Part 81

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week is a bit different as I didn’t have a subject in mind when I sat down to write.  All I had was my Quote of the Week.  So, what follows is me just writing…

Quote of the Week

So many people do not understand money, whether that’s debt or investments.  This lack of understanding leads to so many poor financial decisions.  If you don’t understand an investment, you are just gambling.  It’s that simple.

If you are considering an investment, you should think about whether you could explain the investment in basic language to someone with no financial education.  If you can explain it accurately, then great.  If you struggle to explain the investment, then you should really think carefully about proceeding and look to educate yourself.

The most common misunderstanding I see from people, when it comes to investing, relates to the stock market.  Many people see the stock market as risky and just a form of gambling.  The reality is, with a bit of education, it’s actually a very safe investment.  Since I opened my ISA in the 2018/2019 tax year, I have invested a total of £18,400.  My current ISA balance is £22,667.27.  This doesn’t take into account the money I have also withdrawn or the income I’ve received from dividends.

My ISA performance is extremely positive despite Covid-19 which wiped out my expected dividend income last year.  Since opening the ISA, I’ve received £48.48 income.  To put that into context, by the end of the month I’m expecting a dividend payment of approximately £250.  I would have received a similar amount last year from this stock had the pandemic not struck.  The big win is that I’ve withdrawn almost £3,000 from my ISA.  When you add that withdrawal to the current balance of my account, you can see that my ISA is up by roughly £7,000 on the amount I’ve actually invested.  That’s not a bad return.  

None of my actions have been mystical or speculative, but rather they have been based on a hell of a lot of research and education.  Had I invested my money in a savings account, there is no way I would have returned even a tenth of what I have through the ISA.  

This week’s quote can also apply to mental health.  I’ve been struggling in the past few weeks and I’ve had to increase my dosage of sertraline.  I’ve gone from 100mg a day to 200mg.  I’ve also been prescribed sleeping tablets, but they don’t seem to be doing much.  Can I explain why I’m struggling with my mental health? To a degree but I don’t fully understand it because I can’t explain it myself.  There are some things in my life causing stress that are temporary.  There are other things that are more permanent, and I just have to find a way of living with it.

I was asked recently if the pandemic had affected my mental health.  It’s a tricky one, and there’s not a simple answer.  The only way I can think to explain it is in terms of direct and indirect impacts on me because of the pandemic.  The direct impacts have been that I now work from home and that I’ve not been able to exercise at the gym.  Working from home is a bonus.  I was able to spend much more time with my buddy Sweep, who I miss every day now that he’s passed.  I will treasure those months I got to spend with him.  The gym being closed has stopped me from being able to exercise, and weight training has proven to be the most effective way of keeping my demons at bay.  The social aspect of the pandemic, in terms of cafes, bars and restaurants being closed, hasn’t really bothered me too much.  I’m not a drinker and I loathe nights out in loud bars and clubs.  The indirect impact on me has been more severe with people I care about struggling in various ways. 

Two things that I have been craving recently are a restful sleep, and silence.  I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night and woke up refreshed.  It was in another life I suspect.  I’m finding it harder and harder to get going in the morning, sometimes spending an hour or two just staring at the clock, then scrolling through my feeds, before looking back at the clock and thinking, “I should really get up.”  

Silence is something I’ve not experienced in years due to my tinnitus.  It’s not so severe that it bothers me all the time, as I’m able to zone out from the constant tone in my head.  Sometimes though, I would just love to sit in silence.  

Another part of my health that is frustrating is the amount of drugs I have to take on a daily basis. I’m taking 21 different tablets each day on prescription, not including the paracetamol or tramadol I’ve been taking for the various aches and pains I experience.  

My daily meds…..

Exoticca

Since last week’s blog I have shamed Exoticca on social media and the result is that the refund has been paid.  Their service has been unbelievably bad and I can’t understand how it’s taken over 420 days to issue the refund.  It’s just insane.  I don’t like to see people lose their jobs, but I would be amazed if this company survives the next year or two.  I have a voucher for £150 off a holiday with them, due to issues with my trip to India with them last year.  I’ll never use it, because to use it I would have to give them more money.

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: 37).

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 loss has completely stagnated but that is not surprising considering my mental health.  I’ve only completed one new book this week which is a surprise, but I’m nearly finished with two others so I would expect to have completed forty books by next week’s post.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £1,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £22,667.27 (up £710.66 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £648.71 (up £16.40 from last update).

Crypto: £661.99 (down £88.63 from last update).

Pensions: £44,475.19 (down £1,245.83 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £397,452.16 (down £607.40 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £808.45 (up £63.29 from last update).

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

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

Total Debts: £233,879.56 (up £63.29 from last update).

Total Wealth: £163,572.60 (down £670.69 from last update). 

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

A strange set of numbers this week with my ISA increasing in value but my pensions losing value.  My crypto balance has proven to be quite volatile with the value rising and falling drastically on a daily basis.  My credit card debt continues to increase as I help subsidise our joint living costs.  However, my girlfriend just finished her first week in a new job and will be able to start contributing to the household finances again.  The next few months, as we move into quarter three of the year, should see a surge in my investments as I allocate more of my monthly income to my FIRE journey.  

Smart Meters

I recently switched my electricity provider from E.On, a company rivalling Exoticca for gross incompetence, to Octopus.  The service from my new provider has been excellent and because I used a friend’s referral code we both received a £50 account credit.  (Note: let me know if you want to use my referral code and we can both enjoy a further £50 account credit).  As part of the switch, Octopus arranged for a smart meter to be installed.  I was anxious about this because E.On had tried, and failed, to install a smart meter on three separate occasions.  It was done with no problem whatsoever through Octopus.  

So, why am I talking about smart meters? It’s simple; by analysing the data on our electric use through the smart meter we have reduced our electric costs drastically.  This chart shows how our usage changed after installing the smart meter. 

A combination of a slightly better tariff and more considered use of electricity has reduced our bill from £140pcm to £80pcm (Octopus thinks it should be £75pcm based on our reduced usage but I’ve rounded it up to build a little account credit for the winter).  Switching provider has saved £720p/a and provided us with a £50 account credit.  If you are thinking of switching your electricity provider, please consider Octopus and ask me for the referral code. 

Please show your support

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

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

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

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

Part 80

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A slightly shorter post this week as I’ve not been feeling great.  I’ll be talking a little bit about the football club I support and some more abysmal customer service. 

Quote of the Week

Although I’m not as enthusiastic about football as I once was, I still support my local club Sheffield Wednesday.  To say that the last couple of decades have been a disappointing time to be an Owls fan would be an understatement.  Our fall from the upper tier of professional football has been well documented and most football fans who have followed the game pre-Premier League will know that we were once considered a big club.  That is no longer the case.  

In 2010 the club was in danger of going under.  We were rescued by Milan Mandaric, a Serbian businessman who has had a long relationship with football.  Under Mandaric we stabilised and looked to be making slow, but steady progress forward.  Then, we were bought by Dejphon Chansiri, a Thai businessman with family links to Thai Union Frozen Group who own brands such as John West Foods which I believe is the world’s biggest tuna producer.  

Now, I’m not going to focus too much on the way the club has been run.  There are countless threads on message boards such as Owlstalk that highlight problem after problem with the club.  Simply put, it’s been a complete farce.  A recent article in The Atlantic goes into a lot of detail about the issues with the club in recent years.  Chansiri has reportedly invested tens of millions of pounds and, apart from a new scoreboard, there is not one part of the club that has improved.  Now, instead of taking us from the Championship into the Premier League, we find ourselves relegated to the third tier of professional football once again.  

Exoticca

Last year I took my girlfriend to India for her birthday.  We arrived back in the UK just before we entered our first lockdown.  The trip was a bit of a disaster, in large part due to the incompetence of the travel agent in India that was appointed by Exoticca; the company over here that we booked with.  The decision to use Exoticca came from my girlfriend’s parents who had done a similar trip to India through them a couple of years before and had enjoyed it.  However, they had gone to a different part of India with a different local agent appointed.  

The parents were due to travel to China for an extended holiday from April’20 to May’20 which they had booked through Exoticca.  This was booked sometime in July’19 and cost £2,698.  The money was paid in two instalments.  Now, buckle up because shit’s about to get weird.

My girlfriend is Romanian and her parents live in Romania.  When they booked, this was all disclosed.  Exoticca had taken payment from them before for their previous trip to India but for some reason would not take payment from her father.  So, my girlfriend made the payment with her father’s card.  Exoticca stated they could not take the payment over the phone from Romania, but would let my girlfriend do it from the UK despite it not being her card.  This first payment was made in July’19 before anyone had any knowledge of Covid.  

As the date of the trip approached, it was clear that the holiday would not go ahead.  However, Exoticca still demanded that the second half of the payment was made.  My girlfriend’s father decided to make the payment as Exoticca were being a little forceful with their demands.  This second payment was made on February 26th, 2020.  The trip was cancelled on March 11th, 2020 as expected.  Exoticca stated a full refund would be provided within 30 days.  They still have not issued a refund.  It’s been 424 days.

(not) actual image of Exoticca’s accounts department working hard on customer refunds.

According to Exoticca part of the problem is that the booking was made as part of a wider booking.  My (sort of) in-laws had booked with friends to go on this trip and the lead name on the booking was the friend’s name.  Under that booking are sub-bookings for each couple and because the friend has already been refunded, their accounting system will not let a further refund be actioned.  Sounds like bullshit to me.  Another promise has recently been made regarding the refund, but their communications are patronising and unhelpful with most of the questions asked not being answered.  

There’s bad service, and there’s Exoticca.

Weekly Update

It’s not been a great week.  My mental health is not good.  It’s not just down to one thing.  I miss Sweep.  I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks in a lot of pain with my leg.  I’m probably experiencing some sort of withdrawal from the painkillers that I needed to take the edge of the pain.  I’m not happy with my health and the lack of exercise.  People close to me are struggling with their own problems.  In addition to all this, I just feel utterly and completely unfulfilled.

Now, lots of people will offer help and say that they’re there if I need them.  I appreciate all that, but unfortunately there’s not a single thing anyone can do to address the problems I face.  I’m the sort of person that wants to tackle problems head on.  I’m not generally one for wallowing in despair.  If I can’t do anything to change my circumstances, I just have to get on with the day to day stuff and hope in time this dark cloud lifts.  I know that some of my problems will end at some point.  There’s also the fact that the universe will die a heat death in a few trillion years, which will render all of existence meaningless, so there’s not much point sweating the small stuff. 

Winding in from the long term and back to the present, however, there are still things that I know will improve in time.  My leg will heal up and I’ll be able to start some exercise again at some point.  Also, as I continue progressing towards FIRE I should be able to start using my time to do things that actually make a difference and are fulfilling. 

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 36).

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: £1,000.00 (up £50.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,956.61 (up £538.41 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £632.31 (up £70.00 from last update).

Crypto: £750.62 (up £51.40 from last update).

Pensions: £45,721.02 (up £767.63 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £398,059.56 (up £1,477.44 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £745.16 (up £343.16 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (down £358.64 from last update). 

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (down £23.92 from last update). 

Total Debts: £233,816.27 (down £39.40 from last update).

Total Wealth: £164,243.29 (up £1,516.84 from last update). 

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

My credit card balance is continuing to increase as I wait for my girlfriend to start her new job.  As we get into a routine with the new pay schedule I’ll start reducing the balance on that card.  The stock market is doing pretty well of late, or at least the holdings I have in my ISA are.  By the time I post next week, I’ll have made my monthly contribution to my ISA.  Then, the following week I’ll have been paid which will see my other investments increase.  The week after that I should have received some more rent and possibly more dividend payments.  It feels like I’m starting to generate a little momentum.   

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.

My Favourite Books

Since I discovered audible I have been able to enjoy books again. For a long time, I did not read many books because of the frequent headaches and migraines I experience. This, coupled with poor eyesight generally, made it difficult to actually read books after a long day staring at a computer for work. I started with audible on a trial basis and I was hooked instantly. I signed up for my membership in 2018 and have now finished over 230 titles. The bulk of my phone’s memory is taken up with audible books. I would go as far as saying that listening to audiobooks is now my favourite form of entertainment, surpassing film and television.

Fortunately the frequency of headaches and migraines I experience has reduced thanks to the medication I take. This has allowed me to start reading some physical books again, although the bulk of my “reading” is still in the form of audiobooks. I don’t understand people who don’t read. I’ve met many people over the years who seem to take a strange sort of pride in not reading. The written word is one of the greatest inventions of humankind. A collection of symbols can communicate the entirety of human history and describe the most outlandish creations of our imagination. Not reading is like depriving oneself of a sense. It’s just so bizarre to me.

Most people who know me are aware of my obsession with books, both written and audio. As such, I am often asked what my favourite books are. Each time I try to narrow it down I struggle because there are just so many incredible books out there. Also, my opinions are changeable and I make no apology for that. However, in this post I will try to narrow down my list of favourite books to my five favourite works of fiction and my five favourite non-fiction books. I will post images of the book as well, and if you feel compelled to buy the books clicking on the picture will direct you to the Amazon listing. Buying in this way will earn me a small commission and help support the costs of running this blog, and it will be at no extra cost to you. So, here we go…

Non-Fiction

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

This was the book that signalled the start of my journey to FIRE. The book is a game changer for everyone I know who has read it. Kiyosaki is a marketing genius because he managed to sell this book based on a single, controversial, statement; your house is not an asset, it’s a liability.

In a culture where we are conditioned to believe that owning your own home is a status symbol and an asset for the future, this is a statement that initially puts people on the defensive. However, I found that as I read the book my understanding of money started to change. There are no major practical lessons in this book. It’s not a how-to guide or a series of steps to acquire wealth. Instead, it’s a book about changing your mindset and I feel it’s a great place to start your financial education.

2. A Higher Call by Adam Makos

This book tells the story of the Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown incident from World War Two. As someone who has read extensively about the war, I had heard of this incident but I did not know the human side of the story. The main details of the incident are that in December 1943 an American bomber was returning from a mission over Germany. The bomber was attacked by German fighters and heavily damaged. Many of the crew were dead or dying. The plane was barely holding together. There was seemingly no chance the aircraft would make it back to Allied territory. Charlie Brown was piloting the bomber. One of the attacking German fighters was piloted by Franz Stigler. He approached the bomber and saw the injured crew. He saw the state of the enemy plane and instead of finishing them off, he flew in formation with them so that he could escort them out of German airspace.

A Higher Call is not so much about the incident, as it’s a fairly well known event from the war. The book is about how this event impacted both Brown and Stigler in the months, years and decades that followed. I will not spoil the book for you, because if you don’t know about the incident, I think you are best served going in to the book with as little information as possible. I finished the book in two sittings whilst I was in Romania. I remember finishing the book in bed with my girlfriend asleep beside me. I’m not ashamed to say that the book moved me to tears. A truly incredible, emotional story. A must read.

3. How to Own the World by Andrew Craig

This was one of the first books about money and investing that I read that actually contained practical, useful information. Many of the books I had read until this point had been great at changing attitudes and opening your mind to new ways of thinking. What they lacked was basic instruction about next steps. Andrew Craig’s book was excellent because it gave a lot of guidance about what to do, how to do it and why you should do it. Also, the book was written from a UK perspective which is unusual in the FIRE community as most information out there is Amerocentric. For those who want a useful starting point for investing, this is often the first book I recommend.

4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

This book is referenced by almost every book on psychology, philosophy and investing that I have read. It is also one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist, philosopher and holocaust survivor. His work is moving, insightful and a must read for anyone as the wisdom contained in the text is useful to any situation. Frankl is also one of the people I would choose, if I was to answer the question about which five people I would most want to have dinner with. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with a quote of his I have used a few times previously. It is a quote that informs the way I try to live my life;

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

5. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The oldest work on this list, having been written almost 2,000 years ago by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. I often wonder if he ever thought his work would go down in history as one of the most celebrated in Stoic philosophy. It is a testament to his writing that a mortgage advisor in 2021 can identify with much of what an Emperor from centuries ago is thinking and feeling. This says so much about the universality of human struggle. I believe that the world would be a much better place, if instead of teaching children religion, we taught them Stoicism. The writings of Marcus Aurelius would be a fantastic place to start.

I dedicate a lot of time to creating content that is, hopefully, interesting and engaging. I do this because I love writing and feel that I have things to write that people want to read. I don’t hide my content behind a paywall, but running a website costs money. If you enjoy reading my blog please consider showing your appreciation and thanks, and Buy Me A Coffee by clicking on the image. This will take you to my supporter page.

Fiction

1. The Warlord Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell

This is my favourite series of books and I have read them a number of times. I recently experienced them via audible and the narration by Jonathan Keeble was fantastic. The story is set in post-Roman Britain as the Saxons begin their invasion. This is not a fantasy telling of the story of Arthur, but rather a realistic version of the legend, set against a backdrop of religious revolution and political scheming. The writing is rich and emotive, and the characters are all fully developed. Whenever I go back to these books, I feel I am reuniting with old friends. The legend of Arthur has been butchered time and time again, to the extent that no filmmaker will probably touch the story again. It is just tragic, as this trilogy could easily fuel a series of films or a high budget show. If you enjoy The Last Kingdom, you will enjoy this, you just have to give it a chance.

2. The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest & Death’s End by Cixin Liu

I stumbled across these books by accident when I was reading about the Fermi Paradox. This in turn, led my to the Dark Forest theory which takes its name from a theory in the second book of this trilogy. The Three Body Trilogy tells the story of our first contact with an alien civilisation. It is told from a, primarily, Chinese perspective which was refreshing to a Western reader. I think the word “epic” has been overused, but it’s the only word that can truly capture the spectacle of this story. Although certain liberties are taken in the name of entertainment, the science is generally rooted in reality. This is more science fiction and less space opera. Unlike some other “hard science” books, this series has a real sense of emotion at its core. A few months ago news broke that Netflix commissioned a TV adaptation to be made by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the men responsible for bringing Game of Thrones to our screens. I hope that the Chinacentric setting is not lost, as it was a huge part of what made the books work.

The first book hooked me instantly as it follows a scientist who is coerced into investigating a spate of suicides by physicists who all claim that physics is broken. I don’t want to say too much more because it will spoil a real rollercoaster of a ride for you. My advice is, go into these books knowing nothing more than what I’ve told you. As a Western reader, the names of characters may be hard to remember at first, but please stick with it.

3. The Expanse by James S. A. Corey

I saw the show after hearing from a lot of sources how good it was. I never realised it was based on a series of books, which was in turn based on a game. That sort of genesis rarely works, however the show was excellent, and the books turned out to be even better. So far there are eight books in the series in addition to a set of novellas. The ninth, and final, book is due for release later in 2021.

The Expanse is set roughly three-hundred-years in our future. Earth has colonised the solar system and there are three factions engaged in a Cold War. The U.N. controls Earth and Luna. The Martian Congressional Republic controls Mars. Then, there is The Belt which is loosely under the control of Earth and Mars, with the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) battling the “inners” for independence. Against this backdrop there is political scheming which makes Game of Thrones look tame, and a shady conspiracy regarding the discovery of an alien substance which has the power to change life as we know it.

One of the main appeals of this series is the lived-in feel of the ships and colonies. Space travel in The Expanse is hard. There is no artificial gravity or magical devices to make food. There is no warp engines or hyperdrives. It takes time to travel between planets and the management of food, air and water is key to surviving on those long voyages. For those who like their science fiction to be, well, scientific, you should definitely check these books out.

4. The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

Another series of books that blew me away. The Century Trilogy follows the fortunes of several families in the US, the UK and Russia as they live through the First World War all the way through to the present day. Someone who read these books before me explained that they, “tell the history of the world.” He was right. The strength of these books lies not in seeing how the characters shape world events. This is not a Forest Gump type situation. Instead, this series looks at how the characters handle those events. It took me a while to warm to the writing, but by the time I was on the third book I was sprinting through the pages. Strangely enough, I can’t get on with other books by Ken Follett, but this series is fantastic.

5. Station Eleven & The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Ok, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Where my previous entries were all series of books telling one story, these two books are not directly linked. There are, however, some connections that perceptive readers may discover. Both books stand on their own as complete stories and it does neither book harm if you read them in isolation. My advice would be to read them in their published order; Station Eleven first and The Glass Hotel after.

What I’ve realised from writing this list is that the works of fiction that have stuck with me are those that have a deep, melancholic feel. The characters are all flawed and feel real. Some people prefer reading stories where the characters are idealised heroes with no flaws. Those characters are boring.

Emily St. John Mandel is an author I have only recently discovered but her writing is incredible. The emotion and atmosphere that she brings to her work is up there with the very best. I firmly believe that she will go down in history as one of the great authors of our generation.

Both books are told in a non-linear fashion, following different characters that overlap with each other, not realising the impact they have on each other. Again, I don’t want to say too much about the stories because I think you will enjoy them more going in blind, as it were. I can’t wait to read Emily’s next book.

Part 79

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk a little about my ongoing problems with my ankle and I go on a virtual tour of my local area.  Also, the usual financial updates.  First, the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

A bit of a cheat this week as I post a meme of the week.  I didn’t feel as though I could add anything to this message, and so I left it in the original form.  I’ve spoken about my health problems before and whilst certain aspects of my health improve, others don’t.  I no longer visualise my health as a single construct.  My health is like a series of scales all relating to different parts of my health, whether it’s my shoulder problems, migraines or my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety.  Recently, I’ve been in a lot of physical pain with my gout.  Yes, my gout.  I don’t know whether this makes me sound old, or really old.  As I type this my lower leg on my left side is in a lot of pain.  It feels like I have a series of skewers being forced through my leg whilst they are being twisted around.  To say it’s unpleasant would be an understatement.  The pain has been so severe as to keep me awake all through Friday evening into Saturday morning.  

The thing about chronic pain is that it’s constant and it starts to wear you down mentally.  For at least the past decade I have been in pretty much constant pain one way or another, whether it’s the frequent head and neck aches I get, or my shoulders or knees, my gout or stomach pain.  I’ve long thought that my variety of health problems must have an underlying cause that links them all together but investigations from a number of specialists have drawn a blank.  However, as I stated in a post a few weeks ago, I believe the glue that holds these pieces together could be that I’m autistic.  I’m waiting on an official assessment but the fact that my Dad is autistic (following an official assessment) and looking at my mental health, thoughts and behaviours over time, and having researched the subject at length, I would be shocked if I’m not autistic.

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The prospect of being autistic does not bother me.  There are some ignorant people out there that do not understand autism but I think this is something that will improve over time.  It was not that long ago that depression was almost a taboo subject, but it is becoming more widely understood.  Over time, as neurodivergence is investigated and understood in more depth, I think society’s ignorance will start to erode.  

Weekly Update

I’m not sure where the week has gone.  It feels like one minute I was watching Line of Duty on Sunday and the next minute it’s the end of the following working week.  Life at the moment just seems really, really dull and repetitive.  The silver linings are my family, my girlfriend and my friends.  I am fortunate enough to have some great people around me, who are supportive and a rock on which I can lean when I’m struggling.  My parents in particular are amazing.  I’m so lucky to have two parents who have always had my back, even when they separated it was always clear that I had their unconditional love and support, and they should know that they have mine too.  It’s difficult for me to understand that some people don’t have that close relationship with their parents, as that is all I’ve ever known.  

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Since starting this blog I have also forged several friendships with other bloggers and followers of FIRE.  The FIRE community is, in my experience, pretty cool and always happy to share opinions and knowledge.  In a recent post I shared my frustration at how one FIRE group on Facebook was being moderated.  It was interesting that following that post I was contacted privately by people describing similar experiences with the same moderator.  This leads me nicely on to my next point…

There are some people who just seem to be a magnet for trouble or controversy.  Sometimes it is just bad luck that you happen to get several angry clients in a short space of time, just like it can be bad luck to have several failed relationships or jobs.  The thing is, over time the concept of regressing to the mean comes into play.  This is the idea that there will always be outliers or unusual events but over time things average out.  A basic example would be rolling two six sided dice.  On your first roll you might get double six.  On your second roll you could get double six again.  If you were to stop rolling the dice at this point, your data set is small and your results will be unusual.  However, the more times you roll the dice, the more you will see the results match the statistical likelihood of obtaining each combination of rolls.  In essence, the more data you have, the more confident you can be in interpreting the data and putting forward a theory.  If you lose one job, then that could just be bad luck.  If you lose two jobs, it could be extremely poor luck.  When you get to three, or four failed jobs you should probably start to question whether the blame is with you and not your employers.    

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

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 120.4kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 34).

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: £950.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £21,418.20 (up £1,298.82 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £562.31 (no change from last update).

Crypto: £699.22 (up £96.28 from last update).

Pensions: £44,953.39 (no change from last update*).

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

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

Total Assets: £396,582.12 (up £1,395.10 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £402.00 (up £236.88 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: £233,855.67 (up £236.88 from last update).

Total Wealth: £162,726.45 (up £1,158.22 from last update). 

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

*Unable to check pension value as the online portal was undergoing maintenance. 

A great week for my ISA with the losses I incurred through cashing in a fund a few weeks ago regained due to some strong growth in my chosen funds and stocks.  It is also surprising because one of the stocks I am heavily invested in went ex-dividend recently which normally sees the price drop slightly.  This did not seem to impact on the share price at all.  The dividend is due to be paid towards the end of May and I’m expecting approximately £300.  All being well, by the end of the month my investment income for the year should exceed £1,000.  If I am to hit the £5,000 target by the end of the year, I need another BTL, or maybe even two.  Fortunately, things are lining up quite nicely on that front.  

Kelham Island

I am fortunate enough to live in a part of Sheffield that was voted the best place to live in the whole of the UK in 2018.  Kelham Island is a former industrial hub in the heart of the city.  It is referred to as an island because the main part of the area is surrounded on all sides by a river.  I bought my apartment in KI in 2012 which was just before a huge wave of regeneration.  Now, there are apartments springing up all around the area which is putting a strain on things like parking.  There is a real lack of places to park and whenever someone puts their space up for rent, it is gone within minutes.  

What I love about Kelham Island is the juxtaposition of the old industrial units that have been converted into apartments, bars or restaurants, and the newer developments like Little Kelham; a series of homes designed for green living.  The area is also incredibly popular with non-residents due to the fantastic selection of bars, restaurants and traditional pubs like the Fat Cat (which has its own brewery on the island) and the Kelham Island Tavern.  

My favourite eatery in the area is, without doubt, Pina, a Mexican bar and restaurant that serves the best tacos I have had anywhere in the UK.  They also have a coconut shrimp dish which is incredible.  It’s not just the food that makes this a popular place with the people of Sheffield.  The bar is dog friendly and the staff are all enthusiastic.  One thing I love to see is people who enjoy their work, and the staff at Pina really seem to love what they do.  I am delighted to see this independent business survive the pandemic and I can’t wait for my visit on June 7th.  

Although it is not technically in Kelham Island, Albie’s is pretty much across the road and so they have honorary Kelham Island status in my eyes.  This is primarily due to the fact they serve amazing coffee and great food, including a selection of bagels fit to burst with fresh fillings.  Like with Pina, I was so happy to see them come through the pandemic.  It’s amazing what friendly, enthusiastic staff can do for the fortunes of independent businesses.  I always, without fail, leave Albie’s with a smile on my face and a great cup of coffee.  

Another local business that I enjoy visiting is Kelham Deli and Produce.  This is a small shop nestled in behind Kelham Books and Music.  This deli has a great selection of cheese, salami, fruit and veg, as well as fresh bread.  In addition to this, they have shelves stacked floor to ceiling with locally produced chutney, relish, pickles, jams, and ales and beers.  It doesn’t stop there, however.  The store also has grains and pasta that can be measured out and bought with your own containers.  There are brownies and cakes for sale, and fridges with Our Cow Molly milk and ice cream.  From time to time we will visit the store and stock up on ingredients to make our own version of a ploughman’s lunch and I’m yet to be disappointed with any of the food on offer.  

So, that’s it for my brief tour of Kelham Island. 

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 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.