January 2019 Savings, plus other updates

Unlike last January, where I tried to lead a frugal nun-like existence, I did no such thing this time round – it was just a really quiet month social-wise, with only one cheeky ‘beer and Nando’s’ session after work on pay day.

All other weekends, I went to the gym or stayed at home, slowly making my way through the alcohol in the house, reading a little and re-watching (and enjoying) old episodes of Doctor Who (I started from the Christopher Eccleston series).

Oh, I did go on my first walk of the year – a 6-mile flat trek along the Bridgewater Canal in Warrington, which was very pleasant. I wore my new waterproof jacket and walking trousers (hand-me-down and a late Christmas present from a family member) so my walking gear is getting a bit more suitable for the good ole British weather!

I also got my first Premium Bond win of the year – hopefully, the first of many!

NS&I’s app informing me of my win!

So, how did I get on with my savings in the first month of the year?

I saved 41.5%, which is a pretty good start.

The above savings includes top ups from £116 matched betting profits (from last month), the £25 premium bond win, £10 lotto winnings, £15 from TopCashback* and £69.02 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, just added to existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

I was vaguely aware that the markets had begun to recover a bit but was surprised to see the extent of that recovery when I ran my numbers – my Future Fund is heading in the right direction again, sitting at £151,358. Whilst not all the losses have been recouped, I’m just glad to have crossed the £150k milestone again!

Dividends and Other Income

An average month of dividends: Continue reading

2019 Goals

Before I go into my goals, I will mention that I intend to continue to throw my cash into investments in the face of probable continued turbulent markets, uncertainty due to Brexit and whatever else happens around the world which might cause share prices to go down (or up).

I don’t intend to hoard cash because I don’t know how to time the markets and wouldn’t want the anxiety of trying to decide when to invest so I’m just going to continue investing monthly regardless. Keep calm and carry on and all that.

I need to ensure that my emergency cash funds are topped up (having dipped into them recently to fund some holiday excesses)  – my aim is for them to cover 3 x monthly expenses for now.

Anyway, back to the main topic…Goals!

As with recent years, I find that setting only a few goals works well for me, allowing me to focus, with little room for distraction so I’m going to do something similar exactly the same for 2019.

Not every exciting, I know and perhaps not really stretching either but there’s another reason why I want to keep things simple and familiar, which I will go into later.

So without further ado, here they are:

Continue reading

December 2018 Savings, plus Round Up

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and enjoyed the celebrations last night to see in the new year, whether you were out in a noisy pub/bar or at home watching ‘Jools’ Annual Hootenanny’ – I was doing neither, as I was already tucked up in bed suffering from jet lag well before Big Ben’s chimes rang! I could have dragged myself out to meet up with friends but FOMO can’t compete with sleep these days!

Anyway, I had a great break in Hong Kong, spent a lot of quality time with family, ate too much, though surprisingly drank very little.

So, how did I do in the last month of the year?

I saved 38.4% – surprisingly higher than expected but I put some of my Christmas shopping on my credit card so that will appear on next month’s bill.

My average for the year ended up at 43.2%. Although I didn’t achieve my goal (again) to hit that elusive 50%, I’m quite satisfied with this average.

The above savings include top ups from £155 matched betting profits (from last month), £42.61 from TopCashback* and £66.32 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thank you to all those who joined via my link – much appreciated!). I also withdrew £1k from my Smarkets exchange account which was chucked into my SIPP.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I made an investment in JPMorgan Asian Investment Trust – don’t have a lot in this region so thought I’d diversify a bit.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

I think this is the rockiest year of investing that I’ve encountered so far – no Santa Rally this time.

My Future Fund ends the year at £142,831, which was around what it was back in April 2018 – one step forwards, three steps back it seems! Hitting my £150k milestone back in September seems like a dream now but I look forward to hitting it again in 2019!

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month: Continue reading

Restarting Your Life

I first heard about David Sawyer’s book, RESET: How to Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money‘ (RESET) when it was featured on Monevator.

 

David contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his book, and I agreed, especially as I needed to read one more non-fiction book by the end of the year to hit one of my reading goals. A signed copy duly arrived in the post.

Parts I & II

These parts were all about self-evaluation, establishing what it means to be happy, the meaning of life, your purpose. Once you’ve decided on these, it went into what you can do to improve things.

This included a guide on how to future-proof your career (embracing digital) and how to set up an escape plan should you need one.

I was surprised to see the recommendation to start a blog but perhaps that’s because I run my blog for a totally different purpose than that suggested in the book.

So thus far, whilst very easy to read, I hadn’t discovered anything new in the book that would help me or be of use to me.

Part III

And then I came across the section ‘Declutter Your Life’.

Whilst it’s absolutely true that I’ve bought very few things over the past few years, aside from being frugal, one of the reasons is because I am surrounded by things I bought during my ‘spendy’ years.

My house is full of what people would call clutter, my stuff. Yes, my friends think I live like a student and my family think I live in ‘organised chaos’!

I would say I’m fine living like this but I recognise that there might be benefits to reducing the amount of stuff I own, so this section of RESET was of great interest to me.

Sawyer talks of how he and his family tackled getting rid of their stuff and I think I could come up with a similar plan myself. I don’t intend to become nor do I want to live as a minimalist but cutting back on things has got to be a good thing.

As well as decluttering physical items, Sawyer also mentions digitial declutter and mental declutter, ie mobile phones, social media – I think I’m ok there, I can go for hours without looking at my phone without FOMO!

Part IV

This section was the financial bit, the ‘how to get your F. U money plan’. Although I’ve already got my own plan, I still like to read how other people plan, in case there’s something I’ve missed or there’s some good idea which I can learn and use myself. This section talked about budgeting, frugality/efficiency and investing.

There were mentions of the brief history of FI and the essential disciplines of FI. Numerous references throughout the book to MMM and Sawyer has done a huge amount of research and curated a lot of useful and helpful links and references for further reading about FIRE (there’s a big bibliography and notes section at the back of the book).

This section encouraged me to revisit my numbers, to review what I would need to live a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. I’ve made a few tweaks and adjustments but nothing too radical so if anything, it was a good affirmation that my plan is the right one for me (until my next review, haha!).

RESET recommended accumulating the much-mentioned ‘spending x 25’ and advocated a safe withdrawal rate of 3.5% as opposed to the oft-guaranteed rate of 4%. It made the assumption that readers were not starting from zero, that at the point they pick up this book, they had some fairly significant pensions savings from previous employers or their own savings/investments.

Parts V & VI

Part V detailed some core principles to guide you through work and life, including the importance of ‘deep work’. One of the recommendations was to not work in an ‘open-plan office’ – easier said than done for most people these days however.

Part VI was a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts, dealing with all aspects of life.

Conclusion

As the blurb says, ‘the unconventional early retirement plan for midlife careerists who want to be happy‘.

RESET I think is aimed at people, not exclusively but predominantly, who are earning a decent salary (higher tax bracket), have a successful career but who are unhappy with their lives, possibly because they’ve often put their careers first.

Sure, I fit the ‘midlife’ bracket (midlife in the book means anyone aged from 35-60) but at times, I felt as if Sawyer was just talking to couples with children, couples who were slaves to their mobile phones and emails (for work and social media) and who were somewhat miserable, whose lives were unfulfilled.

I’m already nearly five years into my own FIRE journey and am content with where I am, happy with my plan, so I didn’t think I was perhaps part of RESET’s target audience.

However, that’s not to say that I didn’t find the book a good read and useful.

I enjoyed reading about FIRE in physical book-form, refreshingly from a UK point of view and written in a friendly, personable and engaging way and I reckon it would be a good introduction for people who may have come across the recent news articles about FIRE in mainstream press, who want to know more and who were not put off by the colourful but mostly negative comments which accompanied most of those articles.

The chapters are blissfully short, many with ‘actions’ for the reader to do. The section about investing included some basic investment plans which would be useful to my non-investing friends, although I would encourage them to do their own research (RESET recommends going with Fidelity or Vanguard – good choices but not the only ones to check out).

Running is referred to throughout the book (Sawyer being a marathon runner) but I guess you could just replace that with some other exercise/fitness regime where you are aiming to better yourself (that’s what I did anyway).

It’s likely that I’ll be picking the book up again, particularly to flick through the bits about decluttering but also I guess it doesn’t do any harm to reread some of the core principles and remind myself about the do’s and don’ts of life as well as aiming for FIRE.