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.

For a Dentist, Mine wasn’t too Bad…

I made an appointment the other day for a dental check-up and was shocked to find that my dentist had had the audacity to retire early!

There’s me planning my own early retirement and yet for some reason, I’m half expecting everyone else around me to continue doing their jobs forever!

This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise – over the years, my dentist has talked about his kids going to uni, then graduating and then all getting jobs in locations around the world.

I’ll Miss Him

If it’s at all possible to miss your dentist, then I will miss him. Always jolly, with a pleasant manner, the kind who liked to chat/crack jokes while your mouth was wide open! But not cheap – I’ve mentioned here and there where I’ve had to fork out for expensive treatment but that’s the price I’m paying now for avoiding appointments when I was too lazy younger. Still, my dental fees paid over the years probably helped with his kids’ education haha!

He was the only dentist I’d seen as an adult – I must have just graduated when I first saw him (as a young dentist) as I remember receiving free treatment! I have now met the new replacement dentist and it’s going to take a while for me to feel at ease in the dentist’s chair again.

I wonder if my old dentist spared a thought for his patients as he swanned off into retirement?

What if this last year was his ‘one more year’?

If I ever saw him in the pub, I would like to ask him!

So where am I going with this post?

Well, until my dentist had retired, I hadn’t previously considered the impact of someone’s surprise early retirement on the people around them.

So I wonder…

People at Work

When I hit FI, RE will follow pretty swiftly, I am quite sure of that.

So when I retire early, I don’t think my boss would be too surprised when I hand in my notice, as she will suddenly recall that I did mention to her about retiring early (when I first met her, before she became my boss, haha!). I do occasionally mention investing to her but of course, no details. I guess it’ll be a shock to everyone else.

My boss and immediate colleagues would miss the work that I do and I’d like to think that they would miss me too!  I’m not trying to make out that my work is so critical or so important but it’s a job which I perform reasonably well and I’m now viewed as someone who ‘knows things’ (I also drink….that was for GOT/Tyrion Lannister fans 🙂 )

Of course, I’m not irreplaceable, someone else will just come along and do my job. Maybe my ex-colleagues could reminisce – “That Weenie, she wasn’t too bad...”

My Close Friends (My Inner Circle)

These friends have some inkling that I plan to retire early. When I pull the plug, I think all will be surprised I did it after all, a few (though not all) will likely ask me how I did it and would be genuinely interested. I’d like to think that all would be happy for me. I suspect, however, the others will just think I’ve been lucky in some way. I hope I’m wrong here and that most/all of them will like to know, so they too can speed up their own retirements (all my friends are younger than me).

I will be making all efforts to maintain my close relationships with these friends and part of that will include trying to not rub it in too much in their faces that I no longer need to work!

My Family

My family will probably wonder how I could retire early having only ever earned a relatively low income but are unlikely to be too surprised – they know I’ve been ‘careful with my money’, that I’ve been investing though not that I’ve been aiming for FIRE. It’s likely that one or two of my siblings could be retiring about the same age (if not before) but their FIRE would definitely be Fat FIRE!

They will be glad that I will be able to spend more time with them, although probably not too much time – you know how it can get with families!

My Other Friends

For friends who are not in my inner circle, I’m not even sure I would tell them I’d retired. Maybe I’d say I was just taking some time out, looking for opportunities. For my old uni friends, I’d tell them I was a ‘lady of leisure’ (being one seemed to be something we talked about a lot as 19 year olds for some reason!) but that too would be taken to mean just taking some time out before getting back into work.

I guess I think not everyone needs to know of what I’ve achieved as not everyone will understand (or be positive about it) and I’m not sure that I can be bothered to explain, unless I really thought they might be interested themselves and might be open to the FIRE ethos.

The Community/Charities

I’ll include this because right now, I think when I retire early, I’d probably do some volunteering to hopefully do some good in the community so that will be a beneficial impact resulting from my early retirement.

Anyway, for a post which started with dentists, this has ended with me feeling quite positive about FIRE, especially during a time when I know that my Future Fund has no doubt been plummeting relentlessly with the markets!

No, I haven’t been checking, I don’t need to and don’t want to know the gory details!

So, how do you think those around you will react when you hit FIRE?




Going Mainstream and ‘Liquid Food’

These past couple of months, FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) has been in the news, included in the main newspaper websites (here and here) and other media outlets.

Although for a long while, there has been more publicity in the US due to the exploits/fame of Mr Money Mustache, FIRE in the UK has been quieter but steadily growing, the community expanding and awareness increasing.

Even the BBC picked it up with this  article, which unlike some of the other articles, does not include the usual hysterical negative comments.

Mainstream

In one way, I’m finding it quite exciting that FIRE is in the public eye. It’s good to hear about UK ‘ambassadors’ of FI, people happy and willing to go public and get the message out there to the masses.

Personally, I think more people should aim for FIRE, even if their ultimate aim isn’t to retire early – ok, that means aiming for FI! It won’t do them any harm and if they don’t ultimately achieve it (whatever ‘it’ is), their personal finances would be in a far more reasonable state than had they not made the attempt to follow some of the ideas or the ethos.

However, in another way, I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with all this publicity that FIRE is getting. Not because I liked being in a secret little club (like Fight Club, you don’t talk about it, etc). I’ve been on this journey a while now but I’m no ‘ambassador’, nor do I have any interest in being one or being in the public eye.

With FIRE becoming more mainstream, there’s an increased chance of someone stumbling across my blog and saying “OMG – I know Weenie!”.

I’ve been blogging semi-anonymously all this time and no one I know is aware of my blog.

@Firethe9to5 once commented that she was surprised my friends and family didn’t know about the blog. Well, they’re obviously not interested in FIRE or never thought to search for it. Except now it’s going mainstream…

If my family discovered my blog, I think I’ll be fine with it. Probably.

If it was friend or colleague, I think I will be mortified!

Why?

Because it feels ok for me to be talking publicly about my finances to a bunch of people I don’t know on the internet but not to discuss them in minute detail with my friends.

I’m sure it’s not just me. If there is the rare conversation about money, there are definitely no numbers involved anyway.

It’s possible that my friends might view my blog positively but I quite like not having to talk about it with anyone who knows me personally. It seems too…private, and yet here I am sharing all with anyone who happens to read my blog!

I take care not to mention the name of the company I work for – don’t want to be sacked for integrity/reputation issues after all.

So, it seems there’s no stopping FIRE and that the media will continue to talk about it, so to delay the inevitable, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I’ve slightly adjusted my avatar  – can’t remember what I did but the image has been ‘stylised’ or made cartoony. I was going to replace it completely but then realised that I would lose a bit of my ‘online’ identity’, for what it’s worth. I think it still looks like me, just a bit less so…

Ah well, if I get found out, I’ll get found out! I’d just rather it was later than sooner, ie when I’m near achieving my goal as I’m sure I couldn’t care less by then!

Liquid Food

Some of you may have seen the Huel experiment which theFIREStarter has been conducting.

I won’t go into detail since it’s all explained in his post but essentially, Huel has been marketed as a nutritionally complete food, convenient, affordable with minimum impact on animals and the environment. It’s 100% vegan.

I prefer to drink it out of a glass, though it means more washing up!

I commented that this wasn’t for me but to cut a long story short, I somehow ended up ordering a couple of bags to try out myself!

I’ve been trying to shift a few pounds of excess weight (from last winter!) and thought perhaps that Huel could help.

Results

Well, I’ve been on it for over month now and I’ve probably only lost a couple of pounds, so not very positive on that front.

However, my clothes seem to fit me better so it seems like I’m a little less bloated, not that I thought I was bloated before.

I have only replaced one meal a day, 5 times a week. Normally, the meal I’m replacing is my breakfast – it’s all very well work providing free breakfast as a perk but that huge bowl of Crunchy Nut cornflakes I used to scoff most days was not good for me and rather high in calories! A Huel shake in the morning is better for me and still keeps me full until lunchtime. It’s also a great post-workout drink.

My standard Huel shake is made with milk (soya or semi-skimmed), topped up with decaff instant coffee and a teaspoon of chia seeds. The coffee seems to make the shake less sweet – the flavour I’m on is vanilla (new).

One thing I have noticed is that the Huel shakes are very high in fibre – even though I’m generally vegetarian during the week, (just for convenience rather than for anything else),  I could always do with more fibre in my diet so this is a good thing.

I don’t feel any different or any worse, energy levels are the same but I can see that if I do want to seriously diet, I have the option to up my Huel meals.

As TFS mentions though, there is a placebo effect – since I’ve started on Huel, I’ve consciously cut down on snacks and upped my exercise.

I got some great info from the Huel website and forum which is likely to be a life changer for me – I’ve been going about my life thinking that an average woman needs 2000 calories to maintain healthy weight. However, I’m smaller than the average woman so need less calories (only around 1500), so with that in mind, I’ve started to adjust my normal food consumption.

I don’t think I could ever replace all my food and go 100% Huel but I think replacing occasional meals the way I have can be sustained fairly long-term.

My food shopping bill has gone down a little, though not by too much.

If anyone is interested in trying Huel and wants a £10 voucher (I get one too!) to use if they place an order >£40, please contact me direct and I’ll send you the link.

Is Huel the food of the future? Not so sure, but in a small way, it’s environmentally friendly so perhaps it has its place.

Have a great weekend all.




Thinking Fast, Reading Ever So Slow

So one of my goals of the year is to read at least 3 non-fiction books this year.

As someone who only enjoys reading fiction, non-fiction pushes me out of my comfort zone so three is just about all I might manage!

A book that was recommended by various FIRE people was ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman, so I picked this up at my local library.

Verdict

I’ll be blunt and shall say that I really did not enjoy reading this book.

I thought the writing was soooooo tedious, far too academic and far too long – an eye-glazing textbook.

It was a struggle and I found that I could only read/only wanted to read a few pages at a time, which didn’t sit well with me, as I usually enjoy reading chapters for hours at a time.

I don’t like to give up on books – I know some people think that life is too short for books you don’t enjoy.  I started reading it in May, it’s dragged on til now and I ended up paying a library fine.

However…

Despite the above, I thought that the topics covered by Kahneman were absolutely fascinating!

That’s the annoying thing about this book – I was really interested in the experiments and some of the theory and history, it just wasn’t an easy read by any stretch of the imagination.

One of the book’s aims is to “improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgement and choice, in others and eventually ourselves…” and indeed, after toiling and slogging through the pages, I did learn about or rather increase my awareness of decision-making.

What did it cover?

There’s an interesting chapter titled ‘The Illusion of Stock-Picking Skill’ – one for those who think they can beat the market – which covered things like halo effects and regression to mean.

There’s been recent mention of cognitive biases and the book touches on these, which might have me looking at my FIRE plans again as it seems most people (and I include myself) are prone to these biases, such as:

  • Optimism Bias, which includes underestimating costs and duration of projects we undertake – will definitely be looking at my spreadsheets again!
  • Confirmation Bias, where we look only for info to confirm what we already think/believe, whilst ignoring any info (even if true) which contradicts our view – perhaps I shouldn’t dismiss the views of FIRE naysayers so quickly…
  • Availability Bias, where continued exposure to things can affect your judgement/thoughts – has being in the FIRE bubble/community lulled me into thinking that what I’m doing is a probability rather than a possibility?

Another topic covered was that most people underestimate the role of chance in events.  Fortunately, I believe very much in luck and chance, being a bit of a gambler (still).

The piece on loss aversion was particularly interesting especially as I could directly apply it to how I feel with my matched betting and also with my investments.

Lots of other interesting stuff covered, such as anchoring effects, stereotyping, how experiences and memories differ and the rise in use of algorithms in decision making (uh oh, robots taking over!)

Some of this stuff I would very much like to read more on, starting with this great piece titled ‘Your Lying Mind‘ which the Monevator kindly brought to my attention this week.

Anyway, I’m so relieved to have gotten the book out of the way – only two other non-fiction books to get through now although I will try to choose something a lot friendlier to read!

Recommend?

Please ignore the negativity at the start of this post – that’s just me struggling with my general aversion to non-fiction! I do recommend this book as it’s got some great insights, some interesting stuff on how people can get swayed in their decision-making and it does make you think.

Oh and I was finally able to update my book bingo card again – yay!