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!

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!)

FIght Club

TheFIREstarter’s comment on Monevator’s recent post about financial independence, where he alluded that the two contributors to the website (The Investor and The Accumulator) were the same person and that the Investor was the alter-ego, ie the Tyler Durden from the film ‘Fight Club‘, got me thinking that as someone striving for FI, I too am part of a ‘secret’ and ‘underground’ community, a club, a… ‘FIght Club’!

FIclub

Rules

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club

So says the most famous quote from the movie and how apt it is in relation to FI.

Like most people striving for FI, I do not talk about it.

Firstly, people would not believe me.

Secondly, they might be jealous.

Thirdly, they’d think I was loaded or had won the lottery.

Lastly, they would just wonder what I would do with all my time as I’d be bored to tears doing nothing. Apparently.

I don’t talk to my colleagues about it – I think I mentioned Mr Money Mustache one time and nobody was interested enough to even check out the website.

I don’t talk to my family about it – I’m sure they’ll be supportive but unlikely to think I’ll succeed.

Nobody I know in real life knows I blog about aiming for FI – aside from fellow FI-wannabes I’ve met on FIRE Escape gatherings.*

My best friend has an idea of what I am trying to do but doesn’t know the full extent of it (she only sees my cutting back on buying things).

Aiming for FI can be somewhat lonely but the whole FI/PF blogging community – the FIght Club – makes it less so. We’re not on our own in this secret club!

Consumers

Another great quote from the film is:

We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.

I used to buy a lot of stuff I didn’t need but it wasn’t to impress people I didn’t like, it was because I equated happiness with buying and owning new stuff.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case – these past couple of years, I’ve avoided going shopping unless absolutely necessary, yet my wardrobe and cupboards are still full of clothes and shoes, which I can wear without my friends being ashamed to be with me haha!

It’s my birthday next month and my friends and family are asking me what I want. I’m really struggling because there is actually nothing that I want. I do however need a new pair of trainers so that can be something to suggest.

I have two weddings to go to later in the year so I can’t get round with not getting one new outfit but it certainly won’t be anything expensive – I don’t need to impress anyone but mysef!

*EDIT – at these gatherings, it’s not really like a Fight Club, ie we don’t beat each other up!

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! 🙂