2021 Reading Challenge – Part 3

Welcome back to my 2021 Reading Challenge. Since the last update, where I had finished 32 books, I have now completed 59 which is keeping me nicely on track to finish 104 by the end of 2021.

I have found myself in a science-fiction mood over the past few weeks and this has led me to discover some extremely talented authors, such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Claire North and Ruth Ware. For all the excellent stories I have experienced, like Kowal’s Calculating Stars series, there have been some real duds. The last book I finished, The Last Astronaut was just dull. It had some cool ideas but the execution was terrible. The vast majority of the book follows a team of astronauts exploring an alien environment but it was simply monotonous, as there are only so many ways you can describe a pitch black setting with some water and ice. I felt like I waited for most of the book for something, anything, to happen.

One highlight since the last update has been the interactions I’ve had with authors on Twitter, as well as the messages sent back and forth with Imogen Church; a great voice artist who brings life and emotion to the audiobooks she narrates. Often I will buy an audiobook just on the strength of her voice work.

If I was to pick one favourite book from those I’ve finished since Part 2 was posted, I would have to go with Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I’m a sucker for stories involving multiple lives, reincarnation, or the multiverse. In this story, the protagonist lives his life over and over again, and he has to work out why the end of the world seems to be happening earlier and earlier in time. An investigation begins involving messages being passed back and forth through time. I simply loved this book.

I feel as though I should give a mention to Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I’ve read The Martian and Artemis and enjoyed both, although I do feel that Weir can only write one type of protagonist. Although on the surface, the three lead characters from the stories mentioned are very different, their “voice” is almost identical. What I really enjoyed in Project Hail Mary was the interaction between the two lead characters. It was funny, sweet and engaging.

What I’m itching for at the moment is an epic sci-fi series to get stuck into. I keep looking for something that blows my mind the way The Three Body Problem trilogy did. The Calculating Stars came close, as did the Fear Saga by Stephen Moss. I’m looking for something that is “hard sci-fi” and not space opera. I’m not looking for space battles or space fantasy, but something a little more realistic. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to read them in the comments.

Below are some links to the Amazon listings for the books mentioned. Buying through those links will earn this site a small commission at no extra cost to you, so please use those links if you are going to buy from Amazon. Also, I’ve included a full list of the books completed in 2021 so far, as well as a few graphs because, well… I like graphs.

In the list below you will see an entry for a book titled Aberrations by Darren Scothern. Those of you who know me in real life will probably know that Darren, my dad, is an author. Aberrations is a sequel, of sorts, to his previous novel Abominations. I know my opinion will be viewed as biased but both these books are fantastic stories. I’ve included a couple of links to Darren’s recent work on Amazon below.

The above image will take you to Darren’s Amazon page.

2021

  1. Leap of Destiny: Not Alone Series – Book 5 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
  2. Revelations: Not Alone Series – Book 6 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
  3. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (audible).*****
  4. Elephants on Acid by Alex Boese (audible).**
  5. Electrified Sheep by Alex Boese (audible).**
  6. Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse (audible).**
  7. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek (audible).***
  8. The Remaining: Book 1 of The Remaining Series by DJ Molles (audible).*
  9. The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I. Sutton (audible).***
  10. The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman (audible).***
  11. My Sh*t Therapist by Michelle Thomas (audible).*****
  12. The List by Siobhan Vivian (audible).*
  13. Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu (audible).*****
  14. The Supernova Era by Cixin Liu (audible).***
  15. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (audible).****
  16. A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger (audible).***
  17. Paranormality by Richard Wiseman (audible).****
  18. The Lying Room by Nicci French (book).****
  19. The Pig That Wants to be Eaten by Julian Baggini (audible).***
  20. Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman (audible).***
  21. What If? by Randall Munroe (book).*****
  22. Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov (audible).**
  23. The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney (book).**
  24. Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris (audible).***
  25. The Awakening: Not Alone Series – Book 7 by Craig Falconer (audible).****
  26. Weaponised Lies by Daniel Leviton (book).****
  27. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (book).*****
  28. Hidden Wonder: Not Alone Series – Book 8 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
  29. Endgame: Not Alone Series – Book 9 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
  30. The Chain by Adrian McKinty (book).****
  31. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (book).**
  32. Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates (audible).****
  33. Goldilocks by Laura Lam (book).****
  34. How To Have A Good Day by Caroline Webb (audible).*
  35. Fear The Sky: Fear Saga Book 1 by Stephen Moss (audible).****
  36. Fear The Survivors: Fear Saga Book 2 by Stephen Moss (audible).****
  37. Fear The Future: Fear Saga Book 3 by Stephen Moss (audible).****
  38. Failures of State by Jonathan Calvert & George Arbuthnott (audible).* Note: this book had great content but possibly the worst narration I’ve heard, hence the low rating.
  39. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (book).***
  40. The Fuck-It List by John Niven (book).*****
  41. Aberrations by Darren R. Scothern (book – proof reading a second draft).*****
  42. The Truth by Neil Strauss (audible).*
  43. Infinite by Brian Freeman (book).***
  44. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (audible).***
  45. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (audible).**
  46. The List by Carys Jones (book).***
  47. The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut Series by Mary Robinette Kowal (audible).*****
  48. The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut Series by Mary Robinette Kowal (audible).*****
  49. The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut Series by Mary Robinette Kowal (audible).***** 
  50. House of Correction by Nicci French (audible).****
  51. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (audible).****
  52. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (book).*****
  53. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (audible).*****
  54. Not Alone: Origins by Craig Falconer (audible).****
  55. The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood (audible).****
  56. 2034: The Future Laid Bare by Grant Williams (book).*
  57. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (audible).****
  58. Primordial Threat by M. A. Rothman (audible).**
  59. The Last Astronaut by David Wellington (audible).**

Part 89

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I revisit the issues surrounding the collapse of betting site Football Index.  I also discuss a strange experience I had with my own memory.  First, the Quote of the Week: 

Quote of the Week

I’m part of a network of property investors on Facebook and although the group does have the occasional bit of useful information, I find that a lot of the time it’s taken up by boast-posts and cringe inducing pitches.  So, in a move that will surprise absolutely no one, I decided to have some fun and go on the wind up.  

Many of the posts take the form of a scripted sales pitch aiming to find investors or mine other members of the network for information, rather than the poster going out and doing the research themselves.  My eyes roll so hard I give myself a headache reading some of these posts.  

Anyway, here is my attempt at one of these posts.  So far, it has received a positive reaction and it would appear I’m not alone in finding these types of posts annoying.

I don’t have a problem with people promoting themselves.  I just want to see interesting, or quirky posts and not the same format every single day.  

Football Index

In Part 76 of this blog, I talked at length about the failure of Football Index.  I’m not going to go over it again in much detail, but the issues surrounding the collapse of the betting firm are still rumbling on.  Many people have lost money, with some of the amounts running into the tens of thousands.  

A major part of why I write this blog is to help increase financial literacy, even if it’s just in my own small way.  There is just not enough financial education out there.  I have some sympathy for many who lost out to FI because they would have looked at it only superficially and thought their money was relatively safe because gambling companies normally keep their customers’ money separate.

It’s easy for me to sit here and say, “you should have known better”, but you don’t know what you don’t know.  If no one sits you down and explains financial risk, then you will not know any better.  There were some people who realised that FI was gambling, but under that definition the funds held on account for the customers should have been held separately to the funds of the business.  This is, I’m fairly certain, a legal requirement for operators in the UK.  

I think that one issue at play here is that many people built up huge portfolios and thought the money was safe.  In truth, it was easy to build a portfolio on FI, and the fact that it was so easy is part of what rang alarm bells when I dabbled in it.  There are lots of threads on Twitter where people are saying they had worked hard to build up their investment and they feel that their efforts have been undone.  This is going to be a very painful, very expensive lesson in finance for these people who thought their money was completely secure.  For those who treated this as a bet and understood the typical risks of a bet, they have still been treated unfairly.  You don’t expect the bookmaker to change the terms of the bet after it’s been placed.  

The take home message from this is that you always need to ask, “where is the money?”.  With any investment you need to have an understanding of what your money is getting, where your money is stored and what protection your money has.  If you can’t answer these questions, then you are just gambling and when you gamble the house will always win in the end.

As I stated earlier, I dabbled in FI for a few months a while back but I was clear from the start that it was not an investment.  It was gambling and, when I was still gambling, I didn’t find it all that interesting.  With a standard bet, you know what you are getting and you know where the money is coming from; if you win it’s typically paid from other gamblers’ losses.  With FI I could not work out where the money was coming from.  It seemed unsustainable and so I took my money out.  I was fortunate enough to make a profit on my brief relationship with FI but I suspect I am in the minority.  This story is going to rumble on for a while.   

To be clear, I’m not victim blaming here.  Whether FI acted legally or not, there is a strong argument that they did not act ethically.

Weekly Update

There’s only one thing to talk about this week and that’s England’s win over Denmark and the upcoming final against Italy.  It’s been a long time since we could be proud of our national side, and I’ve been critical of Southgate in the past.  The facts are that he’s taken us to a World Cup Semi-Final and a EURO Final.  That’s more than anyone else has done with England in over twenty years.  There are players in the current squad who were not born when we lost to Germany in 1996.

It’s the same story with my sleep, in which I’m not sleeping well at all.  Last night I woke up every few 20-30 minutes, until I just thought I may as well wake up.  I made some toast and a mug of coffee, and got comfortable on the sofa with my headphones in to listen to an audiobook.  I then proceeded to spill half the coffee over me.

If anyone has any suggestions for getting a better night’s sleep I would welcome them.  

Bobbity

This little man continues to settle in and work his way into our hearts.  He’s so sweet in his own way; not as a lap cat like Sweep was, but in a more playful way.  He’s still struggling with his insides though and he’s been getting bored on the same food every day, which we were told to feed him for a few weeks to try and settle his stomach.  A couple of days ago he refused to eat it, and so we tried a couple of other foods.  He smashed through the new food but he felt the effects after.  

Next week he will be going to the vet for some surgery to remove his teeth.  He has a long standing issue with his gums and the vet has stated that they need to come out.  He will still have his murder mitts to show us who is boss even if he no longer has his deadly fangs.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 123.2kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 57).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I finished a book this week; 2034: The Future Laid Bare, and it was hilarious for all the wrong reasons.  It had all the hallmarks of a self-published work, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  There are some quality books out there that have been self-published that have had a lot of care and effort put into formatting and presentation.  This is not one of those books.  The formatting is just a mess.  Sentences abruptly stop halfway across the page before being started on a new line.  The paragraphing is awful as well, with the perspective of the writing shifting from one character to another without warning.  It’s quite jarring.  

The thing is, the story is actually pretty good.  It just needs rewriting.  The first third or so of the book is the prologue, which is a timeline of the backstory before the main story.  I love alternate history and there are some great forums out there with detailed scenarios put forward.  This book did not have the quality of some of those scenarios I’ve read online, but it was interesting nonetheless.  It’s just bizarre for a prologue to go on for so long that you could argue the main story is actually an epilogue.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £17,500.00 (up £200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,608.56 (down £103.00 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £525.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £438.72 (up £22.08 from last update). 

Pensions: £47,862.74 (up £94.84 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £421,934.02 (up £238.92 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £733.98 (up £168.11 from last update).

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

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

Total Debts: £252,739.07 (up £168.11 from last update).

Total Wealth: £169,194.95 (up £70.81 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,387.77 (target £5,000).

Another steady week but I would love to see a consistent surge in the stock market for a few weeks so I can cash in some of my stocks to put towards a new BTL.  Much of my ISA is made up of one stock and once that stock hits 60p per share, I’ll have to think long and hard about selling my holding.  I would like to wait for the price to go higher, but I’m getting impatient to acquire more property. 

Once I get this next week out of the way, I should be able to start bringing down my credit card balance.  The trips to the vet have seen the card take some hammer, but it’s worth it if it means Bob feels better.  

The week ahead should also see an update to the valuations of my two properties.  I’m hoping for an increase in my BTL’s value which will enable us to draw some funds back out of the property.  This could help bring forward the purchase of a second rental property. 

Memory

I have a pretty good memory and can remember account numbers and passwords for many different sites and profiles.  When we worked in the office, I could go from my desk to the other side of the building to talk about an account, and rather than writing the account information down I just remembered it.  Last week something happened which threw me a little, and it’s happened only once before to me a few years ago.  I completely forgot an account number I’ve been using for years.  This number is one that I use on a frequent basis, at least weekly, and have done for years.  I went to the website to enter my details and I completely forgot.  I could not remember any part of the number at all.  

A few years ago I went to an ATM and inserted my card, but the only problem was I could not remember my PIN despite it being the same one I had used for years.  No matter what I tried, I could not remember it.  In both instances, I had to reset the information and start again.

My understanding of memory is that there are neural pathways inside the brain and the more something is rehearsed, the more that pathway is strengthened which aides in future recall.  Memory is not perfect though, and if we are recalling an event each subsequent recall distorts the accuracy of that memory until it eventually becomes total fiction.  The type of forgetting I am referring to with my account information is not like that though.  This type of forgetting is like a switch has been flipped; one moment you know the information and the next you don’t.

I reached out to a psychology lecturer who was my dissertation tutor.  We’ve stayed in touch since I graduated in 2010 and he shared an article from The Guardian where Charlie Brooker experienced the same phenomenon.  It’s bizarre.  If you have experienced this, I’d love to read about it in the comments, and if anyone knows of research in the area I would be very interested in reading it.  

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 88

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk a little about mental burnout, my discovery of the show Invincible and finish with a look at how first time buyers are struggling to buy a house.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

My tolerance for dealing with other people, and their bullshit has reduced to almost zero.  It really does not take much for me to think, “fuck it” and just block someone on social media, or in real life.  There are certain times when you can’t do that, though.  In those times you just have to put on your mask and act like someone who cares.  Over time, that becomes exhausting and my stamina for this type of mental effort is reducing.  I need a long, extended break to reset and recharge.  

Part of my frustration stems from people just not thinking logically, and not seeing that cause leads to effect.  I’ll come back to this point later when I talk about people struggling to buy their first home, but it also applies to the current pandemic.  Actions have consequences, and the fact you don’t always see those consequences first hand does not mean they don’t happen.  For example, you make a joke that someone looks ridiculous with their new hairstyle.  You forget all about it.  That person may have been really struggling with their mental health and felt excited to change something about their appearance.  They might have saved up to have a nice haircut at an expensive salon.  Then, you piss all over their bonfire.  You didn’t realise that the person was on the verge of suicide.  They go home and follow through.  You made a joke and someone winds up dead.  Yes, I know I’m using an extreme example.  The thing is, it does not take much effort to just be a decent human being and think about what you are doing and saying, and how it could potentially impact on those around you.  

I don’t think I’m better than other people.  I do believe I think differently than other people, and I suspect this is part of me being (in all likelihood) autistic.  I think I can put the pieces together and see how A leads to B, which leads to C a little more clearly than other people.  However, I’m rubbish at maintaining friendships and I realise I lack a certain social awareness that adds to this.  Everyone is unique.  The point is, as a neurodivergent person, I find the neurotypical world absolutely exhausting.  It’s like the world is an office chair that’s not set up quite right; you can just about manage to sit there for a bit at a time, but you need frequent breaks to go and lie down.

Weekly Update

Another week of work and another week where I have been physically exhausted.  I am not sleeping well and I’m waking up several times a night and struggling to get back to sleep.  I can fall asleep easily, and as some of you know I fell asleep a little too easily at one point recently but I don’t think anyone noticed.  It’s just the act of staying asleep and getting a restful sleep that is impossible for me.  

The highlight of my week was watching Invincible on Amazon Prime.  For those who don’t know, it’s the source of the “Think” meme that has been doing the rounds on social media.  It’s a superhero cartoon that is aimed at adults.  To say it is bloody would be like saying water is wet.  In addition to the violence, it has some interesting language.  It’s not just gore and swearing for the sake of it.  The story is tight and well structured.  The pacing is bang on and the voice work is great with a stellar cast including Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh, Zachary Quinto, Jon Hamm, Mark Hamill and Mahershala Ali lending their talent to the show.

Here are a few of the better “Think” memes I’ve seen:

Bobbity

Our cat, Bob, is continuing to settle in and has now made himself a home inside our wardrobe.  Apparently having a place to sit on the balcony, and beds in the living room, bedroom and the spare room I use as an office is not sufficient for his majesty.  We had to take him to the vet again, and he needs to return in a couple of weeks for surgery.  He needs to have some teeth removed, but he will still have his murder mitts to show us the error of our ways if we step out of line.

It’s taken a while to really get attached after losing Sweep so recently, but Bob’s personality is infectious.  He is still a bit nervous but he’s also really affectionate in his own way.  I’ve just gone to check up on him, and he’s currently in our bed all tucked up in the covers.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 123.2kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 55).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’ve been having some fun in the past week chatting with Alex Marwood, who wrote The Killer Next Door, and Imogen Church, the voice artist who did the narration for the audiobook.  I’ve been asking for recommendations from Imogen, for books she has narrated, and I’ve not been disappointed yet.  The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware was another book she did the voice work for.  It’s been so refreshing opening myself up to books I would normally never pick up, and taking up people on their recommendations has opened up a whole new world of storytelling.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £17,300.00 (up £75.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,711.56 (down £153.51 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £500.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £416.64 (up £10.85 from last update). 

Pensions: £47,767.90 (up £645.98 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £421,695.10 (up £578.32 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £565.87 (up £173.14 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,925.57 (down £466.52 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,079.52 (down £24.00 from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,570.96 (down £317.38 from last update).

Total Wealth: £169,124.14 (up £895.70 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,387.77 (target £5,000).

Things are ticking over quite nicely at the moment.  My credit card took another hit with more vet bills for Bob, but we have the money to pay this and the card is on a 0% interest deal.  I’m not too worried about it, and for now I’d rather keep the cash on one side.  The upcoming vet bill for Bob’s surgery is going to be £300+, so I want to keep options open as to how to pay.  It’s not a problem either way.

I’m keen to start chipping away at my residential mortgage as it’s now at the highest balance I’ve ever had.  However, this would probably be a mistake as the bulk of that debt is at a rate of 0.1% as it tracks the Bank of England base rate exactly.  For now, it makes more sense to keep investing and if the rates start to creep up I can reassess.

Buying Your First Home

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

I’ve been having a bit of an argument with some people on the internet (yeah, I know that’s hardly unusual for me) about the housing market, mortgages and the general capitalist way we live in the UK.  One person in particular is stating that it’s impossible for many first time buyers to acquire their first property because housing prices are rising at a faster rate than wages.  I don’t have too much of an issue with that point, because house prices do tend to rise quite quickly.  However, it’s rare that wages drop.  This is another way of describing the boom and bust mentality of the housing market. 

So, taking the argument that the “average first time buyer” can’t afford an “average house”, let’s have a look at how the data stacks up.

The Average UK House & The Average First Time Buyer

There are competing sources for this, but it seems that the current price for an average UK house is approximately £250,000.  The thing about averages is that they can be distorted by outlying data.  The average London price is just over £500,000, and if you drill down into the more affluent parts of London then you start getting crazy figures.  London is also a bit of a strange one, where everything is more expensive.  For the sake of clarity, let’s just go with the £250,000 figure.

The average (starting to hate that word already) UK salary is £29,600.  For a single person, it’s pretty much impossible that they will be able to afford the average UK home.  The thing is, how many first time buyers, who are buying alone, would want to buy a house valued at £250,000?

It’s important to remember that house prices do not exist in a vacuum.  There is not some panel of experts who decide what prices are going to be.  House prices move up and down in relation to market forces; supply and demand.  If houses are selling for £250,000 and they are not being bought by first time buyers, then we can deduce a couple of things.  First, someone is buying those houses because, well… they are being sold.  Second, if they are not being sold to first time buyers, then they are being sold to people who own property outright or people selling their own mortgaged properties.  

I see a lot of flak being aimed at mortgage lenders, but people seem to forget that borrowing money is not a right.  The lender can dictate the terms on which they lend.  The lenders will not set the bar so high that no one can jump over it because to do so would mean they would not make money.  Also, they are not going to set the bar so low that anyone can get a mortgage.  This is part of what led to the crash in 07/08.  So, lenders have to be sure that people can afford a mortgage.  

Life isn’t fair.  The capitalist system has a lot of faults.  If you don’t like it, move to a country with a different system or try to effect change through democracy.  Wait, what’s that?  Sounds like too much effort?  Well, I direct you back to the first sentence of this paragraph.  

There are some people who are trapped in awful circumstances where they, through no fault of their own, have not enough money to meet their commitments.  My statements here are not directed at those people.  My statements are directed at the First World Poor; those people earning in line with the national average who state they cannot afford to get on the housing ladder.  

A typical couple earning the national average wage would have approximately £60,000p/a.  Assuming a normal tax code for each of them, and assuming they are repaying a student loan, they will still take home just under £2,000pcm each.  If this couple cannot save at least 10% of £4,000pcm, without any unusual circumstances at play, then they are financially stupid.

We seem to be in a generation where people want everything yesterday.  Life doesn’t work like that.  It takes time to save up for a deposit.  I personally don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to have to save for two or three years for a deposit.  It also has the added advantage of allowing couples to live together without the long-term commitment of a mortgage over their heads.  

I’ve tried making these points during the argument I was having, but each time I give an example of how spending can be reduced, the response is just an absurd simplification of what I am saying.  For example, I explained that I see a lot of people paying hundreds of pounds on expensive car lease agreements, for brands like Audi.  I see lots of people renewing their phone contract every year so they can get the latest iPhone.  On the other hand, I see people who get a modest car which they take a loan out for, meaning they own the car outright at the end of the agreement.  I see people take phone contracts out where they keep the handset for several years.  These things alone will not turn the poor into millionaires, but where money is concerned the path to financial comfort is often in making small changes that build momentum over time.  Let’s compare two examples.

Example 1: Typical Couple

They have an Audi Q3 on lease for £284pcm, and a Mini Cooper Sport for £260pcm.  They also have matching iPhone 12 Pro Max contracts at £54pcm each.  Total cost of car lease and phones; £652pcm.  This does not even include all the taxes, insurances and fuel for having the cars.

Example 2: Typical Couple 

Two Audi A1 Sportback cars for £180pcm each.  Two iPhone 11 deals at £31pcm each.  Total cost; £422.  

If you want to have the latest, most high spec cars and phones, that’s fine.  It’s your money, it’s your choice.  The thing you have to understand is that by making that choice, you are making it more difficult to get on the housing ladder.  Not only are you saving less each month, but you are making it more difficult to pass a mortgage lender’s affordability assessment.  It’s not about having a boring life where you can’t do anything.  It’s about being mindful of the choices you make.  

Life is about priorities, and the decisions that you make in your 20s and 30s will have a huge impact on your financial comfort in your 50s and beyond.  Is spending £50pcm on a phone really worth it, when a model that’s slightly older will do the same job for half the cost?  A car is a car; they have four wheels and will get you from A to B.  Putting aside the subtle differences in performance and efficiency, opting for an expensive model over a modest one that does the same job is just showing off.  Buying your first home is such an important milestone and it frustrates me when I see people unable to get on the housing ladder because they’ve not been taught how to budget, or how being on the hedonic treadmill is just insanity.  

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going to have a sit down.  See you next week.

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 87

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I discuss gambling addiction, Tory sleaze and then take a detailed look at the numbers for my BTL and how property values will impact my plans.

Quote of the Week

As I write this I have gone 702 days without gambling.  Since I first gambled online in 2008, this is the longest I have gone.  I previously went over 500 days before relapsing, but I am feeling different about it now.  Whereas in the past I had the urge even when trying to stop, I no longer have the urge.  I know that I have to be vigilant against returning to my addiction, as any recovering addict will know you are never truly cured.  With an addiction, it’s about winning the daily battle to not engage in the behaviour.  

Although gambling addiction is starting to get more mainstream attention, I still feel as though it’s an issue that is being treated as an afterthought.  Gambling addiction is serious though, and has the highest rate of suicide attempts when compared to other behavioural addictions.  It is a lonely addiction and one that is too easy to hide in an age of smartphones and betting apps.  

I have found great support amongst the community of recovering gamblers on Twitter, and I think this support has helped push me forward and find my recovery a little easier to manage.  However, it seems that every day there is another story of a recovering addict being brought before the courts for crimes related to their addiction.  Whilst addiction is not an excuse to avoid punishment, I feel that there needs to be more focus on prevention and recovery.  Simply locking gambling addicts up who have stolen to fund their habit achieves very little.  

I’m not going to lie, although I don’t have the urge to gamble, from time to time I do miss the rush that comes with a winning bet.  Then I remind myself that there is no such thing as a winning bet; just a temporary blip where the bookies give you some money back just so you can bet with it again.  This is why there are so many betting companies out there; it’s a very profitable business, and it’s also one of the most morally bankrupt.  

I’ve spoken before about how gambling will never go away.  In one form or another, people have gambled for thousands of years.  It’s behaviour that seems embedded in our very DNA.  If we can’t ban it completely, all we can do is regulate it effectively.  It is far too easy to open accounts and start spending vast sums of money.  The industry does little to verify the origin of funds.  I’ve heard stories of people opening accounts in other people’s names to get access to free bets and promotions.  This sort of behaviour from betting companies needs to stop.  Obtaining a betting account should be difficult enough to filter out problem gamblers, but not so difficult that it drives gambling underground.  If you are struggling with gambling and need support, there are plenty of resources available online.  If you want to talk to me about it, drop me a private message on Twitter @advisoronfire or email me mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com

I’m not a trained therapist, but I know what it’s like to have a gambling addiction.  One resource that I found incredibly helpful was the After Gambling podcast run by former addict Jamie Salsburg.  The podcast itself was just the crutch I needed in the early days of my recovery.  More than anything else, that podcast helped me.  I’m forever grateful to Jamie for putting the episodes out there, and for his support via Twitter, and through a Zoom call a few months ago.  He’s a great guy and I’d recommend following him on Twitter if you want to see great content about gambling addiction.

Weekly Update

I started the week with some blood tests, from which my arm is still bruised.  I’m having a few little flare ups in my physical health that I need to get checked out.  I have an appointment next week with a consultant and I’m expecting to have more tests in the coming weeks.  It’s frustrating but with the amount of health problems I’ve had, it’s not unexpected.  

At the start of the year I posted a little about an artist, Laura Slade, who paints animal portraits.  I commissioned one of our old cat, Sweep, for my girlfriend for her birthday.  This week I received a little surprise as my girlfriend had commissioned a painting of a kingfisher for me.  Laura’s work is fantastic and her customer service is friendly and responsive.  I would definitely recommend her services if you want to remember a pet.  You can find her on Instagram or Facebook.

At what point will people turn against this shitshow of a government? In a development that surprised absolutely no one, it turns out that Matt Hancock is a bit of an asshole.  

The thing is, until we have an effective opposition to this Tory government we will just continue to shuffle the same corrupt people from one post to another.  When the guy at the top has a history like Boris Johnson’s, how can he have any sort of moral authority over those working under him?

So, now he’s resigned and although I would have liked him to have been dragged over hot coals for his part in the (lack of) response to Covid, it’s typical that he leaves his post due to sleaze rather than obvious incompetence.  

Bobbity

Bob is settling in properly now and his health issues when he first moved in with us seem to have settled down.  He is still a real scaredy cat but he’s also affectionate in his own way.  He’s not a lap cat like Sweep was, but each morning at around 6 or 7am he will climb up on the bed and get under the covers between us.  

Yesterday I spent a good thirty minutes playing with him.  I was on the bed with a ribbon and Bob was on the floor.  I would wave the ribbon over him and then pull it back, and Bob would jump up and try to catch it.  I don’t know who was having the most fun, but we both seemed to enjoy it.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 123.2kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 53).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I have no idea when I’m going to start losing weight.  It’s just so difficult at the moment between work, and then just doing the day to day things.  Life is exhausting right now.  I used to be, until fairly recently, one of those people who could function with just a few hours sleep.  I would go to bed after midnight and be up at seven with no problems.  Now, I’m generally ready for bed around nine in the evening.  I just don’t sleep well though.  I’m waking up several times throughout the night.  It’s pretty frustrating.

My 2021 reading challenge is progressing nicely though.  I have just finished two brilliant books; The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, and Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.  The former was the physical book and the latter was the audiobook.  The fact that Project Hail Mary was an audiobook enhanced the experience.  There are aspects to the story which were definitely improved by the addition of limited sound effects.  The title description on Audible explains that Andy Weir supervised several minor changes to the physical book for the audio conversion and it definitely worked.  If you want to read Project Hail Mary and enjoy audiobooks, I would recommend the audio over the physical book.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £17,225.00 (up £725.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,865.07 (up £480.89 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £500.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £405.79 (down £68.18 from last update). 

Pensions: £47,121.92 (up £185.75 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £421,116.78 (up £1,323.46 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £392.73 (up £232.34 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £159,392.09 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,888.34 (up £232.34 from last update).

Total Wealth: £168,228.44 (up £1,091.12 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,267.77 (target £5,000).

My credit card has increased again but this is simply down to my own laziness and the fact it’s on 0% interest for purchases.  The card has taken some hammer with Bob’s vet visits and the fact we have to buy him special food which is quite expensive.  Then, as my girlfriend and I are smashing through books, it’s easy to see how it can quickly increase.  It’s not a problem though as we have the funds to clear the balance.  It’s just not a priority at the moment. 

As many regular readers will know, the agent managing our BTL has not covered itself in glory.  It is one of the worst companies I have dealt with.  A few months back they asked for some money for some repair work.  They held onto the money for a while and are now sending it back.  No one seems to know if/when any of the work was completed.  At this stage, I no longer care and I’ll just be happy when the money drops in next week.

BTL – Future Strategy

The property market is just insane at the moment.  Everything I see at the moment, through friends and family who are selling their property, to what I see in the various groups I’m a member of, the market is in danger of overheating.  Timing the market is generally a bad idea, as there are too many factors at play.  However, at certain times it can be prudent to bide your time.  For now, I’ve decided to take a little pause and just observe what happens through Q3 as the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday comes to an end.  

I started thinking the other day about the cost of our BTL.  I don’t mean the purchase price, but the full cost of everything related to buying the property and putting it into a rentable condition.  The numbers break down as follows:

Deposit, Legal Fees and Taxes: £35,697.70

Repair Work: £5,296.56

Total: £40,994.26

Our strategy is based on the idea that we recycle our money in each deal.  The gold standard is to recycle 100% of your money, but this can be difficult to achieve quickly.  Over time, as the property increases in value we will be able to draw money down.  

I’ve had a look at the value of UK property over the last ten years and it’s interesting looking at the overall trend.  Since 2010, the average UK property has increased in value by approximately 3.35% year on year.  Obviously, it’s not a smooth annual increase with some years seeing much higher increases and some even seeing decreases.  In general, over the last ten years property owners have done well with an overall increase of almost 40% during that time.  Assuming that trend continues, we can expect our BTL to be worth approximately £180,000 by 2030.  If we can still take the mortgage up to 75% loan-to-value, we would be able to pull all of our money out of the property by that point.  

The above calculation is based on the last ten years, but there is no reason to focus on a ten year period.  In the middle of the last decade, we saw prices increase by over 7% for two consecutive years.  If that happened over the next two years, we would be able to release almost half our funds that were used in the first BTL purchase.  

With the market going crazy right now there is every possibility that the value may increase faster.  Although that would help me release money more quickly, it means that the properties I would then be looking at would also be more expensive.  It’s a difficult one to judge the right time to release equity and the right time to take the bull by the horns and invest in another property.  

I think for now my plan to take a slight pause is the right thing to do.  I can continue to accumulate money to invest in Premium Bonds and into my ISA.  Once I hit £20,000 in Premium Bonds I will shift my focus to my ISA to try and increase the dividends I receive from the various funds I invest in.  It’s looking as though I will struggle to hit the £5,000 investment income target for the year, but that’s ok.  I’m still moving in the right direction and that’s all that matters. 

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 86

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week is a slightly different post, as I talk about trolling on social media, and a little bit about literary theory.  Also, the usual financial updates and a huge change to my financial position.

I don’t even know where to start with this.  During the past few days I’ve noticed a little surge in crackpot, anti-vax conspiracy theories being posted on social media.  This seems to come in waves, and it’s always a source of entertainment for me.  I’m also known as someone who likes to troll on social media, and when my trolling mentality is confronted by batshit crazy beliefs, I can’t let it pass without comment.

Someone I’m acquainted with, let’s call her HSC to hide her identity, has been posting the most absurd theories in recent days. She has posted an incoherent ramble that stated the European Championships were being played to divert attention from the government’s plan to reduce the age of consent to 14, but in Scotland it would be lowered to the age of 10 for some reason. Now, make no mistake, I despise the Tory government but even I would be shocked if Darth Johnson tried to push this through Parliament.

Every now and then I like to throw a net out there and see how many fish I catch. As expected, HSC took the bait and hilarity ensued. I’m by no means a medical expert, but I have some understanding of the scientific method and some experience with logical thinking. Earlier today (as I’m writing this) I had a real back and forth with HSC about vaccines. She was insistent that the Covid vaccines should not be called vaccines as they are “not licenced”, to which I responded I would refer to vaccines as “God’s Magic Potion” if it made her feel more comfortable.

I love a good debate, and I love learning new things. I don’t get insecure when I find out I’m wrong; it’s a learning experience. However, there are some instances where two people are at such different points that reasonable debate becomes impossible. I will cite three examples from the behaviour of HSC.

  1. HSC claims that science can prove things. Anyone with a basic understanding of science will know that science does not prove things. Science is about testing theories. It’s about collecting and analysing data, and creating a catalogue of research that supports or opposes different theories. People talk about “laws” in science, like the “law of gravity” but scientists will tell you that these are not “laws” that are 100% “proven”. Science just doesn’t work that way.
  2. “Everyone who has a vaccine dies.” I used this statement to test whether HSC can think logically. She failed. The key here is to pay attention to the language used. I never stated that “everyone who has a vaccine dies because of the vaccine.” The point is, everyone will die eventually whether they have a vaccine or not. Think about it this way; all men are humans, but not all humans are men.
  3. I’m not a grammar nazi but there are times when you can tell whether someone understands what they are talking about by the language they use. This can be linked back to my first point about science not proving things. We can say that research suggests a particular point with varying degrees of certainty but if a scientist says something is proven, then it’s a red flag. Another red flag is getting a word completely wrong. HSC talked about the “ethicacy” of the vaccines. This is not even a real word, and I suspect she was talking about efficacy.

I ended the debate because, frankly, it was a waste of my time and I’d had my fun.  I wasn’t going to achieve anything more and all I was going to do was upset her.

Weekly Update

It’s been a bit of a confrontational week, which is a little disappointing.  I had a very minor disagreement with an author I like on Twitter.  This brings up an fascinating issue, regarding whether an author can claim ownership over the readers’ interpretation of their work once it is in the public domain.

I posted a tweet asking if I was the only person who detected sexual tension between two characters.  One of them is a woman who suffers extreme anxiety and the other is a man who is misogynistic and a bit of an asshole all around.  The author stated that there is no sexual tension and that I need to sit down and have a think about what it says about society if I felt the portrayal of these characters hinted at sexual tension.  

The thing about writing for the public is you can’t control the reader’s interpretation.  Words have power, and it is extremely difficult to wield that power in such a way that describes or explains the thoughts you are having.  The author may have an intention in their writing, but once the words are on the page and being consumed by the reader, it is the reader that creates their own interpretation.  The author may disagree with that interpretation, but they can’t say it is wrong because that interpretation is unique to that reader.  If you are still with me, please don’t think I spend all my time arguing with people on the internet.  I spend most some of my time doing this, because I’m a troll, but I do have other hobbies.  Honest.

Bob is continuing to settle in and we had to take him to the vet for a day of tests.  He was very well behaved and appears to have no major health issues, although he may need his teeth removed in the future due to a long standing gum infection.  I’m going to admit that it took me some time to connect with Bob because I was, and still am, grieving for Sweep.  However, Bob is a real character and is starting to show some of his personality.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 123.2kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 50).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’m really enjoying my books at the moment and I’m now up to 50 completed in 2021.  I’m itching for some more quality science fiction, so if anyone has any recommendations I would love to hear about them in the comments.  I’m still struggling to lose weight and to motivate myself to get to the gym.  I don’t know what the answer is, but at some point I need to get a grip and start changing my routines.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £16,500.00 (up £15,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,384.18 (up £4,274.42 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £500.00 (up £198.30 from last update). 

Crypto: £473.97 (down £14.19 from last update). 

Pensions: £46,936.17 (up £164.45 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £419,793.32 (up £19,622.98 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £160.39 (down £10.07 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £159,392.09 (up £19,800.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,656.00 (up £19,789.93 from last update).

Total Wealth: £167,137.32 (down £166.95 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.97 (target £5,000).

A lot to discuss this week.  We raised some money from the equity in our home.  This was going to be used to help my family with a holiday and they were going to pay us back, but in the end the money wasn’t needed and so it was able to be directed towards my investments.  I put most of the money into my Premium Bonds with a smaller portion being invested in my ISA.  This extra cash should help speed up the plan to buy a second BTL property.  I also sold some shares that I held elsewhere which I had been unable to touch without paying tax and national insurance contributions.  However, that holding period recently ended and this should bring in approximately £700 in the coming days. 

I had hoped to reduce my credit card to zero for this week’s update, but vets are expensive.  I don’t mind though, as it’s part of having a cat. 

Looking at my finances I am hopeful of having a deal in progress for my second BTL by the time my birthday comes around in September.  Going into 2022 I need to have two properties earning income if I’m to have a chance of achieving FIRE by the age of 40.  

Before I wrap this week’s post up, I just wanted to remind you that you can sign up for email updates.  Near the bottom of the page there should be a button saying “follow”.  If you click that link and follow the instructions you can choose to follow the blog and receive email notifications when I publish a new post.

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 85

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I briefly discuss the concepts of truth, risk and expertise.  I also look at my FIRE number and explain why my Facebook account was recently restricted.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Another week down and, after over a year dealing with Covid, the stupidity still runs strong in some people.  Yes, the UK government has been grossly incompetent in handling the pandemic.  Yes, the lockdown sucks and I would much rather have the freedoms I enjoyed prior to the pandemic.  The thing is, the truth of the matter cares little for what you, or I, want.  The truth is we are in a pandemic and there is a long way to go. This isn’t like a game of football in the park where we get to decide when to stop playing; we do the right things and we beat the pandemic – it’s that simple. 

The amount of people out there that believe the lockdown is a form of social control is pretty scary.  These conspiracy theorists are great at imagining all sorts of secret plots to control us all, but they are poor at explaining why.  

One common argument I have seen from people who are refusing the vaccine, is that they want to know what they are putting in their body.  I take from this, that they want to understand the science behind the vaccine because simply knowing the ingredients does not tell you much.  So, if you agree that it’s a reasonable leap to go from, “I want to know what I’m putting in my body” to, “I want to understand how it works”, then that philosophy can be applied to almost all aspects of daily life.  For example, how many drivers understand the science behind how their car works?  How many tourists understand how their plane works? How many people understand how the different ingredients in their takeaway burger work to extend the lifespan of their food?  If you were to only use or consume that which you fully understand, you would have a very difficult and very short life.

Related to this is the concept of expertise.  I don’t need to know how a plane works because I trust the engineers and pilots to do their job.  I don’t need to know how a car works because I trust the people who designed it.  I don’t trust fast food, so I’ll not go there.  The point is that as part of a society we have to trust the people around us to do their jobs.  When you drill deeper, you can apply this to all sorts of aspects of daily life, such as trusting drivers to stop at a red light or trusting your pharmacist to give you the right medication.  

It’s never possible to eliminate risk entirely, and the best you can hope for is risk management.  This is something I’ve talked about before, but it’s worth revisiting again.  Many anti-vaxxers scoff at the fact that the vaccines don’t offer total protection.  Seatbelts don’t offer total protection from car crashes.  Shin Pads don’t offer total protection from crunching tackles on the football field.  Hell, armour and a shield didn’t offer total protection on medieval battlefields but even the spearmen of the time understood that some protection is better than none. 

We are all frustrated and stressed at another year passing by in lockdown.  It sucks.  I want a holiday.  I want to go to restaurants and bars.  I also understand that it’s not just about me.  The chances of me dying of this virus are remote.  That doesn’t stop me from being a carrier and passing the virus down the chain at which point someone will almost certainly die.

Weekly Update

I’ve been on leave from work this week and despite having grand plans to exercise or study, my time has been eaten up by other things.  I’ve spent some time out in the sun, which has been nice.  I’ve caught up with a few people, in a socially distant manner, and I’ve also just allowed myself time to relax.  

Bob has been to the vet for the first time since we adopted him and although he was quite vocal, he was well behaved and brave.  He is still coming out of his shell and learning that this is a safe, loving home for him.  As a result, we are starting to see more of his personality.  There are still some health concerns we have and I’m not completely convinced we were made aware of all his medical history, but it’s not important now we have him.  He has so much fur though, and when we brush him it just keeps coming off.  We have to make an effort to brush him because, like most cats, he grooms a lot and this leads to him throwing up furballs.

Bob having a snooze.

My Sheffield Wednesday related post generated a lot of traffic this week, and if you missed it you can view it here. The state of the club is just embarrassing but unfortunately I can’t see much changing in the short term except for the club, you know, ceasing to exist.

Although I’ve been on holiday from work, I have still had to spend more time than I’d like on the phone dealing with financial matters.  I’ve spent several hours dealing with my own residential mortgage, but I’ve also been dealing with a complaint with my old bank account provider that was first logged in February this year.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the rules around complaints in the banking sector, you have to give your bank up to eight weeks to investigate and attempt to resolve your complaint.  If they fail to offer an acceptable resolution in those eight weeks, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman either when their rejected resolution is offered or at the end of the eight week period.  

The bank provider made one mistake after another.  The complaint has been repeatedly closed and reopened despite me contacting them numerous times to explain I’m not happy with the offered resolution.  The bank has not contacted me once regarding the complaint.  So, in May I referred the complaint to the Ombudsman.  Since then, the Ombudsman have contacted me stating I have to give the bank eight weeks to resolve the complaint, which was confusing because you can only refer to the Ombudsman after eight weeks.  After several calls it was determined that the Ombudsman had just sent out poorly worded emails to me.

I received a notification from Facebook stating that my account had been restricted for 30 days. I am unable to “go live” or “advertise” on the platform during this time. My offence was posting a meme over a year ago. The offending meme is below:

I posted this meme back in the days of Trump when the US was, well, to put it bluntly, going batshit crazy in their (lack of) response to Covid. I don’t get why it took so long for Facebook to censor this and I suspect it’s probably an automated process using image recognition software.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 48).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’ve finished a few books this week, including some fantastic sci-fi stories by Mary Robinette Kowal which make up The Lady Astronaut series.  The first book, The Calculating Stars is a prequel to a short story written a few years ago.  Following this, The Fated Sky was released which follows (more or less) directly on from The Calculating Stars.  Book three in the series is The Relentless Moon which is a sort of sidequel to The Fated Sky.

What I love about this series is the setting of the 1950s and 60s.  It’s a refreshing look at science fiction, looking back at the early days of the space race and asking, “what if?”.  In this case, the question is “what if a meteorite devastated the United States in the 1950s?”  It is this event that kick starts the series.  I would highly recommend this series of books to anyone interested in science fiction. Links to the Amazon listings for these books are in the images below. If you purchase the books using these links, you will help support this site at no extra cost to you.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £23,109.76 (down £238.19 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £301.70 (up £1.70 from last update). 

Crypto: £488.16 (up £12.40 from last update). 

Pensions: £46,771.72 (up £403.72 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £400,170.34 (up £179.63 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £170.46 (up £81.46 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,592.09 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £232,866.07 (up £81.46 from last update).

Total Wealth: £167,304.27 (up £98.17 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.97 (target £5,000).

A fairly steady week overall with some dips in my ISA being offset by gains in my pensions.  My credit card bill increased slightly but this is just down to not paying it in time to meet this week’s update.  Next week’s update should see some significant changes to my financial position but I’ll save that surprise until then.  

I was talking with a friend the other day and that conversation has been simmering away at the back of my mind.  I was explaining to her that when my plans for FIRE come up in conversation, most people seem to react badly.  The thing is, I’m not doing anything illegal or unusual.  I’m approaching my finances in a structured and organised way.  I’m prioritising some things, like investing, over other things, like having a car.  There are some people out there that love to work and to keep busy.  I, on the other hand, can’t wait until I can quit my job and do my own thing.  Then again, I’m not a social person and I’m quite happy in my own company.

I think that part of the reason so many people are taken aback by my plans is that talking about money is still seen as being unclean or uncivilised in some way.  It’s something I don’t understand, but many people are uncomfortable talking about money.  I suspect that this is down to the fact that money management is not taught in schools.  There is little, if any, education about interest, investing, settling a bank account, paying taxes or paying bills.  A cynical person might think this was deliberate to try and keep the rich and poor in their respective places.  

FIRE Number

I’ve seen a few posts recently where people talk about their FIRE number, which is the amount of money, or the value of their investments, they need to hit to achieve FIRE.  My number has always been based around a net income figure of approximately £1,500pcm (£18,000p/a).  This would allow me to maintain a standard of living I would be very happy with.  Assuming a 5% return rate, I need my total wealth figure to be somewhere in the region of £360,000.  If we assume a 6% rate of return, I would need a wealth figure of approximately £300,000.  I’m just over a year and a half into this project, and my net wealth is just over £167,000.  It would seem that I’m on the right track.  I’ve just had a look at what return we are getting on our first BTL and it’s 6.5%.  This is all looking quite positive.  

The important thing to remember is that these calculations are quite abstract.  Some of my investments do not generate income, but instead accumulate value.  Some of my total wealth is also tied up in pensions.  Looking purely at the income in 2021 so far, when my June rent is received, I will have averaged approximately £200pcm of investment income.  There is still some distance to go, but this will snowball as I accumulate more property and as the market recovers post-Covid.  

Before I wrap this week’s post up, I just wanted to remind you that you can sign up for email updates.  Near the bottom of the page there should be a button saying “follow”.  If you click that link and follow the instructions you can choose to follow the blog and receive email notifications when I publish a new post.

Edit: As I’m writing this the football match between Denmark and Finland has just resumed. My thoughts are with the Danish players and staff, and all Christian Erikson’s friends and family.

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Sheffield Wednesday Football Club

September 29th, 1990 was when I first attended a Sheffield Wednesday match. I was seven years old and was taken by uncle (in all but name) who is the brother of one of our former players. It was an exciting time, as I had just started getting into football following the World Cup in Italy that summer. I know some people found that tournament to be dull, but for me it will always have a special place in my heart.

The 1990/1991 season was an incredible time to start my obsession with Wednesday. We had some incredible players, and we won promotion back to Division One (yes, football did exist before the Premier League), as well as beating Manchester United at Wembley to win the League Cup.

My interest in football would rise and fall over the years, but surprisingly there was little correlation with the success of the club. I can’t remember much of 1993-1995, for example, nor can I remember much of 2003-2005 as I was in an alcohol fuelled haze at university. I was obsessed in the late 90s though and hardly missed a home game, and had my first taste of travelling to see the Owls. My first away game was a win at Filbert Street, with goals from Wim Jonk and Benito Carbone.

The thing about Wednesday is that we should be a big club. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, or mean that we have an automatic right to be a big club. What I mean is, we have all the necessary ingredients to be a big club. Sheffield is the fourth largest city in England; bigger than Liverpool and Newcastle. In terms of population, Sheffield ranks fifth ahead of Leeds and Manchester (not the area of Greater Manchester though). We should be a big club sitting comfortably in the top half of the Premier League, occasionally flirting with Europe. If I take off my blue and white glasses, I have to admit that Sheffield United should also be a Premier League club. The thing is, Sheffield is not like other cities.

I’ve attended the University of Leicester and the University of Central Lancashire. I’ve mixed with people from all over the UK, and so many of them know nothing about Sheffield. Despite the size of the city, it’s almost hidden from public view, and we don’t do enough to capitalise on the rich history of the city, with the oldest independent football club in the world being Sheffield F.C., formed in 1857. Sheffield Wednesday followed just ten years later in 1867. We are an old club, steeped in history. To put this in historical context, Wednesday were formed just two years after the end of the US Civil War. All this history could very well be coming to an end in the next few weeks and months.

Sheffield Wednesday have been a state of steady decline, interrupted by the occasional good season, for almost thirty years. There is no single factor that led to this downturn, although some of the more commonly cited causes are the sacking of Trevor Francis as manager, to Dave Richards being more focused on his external career, to the club’s failure to stand by Paulo Di Canio, to the disastrous signings of the Scottish trio sometimes referred to as Phil O’Donnelly; Simon Donnelly, Phil O’Donnell and Phil Scott. If there is one thing that stands out at Wednesday, it is the ability to sign players on big wages and then let them go for nothing.

Over the years I have seen a number of quality players come to Hillsborough, perform well and then leave for an insultingly low price, or even nothing. Then, there are the players brought here on insane contracts who contributed little or nothing. I’m thinking of; Wim Jonk, Andy Hinchcliffe, Phil O’Donnelly, Emerson Thome, Dejan Stefanovic, Darko Kovacevic, Gilles de Bilde, Gerald Sibon, Benito Carbone, Paulo Di Canio, Glenn Whelan, Chris Brunt, Madjid Bougherra, Tom Lees, Adam Reach, Steven Fletcher, Gary Hooper, Jordan Rhodes, Fernando Forestieri, Almen Abdi… These are just off the top of my head, but when you dig deeper and look at some of the more recent loan signings, such as Will Buckley, Callum McManaman or Izzy Brown, it just blows your mind. I can’t even get started on the farcical way the club allowed George Hirst, Sean Clare and Liam Shaw to leave for almost nothing. Over the years, the amount of money the club has wasted on fees and wages is enough to make your eyes water.

As we approach the 2021/2022 season, The Owls will be starting in League One which is the third tier of English football. The club was relegated from the Championship by three points, after starting the season with a twelve point deduction (reduced to six on appeal). The penalty was applied because the club was deemed to have broken the financial fair play rules that are a complete fucking mystery (CFM) to myself and many other football supporters. This all related to the sale of the stadium by owner Dejphon Chansiri to *checks notes* Dejphon Chansiri. Although Wednesday are not the only club to have done this, and although the act of selling the stadium is not a breach of the rules in itself (so far as I understand) the issue related to how the sale was recorded in the accounts. I’m not going to go into detail about this side of things because it is another CFM to me.

I’m sure that you are probably wondering why the sale was necessary. The answer is that the club spent way too much money on transfers and wages for players that were not required. The club failed to sell when the time was right, and so players who could have brought the club a healthy profit such as Forestieri (signed for £3M and we rejected offers of over £10M) were allowed to walk away for nothing. The one signing that really sticks in the craw of many Owls fans is that of Jordan Rhodes. Figures quoted for the transfer vary anywhere from £8M to £10M, with wages of £25k-£50k per week reported. I’ll be conservative and assume the reality was at the lower end of that range. Jordan Rhodes will have cost the club, over his four-year contract, somewhere in the region of £13M. Now, I used to be a huge fan of Jordan Rhodes and was excited when we signed him, but this was before I knew the full extent of our crazy transfer strategy. Having left Wednesday, Rhodes will be remembered mostly for, allegedly, refusing to take a penalty in the play-off semi-final against his former (and now current) club Huddersfield. Wednesday lost that penalty shoot out.

A Glitch in the Matrix

Does Almen Abdi exist? I’m sure I’ve seen him play, so he must do. According to the archives, Abdi was at the club from the 2016/2017 season until the end of the 2018/2019 season. In that time, he made twenty appearances. He was signed for a reported £4M from Watford and would have been on a decent contract at the club. If we assume he was on £15k per week, then he would have cost the club approximately £6.34M. Then, there are the examples of Joost van Aken, David Jones, Will Buckley and Urby Emanuelson.

When you start crunching the numbers you see a depressing pattern of signing players and then hardly using them. You see a pattern of unnecessary signings that unbalanced the squad, and a failure to address the problems that all Wednesday fans saw when leaving Wembley in 2016. We needed a midfield monster. We needed pace. We got neither.

Followed the play-off final defeat in the 2015/2016 season, and the semi-final defeat in 2016/2017, the club needed change. The manager, Carlos Carvalhal, should have been replaced. It was nothing personal, it was simply the right time. Instead, we had one of the worst seasons in recent years. We had over a dozen first team players injured at the same time. We went game after game without a shot on target. We were humiliated at home by Sheffield United, who demonstrated that an effective team could be crafted with pace, power and hard work. We eventually replaced Carvalhal with Jos Luhukay. Don’t worry, I’ll wait whilst you look him up.

Right, you back? Great. I didn’t mind Jos that much, to be honest. At this point it was becoming obvious to many fans that the problems at the club ran deeper than who was manager. The players seemed too complacent and, depending on who you asked, were wielding too much power behind the scenes. Jos tried to forge a new, younger, side. It didn’t work. Jos left the club after almost a year in charge.

Our next manager seemed like a return to sanity as we appointed Steve Bruce, but not before giving him a few weeks to watch cricket. No, really. We let him delay starting his job because he wanted to watch cricket. Bruce had just come off the back of an awful year where he had health issues and lost both parents. I didn’t have too much of an issue with him taking some time. What really angered a lot of people was when he walked away from Wednesday to take the Newcastle job just weeks after being appointed. It was disrespectful. We then endured Garry Monk and Tony Pulis before ending up with Darren Moore. The calibre of manager appointed has not exactly been stellar.

Throughout all these managerial changes, there has been one man at the top, the owner of the club Dejphon Chansiri. If there is one thing his ownership has brought, it is some quality memes with Owlstalk boasting a 37 page thread dedicated to SWFC memes, of which there are some examples below:

Sheffield is a working class city with people that are, by and large, friendly and welcoming. Chansiri was welcomed to the city and the fans went out of their way to show respect to his Thai culture, such as when the stadium held a two minute silence before a match to honour the death of the Thai King in October 2016. The timeline of Chansiri’s ownership is batshit crazy interesting and there is a 19 page thread on this issue on the fans forum Owlstalk. A few highlights include

  • Having Buddhist monks bless the ground in April 2015.
  • Sale of replica kits being delayed weeks into the season in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.
  • Cakeball which is exactly what it sounds like.
  • Club 1867; a promotion so bad it failed twice.
  • The banning of BBC Radio Sheffield for a time in 2018.
  • Multiple transfer embargoes.
  • Several reported instances of players being paid late and/or reduced amounts.
  • Membership and ticket prices rising several times, despite fans being told their money does not make a difference.
An impressive feat of baking, that I can’t deny.

The list is pretty long and embarrassing. Despite the fans showing respect to Chansiri’s background and culture, I’ve met several fans who think that has not been reciprocated.

I don’t doubt that Chansiri had the best of intentions when he took over the club, but I look at his time as owner and cannot see it as anything other than an abject failure. The club is in a perilous financial state and has gone from being a stable, if uninspiring, Championship club to one that may not start the season. Wednesday no longer own their own stadium and have a squad of players that is small, and lacking in fight and ability. There is now talk of some of our remaining players walking away from their contracts due to not being paid on time. There are rumours of possible points deductions for the coming season. If you were a professional footballer, would you sign for a club in this situation? Doubtful.

Questions also need to be asked over the future of the manager, Darren Moore, and his coaching staff. I don’t know Darren Moore, but I would be amazed if he’s not asked himself whether it would be better to walk away now rather than face the coming season, where we could start on minus points with possibly the weakest squad the club has ever put together.

Some bookies have Wednesday as favourites to win League One next season and I just can’t understand how they arrived at this. There is honestly more chance of relegation next season unless we see major change at all levels of the club. We need a clean slate; a fresh start and I think the only way to achieve that is to force Chansiri to sell. I strongly oppose any form of personal abuse towards our owner. This isn’t personal. This is about the survival of the club, and the continuation of over 150 years of history. There are many fans who take pride in supporting their club through the good times and the bad. In most cases, this is the right course of action. However, in this instance, I think the best way to secure the future of the club is stop putting any more cash into it. The fans need to keep their wallets firmly closed. This is the only way to force a sale. It will, unfortunately, be a game of who blinks first. There is the possibility that Chansiri could just liquidate the club, and sell the stadium to a property developer. As things stand, I believe it’s a case of when the club dies as opposed to if the club dies. As the saying goes, if you find yourself falling, you might as well try to flap your arms and fly.

Thank you for reading this post on davidscothern.com. Please subscribe for email updates using the link at the bottom of the page. If you have enjoyed this post, please consider showing your support and Buy Me A Coffee using the link below.

Part 84

A shorter post than normal this week as, unfortunately, I just found myself running out of time to meet the publishing deadline.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from Jeremy Wasson, who appears to be quite an angry child.  In a Facebook thread that was discussing whether people should be vaccinated, I suggested (only half jokingly) that those who refuse the vaccine should be banned from public places.  Although trolling on social media is a source of great entertainment for me, I do wonder what goes through the minds of certain people that they feel this sort of abuse is a reasonable response.  In addition to saying I deserve death, young Wasson said I should “be hanged” and that I should “go be a communist somewhere else” and that I “don’t belong in America.”  My reply, that I don’t live in the US and that I instead live in a country with free national healthcare was, perhaps, a little below the belt.  

I think when Jeremy grows into adulthood he will be embarrassed at his childhood actions, and I shouldn’t be too critical as I also said some stupid things before I hit my teenage years.  

What is slightly concerning is the number of people that are just so angry at the prospect of being vaccinated.  These are people who claim that they want to know what they are putting in their bodies, yet I know they are smashing through at least one McDonald’s takeaway a week.

Weekly Update

This past week was my last working week before going on holiday for a while.  I need the break as I’ve been feeling physically and mentally exhausted for a while now.  I think part of that is down to the state of my mental health, whilst part of it is down to not sleeping well.  Either way, I’m looking forward to a break and getting some fresh air.

Our new cat, Bob, seems to be settling in.  He’s had two full weeks with us now and he is starting to relax.  We play regularly as I shine the laser pointer for him to chase.  He also has a selection of other toys he likes to chase and scratch at.  He has also ventured onto the balcony and started sitting on the chairs much like Sweep, our previous cat, used to do.

I did enjoy meeting up with a friend I’ve not seen since last summer.  She brought her partner and daughter along and we had lunch at a food hall.  It was the first time I’d met her partner but we didn’t get much chance to talk as their little girl was not feeling too good.  Hopefully we will get out again with my girlfriend for dinner before too long.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 44).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’m now up to 44 completed books but am yet to make any progress with my weight loss or DipFA studies.  I’m hoping that this break from work will start to push me in the right direction.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,500.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £23,347.95 (down £302.47 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £300.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £475.76 (up £40.76 from last update). 

Pensions: £46,368.00 (up £309.60 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £399,990.71 (up £47.89 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £89.00 (up £14.00 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,592.09 (down £357.45 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,103.52 (down £18.05 from last update). 

Total Debts: £232,784.61 (down £361.50 from last update).

Total Wealth: £167,206.10 (up £409.39 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.09 (target £5,000).

I’m a bit disappointed that my ISA dipped slightly.  Much of my ISA balance is invested in a single stock, which has been steadily rising and is up approximately 20% over the last three months.  This stock is one that I will eventually cash in to fund some more BTL purchases over the next 12-18 months.  

I have started crunching the numbers in a little more detail in regards to my second BTL purchase.  I’ve said before that it will be a cheaper property than the first one we bought.  I still think we got a good deal on that first house, but we definitely had to look at a higher priced set of properties than we first intended.  I think it was just important to get that first deal over the line because it’s easy to get bogged down in analysis paralysis.  

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 83

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I look at the concept of survivorship bias and how it relates to investing.  Also, the usual financial updates and a few pictures from Bob’s first full week as part of our family. So let’s get to the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

My quote this week comes from Darren Scothern’s blog, where this week he talks about survivorship bias.  This is such an important concept for daily life that a lot of people overlook, and I firmly believe that this lack of understanding contributes to the negative self-image that many people have.  Look at the quote below:

At first glance, it appears inspirational but I really don’t like this quote.  So much of daily life depends on chance.  There are people who work hard all their lives but never catch a break.  Then, there are people who happen to stumble on the right situation, at the right time.  There is an argument that you make your own luck, and there is some validity to this point.  The more you work at something, the more opportunities you have to succeed.  So, from that point of view you are making more chances for fortune to smile on you.  

So, what is survivorship bias? It’s a cognitive bias where people remember successful instances of an event whilst forgetting, or ignoring, the unsuccessful instances.  Derren Brown conducted a fascinating study to demonstrate survivorship bias using horse racing.  In his study, he recruited someone to place bets on a series of races under the guise of a “system” he claimed to have devised.  The TV cameras documented this person’s progress as they won each successive bet until they had amassed a nice pot of cash.  So, what was the system?

Derren Brown had actually recruited lots of people and he gave each of them a different prediction for the winner of each race.  If you have enough people, then it’s mathematically possible to formulate a different set of predictions so that at least one person is guaranteed to win each bet in a series of bets.  From the perspective of that one person, it appears that the system is magical.  From the perspective of the dozens of other recruits, it’s a failure.  However, until the documentary revealed the secret, many people would have thought the system worked.

Survivorship bias is relevant to many aspects of daily life and a lack of understanding can be dangerous.  I’m extremely critical of many “property experts” who claim they can teach you how to make serious money out of property in a matter of weeks.  These experts normally draw on their own personal experience and describe how they went from a boring office job to owning a million pound property portfolio in just a few months using other people’s money.  What they conveniently fail to tell you, or fail to really emphasise, is that the vast majority of people who try their hand at property investing will not follow that same successful path.  Some people will make a decent return.  Some may do quite well for themselves and transition from their previous job into property over time.  The thing is, some people will crash and burn, and some people could very well lose their lives because of this, just like Danny Butcher, a former soldier who took his own life after losing thousands of pounds trying to build a property business.  

The self-help industry is also something I’m critical of.  There are countless books out there written by people who gave up their job and relationship to go travelling and “find themselves”.  I find a lot of these types of books to be dangerous bullshit.  Some people will go travelling and have a great experience.  They will find inner peace and grow as a person.  I’m not doubting that.  Some people will do this and be better for it.  However, if you are going to write about your experiences, you have a responsibility to your readers to acknowledge that luck played a huge part in your experience.  For example, you could choose to go travelling in India and get mugged and beaten on your first day.  Or, you could travel around Thailand, spending all your savings on flights and spending money only to realise that you are still depressed at the end of it but now you have no job, no savings and you’ve left your partner as well.  For every person who succeeds with this, there are going to be many others who don’t, but those stories don’t sell books.

Weekly Update

Last week I briefly mentioned that we were adopting a cat called Bob, also known as; Bobbles, Bobbity, Bobbers, and Sir Robert.  He’s a sweet cat and he’s very nervous and easily scared.  For the first few days he barely came out of hiding.  He is slowly coming out of his shell though.  Although I like him (I like all animals), I don’t yet feel a connection with him like I had with Sweep.  Part of me thinks we might have gone for a new cat too soon, but my girlfriend really wanted to adopt another cat.  I’m not saying I was forced into it; it was a joint decision.  I was a little hesitant though and once we had Bob here, it brought back memories of Sweep.  

In the last day or two I’ve felt a bit more attached to Bob because I’ve made more of an effort to play with him.  He loves chasing after his toys and I brought back a laser pointer which he goes crazy trying to catch.  I hope he settles in our home and I hope I grow to love him as much as I loved Sweep.

Although more and more people are getting vaccinated, I still feel that the UK is opening up too quickly.  I get that businesses need to survive but how does one balance lives against the economy? Every aspect of the government’s response has been utterly incompetent.  The NHS workers have performed miracles during this pandemic and the vaccine rollout has been a great success.  We wouldn’t have needed such an urgent program had the initial response to the pandemic been even just barely competent.  This government has blood on its hands and, although I don’t think it’s likely, I would hope there are prosecutions for the farcical way the government has handled this crisis.  

My mental health is still not in a great place.  I need to get back to the gym, but I’m still having a few aches and pains.  I’m off work for a week soon, and I think I’ll use that time to gently test the waters and see what my body can cope with.  I’d rather try this when the gym is a bit quieter in the middle of the day rather than in the evening when it’s busier.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 43).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I have still not resumed studying.  I know I need to, but I lack the mental stamina for it at the moment.  Work is really draining me and it’s normal for me to have less motivation when I’m in a depressed state.  I am enjoying reading for leisure though and I’m up to 43 completed books in 2021, and I’m on track to meet my annual goal of completing 104 new books.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,500.00 (up £300.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £23,650.42 (up £881.68 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £300.00 (down £549.42 from last update).

Crypto: £435.00 (down £18.27 from last update).

Pensions: £46,058.40 (up £1,144.57 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £399,942.82 (up £1,758.56 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £75.00 (down £974.13 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,146.11 (down £974.13 from last update).

Total Wealth: £166,796.71 (up £2,732.69 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £1,005.09 (target £5,000).

A few changes this week.  I decided to close down my primary credit card because it was becoming increasingly difficult to service the card.  The only way to make payments was through the app, but it would frequently crash in the middle of making a payment.  Money would leave my bank account and then take days, and multiple phone calls to their customer service to resolve.  There was also the fact that it took a minimum of four minutes each call to choose the option you want because of the barrage of messages telling you that you would be better off using the app.  I’ve started getting increasingly annoyed by this approach from businesses when they spend ages repeating the same message on their phone lines.  I don’t think there are many people that prefer to call companies now.  So, if someone is calling a company it is probably because they can’t do what they need to do via the app or website.  Telling these people that they can use the app or website is just insulting the customer on the phone.  

Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest we will return to my financial update.  I had to use some of my Fuck It Fund to pay my credit card off.  However, I felt it was a worthwhile exercise.  I received some dividend income, in addition to my monthly rental income which has pushed my 2021 investment income to just over £1,000.  I may still fall short of the £5,000 target, as I had to use more of my savings to put right a few things with the BTL property.  My crypto balance is still taking a hammering but my stocks and pensions have increased in value substantially.  I was a little bit gutted that I just missed out on my total asset value going above £400,000.  Hopefully I can pass that milestone next week. 

Over the next few weeks I’m going to start looking for my next BTL property.  Unlike my first one, the next BTL will be a solo venture and it will not be as expensive.  The cost of our first BLT ended up spiralling to well over £130,000 once all the repair work was factored in.  It was a learning experience though and there are a lot of lessons I can take forward to the next property.

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 82

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk about customer service and the Covid vaccine roll out.  Also, some exciting news about a new addition to our family.  First, the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

There has been a recurring theme in my blog, where I blast companies that provide poor service.  I want to look at this from the opposite side though, and look at how good customer service is based on a relationship between the customer and the business.   

Everyone reading this, at some point, will have been offering a service or product and had a challenging customer.  There’s nothing wrong with being a challenging customer if you are polite.  It’s the lack of courtesy that ends up producing poor service.  

In the last couple of weeks I have had a number of friends in different types of business confide in me that they have been reduced to tears by customers who were nasty and abusive.  I don’t get this mindset.  It takes more effort to be an asshole than to just be polite, and a normal human being.  

Everyone has their own limit and their own red lines, which when crossed, result in that person shutting down.  The one that bugs me the most is when people just interrupt at every opportunity.  If you ask me a question, please give me time to answer it.  Also, understand that if you are talking to someone on the phone, or in a shop, even when you are talking to a manager the chances are they have absolutely no input in deciding policy.  If you shout and scream you may get what you asked for but this does not necessarily mean you were right and the company was wrong.  It just means the company made a business decision to pay you money to shut up and go away.

Some of the things I have heard customers say are just awful.  In a previous job I was handling a complaint for a customer who was stating that a member of staff had terminated their call.  Upon listening to the call, the customer had shouted that they hoped the staff member’s children “got AIDs”.  I mean, seriously? What goes through a person’s mind for them to say these types of things?

All companies will get things wrong, but in my experience most staff will go to great lengths to resolve errors for people if they are treated with civility and respect.  Simple things like saying, “hello” or asking “how are you?” at the start of an interaction can make all the difference.  It’s just basic human decency.

Weekly Update

Another week down on my journey to FIRE.  My mental health is still not great and I do spend a lot of time just doing nothing.  It’s like there is a complete absence of mental energy to do anything, and so I just sit and read or listen to an audiobook.  I need to get to a point where I can exercise regularly again because that has proven time and time again to be the best way of keeping me sane and content.  

I have some exciting news though.  We have a new cat.  His name is Bob, although I have taken to calling him Bobby, Bobbles, Bobbity and when we’re feeling a little more formal, Sir Robert.  He’s 12 and very nervous.  He has spent much of his time hiding but has come out a few times for food, head scratches and a drink.  We are just giving him space to explore our apartment and when he’s ready, he will settle down.

Bob came to us because his owner, who had him since he was a kitten, met a new partner who is allergic to cats.  She must be heartbroken at having to give up her friend of over a decade.  Animals aren’t just things that can be discarded.  They become family.  If my girlfriend was allergic to cats it would be awful.  It would be such a wrench but in the end I would help her find a new home.

I have had my second Covid vaccination and fortunately I did not have any real side effects this time.  I did feel a bit tired and light headed, and my arm is bruised.  This is a far cry from my first jab when I was shivering and had cold sweats.  The organisation behind the vaccine roll out has been fantastic.  My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to all those NHS workers and volunteers who are working on the vaccine project, as well as those researchers who created the vaccine.  It’s a testament to human ingenuity that we were able to create this vaccine so quickly, ignoring for a moment all the mistakes made by world governments in not controlling the spread more effectively.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.5kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 40).

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.  (Not started).

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.  (Not started). 

I’ve made good progress with my reading since the last post.  In the past week I have read an absolutely fantastic book called The Fuck It List by John Niven.  The book is set in the near future in the United States where Trump has been elected for a second term in office.  The protagonist receives a terminal cancer diagnosis in the first few sentences and decides to just, “fuck it.”  I will not say more for fear of spoiling it, but it was just incredible.  It was funny and horrific in equal measure.  The book seems primed for a film adaptation and I think the Coen brothers would be perfect for such a project.  I’ve popped the link to the Amazon in the image below.  If you use that link to purchase the book, it means I will earn a small commission.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,200.00 (up £200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £22,768.74 (up £101.47 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £849.42 (up £200.71 from last update).

Crypto: £453.27 (down £208.72 from last update).

Pensions: £44,913.83 (up £438.64 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £398,184.26 (up £732.10 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £1,049.13 (up £240.68 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £234,120.24 (up £240.68 from last update).

Total Wealth: £164,064.02 (up £491.42 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £476.35 (target £5,000).

By the time of the next post I should have received another instalment of rent, as well as some dividends from my stocks.  It might just take my investment income for the year to over £1,000.  I’m annoyed at my credit card balance because it should be much lower.  I’ve made several payments to the card but because Virgin Money’s systems are rubbish, the payments have been delayed.  

Cryptocurrencies have been hammered in the last few weeks.  I don’t fully understand crypto and that’s why I’ve not allocated a huge amount of money to it.  I’m concerned by the fact that these types of currencies are not backed by anything.  Their volatility also concerns me.  The other factor that I’m not comfortable with is the environmental impact of crypto.  Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of electricity and the carbon footprint of it is getting worse all the time.  Recent reports state that Bitcoin’s carbon footprint is roughly the same as New Zealand’s.  

I don’t know what the future holds for crypto but I just can’t see a world where all these competing currencies take over from traditional, national currencies.  There is too much at stake for the big economies of the world to have their currencies undermined.

How to do Business

I don’t like playing games or haggling when it comes to business.  I prefer an open approach where all parties just say it like it is.  All the cloak and dagger stuff just annoys me.  Just be transparent in how you do business and it’s better for everyone.

A few days ago our letting agent emailed to explain that our tenants contract is due to end in a couple of months and the agent wants to charge us £120 to renew the tenancy.  I exchanged a few emails with the manager of the local office and I was deliberately playing down how much I knew about tenancy renewals.  I explained that I wasn’t comfortable paying any sort of fee based on the service we’ve had so far.  The manager offered to reduce the fee by half.  I went back and asked why any sort of fee was necessary because when an Assured Shorthold Tenancy ends, it normally just reverts to a rolling monthly contract.  There is literally no extra work for the agent to carry out.  The manager came back and said that we could move on to a rolling contract at no cost.  The thing is, this option was never actively made clear by the manager.  All the communications were based on the assumption that we had to pay a fee to renew the tenancy.  

I know that if we moved to a different agent there would be fees to pay, but I’m almost tempted to do that just to give this agency the middle finger.  Throughout our, albeit brief, relationship they have been unclear with their communications.  It’s starting to become a pattern.  

For now, I think we will just stick with the agent whilst we have this tenant.  Once the tenant moves out I think we may look for another company.  Changing agents at this point just adds another variable to this situation which I really don’t feel like handling right now.

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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