Part 123

This week I discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine on the stock market. Also, information on how to help the people of Ukraine, and a few words on the stress of applying for a mortgage. First, the Quote of the Week:

This week’s quote refers to an old adage amongst stock market investors.  There are two types of market; a bull market and a bear market.  The former describes a time when the economy is generally doing well and many stocks are rising in value.  The latter describes the situation when the economy is not doing well and stocks are dropping in value.  It’s probably fair to say that we are in something of a bear market now.  With the pandemic still having an impact, and the war in Ukraine, many stocks have plummeted in value.  I talked about this risk a few weeks ago, but from a financial standpoint, it does not have to be completely negative.  With values dropping and the new financial year approaching, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of depressed unit prices and get more bang for your buck; in other words, more units of stock per unit of currency invested.

I suspect we will not see a proper recovery until the war in Ukraine is resolved one way or another.  Assuming that Putin doesn’t go the nuclear route, I can see a conventional war lasting a long time.  The Ukrainian people are fiercely protective of their freedom and will fight to the last.  Even if Russia can occupy the major population centres, they will have to cope with an insurgency that will make the Russian war in Afghanistan look like a bad day at the office.  

Whilst it may seem insensitive to discuss investment opportunities caused by the war, one has to remember that the war is going to happen regardless of what most people do with their money.  Whether I choose to put money into the stock market or not, the war will continue.  It’s not as if my investment choices are affecting the war.

Anyway, back to the bull and the bear.  The quote explains how it can take a while for a market to increase in value, and it generally does it step by step over time.  However, it’s not uncommon for stocks to fall off the edge of a cliff when something bad happens like Brexit or a major war.  If you look at the records on the first trading day after the Brexit referendum, the FTSE took a pasting.  Some banking stocks lost over 30% of their value in minutes.  Over time they bounced back, but it only took a few minutes to wipe out months, or years, of gains.  Although I have no concerns about investing more money during this crisis, I would caution anyone thinking of throwing lots of money at it right now.  It may be a long time before you see any return, and you may need the cash before any return is realised.  In short, only invest what you can afford to go without for up to ten years.

Weekly Update

I don’t know where my time off work has gone.  It seems that each day has followed the same pattern; checking the news and my messages to see if my friend in Kyiv is ok.  Then, the occasional bit of exercise, and lots of listening to audiobooks.  

The one major frustration I had was dealing with our electricity supplier, Octopus.  Since November last year, we have not been able to get any data from our smart meter.  They’ve spent weeks trying various fixes remotely but nothing worked.  So, they arranged for an engineer to come out.  I have made Octopus aware many times that there are issues parking where we live.  This never gets communicated to the engineer, so when they turned up they have to leave because they couldn’t park.  The engineer explained that they would book it back in as a two-person job so one person could stay with the van whilst the other did the work.  

The new appointment was for Thursday last week.  This was booked in a month ago and I was assured that the engineers would know the situation.  So, it was pretty annoying when I received a call the day before the appointment from the engineer asking what the parking was like, and explaining that he might have to cancel the job if they couldn’t park.  He reasoned that because the engineers are self-employed contractors, they can’t justify two people taking time out to do the job.  

I was not happy.

I gave Octopus a call and was eventually promised that the work would definitely go ahead.  On the day of the appointment, a different engineer called to ask about parking.  It took a large amount of restraint to not lose my shit, but I stayed calm and explained the situation once more.  

Eventually, an engineer arrived on-site.  What happened next was just bizarre.  As we opened the meter room in the basement of the apartment block, the data started coming through again.  The engineer didn’t even have to touch the meter.  No one could explain why it stopped working for three months, and then suddenly started again.  

I hate dealing with utility companies.

On Saturday we went for a meal at Rafters, a fine dining restaurant in Sheffield.  It’s the fourth time we’ve eaten there and the usual high standards were met once again.  The two dessert courses at the end were not to our taste, but we appreciated the work that went into them.  Some pictures below:

Whilst we were talking over dinner, our conversation turned to our experiences at university.  This in turn led to me telling a story from my time at the University of Leicester.  I was on a bus with two friends heading back to our halls after lectures.  We were on the top deck, near the front.  The two friends were sat next to each other, and I sat in front turned to the side so we could talk.  Anyway, as we were talking I was rolling up my bus ticket and I went to flick it at the window.  I got my aim slightly wrong, and the rolled-up ticket shot from my leg like a well-aimed sniper round and hit this guy on the back of the head.  He had very short hair and the sound it made was very satisfying.  He turned around whilst rubbing the back of his head wondering what the hell had just happened.  It was a busy bus so it wasn’t immediately obvious who did it.  I had sunk into my seat and was curled up into a ball laughing my ass off silently.  My whole body was shaking and I could barely breathe.  My face turned a shade of crimson and I had tears coming down my face.  I’m not sure why it was so funny, but I think I peaked that day.  I have no idea who he was, but if he’s reading this post now, I want him to know that it was me.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 122.5kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

What I’m watching: The Witcher on Netflix

I’m finally building some momentum with my efforts to lose weight.  For the last few weeks I’ve either maintained my weight or lost some.  I’m roughly 3.5kg lighter than I was two months ago.  

After finishing The Count of Monte Cristo I decided to go back to some of my favourite audiobooks.  I listened to The Three Body Problem again, and I’m now halfway through the second book in the series, The Dark Forest.  These books are part of a trilogy by Chinese author Cixin Liu, called The Remembrance of Earth’s Past.  I love this series.  It deals with Earth’s first contact with an alien civilisation and the scope of the story is incredible.  It also raises many philosophical questions about our place in the universe.  I discovered this series by accident whilst reading some theories about the Fermi Paradox, which attempts to answer why we have not detected alien life despite there being high estimates for the likelihood of its existence.  The Fermi Paradox led me to Dark Forest theory, which is both terrifying and compelling in equal measure.  The basics of Dark Forest theory are that all civilisations have a desire to exist.  Once contact is made with another race, we have no way of knowing or proving their goodwill.   So, the safest thing to do is destroy them before they destroy you.  The assumption is that all intelligent life has realised this fact, and so alien civilisations protect their location for fear of extinction. 

We have just finished season two of The Witcher.  I think the second series was better than the first.  Although I enjoyed the show, it’s not one that I think I’ll keep coming back to. 

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,200.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £39,613.67 (down £5,242.03 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £5,050.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £0.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £50,394.00 (up £1,873.39 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £454,187.67 (down £3,368.64 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £655.61 (up £9.31 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,858.62 (down £406.09 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,903.78 (down £36.02 from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,418.01 (down £432.80 from last update).

Total Wealth: £195,769.66 (down £2,935.84 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £425.29 (target £6,000).

The war in Ukraine has hammered the stock market.  I’m about 15% down from the peak value of my ISA.  This isn’t a real loss though, as losses are only definite when you sell.  The market will bounce back in time.

I had paid my credit card down since last week, but then we spent some more on Amazon.  I just haven’t gotten round to paying it down but I’m not worried as I’ve got the funds in the bank.  As long as the balance is paid in a month I don’t get charged interest.  Also, we’ve donated to the DEC for their appeal for Ukraine.  You can donate here:

https://donation.dec.org.uk/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal/

The work on our BTL is progressing.  I had a call with the contractors this week and they expect to be finished by the end of the coming week but cautioned that it may run a day or two into the following week depending on what they uncover as they go.

I am impatient to get a tenant in so we can start earning some more income, and also release some funds from the property.

The Mortgage Process

I had an interesting conversation with someone on a forum I frequent.  The person was asking for some information and advice about whether to borrow money against their unencumbered property with interest rates being low.  The money is for home improvements.  

People, in general, have very little knowledge about the mortgage process.  It’s a mystery to most people I speak with and is the cause of a great deal of stress.  I was reading in an article, that a survey of borrowers suggested that in a list of stressful situations applying for a mortgage was the third most stressful thing behind losing your job and the death of your pet.  Many people, according to the study, would rather be stuck in a traffic jam than apply for a mortgage.  It doesn’t have to be this stressful though.

The key to making the process less stressful is simple; seek expert advice, and actively listen to that advice.  Don’t be that person that just waits for their turn to speak.  Also remember that if you are asked for something, it’s not just for the sake of it.  You will only be asked for relevant information.  If your GP asks for your symptoms, you are not going to discuss what you are watching on TV.  If you get a plumber, you are not going to ask their advice about cooking.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 122

I considered not writing a blog this week.  What is happening in Ukraine puts my plans into their rightful place as not being all that important.  As people are fighting to defend their homes, talking about my financial future seems a little insensitive.  It was the words of my good friend, Yara, who is sheltering in Kyiv right now that convinced me to continue writing.  She is taking cover in her apartment with her elderly mother and disabled brother.  Their walls have shaken from the bombardment of the city.  This is not just a distant war to me, but rather a conflict that might take the life of my friend.  My thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and the brave souls who are fighting for their freedom.

Quote of the Week

“No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand. The Centauri learned this lesson once, we will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.”

G’Kar ~ Babylon 5

What is happening in Ukraine right now is tragic.  Russia has launched an unprovoked assault on their neighbour and innocent people are dying.  The Ukrainian military is outnumbered but not outmatched.  They are making Russia fight for every inch of land.  Whether it’s the Ukrainian soldier who blew himself up to bring down a bridge, which slowed the Russian advance, or the soldiers on Snake Island who defiantly refused to surrender, there are acts of heroism taking place constantly.  

The world stands on the edge of complete disaster.  I am fascinated with military, and geopolitical, history.  Russia is not playing the same game as the rest of the world.  I have no doubts that if the war turns badly for Russia they will not have any qualms about using heavy artillery, and perhaps even chemical weapons.  

So where does this leave the civilised nations of the world?  Appeasement does not work.  If the West allows Russia to conquer Ukraine, it might satisfy Putin for a few months or maybe a few years.  There will be an armed insurgency in Ukraine and this will keep the Russians bogged down for a time.  It seems that Putin expected a rapid victory in Ukraine, and did not expect such a fierce defence of the county.

The only realistic solution that I see to all this is for someone inside Russia, be it a politician, the police or the military, to take out Putin.  Should another country kill him, that would potentially lead to disaster.  If a head of state is assassinated by another country it will only serve to unite the people of the murdered leader against those who pulled the trigger.  The only people that can stop the Russians long term and without major loss of life are the Russian people.

Weekly Update

Since I realised I was autistic I’ve found that my patience for dealing with, well, people, has diminished drastically.  With a few exceptions people exhaust me.  It’s almost as though the realisation I’m autistic has permanently reduced my capacity to mask.  For those who are unfamiliar with masking, it’s the idea that autistic people act in a way that allows them to fit in with a neurotypical world.  It’s mentally draining and leads to burnout.  For a more complete discussion on masking, I recommend reading the excellent post from Darren Scothern here.

I’ve spoken with other autistic people about this, and it seems to be fairly common amongst those who were identified as autistic later in life.  It’s like a dam bursting, and once the water starts flowing again it becomes much harder to rebuild those walls.

We had been hoping to finalise the adoption of a new cat this week, but the lady we had chosen is undergoing more tests with the vet.  We knew she had a thyroid issue, but the investigations and treatment into that issue have uncovered other health problems.  It’s only right to make sure she is healthy before we bring her home, and the best way to make sure she is healthy is to maintain the continuity of care she has with the vet at the shelter.  

Long time readers will know that the inspiration for my blog came when I was on a cruise around Norway.  My girlfriend likes to create albums for trips we’ve been on, and she’s just finished the Norway album.  It’s a collection of photos and souvenirs from the trip with a quiz at the end, which I’ll admit I didn’t do very well at!  The pictures below are from the album, and it’s an amazing piece of work to remember one of our favourite holidays.

My recent diabetes diagnosis gave me a kick up the ass to get my eyes tested.  I booked appointments for my girlfriend and I.  We turned up at the opticians but there was a mix up where we arrived a little early.  A month early to be exact.  I thought I had booked for February 22nd, but I’d somehow booked for March 22nd.  There was no availability for appointments there and then, so we rebooked for another optician later in the week.  We both needed new glasses, and wanted two pairs each; one for work and one for home.  It came to a bit more than we would have liked, but considering our previous glasses were bought in 2017, it’s not a bad investment. 

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 123.1kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. 

What I’m listening to: nothing

What I’m watching: The Witcher on Netflix

I finished The Count of Monte Cristo and it is one of the best books I’ve finished.  I can see why it’s considered a classic.  It took a little time to familiarise myself with the characters, as there is a large cast.  I would thoroughly recommend it though.  It’s an incredible story that lives up to the term “epic”.

I don’t have much to say about The Future of Another Timeline as I’ve only just started it.  I should have more to report on by next week.

We’ve started season one of The Witcher in anticipation of watching season two.  It’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s entertaining in parts.  Henry Cavill’s performance is good but it’s just a bit too dull in parts.  The disjointed timeline that the show is broadcast is also a bit confusing at first.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,200.00 (up £105.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £44,855.70 (down £1,288.08 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £5,050.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £0.00 (down £490.89 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,520.61 (down £2,777.47 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £457,556.31 (down £4,426.44 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £646.30 (up £646.30 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £165,264.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,939.80 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,850.81 (up £646.30 from last update).

Total Wealth: £198,705.50 (down £5,072.74 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £237.25 (target £6,000).

The stock market took a huge hit with the Russian invasion, which I predicted last week.  Although it has bounced back somewhat, it is still not back to pre-war levels.  Some things are more important than the stock market, and I’m not one of those people who complains about it falling.  It’s happened, and I can’t ignore that it’s happened, but peace is more important.  

I’ve cashed in all my crypto.  I’ve tested the water for a year or so and it’s just not done anything for me.  I don’t understand how crypto will ever hope to replace traditional currency.  It just seems like a way to transfer money from the gullible to the already rich.  We had to use our credit card to buy our new glasses, but that balance will come down to zero, or near enough, by next week.  

Work continues on the BTL.  I’m hopeful of having a tenant by April, with the repairs expected to take another two weeks.  Once we have a tenant we will be able to draw some funds out of the equity of the property.  We can take the mortgage up to 75% of the lender’s valuation, which is what I use in the figures on my balance sheet.  Before anyone else jumps in, all the other lending criteria have been satisfied.  We just need a tenancy in place and funds will be released.

Another positive bit of news was that a dividend payment will be due on some of my shares.  This will be paid in around three months and should amount to around £900.  However, the ex-dividend date is April 7th, so if I invest in my ISA on the first day of the new financial year (April 6th) I may be able to buy more units of this stock eligible for a dividend payment.  It’s a tricky one because when the dividend is paid, the share price normally drops by the amount of the dividend. 

2022/2023 Financial Year

As the current financial year draws to a close, I’ve started thinking about the next one.  I’ve been briefed on what my remuneration package looks like for next year and I’m very happy with it.  Even with the cost of living increasing, we are looking comfortable financially.  I appreciate that many are not in such a fortunate position, and it sucks.  The pandemic, Brexit and now war in Europe has really pushed many people to breaking point.  

It’s highly likely that this conflict will have an impact on many FIRE plans.  All I can do is stick to the process and over time my financial future will look after itself.  

For now, my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and the brave men and women who are fighting to protect their homeland.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 121

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A look at budgeting, and how to make money work for you.  Also, how the new generation of banks are putting the older institutions to shame.

Quote of the Week

As usual, when I talk about budgeting, I try to make it clear that my opinions will not be suitable for everyone.  Although efficient budgeting is the key to financial freedom, budgeting alone cannot make £100 cover £150 of essential expenses.  Sometimes there’s just no more cloth to cut.  If you find yourself in this situation, then you need expert advice about managing financial difficulty.  A budget deficit does not go away on its own.

At the heart of many households’ financial struggles is poor budgeting.  People generally are bad at estimating their spending, and I don’t see any point in trying to get a handle on your spending by monitoring it going forward without first looking at historic spending.  The very act of thinking about what you are spending will mean that, for a time, you may be more responsible with your money.  Without a full understanding of where your money is usually spent though, it’s all too easy to slip into bad habits again.  The priority has to be to look at how you normally spend when you are not consciously thinking about your budget.

I will talk later about the issues with some traditional banks but one great feature of many newer banks is that they allow you to split your balance into different pots.  My current account has a feature where you can have a separate balance from which direct debits are paid.  It’s all part of one account, but it means that you can put to one side the cash you need to pay your mortgage, phone bill and other utilities.  Anything left over is for spending.  You can even create multiple pots so that you have your grocery budget for the month held separately.

The main difference between the wealthy and those who are just keeping their head above water is that wealth creates wealth.  Once you hit critical mass with wealth, your money creates enough extra money that you can spend what you like without eating into the underlying capital.  Those who don’t have this level of wealth have to use their cash to pay for everyday life and don’t have enough to start building a base of assets that will generate more cash.  Ultimately, currency is a tool and money, and wealth, is a game.  Once you learn the rules, and learn how to wield currency effectively you can start making money work for you.  Eventually, you get to a point where the creation of wealth becomes automatic and inevitable.   

There are several important steps to consider when looking at how to make money work for you.

Step 1: look back over your spending habits.  Read through your bank statements and credit card statements for the past few months.  The further you look back, the better.  

Step 2: create a budget detailing all essential spending, all spending that’s not essential but helpful (i.e. a basic TV package over a premium package), and then all luxury spending.

Step 3: is there a surplus or deficit?

Deficit: if you have a deficit when accounting for just essential spending then you need expert help.  If you need to cut back on other types of spending to create a surplus, then that’s a sacrifice that has to be made.  Once you have eliminated the deficit you should, hopefully, have a surplus.  

Surplus: with any financial surplus the priority has to be clearing expensive debt.  Once cleared, this should free up more money.  

Step 4: invest in income-generating assets.  This is a complex step and one where you need to educate yourself.  The general idea is that you assign surplus cash to purchase assets that generate more income.  You use the monthly surplus and the income generated from assets to buy even more assets.  As time progresses, the compounding effect of rolling up the income each month will increase the income generated.

Step 5: Financial Freedom.

The above steps are not easy but they are, for the most part, simple enough that most people could at least get to Step 4 before needing professional/expert help.  There are many free resources out there for people that need help with the first few steps, such as The Money Charity, StepChange and Money Helper.

Weekly Update

This week seemed to drag as it was my last week before going on holiday from work.  I was also working my late week, where I work Monday through Thursday until 8pm.  It’s a long week and normally gives me headaches.  However, this week saw a mini-migraine which fortunately came and went within a couple of hours.  One thing I will not miss when I FIRE is the almost constant physical discomfort I have from sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day.  Don’t get me wrong, I have all the support I need from my employer.  The fact is that injuries and my susceptibility mean that I’ll always be in some form of discomfort with any desk-based job.

I paid a visit to our BTL on Friday morning where our contractors are working on repairing the damage from our last tenant.  The situation has been hindered by the awful weather we’ve had, and the strong winds caused some damage to the conservatory.  There’s a lot that has gone wrong with this property.  Some of it was avoidable, but much of it was not.  We signed on with an agent who was then bought by another company.  Overnight the standards dropped.  We then faced months of trying to extricate ourselves from the agreement with the agent.  Our tenant was a nightmare but never missed a payment of rent.  When a tenant is paying rent and the agent does not inform you of any issues, there is not much that can be done.  We’ve learned our lessons from this though, and will take that education forward to future properties.

We viewed a property on Saturday across the river from where we live.  It’s a nice apartment with a balcony overlooking the river.  From our apartment, we can see the other balcony.  If my Dad moves in I’m thinking of installing a pulley system like in the Robin Hood cartoon across the river.  It would be amazing, but maybe a little impractical.

The storms hitting the UK this week have been a little unsettling.  I have vivid memories of the floods of 2007 where much of Sheffield city centre was underwater.  There have been some close calls since but fortunately, the rivers have not burst their banks to that extent.  

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 124.0kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: nothing.

What I’m listening to: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

What I’m watching: The Bar on Netflix

I’m still working through The Count of Monte Cristo, which is a huge book.  I’m thoroughly enjoying it though.  I will probably have finished it by the next blog post.  I gave up on Firefall.  It was badly written and quite derogatory towards autistic people.  It suggested that autism was an illness and implied that attempts to “cure autism” created vampires.  This is insulting and contributes to how society, in general, misunderstands autism.  The last movie we watched was The Bar on Netflix.  This is a Spanish film set inside a bar in Madrid.  There are shots fired from somewhere and a man dies outside the bar.  Those inside the bar barricade themselves inside.  What follows is just absolute insanity.  I can’t say much more without spoiling the film but if you like dark comedy, or enjoy the work of the Coen brothers, I think you’ll enjoy this film.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,095.00 (up £750.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £46,143.78 (down £723.42 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £5,025.00 (up £25.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £490.89 (down £16.21 from last update). 

Pensions: £51,298.08 (down £529.26 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £461,982.75 (down £493.89 from last update).

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £165,264.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,939.80 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,204.51 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £203,778.24 (down £493.89 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £172.25 (target £6,000).

My assets linked to the stock market continue to take a hammering.  Global instability is no doubt having an impact.  Should war break out between NATO and Russia it will probably cause most stocks to crash, with weapons manufacturers bucking the trend and seeing their prices soar.

Now that my Fuck It Fund has hit £5,000, I will only put a little in that pot each month.  My focus moving forward is maximising my ISA allowance for 2022/2023, and building up another deposit fund.  Once the work to our BTL is complete we will either sell, and make a profit based on current market trends, or rent it out and complete a further advance to release funds in the property.  Either way, we should be looking at another BTL purchase later in the year.

Next week sees the full-year results from a company I’m heavily invested in.  If those results are positive I could be looking at a decent dividend payout.  Any dividend payment received would be rolled back up into my ISA, but probably into a different fund.  My asset allocation within the ISA is not as balanced as I’d like right now, and it will take a little time to redress that.  

Natwest

I’ve had two conversations this week with different people experiencing issues with Natwest.  I can’t stand Natwest.  I worked for them briefly many years ago and they were archaic in their approach.  I also had dealings with Royal Bank of Scotland as a customer, but my relationship with them didn’t last long as they were simply incompetent.  

The first person I spoke with had major issues changing their address.  Having recently moved home, this person needed to change their address but it could not be done over the phone.  It could be done online or in a branch.  As they live a long way from the nearest branch, they decided to do it online.  However, to register for an online account they needed a PIN sending in the post, which would go to their old address.  The second person I heard from was having problems supplying documents to support a mortgage application.  In 2022 you would think that sending documents electronically would be the norm, but so many businesses are behind the times when it comes to embracing secure email or instant messaging.

The old generation of banks have a long way to go if they want to keep up with 21st century technology.  I bank with a new, online-only, bank and they are brilliant.  The app is easy to use and nice to look at.  The customer service is great with none of the patronising messages telling you to “go online”.  If you want to speak with them on the phone, you call and they answer.  No menus, no messages.  Just a conversation.  It’s great.  I’ll never use the generation of high street banks for my current account again.  I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating here; if you are a business and your phone system plays recorded messages explaining to callers how easy it is to go online, you need to rethink your approach.  The very fact that people are calling means your online offering is not working, and trying to force people back down that channel is insulting.  

I think the issue is that many older companies build their online offering as layers of add-ons and workarounds tacked on to their current systems, rather than creating a new system from the ground up.  The new, online-only, banks had the advantage of being able to build that infrastructure from the ground up and it shows in the quality of their service and product.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 120

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I offer my opinion on Kurt Zouma and his disgusting behaviour towards his pet cats.  Also, a look at recent developments in the quest for fusion power.  There are the usual financial updates and a look at what the next few months may bring for my investments.

Quote of the Week

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days you can’t have missed the news about footballer Kurt Zouma, and how he’s abused his cats.  Shocking footage of him kicking and slapping one of his cats, whilst people laugh in the background has enraged much of the country.  What he has done is disgusting.  

It has been claimed that Zouma has been subjected to abuse following this revelation and that some of the abuse is racist.  Racism is disgusting.  By all means, call the man a cowardly loser for abusing his animals but do not descend into racist abuse.  

Zouma’s teammate Michail Antonio asked a reporter, “is it worse than racism?” when asked about the incident.  Well, it’s two different issues, both horrific in their own way.  It’s possible to declare one thing a crime against humanity (racism) whilst at the same time stating that animal abuse is a crime against life.  Just because you criticise one, it does not mean you support the other.  It’s a logically flawed point.

Football is morally bankrupt, as many of us realise.  However, if someone commits a crime and serves their sentence then they are usually free to resume work.  I don’t think Zouma should be banned from playing football, but I do think that West Ham should have read the room better.  Playing him in their recent fixture and trying to distance themselves from the story has not done their image any good, and will probably result in lost reputation and income through sponsors pulling the plug on agreements with the club and the player.  

I agree that there are those who are abusing Zouma with racist language.  This is unacceptable.  Racism should not be tolerated, but neither should animal cruelty.  You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat those who are in their care, both animal and human.

I’ve had two cats in my life, and regular readers of this blog will know how much I loved them.  If I had caught anyone abusing either Sweep or Bobby, the results would not have been pretty.  I think of how loving, gentle and caring cats are, and I don’t understand how anyone could look at a cat and want to cause it pain.

There are suggestions that Zouma could be prosecuted for his offence.  I hope he is.  I don’t generally wish ill on people, but I wouldn’t be too upset if someone kicked him into the stands in his next game either.

Weekly Update

This week saw the release of my Dad’s latest novel, Aberrations.  It is now available on Amazon as a paperback with the Kindle version due for release imminently.  It’s a great read and I’ve been able to follow the progress of the work from the early drafts all through the publication.  This is a huge milestone for him as the last couple of years have hit him hard.  It’s not my place to go into detail about that, but you can read more on his blog at darrenscothern.com.  It seemed for a while that he would not release any more work, and he stated at one point that he’d retired from writing.  I always suspected he’d bounce back eventually, and I’m so proud of him for sticking with it and seeing this excellent story made public.  If you like gritty horror or thrillers, I can tell you now you will enjoy this book. Click below to go to the Amazon listing.

There have been a few science stories this week that have excited me, and I love science, especially anything to do with physics or space.  The first story is that the James Webb telescope has started to receive and process images.  These first pictures are purely for calibrating the equipment on the telescope and it will be sometime before we see the full extent of what this incredible machine can do.

I’ve blogged about energy before, and how we are still a long way from having an environmentally friendly infrastructure for electricity.  A lot of people are pinning their hopes on renewables, such as solar, wind etc.  This is a mistake.  Those types of energy are great as a supplement to our needs but the technology is not good enough to solve our energy needs.  The real issue is that, as a planet, we need to get over our aversion to nuclear power.  

There have been several accidents over the years but the technology has advanced greatly.  In the last few days, a story broke that a lab in the UK has managed to break its own record for a sustained fusion reaction.  Meanwhile, labs in China claim to have managed a sustained fusion reaction for several minutes.  This is huge.  

Nuclear fusion is not the same as nuclear fission.  In basic terms, with fission you split the atom and get energy that way.  With fusion you press atoms together until they fuse.  This releases huge amounts of energy and is the process by which our sun provides light and heat.  Fusion has the potential to solve our energy needs.  It’s safe, and clean.  We just need to scale it up so that much more energy is released than put into the reaction.  I believe it will happen, but it could be a few decades away.  There is a reactor being built in France as part of an international collaboration.  Maybe we will see results sooner, but I suspect fusion will not be a major part of our energy production until the latter half of the century.

The problem with green energy like solar and wind is that it’s not reliable enough to power a grid for a prolonged period of time.  If you have a network that uses electricity as soon as it’s produced you need a constant source of energy.  Wind and solar are not constant and varies wildly depending on where on Earth you are.  This type of energy is useful, but for it to be as useful as possible we need much better grid storage, i.e. massive batteries that can store the energy until it’s needed.  When supplemented with nuclear, be it fission or fusion, this would help reduce our addiction to fossil fuels.  

The week ended with some frustrating news.  I have type-2 diabetes.  I wasn’t surprised by this but it’s still a kick in the nuts.  I’ve had so many health issues over the last few years which has contributed to my weight gain.  It seems that since late 2019, when I spent a fair amount of time on crutches, and then my mental breakdown in 2020, I’ve not been able to catch a break.  Hopefully, this is where my problems bottom out so that I can start to claw my way back to health.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve slowly been changing my diet to try and reduce my IBS/Crohn’s flare-ups.  It’s clear that I need to ramp up these changes and get back to the gym as soon as possible.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 124.9kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts

What I’m listening to: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

What I’m watching: The Hunt on Netflix

I’m not really enjoying Firefall, mostly because of the outdated and almost insulting way it treats neurodivergence.  I’ll stick with it a little longer though and see if it’s part of the story or just the attitude of the author.  

The Count of Monte Cristo is something I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I am, but it’s great.  It’s one of those stories that I thought I knew the broad strokes to but it’s so much more than man-escapes-wrongful-imprisonment.  The narrator is brilliant in his own way.  He doesn’t come across as a professional voice actor and you can hear the page of the book turning, and he occasionally stumbles over his words.  It’s all part of the charm though, and it’s like listening to someone tell you a story in your living room.  This version is a production for a charity for blind people which explains why it doesn’t have a lot of money behind the production.  The imperfections in the performance add to the experience.

The Hunt was a movie we watched earlier in the week and it’s batshit crazy.  We loved it.  It’s only a short film and the premise is that a group of wealthy people abduct random people and then hunt them on the estate of a mansion.  It’s violent, bloody, and in no way politically correct, but that’s the whole point.  It’s satire, and it’s in your face but it’s also highly entertaining.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £6,345.00 (down £8,355.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £46,867.20 (up £1,346.67 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £5,000.00 (up £1,500.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £507.10 (down £25.32 from last update). 

Pensions: £51,827.34 (up £378.56 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £462,476.64 (down £5,155.09 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £165,264.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,939.80 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,204.51 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £204,272.13 (down £5,155.09 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £137.51 (target £6,000).

I cashed in some of my Premium Bonds to help someone out, whilst also transferring £1,500 over to my Fuck It Fund so that target has been reached.  This means that each month I can focus on one thing at a time.  My priorities now are to max out my ISA for the 2022/2023 financial year as quickly as possible.  Then, my attention turns to acquiring a second BTL.  The refurb work on our current BTL is progressing.  When complete we can complete a further advance to release some of the equity.  We had toyed with the idea of selling, but we think it would be better to hold on to the property.  

Later in the year, when my pension statements are generated, I’m going to look at changing my residential mortgage to interest only.  This will free up even more cash each month to put into investments.  I may not be able to put my whole mortgage on interest only due to the lender’s policy on interest only, but I should be able to switch around two-thirds at a minimum.

The next few months are going to be interesting, with energy prices rising alongside high levels of inflation.  It seems that everything is getting more expensive.  This is yet another reason why it’s so important to achieve some level of financial independence.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 119

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk about mortgages, interest rates, and the impact of compound interest on FIRE plans.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

One of the biggest stories of the week has been the increase in the Bank of England base rate from 0.25% to 0.5%.  What should also be a wake-up call for many people is the suggestion that several members of the MPC wanted to raise the base rate further.

What is the base rate?

There is a complex answer, and there’s a simple answer.  I’m not going to dwell too much on the former because defining the base rate isn’t what I’m driving at today, but it’s useful to have a basic working definition.  So, the base rate is simply the rate of interest the Bank of England charges other banks and financial institutions for loans.  The banking system is more complicated than each bank just having a pot of money they lend and store.  Money is constantly flowing between banks, and the deeper you dig, the more it can make your head spin.

For the average person on the street, the base rate has a knock-on effect on the rates banks offer on mortgages, loans, savings and so on.  I’m going to talk specifically about mortgages today though.

In the mortgage world, there are many different types of interest rates.  Many homeowners will be familiar with fixed rates, variable rates and tracker rates.  There are also capped rates and stepped rates, for example, amongst a variety of weird and wonderful products.  In one way or another, these deals are impacted by the base rate whether that be instantly or over a longer-term.

The average UK mortgage debt is approximately £140,000.  Assuming a 20-year term and a repayment mortgage, if you were on a tracker which tracked the base rate at 1% above, your rate would have increased from 1.25% to 1.5%.  This would increase your payment from £660pcm to £676.  For some people, this is a negligible increase but for other households it can mean the difference between eating or skipping lunch.  If you are struggling with your mortgage payments please don’t stick your head in the sand.  Contact your lender, and they will be happy to work with you to lower your payment.  If they can’t, then you can seek advice from one of the organisations I’ve listed at the end of this blog.

I think that the next few years are going to be a bit traumatic for some homeowners, and as we approach the middle of the decade there may very well be a mini fire sale of properties.  With property prices booming over the last few years, and a proliferation of first-time buyer incentives such as Help to Buy, which starts to sting after five years when the HTB companies start turning the screw encouraging you to pay, there are going to be a lot of homeowners who overleveraged to buy their dream first home with the assumption that rates were not going to rise in the short to medium term.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the base rate tops 1% by the end of 2022, and some are predicting it could be as high as 1.5%. 

Depending on where you look, the average purchase price for an FTB house in the UK is around the £250,000 mark.  Assuming a young couple who took out a deal at 1.5% over 30 years on repayment, their monthly payment would be approximately £863.  When that deal comes to an end, if rates have increased across the board by a further 1.5%, then they may be looking at a product transfer to a rate of 3%.  This could add almost £200 to their payment.

What can you do?

The first thing to do if you’re worried about mortgage payment increasing is contact your lender.  Don’t be afraid to say you want a lower payment.  It might take some time to have the full discussion, and you might need to dig out information on your finances but you could potentially save a lot of money.  It’s worth the effort.

Another consideration is that if you can overpay on your mortgage without severely impacting your finances, then it might be wise to do so.  £50pcm extra is £600 a year.  If you are on a five year fixed deal then your balance at the end of that fixed period could be £3,000 less than if you hadn’t overpaid.  Then, when you are looking for a new deal you may be able to take advantage of a reduced loan-to-value which opens up lower rates.  Also, a lower balance means a lower payment even if the rate is unchanged.

What you absolutely must not do is ignore this and hope it goes away.  I fully expect the next year or two to be difficult for most people financially.  The sooner you act, the more chance you have of mitigating any impact on your household finances. 

Compound Interest

Sometimes labelled as “the most powerful force in the universe” compound interest is at the heart of FIRE.  It’s the idea that you earn interest on your interest.  This can be very damaging when you look at compound interest on debts like credit cards, but when it comes to saving or investing, it’s hard to argue against the power of compound interest.

If you are investing £100 each month and earning compound interest at a rate of 10%, after 20 years your investment would be worth approximately £75,000 despite your deposits totalling just £24,000.  Compound interest does all the heavy lifting and this is a huge part of why the wealthy are able to maintain their wealth; every single penny they have is working around the clock to create more money.  So long as you can live on less than the amount of interest generated, your wealth continues to compound.  When you reach this point, you have reached critical mass.

Weekly Update

I was not feeling well the previous week but after making some substantial changes to my diet I’ve been feeling much better.  I’ve been tired this week and I’m feeling ready for a holiday.  I’ve only got two more weeks of work before I have almost three weeks away.  I’d love to say I’m going somewhere warm, by the sea but that is not the case.  

The total clusterfuck that is the Tory government continues to hang on, somehow.  With the cost of living increasing across the board, and interest rates rising, and the contempt that the Tory party have for the majority of the UK population, how much longer will it be before people start protesting?

After the base rate increase, the biggest story of the week is probably the pressure mounting on Boris Johnson following, well, basically a lifetime of being a complete douche.  His latest embarrassment was making misleading claims about Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.  As much as I’m enjoying the memes from this shambles, it beggars belief that the Tories keep doubling down on their mistakes.  Then, there is the inexplicable support that Nadine Dorries is lending the Prime Minister.  The whole situation seems like badly written fiction.

In other news, the repair work on our BTL has started.  It’s going to be a relief once the work is done, following a very stressful few months.  The big decision is whether to sell or rent it out again.  

Another story that caught my eye this week was the massive drop in Meta’s stock price.  Following the breaking news that Facebook’s user base has shrunk for the first time, in addition to other news about Meta’s performance in other areas, the share price of the company nosedived wiping hundreds of billions off the company’s value.  I don’t like Facebook.  I use it out of necessity, but it’s not a great service.  If it wasn’t for my blog, I would come off Facebook completely.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.6kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts

What I’m listening to: Helios: Cerberus Book 2 by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis

What I’m watching: nothing at the moment

I’m starting to make some progress with Firefall.  It’s interesting but has an unusual style.  Once I’ve finished with Helios I will have completed all the Chess Team books and their related works.  There is a final book due in the main series and I can’t wait.  This series has been brilliant, and if you like military fiction with a supernatural/sci-fi twist, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £14,700.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £45,520.53 (down £120.32 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £3,500.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £532.42 (up £40.26 from last update). 

Pensions: £51,448.78 (up £972.84 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £467,631.73 (up £892.78 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £165,264.71 (down £392.67 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,939.80 (down £18.37 from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,204.51 (down £411.04 from last update).

Total Wealth: £209,427.22 (up £1,303.82 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £137.51 (target £6,000).

No major changes this week with some small losses in my ISA and some modest gains in my pension.  I suspect that the stock market may stagnate a little until we get some sort of stability with inflation and interest rates.  This is going to take time though, and we could see a dip if enough people lose their nerve and start selling their holdings.  As a long-term investor, any dip in share prices is an opportunity to make pound-cost-averaging work for me.  

The next week should see my contributions to my pensions actioned for the month, then the week after is when I receive my salary.  Before you know it, we’ll be in March and within touching distance of the new financial year.  It’s my intention to maximise my ISA allowance as early as possible in the financial year.  

I’m less than two years away from my target date for FIRE.  The rational part of my mind knows it will be a huge challenge to hit that date.  However, I don’t think it will take much time beyond the end of 2023.  Even if I don’t hit my target, I will still be in a much better position than if I had not made the attempt.

Overpaying your mortgage or invest?

This is a common question on FIRE message boards and subreddits.  I have done the calculations a few times and in the long-term it makes more sense to invest.  However, this assumes that rates remain somewhat stable and linked, with the rate of return on investments and that charged on debts maintaining a steady relationship.  

One thing that you can’t put a price on is peace of mind.  Paying your mortgage off faster means that you will own your home sooner.  There is a huge psychological boost from knowing you own your home outright.  This is probably even more important to those with families or dependents.  The most important thing to remember with any financial decision is that what is best for someone else might not be best for you.  Education and experience is the key.

Financial Support

StepChange

MoneyHelper

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 118

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I report several examples of bad workplace management from my readers.  Also, I discuss the recent story from the US involving the r/antiwork subreddit.  Finally, the usual financial updates.

Quote of the Week

“People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.”

For those who use Reddit, you will have found it difficult to miss the recent news regarding the Antiwork subreddit.  If you have managed to miss the news I’ll briefly explain; r/antiwork is a sub where people talk about giving up work, or who want to vent about work-related stress, poor management, capitalist exploitation, and so on.  A few days ago one of the moderators for the group was interviewed on Fox News.  It… did not go well.  The group had something of a meltdown and the sub went private for a short period.  Many Redditors think that the interview has done their cause a lot of harm, but as a friend of mine said, “it’s Fox News, what did they expect?”

There seems to be an increasing number of young people who are exiting the rat race in favour of something better, something more wholesome and fulfilling.  It’s a huge part of my desire to achieve FIRE as soon as possible.  Work-related stress is rife amongst the UK workforce, and it doesn’t seem to be improving.  For some people, the pandemic has been a chance to work from home, and recharge their social batteries.  I’m amongst that group.  For many others though, the lack of interaction and the feeling that work is invading their home is a major concern.

There is no reason that the standard work-week should be Monday to Friday, 9-5.  It’s simply a case of that’s what we’ve always done, or at least since Ford Motor Company introduced it as their standard working day in the 1920s.  It was suggested some time ago that the introduction of computers and robots into the workplace would mean we could all work fewer hours.  That has not happened.  There have been several studies (just Google; how many hours do you actually work?) and those who work in offices report they work for approximately two hours from an eight-hour day.

Some jobs require long periods of focus and hard work.  Some don’t.  It seems that the western world has just agreed to pretend that everyone is productive for most of their working day, when in fact many office workers are working for just a fraction of their contracted time.  It’s like we are all pretending to be working, instead of working, and that’s just a little bit sad.  Surely there has to be more to life than just spending most of your quality time pretending to be busy.  

I can’t think of any justifiable reason why most full-time jobs still require a 35-40 hour working week.  

Many of those who report stress at work are not necessarily stressed with the job itself but rather the demands placed on them by bad managers.  I reached out to my followers to ask about poor examples of management they’ve experienced, in particular relating to mental health.  Some of the examples I’ve been sent are shocking, and things that you would not think still happen in the 21st century.

One of my readers, a woman living in the south of England, sent me the following (edited for clarity):

“I come from a different country where people are generally more direct.  I think people might be threatened by my language/tone etc.  Also, as I’m in a minority I experience discrimination on a daily basis.  Companies bang on about diversity and inclusion but it’s all just for show.  All companies want is compliance.  The support offered is not support.  It’s not about the individual; it’s about ticking a box and following a process, almost as though it’s for the benefit of the business and not the employee. 

I worked at a major UK bank for several years, working in mortgages (which is how I found your blog!)  It was a valuable experience in that it showed me that big business can’t be trusted.  They say one thing and do another.  People are nice to your face and talk about you behind your back.  It’s all one big charade, a game.  People put on a show and it’s all fake.  I thought it was just this company that was hypocritical, but I would sadly find it is common in many companies.

I left the job after a prolonged period of decline.  I had a succession of managers who were more bothered about progressing than actually managing.  I was bullied out of the job after the business failed to live up to several promises, which I pointed out.  

After some freelance work I found another home-based job working with immigration.  It was a great job and I was doing well.  I loved it.  My manager was nice, it seemed, but she soon left for another job.  That’s when everything started going wrong.  When my new manager came in, she started saying I had attitude problems and performance issues.  I asked where this had come from, and it turns out my previous manager had not been saying anything as she no longer cared as she was getting a new job.  So, she didn’t rock the boat.  I worked hard to put things right but it all came crashing down in the space of two days.  Towards the end of a shift, I noticed an error with a case I was working on.  I flagged it via Teams and a manager said they would deal with it.  The next morning I was called into a virtual meeting and told I was in trouble for not identifying an issue on a case the day before.  It was only spotted via a manager (the one I’d told about it).  The chat log had been deleted, so it was my word against theirs.  However, I’d taken a screenshot of the chat as I thought something like this might happen.  Then, they refused to look at the image claiming I’d edited it.  I just said, “fuck it” and quit there and then. 

It feels wrong saying it, but all the bad managers I’ve had have been women, and all the good managers have been men.  I’m not a feminist or sexist, but that’s just my experience.  I don’t get it.  My boyfriend has had some great female managers, so is it that people work better with the opposite sex?  Do women not get on with each other when there’s a hierarchy involved? I don’t know.  Do women in professional settings feel the need to secure their own status by putting other women down?

Employers need to live their values instead of just having them on their intranet homepage.  Stop squeezing workers for every last drop of productivity.”

Another reader sent me two examples of bizarre behaviour from their employer, a large UK supermarket chain.

“When I was at the supermarket, I had a long history of taking time off with depression.  This spread over many years. Towards the end of my time there, after one absence, HR recommended a third party mental health service they’d signed up to, which offered counselling, or talking therapy.  I got in touch with the service, more to show willing with my employer than anything.  The service offered something like three short telephone sessions with an agent. That’s it. Boom, finished.  I had DECADES of experience of depression, and my employer thought this service would help.  It’s a fucking tick in a box.”

And another example this person;

“They provided a mental health awareness day for management from all across the region. There were various presentations, including one from a former NHS psychologist.  He told the wowed audience that stress is not an illness, but a natural part of life. On one level he was right, but when people refer to stress as an illness, they are talking about negative effects of unbearably high levels of stress – but that’s a mouthful, so we just say “stress”.  The guy at the presentation didn’t explain this, and various managers and HR partners took away the message that stress is not an illness.  You can guarantee this had a terrible effect in return-to-work meetings for employees who were suffering from stress.”

One of the most shocking examples I was sent involved an autistic man who confided in his employer;

“Well, I had a manager that I trusted so I opened up to him about my autism (naively) & how it affected my job. This was about 6 months ago, but it was mostly about how I don’t gel well with authority figures & I get burnt out a lot, so my work can be inconsistent (I make up for it when I’m not burnt out). 

Fast-forward 6 months to this month, he put all that into my performance review as “things to improve” & gave me a pay reduction. In the past I’ve just hidden those things from my managers & been fine. After the performance review I took a mental health day & cancelled my 1:1s with him so I could start brainstorming other ways of communication because the current form was clearly resulting in miscommunication, but when I got back he had reported me to HR & then they wanted to either have me quit, have me interview for other jobs and THEN quit, or do a performance plan.

The thing that was shocking about him reporting me was that, because I had trusted him, I had always probably communicated too much with him. So I was pretty shocked that he didn’t reach out & ask me why I cancelled them.”

Something needs to change in our approach to work, and our work/life balance.

Weekly Update

I’ve had a rubbish week, made worse by my Crohn’s/IBS flaring up.  It’s impacted the whole week for me and resulted in several cancelled plans.  I think I need to go back to see a different gastroenterologist for a second opinion.  The consultant I’ve been under the care of has been good, but his investigations have ended with no theories about my situation.

I still can’t seem to maintain good sleeping habits.  I have no problem falling asleep, but staying asleep is difficult.  I will wake up several times through the night and not drift back to sleep for several minutes.  I can’t remember the last time I had a good, restful, night of sleep.  

Something interesting, at least to me, happened this week.  I was trying to read through some information packs but I couldn’t focus.  The pages were huge walls of text, with no clear format.  There were paragraphs all over the page, with some being relevant to only certain people.  It was like a feeling of sensory overload.  Many times in the past I’ve experienced this and have just about managed to work through it, but with a headache that lasts for days after.  I used to put this down to tiredness, but it now seems more likely that it’s a symptom of my autistic brain.  One way I’ve described this to people in the past is that it’s like my vision slides over a page of text, but never locks in on a part of the page and then reads in a focused way (I know humans don’t read in a smooth way, but instead jump around the page; this is not what I’m describing).  My eyes seem to not know where to look, and I don’t take anything in.  I get stressed out and end up just ignoring the page completely.  It’s mentally exhausting.  I’m probably not describing this very well, and if someone out there can explain it with greater eloquence I would be interested to read their thoughts.

On a more positive note, I was featured in the online financial publication, The Money Edit.  I first spoke with Katie Binns a few months ago and the story was published earlier this week.  It’s a nice, short piece on my FIRE ambitions.  The picture used shows me in Norway and is one of the few photos of me where I have no beanie on my head.  It’s practically a collector’s item photo.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.6kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts

What I’m listening to: Cannibal: Chess Team Book 7 by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis

What I’m watching: Invisible City

I’m still working through Firefall but I’m finding I have little time where I have the mental energy to read, especially as my job involves me reading information for several hours a day.  I can’t stress enough how much I’m enjoying the Chess Team series.  Jeremy Robinson has the ability to create sprawling shared universes which are entertaining, action-packed, and also emotionally powerful.  Invisible City is a Brazilian show on Netflix that follows an investigation by an environmental police detective into his wife’s death.  It involves mythical creatures from Brazilian folklore and has a refreshing style.  People who don’t watch foreign TV and film are missing out.  Spanish, South American, Korean, and Japanese studios are putting out quality content.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £14,700.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £45,640.85 (down £14.85 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £3,500.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £492.16 (up £31.66 from last update). 

Pensions: £50,475.94 (down £857.47 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £466,738.95 (down £840.66 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £165,657.38 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,958.17 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,615.55 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £208,123.40 (down £840.66 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £137.51 (target £6,000).

The stock market continues to fluctuate wildly.  Between Covid, and the possibility of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalating there are more than a few jitters out there.  I don’t think we will engage in a shooting war with Russia, and I think the west will instead fight this battle via economic measures.  There is likely to be a lot of instability going forward.  No doubt some people will start selling off in a panic, but when prices are dropping is the best time to buy, not sell.  

Work has not yet started on our BTL refurb.  This should start soon.  The question is whether this property will be a money pit going forward, or whether we will start to turn a profit on the property.  We’ve crunched the numbers and will likely make a small profit if we sell for market value, and that includes the cost of the refurb.  However, selling means no rental income from that property and a potentially lengthy period of time until we acquire another BTL. We haven’t given up on the plan to build a portfolio of houses, and there are a lot of lessons we can learn from this example.  We didn’t get everything wrong and some of what happened to us was completely out of our control, but there are a few lessons we’ve had to take on the chin.  You can be sure we will not make those mistakes again.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 117

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.  Also, some updates on the state of our BTL. There are the usual financial updates, and a brief look at how I track my financial progress.

Quote of the Week

It’s getting a little scary in the east, with Russia massing forces along their border with Ukraine.  It seems that an invasion is imminent but we should remember that this conflict has been ongoing since 2014.  This is not a new war, but an escalation of the Russian aggression that saw Crimea annexed seven years ago.  Although it has not always been headline news in the UK, this protracted war has seen thousands of civilians and military personnel killed.

Unfortunately I can’t see NATO coming to the defence of Ukraine should Russia push further west.  I don’t think the US, UK, or continental European allies have the stomach for the fight.  This is not like bombing villagers on the other side of the world from untouchable drones controlled remotely.  This would be a dirty, bloody business.  I’m not saying I agree with leaving Ukraine to their fate, but I suspect that deals will be done via diplomacy to allow Russia to expand their sphere of influence whilst NATO issues a strongly worded statement.  No doubt there will be sombre public statements from our leaders, with further sanctions levelled at high profile Russian politicians.  Then, the war will be quietly withdrawn from the national news cycles.

The whole business is disgraceful because we are signatories to the Budapest Memorandum, signed in the 1990s, in which the US and the UK guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for them giving up their nuclear arsenal.  Had Ukraine not handed over their nukes, it’s doubtful Russia would be as belligerent.  It’s like Czechoslovakia prior to the Nazi invasion all over again.

I have a friend in Ukraine and she is angry and scared that her home is about to be taken over.  It seems like we are happy to be friends with Ukraine, but only on our terms and only when the sun is shining.  The very definition of a fair weather friend.

Diplomatically the western powers haven’t played this situation well for a long time.  Did NATO really think it could encroach on Russia’s border and not provoke them? What happened when the USSR tried to put nukes in Cuba? The US threatened retaliation.  Fortunately, sense prevailed back then and everyone realised war was not worth it.  Hopefully, common sense prevails here and we don’t see an escalation in the fighting. 

Weekly Update

I’ve spent much of the week unwell.  Nothing life threatening but enough to put me on the sidelines for a couple of days.  I’m in something of a funk with my physical and mental health.  Untangling the two is impossible as they impact each other.  I’ve spoken before about Spoon Theory and there have been times recently where I’ve just felt like I didn’t have the mental resources to cope with everything going on.  When that happens, it leads to stress, which then leads to problems with physical health.  

A recurring theme with living where I do is that it’s very difficult to get tradespeople or utility providers out to complete work.  There is a severe lack of parking in the area and what tends to happen is the people come out and can’t find anywhere to park, so they cancel the job.  It’s very annoying.  

A few months back we switched our electricity provider and on the whole they’ve been decent.  We had a smart meter installed and it was great seeing the daily usage data.  However, it stopped working properly in November and we’ve not been able to get it repaired.  The engineer tried to attend on two separate occasions but couldn’t park in the area.  So, we’re still waiting.

There is a lot to love about our neighbourhood and it was voted as the best place to live in the UK in one of the national papers a couple of years ago.  This is because of the massive regeneration going on, with apartments mixed in with independent bars, cafes and restaurants.  It is a cool area, but a lot of the businesses are starting to struggle in the week as they don’t get enough business because people can’t park their cars.  It’s only going to get worse with hundreds of new apartments being built over the next year in the area.  

Also this week, I’ve had several calls and emails from journalists asking for my comments on various financial stories.  Another journalist is potentially running a story on my plans, and I’m just waiting to see if anything comes of it.  It’s great that my blog is starting to get some attention, and it’s all extra motivation to see my plans through.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.6kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts

What I’m listening to: Patriot: Chess Team Book 5.2 by Jeremy Robinson & J. Kent Holloway

What I’m watching: This Is Us

I’m absolutely loving the Chess Team series.  It follows a team of US special forces who deal with terrorism and otherworldly threats.  It’s such good fun, with equal parts horror, comedy, and some refreshing takes on myth and legend.  The books have a main series, but then within the main series there are little spin-off stories, and this is why some of the books are listed as “Book 5.2” for example, as it comes between Book 5 and Book 6.  The name of the series comes from the fact that the members of the team have call signs after chess pieces; King, Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight, and Pawn, with the leader of the team named Deep Blue, after the computer that beat Garry Kasparov; a chess world champion.

The sixth and final season of This Is Us has started up on Amazon Prime.  The show follows a family across several generations and is a comforting show to watch.  It’s like coming home to friends and family.  It’s also very emotional in parts as it deals with racism, child abandonment, addiction, grief, and mental illness.  A great cast armed with a great script makes the show binge-worthy.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £14,700.00 (down £6,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £45,655.70 (down £1,630.18 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £3,500.00 (up £1,500.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £460.50 (down £158.07 from last update). 

Pensions: £51,333.41 (down £1,087.60 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £467,579.61 (down £7,375.85 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (down £339.13 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £165,657.38 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,958.17 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,615.55 (down £339.13 from last update).

Total Wealth: £208,964.06 (down £7,036.72 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £129.51 (target £6,000).

I’ve had to draw down some Premium Bonds to put towards the repair work at our BTL.  In total the work comes to almost £7,500.  It’s a massive kick in the teeth.  I went to the property on Saturday because the alarm was malfunctioning and going off at random times.  We managed to get the alarm disconnected so that it should no longer annoy the neighbours.  We spoke with the people living on either side of the property and bought them a bottle of wine and some chocolate as a small apology.  We found some interesting information about the tenant who had been living there which made us quite angry.  We’ve learned a few hard lessons from this property so far, and we’ll hold our hands up and admit there are things we’ve done wrong.  However, there are also a lot of things that we had no possible way of knowing would go wrong.  Once the work is completed we have some decisions to make about how to proceed with the property.

The stock market has taken a hammering this week, and between my ISA, pension and crypto account I’m down almost £3,000 without taking into account the bonds I cashed in.  I’m not worried though; it’s just part of the cycle of the market and it will bounce back in time. 

Spreadsheets and how I track my data…

I was supposed to write about this last week but life got in the way.  Several readers have contacted me to ask how I track my progress, and why I insist on tracking it weekly.  I’ll tackle the latter question first.

Coming from a long battle with gambling addiction I felt I needed a way to keep myself honest.  Tracking my progress monthly, or quarterly, leaves too much time for me to slip up.  With a weekly update that is posted publicly I have extra motivation to stay on course.  As I see the balances increase over time, it becomes self reinforcing.  

To track my progress I use Google Sheets which is free to use with a gmail account.  Then it’s simply a case of having the week numbers down the vertical side and the type of asset on the horizontal.  Google Sheets has a great tool for creating graphs with just a few clicks.  Simply highlight the data range and hit the chart button.  If it doesn’t create the type of graph you want, i.e. you want a bar chart and it creates a pie chart instead, you just open the options and scroll through the different types of chart.  It’s very intuitive.

Updating the spreadsheet each week takes approximately ten minutes, and a further five minutes to create all the graphs.  I sometimes run other checks on my data if I’m curious about something, such as asset allocation within my ISA.  

If in doubt, fire up YouTube and there are lots of great tutorials on how to create spreadsheets via Google’s software. 

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 116

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week’s blog is not what I intended, and the change of plan is simply down to exhaustion.  I had planned to show how I generate my spreadsheets, and highlight some of the calculators I’ve put together to help analyse property deals.  So, this week’s blog has no Quote of the Week, for which I apologise. Basically, this isn’t my best work. I’m really selling it this week, aren’t I?

Weekly Update

I’ve been so busy this week I’ve barely had a chance to pause for breath.  Between my day job, dealing with the BTL issues we have at the moment, answering the surge in social media messages I’ve had following the article in The Telegraph, and my girlfriend’s birthday, the week has flashed by.  

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d had some tests that involved me swallowing a radioactive pill, which was investigating the IBS-type symptoms I experience.  The test came back negative, which means they don’t have a clue what’s causing my symptoms.  It’s probably just because I’m overweight and stressed.  I’m going to make an effort to get back to the gym in the coming week, so wish me luck.

Now that I’m over Covid it has been nice being able to get out and about.  I met my Dad on Thursday for a coffee.  We had a good catch up and he’s coming over on Sunday for lunch, and then we are going to see the new Spider-Man film with my girlfriend.  In preparation for the movie, my girlfriend and I have watched the two Andrew Garfield films.  I’ve seen the first one before, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it.  I also enjoyed the second one for what it was; just a fun action film.

On Saturday we went for a meal with my Mom and her husband.  This was both a belated christmas meal, and also to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday.  My steak was decent but not as good as normal.  The main thing was the company, and having a good laugh over food.  

On Thursday we collected Bobby’s ashes.  He is now resting next to Sweep’s ashes.  We’ve been fortunate to have two amazing cats who have brought love and happiness into our lives.  It’s heartbreaking losing them, but we have lots of great memories.  We have decided to give another older cat a home, and have provisionally adopted a sweet lady from a local animal charity.  We are just waiting for her to have some final checks at the vet and we should be bringing her home before the end of the month. 

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 126.1kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts

What I’m listening to: Prime: Chess Team Books 3.6 and 3.7 by Jeremy Robinson

What I’m watching: I’ve just finished The Expanse.

I’m not far enough into Firefall to pass much comment as yet, but the blurb has me intrigued.  I’ll say more once I get further into it, but it’s a massive tome and could take me a while.  I’m still enjoying the Chess Team series.  It’s great fun and I’m intrigued as to where Jeremy Robinson will take the story.  

I was gutted to see The Expanse series finish.  The show has followed the books until the end of Babylon’s Ashes; the sixth novel.  However, it’s not looking likely that books 7-9; Persepolis Rising, Tiamat’s Wrath, and Leviathan Falls, will be adapted for the screen.  What we have is still an excellent show though.  The story of The Expanse is almost like a trilogy of trilogies, with books 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9 being the beginning, middle, and end of a larger story.  Ending the show at the point book six ends is a fairly satisfying ending, but I can understand why those who haven’t read the books are confused by what was happening on Laconia.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £20,700.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £47,285.88 (up £1,078.01 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £2,000.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £618.57 (down £24.58 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,421.01 (down £97.85 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (up £3,842.00 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (up £2,480.00 from last update).

Total Assets: £474,955.46 (up £7,277.58 from last update).

Debts

Credit Card: £339.13 (up £236.12 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £165,657.38 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,958.17 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,954.68 (up £236.12 from last update).

Total Wealth: £216,000.78 (up £7,041.46 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £25.00 (target £6,000).

The quarterly update to the index value of our properties was released this week.  Both our properties increased in value.  We had hoped to complete a further advance on the BTL but as we are between tenants it’s not possible.  Once we secure a new tenant, we will be able to release some funds to put towards our next property.  

My ISA continues to grow whilst my pension seems to be stagnating a little at the moment.  My credit card balance is higher than last week but this is simply due to my payment not clearing in time for this blog.  It should be down to zero, or almost at zero, by next week.  

B.R.R.R.

There are four pillars on which my FIRE plan is based.  There is passive income from property, as well as income from stocks and funds.  There is also the possibility of freelance work in the future.  Last, but not least, is my pension.  FIRE, for me, isn’t about giving up all work and just sitting around doing nothing.  The main reason I want FIRE is so that I can say “no” to any work I don’t want.  I desire the ability to work when I want, how I want.  

The income from property is seen as a way to generate large amounts of passive income relatively quickly.  In the meantime I will continue to invest into my ISA, as well as reinvesting all dividend income.  So, as my property income is taking care of the present, I am also building up a solid amount in my ISA for the long term which will supplement my pension.

Investing in an ISA and/or pension for the long term is viewed by most in the FIRE community as the safest and most conventional way to achieve FIRE.  Investing in property is typically viewed as too much hassle, or too expensive for little reward.  Some people object to owning property on moral and ethical grounds, but I find this confusing because those same people think nothing of using smartphones or other modern tech which is heavily built upon the exploitation of those in developing countries.  Many critics will also have cars which contribute to global pollution, but I digress.  

Property comes with risks, such as the changing tax landscape, and the possibility that tenants will not pay, being two major concerns.  However, all investing has risk.  Not investing at all also comes with risk.  Risk is inevitable.  The only thing we can do is mitigate the risks we are willing to take.

Long-time readers of this blog will recall times when I’ve discussed the BRRR model of property investing.  Depending on who you ask, this method can be termed BRR, BRRR or even BRRRR.  I’m talking about a type of property investing that follows the process of; Buy a property below market value, Refurb the property, Rent the property and then Refinance; BRRR.

In an ideal world you would secure a property at a great price, allowing you to complete some modest work to increase the value of the property.  I’ve blogged before about how I find the practice of Direct-to-Vendor marketing to be morally and ethically wrong.  I would never take advantage of someone financially or try to “get one over” on an unsuspecting vendor.  There are, however, times when a vendor may be happy to sell quickly for a reduced price, such as when a couple are divorcing, or where they can no longer afford the mortgage and need to repay the mortgage, or the property forms part of an estate and the beneficiaries cannot afford ongoing council tax, utilities, insurance and general maintenance.  Although buying BMV is ideal in this situation, the BRRR model can work when buying at, or around, market value.

Example (note that I’m not including things like SDLT or insurance.  I acknowledge these things exist and include them in my real world calculations, but for the sake of the example I want to make this as simple as possible):

Property for sale at £150,000.

It needs work to bring it to a rentable condition.  The estimated cost is £20,000.  However, after the works are complete the estimated property value would increase to £200,000. 

You secure a mortgage at 75% LTV.  

Deposit and cost of work: £57,500.  

Mortgage balance: £112,500

Now that the property is worth £200,000 you approach your lender to complete additional borrowing, or you switch lenders, depending on which is most appropriate.  Note: you normally have to wait six months from the date the property was acquired to complete extra borrowing or a remortgage.  

£200,000 x 75% = £150,000.  

£150,000 – £112,500 = £37,500 released from the property.

You then use the funds released from the first property to put down as a deposit on the second property.  The best scenario is where you can release all your original investment, but this is quite unusual.  Normally, you can release a decent proportion of your original funds though.  

Using this process, you can acquire multiple properties without needing to save a full new deposit each time.  As you let each property out, you can also use surplus rental income to help build your funds for each subsequent property.

For anyone who has surplus funds to invest, this model is open to anyone.  It’s not just something a mortgage advisor can do.  There’s no hidden set of rules here.  Money is a game, and the rules are available for anyone to view.  You just need the motivation, and the funds.  Yes, it sucks that some people are struggling financially.  However, there’s no dignity or honour in me not investing the money I do have, just because other people are in a worse position.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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

Part 115

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week’s post is a little bit different.  There is no quote of the week, but rather a few memes that express my mood over the last few days.  There are the usual financial updates, and a lengthy response to the feedback I’ve received following the article about my plans in The Telegraph. So, buckle up for the longest blog I’ve published.

Memes of the Week

Weekly Update

Another week of having covid, and it’s been a long, tiring week.  My symptoms have been fairly mild overall, with the main issues being a headache, a cough, and hardly any energy.  A few times I’ve had to have a short nap in the middle of the day.  Finally, on Friday, I had my first negative test. 

I went to look at a potential property on Friday evening, but it was a non-starter.  It would have needed too much work and the returns were not enough to be worth it.  The search continues and eventually the right opportunity will present itself.  In the meantime, we continue saving up.

Between our self-isolation, full days of working from home, and struggling to stay awake, there is not much to report.  Hopefully I will have some news on the cost of repairing the damage at our BTL by next week.  We’ve had people look around the property and are just waiting on their feedback.

The biggest news of the week was the publication of an article in The Telegraph about my plans for financial freedom.  The story prompted a somewhat predictable response; you could even say the response was Telegraphed.

Anyway, what follows is my response to some of the feedback I’ve received, along with screenshots of comments that caught my attention.  

The Telegraph Article

A few days ago The Telegraph published an article about me, this blog, and my plans for early retirement.  It was a great article, and I’m very happy with the publicity and the content of Jessica’s writing.  However, for all the supportive comments I’ve received, there have been some negative ones.  I want to address a few points, and provide some context for the questions and comments that have been raised.

How did the article come about?  Was I paid?

Since I started the blog in 2019 I’ve been contacted several times by journalists asking to interview me regarding this blog.  I turned one down as I wasn’t comfortable with them, or their publication.  Another journalist had a long conversation with me, but decided not to run the article.  I was contacted by Jessica a few months ago by email, but I didn’t see it right away as it went to my junk folder.  I replied with an apology for not seeing the email.  Jessica emailed me back to arrange a time to speak.  We had a phone call, and she arranged for a photographer to come out.  I was not paid, nor did I expect any payment.  The free publicity was fine by me.

About Me

Some of the responses to the article claimed that I was funding my FIRE journey through the bank of Mom and Dad.  Some people also claimed I was some lazy boyfriend living off his girlfriend’s income.  Other people questioned my intelligence and my appearance.  Pretty much every single comment was wrong, so what follows is a brief autobiography to set the record straight.

The home I own with my girlfriend was bought with our own savings, and a small contribution (less than 1% of the total purchase price) from my Gran.

My parents were young when they had me.  They would not have been old enough to buy alcohol legally; that’s how young they were.  I was born into poverty.  I lived in council housing with my parents, and our house was broken into several times.  My parents separated and reunited several times during my childhood.  Eventually, when I was 13, my parents bought a house in a decent area.  Then, my parents separated for the final time but have remained in contact and are now friends.  Until that point we had lived in a part of Sheffield that was rough AF.  In my primary school years, I attended a school alongside children of refugees and asylum seekers.  English was a minority language.  In some ways it was great; I was immersed in other cultures from an early age.  My first experience of Indian food was going to a friend’s house and tasting his parents’ cooking.  No onion bhaji since has come close.  On the other hand, being one of only two white boys in my class, I was bullied.

When the time came to go to secondary school my parents fought tooth and nail to get me a spot in a good school.  It took a lot of effort on their part but I ended up at one of the best schools in Sheffield.  This came with some downsides though.  My schoolmates all lived near the school in posh housing, with their journey to and from school taking just a few minutes.  I had an hour-long commute each way, having to get two buses there and two back.  After the first few years I was able to just get a tram each way.  The point here is that I worked my ass off to go through school and get my GCSEs and A-Levels.  

I was the first person in my family to go to university.  I was accepted into the University of Leicester, and I studied there for a couple of years before dropping out.  Mentally, I was not in a good place.  This was the start of a long battle with depression.  I took some time out, and then went back to university.  This time, to UCLan.  I completed my BSc in psychology, earning a first in my dissertation and coming agonisingly close to a first in my degree overall.  My final year at university was again plagued with depression, and this impacted my exam performance.  Following this I have earned some postgraduate qualifications, in addition to qualifications relating to mental health awareness, and professional qualifications such as CeMAP.  I’m also part way through studying for my DipFA, having completed two of the required six exams.  

In short, everything I’ve done, I’ve earned.  To state that I’m reaping the benefits of a privileged upbringing or wealthy parents is wrong, and arguably insulting.  My achievements are my own. 

My parents, despite being young, working-class, and having no financial education, and not staying together, are the best parents I could ever wish for.  They are supportive, loving, and my two best friends.  I love them both and we speak almost everyday.  They are not the stereotypical teenage parents; they have always had my back and when I made mistakes they would encourage me to put things right rather than scold me for doing things wrong.  

Although I’m investing in property with my Dad, it’s a 50/50 split all the way.  I suppose if we’re being technical, he pays for petrol when we drive to a viewing and I buy the coffees.  So 50/50 might not be 100% accurate.  I’m sure my Dad will not mind me saying that I’m the one with the financial education.  I’m the one that has read or listened to over 75 books on investing, money, economics, property, and personal development since 2018.  My Dad is intelligent and has a whole host of qualifications he has earned, but the financial side of this has been driven by me.  I told my Dad about FIRE and about how I wanted to work towards it.  I asked if he wanted to come along for the ride, and he agreed.

The Headline

A few people are hung up about the headline to the piece, stating;

‘Buy-to-let properties will allow me to retire a millionaire in 2023’

So I think we have to take this with a pinch of salt.  This is a small piece in a newspaper; not an academic journal or a book.  There are whole books written about FIRE that barely scratch the surface.  It’s hardly surprising that a catchy headline was chosen for the piece.  When we talked, I explained that I felt I could have £1M in assets by the end of 2023; not that I would be a millionaire by 2023.  There is a distinction between the two.  For my plans to work, I don’t need to be a millionaire; I just need to have enough passive income, after expenses, to live on.  That’s all.  I don’t have a concrete “FIRE number”, but using an average 5% yield, I’ll need a net wealth of £500,000 or so.  I appreciate it’s not that simple as some assets don’t provide an immediate income, such as my SIPP or my workplace pension.  So, the £500,000 figure is not very useful.  That’s why I’m focusing on income.

Income

The last two years have been strange.  Covid, Brexit and a number of other things have impacted on dividend payments.  In 2019 I only had a few hundred pounds of investment income.  In 2020 that increased to over £3,500.  Looking ahead, I’m expecting to increase that yet again.  If I increase or maintain my investment income year-on-year, then I’ll get to my target eventually.  

Some people have commented that I’ve a long way to go to get to my £1,500-£2,000pcm income.  That’s right; I do.  I may not hit the goal by the end of 2023, but so what?  If I hit it, great.  If I don’t, then at least I’ve tried and I’ll be in a better position than if I had not tried.

Your girlfriend is going to leave you/She’ll want kids eventually/You’re sponging off your Mrs

Cal, if you’re reading this, I think this could be a learning moment for you. How am I lying to my partner and hiding money by posting a weekly blog about it? You might need to call an engineer because your lift doesn’t seem to be going all the way to the top floor.

Oh man, both my girlfriend and I laughed at these comments.  We’ve been together for almost 15 years.  She is not from the UK originally.  She is now a British citizen.  Neither of us want kids.  We like our independence.  We like being able to do whatever the fuck we want, when we want.  We have talked, on occasion, about the slim possibility of adoption in a few decades.  We travelled to India a couple of years ago and the poverty was fucking heartbreaking.  The world is overpopulated as it is, and I simply refuse to bring another life into the world.  We both also have opinions on whether it’s right to bring a life into existence that never asked to be born. (There’s a whole debate about this in philosophical circles, but I’m in danger of going off topic).  I’m a nihilist though, which is itself a little out there.  The fact is, neither of us agree with the assumptions that; all relationships should lead to marriage, or that all relationships lead to children, or that all women want to have kids.  

As for sponging off my girlfriend.  We also had a good laugh about that.  For a number of years I’ve been paying for more than half our total expenses, in addition to saving or investing £1,000 per month.  My girlfriend has been doing postgraduate courses, and on the job training.  She recently got a great job and now we share most expenses 50/50, but she’s happy to pay a little more if it helps me save more.  We treat each other to meals, gifts, and so on.  We don’t count pennies and we’re both fine with the arrangement.  

My girlfriend likes to work.  She likes to stay busy.  She loves being in the thick of it and getting stuff done.  I don’t.  Am I lazy?  Not really.  I just don’t want to work for anyone else.  I want to have enough money coming in so that I can choose to not work.  At that point, I may go back to studying.  I may start writing again.  In the words of Hank Moody I may even; 

​​”…start the day with some dry toast and half a grapefruit, bust out the old computer, bang out ten pages, maybe go for a run… Maybe I’ll just jerk off and go back to bed.”

The point is to have the ability to choose.  My girlfriend also has the right to choose, and her choice is to work.  She has absolutely no issue with me not working, so long as I take our (future) dogs for a walk.  My girlfriend supports my goals and my FIRE project; so in the words of my girlfriend, “stop treating [him] like a misogynist”.

Madrid, Bucharest, Sheffield, and so on…

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of the world.  Our planet and our civilization is amazing.  There is so much to see and explore.  I’ve had the opportunity to travel to India and see the contrast between the historic beauty and the current, heartbreaking, poverty.  I’ve spent time in the US, going up and down much of the Eastern coast from Niagara Falls to Georgia, and the Carolinas.  I’ve travelled through much of Europe.  The idea of staying in one place for any length of time feels claustrophobic.  

Bucharest was an option because we’ve spent a lot of time there, and had maybe 20 visits in the past five years.  We’ve also spent time in other Romanian cities, such as Brasov, Sighisoara, Medias, and several smaller towns and villages.  The natural beauty of Romania is surpassed only by the fjords of Norway (in my opinion).  We could move there and have a very comfortable life.  We have many friends there, as well as extended family.  It was the preferred option for a long time.  However, we simply changed our mind.  Nothing unusual or suspect about this; we simply changed our mind.

We love Spanish culture, the food and the language (my girlfriend can speak Spanish to a fairly fluent standard, and I can speak a bizarre version of Spanglish, but I’m studying it a few hours each week).  Madrid is an awesome city.  We’ve spoken with residents there, and done a lot of online research, and we could make it work.  Can we be fully prepared by 2023? Possibly, but there is the real possibility we will not be ready.  So what? The deadline of 2023 is a self-imposed deadline.  If I don’t meet that deadline, I only need to answer to myself.  

We could very well change our minds about our destination again in the future.  My ultimate dream would be to have a house somewhere like Geiranger, Norway.  On our cruise around the fjords in 2019, the beauty of the country was breathtaking.  Having a house there, with a couple of dogs (German Shepherd for me, and a Dachshund for my girlfriend), with a view of the fjords and mountains… That’s all I want.  A simple life with good food, and good company to enjoy it with.  We both share this dream.  However, that’s for several decades down the line.  Norway is expensive, but it would be worth it.

He’s not made much progress to say he’s 38!

As I’ve stated several times, I started out with hardly any advantage or privilege.  My successes are my own, as are my failures.  I’ve had some major health problems over the years, including some extended periods of depression that left me in a very dark place.  Part of that was caused by a crippling gambling addiction, which I’ve now overcome and gone 900 days without placing a bet.  

I only started to seriously look at my finances in 2017-2018.  A chance conversation with a friend led me to Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  I’ve stated a few times that I’ve found Kiyosaki’s books lacking in practical knowledge and advice, but in terms of changing my mindset it was an absolute game changer.  I started devouring books on finance and investing.  I reached out to authors of these books; including high profile investors and business people.  This led to several productive phone calls, email conversations, and working-lunches.  It’s amazing how many people are willing to talk to you when you ask them nicely, and offer to pay for lunch or a coffee.  Some of these contacts have become friends, and mentors.

Much of my savings have come from regular sources like my salary.  I earn a fair bit above the national average, and aim to invest or save a minimum of 50% of my net salary.  Some of my deductions from my salary now include extra contributions to a workplace pension which my employer more than matches.  I’ve also made some educated trades that came off, including the decision to buy shares in a growing airline which I made a good return on when I sold those units.  I also invested heavily after the Brexit referendum, making a good return when sanity prevailed in the market just a few days later.  I don’t generally buy shares to sell; I normally buy to hold.  Sometimes though, there are opportunities too good to pass up.  

When you look at my progress, you aren’t seeing 38 years of progress.  You’re seeing someone who in 2015 had £20k+ in loan and credit card debt.  At the start of 2022, my assets minus my debts leave me with over £200,000 of positive wealth.

He invests in Premium Bonds, what a loser/why has he got so much in Premium Bonds?

Interest rates on savings accounts are essentially non-existent right now.  Premium Bonds are safe, almost instant access, and come with the possibility of winning a prize.  I had to think seriously about whether this constituted gambling, and decided it wasn’t.  The main reason is that I can cash these bonds in whenever I want and get the sum I invested back (ignoring inflation for the sake of simplicity).  If I gamble, I have no guarantee I will see the money. 

So, Premium Bonds work as a deposit fund for our BTLs.  I save my share, and my Dad saves his share.  Then, we pool our cash 50/50.  Each year, my main priority is to max out my ISA.  I achieved that last year.  When the new financial year starts, I’ll work my ass off to maximise my allowance again.  Once that is done, I then turn my attention back to Premium Bonds, and making sure I have enough cash in my Fuck It Fund.  

There are several pots of money that I don’t include in my blog, otherwise it would be a mad jumble.  My bank provider has the facility to have different pots of money for different things.  I have pots for; pet expenses/vet bills etc, my tax bill, to cover my annual subscriptions to Audible, Amazon Prime, my website host, and to cover my excess on my private health insurance, to pay ground rent and management costs on the apartment we live in, and so on.  I make sure these are all topped up, so that when we get a bill, it can be paid.  Sometimes, things happen and the money has to go on a credit card.  However, the balance is soon paid off.  

What about agent fees, void periods, damage to the property? Also, £150 each from the first BTL isn’t much!

So, these two points are related.  Before we bought our first BTL, we did a lot of viewings but none of the properties fit the bill.  We have a spreadsheet where we list all the different costs of buying a property, including taxes, fees, mortgage costs and so on.  I also included a “stress test” to see what the impact would be if interest rates rise.  From a conservative estimate of the projected rent, I then deduct all the costs, including a small overpayment off the interest only capital each month (rounding up £137.87 to £150.00 for example) to create a safety buffer.  Also, before we take any money out, we move a proportion of the gross rent to a contingency fund.  The £150 we take each month is after all these expenses including paying our agent.

He’s already changing agent – what a clown!

We decided that we wanted to use a smaller agency, where we could have continuity of care, rather than dealing with a bigger company.  The agents were great to start with, but they were taken over.  The agency that took them over is completely useless.  They’ve made one mistake after another, ignoring our instructions and not calculating expenses correctly, for example.  One example of their incompetence was not bringing the property keys to the check out inspection, despite me reminding them via email on at least three different occasions, and receiving a reply each time that they would definitely have them to hand.  

So yeah, it’s hard to see what we could have done differently here.  We considered changing agents, but when you have a tenant in place it’s not that simple.  We were also concerned that the current agent would fuck up any transfer; so we made the decision to sit tight and change agents when the tenant left.

Our tenant never missed a payment.  However, they did trash the property.  After finding out some more information, which I’m not going into too much detail about here, we suspect the damage was intentional and malicious as the tenant’s deposit was paid for by another party.  The theory is that the person trashed the property after falling out with the person who paid the deposit, to ensure they would not get their money back.  We knew this was a possibility when we entered the BTL market.  It sucks that it happened with our first property, for our first tenant, but we’ve learned from it and have put in place measures to reduce the chance of this happening again.

We have found another agent who is investigating how we can get work completed to bring the property back up to spec.  I have friends and family who are plumbers, electricians, painter/decorators, so if the agent can’t arrange it, we can arrange it ourselves.  The main issue for us is that we want to be hands off.  We don’t want to be landlords; we want to be investors.  There’s a fundamental difference between the two. 

PARASITE!

No, not the excellent South Korean film, but rather what some people decided to label me.  Not much of an explanation is given for this, except that I’m apparently depriving people of being able to buy their own home.  

Is there a housing shortage? Well, it depends who you ask.  There are plenty of empty houses, but these are not all habitable.  Also, there’s little use having empty terraced houses in Burnley, for example, when there are families in Luton that need a house.  What I’m saying is that it’s not just as simple as saying there are X number of houses and X number of people looking for accommodation.  It’s a case of matching the right type of housing with the appropriate type of person.  

Not everyone wants to buy a property.  There are plenty of people who want the flexibility of renting.  Here are just a few reasons why people might want to rent, rather than buy:

  • Being in a profession where you are moving around the country, such as certain doctors, solicitors, armed forces, civil servants, and so on.
  • People might not want to use their “first time buyer” status on a cheap or small property.  They might want to rent for a while until they save a bigger deposit. 
  • They might not want the hassle of organising maintenance and repair of the property.
  • They might only want to live somewhere for a while to be near an elderly relative who does not have long to live.
  • They might want to stay near their children/grandchildren for a few months to help with child care. 
  • They might be on a secondment with work that requires them to relocate for 6-12 months.

These are just a few of the reasons why people might choose to rent instead of buying a property. 

As for me being a parasite.  I don’t believe I am.  I’m not greedy, despite how it might appear.  When asked what three words define me, I’d reply, “humanism, nihilism and stoicism.”  I try to go through life causing the least amount of harm to others, whilst being the best version of myself I can be.  I don’t always succeed, but I try every single day.  I understand the privileged position I’m in, being white, male, and born into a wealthy, developed and safe country.  The fact is that white privilege is a thing, as is male privilege.  So, what do I do with this?  I give back to society.

Charities I donate to on a regular basis include;

  • Rain Rescue animal charity
  • Cats Protection
  • The Movember Foundation
  • Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity
  • The Cathedral Archer Project
  • British Heart Foundation

In addition to simple cash donations, I’ve donated time to some charities, such as;

  • Walking dogs that are in a shelter.
  • Going to a primary school over several weeks to help young children learn to read.
  • Buying and delivering shopping for vulnerable neighbours during the covid pandemic.  
  • I raised money for Movember a few years ago by cycling (on a stationary bike) the distance from Land’s End to John O Groats.  I raised a few hundred pounds doing this.  

I don’t generally shout about it, unless I’m generating support and awareness for the charity in question, but calling me a parasite seems to be missing the point.

Oh no, he’s wearing a beanie and a hoodie!

There seems to be an unhealthy fixation on my decision to wear a beanie in the photoshoot.  I like beanies.  I’m not really sure what else to say about it, except that I’m surprised how many people seem to have either a kink, or a phobia, of warm, comfortable headwear.  There are resources out there that can help you if you are struggling with kapelaphobia.  Have a talk with your GP; you have this.

I also like hoodies, I’m wearing one now.  The specific hoodie I was wearing in the photos for the article was a shoutout to an online forum I’m a member of.  The thing I don’t understand is what difference my choice of clothing, that I wear in my personal time, has on my ability to give mortgage advice.  I also don’t understand how people can confidently express that I’m stupid because I’m wearing a beanie and hoodie.  It’s just a bit weird.

The attacks on my appearance are just bizarre, but if that brings joy to your life so be it.  If you feel better about yourself judging someone you don’t know, based on a couple of photos and a short article in a newspaper, then great; you do you.

My philosophy in life is that it takes more effort to be an asshole.  For example, those who don’t like my approach, or my choice of clothing, could have just scrolled the story and then got on with their day.  Instead, they signed in to their account and typed something up.  It literally took time and effort to do this. 

I mentioned the beanie situation on my social media, and one of my favourite authors, who is now a friend, left the following comment and photo:

He doesn’t drink alcohol, do drugs or have a car – yuk!

If anyone can explain why my choice of lifestyle offends, please get in touch.  I’m genuinely curious.  For the most part, I enjoy my life, well as much as one can do when struggling with their mental health.  I’ll have a pint or a glass of wine once a year, possibly.  I’m not a big fan of alcohol.  I used to be, but as I’ve grown older I just don’t see the point.  I also don’t feel the need to get off my face on drugs.  If you like to do so, and I acknowledge that drug use is much more common than most people realise, then I can’t say I agree with your choice but it’s not my problem.  

I’m also curious why people get riled up when I say I don’t have a car.  I just don’t see the point in owning something that immediately loses value as soon as you buy it, costs hundreds of pounds to run, maintain, tax and insure, and then spends the vast majority of its life parked up.  If I need to go somewhere, I walk or use another form of transport if it’s too far away or the weather is crap.  

He’s a fat idiot

I know I’m overweight.  I don’t like it, but I know it happened due to bad luck.  A few years ago I was in great shape.  I was going to the gym several nights a week.  I was fairly lean and doing really well.  One day I sat down to do some preacher curls and as I was getting into position, but before I was supporting any weight, I felt something in my right shoulder go.  This was the start of a horrible few years.

I was booked in for surgery at a private hospital after being diagnosed with a SLAP tear in my shoulder.  As I was being taken in to be put to sleep, the consultants noticed an issue with my heart and blood pressure.  The op was postponed whilst this was investigated.  I was told to not exercise, apart from light walking, until they knew what was happening.  I then spent a few weeks under the care of an excellent cardiologist.  I had a number of tests which led to a diagnosis of impaired ventricular function.  I was given three new drugs to take daily and was then under supervision for a few months.  As my heart function returned to normal, I was given clearance to have the surgery.  I then spent several weeks recovering from the op.  

As the year was drawing to a close I was just getting back to lifting some light weights.  I was rehabbing a strained achilles tendon with a series of stretches and thought no more of it.  I woke up one morning in the worst pain I have ever experienced.  My ankle and foot was in so much pain that even the weight of the duvet was excruciating.  I went to hospital but they said it was just a sprained ankle.  I tried battling through with painkillers but couldn’t sleep.  In the early hours of the following morning I got a cab to A&E.  In the waiting area my girlfriend said I looked like death.  I had turned grey and was drenched in sweat even though it was freezing.  It got so bad that I passed out from the pain.  This was the start of several months on crutches.

It was discovered that I have some sort of bone abnormality in my foot, where some bones are fused that shouldn’t be.  My exercise appeared to have caused a series of fractures which then filled with fluid.  Over time it healed.  Then, I injured my other achilles tendon.  As that healed up, I had a build up of uric acid in the original foot and ankle, which is what leads to flare ups of gout.  

By this time I had not done any serious exercise or walking in a year.  I was depressed, and when I’m struggling with my mental health, I comfort eat.  My usual remedy for keeping my mental health in check is exercise.  I couldn’t do that and entered a horrible cycle. 

As we entered 2020, and the pandemic, some things happened in my personal life.  Those who know, know.  Those who don’t, don’t need to know.  The fact is I had a complete mental breakdown.  I was at the lowest point I’ve ever been at.  I had months off work, and just getting through one hour at a time was an achievement.  Over time, things started to look up, but two-years on I’m still not fully recovered from that time.  Maybe I will never be fully recovered.  

Coming back to something I said before; it takes more effort to be an asshole.  You never know what someone is going through, or where they’ve come from.  You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you also don’t have to attack people for no justifiable reason.  If you have done this, I have some advice for you by way of a quote;

“Somewhere out there a tree is tirelessly producing oxygen so you can breathe.  I think you owe it an apology.”

David Keiller

I take it from David Keiller’s comments that he’s not heard of the BRRR model of property investment. I’ve talked about this many times in previous posts, so I’m only going to mention it very briefly here; you buy a property that you can add value to, either through securing a deal you feel is a bargain or one where you can spend money on improving the property knowing that for every £1 you spend on the refurb you are increasing the value by more than £1. You then have several options to release the increased equity which provides funds for your next property deposit. You don’t need to save for each one individually.

As for a credible plan to pay an interest only mortgage off, the exact criteria differ from lender to lender. Generally though, as most BTLs are unregulated, the checks on repayment plans are not overly strict.

Also, as my girlfriend and I are both solely and jointly responsible for our residential mortgage, I’m not sure what difference getting married makes.

Finally, don’t worry about me being bored. I work so that I can have money. I have plenty of projects in mind to keep active both physically and mentally.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 126.1kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

I’ve not really had a chance to start on these goals yet, and so I don’t have anything to say.  I will start on a new book before next week and update you on my progress.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: nothing at the moment.

What I’m listening to: Prime: Chess Team Book 0 (A prequel to the Chess Team series) by Jeremy Robinson.

What I’m watching: Bonus Family (Netflix), The Expanse (Amazon Prime).

My girlfriend has been asking me to watch Bonus Family for ages and I finally relented.  It’s a Swedish comedy-drama about the interconnected lives of extended Bonus Families.  You’re probably wondering what a bonus family is, and so did I.  It’s the term given to the family that your step-parent brings to their relationship with your actual parent.  So if your father married someone, and they had children from a previous relationship, then they would be your bonus siblings.

It’s always interesting watching foreign shows as you see a different way of life, and different values and customs.  There have been four seasons of Bonus Family and I’ve enjoyed all of them.  I hope there’s a fifth season but there’s no news of it being renewed yet.

There is just one episode of The Expanse left and I’m gutted.  It’s the best sci-fi show out there, and it’s ruined all other sci-fi for me.  Once it’s done, I’ll have no choice but to wait for the Netflix adaptation of The Three Body Problem.

If you know, you know.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £20,700.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £46,207.87 (up £2,797.82 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £2,000.00 (down £1,000.00 from last update). 

Crypto: £643.15 (down £100.71 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,518.86 (down £588.40 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £210,058.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £135,550.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £467,677.88 (up £1,108.71 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £103.01 (down £1,678.40 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £165,657.38 (down £708.40 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,958.17 (down £18.38 from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,718.56 (down £2,405.18 from last update).

Total Wealth: £208,959.32 (up £3,513.89 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £25.00 (target £6,000).

A great week as my ISA performed well, and my mortgage payments were processed.  I decided to take £1,000 from my Fuck It Fund to pay off some of the credit card debt.  I was looking at the transactions and realised that some of them were coming to the end of their interest free period, and so it made sense to pay it off now.  

I had my first bit of investment income come in as well, but there’s still a long way to go until I hit my 2022 target.  Crypto doesn’t seem to be doing well at the moment.  It’s been almost a year since I dipped into this new type of currency and I don’t see what all the hype is about.  I’ll leave the cash in there just in case it suddenly skyrockets, but I’m not holding out much hope. 

This brings me to the end of an unusual post.  If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading.  Next week’s post will be back to the normal sort of length, and will be a bit more lighthearted.  Until then, stay safe and thanks for your support.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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 4

I had set the goal of completing 104 new books in 2021. This includes physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks. I ended up completing 119, which was frustrating because after completing the initial goal early, I set an internal goal of 120 by year-end, which would have been ten books per month.  The full list of completed books for the last few years is posted here.

Highlights of 2021

It was, for the most part, a year of fantastic sci-fi stories. I enjoyed the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal, which takes place in the 1950s and 1960s, starting with a catastrophic disaster that fast-tracks the US space program. I loved the historical setting, and the author clearly has a passion for the subject. A fourth book in the series is due later in 2022.

If you’ve had a look at my complete list for 2021, you will see one name popping up over and over; Jeremy Robinson. I’ve smashed through dozens of his books this year, starting with the Nemesis Saga, a five-part story about Kaiju. What I love about Jeremy’s work is the meta, self-aware approach it takes. In the Nemesis Saga, characters talk about Godzilla, Cthulhu, and all sorts of other fictional monsters. His other stories are littered with Easter eggs to other books of his. A few weeks ago it was announced that his last few works were part of an extended shared universe, the Infinite Timeline. Whilst many of his readers thought the books were building to something, as characters hopped from book to book, it was still an exciting moment to have it confirmed this was leading to an “Avengers-style crossover”

The Infinite Timeline, posted here with Jeremy Robinson’s permission.

In addition to the various series I’ve enjoyed, there have been some excellent stand-alone books as well.  I’ve tried to branch out and explore concepts, ideas, or subjects that I’ve little knowledge of.  Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates was an eye-opener into the world of misogyny and incels.  Claire North’s incredible work of fiction, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and Matt Haig’s emotional rollercoaster, The Midnight Library, both explored the idea of parallel worlds and history repeating itself.  I loved both of these works.  Anyone who enjoyed them would do well to check out Replay by Ken Grimwood, which looks at similar concepts.

The Worst of 2021

As good as some books were, others were so bad I wanted to repress them from my memory, but then I realised I’d probably end up reading them again if I’d forgotten about them, and I’d end up in a cycle of reading the same rubbish over and over.

2034: The Future Laid Bare by Grant Williams was…. something… The first half of the book is an alternate timeline of events, in what is an extended prologue.  The second half of the book switches from one perspective to another without warning and is just a mess.  The ideas in the book were great, but they could have done with a skilled author to put those ideas down on paper.  

Apart from a few other questionable works of fiction, the only other book that I found incredibly annoying was The Truth by Neil Strauss.  It’s a book about the author’s experiences of trying non-traditional relationship types.  It might be one of the most self-indulgent pieces of writing I’ve ever read.  Unintentionally funny in parts, and lacking any sort of self-awareness.  

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.  

The 2022 Reading/Listening Challenge

I’ve decided to not be so focused on the number of books I complete and instead focus on the types of books I want to explore.  So, I’ve set the following two goals for the year:

1 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

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

 2 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

I’m going to be honest here, I know nothing about Don Quixote except for the name, Rocinante.  If you know, you know, sasa ke?

I probably won’t make much progress until I complete the Chess Team series by Jeremy Robinson, and until I’ve shaken Covid.  Reading text on the page makes me sleepy at the moment, and the floaters in my vision give me headaches.  I don’t understand why it doesn’t affect my writing or reading on screen though.

As always, I’m on the lookout for new books; in particular any hard sci-fi out there.  I’m not too bothered about military sci-fi though.  If you have a recommendation, please let me know.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

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.

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.