Quick Update and O.O.O

Just a brief update to get this out of the way as I’ll be busy with work and getting ready (shopping and packing) for my holiday later in the week:

  • This month, I celebrated my birthday – another year older, maybe a little wiser? I’ve been trying to shift a couple of pounds but my birthday celebrations lasted all week so instead of losing, I’ve probably piled more on! All this eating out (and drinking) has meant it’s not been a cheap month either.
  • My kitchen is still not complete – the fridge freezer was due to be delivered this weekend but was damaged in transit. I’ll have to sort things out after my hols and hope that it’s there before my family are over!
  • At work, the initial part of the ‘re-organisation’ I mentioned has happened – my colleague is now my new BOSS!  It’s not a real surprise, I was wondering when it would happen, just didn’t think it would happen so soon.  Our working relationship will inevitably change but hopefully not by too much, although I had gotten used to a remote boss (previously in our London office) and now I’ll have one sat right next to me!  I’m a little concerned that she doesn’t have a lot of management experience  so we’ll see how it goes. Still, we’ve worked well together so far, I already have a lot of respect for her professionalism, industry experience and knowledge, and this is despite me being twenty years her senior…I know!!! I might have to cut back on my avocado toast jokes from now on though!
  • The second part of the company re-organisation/restructuring is yet to be announced and it might not be pretty. As ever, I’ll worry about it when I know what it is and how it’ll affect me.

Out Of Office

So I’m off to the far east on my usual jollies, which means my June savings update will be a week or so late. I don’t have any scheduled posts and am unlikely to be reading any blogs while I’m away so I’ll be doing a big catch up on reading and commenting upon my return.

I do miss blogging (and reading blogs) when I’m away but at the same time, I enjoy the break. I do always take a notebook with me (so old school still!) to jot down ideas and notes for future blog posts. I’ll certainly be making a note of my experience using my new Starling* card when I stop in Dubai for my connecting flight.

It’ll also be good to take a break from matched betting although I’m a little gutted that I will be missing all those World Cup offers – I’ve tried to make the most of them this past week or so.

My family are football fans too so I’ll be enjoying watching some matches (when they’re timezone friendly) – Hong Kong’s still got a huge British ex-pat community so looking forward to cheering on England down the pub! Been loving the World Cup so far, with the big teams not starting as well as expected – exciting stuff!

Anyway, catch up in a few weeks’ time!

[*Referral link – there’s no money involved but I get some hearts lit up on my app!]

My Mum Retired at 42

Actually, the above title isn’t quite true, since my Mum came out of retirement a year later (due to boredom as all her friends were still working) to work another 5 years before she and my Dad (who is 9 years older) finally called it a day. So, she retired for good at 47.

Retiring at such an early age was (and is still) a massive achievement by most people’s standards.

Forgetting Valuable Lessons

Despite my parents’ achievement, it never occurred to me that early retirement was something I could even remotely consider. That realisation only dawned on me when I came across the FIRE community in 2014. Before then, I didn’t think someone like me would be able to retire early unless I won the lottery.

I don’t know why but I forgot some valuable lessons.  How my parents were really good at saving money and how they made use of TESSAs (Tax-Exempt Special Savings Accounts) and PEPs (Personal Equity Plans), the 90s and 00s versions of today’s S&S ISAs.

My parents didn’t win the lottery or benefit from any inheritance –  they ran their own business and grafted to make it successful, made ends meet whilst bringing up the family. They did have some luck during the boom years in the late ’80s/early ’90s, investing in and making money from a couple of properties.

My Dad bought the car of his dreams – a late 1980s C-Class Mercedes, which he purchased second hand and owned for nearly 25 years. It was the last car he ever bought as he no longer drives. How did I forget that?

My folks actively encouraged us kids to save from an early age and I loved putting my pocket money in my piggy bank. It was when I started working and earning my own money that I stopped being a good saver, fell off the rails and became a bad spender!

I forgot that my parents did not get into debt (aside from their mortgage).  I have no idea now what possessed me to enjoy spending squander my cash in my 20s and 30s and be embroiled in credit card debt for years but I’m just glad I came to my senses in the end.

I look back on those days now as ‘dark days‘, yet at the time, I wasn’t actually unhappy as I thought struggling with debt and a massive overdraft was just ‘normal’! I assumed that everyone was the same, not that I actually knew, since credit card debts were not something you chat about with your friends or colleagues. My family? They didn’t have a clue.

Perhaps the spending on holidays and new cars was me trying to live up to family expectations but of course it’s not their fault, it was all down to me. I enjoyed the life I led, paid for by my credit cards but it was unsustainable.

As I had followed a different path in my job and career, I mistakenly believed that early retirement wasn’t available for someone like me, when actually it was, if only I’d thought about it and remembered what my parents did.

My Definition of Retirement

I’m not going to get into a discussion of what ‘retirement’ means since within the FIRE community, the word means very different things to different people. The above definition however is the closest to what I think it means to me.

I’ll consider myself retired when I do no work for pay whatsoever. That’s not to say I’ll just be sitting at home, watching day-time tv and letting my brain go to mush (although sitting at home and playing video games all day has a certain appeal to my ‘gamer’ nature). I have a long hobby to-do/to-learn list so I’ll be filling my time doing and learning stuff.

If I end up doing any kind of activity for which someone is paying me, then I’ll consider myself semi-retired. If this activity is a full-time activity, then I’d no longer be retired.

Anyway, my point is that my parents retired over 20 years ago and have done absolutely no work whatsoever since they laid down their tools of trade. All their living expenses have been and continue to be covered by passive income from investments and property.

In the early days, there were numerous trips/cruises around the world as they made up for holidays they never had while they were working. These days, they continue to enjoy a happy retired life, living very comfortably and enjoying a great social life within their local community, have hobbies and still go on short holidays and trips, with the occasional longer trip to the UK.

That’s the sort of retirement I would love to have when I stop working and one of the reasons why I continue to be motivated to save and invest hard. My finances are likely to be tighter than my parents’ (less trips around the world for me, haha!) but I can see me having a relatively comfortable retirement if I continue to focus on my saving and investing.

It is a shame that I didn’t recognise and take heed of their (what would now be considered) FIRE lessons earlier but I have no regrets.

I lived a good life in the past, am living a good life now and will continue to save hard to ensure I live a good life in the future!

Holiday and Toilet Rolls

I had an excellent holiday – enjoyed lots of quality time catching up with family and friends.

Where are the customers’ yachts?

Managed to squeeze quite a lot in, including:

  • Weekend at an arts & music festival
  • National Geographic dinner event, with Professor Brian Cox as guest speaker – absolutely mind-blowing!
  • Michael McIntyre live in Hong Kong (funny, although jokes about housework fell a bit flat as pretty much all ex-pats have cleaners/maids…)
  • My Dad’s 80th birthday bash
  • My Gran’s 92nd birthday celebrations (maternal grandmother, in case anyone’s trying to do the maths…)
  • A couple of days in Macau – my gambling exploits ended with a HK$100 loss (about a tenner!)
  • A ‘hairy crab‘ evening with the siblings
  • Two ‘Superhero’ cinema trips (‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Justice League’)

St Paul’s Church Ruins in Macau, which you might just be able to see behind all the tourists…

Budget Blown

The last few times I’ve been on holiday, I’ve hardly bought anything but this time, not only did I do some Christmas shopping but I also actually purchased some new clothes – I know, whatever came over me!? 😉 So I spent quite a bit more than expected out there but it means much of my present-buying was done, so that was a result.

As mentioned above, it was my Dad’s birthday and there was a full-on formal banquet laid on, with the whole clan in attendance. It was fabulous to catch up with cousins, aunts and uncles I very rarely see and great to see all 4 generations get together. Although I knew I was going to be contributing towards the costs with my other siblings, I hadn’t put enough aside for it, so most of it came out of my ’emergency funds’, which I will have to ‘pay back’ over the next year.

This may put a little squeeze on my savings rate but I aim to tighten my spending further so am hoping there won’t be too much impact there.

Toilet Rolls

Some people (apparently) take toilet rolls with them when they go away on holiday – me, I brought some back! Groceries in HK are very expensive, much of the food is imported, so the own-brands of Tesco, M&S and Waitrose compete well over there versus imports from other countries.

However, I spotted that toilet paper in HK is cheaper than in the UK – half the price of an Andrex 9-pack for similar/better quality – so since I had space in my suitcase and I was under my luggage allowance, I brought back some rolls, haha!

And on that note, with the dark days hurtling towards the inevitable madness that is the Christmas holiday, I wish you all a very merry one and will see you all on the other side!

Looks like Zippy (from Rainbow) dressing up as Santa…

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?