O.O.O plus another PB win

Out Of Office

Blogging’s going on hold for a bit as I’m off on hols to Hong Kong (for around three weeks). My holidays are all budgeted for, although this particular one is going to blow my budget… we’ll see anyway!

I’m really looking forward to the break as I’ve not had a single day off since I returned to work in May and as we all know, weekends just aren’t enough so my brain is a little fried!

As usual, I’m stressing a little (I always do before I go away) but once I’m on that plane, I’ll be fine! Can’t wait to catch up with the family and also to soak up some rays and warm weather, hopefully get rid of some of these winter blues!

November’s savings and numbers update will likely not appear until the second week of December, assuming I get myself semi-organised upon my return!

I’ll catch up on my reading and comments when I get back.

Another Win

Anyway, I’ll end this brief update with the news that I got another Premium Bond win – yay! Just a £25 prize but better than nowt!

My Premium Bonds represent the small (10%) cash element of my portfolio, not likely to earn much in the long run (although I live in hope!) but safe and stable (strong and stable??) compared to the rest of my portfolio, which is pretty much all in equities.  Here’s to more wins!

Anyway, catch you all when I get back! 🙂

FIRE Escape in Sheffield + Win

So, Huw from Financially Free by 40 had organised another FIRE Escape gathering, this time in Sheffield.

I wasn’t able to attend the entire weekend so just dropped in on the Saturday.  This was the 4th such meeting I’ve attended.

The venue was Weaver’s Cottage, a superb detached, stone-built, Grade II listed property. It did look a bit stark on the outside but inside, it was beautifully refurbished with new, modern amenities.

It was good to catch up with Huw, Lou, M, Martina and Richard again, but also great to meet nine new faces – James, Ed, Eva, Valerie, Anne, Cora, Helen, John and Organised Redhead (OR did attend the last FIRE Escape, but wasn’t there the day I turned up!).

As with previous FIRE Escapes, it was a good mix of people, everyone at various stages of their lives and FI plans, from savvy millennials using enterprising ideas to make money, right through to folk who had already retired and were living off their investment income and those who are FI already who were happy to share ideas and advice.

We talked about all kinds of stuff including investing (shares and investment trusts), health and fitness, buy to lets and shared ideas on how to generate money such as buying stuff to sell on eBay, making things to sell, Kindle publishing, P2P, investing in whisky – maybe not a good one for you, FiL! 😉 and matched betting.

I have to say that after each gathering I’ve attended, I have ALWAYS come away with fresh ideas or end up learning about something which I want to research further – I learned some new stuff about matched betting (thanks M and James) and about investment trusts (thanks John).

I was there for 6 hours which just flew by and I wish I could have stayed longer. Had it not been for the fact that I really dislike driving down the Snake Pass in the dark, I would have stayed later. As it was, when it started to rain as I was driving back, I was glad that I left when I did.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I had the chance to chat to everyone properly but hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity next time.

Try It!

If you’ve never considered attending a FIRE Escape before, I would highly recommend these friendly and informal gatherings. I believe it’s Huw’s intention to continue to organise them and I for one am very grateful, as his efforts have enabled me to talk to people who understand what I’m trying to achieve and I love hearing about other people’s stories and plans for FI.

Whilst it’s great to put faces to bloggers, it’s also great to meet people who do not have blogs but who have similar goals, so cheers Huw for organising these FIRE Escapes!

PS – M, I forgot to grab one of your home brews before I left! Doh!

Premium Bond Win

I was out most of Friday so although I saw that I had received an email from NS&I about my premium bonds, I didn’t get the chance to log in to check my account and I only remembered after I’d gotten home from Sheffield:

I won £50 (2 x £25)! It’s my first win in 9 months. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned this but some of my redundancy money has been used to purchase more premium bonds. These bonds are accounted for separately (in my spreadsheets) from the bonds in my Future Fund since they’re not part of my long-term plan.

Yes, premium bonds make terrible investments – however, if you don’t view them as ‘investments’, but as somewhere to park your cash because you’ve already exhausted the high interest current accounts etc, then I don’t see anything inherently bad about them. Plus, you can win something, like I have! 🙂

Anyway, until I’m gainfully employed again, as and when I need funds for my living expenses, I’ll be selling some of the bonds. Let’s hope I’ll have notched up a few more wins by then! Unlike Jim who treated himself with his winnings, I’ll be chucking mine into my ISA!

A Bit on my Holiday

When it was confirmed that I was being made redundant at work, I had already booked my holiday to Hong Kong to spend Christmas with the family, so I took the opportunity to extend my stay by a few weeks, resulting in my longest time away from home since I was a student!

(Cue some random photos from my trip!)

Time

The long break meant that for once, I had time to enjoy things at a leisurely pace – previous visits have often left me feeling like I needed another holiday as they’ve been packed with too many activities all squeezed into the relatively short space of time that I’m out there for my usual annual trip.

I last visited this place as a teenager – didn’t recognise any of it!

On this occasion, things which time allowed me to do included:

  • Spending more time with my parents and grandmother
  • Spending quality one-to-one time with my siblings
  • Going on a couple of hikes (including one extreme off-track one!)
  • Playing Mahjong
  • Going kayaking
  • Playing badminton and football with my nephews (although I did suffer a little tumble #spectacularfall. My knees are still bruised!)
  • A lot of walking, although this was in part due to various members of the family (including me!) downloading the game ‘Pokémon Go‘ and we went on family walks to catch Pokémon, haha!

Encountered on one of my hikes!

Spending

I spent a little more than usual but only because my holiday was longer. My biggest purchase was a new suitcase (£125), as the old, battered one I’d been using for the past 5-6 years finally needed to be replaced (handle broke). I don’t think I was ever tempted to go on a holiday spending splurge, particularly as the exchange rate was so bad. I think most of my money went on food/eating out.

So, I just picked up a couple of items of clothing, some dried foodstuffs, small bits for the kitchen and bathroom and of course, the musical instrument as mentioned in my goals post!

Work/Retirement

My Mum inevitably put a little pressure on me to stay on and seek employment in HK. A decade ago, this would probably have been something I would have seriously considered. However, at this stage of my life, I do not feel the urge to embark on a complete life and career change. To earn decent money, it’s the usual rat race and I don’t feel inclined to join a new one in a different country right now.

Good old Blighty (pre and post Brexit) remains my home, I have a good circle of friends and feel that the best chance I have of achieving FI and retiring early is by staying and working here.  Just need to find myself a job but as I write this, I’m not in a particular rush.

Whilst I was leisurely enjoying my holiday, I pondered on what it would be like to retire in HK. My parents lead a very happy retired life here – they have a big network of friends, a busy social life, are close to the grandchildren, go on trips and outings all the time and generally want for nothing. They enjoy more warm weather than cold too.

The local seafood counter offers a good variety!

If I retired there, I would be close to family and be able to enjoy all the things I love about HK. However the big elephant in the room would be – where would I live? Certainly not long term with family – I can’t remember (fortunately) the last time I’ve been involved in a proper family argument but that’s because I’m never around long enough for one!

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places to live – more so than London so you can imagine the extremely unlikely proposition of me buying property out there. Renting too would be pretty much out of the question.

So financially, it makes sense for me to continue with my plans to ultimately retire in the UK. Just need enough to live on and have enough to pay for airfares for my visits!

I rubbed the Laughing Buddha’s tummy!

Back Home

As I get over the last bits of my jet lag and a nasty cold (probably picked up on the plane journey back), I think my brain has finally had time to process that I’m jobless.

I still feel quite relaxed and unworried, but I know this feeling won’t last when I get into job hunting mode!

It’s the surprise leaving do of our ex-CEO tonight (he thinks he’s meeting a few colleagues, but there’s a ‘This is Your Life’ thing planned for him!) so I’ll be looking for networking opportunities as well as catching up with ex-colleagues and friends.

I also have an appointment at the Job Centre on Monday, though I don’t think I’m entitled to any benefits. We’ll see anyway.

Have a good weekend all!

February 2016 Savings, plus other Updates

Here’s my belated February update – the numbers are probably not so consistent with other months as I had to use figures I jotted down from 20th Feb:

Feb16saved

Anyway, I managed another savings rate of 51.6%! Woohoo! :-)

This really is a great start for me, though unfortunately it’ll be a real struggle to maintain this level of savings in March (see below), or even for the rest of the year as things have popped up unexpectedly in my calendar which I hadn’t accounted for when I set my goal.

Still, I’ve already, in only the second month, equalled my 2015 efforts, where I only managed to hit >50% savings rate twice all year, so I am very happy with this.

Only other income added to savings was £50 from rent received.

Future Fund 

Bear Market, what Bear Market? I was rather surprised to see my Future Fund bounce back already – this now stands at £61,019.63. After pondering upon things, I decided to take on board Ermine’s comment from my post earlier in the month and have included my work DC pension within my Future Fund (note that I still made a gain from last month even if I don’t include the work pension).

Dividends and Other Income

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