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.

2017 Goals and some New Stuff




Happy belated New Year to you all!

The only thing that I’m certain of this year is that it will be different.

There’s a good chance that it will be better (I started it off with a great holiday!) but as there’s no guarantee, there’s also a chance that it could be worse… In any case, I’ll be doing my utmost for it not to be the latter!

Anyway, back to the main topic…Goals!

I only set 5 goals last year and the focus on just a few goals seemed to work well for me so I’m going to do something similar for 2017.

So without further ado, here they are:

2017 Financial Goals:

  • Average 50% savings rate – Same old, same old! I have not been able to achieve this goal yet (3 attempts so far!) but I just feel that if I can nail this (while working), and continue to keep my living expenses down, it’s the best way to make progress on increasing my Future Fund.  A very challenging one in any case, considering my current unemployed status but hey, may as well aim high! This month and the next two will be covered by my pay in lieu of notice so I will aim for 50% for these 3 months anyway – will see what happens after.
  • £1,500 total dividend income – Last year, I surprisingly hit the £1,000 milestone in total dividend income. This is another tough goal, as in order to increase my dividend income, I need to invest more capital. Transferring my work DC pension to one of my SIPPs will help towards this goal, as I’ll stick the transferred funds into income-paying ETFs. If I can get an average of >£100 per month, I’ll be very, very happy.
  • Earn £4,000 Matched Betting (MB) income – This number may not seem very ambitious considering the earning potential of MB but I still think this won’t be an easy one for me. Given that I’m not working, I could/should be doing some MB during the day but that doesn’t appeal to me and I still consider MB a hobby, I don’t want it to become a chore. There’s also the real threat of getting more of my betting accounts ‘gubbed’, (where I can no longer take advantage of free bets etc) but let’s hope I can continue to rake in the profits.

2017 Non-Financial Goals

  • Borrow and read 20 library books – The same as last year’s goal. Borrowing from the library means that I spend less on books but also means that I am supporting my local library services. I’m going to try to read a total of 30 books this year (I track my progress here via Goodreads), of which at least 20 must be borrowed from the library.
  • Read 3 non-fiction books – Last year’s goal was reading 3 finance-related/investment books. This year, I’ll broaden it out to just topics that interest me (including financial and investment topics). Doesn’t sound like much but as I’ve said before, my passion is reading fiction so this is a challenge for me! Hopefully, I can borrow them from the library so I can work on two goals at the same time!

Charity Goal – Down the Toilet?

As per last year, I will continue to donate at least 10% of my MB profits to charity, so if I hit my MB goal this year, that will be £400. The main charities I donate to regularly are Age UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, British Red Cross and Magic Breakfast. I also fund ‘charity loans’ via Kiva.

However, the first donation I’ve made this year was to sponsor TheFireStarter to run the London Marathon in April. Check out his fundraising page here.

Anyway, this year I will set myself a charity goal, which will be with Toilet Twinning:

Tearfund, registered charity No. 265464 (England and Wales)

2.4 billion people don’t have somewhere safe, clean and hygienic to go to the loo1, something that we’ve taken for granted every day of our lives.

Toilet Twinning is a simple way to solve a serious problem and save lives.

You can twin your loo (like towns are twinned) with a latrine halfway around the world, in a country of your choosing. For a larger donation, you can twin with a school block or with toilets in a displacement camp.

My goal is to twin with a School Block of toilets (donate £240), as well as continuing to support above-mentioned charities. My donation will help build a block of toilets at a school, providing safe, clean and hygienic sanitation and also help fund hygiene education and clean water projects.

While Huw’s formidably aiming to build an entire school with his charity aims, I’m just going for the loos – small but just as important, we all know what it’s like when we need to go! 😉

The lack of a loo in certain developing countries makes women and girls a target for sexual assault as they go to the toilet in the open. Many get bitten by snakes as they squat in the grass! Having no toilets to go to in school, girls often drop out at puberty.

I hope my donations will make a difference to people’s lives.

New Stuff

The following aren’t goals as such but new things that I will be doing in 2017:

  • New Job – I will have a new job at some point.
  • New Hobby – When thinking about what I want to do in my spare time when I’m retired, learning to play a musical instrument is high on my list. Although I’m not musical at all – I didn’t progress past the recorder and glockenspiel at school and I don’t think the triangle counts, haha – playing an instrument has always been something I’ve fancied doing. Anyway, I thought, why wait til I’m retired? So, that’s how I came to buy an instrument while I was out in Hong Kong, which I brought back with me! I’ll reveal more info in a later post! 🙂
  • New Exercise – I found out recently that there’s a place near me where all comers can play netball. I was on the school team so the last time I played was when I was 17! Following the recommendation of one of my ex-colleagues, I thought I’ll check this out – I’ll attend my first session in the next two weeks. The extra exercise will supplement my gym classes as I need to shift some post-holiday poundage! Unfortunately, I’m suffering from a bad cold at the moment, so exercise isn’t on the forefront of my mind.
  • New Man – errrrr…we’ll see! 😉

So that’s it for my goals – did you set any goals for 2017?

If so, good luck! 🙂

 (footnote 1 –  also known as toilet, lavatory, WC, bog, privy or bathroom, plus some other names not mentioned!)

Olympian Efforts




rio

I love the Olympics so have been watching and enjoying the games in Rio – I’ve stayed up as long as possible to catch certain finals and am pretty much watching as much as I can, mixing in all kinds of events and occasionally shedding tears myself when I see the winners cry with joy/relief.

The hours and hours and years of practice, dedication and single-minded focus to win a medal that only comes round every 4 years. Miss your chance and it’s another 4 years til your next attempt, and that’s if your body is still young/fit enough to compete at that level.

I’d love to apply the Olympic ethos of ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ to achieving FI/RE but alas, I couldn’t come up with anything clever off the top of my head, haha!

Not that I’m comparing myself to an Olympian (I certainly don’t make the sacrifices required) but in my own way, I am prepared to dedicate years of focus and perseverance to achieve my ultimate goal.

FI Steeplechase

Maybe my journey to FI is a bit like running in the steeplechase event.

I’m just jogging around the track, saving and investing as I go along, rubbing shoulders with other PF/FI bloggers. It’s an international field, mostly US, others from Europe and of course, various Team GB members!

This is no ordinary race however – everyone is going along at their own pace, the aim just being to reach the finish line and achieve whatever personal goal has been set.

The runners are wearing their own kits, which some have saved up to buy new, others have bought theirs from bargain shops, although TFS appears to be wearing old grey underpants!

Check out Mr Z shuffling along – more ‘Running Dead’ than ‘Walking Dead’ with that high savings rate! Oh look, Huw and RIT appear to be at the finish line already!

Around the track, there will be the usual steeplechase obstacles that need to be navigated past successfully. In this case, obstacles such as redundancy, financial emergencies and other life events. Fall at the hurdle and I’m just going to have to pick myself up and carry on.

Like bad weather conditions, other external conditions beyond our control may occur to make our progress around the track more precarious, such as stock market crashes, a drop in interest rates/yields, investments going sour. We need to make our way through these, hold our nerve and not panic.

All winners?

So, we’ll all be winners when we get to that finish-line – that would be the happy ending except that not all of us will get there.

Some of us may change our minds as we’re plodding round the track.

Others may not be able to get past certain obstacles.

Still others may need to take a long rest before continuing their journey due to changes in their circumstances.

And some, after reaching their goal, may carry on running, just for the sheer joy of it or because they just want to keep going for a while longer (some call this the ‘one more year’ syndrome but I see nothing wrong with doing this if that’s what you want to do).

All, however will have learned something valuable from attempting the race in the first place.

So, I’m on the track and I’ve got a long long way to run til I get to that finish line. My ‘speed’ will depend on my savings rate, earnings potential,  keeping expenses low and some luck with the external conditions.

I can see obstacles looming on the horizon – let’s hope I prove to be mentally as well as financially prepared to leap over them!

 

A Little More Giving + Home Brew #7




Whilst not specifically one of my 2016 goals, I mentioned that I intend to regularly donate a little more to charity.  I have opened a CAF Charity account so will be topping this up on a monthly basis.

Of course, I could have started donating regularly without opening such an account but the CAF account allows me to donate anonymously as I dislike being contacted by charities and don’t want to feel like I’m being ‘guilt tripped’ into handing over more money after I’ve made a donation.

I don’t have a lot of time to volunteer, so donating a bit of money is all I can really do right now. I already make adhoc donations throughout the year, eg sponsor friends on charity runs, Movember sponsorships, Christmas giving tree etc. These monthly donations will be on top of my usual donations.

Tawcan’s Christmas post made me think again about how lucky I am to be in a position where I can put relatively large amounts of money aside towards FI and early retirement when there are lots of people less fortunate than myself who are not living happy lives. Other bloggers such as TheFireStarter and Huw @FFB40 (also Organised Redhead) donate regularly too so it’s about time I put my hand in my pocket more often and do my little bit. Others donate their time, some others donate blood, which is something I don’t do (although I do donate unwanted clothing and books etc).

One Charity or Many?

There are many charities I feel strongly about – close members of my family have been affected by cancer and heart conditions so I like to support those charities. Children, the homeless, the hungry, the elderly – I want to help these too but would it be better to just concentrate on a single charity or help as many as possible?

Perhaps I could just choose one charity and help that one but I’m not sure I could just stick with just the one as I wouldn’t know which one to help and would feel bad about not being able to help others.

However, what I should do perhaps is to whittle down on the number of charities I want to help so I can donate a little more to my chosen ones – I can always select other charities next time but in the main, I want to try to help smaller and more local charities.

Warm Fuzzy Feeling

Whilst it makes me feel good (and a little less selfish) to donate, the amount I’m donating is really quite pitiful in the scheme of things – I am still in my wealth accumulation phase, only really at the start of my saving/investing journey so I’m very much thinking of me and my own priorities first.

My donation by  itself is unlikely to change anything but I’d like to think that it just goes towards some ‘greater good’ and hopefully not squandered like certain charities.

I’d like to think that when I do get to FI and no longer have to work full-time, I will be able to donate some of my time and energies towards charitable causes.

Anyway, until then, this is the small way in which I’ll try to help out.

Winter/Spring Brew

I wasn’t organised enough last October to put a ‘Christmas brew’ on so I didn’t do this festive kit until January – named after Santa’s favourite reindeer, ‘Dasher the Flasher‘! 🙂

The brew was just about ready for me to take a few bottles to the recent FIRE Escape gathering in Wales, but some bottles still aren’t quite ready so this brew has taken a while to condition.

FireEscapelabel1

Customised beer labels, no less!

The kit produced 44 bottles (just over 21 litres/37 pints). As the kit cost me £23, this works out as £0.52 per bottle or £0.62 a pint.

The beer is very clear and pours a good head (yay!). Not very bitter at all, with some sweet tones, a bit like liquorice (according to Lou).

dasher

Alcohol strength just over 4% so very drinkable over a weekend!

I think I prefer this brew to the last one I made and certainly, I would try to put this one on again in the winter (the kits are only available then).

I’ve now done 6 beer kits and one cider kit. I was planning to brew (and document) 4 more beer kits before I revert to my favourites and just brew those.

However, with finances a little tighter this month, I’m going to brew a kit that I’ve done previously (Woodford’s Wherry), only because I have one spare.

A bit more pressure this time round as it won’t just be colleagues and friends sampling this one, it’ll be the first time my family will be able to try the fruits of my labours….eek!

Next proper home brew update in that case will probably be late summer.

In the meantime…CHEERS! 🙂