2021 Goals

A new year begins
A time for optimism
Look to the future

At some point in December, me and my siblings got so bored of quizzes that we started making up Haiku poems (something I last did when I was a schoolgirl) in our Whatsapp group just for something different to do, so I thought I’d start this post with one!


Anyway, it was back to work for me on 4th January and although my brain felt suitably rested, my ten-day break really didn’t seem long enough.

Right, onto the main topic…Goals!

I was scribbling some notes (yes, I still like to use pen and notepad to initially draft blog posts) when Boris announced the latest national lockdown measures.

I decided on one ‘lockdown goal’ (see below in non-financial goals) but apart from that one, I decided that I didn’t want to make a big deal of the situation.

As with previous years, I can focus better if I only set myself a few goals, with little room for distraction. This seems to work for me so I don’t see a point in changing this. Apologies if this doesn’t make very exciting reading but such is my life!

I managed to hit three of my six goals last year, so at least I know those goals were on the challenging side

So without further ado, here they are:

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Menopause – Another Reason to FIRE?

(Warning – this post might be of more interest to women and mentions female bodily functions…)

Looking around this community, people cite numerous reasons for wanting to FIRE including:

– they hate their jobs
– even if they don’t hate their jobs, they don’t want to be working into their 40s/50s/60s/70s (delete as applicable)
– they want freedom to do what they want to do
– they want more time for families/friends/hobbies/travel/keeping healthy
– they want to be in control of their personal finances
– they want financial security so they don’t have to rely on anyone else for income (including the state)

One reason to FIRE which I haven’t seen mentioned is the menopause.

Menopause

Image from Raleigh OB/GYN Centre

The menopause isn’t mentioned much at all in the FIRE community because it applies mostly to older women and there aren’t so many of us on the FIRE blogging circuit.

Something similar apparently can also afflict some older men – here’s what the NHS says about that.

The menopause generally marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, due to changes in hormones in the body. The average age for menopausal women is 51 but some women can enter menopause in their 40s.

Whilst no longer being able to get pregnant will be welcomed by some women (eg, me!), there’s a big long list of not-very-nice symptoms which often accompany the menopause including:

  • Hot flushes/night sweats (which can disrupt sleep)
  • Irregular and/or very heavy periods (for women used to regular bleeding, unexpected heavy bleeding will catch you out – I speak from experience…)
  • Weight gain (curse of the middle-aged spread!)
  • Mood swings (these can be even more erratic and extreme than ones experienced in younger years)
  • Headaches and migraines (again, more extreme forms of the ones previously experienced)
  • Joint pains (feels like arthritis but isn’t)
  • Digestive problems (changes in hormones can lead to stomach upsets/cramps)
  • Tingling extremities (bouts of pins and needles)
  • Fatigue/Disrupted sleep
  • Depression
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety/panic disorders
  • Osteoporosis – bone density begins to drop during menopause
  • Memory lapses and difficulty concentrating – lower levels of oestrogen can often lead to lack of focus, forgetfulness and lapses in concentration.

There are other possible symptoms which I’ve not included and whilst it’s unlikely (I would hope) that I will end up suffering from all of them, speaking to my Mum and my aunt, I’ll probably unfortunately have to put up with at least some of them…

Why would the Menopause be a reason to FIRE?

Following a few departures at work, I am now the oldest woman in our office, with the majority of other women being in their mid-20s, early 30s. Us women are, however, vastly outnumbered by the men (current ratio around 25/75).

My day-to-day job is quite fast moving, with tight deadlines, quick turnarounds of requests, lots of multi-tasking and juggling of priorities. At the end of the day, it is just an office (wfh) job, nothing special or critical, but I do it well.

What if due to suffering from menopausal symptoms (particularly the last ones I mentioned on my above list) I am unable to perform my job effectively?

Forget to do tasks. Miss deadlines. Get confused due to lack of concentration or sleep. Respond too slowly. Panic about the workload.

And that’s not even accounting for the physical effects which my body might be enduring.

I will of course try to help myself by eating well and exercising but ‘brain-fog’ will be harder to deal with and may lead to me not being able to do my job properly.

It’s never really in the news how menopausal women are treated at work (they will probably be called ‘miserable’, ’emotional’ and ‘dizzy’ behind closed doors) but I can imagine not really sympathetically, if this article I found is anything to go by.  Will HR be sympathetic and provide support? Would I ask for such support? I’m not sure…

I hope I won’t suffer too much and that if I do get the symptoms, the onslaught isn’t for a few years yet and I’ll be able to get out of working before it all kicks in.

I might not be able to control my hormones and how they affect my body, (although HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can help some women), but I can control my finances and if it gets to the point where I can’t work or do my job properly, at least I will be still be able to pay my bills and have some time to allow the worst of the symptoms to pass.

I’ve just had a thought – which would be more surprising/shocking?

I left my job because:

  1. I’m retiring early
  2. I’m menopausal
  3. I’ve had enough

Answer number 2 might be worth going for, if I want to kill the conversation dead!

I hope this hasn’t been too dreary to read – for those interested (and still reading), I reckon I’m probably pre-menopausal right now, just starting to get one or two of the above symptoms this past year, but nothing significant.

Other than that, I feel well and fit, am at my ideal/chosen weight, sleep well at night, feel as content as I can be, pandemic notwithstanding. My Sis would probably argue that I have mood swings but that’s more likely to be as a result of us both cooped in under the same roof during lockdown!

I am in a way looking forward to my periods ultimately stopping so I no longer have to spend money on sanitary products  – yes, I know I could really follow the FIRE ethos and switch to menstrual cups to save money but I’d rather not make those times of the month any more inconvenient!

Ok, womanly stuff over (for now) – normal blog posts shall resume in due course! 🙂

 

Earn While You Walk

I always have various unfinished posts and ideas sitting in my Drafts folder so this is me having a bit of a clear out.

These Boots Are Made for Walkin’

I’m not a fan of strolling but I don’t mind a bit of fast or power walking.  With the gyms locked down (prior to the recent reopenings), I added walking to my exercise routine.

One loop around the estate is a 9-min fast walk and I try to do this twice a day (rain  or shine), before I start work and after I’ve logged off for the day. I’m not walking any great distances on a daily basis – it’s probably more important to me that I push my heart rate up when I’m walking.

That said, I’ve also been on a few 6-7 mile walks on trails near where I live and last month did a trail in Yorkshire.

Get Paid to Walk

At around the time I started doing more walking, I came across an Android-only app called winwalk*. The blurb states:

winwalk is a free and easy to use pedometer that will motivate you to walk more every day and will boost your activity level

The bonus is that you can get paid with egift cards/vouchers.

Scam or real? I thought I’d try it out.

So, for every 100 steps which are tracked by the app, you are awarded one coin. Coins are coverted into gift cards.

You need 20,000 coins to convert into a gift card. The app uses the arbitrary ‘healthy’ measure of 10k steps a day to cap the amount of coins you can earn from walking to just 100 coins a day.

So just from walking, assuming that you clock 10k steps every day, that would take 200 days to accumulate enough coins to redeem a voucher. Hmm…doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, particularly as I only average around only 5k a day?

But wait, there are other ways to earn more coins, including watching video ads, downloading and playing games and answering surveys.

I’ve been doing the latter and have found it relatively easy to earn a few hundred more coins each day, on top of the 100 coin limit you can earn from walking.

Recent  surveys I’ve answered have been quite interesting, including ones on my shopping habits during lockdown, my work situation during the pandemic and my finances (all anonymous).

You even get awarded a few coins if you don’t qualify for surveys so it’s probably worth clicking as many surveys as you want to spend/waste time on. Surveys can last from 1-15 mins – usually the longer the survey, the more coins you are awarded.

So after a little over 2 months, I’d collected my 20k coins and I painlessly redeemed them for my chosen gift voucher:

Other giftcards are available, including (at the last check, as they seem to change periodically) Argos, Tesco, Currys/PC World, Primark, Nike, Sports Direct and Spotify to name a few.

This app obviously isn’t going to make you rich but if you’re going to be clocking up your steps anyway as you go about your daily life, when you take the dog out for a walk etc, why not have your steps go towards earning gift cards? All the other stuff, eg surveys are optional and require little effort even if you do choose to do them.

A couple of notes:

  • I have the app set so it’s running in the background all the time. I don’t know if it works on any other setting
  • Make sure you bank all the coins you earn so they are added to your account. The collected coins are reset at midnight so if not banked, you could lose coins you’ve earned

Conclusion

Although I’ve returned to the gym, I’ve continued to walk daily so perhaps lockdown has helped me develop more active behaviour for the long term and as such, I’ll continue with this app a while longer to collect my coins!

[*referral link – if you sign up via my link, I get some coins to go towards my next gift card]

Information Overload

I think I’ve been suffering from information overload or rather, infoxication.

From originally wanting to know everything about the pandemic and the economic and health repercussions of the virus, I’m at the point where it’s just getting overwhelming for my poor brain and sanity to cope with.

I feel that all I need to know right now are actual specifics about lockdown and how it will affect me personally (ie when and what is being relaxed, who I can meet up with and where) and from my employer, when/if I’ll be going back to the office.

That’s it.

I really don’t need or want to know any more. I used to watch the daily Coronavirus update but even that was getting a bit too much.

At some point in the future, I might be interested in reading more about what the various experts and governments around the world should have/shouldn’t have done but I’d rather read about it as a historical event which I lived through – that’s assuming I will live through this.

Maybe HBO will do a Chernobyl-like mini-series about it to dramatise all the lies and incompetence but also pay homage to the brave and the inspirational.

I’ve tried to cut back on my use of social media.

The weekly Zoom calls I have with my friends are great but also remind me how much I miss them.

I still check out Twitter for my business/investing news and although I haven’t unfollowed or blocked anyone, I’ve muted a LOT of people who were just spouting negativity. I know things will get worse,  I just don’t want to be bombarded with this fact every day in a hundred different ways.

Give me more stories about Captain Tom Moore.

I’m still reading other FIRE blogs as many are continuing with their goals and there’s still a sense of positivity, whether they’re volunteering or even when there’s been redundancy.

I’m sooooo glad that the German football league has started as my feed will now have a trickle of positive but irrelevant tweets.

I’m really craving reading something that I’m interested in but which has nothing to do with whether people are going to die or that the country will go down in flames during the worst recession in history.

I also recently developed the terrible habit of checking my phone excessively while I’m watching tv, in between reading chapters of my book and worse, it’s really distracting me while I’m working.

I came across the Forest app (free for Android) which supposedly helps you focus on tasks at hand.

Basically, you set a time for however long you want to concentrate (and not be distracted by your phone) and if you succeed, you grow a tree for your virtual forest.

If you fail (by giving up), you end up with a withered tree and you don’t want that messing up your nice little forest, do you?

My forest after a week

Yes, it’s a little gimmicky but I’ve found that it has helped me somewhat with my concentration.

Anyway, there’s a better review of the app at The Money Mountain, where I first read of the app.

How is everyone else doing and does anyone else use apps to help with their concentration/focus?

Hope you’re all enjoying the bank holiday.