2021 Reading Challenge – Part 2

You can only read a book for the first time once. In some ways that is tragic but it’s part of the magic of storytelling. I recently asked the question on social media:

I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was little and would read all the Star Wars and Star Trek books I could get my hands on. I would happily go back to them and lose myself in those stories. It was a form of escapism but it did get me into the habit of reading. There are many books I’ve enjoyed, and even narrowing down my favourites to a top-ten list would be very difficult. However, when I think about books I would love to experience again for the first time there is only one contender; The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell.

These books were written between 1995 and 1997 and tell the story of Arthur; the man who united the Britons agains the Saxon invaders. The trilogy borrows from traditional Arthurian mythology but Cornwell’s telling is grounded in realism. This is less knights in shining armour, and more spearmen in chainmail, with blood, mud and guts. The story is possibly the most emotional one I’ve read and even now, over two decades later the story moves me and the ending leaves me drained. Everyone I know who has read these books agrees that they are simply fantastic. I enjoy them each time I read them, but I would love so much to be able to experience them again for the first time. I’m surprised that no one has taken the plunge and adapted these books for television, especially seeing as though Cornwell’s pseudo-sequel series The Last Kingdom has been well received on Netflix. My biggest fear would be that a series was made and it bombed because it was watered down or produced on the cheap.

Back to my question though… I was surprised at some of the answers because several people referenced the same series of books by Robin Hobb. I have never heard of this author or their Assassin’s Apprentice trilogy. I have looked up the books and unfortunately it does not sound like my sort of thing. Here is a selection of the replies I received:

I also had someone suggest Twilight on Twitter, but I treated that suggestion with all the contempt it deserved (sorry RK).

I’m now up to 32 completed books in 2021, with book 33 almost completed. I am currently reading Goldilocks by Laura Lam which is a science-fiction story set in the near future which looks at a crewed mission to another star system. I’m enjoying the book and it’s keeping me guessing which is a good sign. I have recently finished Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates which was a real eye-opening experience. There are certain terms that I’ve seen and heard, such as Incel, without knowing what they meant. This book certainly cleared up any misunderstandings I might have had.

In many ways, reading this book reminds me of the arguments that were had over the Black Lives Matter movement. Some people claimed that, by proclaiming Black Lives Matter, you are suggesting they matter more than other lives. This resulted in the bizarre response many people responded with, which was that All Lives Matter. The thing is, pointing out that Black Lives Matter does not automatically mean other lives do not matter. We have to point out that Black Lives Matter because for too long people have acted as if they don’t. It’s the same sort of principle with equal rights for women. No one is suggesting that male rights should suddenly be reduced below those of women. Instead, we need to aim for a society where all people have equal rights and opportunities. The realist in me knows that will probably never happen because people are tribal by nature. It does not mean we should stop fighting for it though.

One thing that Laura Bates taught me was just how prevalent misogyny is. There are whole communities online that are based around the hatred of women, and it’s as frightening as it is absurd. Over the last few years I have become increasingly aware of the idea of societal privilege. There is white privilege, socio-economic privilege, and male privilege in addition to many others. As a white male from a working class background who now finds himself firmly in the middle class, I have often been blind to the automatic privileges I have. In response to this, I have been trying to educate myself outside my echo chamber. Part of that has been the commitment to try and read more books by female authors. My numbers are not as equal as I would like between male and female authors but I think I am moving in the right direction. Here is my up to date progress:

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).****

And below are a few graphs and charts….

My last update had a split of 14.8% to 85.2%, so I’m slowly moving towards a more equal split of male to female authors.

Like with male and female author statistics, this is starting to balance out as well. In my last update almost 60% of my books this year had been non-fiction.

The trend towards equality continues here with my last update showing am 18.5% to 81.5% split.

I will probably post another update on my reading progress once I get to 40 books. Until then, be sure to check out my latest FIRE related blog.

Thanks for reading and if you like my content, please remember to Buy Me A Coffee.

Part 78

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A short post this week, as I’m feeling mentally exhausted.  I talk a little about what success is, and discuss some changes to the financial aspect of the blog.  I also look at an argument I had with a moderator on a Facebook group.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Success is definitely not linear.  Success in life is also subjective.  Some people count success as the accumulation of wealth, whilst others strive for a life of meaning, and service.  As long as your life goals don’t involve murder or other illegal or immoral acts, I don’t think there are any set standards as to what would count as a successful life.

I don’t think I have an overarching life goal, that when I meet it, I will think I’m successful.  I do have a series of goals I want to meet, such as achieving financial independence by the time I’m 40.  When I do achieve FI, will that mean I’m successful?  No, I’ll move on to my next goal.  

I think too many people get caught up in comparing themselves to their peers and if they don’t match or exceed the achievements of their peers, they end up disappointed and frustrated.  The thing is, people are not always honest about where they are in life.  That person who has all the exotic holidays and a nice car could be drowning in debt.  The person who appears to be doing extremely well at work could be lying.  I think the first step to having a successful life is to stop comparing yourself to others.  There is nothing wrong with being inspired, but it should not be a competition with anyone else.  Success comes from within; it comes from how you deal with what life throws at you.  It comes from how you react to your own circumstances.  

Weekly Update

It’s been a very tiring week.  I’m a bit sick of the daily grind, and I’m frustrated that I’m still not more mobile.  I can walk but after more than a few minutes my ankle starts to hurt again.  I think I’m at least a week away from normal movement.

Regular readers will know that I recently had to say goodbye to my cat, Sweep.  He was my best bud and putting him to sleep was so difficult, but it was his time.  Sweep was almost 19, and had lived a good life.  His health was failing though and he was miserable in his last few days.  He’s always in my thoughts.  My girlfriend and I had said we would wait a while before looking for a new cat, but we miss having a cat in our home.  We are both animal lovers and we have time, space, money and love to look after a new cat.  So, we are in the process of adopting an older lady who has poor eye sight and is recovering from a hernia operation.  We purposefully looked for older cats that may have been overlooked due to their age and health.  These cats deserve love and affection too, and we will be delighted to welcome this older lady to our home in the next few weeks.  Assuming the adoption goes smoothly, I’ll post more updates including pictures.  

I’m a little concerned about how busy everything has become now that the lockdown is being eased.  Where I live, the streets are closed so that bars and restaurants can have tables in the road.  Normally, this is great, but it’s just so busy.  I really hope we are not headed for another spike in Covid cases.  Another lockdown will be devastating.  I can’t express how strongly I hope we are over the worst of the pandemic.  It’s been a long journey since this all kicked off in China late in 2019.

Facebook Frustration

I hate Facebook, but the fact is nothing else replicates what Facebook offers.  Twitter is, in my opinion, difficult to use and is very negative at times.  Instagram seems to be full of people trying to sell you things.  There are other sites, but they don’t offer that mix of sharing content and personal communication that Facebook offers.  My main issue with Facebook is how it decides what to show you.  I would much rather see a simple chronological timeline of my friends’ activity.  Instead, we get an algorithm that decides what we see.  

Anyway, now that I have unloaded those frustrations I just want to share something that annoyed me last week when I tried to share my post.  There are a number of places I promote my blog, and one of those was a private Facebook group called Financial Independence UK.  It wasn’t a great group with the vast majority of posts falling into one of two categories.  The first type of posts were typically from people asking what funds they should invest in.  This usually resulted in a lot of people saying the same thing in response; index trackers with global exposure.  The second type of post was the “boast post”.  Something like, “I’ve got a million pounds in my pension and I don’t know what to do.”  As a result, the group became a bit boring and stale.  From time to time, I would provide my opinion on some more unusual debates such as those to do with property, or crypto. 

When I joined the group, I asked if I could promote my blog.  I was told it was fine so long as it was no more than once a week, and that it was good quality.  Last week, they rejected my post.  I had a back and forth via PM with a group admin and it looked to have been a mistake from their end and the post was allowed.  The admin stated they were concerned that I offered little of value to the group, which got my back up a little.  I explained that the vast majority of group content was repetitive and that if I had nothing different to add, I was not going to post just to get my name out there.  

An hour or so later someone asked for advice about their circumstances.  They had poor credit and wanted a mortgage.  It was a lengthy post and there were some questions I felt I could offer useful clarity on.  I typed up a reply and explained I was a mortgage advisor and that I was happy to explain concepts that they found confusing.  The person had stated they didn’t want to publicly go into too much detail about their financial trouble so I offered, at the end of my reply, to offer my opinion if they wanted to send me a message.

My post was almost instantly removed and the admin contacted me, and the following conversation took place:

Sometimes it’s just more trouble than it’s worth being a part of these groups as they become echo chambers with the same conversations taking place over and over again.  I tried looking for the group but I think they’ve blocked me.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.3kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 31).

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).

My weight has spiked but I’m convinced this is an anomaly.  Weight can fluctuate from day to day, so although I’m frustrated I don’t think it’s a disaster.

I have read a few books since the last update and I’m on track to hit my end of year target.  My to-read list is growing quickly though so I perhaps need to calm down with buying new audiobooks and physical books.  

I’m still thinking about whether to continue studying for DipFA.  Whilst having the qualification would be great, I just don’t know if I’ve got the mental stamina and bandwidth to deal with it right now.  The thing is, my goal is financial independence and part of that involves being able to give up employment.  If I study for DipFA it is only going to benefit me in terms of employability.  There’s little benefit to me once I achieve FI, so I am questioning whether it’s worth focusing time, energy and mental resources on something that does not fit into my goals.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £950.00 (up £425.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £20,119.38 (down £463.07 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £562.31 (up £170.02 from last update).

Crypto: £602.94 (down £118.11 from last update).

Pensions: £44,953.39 (first entry).

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: £395,187.02 (up £44,967.23 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £165.12 (up £165.12 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £140,308.18 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,145.49 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,618.79 (up £165.12 from last update).

Total Wealth: £161,568.23 (up £44,802.11 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £467.64 (target £5,000).

I’ve been able to invest more into Premium Bonds this week and increase my Fuck It Fund.  The big news is that I’ve decided to include my pensions in this project.  A few people have asked why I wasn’t including pensions, and I didn’t have a compelling reason.  I simply hadn’t included them so far.  This means that my wealth figure has dramatically increased.  

The other major difference from last week is the receipt of another rental payment.  Assuming that the tenant pays on time, and in full, it should account for around half my annual target.  The remaining half will hopefully come from dividends and the rent from a second property to be purchased later this year. 

My credit card will probably take some punishment over the next few weeks. I’m supporting both myself and my girlfriend whilst she waits for her new job to start. I could use the money I invest each month to support us, but I really did not want to stop investing and my credit card currently has 0% interest on purchases. So, I’ll let it increase for now and then pay it down once my girlfriend resumes contributing to the household finances.

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. 

The Problems with Football: Racism and Greed

I used to love football. Now, I only have a passing interest. I can’t remember the last time I watched a full game that did not involve my club, Sheffield Wednesday. The game isn’t what I fell in love with, and I think it can all be boiled down to two core problems; racism and greed. Although it might not seem apparent at first, there is some cross over between these two issues.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

The upcoming World Cup in Qatar is a prime example of how racism and greed are woven into the fabric of modern football. No one will ever convince me that Qatar was awarded the World Cup purely on merit. It was money driven, pure and simple. But what about racism?

In order to host the competition, Qatar has had to build a whole new infrastructure of stadiums and transport links. This work is being completed almost exclusively by migrant workers brought to Qatar under false promises of good jobs, fair wages and safe conditions. There have been a number of excellent articles highlighting the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, and I’m not going to dwell on the point too much as better writers than me have said much of what needs to be said. My point here is that this is a form of racism. These migrant workers are tricked into travelling from India, Nepal, Pakistan, and other poor countries, and then they are worked to death. As recently as February this year, The Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers have died working on projects in the country since the World Cup was awarded. This World Cup is soaked in blood; the blood of individuals trapped in a form of modern day slavery. The fact that more people are not outraged by this speaks volumes, and the relative silence from high profile players and managers is deafening. Do these players and managers lack any sort of moral compass? Or, are they trapped in watertight contracts requiring them to participate?

Racism in football is not limited to Qatar working people from other countries to death, and operating a form of apartheid where the workers are kept out of sight and out of mind. Racism is still prevalent in the stands of many football grounds. Up until quite recently (2019) I was a season ticket holder at Hillsborough where Sheffield Wednesday play, and racist language was heard frequently from people who should know better. I don’t accept the argument that this is a generational thing, and that it was different back in the day. We used to burn people who believed a slightly different version of a fairly tale, but it doesn’t mean it was right. Likewise, just because certain words and behaviours were accepted in the past, it doesn’t make it right now. Everyone should know better, but still people use vile language against non-white players. It’s wrong.

Whilst racism is a problem in the stadiums up and down the country, there are many instances where the racists are confronted by other fans. An issue that is being highlighted more frequently is racist abuse directed at players on social media. I don’t know if it is happening more often, or just being reported more often, or a combination of both. However, the fact it is under the microscope is a good thing because it brings the discussion out into the open. When racist language is there, online, for all to see, nobody can argue racism is not a problem in football. People think they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet and in some cases they may be correct. We will only start to tackle this problem when the veil of anonymity is removed and all social media accounts are operated under real names with verifiable identification used when creating a profile.

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

A number of players, managers and pundits have called for a social media boycott to highlight racism in football. Whilst I am all for open dialogue and suggestions to tackle this problem, boycotting social media is not the answer. Just because a player is not on social media, it does not stop racists from posting abuse about that player. Whichever way I think about the problem, I keep coming back to the same solution; we need to remove the shield of anonymity from the internet. I’m not a tech expert but there must be ways of tracking down these individuals. Even if it is not possible to track every single one of them down, the act of tracking some of them down and prosecuting them may be enough to make other racists pause and reflect.

Football has a close relationship with alcohol. There are many fans who have a few pints before, during and after attending a match, or watching on TV. Alcohol makes people act in ways they would not when sober. This is not an excuse for racist behaviour, but it might be an explanation. Emotions run high in football and when people mix intense emotions with alcohol it can produce strange, uncharacteristic behaviour. Ultimately though, being drunk does not excuse acting in a racist way and you are still responsible for your behaviour when drunk.

Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

Football is not just a sport anymore. It’s a business that has billions and billions of pounds running through it every year. The financial impacts of each win and loss at the top levels of the game are astounding. Money is now part of every discussion fans have about their club, whether it’s discussing transfers, contracts, prize money or the impacts of relegation or promotion. Fans don’t just talk about the sport of football anymore. Money is part of almost every conversation, and I’m not just talking about football itself but the peripheral industries like gambling that have wormed their way into the fabric of football.

In the 2020/2021 season, eight of the twenty Premier League clubs have a gambling company as their primary shirt sponsor. In the EFL Championship, twelve of the twenty-four clubs have gambling companies as their primary shirt sponsor. Football gambling is a huge business generating billions of pounds. If you go to a match now, you will see advertisements for different betting companies everywhere you look. Football is not about football anymore. Football is about money, and where money is on the line, people do not act rationally.

The last few days have been something of a crisis for football with the news that six clubs in England, referred to as “the big six” were breaking away to form a European Super League with clubs from Spain, Italy and Germany. This news went down about as well as any typical fan would have predicted. The backlash was so scathing that just a few days later (at the time of writing) ten of the initial twelve clubs linked with this new league have backed out. This new ESL was not an attempt to improve the standard of competition. It was an exercise in greed, creating a closed shop where the biggest clubs could sell TV rights for insane money. I don’t think the issue has gone away for good, and I expect some revised form of the ESL to be put forward in a few years.

When football is pure, it’s a fantastic sport. There really is nothing like watching your team with tens of thousands of fellow fans as you win a match with a last minute goal, or you give your biggest rivals a footballing lesson. It’s at those times when the sport pulls you back in and you remember why you once loved the game. Those moments seem to be getting less frequent. As the amount of money in the game continues to grow, the consequences of losing are getting worse all the time. This forces clubs to adopt a defensive mindset with avoiding defeat becoming more important than seeking victory. In the Premier League, there are six or seven teams competing for the top four spots, whilst the rest of the division is content to simply avoid finishing in the bottom three. Relegation used to be embarrassing, but now it can be financially catastrophic. It’s not about the sport, it’s about the money.

Part 77

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the difference between risk reduction and risk elimination. Also, a week of change in my financial position. First, the Quote of the Week:

If there is one thing that the pandemic has demonstrated, it is that many people struggle to understand the difference between risk reduction and risk elimination.  In life, it is impossible to eliminate risk completely.  There is risk in everything we do, from crossing the street safely to taking medication prescribed by a doctor.  Risk is everywhere.  Before I get into my point, I want to take you on a trip back in time to nineteenth century Vienna, specifically the two maternity wards of the general hospital.  

In the 1840s the mortality rate of the two maternity wards of the general hospital varied, and not just by a little.  One ward was under the care of doctors whilst the other ward was under the care of midwives.  The ward looked after by the doctors had a mortality rate more than three times greater than that of the other ward.  Death during, and after, childbirth is still a risk today but back then it was an even greater risk.  No one could work out why there was such a large, consistent difference between the two wards though.  Enter Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis.

Ignaz took a scientific approach to the problem and after some trial and error, determined that the doctors’ ward had a factor that the other ward did not.  The doctors would often be called away from their autopsies to help in the maternity ward and it was not standard practice for the doctors to wash their hands between the two departments.  In short, doctors would assist mothers giving birth whilst still having the remnants of dead bodies on their hands and clothes.

To combat this, Ignaz put in place procedures stating that the doctors should wash their hands in chlorinated solution before treating mothers.  The mortality rate on their ward plummeted instantly.  Mortality was not eradicated completely though, as there will always be complications with giving birth.  However, this simple act of washing hands reduced the death rate.  

Coming back to my point in the present day.  Lots of people talk about how masks are not stopping the spread of covid, or they mock the vaccines for not making people completely immune to the virus.  In respect of the masks, there is faulty logic as people are not comparing the act of wearing a mask to a control group not wearing a mask.  Every study has shown that wearing a mask reduces the risk of catching or spreading covid.  The vaccines are not 100% effective either, but they are still effective to some degree and some protection is better than none.  

The Nirvana Fallacy and The Perfect Solution Fallacy

These two logical fallacies are so closely related that both apply to the point I am making.  Just because a solution is not perfect, it does not mean it should be ignored.  Back in the Vienna maternity wards of the 1800s, they could have looked at the act of washing hands and rejected it because it did not stop all deaths but I don’t think I would find any sane person who could argue that it should have been rejected on those grounds.  Washing hands reduced the number of deaths, and so was a good process to introduce.  Seat belts do not stop all deaths from car accidents but in general terms, statistically, they save more lives than they cost.  Masks are not 100% effective but they are still effective to some degree.  Not wearing a mask because it does not provide 100% protection is stupidity of the highest order, and is a perfect example of illogical thinking.  It is the same with vaccines.  

So, please, wear your damn mask.

Weekly Update

My gout (jeez, I feel old just typing that) is getting better.  I’m no longer on crutches but I am still in considerable pain.  I have been prescribed two drugs; colchicine and allopurinol.  I’ve been taking them for a few days but I’m going to stop.  The side effects are worse than the problem they are treating.  I struggled with these side effects the last time I took these meds and when the treatment is worse than the problem, something is amiss.  I’ll speak with the GP next week but for now I’m making the decision to stop.

With the lockdown easing we were looking forward to Peddler near where we live.  Peddler is an event run once a month where different street food vendors come together with some music and drinks for a party of sorts.  Normally, the event is packed with people shoulder to shoulder browsing the food stalls and pop up shops selling all sorts of arts and crafts.  In the socially distanced model, the event is not as crowded and instead of wandering around, you sit at a table and order food via an app.  

We booked for Friday because there were some street food vendors we have eaten from before and really enjoyed.  We were disappointed to turn up and find none of the advertised vendors were present, and the choices on offer instead were not great.  We ordered burgers and after taking one bite of mine, I sent it back and asked for a refund.  I don’t mind my burgers done medium, but this burger was cold.  I didn’t pay much attention prior to taking my first bite, but after realising how cold it was I had a proper look and the outside edge of the burger was still pink in places.  I suspect the burger had been on the edge of the grill where it was not getting as much heat.  Overall, very disappointing.  

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 27).

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 lost a little weight this week but I’m not feeling too happy about it.  I need to lose more and I need it to be consistent.  Gout can be brought on by being overweight (check), stress (check), lack of exercise (check).  The frustrating thing is that the three factors just mentioned are all interlinked, and lead to me comfort eating which just makes the problem worse.  I know I will feel much better when I achieve FIRE, but that is still some time off.  If I can’t improve my situation before FIRE, I just need to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate further.  

I have been reading more physical books recently, as well as smashing through more audiobooks.  Audible really is an incredible service.  My only regret is that I didn’t find the service earlier.  Listening to an audiobook is one of my greatest pleasures in life, especially if I’m enjoying a good walk in the sun at the same time.  I wrote a brief post looking at the books I’ve finished so far in 2021, and you can find that post here.

My DipFA studies are at a standstill.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about it with everything else I have going on.  I’ve rescheduled my exam (again) so that it will take place towards the end of May.  Part of me wonders if it is worth progressing with the qualification whilst I’m still working full time, or whether it would be wise to hang fire a little bit.  It is looking like I’ll be acquiring a second and, possibly, third BTL before the end of the year.  Once I have multiple sources of rental income coming in, things will get very interesting and the march to FIRE could accelerate significantly.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £525.00 (up £200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £20,582.45 (down £1,885.88 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £392.29 (up £242.29 from last update).

Crypto: £721.05 (up £381.22 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (up £4,446.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (up £2,869.00 from last update).

Total Assets: £350,219.79 (up £6,252.63 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £280.84 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £140,308.18 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,145.49 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,453.67 (down £280.84 from last update).

Total Wealth: £116,766.12 (up £6,533.47 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £215.84 (target £5,000).

I sold my units in a fund that was invested in the US stock market for a gain of just over 10%.  I used some of those funds to pay back a family member who had loaned me some cash for repairs to the BTL.  I then spread the remaining money between my Premium Bonds, Fuck It Fund and Crypto.  The next time I release cash from my ISA will be to fund another BTL purchase and that will not be for a few months yet.

The estimated values of my properties have increased this week, according to my mortgage lender.  This means that in the next few weeks I may be able to release some equity to put towards my FIRE journey.  Things could get very interesting on this front as the year progresses.  

I have been putting a fair amount of my spare cash into crypto in the past few weeks but I’m going to reduce that going forward.  Crypto is still something I don’t understand fully, so this investment is more speculative than my other investments.  I don’t want to expose myself to too much potential risk here.  Apart from my normal monthly subscription to my ISA, my efforts will now focus on Premium Bonds and my Fuck It Fund as I gear up to another BTL purchase.  

Asset Allocation

Every so often I like to take stock and look at my asset allocation to make sure it’s consistent with my long-term goals.  Broadly speaking, I am on the right track with my ISA.  There is a huge imbalance in that most of my ISA is made up of shares of one UK company.  However, those shares are earmarked as the deposit for a future property purchase.  When I look at the gain I’ve made on those shares so far, in terms of purchase cost compared to current value, I am just over 33% up.  I also believe those shares have some room to increase in value further.  Their pre-pandemic price was a little over 50% higher than their current value and it was considered low even then.  

If I take those shares out of the equation, I am happy enough with the makeup of my ISA.  My goal is to have a balance of bonds and accumulation funds, with a chunk of income funds mixed in.  It’s what you might call a hybrid approach.  

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.

2021 Reading Challenge – Part 1

For the last few years I have set a goal to read/listen to two new books each week (104 per year).  I love Audible and since discovering this service I have been able to enjoy many more books that I thought possible.  My eyesight is ok, but I have a lot of floaters in my vision, and trying to focus on a page for extended periods of time can trigger headaches.  However, I also love the act of reading a physical book.  It’s not just about the text you are reading, but the feel of the book in your hands and the spell of the paper itself.  

Last year I didn’t quite hit my target of finishing 104 new books.  I made it to 83, which I think is still a respectable number.  So far in 2021 I am up to 27 books.  Here is the list of what I have completed so far.

  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).*****

Now, it is time for some graphs and charts, because… well… why not?

Mean rating of 3.37 so far.

The highlights for 2021 so far have included, My Sh*t Therapist and the Not Alone series.  The real low points have been The Remaining and The List.  The star of the year so far though, is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, someone who I’ve become a fan of in recent years.  Matt comes from Sheffield, which automatically gives him an advantage over other authors, but what I love about his work is his unflinching, honest and refreshing take on mental health.  Matt is a vocal advocate of mental health awareness, being someone who has struggled with severe depression and anxiety.  As someone who has also struggled with his mental health, it’s easy for me to spot those authors who write about it from their own experiences when compared to those who have researched it from an outside perspective.  I look forward to Matt Haig’s next book.

My Sh*t Therapist was also great, again because I identified with so much of it.  The treatment of mental health is a sore subject for many people, and I’ve written before about how ineffectual I have found talking therapies.  The most effective help I’ve had has been from reading, not just self-help books but also fiction.  I think it reflects on the year that I’ve had that the two best books of the year have been heavily influenced by the discussion around mental health.  In The Midnight Library we follow a young woman who has attempted suicide, only to find herself living countless variations of her life.  The ideas of parallel universes and repeating one’s life are fascinating.  In some ways, it is reminiscent of Replay by Ken Grimwood which also deals with repeating one’s life over and over.  

For all the excellent books I’ve read this year, there have been some real disasters as well.  The Remaining was so bad that within minutes of finishing the audio book, I could not remember the characters or the plot.  It was a waste of time and that’s perhaps the most damning criticism I can give.  Normally, even the most badly written books can provide at least one positive, but not this book.  It was unoriginal and dull.  

Another book I gave one star to was The List.  This is partly my fault as I only skimmed the blurb but I was expecting some kind of psychological exploration into high school life.  Instead, it was just another by-the-numbers, cliche high school drama.  I was bored throughout and none of the characters were interesting enough to be memorable.  It was a real effort to push through and finish the book and several times I nearly gave up.  

At the moment I am enjoying two books; The Chain by Adrian McKinty and the next book in the Not Alone series on Audible.  The former has an interesting and disturbing premise in which the protagonist’s child is abducted and will only be released if she abducts another child.  The person who has abducted her child has likewise had their own child abducted and they will only be released once our main character abducts another.  Hence, the chain.  I’m about a third of the way through it and, whilst I find the writing a little strange at times with unusual turns of phrase standing out against the rest of the prose, the premise is strong enough to keep me engaged.  

The Not Alone series is just insane but I’m enjoying it because it’s comfortable.  Listening to it is like being reunited with old friends.  It’s a nice contrast to some of the more serious books I’ve been reading.  For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows a young man called Dan McCarthy who stumbles across proof that the US government is hiding contact with an alien civilization.  The series has a sprawling ensemble of characters and the narrator gives a unique voice to each of them.  Although the series starts in the US, it ventures across the whole planet and provides a global perspective rather than being Amerocentric.

Part 76

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the collapse of Football Index and look ahead to my second BTL purchase.

Quote of the Week

A few years ago, when I was still gambling, I came across Football Index.  This was a betting company dressed up as a stock exchange which traded shares in footballers.  Dividends were paid out for player performance and mentions in the media.  It sounded like an interesting concept and a different way of gambling.  You could either buy shares from the index itself or from other traders.  For a while it was a fairly big deal.  I couldn’t work out where the money was coming from though.  Football Index would take a cut from each trade as their commission, but there seemed to be a lot of dividends paid and although I did not have all the financial information, something just seemed a little off.

As I was interested in this new approach to gambling, I decided to test the waters and made a small deposit.  I did some trading here and there, and it was remarkably easy to make money.  Where was this money coming from though? When I buy shares, my money goes to the person selling them.  A small commission is taken by the Index.  However, the numbers did not seem to add up, especially for those who adopted a buy and hold strategy, where they kept players long-term for their dividend income.  

I was lucky in that I only ever had a small amount in the Index and when I became even more certain that something was not quite right with it, I pulled my money out.

The Index is fundamentally different to the stock market, although it liked to make comparisons between the two.  With the stock market, the market itself does not buy and sell shares in itself.  The market is a collection of other businesses.  However, in this case Football Index was trading assets it created out of nothing.  The Index did not own real shares in players; it owned imaginary shares in players.  There was no underlying value here and the Index only held value because people believed it held value.  

Like I said earlier, for a time the Index was a big deal and sponsored the shirts of football clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Q.P.R.  Following the collapse of Football Index, both clubs have removed the branding from their shirts.  Some people were throwing huge sums of money into the Index.  In an article on the BBC News site, there are examples of people losing thousands of pounds.  A quick trawl through Twitter gives examples of people having portfolios running into six-figures being wiped out.

Why did Football Index fail?

In March the company changed the rules over dividend payments, which changed the cap on payments from 33p per share to 6p per share.  This meant that each share a person held in a player had its earning potential slashed, and this lower earning potential hammered the perceived valuation of each share.  People started pulling money out of the Index, and the money just dried up.  I doubt that the business failed due to this alone.  It may be that the business model was unsustainable long-term and that the changing of dividends accelerated the process.  I’m sure there is much more to come from this story in the weeks and months ahead, with the only certainty being that a lot of people will lose a lot of money.

Weekly Update

I’ve been struggling with my sleep which has resulted in the past week being a bit of a blur.  Between mental exhaustion, lots of coffee and a good amount of painkillers for my ankle, I’m not quite sure where the week has gone.  Until we are out of this pandemic there is not much to say about anything.  Life is just a constant cycle of work and sleep.  

The one item of news that it’s impossible to ignore is the death of Prince Philip.  I’m in no way a Royalist and I would love for this country to become a republic, but that does mean I greet this death with any celebration.  There are some people out there posting some cringeworthy responses to this death, and it just lacks class.  I wasn’t a fan of Philip and there are countless instances in the public record of his dumb behaviour, racist comments and dated gender attitudes.  The back-to-back coverage from the BBC following his death is absurd.  The BBC has a dedicated news channel, so I don’t see the need to switch all of their channels to coverage of this story.  This is not like the days when we had four TV channels.  In fact, many people do not watch live TV and instead watch shows via streaming services.  

One thing I don’t understand is how people suddenly change their attitudes towards someone who is deceased.  The fact that someone has died does not change what they did in life.  If someone was a racist, misogynist and elitist snob in life, the fact that they died does not clean the slate. 

On the subject of death, we have received our cat’s ashes back following his individual cremation.  Sweep’s remains are in a small wooden box with his name engraved on the top.  We plan to keep his ashes rather than spreading them anywhere.  Sweep was happiest when he was with us, and so with us is where he shall remain.  I miss him so much, and still instinctively look for him when I enter a room.  

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: 24).

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 am disappointed that my weight has increased. The fact I’ve hardly been able to walk, and the fact that I comfort eat when stressed means that I’m not surprised, just frustrated. I’ve managed to finish two more books since the last update, and I’ve nearly finished another as I write this. My studies are very much at a standstill. I know I need to get back to them, but I just can’t find the motivation right now.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £325.00 (up £25.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £22,468.33 (up £576.59 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £150.00 (no change from last update).

Crypto: £339.83 (up £16.11 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £194,909.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £125,775.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £343,967.16 (up £617.70 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £280.64 (up £40.24 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £140,308.18 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,145.49 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,734.51 (up £40.24 from last update).

Total Wealth: £110,232.65 (up £577.46 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £215.24 (target £5,000).

My credit card is taking a little punishment as this has been an unexpectedly expensive month.  I have cashed in my holding in one of the funds I have in my ISA.  This will free up cash to pay off my credit card and to pay off another expense that has arisen.  I will have approximately £1,000 left over from the £2,000 that the sale of my holding releases.  I will reinvest the remaining funds once the sale clears.  

I’ve started looking at possible properties for our second BTL purchase.  Our first property cost £124,500, but with Stamp Duty, repair work and other associated fees it has cost us more like £133,000.  We don’t plan on buying in the same price bracket, but we can’t drop too low as the rental return decreases drastically when you drop below a certain price point.  

By the time of the next post we should have received another rental payment.  Also, we should have updated valuations on the BTL and my residence which might open up the possibility of pulling equity out of the properties.  This all depends on the valuations increasing, which is by no means certain.

For the last few months I have not been investing as much as I would have liked, as I’ve been supporting my girlfriend who has been out of work.  I don’t mind doing this, and I’m not complaining.  I only mention this as she may have secured a new job which means I will be able to ramp up my investments moving forward.  I really hope she gets the job as I know how frustrating it can be to be out of work, especially in a pandemic where you have to spend most of your time at home.

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. 

Memes are Amazing

I love memes, much to the frustration of my girlfriend. I will often show her memes and she will simply reply, “you’re dumb” but with a smile on her face. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m obsessed with memes, but I do look forward to Tuesday so that I can look at the latest edition of Tolkien Tuesday on Memebase.

Although I look at memes primarily for amusement, they can also be used to convey ideas quickly. In the age of scrolling, people don’t like to read long articles unless it is something they are passionate about. Instead, people like to get quick hits of amusement. It’s fascinating how language develops over time. Centuries ago people would communicate through pictures, which then evolved to written language, but now with the proliferation of emojis it could be argued we are seeing a rapid change to a hybrid style of communication mixing up alphanumeric characters with pictures or gifs. This does not even take into account the feature of “stories” which are a major part of many social media platforms.

So, back to the focus of this post. I want to share a few finance related memes.

The first major lesson I learned when I started my FIRE journey was the need to pay yourself first. To someone who is new to financial education this can be a difficult mindset to adapt to. Paying yourself first is exactly what it sounds like; when you get money the first thing you do is invest some. Then, whatever is left over is what you have to survive on. Obviously, there has to be a reality check. The average person is not going to be able to invest 90% of their salary. However, by paying yourself first it is possible for someone on an average UK salary to invest more than 10% of their salary. Paying yourself first means that you have to learn to budget effectively. If you approach investing from the opposing perspective, you will probably find that your money has a way of being spent on other things. This is why I’m not a fan of waiting until the end of your pay cycle and investing what is left. Money that is not managed tends to disappear. Granted, I earn above the UK average salary, but I managed to invest more than half my salary each month. This is possible because I pay myself first and budget how to spend the rest of my money. I’m not living a miserable, frugal existence. I don’t have kids or a car which are two huge expenses. If I had kids or a car, it would be very difficult to pay myself first. I’m not attacking those people who choose to have children, but unless you are earning a very good wage, you are not likely to achieve FIRE with children much earlier than a normal retirement age.

Some basic research online shows that there are many people who lack an emergency fund to cover an unexpected bill, such as a car repair or replacement of a fridge, for example. Often, these people will turn to credit cards. However, if the person lacked an emergency fund, paying on credit card is just kicking the can down the street. If you can’t pay an unexpected bill, then you may very well struggle to pay the credit card bill when it comes in. This compounds negatively against you and could be the start of a financial crisis.

If you have more money going out than you have coming in, then you are in an unsustainable situation and you should seek help from StepChange or the Citizens Advice Bureau. For some people this is just a stark reality and there is literally no more cloth that can be cut. There are other people who spend more than they have coming in purely because they are awful at budgeting. Some warning signs are when people say things like, “it’s only money” or if you see they have multiple credit cards in their wallet or purse. These people need to sit down and have an honest review of their finances. There is a fantastic book, The Richest Man in Babylon, which goes into the basics of budgeting. Although it is set in the distant past, the lessons taught in the book are timeless.

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This is something that frustrates a lot of people, but there is seemingly no sign of it changing. I get why schools teach the fundamentals of science, maths, language and so on. There is just not enough attention given to how the adult/real world works. In school you are largely sheltered from the brutal, relentless nature of our society. It is one bill after another, and one demand on your time after another. The systems that govern banking, utilities, taxes and tenancy agreements (to name just a few) are a complete mystery to many kids as they leave school. If I was the sort of person who believed in conspiracy theories, it would almost appear as though the system was designed to keep the lower social classes in their place whilst protecting those in the higher, ruling classes. I’ve stated a few times that money is a game, and if you do not learn the rules you will continue to lose at the game of money.

Think back to your childhood to times when money was discussed. Was it discussed openly and without reservation, or a sense of shame or embarrassment? Over the last few years I have spoken to a lot of people about their experiences with money and the stories told are largely the same, in that money was not an acceptable topic of conversation. It is almost like a form of societal indoctrination, in the same way that employers tell workers not to discuss salaries with each other. It’s simple divide and conquer; hammer the point home repeatedly that money is not a suitable, appropriate subject of discussion and eventually people will be conditioned to believe that. Then, those who come from poverty, or the working class, will be deterred from learning the rules of the game which would allow them to climb the socio-economic ladder.

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Another lesson I learned early in my financial education was that you should not use your money to buy luxuries. Instead, you invest your money so that your money works for you. In simple terms, your money makes more money. This return on your money can then be used to buy your luxuries. Let’s look at it another way with an example.

You have a mortgage of £50,000, on which you pay £800 per month. You can afford your mortgage payments without too much of a struggle, but you are eager to pay the mortgage off as soon as you can. You come into some money, say £100,000, from an inheritance. Your first thought is to pay your mortgage off. However, if you do that you will have spent £50,000 that you are not going to get back. Granted, you no longer have to pay your mortgage which saves you £800 per month. If you were to put that £100,000 into a low cost, passive investment returning 5% (a pretty conservative estimate as of today), your £100,000 would earn you £5,000 a year. You could use these proceeds to help pay your mortgage off faster, and when the mortgage is paid off you have preserved your capital. The £5,000 you are earning from the investment from this point on can be used to buy luxuries such as holidays, or a new car, or you can reinvest the income and let it compound over time.

The key to financial independence is building a foundation where your money is making enough money for you to live on. You don’t achieve this by cashing in your investments or depleting your capital reserves. The key is to invest your money so that it works for you. Each pound invested is like a seed that you have planted, which over time will grow into a virtual money tree.

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Supporting Mortgage Advisor on FIRE and Buy Me A Coffee

If you like my content, please consider supporting my writing.  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, or use the donate buttons on this site.

Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this each week and if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  If you would like to make a donation to support the running costs of this blog, please use the donation button on the home page.

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 blog at darrenscothern.com.

Part 75

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I look at the crisis engulfing John Lewis, and retail in general.  I also highlight a local musician who has just released his first single.  Also, the usual financial updates.  First, the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

Retail is ever changing and businesses that stand still, end up going under.  The biggest news in retail recently has been the announcement that John Lewis will be closing more stores, or more precisely not reopening stores following the nationwide lockdown to combat Covid-19.  One of the stores permanently closing is in my home city, Sheffield.  It has, to put it mildly, not gone down too well with the locals.

A few years ago, on a different site, I wrote a blog about the future of John Lewis.  At the time, I predicted that John Lewis would disappear from the high street in five-to-ten years.  I stand by that prediction.  The whole culture and identity of the business seems muddled and confused.  

Going back a couple of decades, John Lewis was seen as a prestigious brand that catered to the middle and upper class.  They sold quality and offered great service.  The partnership had a culture and an identity.  However, with the internet becoming an increasing part of daily life and a major competitor to the high street, John Lewis struggled to adapt.  

There is one thing that the high street simply cannot compete with internet retailers on; price.  The overheads for having an online store are a fraction of what it costs to run a physical store and the associated warehouses.  This allows the online retailers to undercut the bricks and mortar shops.  Trying to engage in a price war in this way will only lead to decreasing profits.  Those decreases lead to management reviews, which ultimately lead to store closures and job losses.  This is so backward in thinking that it makes my head hurt.

The Sheffield branch of John Lewis was in dire need of refurbishment.

When I wrote my other blog about John Lewis a few years ago, I proposed a strategy to help them compete once more.  The thing is, I don’t think any senior management team would have the courage to try it.  My strategy was to forget about competing on price.  It also required John Lewis to stop trying to cater to all aspects of society.  A business that has a long history of being prestigious should not be trying to compete with businesses that are appealing to a different socio-economic demographic.  Go back to core values of the business; good quality, a smaller, but more selective customer base, and excellent service in store.

One of the problems I’ve experienced with John Lewis over the past few years has been absolutely appalling service.  Also, there have been a number of times I’ve gone into a store to spend hundreds of pounds on a new television, laptop, or coffee machine.  Each time I have left empty handed and spent my money online.  The situation plays out in predictable fashion.  I’ll use the example of last time I tried to buy a TV from John Lewis.

I went into the store and up to the TV section.  The store had at least twenty TVs on display with many of them being slight variations on another model on display.  There were no staff visible.  After a good ten minutes or so waiting for someone to become available, I ask some basic questions about a few of the models.  The staff did not know the answers, as they had been asked to cover the department from another area.  Eventually, I find the model number and look the answers up online.  I decide on a model I want.  I wait more time to get another member of staff’s attention.  They discover the TV is not in stock, but I can order online and have it delivered in a few days.  I ask about another model.  Same story.  I leave empty handed and order from Amazon and have the TV delivered the next day.  

If you can’t compete on price, you have to compete on service.  You have to offer the customer an experience that blows them away.  Also, and this might seem like such an obvious point, you have to have the stock for the customer to buy.  There is no point having a few dozen items on display if you don’t have room for any stock.  Have a smaller range, and make sure you have enough stock of all the items advertised for sale.  

My approach for John Lewis would see the available range of products, particularly in the electrical range, being cut back.  I would ensure more available stock of each item.  Also, I would do the opposite of what many struggling businesses do and hire more staff.  I would then make sure those staff had the training to be experts in their field.  In retail, if you want to make money, you have to have an item in stock and you have to have someone to complete the transaction for the customer.  If you have a shop with no stock, and no staff available to take the payments, then it should come as no surprise that you are making no money.  

I feel for the staff that are losing their jobs in retail.  Working in that sector is thankless, and extremely stressful.  There are some great people who have lost their jobs because of utter incompetence at the higher levels of management.  The high street has been decimated with Debenhams, Top Shop and John Lewis (for example) all being hammered because they failed to evolve with the times.  

Online shopping is here to stay.  It is just so much more convenient.  The only businesses that will thrive with a physical presence are those that offer a distinct, unique, expert service in person.  Those businesses will need to make going to store an experience.

Weekly Update

I’ve done my ankle again.  A few days ago I developed intense pain in my left ankle and shin.  It’s severe enough that I wince each time I put weight on that leg.  It’s not quite as bad as the problems I had in late 2019 and early 2020, but it’s still painful enough to keep me at home and off my feet as much as possible.  I’m convinced that a major part of this is due to me being overweight.  I was doing a fair amount of walking and that has probably contributed to this injury.  Now, I’m stuck in a position where I’m pissed off but unable to release that stress through physical activity.  This is the worst position I can be in, as ultimately I end up comfort eating.  It’s a horrible cycle to be stuck in. 

Midnight Cartel

A few days ago a friend contacted me to share his debut single which he has been working on with a pair of fellow artists under the group name Midnight Cartel.  The single is called Feels Like and my friend explained that during lockdown, the three of them came together to create something upbeat that could be the anthem for people reuniting as we emerge from this pandemic.  Although not my typical style of music, I did find myself tapping away to the song and it is very much something that you’ll find yourself humming to yourself later on.  Click on the song’s cover art below to have a listen.

I now have a working espresso machine but I’ve had to move it into our spare bedroom which doubles as my office.  My girlfriend works in medical translating and interpreting, where she takes part in real-time telephone conversations translating the patient and medical practitioner so that each person can understand the other.  It’s intense work and requires a lot of concentration.  The only place she can do this work is in our open plan living room and kitchen.  The last thing she needs is my espresso machine rumbling away in the background.  The fact I now have coffee available all the time is both a positive and negative.  I can get coffee without leaving my desk, but it also means I don’t have to leave my desk to get coffee.  If you understand, you’ll understand.  

On the subject of coffee, I have started receiving a few donations on Buymeacoffee.com.  This is great as it helps with the running costs of the site.  If donations increase, I may be able to open up new features on the site making it more interactive.  I don’t get paid for writing this blog; it’s done in my own free time and the costs of maintaining a blog like this are not cheap.  Any donation no matter how small would be appreciated.

Caramel

Why is caramel so hard to make? I can make a caramel for a crumble in my sleep.  I tried a slightly different variation for an apple tarte tatin and the caramel crystallized.  I tried again with the same result.  Attempt three split.  Attempt four, which saw me go back to the recipe I know also split.  So, I was left with almost a kilo of peeled, cored and quartered apple and some rolled out pastry.  I really wanted a tarte tatin as well.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 22).

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 progress on my reading goal.  I read a brilliant book called What If?, which looked at a host of bizarre scientific questions.  One example was how high can a human throw an object with the height measured in giraffes.  It was completely insane but also very interesting.  It helped me look at some scientific problems in a new light and also explained a few concepts that I was not familiar with.  For anyone interested in science I would definitely recommend this book.  

My DipFA studies are at a standstill.  I don’t have the mental energy to start again just yet.  The loss of Sweep still stings and I just don’t feel ready.  There is so much going on at the moment and I only have so much mental resource.  In the past I’ve likened this feeling to the brain being a computer with too many tabs open.  Everything runs slowly and you can only resolve the problem by restarting the machine with fewer tabs on the go.  Trying to study right now would be like trying to open a new tab on a browser that is frozen.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £300.00 (up £25.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,891.74 (up £281.21 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £150.00 (up £50.00 from last update).

Crypto: £323.72 (up £74.05 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £194,909.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £125,775.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £343,349.46 (up £430.26 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £240.60 (down £9.07 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £140,308.18 (down £357.31 from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,145.49 (down £18.01 from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,694.27 (down £384.39 from last update).

Total Wealth: £109,655.19 (up £814.65 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £215.24 (target £5,000).

My finances are steadily moving in the right direction, but I really want to clear my credit card in full.  I had to spend on it to pay for Sweep’s vet bill and cremation, and I also had to buy more coffee for my espresso machine.  I should have it paid up when I next get paid.  

In the next week or two I should have the next valuations through for my two properties.  I’m hopeful they have increased but I’m fearing a decrease.  The valuation of the properties is not just about ego, but if they have increased in value I may be able to release funds to put towards more BTLs.  The whole investment model depends on releasing equity to put towards new property.  The faster this happens, the faster I reach FIRE.

I was thinking about how soon my wealth will reach £200,000.  It was not until week 64 that I passed £100,000.  I started this blog with £53,840, so I accumulated roughly £720 wealth per week.  Hopefully, I will reach £200,000 before 100 weeks have passed, but that is not based on anything other than 100 weeks being a milestone of sorts.

Supporting Mortgage Advisor on FIRE and Buy Me A Coffee

If you like my content, please consider supporting my writing.  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, or use the donate buttons on this site.

Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this each week and if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  If you would like to make a donation to support the running costs of this blog, please use the donation button on the home page.

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 blog at darrenscothern.com.

Part 74

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I pay tribute to Sweep, my elderly cat, my best friend, who passed away this week.

Quote of the Week

I don’t even know where to start, so I’m just going to type and see where this goes.  I have a rough idea of what I want to say but it feels like words are inadequate to express the loss I feel.

Sweep was already an old cat when we first met him.  Estimates of his exact age varied, but we suspected he was approximately 16-years-old on 09/12/18 when we adopted him.  We later discovered he would have been 15 at this point.  My girlfriend wanted to get a cat as a surprise for me, but the cat was literally let out of the bag early.  We travelled to Chesterfield to see Sweep and fill out the paperwork for us to adopt him from Cat Protection.  We had a trip to Romania planned, so we arranged to pick Sweep up on our return two weeks later.

The car journey home with Sweep was great.  He let out a few meows but was fairly calm.  We brought him to our apartment and let him out to explore.  He wandered around both bedrooms, and both bathrooms sniffing at everything.  He ventured into the kitchen and living room, taking his time to map out his new home.  Within just a few hours he was sleeping in my girlfriend’s lap.

Sweep had the best temperament of any animal I’ve known.  He was so relaxed and chilled out.  He was affectionate and loving.  It took him a little bit of time to warm up to me, and the first time he sat in my lap I was smiling so hard my face hurt.

We had said that we would let Sweep have free reign of the apartment, but that we would not let him on the bed.  The first night when we went to sleep, we heard an unusual wheezing sound.  We turned on the reading lamp and he was curled up next to the bed snoring away.  We grinned for ages as we just stared at this amazing cat we had already fallen madly in love with.  Within a few nights the rule about the bed was forgotten about and Sweep would sleep on the bed with us, either curled up at the bottom, or on one of our pillows above our head.  

I could write an entire book about Sweep, but for now I’m just going to focus on a few things to give you an insight into his personality.

Sweep and the balcony

He loved to sit out in the sun on our balcony.  We have a top floor apartment overlooking a river, with plenty of ducks, kingfishers and a few herons.  Sweep could not jump, so there was no concern about him escaping the balcony.  He would sit on one of the chairs and just watch the world go by.  In the spring and summer months, I would wake up and find him sprawled in the sun, or sitting on a plant.  It was the best way to start the day and it was impossible to not look at him and smile.

Coming Home for Lunch

Before the pandemic I was based in an office not far from home.  From locking my front door to sitting at my dest, it was a fifteen-minute walk.  For my lunch I would come home to spend time with my best bud.  He would be meowing at the door as he heard it unlock, and then I’d feed him and we would lie down together.  He would spend the next few minutes rubbing his face against mine, or licking my head.  Then, I would have to say goodbye for a couple of hours until I finished for the day. 

Sweep and Brownie

In our living room we have an L-shaped sofa and a cuddler chair.  I sprawl out in the cuddler, my girlfriend takes the horizontal side of the sofa and Sweep owned the section that sticks out.  It was where his toys, cushions and blankets were kept.  Sweep did not like normal cat beds and instead preferred to sleep on blankets, covers, jumpers or his favourite teddy bear, Brownie.  

Brownie was originally something my girlfriend bought for her own use, as it’s actually a hot water bottle with a soft cover in the shape of a sloth.  When the hot water bottle was filled, Sweep would happily spread out across and just snooze for hours at a time.  

Christmas

When we put the Christmas tree up, Sweep loved to pose next to it.  I think he knew how photogenic he was.  He would step up the unit the tree rested on and then sit next to it, or find a way of crawling underneath it to rest.  

For Christmas in 2019, I spent time alone with Sweep as my girlfriend was visiting her family.  During that time we really bonded.  I couldn’t sleep in the bed as Sweep was wondering where his Mommy was and he was really restless walking between the living room and bedroom meowing.  So, I did the only sane thing and slept on the sofa next to him.

Sweep and his toys

Sweep loved his soft teddy bears and we made sure he always had plenty of friends to sit with, or snooze with.  Like everything he did, seeing Sweep curled up with these toys just brought an instant smile to your face.  

Sweep and I

I have had the worst twelve months of my life.  A lot has happened and regular readers will have seen how my mental health has really suffered over the last year.  Throughout all of that, Sweep was a rock for me.  His love and affection was unconditional.  The times I would lie down with him, or just sit with him, and he would come and give me little headbutts or rub his face against mine, he was letting me know he was there.  My girlfriend often said he would purr just at the sight of me, but it was a two way street.  Just the sight of my best bud made me instantly happier. 

Towards the end of 2020, Sweep started to get very bloated.  We had known for some time he was suffering with heart failure, and he was on medication for it.  The vets did not know for sure whether the bloating was fluid collecting due to the heart failure or if it was a tumour.  The tests needed to get a firm diagnosis would have been invasive and stressful for him, and neither us nor the vet thought it would be a good move to investigate further.  As the vet stated, even if we knew for certain what the issue was, there was nothing we could do to cure him.  It was just a case of making his remaining time as happy as possible.

We thought we were going to lose Sweep just before Christmas 2020, but the medication he was taking helped him and he seemed to make a little recovery as we entered 2021.  However, in the last few weeks he started to deteriorate rapidly.  He got much, much bigger.  Towards the end of the previous week we noticed he was not able to defecate, and I suspected his bloating was blocking his intestines.  We took him to the vet where they performed an enema and sent us home with stronger laxatives (he had been taking a mild one for some time already).  That was on Monday morning.  Sweep was eating normally throughout and would normally go in his litter box once a day, more or less like clockwork.  Monday afternoon, Tuesday and Wednesday morning came and went and he only managed a tiny pellet.  He was visibly struggling to move.  He would have to walk across the living room in a couple of stages, stopping to rest part way.  For the last week or so, he did not venture into the bedroom and he spent almost all of his time in his blankets on the sofa.  His whole demeanor changed.  It was time.

Prior to all of this, just over a week ago, I had been lying on the bed and Sweep came to join me.  I was on my right side with my right arm stretched out.  Sweep rested his face on my outstretched arm and snuggled into me.  I used my left arm to wrap around his body and we dozed for around an hour.  It felt like a goodbye.  It was like we were both trying to soak up the love we had for each other; like we wanted to hold on to that feeling; that connection, so that when he passed we would both have something to cling to.  More than anything, I want to go back to that moment.

My girlfriend took this photo of us snoozing together. I knew at this point, that the end was near.

We arranged to go to the vet on Thursday at 16:00 to put Sweep to sleep.  That night we slept in the living room with him, so that he would not spend his last night alone.  For lunch, we made his favourite; cod fish fingers.  We would cook them in the oven and then remove all the breadcrumbs before flaking up the fish and serving it to him.  He would always know when the fish was being cooked and would stand behind us in the kitchen as we prepared the cod.  We would keep turning around and he would meow loudly to tell us to hurry up with the fish.  That afternoon, I could hardly cut the fish up because I was shaking so much.  I could barely see anything as I was crying so hard.  I managed to prepare the meal for him, and we served him on his spot on the sofa.  

At the vet, we held on to Sweep’s head as the injection took hold.  We felt his body go limp as he peacefully fell asleep.  We told him how much we loved him and it is some comfort that he passed away peacefully, with the last thing he saw and heard being the two people who loved him more than anything.  

Sweep was not just a cat, or a pet.  He was family.  He was my best friend.  He was a constant source of love, affection and comfort.  He would make me laugh and smile.  The hole he has left behind is huge.  There is no love more pure than that between an animal and a person.  I want to be the person that Sweep thought I was.  That is perhaps the best way to honour his memory and to thank him for all the strength he gave me.

I miss you, bud.

A painting I commissioned from artist Laura Slade as a birthday present for my girlfriend.

Weekly Update

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 19).

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).

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £275.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,610.53 (up £468.11 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £100.00 (no change from last update).

Crypto: £249.67 (down £28.28 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £194,909.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £125,775.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £342,919.20 (up £439.83 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £249.67 (up £249.67 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £140,665.49 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,163.50 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £234,078.66 (up £249.67 from last update).

Total Wealth: £108,840.54 (up £190.16 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £215.24 (target £5,000).

We finally received our first payment of rent from the BTL, although it was not a full month’s rent as part of the rent was held by the agent for some minor repair work.

We are getting increasingly frustrated with the agent as every time we deal with them, it’s a different person and there appears to be no internal communication between the different people working at the agency.

At the start of the week I was contacted by a new person at the agency who explained there is a damp issue that has been reported by the tenant.  I asked if this was the same issue that was reported some time ago, that we are in the process of dealing with.  He didn’t know.  It turns out to be a new issue, but it’s taken several phone calls and emails just to get to this point.  I got a little bit annoyed and explained that I took the agents on because I wanted to be hands off.  However, since employing this agency I feel I have done more work than if I had managed the property myself because most of the work has been correcting their mistakes and clearing up their confusion because of their own internal mix ups.  

As soon as we have resolved the remaining bits of repair work we will be switching agents.  They have been utterly and completely clueless.

Thank you for reading this week and I hope you have gained an insight into my friend, Sweep.

Supporting Mortgage Advisor on FIRE and Buy Me A Coffee

If you like my content, please consider supporting my writing.  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, or use the donate buttons on this site.

Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this each week and if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  If you would like to make a donation to support the running costs of this blog, please use the donation button on the home page.

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 blog at darrenscothern.com.

Part 73

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE   A shortened version of the blog this week as I have not been feeling great following my first Covid vaccination.  

Quote of the Week

It’s been a while since I talked about the definition of FIRE.  Financial independence is all about having enough income from assets you own or control so that you do not have to exchange your time for money.  There are different levels of FIRE, and many different names given to them such, as financial freedom, financial stability, financial opulence, Lean FIRE, Fat FIRE and several more.  

The first step for anyone wanting to be financially independent is to achieve financial security, or Lean FIRE.  The generally accepted definition of Lean FIRE or financial security is that your basic living costs are covered by income from your assets.  The income will pay for all the basic costs of living but no more than that.  The reality is that most people in this situation will probably still have to work to pay for luxuries.  Achieving Lean FIRE means that even if you leave your job, you still have all your basic expenses covered.  My Lean FIRE number is around £1,000pcm.

For me, Lean FIRE is not the end game but rather the first milestone on my journey.  Ultimately, I want financial freedom.  This means I can do what I want, when I want, within realistic restrictions.  My current standard of living is a good basis for comparison with little debt, and the ability to go on several holidays a year.  If I could maintain this standard of living purely from income from assets, I would be delighted.  My Fat FIRE number is £1,500-£2,000pcm.  The more income I achieve, the more holidays I can take.  

When I hit the figure for Lean FIRE, or even Fat FIRE, it does not mean that I will definitely give up paid work.  It means that I will have the choice about whether to work.  It means I will have the power to say no to any work I don’t want to do.  That’s what financial freedom is; it’s not the freedom to buy whatever you want.  It’s the freedom to spend your time how you want.  

Weekly Update

I had my first dose of the vaccine this week, the AstraZeneca version.  The organisation at the Sheffield Arena was fantastic and the way that this vaccine roll out has been handled should be a source of national pride.  However, it does not balance the scales with respect to all the incompetence and dodgy dealings from the Tory government that have led to the needless deaths of thousands of people.  

After having my vaccine I felt fine until about half an hour after.  Then I started feeling a little cold and developed a mild headache.  I spent the afternoon relaxing but then at around 10pm I started shivering and shaking pretty violently.  I was shaking so bad that I could not hold on to anything like my phone or a strip of paracetamol.  My whole body was just out of control and I think I pulled a muscle in my back.  I was having cold sweats and feeling dizzy and faint.  In many ways it was like a migraine but without the skull crushing headache.  Another unusual side effect was that my whole body was tingling a little bit like pins and needles but not exactly.  Also, all my skin is sore.  Anything that touches me, even my clothes, is slightly irritating.  It’s all very strange.  

Despite all this, I am grateful to have received the vaccine.  These are just temporary side effects, and many vaccines have side effects.  I was not sure whether to mention these side effects because I do not want to put anyone off having the vaccine.  However, I thought it important to make people aware that these side effects are to be expected and that they will only last a short time.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.

2 – Finish 104 new books.

3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA.

4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA.

5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA.

6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA.

I have finished The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.  It was a good story and well written, but it just seemed to lack something that stopped it from being a great book.  I’m not sure what that missing piece is, but it does feel like a little something was lacking.

I’ve moved my exam back a week for RO3 because I’ve not kept up with the revision schedule.  This is in large part due to how I’ve felt with the vaccine.  It cost me a few days of study so I felt it wise to give myself some breathing space.  

The Owlstalk weight loss challenge is still ongoing and you can donate here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/owlstalk

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £275.00 (up £125.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,142.42 (up £9.19 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £100.00 (up £60.00 from last update).

Crypto: £277.95 (up £157.48 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £194,909.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £125,775.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £342,479.37 (up £351.67 from last update).

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £140,665.49 (no change from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,163.50 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,828.99 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £108,650.38 (up £351.67 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2021: £4.14 (target £5,000).

Not a huge amount of change this week with the stock market being pretty stagnant.  My monthly subscription into my ISA will not take place for another two weeks, with my mortgages being paid around the same time.  The biggest development is that I should be seeing my first instalment of rent from my BTL early next week.

That’s all for this week.  Apologies for the shortness of the post this week.  The next post will be back to normal.  

Supporting Mortgage Advisor on FIRE and Buy Me A Coffee

If you like my content, please consider supporting my writing.  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, or use the donate buttons on this site.

Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this each week and if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  If you would like to make a donation to support the running costs of this blog, please use the donation button on the home page.

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

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

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