed across a whole section of the population.  We’re talking about a grieving family, and a large proportion of the country, and the world, are also grieving.  

There’s a time and a place to protest the monarchy.  The time is literally any other time apart from now.  Why? Because it’s the decent thing to do, and there’s nothing to boast about putting our police, security, and emergency services under even more strain at this time.  

Weekly Update

After coming back from Paris I felt like I needed a holiday.  The trip was not restful or relaxing in the slightest.  Also, I’ve not felt great this week physically with a few of my long-term health problems flaring up.  We picked Poppy up from the cattery and she was so well behaved.  She got right in her carry case as soon as we arrived.  She’s settled back in at home with no fuss.

My girlfriend had this week off before returning to work after the bank holiday and she’s done a great job organising all the new furniture.  We’ve made a little progress with Ikea, but their approach to work continues to plumb new depths of incompetence.

Last week I mentioned I’d received a tip regarding a property going up for sale.  I went to view the property with my investment partner, and it has potential.  There are some obvious, minor, works that need completing, and there are some doubts about the boiler and wiring.  However, we think the numbers could still stack up even if the boiler and wiring need replacing.  It’s just a question of whether the vendor will accept our offer.  

In a post last year I highlighted some of the birthday cards my girlfriend had made for me over the years.  This year’s card is below and features our little Poppy.  Although it wasn’t a card made from scratch, I still love it.  

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 124.8kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (16/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅
  11. Edward Aubry ✅
  12. Marina J. Lostetter ✅
  13. S. J. Morden ✅
  14. C. J. Tudor ✅
  15. Greer Hendricks ✅
  16. Clare Mackintosh ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: 

What I’m listening to: Proxima by Stephen Baxter.

What I’m watching: MCU in timeline order. 

I’ve recorded a couple of consecutive weeks of weight loss, which is nice.  I’ve cancelled my gym membership as we now have room to have a decent exercise set up at home.  We’ve got a weight bench and a rower, so this should allow more flexibility when exercising.  If there’s one thing I hate about the gym, it’s having to queue for pieces of kit.  I might not be able to do all the exercises I like, but on balance, I think it will be better. 

I’m only at the start of Proxima and I’ve already considered returning the book to audible.  This isn’t because of the story, but because the narrator is awful.  I’ll stick with it a little longer.  It’s an interesting premise: a man wakes up to find himself on a spaceship bound for Proxima Centauri; our nearest star after the sun.  His last memory was being arrested and sedated.  I hope the plot is strong enough to convince me to put up with the narrator.

Our MCU journey continues and we’ve just finished the Black Widow movie. It… It wasn’t good. I didn’t have an issue with the story, but more the technical aspects of the film. The effects, particularly in the final third, were awful. The effects were so bad that they brought you out of the film, and instead of being immersed in the action, you’re left wondering at how such a huge company can release a film where the visuals look unfinished.

The big action piece takes place in the villains’ lair that is a small flying city. Rather than our characters being blasted with explosions, it’s a case of, “here’s Scarlett Johansson running in front of a screen playing an explosion.” Also, there’s many scenes of characters in the open air as this flying city is falling out of the sky. Their hair, long-hair in ponytails, hardly moves. You’re in a flying city, above the clouds, falling at a a decent speed, yet your hair looks like someone is stood to one side gently blowing on it.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £4,000.00 (-/+ £0.00). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £65,289.12 (+£795.36). 

Fuck It Fund: £1,000.00 (no change).

Pensions: £54,167.52 (-£716.10). 

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

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

Total Assets: £501,491.64 (+£79.26).

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Residential Mortgage: £181,721.51 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,301.46 (no change). 

Total Debts: £287,022.97 (no change). 

Total Wealth: £214,468.67 (+£79.26)

Investment Income in 2022: £4,145.48 (target £6,000).

Passing £4k investment income for the year felt good.  Assuming no major hiccups in the remaining weeks of the year, 2022 should be a good year for income.  The work on the property and the trip to Paris have drained our finances more than we would have liked, and I need to start building up my non-property assets again.  My Premium Bonds have dropped by over £8k in recent months, but it couldn’t be helped.  I could have left the money in bonds, but then I would have had a credit card balance, so it would have been counterproductive.  


On the subject of credit cards, I’ve had to shop around for a new provider.  My current card provider is ending its rewards program which means there’s not a great deal of point in using it.  I’ll be closing it down as soon as the remaining Ikea refunds hit the account.  In the meantime, I’ve opened a new card that builds Avios (air miles).

The great thing about having a credit card that builds Avios is you can build points twice on the same purchase.  When you set up an account through British Airways you can buy things via their online shop.  BA partners with many retailers so if you want to buy from John Lewis, you sign in via the BA website.  Then, your purchase is tracked and you get points for each pound spent.  If you also pay for your items via the credit card that builds Avios, you get the benefit twice; once via the BA website and once via the credit card.  

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Part 150

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  

Weekly Update

Apologies for this post being delayed, and for the previous post being a bit shorter than normal.  The truth is I’ve just not had the spoons for writing lately.  It’s strange, because this blog is normally an outlet for my stress, rather than being something that causes me stress.  There’s just been so much going on recently and navigating life has felt like battling the hydra; each time I deal with one problem, two more take its place.

On Monday we had to take Poppy to the cattery, as we were due to travel to Paris.  This should have been a simple matter but somehow Oana forgot to book her into the normal place we use (I will mock her relentlessly for this).  As such, we had a scramble to find a place for Poppy at short notice.  The cattery we used this time, is not one I would use again.  I found the people running it to be abrasive.  We nearly decided to just not go away.  We were not ready for this trip. The stress caused by Ikea has been awful, and we spent much of the previous weekend and Monday trying to get our flat in order. We more or less achieved what we wanted, but there is still a lot of work to be done. 

On Tuesday we set off for London. The coach journey went quickly as I spent much of the journey exchanging emails with Ikea’s UK CEO’s office. The person I dealt with lacked professionalism and courtesy, and she also got the basic facts of our complaint wrong. She insisted it was a complaint about a kitchen instalation (it wasn’t) and got many other facts wrong, as well as sending emails riddled with typos. I’m often fairly chill about typos in emails/messages as it’s easy to get things wrong on a small phone keyboard. However, this is someone representing the highest authority within a multinational brand, and you should at least get the basics right in this role.

After checking in to our hotel we showered before heading out to dinner. We had booked a Mexican restaurant that had a lot of great reviews, and as Mexican is our favourite food we were excited. The meal was awful.  We had tamales and tostadas for starter, but the food was bland. We ordered a taco tray for main, which is a selection of toppings from four types of taco, as well as a pouch of tortillas.  I’m not convinced that these pouches were cleaned between uses, and it’s not the most hygienic way to serve food.   

We chose pastor, carnitas, a beef taco, and something with chicken and chorizo. It was poor.  A traditional pork taco, like pastor or carnitas should be a celebration of flavour, spice, and vibrancy. This was the polar opposite. Tough chunks of meat, instead of pork that had been lovingly slow cooked. Everything had the feel of microwaved food. For a place promoting itself as authentic Mexican, it wasn’t. Very disappointed.

The journey to France was uneventful, and I have to say the organisation at St. Pancras was lacking.  We had a walk in the rain to the hotel, before heading out to explore the area.

Out of the European capitals I’ve visited (London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Berlin, Budapest, Rome, Bucharest, and Prague), Paris is the worst.  I’m not trying to tar all Parisians with the same brush, and I can only comment on my own experience, but almost everyone we had to deal with was rude as a minimum, and often hostile.  For example, we entered a restaurant for lunch one day.  It was quiet inside, with a few staff stood talking to each other.  They glanced over and we said, “hello”.  No response.  We repeated our greeting.  Nothing.  So, we just asked if we could take a seat.  One of the staff turned and in a patronising voice proceeded to lecture us about how to greet people.  I wanted to walk out, but Oana was hungry so we stayed.  Another time we stopped at a cafe for a drink, and I ordered a crepe.  The waiter repeated the order and just shook his head walking off, whilst chuntering to himself.  

The trip wasn’t all bad.  We saw plenty of museums, and visited the burial place of Napoleaon, and of Alexandre Dumas, amongst others.  There is a richness of history and culture in Paris, and it’s just a shame that the custodians of that history were almost always hostile towards us.

When we visited the Pantheon, the resting place of Dumas, there was the option of paying to visit the top of the building to get a view of the Paris skyline.  We asked for this type of ticket, and believed we had been given the correct ticket.  We’d had to queue for more than twenty minutes for this, and when we approached the steps for the roof, we were told we did not have the right ticket.  So, we went back to the ticket office but no one would speak to us unless we went to the back of the queue, which was much longer at this point.  We tried talking with the agent near the entrance and he told us we could wait in the queue or leave, but he refused to deal with the mistake his colleagues had made.  Unfortunately, this was repeated in most places we went.

Just as we were starting to wonder if we were doing something wrong, we got talking to a waitress in a cafe who was originally from Lithuania.  We told her of our experiences and she confirmed that she’s experienced the same, and heard the same from many other tourists.

For somewhere that is supposed to be a treat for foodies, Paris was sorely disappointing.  We ate at a range of places, all across the city.  With only one or two exceptions the majority of the food we had was woefully underseasoned.  Also, when we had pasta it was overcooked to the point it was mushy, and the steaks we had were cooked entirely through even when we’d ordered them medium.  Granted, it’s only a limited experience but of all the meals we had, there were only a couple that were good, and the best meal of the trip was in Searcy’s in London on the journey back from Paris.  

I didn’t feel like I wanted to go away, but as it had been booked and paid for some time ago, and because it was for my birthday, we felt like we had to.  I’ve come back more stressed than when I went, and in no way rested.  The journey back was exhausting.  We checked out of the hotel at midday, but our train back was not due to leave until 17:15.  We got to the station ahead of time just as my phone rang.  The hotel called to let me know we’d left our house keys in the room somehow.  I walked back to the hotel, picked up the keys and walked back to the station.  It was gone midnight by the time we made it back to our apartment.

We were supposed to stay in London for a night to break up the journey but decided against it due to recent events.  The last thing either of us wanted, as ardent anti-royalists, was to be caught up in the drama of London.

To add to what has been a crap few weeks, my physical health hasn’t been great.  My joints, all my joints, are getting worse.  My hands hurt when I try to make a fist.  If I sit for too long and then stand, my ankles, knees and hips feel frozen.  

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.4kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (16/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅
  11. Edward Aubry ✅
  12. Marina J. Lostetter ✅
  13. S. J. Morden ✅
  14. C. J. Tudor ✅
  15. Greer Hendricks ✅
  16. Clare Mackintosh ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: I’m between books. 

What I’m listening to: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor. 

What I’m watching: MCU in timeline order. 

Hostage was good, if somewhat anticlimactic. There was an odd choice from the author towards the end **spoiler** where the main character is forced to confront her past and land the stricken plane. The fact this happens “off camera” just seemed bizarre. **end spoiler**. 

The Taking of Annie Thorne has been great; horrific and tense in equal measure. Richard Armitage does a fantastic job with the narration, also. I’m almost at the end, and I’ll be sure to check out more from this author. 

We’ve not watched any TV whilst away, and the last thing we watched was Guardians of the Galaxy. We’ll be smashing through more upon our return. 

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £4,000.00 (-£4,200.00). 

Stocks and Shares ISA: £64,493.7 (+£3,360.08). 

Fuck It Fund: £1,000.00 (no change).

Pensions: £54,883.62 (+£1,185.81) 

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

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

Total Assets: £501,412.38 (+£345.89). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change).

Residential Mortgage: £181,721.51 (no change). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,301.46 (no change). 

Total Debts: £287,022.97 (no change). 

Total Wealth: £214,389.41 (+£345.89)

Investment Income in 2022: £3,848.48 (target £6,000).

I have now exceeded 2021’s investment income total, and there are still more than three months left of 2022. 

I’ve chosen to dip into my Premium Bonds in the short term to pay for the spending money for Paris, and for some things we needed around the home.  This was also motivated by the news our credit card provider is ending its rewards program, and so I’ll be closing that card down.

Unless something major changes we will not be taking another holiday for several months, possibly a year.  We will use that time to try and push our FIRE plans forward.  I’m also keenly aware that some of our mortgage rates are coming to an end in 2023, and I don’t want to get hammered by rate increases.  Over the next few months we’ll try to reduce those parts of the mortgage to mitigate the impact.  

I’ve not immersed myself in much financial news lately, so I don’t have much to talk about.  However, there was one amusing incident whilst I was away.  I got a message from a friend who was in Italy, telling me about a property he knew was about to go on the market.  For a moment, it was like being the Wolf of Wall Street discussing property deals across time zones.  


That’s all for now, and thanks again for reading.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Part 149

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A very short post this week.  Things have gotten in the way, so apologies for the brief update.

Weekly Update

The debacle with Ikea rumbles on.  They are offering no reasonable solutions.  It’s difficult to know what else we can do other than to keep applying pressure.  Every major item has been faulty, and sending the items back will be a pain.  Ikea delivered to our apartment, but will only collect from the street and the items will have to be taken apart for that to happen.  I just don’t have the spoons to deal with that right now.

I’ve been struggling with some quite severe elbow pain.  I felt a spike of pain the other day when I was pressing something down on the table, and it’s still aching now as I type this.  I’m going to try and rest it for the next few days and if it’s no better I’ll see my GP.

As with the last few weeks, I’m not sure where the time has gone.  The days seem to pass slowly but the week seems to flash by.  So, not a very interesting weekly update, I’m afraid.

What is Art?

Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to satisfactorily answer this question in just a few hundred words but a recent news item grabbed my attention.  In the Colorado State Fair a man entered a piece of art that won first prize in the fine arts category.  The image is stunning, and I can see a fair demand for prints as people look to have it on display.  What is unusual about this work is that it was generated by an AI text-to-image generator.  

Some people are complaining that the man behind the work should have been more upfront about how the image came to be.  The man of the moment, Jason Allen, states that he was clear and transparent about using software called Midjourney.  

When I first heard about this incident, it was framed in such a way that implied a computer created the art from nothing.  Reading into this a little more, it seems it’s more complicated than that.  The image was created by Allen using the software in much the same way a traditional painter would use a brush.  

When I initially thought that it was an image created by computer with no human input, I was thinking that this image could not be art, as art requires intent, and emotion.  Having read a little more about it, I think it’s a fascinating piece of work and I don’t see any problem with classifying it as art. 

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.9kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (14/10)

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

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks.

What I’m watching: MCU in timeline order. 

Hostage is starting to feel like a book that will never end.  I sit down to read and get just a few pages in before mental exhaustion creeps in.  I’m not that far in to The Golden Couple so can’t comment too much.  Our MCU marathon continues and we have just started the first Guardians of the Galaxy film.  I think it’s probably at this point that humour became a little too OTT in Marvel films.  I don’t have a problem with there being some humour in these movies.  Thor: Ragnarok showed how it can be used effectively.  The problem with recent MCU films is that they don’t let scenes breathe.  Emotional moments are capped with a “humerous” quip to take the sting out of the scene.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,200.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £61,133.68 (down £886.77 from last update).

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

Pensions: £53,697.81 (down £784.40 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £501,066.49 (down £1,671.17 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £181,721.51 (down £786.36 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,301.46 (down £15.28 from last update). 

Total Debts: £287,022.97 (down £801.64 from last update).

Total Wealth: £214,043.52 (down £869.53 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £3,174.94 (target £6,000).

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

A little look at energy…

In light of the insane cost of energy we are faced with, I started looking at our energy consumption, and it’s thrown up some surprises.  Since having a smart meter installed we’ve been able to cut down how much energy we use, but I suspected there was still some savings to be made. It turns out I was right, well sort of at least.  

I made a list of the items that get used on a daily basis for sustained periods of time.  There’s no point in calculating how much energy a kettle uses when it’s only used for a few minutes a day.  The list I drew up included:

TV

Fridge Freezer

Dishwasher

Washing Machine – wash cycle

Washing Machine – drying cycle

Electric Boiler

Electric Heater

Oven

Oana and I then worked out how much, on average, these things were used each day in the warmer months and the colder months.  The unit of measurement for electrical consumption is watts, or kilowatts.  1kw is equal to 1,000w.  To calculate kilowatt-hours, you simply multiply the watts by the time, for example; an electric boiler uses 6kw.  If it’s on for one hour, then you would say the item has used 6kwh.  If the boiler was used for half an hour, then it would be 3kwh.  If this doesn’t make sense, have a look at the infographic below:

There is not much we can do about the fridge, and we are already at the lowest point we can go with the electric boiler, as we have it on in two 30-minute slots each day.  We are basically going to stop using the dryer unless it’s something we need urgently.  Also, we are looking at other wash cycles for the washing machine.  It might seem that our TV is on a lot of the time, but we keep it on for Poppy when we are otherwise busy.  She loves watching videos on YouTube and we’re not going to take that away from her.  

We have only recently replaced our washing machine and dishwasher, but we are going to look for better options for our boiler and fridge.  It just seems insane that between the standing charge for electricity and having hot water for one hour each day, our bill would already come in at almost £80.  You factor in the fridge and you’re not far off £100 a month.  It doesn’t seem that long ago we were paying £70 a month for electricity.  

A few points about these calculations; we are in an all-electric apartment, and although there is a slightly lower night rate for our energy, this only happens between midnight and 6am.  The only thing running at that time is the fridge-freezer.  Our washing machine and dishwasher have functions where you can delay the start of their cycle.  We are going to look at whether it’s worth using those functions.  

Over the last seven days, we have used 63.484kwh.  If I look back a bit further, it looks like this:

A couple of points to note; we had a fault with our smart meter between November and March, meaning we didn’t get complete data for those months.  Also, in June this year, we were on holiday for just over a week and everything apart from the fridge and wifi router was turned off during that time.  

We have shown that we can use 280kwh per month with no detriment to our quality of life.  When winter hits, things will probably be different.  With reductions in the energy consumption via our laundry and dishwasher, I’m thinking our target should be to use no more than 300kwh per month; or for a daily target, 9-10kwh.  It will be interesting to see how we go.

Thanks for reading, as always. Just in case you missed them, you can click here for Part 148 of the main blog, and you can click here to read my recent thoughts on property ownership.

If you enjoy my content and want to show your support, you can buy me a coffee on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 148

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  Some thoughts on the cost of living crisis, and a rant about dealing with incompetent companies.  Also, the usual financial updates and a potential development with our next BTL investment.

Weekly Update

I’m sick of dealing with incompetent people and companies.  It seems that virtually everyone I’m dealing with lacks any sense of even basic competence.  

Ikea

We decided to get the bulk of our new furniture from Ikea.  Their stuff looks decent, and the prices are reasonable.  It has to be assembled yourself, but I’ve done this a lot in the past and I generally find it quite relaxing.  Starting with a bunch of parts and watching them come together is therapeutic.  Oh, how naive I was…

Rather than getting everything in one bulk order, we staggered it and ordered what we needed by room, i.e. bedroom furniture, living room furniture, etc.  Here is a rough list of what we ordered for the bedroom:

  • Bed
  • Double wardrobe
  • Two single wardrobes
  • Four wardrobe doors
  • Door handles for wardrobes

Here is a list of what items were faulty:

  • Bed
  • Double wardrobe
  • Two single wardrobes
  • Four wardrobe doors
  • Door handles for wardrobes

I wish I was joking.

The issues were exacerbated with the faults only becoming apparent towards the end of the assembly process, once you’ve already spent hours working on it.  Ikea said they’d replace the items, which sounds ok on the surface but makes no allowance for the time and effort of putting the pieces together.  Also, whilst they deliver to our apartment, they would only pick up from the curb, meaning we’d have to drag the faulty items from our fourth-floor apartment downstairs.  With every item being faulty, I have no faith the replacements would be in acceptable condition.

What was actually wrong with the items?

The bed is one of those where you can lift the mattress and store stuff under the bed.  The hinges on the lifting mechanism are out of alignment with the frame of the bed.  It took hours to try and rectify this.  Eventually, after Ikea offered no reasonable options, we managed to fudge it so it works.

The double wardrobe is just bizarre.  Ikea offers a service where you design your own wardrobe and the inserts you want, such as shelves, drawers, rails, etc.  When the frame of the wardrobe was complete, it turns out the side panels have a different number of holes spaced unevenly, meaning the inserts would be skewed and not level.  How the hell does this even happen?  So I had to dismantle the wardrobe and put together a whole new one, which Ikea sent out.

The doors have a coloured film, which we chose to complement the colour scheme of the bedroom.  Right out of the box the film on three of the four doors was already peeling.  Also, the pre-cut holes in the doors for the hinges are unevenly drilled meaning the doors do not hang in line with each other.  

The door handles we chose, which should be compatible with these doors, are not.  It’s just so bad you’d think it was all being made up.

The single wardrobes have several scratches and scrapes out of the box, but at this stage we’d just given up.

The problems with Ikea didn’t stop at the bedroom.  We also had issues with the sofa we bought.  The sofa came in two large boxes, each having half a sofa.  Then, additional boxes with cushions and whatnot.  

Under the sofa, there are four places you use screws to fix the whole unit together.  Or, more accurately, one half has four holes and the other half has three.  In addition to this, there are six legs to attach to the sofa.  One in each corner of the completed unit, and then two that straddle the two halves.  One of the legs simply did not fit over the two connected ridges.  The leg is solid metal and I couldn’t bend it to force it to fit.  I tried for hours to hammer it into position, but it wouldn’t work.  In the end I had to chisel some of the base to make it narrow enough for the leg to fit.  

I could just about accept these problems if the service from Ikea was ok, but it’s not ok.  It’s not even poor.  It’s fucking non-existent.

The first fault we had was with the bed.  We were promised a call back regarding our complaint.  It took several days before this call happened.  The call came on Oana’s phone but she couldn’t get to it, so I answered.  A woman stated she was calling from Ikea.  I asked her to hang on a second whilst I passed the phone to my girlfriend, who then answered.  The woman from Ikea hung up.  She then emailed us saying she had called but the call did not connect (lie #1), but we could call on the number in the email (lie #2 as the number does not accept incoming calls) or respond to the email (lie #3 as the email bounces back as undeliverable).  We later found out this complaint had been closed down as we’d “accepted the resolution” (lie #4).

We also made a complaint regarding the wardrobe as Ikea had refused to assist in the disposal of the faulty items.  We were promised callbacks that never happened.  

Another issue was caused when we tried to replace our mattress.  The one we ordered wasn’t comfortable, and as per the T&Cs, we could exchange for a different mattress and just pay the difference (£90).  This is where we entered the Multiverse of Madness.

I called Ikea to make the payment.  The customer service agent stated I had to speak to payments, and gave me a number to call.  I called that number.  The agent in payments said they couldn’t take the payment until I spoke with customer service.  I called back customer service, who told me I needed to speak to payments.  So, I called payments again.  The payments team then had to transfer me to someone else to make the payment.  The line went silent before it was answered by someone with a very strong accent who just kept saying “bear with me” whilst children were screaming in the background.  After a minute or so, I hung up.  I didn’t feel comfortable giving credit card details to someone in that environment.  We contacted Ikea and were sent a link to make the payment.  When we clicked on the link, it said our order had already been paid for.

I spoke with Ikea again, but they could not confirm if the order had been paid for until they spoke with another department, who explained it hadn’t.  The agent said I had to call payments.  At this stage, I’d had enough and explained I wouldn’t do that because of all the times I’d already tried.  I asked if someone could call me from that department.  They refused.  

In terms of the sofa, I called Ikea whilst I was putting the item together.  They said they’d send a replacement.  Seeing as though I was trying to put on the last leg, and this was the very last thing needed, I explained I wasn’t happy with that.  I didn’t want to have to take it apart, drag it down four floors, just to have to start again with a new item.  I’d settle for a partial refund.  The agent offered 10%; less than what I hoped for but I had zero energy left to contest this.  After a minute or two, the agent said he couldn’t actually offer the 10% until I sent in photos.  Not a problem, I took photos of the faults.  I was told I’d receive a response in 72 hours.  This was over a week ago and I’ve had no response.  

Faced with all this, Oana and I decided to go into the nearest store to try and resolve our issues in person.  We spoke with the customer service manager.  He’s a decent enough guy, but couldn’t do anything because we ordered the items online.

We’re basically in a situation now of waiting for Ikea to get back to us.  It’s just insane.  Every major item ordered has been faulty.  The service is non-existent.  I’m tempted to just get them in to take everything we’ve ordered for a full refund.  I’ve already cancelled the mattress exchange, and we’ll just get a mattress from elsewhere instead.  At the very least we want some sort of financial redress.  The customer service manager in the store told us he’s seen customers get their items for free in this situation.  That would be nice, but we’ll have to wait and see. 

It’s not only Ikea that we’ve been having problems with but they are by far the worst.  I don’t have anything else to update you on for this week, as most of my time has been spent stressing about this, or dealing with this.

Cost of Living Crisis

The current cost of living crisis (COLC) is like something from a dystopian horror film.  A lot of people will look at it and think it’s only a recent problem caused by Covid, and Brexit finally going through.  It’s not though.  If you go back just a few years, we’ve been talking about the COLC under a different name; austerity.  

When the Tories came back to power just over a decade ago, they embarked on a policy of austerity which resulted in public services and benefits being slashed.  The use of food banks has increased at a level that should embarrass us all.  Note; I’m not saying people should be embarrassed to use food banks, I’m saying the fact food banks are necessary is a national embarrassment.  In 2010 approximately 60,000 packages were handed out from food banks in the UK.  In 2021 over 2.5 million were given out.  Estimates vary, but it’s thought that over the last few years approximately 750,000 people in the UK relied on food banks to some degree.  The urban population of Sheffield, my home city, is roughly 735,000.  

It seems as though some Tory voters just don’t care.  Talking to some of them goes a little like this:

Me: under this Tory government the UK has gone backwards in almost every way.

Them: at least we don’t have Corbyn in charge.

Me: You mean to tell me Boris is better? The man who led a government that resulted in thousands upon thousands of unnecessary deaths?

Them: He got Brexit done.

Me: That’s hardly a ringing endorsement considering how it’s gone.

Them: But he got it done.

Me: What about soaring energy bills?

Them: He got Brexit done.

Me: What about partygate?

Them: He got Brexit done.

Me: The refurb of the Downing Street flat?

Them: He got Brexit done.

Me: Owen Paterson?

Them: He…

Me: Chris Pincher?

Them: Got…

Me: All the wasted money on PPE?

Them: Brexit…

Me: Suspending Parliament?

Them: Done…

The quality of life in the UK, for many people, is only going to get worse over the coming months.  It’s not too alarmist to predict that people will die because of the COLC.  The fact that everything is getting more expensive means that some people will have to cut down on food and heating, which will in turn impact their physical and mental health.  Having a poor diet will weaken immune systems, meaning some people will succumb to illness.  Other people will choose to take their own lives as the COLC takes a horrific toll on mental health.  This government, and its inadequate response to several crises, has blood on its hands.  

The only people I despise this much are those who bang on about not having heating, food, etc as children, yet they “turned out ok”.  Someone on Facebook put into words my thoughts on this so eloquently that I have to quote them:

“If you think people should suffer because ‘you suffered and turned out ok’ then you did not in fact turn out ok.”

As an absolute minimum, every person should have;

  • A safe, clean, home.
  • Access to affordable, healthy, food and drink.
  • Access to basic utilities such as heating, power, water, and internet, at a reasonable cost via companies run for the national good instead of profit.
  • Affordable clothing.
  • Free at the point of use, physical and mental health care, including dental and optical.

These are not luxuries.  These are just the basics of living in 2022 in a supposedly developed country.  No one should have to choose one over the other, yet this is the prospect facing many in our country.  Please, when the next election comes around, let’s get this incompetent bunch of asshats out of government.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.9kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (13/10)

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

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: One Way by S. J. Morden.

What I’m watching: MCU in timeline order. 

I got weighed for the first time in ages, and as feared, I’ve put on all the weight I’d lost in recent months.  This is what stress can do to the body.

I’m still reading Hostage.  Don’t judge me.  I’m nearly done.

I recently finished, and enjoyed, The Flight of the Aphrodite by S. J. Morden.  As I often do when discovering a new author, I looked him up and it turns out he studied at the University of Sheffield.  It’s always nice to see people with a link to this city doing well.  I’m now listening to another book of Morden’s called One Way, about a mission the Mars.  I’m about a fifth of the way in and enjoying it so far.  

After watching a couple of the recent Marvel shows we decided to get our geek on and watch the whole MCU in timeline order (i.e. the order the films/shows take place, rather than when they were made).  We’re up to the first Thor film.  The first Iron Man film hasn’t aged well, but it is fifteen years old. 

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,200.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £62,020.45 (down £1,005.76 from last update).

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

Pensions: £54,482.21 (down £579.13 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £502,737.66 (down £1,584.89 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £182,507.87 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,316.74 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £287,824.61 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £214,913.05 (down £1,584.89 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £3,174.94 (target £6,000).

A few knocks to my assets but nothing too alarming.  I’m in that part of the monthly financial cycle where I’ve made my regular investments and I’m just waiting for my mortgage payment to come out on the first of the next month.  

Looking ahead to September there are some important milestones I’m expecting to hit, such as passing 2021’s income total.  Assuming nothing negative springs up, and my calculations are accurate, I should exceed £4,000 of investment income by the end of September.  That would leave October, November, and December to make up the remaining amount to the £6,000 target.  I suspect I’ll probably fall slightly short, but I’m relatively happy with the progress made in 2022. 

We have a viewing coming up on a potential BTL property.  From the pictures, it needs some work but it’s a location we know well.  I’ll talk more about the viewing next week, and hopefully, I’ll be reporting only positive news.  Our BTL progress has been much slower than originally planned, but as the saying goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

One last thing before I sign off this post, I published a lengthy article earlier in the week in response to criticism aimed at landlords.  You can see the article here.  It’s been one of the most read pieces since I started this blog.  If you have any feedback, please leave a comment.  

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern

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

www.darrenscothern.com