Property Ownership: Second Homes, BTL, and The Housing Crisis.

Money is strange.  It’s one of the most important parts of our world, yet the vast majority of people do not understand what it is, or how it works.  There are many examples of the illogical decisions people make when it comes to money, such as being willing to travel an hour to save £10 when buying a new coat for £150 instead of £160, but not being willing to travel the same distance to save £10 on a new laptop, which could be bought for £1,000 instead of £1,010.  There are all sorts of heuristics at play when it comes to decisions involving money.  

The thing about money, that not many people seem to realise, is that it’s a game.  Like any game it has rules.  If you want to be better at the game, you need to learn the rules and learn the hacks or loopholes in the system.  I’m not talking about how the world should be; that’s not the purpose of my blog.  In an ideal world, we’d like in one huge collective, sharing responsibilities and living happy lives.  Until we change the nature of what it is to be human, that’s not going to happen.  So, unless you are able to change society through democratic means, you are left with the game of money as it stands now.  

Let me start by posing a hypothetical; you have £10,000.  You have three options;

  1. Keep your £10,000.
  2. Lose £1,000, meaning you have £9,000.
  3. Gain £1,000, meaning you have £11,000.

What option do you choose?

We live in a world that relies on money.  As society has developed, the flow of money has become faster.  Our currency, like many others around the world, used to be backed by physical commodities, such as gold, or silver.  The US moving away from the gold standard, the end of the Bretton Woods system, and the move to fiat money is a fascinating topic, and entire books can be written on the subject.  For now, all we need to be clear on is that the UK’s currency; pound sterling, is a fiat currency, in that it is not backed by any physical commodity.  The currency maintains value, in large part, because people have confidence that it will continue to maintain value.  

So, we live in a society where money is a thing we’ve created that is not backed by anything physical, and currency maintains value due to a number of factors, including confidence in the currency.  We also have inflation; the increase in the cost of goods and services.  Inflation means that if you have £10,000, in a few years you will not have the same spending power with that £10,000.

The Bank of England has the stated aim of keeping inflation at 2%.  Between 2001 and 2021, inflation averaged 2.1%.  If in 2001, something cost £10,000, then following that same level of inflation it would be expected to cost £15,160.03 in 2021.  In a similar fashion, if you kept your £10,000 under the mattress because you don’t trust the banks, assuming an even 2% level of inflation for 20 years your money would be worth only £6,729.71 at the end of the period.

All very interesting, but how does this relate to home ownership and landlords?

Let me come back to our hypothetical; you have £10,000.  You have three options;

  1. Keep your £10,000.
  2. Lose £1,000, meaning you have £9,000.
  3. Gain £1,000, meaning you have £11,000.

The first option assumes no inflation eroding the value of your cash; either you have kept pace with inflation or inflation is zero.

The second option assumes that inflation erodes the value of your money.

The third option assumes that you have made gains on your money at a rate greater than inflation.

In real life, what choices do you have if you have a spare £10,000?  

  1. You can keep the cash in a tin/box/envelope etc.  You don’t have to worry about the pesky bankers using your cash, but inflation will eat away at the actual value.
  2. You can keep your money in a simple savings account. Depending on where you look, you might get a rate of 2% on a savings account that comes with a list of caveats.  I had a quick look at HSBC (because I never pass up a chance to kick them) and they are offering 1% on a simple savings account.  Inflation is currently over 10%, with some people suggesting it could hit 20% by year-end.
  3. You could look at an investment ISA.  These come with fees and you have to decide how and where to invest.  I’m a big fan of stock market investing in terms of ease and rate of return, but if you dig just below the surface at what you are investing in, it can become quite murky.    
  4. You can invest in property.
  5. You can do nothing, but this is pretty much the same as option 1.

Property Investment comes in many forms.  You can, for example, buy property to rent out on ASTs.  You can buy a property to rent as a holiday let.  You can build property from scratch and sell it.  You can buy yourself a second home.  For many people, they go down the route of buying a property to rent, as a traditional buy-to-let.  

If you object to this type of property investment as being “repugnant” or “morally bankrupt”, then I ask you a simple question; what should this person do with their spare cash?  When answering, remember that the money is there anyway, and if this investor does nothing with the cash it will simply lose value.  Again, we live in this world, not an ideal world.  So, what does the person do with their cash?

Most UK landlords own between 1-3 properties, with around half of landlords having just one rental.  The vast majority of landlords are not the aristocracy; they are people who came into some money and wanted a way to make sure it didn’t lose value and/or they wanted to earn extra cash for retirement.  Granted, there are some crap landlords, but there are also crap doctors, solicitors, bankers, and shop assistants.  

I agree that everyone should have access to affordable housing.  I agree that people should be able to get a mortgage if they want one, subject to reasonable affordability and credit checks.  I agree that homeownership for owner-occupiers should be a priority over people having a portfolio of rental properties, but the fact is there is more than enough property to go around.  Property prices are not being pushed up by landlords.  Data differ depending on where you look, but there are roughly three million buy-to-let mortgages in the UK, split between individuals and companies.  In England alone, there are approximately 25 million dwellings.  BTL mortgages are the minority.

Property Ownership

It’s easy for people to say that you should only be able to own one property.  However, such a statement doesn’t stand up to even the most basic scrutiny.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone reading this blog that I’m a mortgage advisor.  I’ve worked in mortgages for over a decade.  I think this gives me a decent level of experience to draw upon, and whilst I’m not going to give any details away about specific cases, I can talk in general terms about things I’ve witnessed time and time again.  

Meet Brad.  He’s in his late 30s and lives with his wife and two young kids.  The property they live in is owned jointly by Brad and his wife.  However, they divorce.  Brad moves out and, as often happens, the home has to be kept until the children move out when they are older.  If people were only able to own one property, what would Brad do?  I suppose he could live with his soon-to-be-ex-wife.  That would be messy though, and unfair to the children.  Brad could rent a property, but if people could only own one property there would be a shortage of rentals available.  He could wait for a council house, but in the real world how long would a single man in his 30s have to wait for a council house?  Or, he could buy another property.  Brad would then own two properties.  Is he repugnant?

Let’s look at a slightly different case, involving Jack and Jill, who have a whirlwind romance and want to buy a house on a hill.  They are young professionals in training to be doctors.  They both own their own one-bed apartments.  They are madly, disgustingly, in love and want to start a family.  To do this, they need a bigger home and the House on the Hill is perfect.  They put their apartments up for sale but a combination of poor management companies, issues with the freeholders, and there simply being too many apartments for sale in the area mean they can’t get enough money to justify selling.  Jack has his mortgage with ABCD Bank and is locked in for a few more years.  It would cost a few thousand to come out of the deal, and he would have to pay agent fees to sell.  Jill is with XYZ Bank and has early repayment fees also.  If they decide to take a joint mortgage with one of their lenders, then they can port their rate over but the other person’s mortgage will incur fees for being paid up early.  Once they total up all the costs of selling; agent fees, management fees for the lease pack, legal fees, and early repayment charges, it’s just not worth selling at this point in time.  What options do Jack and Jill have?

They could move in together in one of their apartments.  As they are both one-bed flats, this is not ideal for starting a family.  They think about renting a house together, but they are informed by their lenders that they can let their own properties out and apply for a joint mortgage on a new property through one of the many schemes available.  As their properties will be rented out, they would be removed from the affordability calculation.  They only need a 5% deposit, as the developer will put in a 20% share to be repaid later.  They jump at the chance, and in doing so create two new landlords.  Are Jack and Jill morally bankrupt for becoming landlords?

There are many accidental landlords forced into renting out properties they own.  This is just part of life.  Labelling all landlords as “scum” or “slumlords” is just lazy.  Yes, there are bad landlords, as I’ve stated before.  There are also bad police officers, but I wouldn’t call them all scum.  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, we don’t live in a utopia.  We live in a world in which money is hugely important, and when you drill down deeper into the examples I’ve provided it all comes down to money.

We also need to look at the idea of property ownership in a wider context, in terms of what rights people have over their own property.  In Sheffield, there is a campaign to “save the Leadmill”.  The abridged version is that there is a nightclub/music venue owned by one party and leased to the people running a business from the property; that business being the Leadmill.  The freeholders have decided to evict the tenants, as they want to run their own venue.  The “save the Leadmill” campaign wants to force the freeholders to keep the current arrangement.  

Imagine if you wanted to perform a legal act with your own property, be that a car, house, boat, or whatever, and you were stopped from doing so because someone else didn’t like it.  This would bring the whole concept of private ownership of property into question.  If someone has the money to purchase another dwelling, and they are blocked because it’s seen as wrong to own more than one home, it becomes a slippery slope.

The Housing Crisis

The property market is insane, and prices are not sustainable.  It’s so difficult for first-time buyers to purchase a property but this is not due to a lack of property.  It, once again, comes back to money.  There are two ways FTBs are hindered financially when it comes to their first home; the need for a deposit, and the monthly mortgage payment.  The key to helping FTB is to change the system.  Making life difficult for landlords will not automatically make life easier for FTB; it’s two separate issues.  

One possible solution for helping FTB, that I discussed with someone in passing a few weeks ago, would be to provide a version of 100% mortgages backed by the state.  The government would hold a percentage of the equity so that when the property is sold, the government takes that percentage back.  These mortgages would be offered to FTB only, and would come with long-term fixed rates with minimal penalties for early repayment.  

Investment in property is popular because it has demonstrated consistent capital growth for hundreds of years.  Also, the rental income is a bonus.  To a degree, I understand why people feel uncomfortable about housing being owned by private landlords.  It ultimately comes down to ego, or pride.  No one likes feeling subservient to someone else, especially about something so emotive as your own home.  When I rent property to tenants, I always try to approach it from the perspective of, it’s my house, but it’s their home.  No doubt some people reading this will be bitching and moaning about me wanting praise for being a decent person.  It’s not that at all, but as I’ve said many times, we live in this world and not an ideal utopia.  I happen to be in a position where I have plenty of disposable income and I want to make a better life for myself.  Which brings me on to my next point…

A bit about me…

I’ve been featured in the national media, in places like The Telegraph, The Money Edit, Sovereign Quest, and my blog features on many “best of” lists.  People generally enjoy my content, and I’ve met some great people through this blog.  Some of those people I’ve had major disagreements with, but it’s always been friendly, civil, and polite.  Others, well, haven’t.  I’ve been called pretty much every insult you can think of and many have accused me of living off the Bank of Mom and Dad.  So, here are a few facts about me.

I grew up in some of the roughest parts of the city.  My parents were basically still kids themselves when I was born, with a combined age that was less than my 38 years at the time of writing.  People now, who were the same age my parents were at my birth, can’t legally buy alcohol, so that gives you an idea as to the socioeconomic background I was born into.  The thing is, my parents are amazing people.  Hardworking, intelligent, honest, decent people.  I admire them both, and I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done to push me on to better things.  I’m the first person in my family to go to university.  The first to get a degree, and postgraduate qualifications.  I’ve pushed myself to get a number of professional qualifications.  I’ve battled through a list of physical and mental health problems that would have put many other people under, but I keep getting back up and pressing on.  Everything I’ve achieved is down to me.  I wasn’t handed a trust fund, and I wasn’t handed thousands of pounds to buy my own home, or my BTL.  I’ve had some luck on the way, and this should never be ignored, although I feel many “successful” people tend to overlook the impact that chance had on their fortunes.  

Am I a good person?  That depends on who you ask, but isn’t that the same for everyone?  Do I try to take advantage of other people?  No.  There are three pillars to how I try to live my life; stoicism, nihilism and humanism.  I’ve blogged before about how they guide my choices.  So, when people call me a “parasite” or “slumlord” or “wanker banker”, I often think it just comes from a place of insecurity and ignorance.  For some reason we have been conditioned to view the pursuit of wealth as dirty, or evil.  Yet, if we come back to my question about the £10,000, no sane person would opt for an option that reduces their wealth.  It’s possible to be an ethical investor.  It’s possible to be an ethical landlord.  Private landlords are not the enemy of the public, or those wanting to get on the housing ladder.  It’s the people who designed the game of money, and who want to keep the rules a secret, that stand between those who are uninformed about money and their hopes of owning their own home.  In the UK in 2022 there is little excuse for not taking the time to educate yourself about money, investing, property, or really anything at all.  We have the collective knowledge of our species freely available through smartphones, laptops, at public libraries or anywhere with a wi-fi hotspot.

Expecting other people who have worked hard to earn surplus cash to not invest it because you personally find it offensive is just a little strange.  There are some people, and the number is growing, who are in really shitty financial situations.  That sucks.  I do what I can to help by donating to food banks, giving money to various local charities, and helping out where I can.  Should I feel bad about the fact I am in a comfortable financial position?  What good would that do?  Should I purposefully sabotage my own financial plans to make strangers less angry?  Again, what good would it do?

Don’t hate the players, hate the game itself.  We are all stuck inside the game, and you can either try and change it through the democratic process, or you can learn the rules to try and improve your position.  Having a go at other people who are playing by the rules and trying to achieve something is not going to result in anything positive.  Be better.  Do better.  

Possible Solutions…

Limit home ownership with an arbitrary number.

What number do you choose?  I’ve already provided examples of why limiting people to one property doesn’t work.  So what about two? Or three? Imposing any number creates its own problems.

Ban BTL mortgages

BTL mortgages have opened up property investing to those who would otherwise not been able to afford it.  If you ban BTL mortgages, you are opening up the property market to those investors who already have enough wealth to buy properties outright.  In short, the rich get richer.  

Tax additional properties

This already happens.  Stamp Duty Land Tax is paid at a higher level for additional properties bought.  Rental income is taxable.  There are some gaps in the tax system when it comes to properties owned through limited companies that could be closed, though.

More council houses

There needs to be more council houses but do you really trust the Tory government to do this the right way?  Any large project to build hundreds of thousands of new homes will result in vast amounts of wealth being transferred to those already wealthy.  Look at what happened with PPE.  There needs to be a better way of providing council housing that shuts down any hint of money being siphoned off.  I just don’t know how to design this.

“Right to buy” from private landlords

Absolutely not.  This is a recipe for disaster and calls into question the very concept of property ownership, and I mean any and all types of property.  The concept of ownership is fundamental to our legal system and way of life.  Handing people the power to claim ownership over another person’s property is insane.  

First refusal and/or rent to buy

I like this idea.  If you are renting a property and the landlord decides to sell, then first refusal should go to the current tenant, who should be given a reasonable time to consider whether to buy the property or not.  An independent surveyor would arrive at a fair valuation, which would be the purchase price.  The tenant should then receive a discount on that price based on the amount of time they have rented the property.  The exact numbers would need a lot of work, but the principle seems fine.  The landlord can decide to not sell, but they can’t bypass the tenant without giving them first refusal via this process.

Everyone should have a home that is safe, and secure.  Some people want to own their own home but there are also plenty of people who prefer the flexibility of renting.  This is often seen with young professionals such as trainee doctors, solicitors, military personel, students, and those in the country temporarily, to name just a few.  If a landlord can provide clean, safe, and quality property to these people for a fair price, then where is the problem?  Some landlords charge insane rents, but in my experience this is the exception rather than the rule.

Anyway, I’ve gone on way longer than I expected.  Apologies for the stream of consciousness and if you’ve read this far, thank you.  If you enjoy my content, please share this post on your social media of choice.  If you feel like it, you can buy me a coffee at the link below.  Thanks again.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 147

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  A much shorter post this week.  Sometimes life just gets in the way.  

Weekly Update

It’s been a stressful week, and I’ve not felt great for much of it.  I’ve recently posted about not having enough mental energy to deal with everything that life throws my way, and although I’m getting a few things done, it seems that for every task I complete or problem I solve, two more pop up instead.

We had more Ikea-related problems as the furniture delivered has been faulty.  We’ve still not had a resolution to the wardrobe issue; where they sold us a wardrobe that has skewed inserts.  Saturday saw the delivery of our new sofa, which had not been drilled properly so the bolts used to connect the two halves could not be used as instructed.  It looks like we’ll get some money back for this.  

For those keeping score, that’s our bed, wardrobe, and sofa that have been faulty.  The thing is, these faults are only noticeable once we’ve completed most of the assembly.  So Ikea’s solution of picking up the faulty items and replacing them is not exactly helpful, especially as they’ll only pick up items that have been disassembled.  I don’t care too much about the financial cost, but the time taken to deal with all of this is time I’ll never get back.

I spoke with my GP towards the end of the week about my mental health as a few people have commented that I seem to be quite depressed at the moment.  They’ve got a point.  I’ve so little motivation for anything right now, and I’m spending most of my days zoned out or mindlessly scrolling through my phone.  I’ve been put on a different medication called mirtazapine, and although I was warned it can make you drowsy I didn’t expect it to hit me as hard as it has.  I normally wake up around 09:00 when I don’t set an alarm.  On the first day on this new drug, I slept until after midday.  It’s going to take time to get used to the dosage and to find the right time of day to take it.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (12/10)

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

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: The Flight of the Aphrodite by S. J. Morden.

What I’m watching: Loki; The Faclon and The Winter Solider, and WandaVision.  Also, The Mandalorian.  

I thought I’d have Hostage finished for this week, but I’ve not had the spoons to read much this past week.  I’ve only just started The Flight of the Aphrodite and can’t comment on it too much.  I’m only a few minutes in, but it seems interesting.  

I’ve been watching the MCU shows on Disney+ with my girlfriend.  We enjoyed Loki, and The Falcon and The Winter SoldierWandaVision is just strange.I finished Obi-Wan Kenobi at the start of the week and it was fantastic.  The final episode, which sees a rematch years in the making, was incredible.  Everything from the direction, the lighting, the script, the score, was just perfect.  The scene takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from excitement to despair.  It was just brilliant storytelling.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £8,200.00 (up £1,200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £63,026.21 (down £452.67 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,000.00 (up £200.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £55,061.34 (up £844.70 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £504,322.55 (up £1,792.03 from last update).

Debts

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

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

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

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

Total Wealth: £216,497.94 (up £1,792.03 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £3,109.94 (target £6,000).

Payday arrived and, as always, I paid myself first by putting money into investments.  I also received more investment income, taking me closer to beating 2021’s figure.  By the end of next month, I should, all being well, have surpassed the 2021 figure and have a total investment income year-to-date of over £4,000.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Drugs and Spoons

Being low on spoons is tough.  Running out of spoons is worse.  Having a deficit of spoons, or going into your spoon overdraft is nearly as bad as it can get.  

The idea of using spoons to explain physical and/or mental stamina is thought to have originated in 2003 when Christine Miserandino, whilst in a cafe with her friend, used the utensils on the table to explain how everyday tasks used up her energy reserves.  

I’ve talked about spoons before, and there are other ways of describing this concept using things like hit points, or space on the bookshelf.  It doesn’t matter what is used so long as the concept is understandable.  The last 4-5 weeks have hammered my reserves and I’ve gone from running on hardly any spoons, to running at a deficit.  

So, what is going on?

Being autistic in a neurotypical world involves a base level of anxiety just through existing.  It’s like the body’s basal metabolic rate; the number of calories the body uses just by existing.  Being autistic in this world automatically raises your anxiety levels because the world is just not designed for us.  Imagine having to wear a shirt all day, every day, that has a little tag scratching at your neck, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  That’s how the low-level, persistent anxiety feels.

On top of this, we have been going through some work on our home.  It was supposed to take “a week or so”.  We allowed for two weeks.  It’s now been over a month.  The contractors would turn up at 09:00, and start working at 09:30.  They’d take 40 minutes or so for lunch, and leave at 14:00.  Also, for everything they’ve done to the place, they’ve created new problems.  They’ve broken the blinds in our main bedroom, damaged our shower door so our shower leaks whenever it’s used, and the painting… The painting is poor.  At first glance it looked ok; not great but not poor.  As you take it in though, you realise places have been missed and there is not a straight line to be seen.  They’ve got paint on the floor, the window frames, and where we have different colours for the wall and ceiling it just looks a state.  We fired them and agreed on a reduced price.  The owner of the firm said that it’s always more difficult working in a property when people are living there.  However, we cleared out each room completely for them to work in, also as my Dad said, “does you being in another room stop them painting in a straight line?”

I always knew that the work to our apartment would be stressful, and I was braced for that.  I wasn’t braced for the scale of the problems we’ve faced though, through other people just not doing what they said they will do.  Also, corporate incompetence.

We ordered a lot of stuff from Ikea, such as a bed, wardrobes, storage units and boxes, a new sofa, and so on.  I’d arranged for my Dad to come and help assemble the bed and wardrobes with me a couple of weeks back.  We’ve both put a lot of flatpack furniture together over the years, with me having lived between Sheffield, Leicester, and Preston since turning 18.  Furniture is generally easy if you take your time and follow the instructions.  However, this bed was a fucking nightmare.  It took the two of us eight hours of solid work to assemble it due to crap instructions and a couple of manufacturing faults.  

I decided to tackle the wardrobes myself.  My girlfriend, Oana, had taken charge of designing and picking our new stuff as she’s got a really great mind for this, and she knows it stresses me out.  Over a few days, I worked on assembling the frames; one double and two singles.  It was surprisingly easy.  Then, I started on the inserts; the drawers, baskets, shelves, and whatnot that you can choose to customise the wardrobe.  This is where the problems started.  

The side panels on the wardrobes are designed in such a way that they can only be set in one possible way; i.e. you can’t have them back-to-front or upside down.  The back edge is rough and the front edge is smooth.  There are large holes at the top end of the panel, so you know it stands that way up.  The doors for the units have pre-cut holes for the hinges, which go into assigned holes on the panels, so you can’t get it wrong.  Or can you?

Ikea managed to get it wrong as the side panels have different numbers of holes on each side, which are spaced unevenly, so when you try to fit a flat shelf inside the wardrobe, it’s skewed by about ten degrees.  I went so far as to physically count the number of holes on both sides, and there’s a definite manufacturing fault.  This means I’ll have to unassemble…

… the unit and wait for the new pack to arrive.  It might not seem like that big of a deal, but whilst we don’t have a wardrobe we can use we are still living out of boxes.  We had to wait to order the furniture until the painting and flooring were completed.  For those keeping track, we are coming to the end of week five of living like this.

I recently posted that I’m reducing my sertraline dosage, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much with my sleep.  I’m still waking up several times a night and then spending the next day mentally exhausted.  I’ve spoken with my GP again and I’m being put on a new drug; mirtazapine.  It will probably take a while to kick in but I’m hopeful it will make a difference.

Thanks for reading this short post. If you enjoy my content, and want to show your support, please buy me a coffee by clicking on the link or image below.

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Part 146

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the new “Enough is Enough” campaign.  Also, a look at what joint FIRE means to us.  There are the usual financial updates, and a busy week.  First the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

A campaign has been launched to combat the soaring cost of living, and a number of unions and MPs back it.  The campaign group is called Enough is Enough.  They have five aims;

  1. A real pay rise
  2. Slash energy bills
  3. End food poverty
  4. Decent homes for all
  5. Tax the rich

Some laudable goals and I agree with them all.  The problem with these goals is that they are not specific enough.  If you read the detail, the group does provide some more substance for these aims but I think they could have worded them differently to make them more specific and impactful.  For example;

  1. New minimum wage of £15 p/h
  2. Reduce energy bills to pre-pandemic levels
  3. Free school meals for all children
  4. Build 100,000 new council homes per year
  5. Increase taxes on multinational businesses operating in the UK

Alone, I don’t think the group will force through any meaningful change.  I suspect it needs to be backed up with peaceful protests on the streets of our major cities.  

Personally, in terms of energy, the answer is nuclear power.  I know people get scared when confronted with nuclear power, but it’s the safest type of energy out there with the exception of renewables.  The problem with green energy is that it’s not reliable, and the price point is still too high.  There’s the additional problem of grid storage, which just isn’t up to the task.  Let me explain in a bit more detail.

Power demands fluctuate through the day, week, and year.  Our energy production needs to keep up with changing levels of demand.  If we had a system where excess energy generated through solar and wind could be stored on an industrial scale, and then used when needed, that would be great.  We don’t though.  This is why it’s not a choice between fossil fuels and solar/wind.  It’s a choice between fossil fuels and nuclear, because nuclear is the only thing we have right now that can create a constant supply of electricity.  

If we invest heavily in building a new network of modern nuclear power stations, under national ownership, with a simultaneous upgrade of the power network to improve grid storage and charging points for electric vehicles it would make a huge difference. I’d even propose a temporary energy tax to fund this project, with additional laws to force new buildings to have solar panels (where appropriate, subject to expert review).

The problem here is that it’s a generational project that would take decades to reap benefits, and the short-term nature of party politics doesn’t go well with these long-term national projects.

Weekly Update

Things have been piling up over the last couple of weeks.  I’m still in pain down my left side, with my elbow, hip, and knee all causing discomfort.  My stress levels have been steadily increasing as well. 

The work on our apartment continues slowly.  What was initially quoted as a week and a bit of work is coming to the end of the fourth week.  We’ve told our contractors that once they’ve done the living room, we are calling it a day and will seek other people to complete the remaining bits.  We can’t carry on living as we are.  We were willing to rough it for a couple of weeks, but we’re a month in now.  It’s particularly annoying when they rock up at 09:00, take 45 minutes lunch, and leave around 14:30-15:00.  

We had one of their flooring contractors come over a while ago to quote for the job of reflooring the apartment.  He said it would take two weeks.  We got someone else in, and he worked his ass off and got the whole place done in two days.  

Dealing with tradespeople is a nightmare at times and, in combination with everything else going on, I ran out of spoons.

Saturday was, well, it was an interesting day.  A few weeks ago I arranged with my Dad for him to come over and help me and my girlfriend assemble our new bed and wardrobe.  First of all, we spent an hour trying to repair the damage our contractors did to the blinds in the bedroom so we could open them and actually see what we were doing.  Then, the fun started.

The bed from Ikea came in four boxes.  The first few steps were easy, but when it came to putting together the mechanism that allows the mattress to be lifted so we can store things under the bed, things started going a bit wrong.  The instructions were awful.  The diagrams made little sense with the tools and pieces we had.  YouTube tutorials helped a little.  Another major problem was that holes didn’t align, meaning a lot of pressure had to be exerted to force things into alignment.  It took the two of us seven hours.  Seven.  Hours.  We didn’t even get started on the wardrobe.  

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (12/10)

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

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: Noumenon Ulltra by Marina J. Lostetter.

What I’m watching: The Sandman on Netflix; Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney +.

I’m still working my way through Hostage and enjoying it.  I would love to read more, but my headaches and problems with my vision make it difficult to read for extended periods.  Noumenon Ultra isn’t really grabbing me so far, despite enjoying the first two books in the series.  

We started watching The Sandman a few days ago.  The first few episodes were not interesting me, but I stuck with it and the series is getting better.  When not watching The Sandman with my girlfriend I’ve been watching Obi-Wan Kenobi on my own.  The production values are insane for a TV show, and Ewan McGregor plays the part brilliantly.  

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,000.00 (down £5,000.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £63,478.88 (up £813.35 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £800.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £54,216.64 (up £821.83 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £502,530.52 (down £3,364.82 from last update). 

Debts

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

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

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

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

Total Wealth: £214,705.91 (down £3,364.82 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

Joint Fire

Originally this FIRE plan was for me.  My girlfriend had little interest in pursuing FIRE as she enjoys working.  However, now she wants to be part of the journey, and that’s great.  She is happy to leave the investment decisions up to me, which means she’ll be able to benefit from avoiding the mistakes I’ve made along the way.  

We’ve spoken about how her investments will be structured, in rough terms, but she doesn’t share my interest in finance.  The plan is simple, I will help her build a Fuck It Fund and then she will invest heavily into a stocks and shares ISA, whilst getting the most from her workplace pension.  

Achieving joint FIRE will take a bit longer, but we’d already discussed this in the context of the work we are having done to our apartment.  It has gone over budget meaning we have had to dip into our investments slightly.  It will take a little time to rebuild and then move forward, but it will be worth every penny.  Our home will be much nicer to live in now that we’ve grasped the nettle and just done the work.  Too many things were being covered up with temporary solutions, but we’ve now stripped the place almost bare and started again.

So what is the new timescale?  It’s hard to say exactly as we’ve not agreed on a definitive picture of what our joint FIRE will look like.  Will it be an amount of passive income, or will it be a total wealth target?  I think a lot will depend on the underlying assets that produce the passive income, as we don’t want to be too dependent on one income stream.  

The way I see it, there is income before our pensions mature, and then there is income after our pensions mature.

Pre-Pension Income Streams

  • Property
    • Rental income.
    • Value growth which allows funds to be released.
  • Stocks and Shares ISA
    • Dividend payments from stocks and funds.
  • Revenue from website
    • Although I get decent traffic, I’m still orders of magnitude off generating advertising revenue to fund retirement.
  • Casual work and/or royalties from writing
    • Who knows, I could strike lucky and write a best seller, or I could end up making nothing from my writing at all.

The first two income streams, property and stocks, are going to be doing the heavy lifting.  I need these to cover my basic cost of living and some extras.  The last two income streams would just be a bonus.

Post-Pension Income Streams

  • Property
    • Rental income.
    • Value growth which allows funds to be released.
  • Stocks and Shares ISA
    • Dividend payments from stocks and funds.
  • Pension
    • A regular income, possibly through an annuity.

Just because I will be drawing a pension, it does not mean that the website or any books I write, will just stop earning income, but again it’s not something I can depend on; it’s just there as a possible bonus. 

The good thing about the pension is it should provide an income, and maybe a lump sum that I can then use to shore up my other income streams.  All of the above applies to my girlfriend, but as she is several years younger, her FIRE journey will be staggered behind mine, giving us a hedge against potential economic downturns.  For example, if my pension matures in the middle of a recession but I still have to cash in, then the likelihood is that my girlfriend’s pension will reap the benefit of lower pound-cost-averaging for when she draws her pension.  None of this is an exact science, but these are factors to consider.  

Whilst looking at goal oriented targets is motivating, as you can monitor progress, it’s always useful to remember that results follow from the process.  If you follow a sensible investment process, the results take care of themselves.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Opinions

I don’t like the example above. Too often I see two conflicting ideas confused; that everyone has a right to an opinion, and that everyone’s opinion is equally valid.

The first point is clear and I would doubt is the cause of much controversy; everyone has the right to their opinion. We get into more complex territory when it comes to voicing those opinions (such as racist or homophobic ones) or acting on those opinions (praying for someone to get better rather than allowing basic medical treatment). This leads me to the second part of my statement, and it’s simple; opinions are not equally valid.

Imagine you need to sort a water leak in your home. You have two friends you could call; an accountant or a plumber. The former might have some suggestions, but are you going to view their opinion with the same weight as the latter? Of course not.

We have a dangerous approach to opinions, in that we feel we have to give equal attention to differing views in the interest of “fairness”, or “equality”. However, if you are looking at homeopathy, for example, fairness would not be giving each side of the debate equal time to promote their opinions. Homeopathy has no credible backing. There has not been a single study, completed to an acceptable standard according to the scientific method, that has shown support for homeopathy. However, when daytime television, or talk shows have a “balanced panel” they don’t generally have 99 qualified and competent scientists, and then 1 homeopathic promoter. It’s generally going to be one of each. This promotes the dangerous impression that this is a balanced debate with roughly equal evidence for and against. It’s not. It really isn’t. As the joke goes, if you are offered treatment from a homeopathic practitioner, ask if they will accept an empty envelope that previously contained cash as payment.

Some opinions are just wrong. I’m not talking about matters of taste or artistic interpretation, but when people have opinions about basic facts that are demonstrably false, like the Earth being flat. Some people confuse opinion with fact. The difference is that you can have your own opinions but you can’t have your own facts. Or, to put it another way, facts don’t change to suit your opinion.

This might seem like a bit of a pointless blog post, but I would argue that thinking more about opinions will lead to more informed decisions. This can be very important when it comes to investment decisions. When asking for an opinion on investing, someone might claim that property outperforms stocks, or vice versa. Is this a fact or an opinion? What is the individual’s experience in investing? Is there an agenda influencing their opinion?

So, bringing this full circle, what does all this have to do with the picture I posted at the start? Well, both people have their own opinion on what the number is from their perspective. However, the person who wrote the number will have written it with the intent of it being a 6 or a 9. So, factually, one person is wrong and one person is right.

Ok, ok, before some of you get all riled up I admit it’s a basic example. The person who wrote the number could have been deliberately confusing things by writing it in such a way that it confuses the reader. Or, like art, there might be no single correct interpretation, and once the art is released to the public, it is up to the public to decide on their own interpretation. It just frustrates me when I see examples like the image I posted because it feels as though it’s taking an important idea and reducing it so badly that the important parts are lost.

Let me know what you think in the comments. If you like my blog, please consider buying me a coffee on the link below. Thanks for reading.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 145

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week’s blog looks at communication, in terms of respect, customer service, and the conflict between neurodivergent and neurotypical types of communication.  Also, more thoughts on being a millionaire.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

I’ve had this nagging irritation in my mind for a while now.  I think it’s only started to crystalise following my confirmation of being autistic.  It comes down to communication and respect.  I’ve had to write, and rewrite this section a lot over the last few days.  At one point I was talking about friendships, and then I was talking about customer service, and I was talking about relationships with a power imbalance.  However, I couldn’t get my point across until I drilled deeper into what all these things have, or should have, in common; respect.

“Respect is earned.”

What a stupid statement this is, yet some people live by this quote.  

Why is stupid? Well, if you take this statement to its logical conclusion, you see that the default position is that everyone treats everyone else without respect until they have earned the right to be treated with respect.  If you take this approach, you are justifying acting like a complete asshole to everyone you meet until they act in a way that matches your imaginary criteria to “earn” your respect.  

Respect should be the standard position and the way your treat all people until they do something to throw that respect away.  In my experience, people who bang on about how respect is earned usually use this statement as an excuse to treat other people like trash.  It’s almost like how anyone who publicly says, “I’m a nice guy” is usually a douche.

The world would be a much better place if everyone engaged with other people from a position of mutual respect.  If you lift each other, then you’ll get further than trying to step over each other.

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”

Toxic.  This is “respect is earned” turned up to eleven.  

People are not machines, unfeeling and acting purely on logic.  Emotions come into play when people interact.  First impressions are powerful, but we sometimes reap what we sow.  Any interaction with another person can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and decades of psychological research have shown that we attribute the negative behaviour of others to their personality, and we attribute our negative behaviour to situational factors outside our control.  An example; you see a parent shout at their child in the supermarket, and you think, “what a bad parent.”  However, if you shout at your kid in the shop, it’s because you are exhausted, and have run out of patience after a very stressful day.

If we try to approach each interaction assuming the best of each other, we will be more likely to have a positive interaction, than if we treat our interactions as a winner-takes-all contest.

Weekly Update

A horrible week.  Long days working and the flat has been total chaos, but the end is in sight.  Everywhere except the living room and the kitchen has been painted.  The guys doing the flooring have worked very hard to get it done as soon as possible, and it looks great.  However, all the disruption alongside work has been mentally exhausting.  This week has been one massive blur and it’s difficult to point out any specific events.  It is looking like the majority of the work will be complete by next weekend though, and then it’s just a case of getting the furniture we need.

I can’t wait to get a proper bed again, as for the last few weeks we’ve been sleeping on a mattress on the floor as we move from room to room as the work is completed.  The next big task is getting all the new furniture delivered and assembled.  

I was starting to feel pretty rough towards the end of the week with head, neck, and elbow pain.  The lack of sleep was starting to takes its toll as well.  However, we dragged ourselves to Peddler Market which takes place every month near our apartment complex.  It’s a changing selection of street food, music, and pop up shops.  We had some beef brisket tacos, some loaded fries with a chicken and halloumi kebab, and a chicken tikka burrito.  We like to get bits from different stalls and share, and the quality this time was great.

Communication

There are many variations of this story about a guy calling his phone service provider to try and get a better deal.  Rather than just asking for a better deal, he takes a different approach, and it goes a little something like this:

Guy: I want to cancel my contract.

Agent: Let me have a look at that for you.

*few moments of silence*

Agent: Right, that’s your contract cancelled.

Guy:

Guy: What? Why? You just cancelled my contract without asking me.

Agent: You literally just asked me to cancel your contract, and that’s what I did.

Guy: but you didn’t offer me a better deal!

Agent: Yes, I have this thing where I listen to what people say and take them at their word.

Guy: but I didn’t want to cancel.

Agent: *rubbing temples* you literally said you want to cancel your contract.

Guy: that’s not what I meant.

Neurotypical communication is something I’ve struggled with, without actually realising what it is I’m struggling with.  It’s always been a problem, but I (somewhat uncharitably) just assumed some people are dumb.  As an autistic person, I tend to take people at face value.  If I ask someone, “do you want a drink?” and they reply, “no”, then I react to their subsequent anger at not getting a drink with confusion.  

Recession and The Bank of England

The Bank of England increased the base rate by 0.5%, bringing the overall base rate to 1.75%.  This is to try and combat inflation.  It’s like using a hammer to force a square peg in a round hole though; it’s clumsy.

Inflation is anywhere from 9% to 12% depending on who you ask.  This is way above the official target of 2%.  The Bank of England is supposed to be independent of the government, but I’m skeptical of what this independence looks like in practice.  To understand how interest rates are meant to combat inflation you need to understand supply and demand.  If rates go up then it’s believed people will have less money to spend.  This means that supply of goods and services is greater than the demand.  In this situation, prices are supposed to come down.  

The problem here is that we are looking at atypical inflation.  The cost of goods and services is increasing due to unusual factors, namely; war, pandemic, and Brexit.  

The war in Ukraine has restricted the global supply of basic foodstuffs. The war has also had a knock on impact on the cost of energy and oil. This, in turn, impacts on the cost of transporting goods on the global supply chain, as oil creates diesel and most cargo ships, trains, trucks, and so on, are fueled by petrol and diesel. The pandemic has impacted global trade as nations closed their borders for months at a time. Then, Brexit took us from the largest trading bloc in the world, the EU, and left us scrambling to complete trade deals with other countries. “Oven ready” my ass. The only thing Boris should put in an oven is his head.

People have less to spend because of factors outside the UK, and so hiking rates is only going to hammer those already struggling.  This section of society is not spending because they literally do not have the money to spend on anything that’s not vital to survival.  This is why the use of food banks has soared in the last decade.  

The Bank of England raising interest rates is not going to achieve much in the short to medium term, I fear.  I suspect rates will probably peak at around 3%.  Most residential homeowners with mortgages are on fixed rates with just a small proportion on variable or tracker deals.  These people will not see an immediate impact on their mortgage payments until their fixed rates come to an end.  Mortgage interest rates had been dropping steadily from the financial crash in 2007/2008 and bottomed out in 2020.  There has been a period of minor fluctuations and now rates seem to be climbing.  If you secured a two-year fixed rate in 2020, then you are probably going to be in for a shock when your deal comes to an end.

Now, I have to really emphasise that the following thoughts are NOT advice.  If you want mortgage advice, go to your lender or broker.  This is just a few thoughts about my own situation moving forward.

With a looming recession and rates increasing, there’s lots of talk about locking in for as long as possible.  I’m not sure this makes sense in every instance as I can’t see rates rising for more than 18 months before stabilising and coming down a little.  Something will give and force rates to drop as people struggle to deal with the cost of living soaring.  Interest rates are not going to stop the war, or help with the fallout of Covid-19 or Brexit.  Since the financial crisis of 2008, people have become used to low rates on borrowing.  It was never going to last forever, but those who are hysterically shouting about a return to double-digit mortgage rates in the months and years need to calm down a little.  We may very well return to those levels in the future, but returning to that level in the next decade at a minimum is just not going to happen.  

Customer Service Rant

I believe you can tell a lot about the culture of a business by the messages they have on their automated phone service, and by how easy it is to track down a phone number on their website.

If I call a company to discuss an issue, you can be sure I’ve tried to resolve the issue myself online first.  If the phone number you call makes you listen to repeated messages about “how easy it is to find answers on our website” I immediately think the company is lazy, cost driven, and not that bothered about the customer experience.  If you care about customer service, you will make your agents easy to speak with, rather than hiding contact information behind layers of pages on the website, and then making the customer listen to messages stating how easy it is to find information online.

John Lewis, in particular, was awful for this.  I remember trying to return a faulty item and the website stated I had to call customer services.  The phone number provided rambled on about how I could do this online, and then the agent who answered said I could do it online.  I followed their instructions, and it stated once again that I had to call.  

Seriously, if you are a decision maker in your business, make it easier for customers to speak with a representative of your company, not more difficult.  It’s also extremely frustrating when companies make their contact information impossible to find.  Zappos, in the US, are an example I often use of how to do good customer service.  From their home page (zappos.com) you scroll to the bottom and you click on contact info, and then you see their phone number.  You don’t see links to email addresses, contact forms, botchat functions and all the other crap companies pull to avoid speaking with you.  The first thing you see is a phone number.  John Lewis, on the other hand, requires you to click through several menus before the site begrudgingly offers up a phone number.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

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

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

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (12/10)

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

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter.

What I’m watching: 42 Days of Darkness on Netflix.

I’m still enjoying Hostage but this last week has not made it easy to actually read much.  I should have it finished by next week though.  I’m listening to the second book in the Noumenon series, after finishing book one earlier in the week.  The series tells the story of Earth’s “Planet United Missions”; a series of convoys sent into deep space to investigate strange phenomena.  The book follows Convoy 7, which is heading to a star that has several properties that defy our understanding of physics.  The missions take place over centuries with whole generations of crew living and dying as they travel to the target star and back.  Although a science-fiction story on the surface, there are some fascinating questions raised about the nature vs nurture debate, and what it means to be sentient or sapient.  I thought the first book was great for the first 75%, but the last part was quite weak.  Book two has started strong though, so I’ll try to judge the series as a whole once I’m done.

42 Days of Darkness is a Chilean show, based on a true story, about the disappearance of a woman from her home in a wealthy suburb.  It’s always refreshing to see a production from another culture, but the gorgeous backdrops of the Chilean country are giving both myself and my girlfriend wanderlust.  We only have two more episodes to watch and we’ve managed to avoid any information about how the case was resolved in real life.

Despite being gritty and dark, this show did manage to provide some unintentional hilarity.  In one scene, a relative of the missing woman is appealing to the public in a television press conference.  The woman then gives a menacing side-eye directly into the camera.  It’s like she wwas peering directly into your soul and did not like what she saw.  We must have replayed the scene a dozen times, laughing more each time.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £12,000.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £62,665.53 (down £50.61 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £800.00 (down £750.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £53,394.81 (up £837.04 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £505,895.34 (up £36.43 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £182,507.87 (down £666.84 from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,316.74 (down £15.25 from last update). 

Total Debts: £287,824.61 (down £682.09 from last update).

Total Wealth: £218,070.73 (up £718.52 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

I had to dip into my Fuck It Fund to help with some of the work we are having done to our apartment.  Normally, I’d pay via credit card and then pay the balance off when my next salary comes through, but this tradesperson didn’t accept card payments.  I’ll build the balance up again soon.

With the start of a new month came my mortgage payments.  Other than that, just a few minor fluctuations with nothing else to mention.

More Millionaire Thoughts

Progress doesn’t happen on a straight line, or smooth curve.  There are peaks and troughs.  However, you can predict long-term returns by looking at how things have performed in the past and extrapolating forward.  It’s not an exact science but when it comes to predicting the future few things are. 

Looking back at my total wealth figure since I started this blog, I tried to work out the approximate weekly progress.  It appears that a 1% increase per week produces a fairly accurate description from Week 1 to Week 145.  Taking that 1% weekly increase forward, my total wealth would hit £1,000,000 by Week 295.  Based on that projection, I’m roughly halfway. 

I’m not saying this is definitely going to happen by this point.  The main thing is I’m making steady progress over the long term.  If I continue to make progress, my wealth will hit £1M eventually, and the more it grows, the faster it will continue to grow through compounding gains.  Taking the 1% projection further, the £2M mark would be hit by Week 365.  So, 295 weeks to go from roughly £50k to £1M, just 70 more weeks from £1M to £2M, and less than a year to go from £2M to £3M. 

I asked on a Facebook FIRE group at what point people felt like their investments were starting to grow through compounding gains.  Not a technical answer, but rather an emotional one; when did they feel comfortable with it.  The range of answers are below:

There are no right and wrong answers here, I was simply interested in what other opinions were out there.  One comment I liked was along the lines of, “I’ll feel comfortable when the compounding gains are greater than my own investment.”

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Part 144

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I talk rant about Bullshit Jobs.  Also, a reminder of why financial independence is so important to me as an autistic person is a neurotypical world.  There are some positive financial updates and the usual memes and gifs.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

Well, maybe.  The strict definition of being a millionaire is having wealth and/or currency of at least one million units.  It’s easier to be a millionaire in Romania than the UK, because £200,000 would buy approximately 1.17 million lei.  

Being a millionaire is something that many have aspired to, most famously in the classic TV comedy Only Fools and Horses, where Del Boy would frequently tell his exasperated brother, “this time next year, we’ll be millionaires.”

On one hand, it could be kind of annoying, but you also have to admire and respect Del’s relentless optimism, ambition, and drive.  

I don’t necessarily need to be a millionaire.  I just want enough wealth to achieve my goal of being financially independent.  This isn’t just to hoard wealth or throw money away on insane purchases.  I want to acquire more time, but to acquire time you need money.  If you have enough wealth to survive, you don’t have to work.  If you don’t have to work, you have instantly opened up anywhere from 30-60 hours each week.  

I really hate having to work, but I understand why I need to work.  I hear people saying they love working, and they love their job.  That’s great.  Everyone should be able to do what they love, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.  What I’ve only just realised in the last year or two is that my desire to be able to quit paid employment is down to being neurodivergent.  As an autistic person dealing primarily with neurotypical people, in a world designed for and by neurotypical people, each day is a constant bombardment of conflicting sensory information, mixed social signals, and illogical relationships between words and actions.  This leads to burnout, which in turn leads one to think about how to escape this neurotypical prison.

Weekly Update

The work on our apartment will now continue into a third week, despite the original estimate being “a week or so”.  The guy doing the work seems nice enough.  He’s friendly and polite.  I do feel frustration at the slow progress being made though, and most days he works from roughly 9am to 3pm-ish, with a lunch of around 40 minutes.  

Our original quote was for the place to be painted, carpets ripped up and disposed of, and some furniture to be dismantled and disposed of.  We got rid of most of the furniture ourselves through charity collection and selling on Facebook.  We are still waiting on the living room and kitchen to be painted.  We believed that, under the carpets, there was wood flooring.  It turns out that is only partially true; some rooms have it and some don’t.  Those that do have the wooden flooring need it replacing anyway.  So, I get how and why that causes a delay, but still, to be entering a third week with not even all the painting done is just really annoying.

The contractors stated they could get the new laminate flooring fitted, but couldn’t start the job until August 22nd.  We can’t go on like this until then.  We don’t have a bed, or wardrobe, or sofa.  Our only seats are our office chairs, at our desks where we work from home.  We’re reluctant to move things about too much, knowing we’ll just have to move it back for the flooring to be done.

We think we’ve managed to get someone else in to sort the flooring next week.  If they can, I’ll be delighted.

The delivery of the new laminate flooring was hilarious.  Altogether there are 24 packs, with the total weight coming in well over 300kg.  The packs are unwieldy and can only be carried one at a time.  I thought I might be able to use our extendable trolley and cables to stack some of the boards on, and then transport them a few at a time.  However, lengthwise the boards wouldn’t fit on the trolley because the space between the handles was too narrow.  Also, width-wise was a non-starter as the boards are too wide for the doors and corridors.  This meant I had to carry all the boards by hand from the ground floor entrance to the lift, then stack the lift, then unload the lift, and then carry the packs down a few corridors and four internal doors.  I then stacked them outside our apartment door before transporting them into the room we are storing the other supplies in.  It was hard work and did my various physical ailments no favours.

Bullshit Jobs

A few years ago I read Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber.  It was funny, infuriating, and something I could relate to.  Graeber suggests that a huge proportion of jobs are pointless.  The man has a point.  

Many years ago, in between my time at the University of Leicester and the University of Central Lancashire, I worked for a major UK bank.  I’m not going to name them, but let’s just use the name Watnest for them.  They were the absolute shits to work for.  So much of their process and procedure was utterly pointless.  The bank was organisationally lazy, and I saw this at the three branches I worked for.  I’ll give one example from my time there.  I was asked to take charge of a daily process where reports from each cashier were collected, sorted, and filed.  What would happen is each cashier would print their own reports and drop them in a box.  The person collating them would then take all the reports out and spend half an hour simply putting them in order.  The first thing I did was to replace the box with a stack of paper trays, like the old school inbox and outbox trays before email.  Each tray was labelled with which sheet it was for.  The result was that each cashier had to spend an extra fifteen seconds putting the sheet in the right tray, but it saved thirty minutes every day for the person organising them.  The thing that really made this a bullshit job was that the reports were never, ever referred back to again.  (In truth, they could be needed for up to several months, but this doesn’t detract from my point as you will see). 

If no one hardly ever read these reports, why was this a daily task when the reports could be printed weekly, or monthly, with a daily breakdown?  I asked the question, and the answer was, “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

One job I always look back at fondly was working for a health insurance provider as a claims assessor.  It was a fun workplace, and some really great people worked there.  Even this business was not immune to bullshit jobs though.  Again, it is related to reports.  There was a time when we were all asked to record what we were doing in regards to claims, for example how many claims were new, existing, previous claims being reopened, and then to also record what the claims were for, for example, neck pain, knee pain, cancer, heart attack and so on.  It’s easy to understand why an insurance company would want to know this.  You would think that there would be systems in place to automatically track this sort of data.  Well, you would be right.  I raised this point and demonstrated how this could be done using existing reports, rather than asking dozens of people to painstakingly record their daily activity.  Nothing else was being recorded; just this information about claims.  The end result was that we all still had to manually record the data.  Just complete bullshit.  

These are tasks within a job that are bullshit, but there are entire jobs out there that are overwhelmingly pointless.  Take the IT worker who automated his job, allowing him to earn a salary whilst doing just a couple of minutes work a day.  That guy is my hero.  

If it works, is it lazy?

So many jobs now are tedious.  Many office jobs are done according to a flowchart, where “if A, then B” type decisions are made for you.  Sometimes these rules can be hidden under many layers of red tape, jargon, and policy summaries, but when you drill down into the detail, it’s a case of following the flowchart.  These types of jobs could be done entirely by AI and it wouldn’t even have to pass the Turing Test to complete the work to a satisfactory standard.  

I firmly believe that what frustrates most people in office-based work is that their job is seen as pointless, adding no value to society, that it could be largely automated, and that there is no room for personal decision-making.  

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

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

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

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

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.

What I’m listening to: Torment by Jeremy Robinson.

What I’m watching: The Control Room on iPlayer.

I’m only a few pages into Hostage but my girlfriend enjoyed it, so I’ll give it a chance.  Torment is an older book by JR but it’s been released with new narration.  It was originally published under a pen name, as he was experimenting with a different style and genre.  The story starts with nuclear war and some survivors, who were in space during the brief conflict, return to Earth to find people hungry for human flesh. 

The Control Room was an interesting three-part thriller involving an emergency call centre worker who takes a call from someone in his past.  I found the first episode a bit weak, but it picked up massively in the final two.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £12,000.00 (up £4,800.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £62,716.14 (up £2,096.33 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,550.00 (no change from last update). 

Pensions: £52,557.77 (up £439.46 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £505,858.91 (up £7,335.79 from last update). 

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £183,174.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,331.99 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £288,506.70 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £217,352.21 (up £7,335.79 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

Two huge points this week with my total assets smashing through the £500,000 barrier for the first time.  Also, my total wealth figure has recovered and then passed through my previous all-time high.  There will likely be further dips in the future but it’s a nice mental boost for my assets to exceed £500,000 in value for the first time.

I was able to release some funds to increase my Premium Bonds balance, and the stock market has performed well for me which benefited my ISA and pension values.  Next week will see my debts reduce as my monthly mortgage payments are made.  

I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got for this week.  I posted a brief blog the other day explaining that I’m stressed right now with all the upheaval at home and with my health.  Hopefully, next week I’ll be typing in an apartment that is largely finished.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com

Spoons and Hit Points

It’s all about spoons.  Or hit points.  Or room in your inventory.  It could be any of these three concepts you use, or it could be something else, but I’m out of spoons, my hit points are at zero, and my inventory is full. 

I don’t think I’ll be able to put out a full, normal FIRE post this Sunday.  I should still be able to do the regular financial updates, but there’s just so much other stuff going on that, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I feel thin… stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

So, to summarise, I’m having to wean myself off my antidepressants because they are causing side effects which are having a significant impact on my quality of life.  I’ve been having intense night sweats which cause me to wake up several times a night.  This leads to constant tiredness and a feeling of just stumbling through life half awake all the time.  However, I’m starting to feel the impacts of the reduced dose.  I was taking 200mg of sertraline, but over the last few weeks, that’s been reduced to 125mg.  There’s a sense of melancholy constantly in the back of my mind.

In addition to this, my back has been playing up because I’m having to sleep on a mattress on the floor.  Our spacious apartment, with a main bedroom, a spare room used as my office, and a large living room area, has now been reduced to a living room with two desks, and a mattress whilst the work on our apartment looks set to drift into a third week when it was originally supposed to take “a week or so”.  This level of disruption would be bad enough for a neurotypical person with no mental health struggles.  For an autistic person struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, and a list of many physical ailments, it all just adds up.   

Speaking of physical health problems.  My arthritic hip (yes, arthritic hip at 38 years old) is causing a lot of pain.  Having to stand up from the mattress which is on the floor is more difficult than standing from a bed at a normal height.  Also, our en-suite shower has been out of use, meaning I’ve had to use the shower in the main bathroom.  However, the main bathroom shower is set in a bathtub instead of a shower tray.  Stepping over the bathtub causes a lot of pain in my hip as well.  So, I’m spending my days in a state of constant physical pain in my back and hip.

A few nights ago my foot was itching, so I scratched.  This was on the instep of my right foot.  The skin then peeled away across an area three-four inches long, and an inch wide, exposing the flesh underneath.  To say it stings would be like saying that a kick in the nuts is a little uncomfortable.  It’s not showing any major signs of healing, despite keeping it clean and bandaged.  Also, it hurts like a motherfucker when I have to put a shoe on.  

This isn’t meant to be a “woe is me” post.  I’m not asking for the violins.  This is a form of catharsis in itself.  In addition to all this, I’m working full-time in a job that can be, at times, very stressful as well.  Today has felt like I’ve been fighting the hydra; each head I’ve chopped off has grown back twice.

Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully, things will look up.  In order; I need the work to the flat to finish, which the bulk of it should be within a few days, I hope.  I need to get a new bed so I can sleep without stabbing back pain.  From that point, I should also be able to rest my hip whilst I wait for the next calamity.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a better week.

If you enjoy my content, please consider a donation to my caffeine fund using the link/image below:

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CoastFIRE & BaristaFIRE: Thoughts for the Future.

There are several types of FIRE including FatFIRE and LeanFIRE, but I’ve recently discovered two other types; Coast and Barista.  

CoastFIRE is where you invest heavily in the early years and then let the investment compound without too much emphasis on adding to the investment pot during the coasting period.  An example of this would be saving heavily in your 20s and 30s, before winding down the money invested each month.  The total pot accumulated would then be allowed to compound until retirement.

BaristaFIRE is similar to LeanFIRE, in my opinion.  You invest enough so that your assets can cover your basic living costs.  Then, you can work part-time, as a barista for example, to give yourself some spending money.

Whilst it’s useful to have different terms for the different strategies in the FIRE community, it ultimately doesn’t matter what you call it as long as your strategy is realistic and budgeted.  

When I started my FIRE journey, I set the ambitious goal of FIRE by 40.  I was 36 at the time.  I’m now approaching my 39th birthday and I’m not as far along as I’d hoped, but I’m not too disheartened.  A lot has happened since I set my goal that was outside my control, and this will give me an extra safety net as it pushes me to work longer to accumulate a solid financial foundation. 

As I stood on the cruise ship looking out at the ocean in late 2019, thinking about my plans for the future, Covid-19 was still months away.  The war in Ukraine was still over a year away.  Brexit was still up in the air.  Inflation was much lower than it is now.  Although the cost of living was biting those in the more vulnerable sections of society, it was not something impacting the majority.  Had it not been for all these things, I would be further on in my FIRE project.  

I don’t have an expensive lifestyle, and my girlfriend and I lack two of the main expenses that most couples have; children and cars.  We like the simple things, and we don’t do alcohol or other recreational drugs, unless you count caffeine.  The point I’m making is that our expenses are few.  Our FIRE figure is low as a result.  

Our dream is to retire to Madrid once our finances are in order.  Using a few sources online, and talking to people who live in Spain, we believe that 4,000 Euros per month will allow the two of us to have a fairly comfortable life.  My girlfriend wants to continue working, and I want to study and write.  Assuming we each bring in 2,000 per month, current exchange rates assume that we need £1,700(ish) per month.  Obviously, these numbers are constantly fluctuating.  

As I look at my progress so far, it’s going to take a bit longer than I’d hoped to hit my target for FIRE by 40.  So, what are my options?

BaristaFIRE is probably the best fit for my plans.  There’s nothing stopping me from doing some casual work in Spain to earn a bit of pocket money whilst the value of my assets compound over time.

Last year I had a passive income of £3,771.  This year I’m on track for £4,700 – £5,000.  The lower end of that projection is still a 25%(ish) increase on the previous year.  Taking that projection and applying it to the future, it looks like this:

Now, I know that my working out doesn’t include inflation or changing currency exchange rates.  Including every single variable is counterproductive for this situation.  Either the numbers will work, or they won’t.  The only deadline here is my own self-imposed deadline, and if I don’t meet it, I can just extend it.  It’s not a big deal.  

One thing for certain is that I need to get that second BTL purchase completed as soon as possible.

Assuming I decide to go down the BaristaFIRE route and work whilst in Spain, it could bring the FIRE date forward.  Based on the current minimum wage in Spain, if I was to work 10 hours a week, for 46 weeks a year, it would reduce the amount I would need from passive/investment sources by just over £200 per month.

All of the above calculations have been completed as cautiously as possible, but I thought I’d end things on a more hopeful note.  Assuming the following:

  1. My BTL tenant continues to pay on time, in full for the rest of the year.
  2. My income funds perform as usual for the rest of the year.
  3. My estimate for the final dividend of the year from the stock I own is paid as projected by sources online…

Assuming all that, I could finish the year with £5,618 of passive income.  Projecting that forward would see my FIRE target achieved by year-end 2025.

However this all works out, the important thing is that I’m planning for the future and not just relying on a state pension.

Thanks for reading, and please like, share, and/or comment.  If you enjoy my content, please buy me a coffee at the link below.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

Part 143

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I cover a range of subjects; the recent heatwave across Europe, a bit more on inflation following the post I published midweek, the usual financial updates, and a rant about streaming services.  First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

“1976 was worse” ~ various people

Climate change denial is something I don’t get.  I mean, it’s been obvious for decades that we are wrecking the planet.  Whether our increased industrial activity is directly causing climate change is irrelevant, I’d argue.  

I don’t think many would suggest that heavy industry, burning of fossil fuels and destroying the rainforests is a good thing for the environment.  We want biodiversity and we generally don’t like cities shrouded in smog. 

So, assuming for a moment that climate change is not due to human activity, why should we change our way of life? Well, what’s the worst that could happen? We stop using finite resources and switch to energy sources that are essentially limitless and clean?  We stop pumping carbon into our atmosphere and increase the quality of our breathable air? We help stabilise the natural world and preserve species that are in danger of going extinct? Cleaning up the Earth will do all these things, and if climate change is anthropogenic, we will also have the knock-on effect of reducing it.  

With the recent spell of extreme heat we’ve had in the UK, a lot of people have been banging on about 1976 and how it wasn’t “that bad”, ignoring the fact that there was a surge in excess deaths due to the heatwave at the time.  It’s easy to be blase about hot weather when it’s not had a significant personal impact.  In time, I’m sure we will see reports of the deaths this heatwave has caused.  It should be noted that, at the time of writing, it is thought that the July’22 heatwave has been responsible for over 4,000 deaths in Europe; mostly in Germany, Portugal, and Spain.  

Another point to note about 1976, compared to 2022; the highest recorded temperature in the UK in the 1976 heatwave was 35.9C.  In this recent heatwave the highest recorded temperature was just over 40C.  The average UK temperature for July is around 21C.

There is a point at which humans can physically not survive, in terms of the temperature.  Once our internal temperature exceeds 42.3C, the proteins in our body break down and to quote one article, we “turn into scrambled eggs”.  We have ways of regulating our internal body temperature; we do it every day without thinking.  It’s worth remembering that if the weather continues to get hotter, there could come a time when our access to the outside world is limited due to extreme heat.  This is already the case in some parts of the world where the midday sun results in most people taking a break for a few hours.

Weekly Update

I imagine that a lot of people had a similar start to the week, in that they were struggling with the heat.  Last Sunday we had to move our mattress from the bedroom to the living room, as we were preparing for the refurb of our flat.  The bedroom was emptied of furniture and we had to stack most of our possessions between the living room and spare bedroom/home office.  

On Monday the work started and we spent most of our time in the living room trying to survive the heat.  According to our, well I don’t know what it’s called.  It’s this old device my Gran had that predicted weather based on air pressure, and also has a mercury thermometer.  I kept the device after she passed, and it’s been hung on our wall since.  Anyway, the mercury touched 40C several times.  It was hot, to say the least.

Monday and Tuesday were just horrific.  It was a case of waiting out the heat and counting down the hours.  We had a few small USB fans dotted around the living room, but for much of the time they just blew out warm air.  I drank over eight litres of water from Sunday night to Tuesday evening.  

Climate change is a worry and we need a scientific breakthrough, such as via fusion power on an industrial scale.  Eating a little less meat, and cutting down on electricity use at home isn’t even a drop in the ocean.  The overwhelming majority of carbon emissions come from a small group of companies, and until they change their ways, dropping our central heating from 22C to 20C just isn’t going to do much.

Now, I’m not saying there is nothing we can do as individuals but our actions need to be focused in the right direction.  We can’t bitch and moan about countries like China and their carbon emissions whilst at the same time shopping for all our electronics off Amazon where those products have been manufactured in China.  We can’t pat ourselves on the back and say, “well the UK hardly emits any carbon” when all we’ve done is export our carbon emissions to other countries that build things for us.  Also, it would be wise to remember that the UK was the first country on Earth to start emitting carbon on an industrial scale.  

Anyway, coming back from that tangent, the rest of the week has been stressful as the flat is just a complete state with boxes piled up in the rooms not being worked on.  We are sleeping on a mattress in the living room, and our cat is just confused.  We have beds for her in each room and she would normally spend some time in the home office on her bed by the window.  She walked in there the other day and seemed confused as to why it was empty.  She looked up at me and gave a mournful-sounding meow.  Poor girl doesn’t know what’s going on, but it will be worth it in the end.  We’re only doing this work to give our sweet Poppy the best home for her retirement.  

I’ve not been massively impressed with how long the work is taking.  The guy doing the work each day is friendly, polite, and seems to take pride in his work.  It just seems to be going a bit slowly.  We were initially told the work would take a week, maybe a week and a half, but after a week we’re not even halfway through.  It’s frustrating.

This Week’s Tory Shambles

If you haven’t watched The Inbetweeners you might not get this reference, but do me a favour; load up a clip of Will from the show talking.  Close your eyes, and tell me that he doesn’t sound just like Rishi Sunak.  

We have a choice between Sunak or Truss.  It’s like the tagline from Alien vs Predator; “whoever wins, we lose”.  

I suppose on balance I would rather Truss win, for a few reasons.  First, the memes will be amazing.  Second, I think she’s not quite as vile as most Tories and I suspect her level of competence means she probably will not be able to do too much damage.  Sunak arguably has a little more going on upstairs, but he could probably still hide his own Easter Eggs for the annual hunt and finish last.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

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

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

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

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 118.9kg).

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

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

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

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅
  6. Harlan Coben ✅
  7. Jo Spain ✅
  8. Kate Elizabeth Russell ✅
  9. Kiersten White ✅
  10. Rob Hart ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: I’ve just finished The Warehouse by Rob Hart, and have not started a new book yet.

What I’m listening to: Never by Ken Follett.

What I’m watching: D.B. Cooper: Where are you?

I finished another book, The Warehouse by Rob Hart, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It wasn’t a book that required a huge amount of thinking, but it was still an entertaining read.  I picked up on most of the twists early on, with one rather gross exception (which I will not spoil for other readers).  The story takes place in the near future where one business has monopolised internet shopping and many public services.  Millions of people live on company campuses where they rarely go outside due to climate change.  It’s dystopian and draws on influences like Brave New World and 1984.  It has an easy style to read and will keep you occupied for a few days.

I’m enjoying Never by Ken Follett.  I read his century trilogy a few years ago and thought it was brilliant, but I’ve not tried any of his other stuff (mostly because the TV adaptation of Pillars of the Earth made me want to stick pokers in my eyes).  I’m about two-thirds of the way through, and have no idea how it will finish.  The book looks at how small incidents can snowball into huge, international conflicts.  It’s interesting, but some of the characters are a little bland.  One random point is that I’ve learned a hell of a lot more about the Republic of Chad in Africa.  Much of the plot takes place there, and in typical fashion led me down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole.  My only major criticism is the way the daughter of the President is written.  It’s almost as though she is there so that the President has someone on whom to dump exposition.  It just feels a bit clumsy.

I have hit my target of reading ten new authors this year, through which I have discovered some fantastic authors.  I just need to crack on with some of the classics now.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £7,200.00 (up £2,200.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £60,619.81 (up £1,810.69 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £1,550.00 (up £1,000.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £52,118.31 (up £1,378.45 from last update).

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

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

Total Assets: £498,523.12 (up £6,389.14 from last update).

Debts

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

Residential Mortgage: £183,174.71 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,331.99 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £288,506.70 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £210,016.42 (up £6,389.14 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £2,756.09 (target £6,000).

Inflation

There’s a lot of talk about the cost of living crisis and inflation at the moment.  The headlines state figures like “9% inflation”, but this does not tell the whole story.  Many people up and down the country have to account for every penny they spend on groceries.  For these people, who are struggling to make ends meet, the true rise in inflation is much more serious.  

In January this year, blogger and author Jack Monroe highlighted the true extent of inflation.  In her article in The Guardian she explained that Asda’s own brand of dried pasta was 29p for 500g, but a year later the same pasta was 70p.  This is far greater than a 9% increase.  Also mentioned in her related Twitter thread, the cost of 1kg of rice was 45p.  A year on, the cost was £1 for just 500g.  A tin of baked beans increased from 22p to 32p.  From my own experience, a four-pint bottle of skimmed milk has increased from £1 to £1.50.  

If you don’t have to check the price of every item each time you shop, these increases may be missed.  After all, it’s just a few pence here and there.  However, if you are shopping on a rigid budget it can mean the difference between three meals a day, or just two.  Some google-fu suggests that the average UK adult can get by on £40 of food each week.  Such a budget does not allow for much variety or flexibility. 

There are some people who overspend because of a lack of financial education.  However, there are many people up and down the country who are running out of ways to make their income cover the absolute basic necessities of life.  There’s an argument that you can judge a society by how the poorest are treated, and viewed through that lens we have failed.

Streaming Services

Amazon Prime Video: £7.99pcm

Netflix: £6.99pcm (cheapest package)

Disney+: £7.99pcm

Apple TV: £4.99pcm

Now TV (Entertainment package): £9.99pcm

Paramount+: £6.99pcm

Streaming services are getting out of control and it’s to the detriment of viewers.  Back in the day, it was all about Netflix and Amazon and that was fine.  Approximately £15pcm for a wide selection of shows and movies.  Then, studios started getting greedy and we saw the choice of things to watch get diluted among many different services.  

I’m a fan of sci-fi, and I enjoy Star Trek and Star Wars.  Time was, I could watch Star Trek on Netflix, but all that content has moved from Netflix to Paramount+.  This means I no longer watch Star Trek.  New Star Wars content is now available through Disney+, but I refuse to pay for another streaming service.  

To subscribe to the services listed above would cost over £40 each month.  It’s just not worth subscribing to Paramount+ just so I can watch Star Trek, or subscribe to Disney+ just to watch the Obi-Wan Kenobi show.  I’m not alone in feeling this, so all that happens is people start sharing passwords.  Then, the companies come down hard on people who share passwords.  It benefits no one.  

Another point related to this is how shows have to be a huge hit immediately or they get cancelled.  Netflix and Amazon are especially bad for this.  The thing is, it’s a self-reinforcing cycle.  Viewers are reluctant to commit to a new show as they fear it will just be cancelled.  The streaming service looks at viewing figures for the new show and decides to cancel because it’s not getting the viewers.  I can’t be the only one who waits for a few seasons before watching most shows, just to make sure I get to see a complete story.

That’s all for this week, so I thank you for reading.  Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on the post, and if you enjoy my content please consider buying me a coffee via the links/images on this blog.

Biolink and other links

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

bio.link/davidscothern.

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

www.darrenscothern.com