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! 🙂

 

September 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Compared to last month’s ‘activity-filled’ calendar, September was on the quiet side.

The only things of any note were:

  • My nephew went back to school and all was well until during the second week when he came home with the lurgy and we had to self-isolate. Fortunately, he was able to get tested within a day and his results (negative) 48 hours later so there was little disruption to the household.
  • I had a little homegrown ‘harvest’:

  • And did I mention that I managed to hit a little milestone this month? More on that later…

Work had my brain fried most evenings so all I’ve felt like doing after logging off was slumping on the sofa watching ‘comfort’ TV – I rewatched/binged all 4 seasons of ‘Heroes‘ (“Save the cheerleader, save the world!“) and have just started to rewatch ‘Battlestar Galactica‘ (the remake, not the original camp 70s show).

I did however keep up my gym sessions so haven’t been entirely unhealthy!

Me and Sis have slowly started to add more to our shopping – an extra packet here, a couple more tins there – in anticipation of a second lockdown and in case people start going mad again stockpiling like they did in March and April (which seems a lifetime ago).

Restrictions haven’t eased off in Greater Manchester, with cases continuing to rise. Life (as we know it now) will just go on.

So, how did I get on with my savings in September?

I saved 56% of my net salary – very good, but considering it was a month of doing pretty much nothing, I was surprised I didn’t save more.

The above savings includes top ups from £60 Matched Betting profits (from last month) and £72.72 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

I sold my holding in Murray International Investment Trust (MYI) for a small profit (reason being that MYI hasn’t done so well compared to other global ITs and while the yield of >5% is tempting, I’m not sure it will be maintained). I swapped it for SPDR S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats ETF (GBDV). I topped up other existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

After reaching my £200k milestone, the stock markets went all jittery and did their best to spoil my little celebration.

By the end of the month, my Future Fund had dropped to £199,167 – it could have been worse so I’m ok with that, although it seems I wasn’t the only one who ‘flirted’ with £200k, only for it to skip out of reach again!

Dividends and Other Income

An average month for dividends:

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August 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Another month has passed in this strange year.

Some ‘interesting’ things which happened in August:

    • I ate in a restaurant (thanks for the 50% discount, Rishi!). It was nice to dress up and enjoy a pleasant evening outside of the house. Something I’ve missed a lot.
    • I put petrol in my car! I filled up the day before lockdown and haven’t really driven anywhere so it’s taken this long to use up my petrol.
    • I grew something edible and ate it! So excited as I’ve never had green fingers!

My runner beans!

    • I baked! I don’t normally do baking – I reckon the last time I baked anything was in school during one of my disastrous Home Economics classes! Anyway, I baked some healthy breakfast biscuits, which even my sis and nephew enjoyed!
    • I bought some books! I don’t tend to buy books because I use the library. Although I’ve enjoyed reading ebooks on my Kindle, I really miss holding a physical book in my hands so not knowing when my library is going to reopen, I succumbed to buying some books which I’ve been wanting to read in a while.

Can’t wait to get my teeth into these (not literally!)

    • I tried a couple of recipes with Gousto* (50% off your first box and then 30% off your first month’s subscription if you sign up via my link – while offer lasts). My sis does most of the cooking duties and we didn’t want to start getting takeaways for variety so I’ve subscribed to Gousto on my friend’s recommendation to cook some different meals. These have worked out really well – I’ve cooked some meals I never would have dreamt of cooking (all delicious so far!) and at a decent price (cheaper and healthier than takeaways for definite). I’m on a fortnightly subscription but weekly or monthly are available.
    • I was Employee of the Month – who needs to be in the office to put in a good shift and be recognised? 🙂

As there’s been no change to the lockdown requirements in Greater Manchester, I’m still only leaving the house as necessary, still not been back into the office yet although I am actually looking forward to when I do eventually go back in, just to see some different faces.

Anyway, how did I get on with my savings in August?

I was able to save 47.1% of my net salary – there was quite a bit of spending, including gifts for a couple of special birthdays, some bits and pieces for the garden and some purchases I made the back end of July on my credit card.

The above savings includes top ups from a £75 premium bond win (woo hoo!), £50 Matched Betting profits (from last month), £57.69 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!) and £20.20 from TopCashback*.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Big rises in the stock markets meant that my Future Fund jumped up to £197,334, but with some market wobbles this week, I’ll be lucky if I finish as high, come end of September.

Still v-shaped!

Dividends and Other Income

A better month for dividends:

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July 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Compared to the past few months, July has been positively ‘exciting’ and ‘action-packed’:

  • I took my car for its service and MOT – it passed!
  • I went to the hairdresser – au revoir unruly tresses and grey hair!
  • I went walking on the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail in North Yorkshire!
  • I went to a friend’s house for a socially-distanced BBQ!
  • I bought a sausage roll from Greggs!
  • I got a McDonalds delivery!
  • I went back to the gym – need to get rid of my lockdown flab and to counter the last two points!

One of the waterfalls at Ingleton

Does it feel like things are getting back to normal?

It was beginning to feel that way, until the newly imposed lockdown measures for Greater Manchester (where I live) were announced, due to some spikes in people testing positive for COVID-19. Ah well.

Despite things being more relaxed earlier in the month, I’ve still not been back in the office, nor have I visited a pub or a restaurant.

I’ve been wearing a mask – lots of confused messages about where you should wear them, so my thinking is that if in doubt, I’m just going to wear one.

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers?

I was able to save 61.6% of my net salary!

The above savings includes top ups from yet another £25 premium bond win, £50 Matched Betting profits (from last month), £35 football predictions winnings and £24.54  from TopCashback*.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Ups and downs in the stock market, with it ending on a down, just as I was running my numbers!

So a bit of a dip from last month, with my Future Fund standing at £191,900.

Will it go back up or continue to fall? It’s anyone’s guess!

Sitting at the top of a rollercoaster and about to go down the other side?

Dividends and Other Income

Remember when I said that I hadn’t really been affected by any dividend cuts?

I spoke too soon!

Continue reading