A Not so Frugal Opportunity

When you look through FI and PF blogs, various reasons cited by people on why they pursue financial independence or want to retire early include:
  • Want to spend quality time with the family, in particular children
  • Want to be able to do things they’ve never done before or never had a chance to do before
  • Want to learn new skills
  • Want to visit places they’ve never been to before
Often, people express how it’s perhaps more important to enrich their life with ‘experiences’ rather than ‘things’ – collect great memories, not stuff.
Anyway, the fact is, I have been given the opportunity NOW (not right this minute but within the next 5 months) to achieve all the above points, but it will hit my savings rate, such that I will absolutely not hit my 50% savings rate goal and will not achieve my Future Fund target of £50k, although the markets have pretty much knocked that goal out of the window anyway!
So What’s Happening?
My sisters have invited me to join them on a family holiday.

When the subject was first brought up, I think I pulled a face, as I immediately thought of the costs and what it would do to my savings rate and my FI plan.

But when I thought about it again, I realised that not only was it an opportunity that I may not get again but that I could actually afford it, without dipping into my Future Fund and without going into debt.

The only ‘loser’ would be my savings rate, as I would not be saving (as much) money, since a chunk of it will be going towards the holiday.

Choices

As I have been pretty much living on just over 50% of my salary this past year, I’m in a position where I can choose what I want to do with the other half of my salary.

I have been choosing to save/invest it for this past year, as evidenced on this blog.

Now, I choose to spend some (not all) of it.

So I said “Yes!”

What’s the Holiday?

Next year, when I go on my usual trip to Hong Kong to visit the family, I will be there a week, where I will spend some time with my parents and my grandmother and catch up with friends out there.

I will then head out to Japan on a family skiing holiday with my sisters! Or rather snowboarding in my case!

Let me refer back to the above list:

  • Want to spend quality time with the family, in particular children
As well as spending time with my sisters, I will be spending some quality time with my niece and nephews. They’re aged between 6 and 8 and there will come a time when they will be far more interested in hanging out with their friends, rather than with their daft Aunt Weenie from the UK! This will be a great opportunity for me to create some great memories with them while I can.
  • Want to be able to do things they’ve never done before or never had a chance to do before
I’ve never been on an actual ski slope before, only ever had a few tries at snowboarding on the indoor snow slope at the Chill Factore a couple of years ago. If I were to wait til I retire, even if I were to retire early (in 10 years), I may feel that I’m too old to try this out for the first time! 
  • Want to learn new skills
I will learn how to snowboard properly! Oh and learn some Japanese words!
  • Want to visit places they’ve never been to before
I have never been to Japan!

Two boxes will be ticked off my ‘bucket list’!

When I embarked on my plan to achieve FI/RE, I realised very quickly that I couldn’t do it in the same way as Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme. That way was far too extreme, too frugal – I still want to live and enjoy my life, still be seen as vaguely ‘normal’ by my colleagues and friends.  I know this shouldn’t matter but it makes my life easier. I have enough personality quirks as it is, without displaying more!

With a decent plan and by cutting down on unnecessary expenses, I have made a relatively good start with my savings and investments, with very little impact on how I live and enjoy my life.
I was always going to continue travelling abroad for my holidays, especially as pretty much my entire family live on the other side of the world. My holidays are not extravagant – when I go to Hong Kong, I’m not staying in fancy-shmancy hotels, I’m staying with family so have no accommodation costs, (it’s a good job I can sleep anywhere as sometimes I’m on a sofa, occasionally on a camp-bed, depending on who I stay with!). When I go on short trips to Europe to get my sunshine fix, it’s to somewhere cheap and cheerful like Greece, spending as little money as possible – yes, even travelling with my own beach mat so I don’t have to pay 5 Euros for a sun-lounger!

This holiday within a holiday however will be my most expensive ever (I of course will be travelling economy class as always!).

Savings Rate
So, I will be unable to achieve my 50% average savings rate by the end of the year. Having just paid off my car loan, my savings rate was actually about to consistently start hitting above the 50% mark …until I decided to go on this holiday!

Based on what I’ve been told about the cost of the holiday, I reckon I will still be able to maintain a savings rate of around 30%, although this could be a challenge as it gets closer to Christmas…we’ll see.

30% is a still good rate compared to some, just not so good compared to what I’ve been able to achieve and rather rubbish against the goal I’ve set myself.

This should only be for the next four or five months, after which ‘normal’ savings rates should be resumed.
I know this holiday flies in the face of being frugal and striving for FI but I just feel that it’s an opportunity that I can’t let pass, not while I’m fit and healthy enough to go on such an activity holiday.

All the more reason for me to save/invest that much harder in 2016!

Incidentally, this is my 100th blog post! Yay! 🙂

Chinese Roller Coaster and Holiday Bits

Headline from a Hong Kong newspaper last week

While many eyes have been on the shenanigans in Greece over the last couple of weeks, over in China, all hell was breaking loose on the stock market, resulting in the Chinese government taking some severe (and rather unorthodox/questionable) action to prevent an almighty crash, one that could have mirrored the 1929 Wall Street Crash in terms of financial devastation. 
Fifty per cent of stocks were suspended from trading (over 1400 companies), while company bosses and major investors were banned from selling up for the next six months.

The share rout wiped nearly a third off the value of the market since mid June, but had been preceded by a year-long rally generating dizzying gains.

As the newspaper headline in the above picture states, on 8th July 2015, HK$1.4 trillion was wiped from the Shanghai Composite Index.

That’s equivalent to over £116,000,000,000.00.  In one day…yikes!

No wonder people were panicking!  With the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index also plummeting at the same time, I witnessed first hand family and friends wondering if they too should bail or hold, as they saw their portfolios fall off the edge of a cliff. Seems like many people buy shares on margin (borrow to invest), including one woman who (according to the newspaper) had re-mortgaged her apartment three times and was now desperate to sell her property as she had lost nearly all of her money in the stock market crash….

The market has since recovered slightly and I’ve learned that one of my sisters was brave enough to buy when everyone was selling and she has made a tidy sum with the subsequent upturn, enough to pay for her next couple of holidays overseas! She was obviously following Warren Buffet’s wise words of “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful“, although she may have had some prompting from her husband who’s an ex-trader!

Anyway, Ermine talks about it in more detail here and mentions how the ups and downs of the Chinese stock market could affect people who are invested in Emerging Markets, where there could be some exposure to China.

I don’t believe people outside of China can invest directly on the Shanghai Composite Index, but who would be brave enough?

A bit about my Holiday

I had a great couple of weeks in Hong Kong, spending quality time with my family and catching up with friends. The weather was very hot and humid, a welcome change from good ole British weather, although I gather there was a bit of a heatwave while I was away. Managed to squeeze in a couple of boat (junk) trips, a day out on the beach, two cinema trips, a free-style drawing event and lots of meals out – it was fab.

My family are all ok,  despite the cost of living being extremely high over there and continuing to rise. All working members of the family have very high disposable incomes so they’re actually all doing more than ok. 
In fact, with what was happening with the Chinese/Hong Kong stock markets, two of my sisters decided that they were better off with their spare money in property, so just like that, after a quick bit of researching (Zoopla and Google Maps), they put deposits down on properties in the UK. Nice to have cash spare and sitting in the bank like that, haha! They live very different lives from me!

The local English language newspaper (South China Morning Post) was full of adverts for Zone 1 London properties for sale – these apparently get snapped up rather quickly as they are often cheaper than prime properties in Hong Kong, so make great investments (although my sisters didn’t go for properties in London this time, they’ve opted for Manchester).

Holiday Spending

I didn’t spend too much on this trip and purchased only a pair of sandals and trainers, some small items for the kitchen, as well as a couple of gifts for colleagues. I got some cast-off clothes from my sisters (it’s great us all being around the same size!) and my soon-to-be-early-retired aunt gave me some surplus gym/casual wear.  Who needs to shop!?

I did spot one item while in a supermarket at such a ridiculous price that I just had to share here:

This is a gift box of Japanese grapes, sold in a high end supermarket (probably HK’s equivalent of Waitrose). 

Yes, the price is HK$758 – that’s £63 for a punnet of grapes, about £3 per grape!  Apparently the grapes were “rare, organic and specially harvested” – blah blah waffle!  There was only one punnet left on the shelf, so I’m guessing they’re quite popular despite the ridiculous price…oh how the daft rich people live, lol!

Anyway, just a couple of snaps below from my trip, plus a kind of ‘where’s Wally?’ kind of photo at the bottom (snapped by the professional photographer at the free-style drawing event I mentioned earlier) – yes, I am in the crowd, mingling and trying to blend in with all the young folk, haha! 

Those who have met me previously may spot me quite easily though!

UK FI/PF Bloggers Gathering

On Saturday, 21st March 2015, I attended my first UK Gathering, which was organised by Huw of FFB40. I say my ‘first’ because I know it won’t be my last!

The day nearly started off disastrously for me as I found out almost belatedly that there was a station at Birmingham other than International and New Street – I’d never heard of Moor Street – and that that was where I had to catch my connecting train to Stratford Upon Avon! Cue lots of running but I made it just as the train was pulling into the platform!
Meeting Strangers
It was a bright but rather chilly day in Stratford Upon Avon when I arrived and from the little I saw of it, it’s a beautiful town.
As is always the case (well, my case!) when meeting people you don’t know, it can be a little bit awkward but I found myself immediately at ease, everyone was really friendly. I did think it was funny that only 3 of us were bloggers (myself, Huw and M from There’s Value) – aside from spouses, the others didn’t appear to have their own blogs but were regular readers and part of the PF/FI community. Our gathering numbered 11 (12 if you include M’s little one in the pushchair!). The “most impressive journey award” went to Richard and Alison who drove all the way down from North Yorkshire!
What did I get out of the Gathering?
It was great to finally put faces to names and to meet new people. I found it liberating to be able to talk about money, ask financial questions (without people pulling a face!) and discuss investments with like-minded people. How great was it to talk about retiring early without someone mentioning a big lotto win! I picked up on stuff which I will do further research on and also was able to get some feedback on an idea (which may or may not include monkeys…) that I’ve had that’s been bubbling for a while but which I’m not quite ready to kick off just yet!
I really enjoyed hearing first hand what people did or were doing towards achieving FI, people from different backgrounds, different careers and jobs, some with young families, some with only a few years left before they think they can stop working, some on the verge of changing careers. Found it all really fascinating and interesting.

The other thing that I got out of this gathering was a bottle of home brew! As agreed, I swapped a bottle of my home brew bitter (still a bit shaken up from my running earlier!) for one of M’s bottles of perry, which I look forward to trying. 

I also gave a bottle to Huw as thanks for organising the gathering and even got a special label for the bottle to celebrate the occasion:

I left the gathering full of motivation, encouraged that the path that I’m taking is the right one for me.

My one complaint of the day?
The day went by far too quickly and I was unable to get the chance to talk to everyone properly. Partly my fault I guess, as I’m a bit rubbish at mingling. As I was sitting on the cold platform waiting for my train home, I was quite envious of those who were staying the night as they would be able to continue their conversations and discussions.

Next Gathering
The general consensus was that the gathering was a real success so it was only natural that there was talk of the next one. York has been suggested (evidently keeping along the theme of places of culture as a meeting place!), sometime in the summer – I’m sure there will be more info as dates/locations are looked at.
It will be great to see everyone again but also hopefully, there will be some new faces too.

Anyway, I’m so glad I made the effort to attend the meeting – thanks very much for organising it, Huw!

I’ve got a Date!

No, not that kind of date (sorry to disappoint some of you!).

Saturday 21st March 2015

On this day, I shall be travelling down to Stratford-upon-Avon to meet up with some fellow FI/PF bloggers!

Huw of Financially Free By 40 has organised a second UK Gathering!

Stratford-Upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s home town!

I’ve been fascinated with the big gatherings that Mr Money Mustache arranges over in the US and whilst ours won’t be anywhere near that sort of scale, it’s a start and I believe Huw is hoping to make it a regular sort of event, at least an annual one, I guess.
Location
The location was chosen as it was deemed to be fairly central for both people travelling down from the North and those travelling up from the South. Also, it’s place of history and culture – a place I’ve  never visited before so hey, I can be a bit of a tourist!  
I haven’t decided yet whether I will drive or take a leisurely train down – I’ll decide closer to the date and also when the exact place of meeting has been confirmed, although I’m sure it’ll be some pub!

Not the First Time

This won’t be the first time I’ll be meeting up with complete strangers after chatting to them on the internet. 
No, I’m not talking about online dating (sorry to disappoint some of you!).
Once upon a time, having internet connection at home was NOT the norm. I was one of those not-so-normal people. My ex was in IT, so both of us had laptops/PCs and embraced the internet at a time when most people didn’t own their own computers at home and only used the internet at work – this was around 1993-94.
I’ve always been into my fantasy/sci-fi stuff, including games (yes, I was/am a geek!) so the only people I communicated with online were fellow gamers – none of my ‘real friends’ or even family were online in those days!
However, I used to go to ‘gaming meets’ as it just seemed better to meet people in real life. The Press likes to paint the picture of online gamers as awkward introverts who can’t communicate in real life and who have no social lives. I’m sure some of them are like that but actually, I’ve found them to be a very sociable bunch, myself included!
I’ve also met up with people I’ve chatted to online on football forums to…attend football matches!

Join Us!

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to meeting like-minded people, people at different stages of the FI journeys, hearing about real life experiences, talking about my own experiences with people who are ‘on the same page as me’ and ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ so it’s a ‘win-win situation’ for all – how many clichés can I fit in here, haha?!

Gosh, I hope I’m not going to be nervous and start saying stuff like that for real when I meet everyone!

It’ll be good to discuss ideas, learn different stuff and make new connections and friends – all things that will affect my life for real, not my life in a game!  Plus, a bit of networking won’t go amiss!

Names

I guess that some people will just call me ‘Weenie’ instead of my real name – kind of expected I guess when people meet me (!) and I don’t really mind as it’s a nickname I’ve had since I was 18 and one that some of my uni friends still refer to me by! Although if there’s quite a few of us attending, perhaps we could have name badges!
Also, I’d best not forget to bring along a bottle of one of my home brew beers  – me and M from There’s Value have agreed to do a swap as she does home brewing too!

Anyway,  I have a feeling this is going to be a blast – exciting times! 🙂