Toilet Twinned

I’ve committed to donating at least 10% of my matched betting* profits to charity by the end of the year. So far, I have donated a total of £460.

In the scheme of things, it’s a tiny amount, but it’s still a few hundred quid which I could be chucking towards my own savings and investments (or holidays!) and it’s more than I’ve ever donated in the past.

One of my goals this year was to ‘twin’ my toilet with a block of toilets at a school via Toilet Twinning for a £240 donation and I have now achieved my goal (this amount is included in the above £460 figure).

We are far from living in the dark ages yet there are still millions of people around the world today who are not able to ‘do their business’ in a sanitary and safe toilet. Imagine having to worry about your own health and safety every time you wanted to go? Stressing about whether there’s any toilet paper seems so trivial in comparison!

Anyway, I’ve made my donation and have received a nice framed certificate/photo of my twinned toilet (in Guatemala):

 Some might think this framed photo is an extravagance on the charity’s part, but Toilet Twinning first came to my attention when I saw a similar framed photo in the toilet of some pub. Perhaps guests to my house might be intrigued enough with the photo to find out more about the charity.

I intend to continue to support this cause so will aim to twin another toilet block next year (to the other toilet in the house!).

According to the website, it’s possible to twin someone else’s toilet, so perhaps in the future, I’ll twin a ‘lucky’ reader’s loo, if there’s any interest for that sort of thing, haha!

Other charities I’ve been supporting on a regular basis are Age UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and British Red Cross as well as adhoc charities (eg sponsoring friends and colleagues).  I’ll probably add one or two more to this list as time goes on.

[*referral link]

Liar Liar

One of my goals for this year is to read three non-fiction books. I know that doesn’t sound like many but generally, I read books for enjoyment, not for education. Of course, the two are not really mutually exclusive but I’ve yet to find sci-fi investing books out there! 🙂

I usually read around 30-35 fiction books a year and I think 3 non-fiction is about all I want to attempt really.

Anyway, the second book I’ve read is ‘Liar’s Poker‘ by Michael Lewis.

Written and set in the 1980s, this semi-autobiographical book charts the rise and fall of investment bank Salomon Brothers (which ultimately became part of Citicorp in the late 1990s) and documents the greed, ambition and excesses of the people (including the author) who worked for the company and the bond trading industry.

Salomon Brothers made an absolute killing selling mortgage bonds to customers (including other banking institutions) who didn’t really understand what they were buying. In the days before the internet, the traders had all the info (and weren’t always truthful) and customers, fearful they would miss opportunities, would jump in with their money without doing their own research (yep, that old chestnut!).

The regulators were ineffective as they were always playing catch up on the new, inventive and complicated ways financial products were being structured to make profits. The bond traders and investment banks were unscrupulous and unrelenting in their greed, with no thought of consequences.

The amounts of money involved were jaw-dropping – it was scary to read about what the traders got away with, their audacity, the lies they told and how greed ultimately had businesses investing in things they didn’t have a clue in.

Big Swinging Dicks

All the traders aspired to be ‘Big Swinging Dicks’, the ones who made the most money and commanded the biggest bonuses. Yes, even the very few women who were able to fight their way past extreme gender inequality aimed to be a BSD!

Liar’s Poker

What was ‘Liar’s Poker’? It was a high stakes gambling game which the bond traders played, using bluffing and psychological tactics.

Anyway, I thought this was a good read (thanks for the recommendation, Jim), with a fair amount of humour and kept my interest throughout. I’d be tempted to read another of Lewis’ books. I know he wrote ‘The Big Short’ though having seen the movie adaptation, I may try one of his other ones.

What did I learn from this book?

Don’t invest in things you don’t understand and don’t be tempted by huge profits.

Have a great weekend all – it’s apparently going to be a sunny one! 🙂

September 2017 Savings, plus Other Updates

No idea where this month went – I had one weekend away (cocktails are never a good idea!) and that’s pretty much it. No progress on the kitchen so it’s still only half done, but at least I can cook now so the poor diet from previous months has improved. Hopefully, all will be completed by the end of this month.

So, how much of my net salary did I save this month?

I saved 37.5%. An improvement on last month but not by much. I think this is going to be as good as it gets, especially with the more ‘expensive months’ coming up.

My average for the year has now dropped to 45.4%. I’m not going to reach my target  but I think I’ll be happy if I can keep it above 40%.

The above savings includes £200 matched betting profits, £7.50 from TopCashback*, £50 rent received and £93.57 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all those who joined via my link – much appreciated!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

Nothing new was purchased, I just topped up existing holdings.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Markets were a little volatile, which caused my Future Fund to drop slightly in value, despite the extra capital added.  It now stands at £124,961. Just a small step backwards but I’m still slowly plodding on towards my next big milestone!

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month (which will be reinvested): Continue reading

Comparisons

Before embracing it, I very nearly dismissed the whole FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) concept.

The idea had piqued my interest immediately but at first glance, it seemed as if I did not fit into ‘the same mould’ as everyone pursuing FI (or having reached FI).

I looked on in dismay as I compared myself with the entrepreneurs, consultants, engineers, bankers, IT specialists and other high earners who were able to tuck away not just the equivalent of my entire salary year on year, but in some cases, multiples of my salary, for their financial freedom and early retirement. My initial thought was, ‘Crap, I can’t do this, I don’t earn enough and I’m in the wrong sort of job!’

Then I compared ages and everyone seemed so young – people in their 20s and 30s aiming (and on track) to be FI and to ‘retire early’ by 40 or by their early 40s. I was already in my mid-40s by the time I came across MMM – crap, was it all too late for an ‘old girl’ like me? (although it’s a good job I don’t look or act old 🙂 )

Another thing was that it appeared that you needed to make huge sacrifices to become FI. I mean I am and was able to cut back on my spending but I couldn’t see myself taking the extreme route and being a frugal recluse, living a cheap but not very cheerful (in my opinion) life or living like a student again.

More importantly, I didn’t want to be seen as tight-fisted by friends and family. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t care what anyone thinks.  While I don’t mind being a bit different, I do care about what the people I care about think, especially if it may affect my relationships.

So, it would have been no surprise if I had gone about my merry way, thinking FIRE was a nice idea but not for me.

Except that I continued to read about it with an open mind. Why? Because despite my initial misgivings, the whole concept really fascinated me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

I ran some basic numbers (on the proverbial back of a fag packet) and it dawned on me that I didn’t need to earn megabucks (no, I don’t need £1 million!) or do exactly what someone else was doing or did – I could just take certain (good) ideas and apply them to my own situation.  Yep, personal finance being what it says on the tin!

FIRE  comparisons are like comparing these two

More Comparisons

However, despite embarking on my FIRE journey, I couldn’t help but continue to compare myself to others.

People whose net worths were waaay bigger than mine after a shorter space of time, people achieving astronomically high savings rates, effortless side hustles and blogs earning income to die for. Some had already reached FI, or they were only X years away and they were only in their 30s etc.

Such comparisons were at times a little disheartening until I eventually realised that it was just  pointless comparing myself to others.  The only comparison worth taking note of is that of comparing my own progress over time.

These days, I can now look at other people’s very high net worths and mega savings rates and admire them and applaud them, without feeling bad about my own attempts and performance.

To say that I never feel any envy would be to lie, but hey, I’m only human – I just don’t dwell on the envy or allow it to become negative, I just focus on what I’m doing myself. Everyone’s situation and circumstances are different, whether it’s their background, age, stage in their lives, different countries, different jobs etc.

Numbers

Not everyone likes to share their actual numbers but I made the decision to do so when I started this blog – I just know that some readers like to see real figures (to compare with their own, I suppose, haha!).

Until around nine years ago, my net worth was a negative number due to my numerous credit card debts. I eventually paid these debts off and by the time I started my FI journey in 2014, my net worth was £74,596.

As at the end of August, it stood at £205,509.

STOP! Try not to compare my net worth with your own – we are different! 🙂

I didn’t even notice that I’d passed the £200k milestone because by itself, it doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s just a number since I’m not using it in any of my calculations. However, it’s good to compare how far I’ve come since those negative days!

[EDIT – I see from some of the comments that I need to make a clarification – my £200k race with John K is with my Future Fund, not my Net Worth. My Future Fund currently stands at £125,946]

Do you compare yourself or your savings/investments progress and how does it make you feel?