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! 🙂

 

October 2020 Savings, plus other updates

So, after months of effectively living under Tier 2 rules (before the government had thought of the name ‘Tiers’), I’ve been living under Tier 3 (Very High) rules this month, a pre-cursor to the national lockdown we’ll all be facing soon.

Tiers for Fears

No significant change really in how I’ve been living my life since July but I’m just glad that I was able to continue going to the gym (I can squeeze in a couple more sessions before they’re forced to close their doors on Thursday).

I’ve finally shifted my ‘lockdown pounds’ and am back up to strength, using my previous weights for training. My gym sessions have definitely helped to keep me sane during these ‘interesting’ times – I’ll somehow have to muddle through this month of lockdown – might see what home exercise kit I can pick up.

Anyway, highlights this month for me included:

    • Venturing into Manchester City Centre for the first time since March. It was like a ghost town but when I returned the following week during half-term holidays, there were more people about so it felt a bit more normal. Both trips were necessary (to order and pick up glasses).
    • Eating out in a restaurant. Twice!
    • My niece coming up to stay during half-term holidays – teenagers don’t appear to need much apart from wifi, food and a friendly ear to listen to them witter on (endlessly) about their interests/school/teenagey stuff.
    • Succumbing to Amazon Prime Day and buying a new wok (needed) and a food chopper (not really needed but already used).
    • Attending the (online) Manchester FIRE meet up – sign up here if you’re interested in future FIRE meet ups (next one is Thurs 26th Nov).
    • Attending two (online) Investing meet ups, which would have taken place in Liverpool and Leeds respectively during normal times – sign up here if you’re interested in future investing meet ups.
    • Winning a £150 Amazon voucher on the online Bingo and quiz session run by work!

Since I mention highlights, I must also mention the not-so-good things which happened this month (lowlights?!):

    • A visit to the dentist which left me £770 out of pocket (replacement crown and replacement filling). The whole social-distancing experience made me feel like I was in a sci-fi movie, with my dentist the futuristic scientist performing experiments on me!
    • My friend was tested positive for COVID-19; it wiped her out for a week but she recovered the following week at home.
    • Discovering my property did not meet fire safety regulations, as detailed in my previous post.

And on those drab notes, how did I get on with my savings in October?

I saved 44.2% of my net salary – I used some emergency funds to cover part of my dental bill so took a bit of a hit on the savings rate. Still a decent number by all accounts but not helping me get towards my revised goal.

The above savings includes top ups from another £50 premium bonds win and £40 Matched Betting profits (from last month).

Shares and Investment Trusts

Although I used some bits of dividend income to make very small purchases of a few random shares, I made no significant new investments, mainly topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The stock markets have continued to be all over the place, resulting in no real change for my Future Fund which stands at £199,109 – I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I hit that £200k milestone again – so close I can smell it! 🙂

Dividends and Other Income

Another fairly average month for dividends:

Continue reading

Adding up the Cladding

On 14th June 2017, along with the rest of the UK, I watched the horrific scenes of the terrible fire raging through the apartment block Grenfell Tower in London, which killed 72 people.

The fire had likely been started by a faulty fridge-freezer but it was the insulating cladding material on the outside of the building – supposedly having passed stringent fire safety tests – which was found to be flammable and instead of slowing down the spread of flames, actually contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.

Questions were asked and it became evident that Grenfell Tower’s flammable cladding was not an isolated case and that many other buildings in the UK incorporated this unsafe material.

The government deemed that all resident apartment buildings were to be made safe and any dangerous cladding material had to be removed.

With a sense of dread, I wondered if my own property, the flat I let out to tenants was affected.

Well, it’s taken 3 years for me to find out.

Wonder No More

I can’t say I was too surprised when I received a letter from the building management agents confirming that my property did not comply with the new government fire safety guidelines. If property developers can get away with using cheaper materials, they will.

What did surprise me was that the costs to become compliant would fall entirely on us leaseholders of the property.

The freeholders will pay nothing.

New Costs

The service fees which I pay have been increased to include the cost of two fire wardens who patrol the perimeter of the building 24/7. These patrols will continue until the building has been made safe.

I guess that’s some small consolation to people like my tenants who have been living in a potentially unsafe building all this time.

Help!

I’ve read articles where leaseholders have been told that costs could amount to over £40,000 each – of course each property will be different (eg depending on the number of floors etc) but this could put a MASSIVE dent in my FIRE plans.  Could this even signal the end to my FIRE plans?

But ‘help’ is at hand…

The government has established a Private Sector Cladding Remediation Fund to help cover the cost of replacing the unsafe cladding – the building management agents have made an application on our behalf so we await approval for our share of the fund.

However, who knows if it will be enough, even if we are successful?

The unsafe materials must be removed and replaced as a necessity but any costs over and above the fund allocation will be footed by the leaseholders. By me.

I await the estimated replacement costs with some trepidation.

Note that from a money aspect, I will ultimately be fine and it won’t be the end of the world for me. Yes, forking out tens of thousands of pounds will set me back majorly in my plans but is not going to bankrupt me or anything like that because I have savings and investments to fall back on. Being on the FIRE path has meant that I’m in a far better financial place to deal with the unexpected.

I’m also not looking to imminently sell my property (without the required fire safety certificate, I’d only be able to sell to a cash buyer in any case, who would be in a strong bargaining position) and not looking to re-mortgage my property (lenders would not  currently touch me with a barge pole).

From a safety point of view however, I couldn’t imagine living somewhere which was not safe and having to worry about it on a daily basis, like some others.

It’s looking increasingly likely that my plans will be impacted but I guess I’ll just deal with it when I know what it is that I have to deal with.

Any other leaseholders being affected by this?

 

“Second Wave” Dogs of the FTSE + Random Shares

My latest Dogs of the FTSE experimental portfolio was set up in June, so it’s time for an update on its progress – a shame I wasn’t able to time it when everything hit rock bottom in March.

Bad timing or not, I continue to follow the strategy as an experiment and will be documenting the bad times as well as the good (mostly bad, these days!).

Here’s a reminder of the Dogs of the FTSE strategy:

  1. Choose the ten FTSE 100 shares with the highest yield (subject to my criteria*)
  2. Invest equal amounts in all ten shares
  3. Hold for a year (give or take a week)
  4. At the end of the year, sell the ones no longer in the top ten, replace with new shares with highest yield
  5. Repeat from step 3

[*criteria being that shares already in my portfolio are not included, nor any where a dividend cut has been announced]

Note that this is part of my ‘fun’ portfolio and represents less than 1.5% of my Future Fund – it is not what I do as a main investing strategy. All dividends received are reinvested.

Wobbles

The stock market has been wobbling a little these past couple of months, reacting (or not) to world events, and my Dogs don’t appear to have done too well. Only 3 are in positive territory, the others are looking quite sorry for themselves:

Over the same period, the FTSE 100 Total Return was -6.22% so the Dogs are doing slightly worse at -6.76%.

However, if I include dividends received, it’s a loss of -4.09%, which is marginally better but still rather rubbish.

Well, the mangy mutts still have around 9 months to turn themselves around – I’ll do another update in a few months’ time.

Random Shares

My Random Share Portfolio is made up of free shares awarded to me whenever someone signs up to Freetrade* via my affiliate link, bagging us both a random free share (worth between £3 and £200) in the process.

A couple of recent free random shares I received

Here’s the full portfolio – it’s gotten a bit too big to do a full copy and paste.

I’ve kept most of the shares, occasionally selling when the odd one gains by >20%.

The money from sales of such shares have been invested into my Winter Rock Associates Fund 😉

Thanks to all who have signed up via my link in the past – hope you all got a decent free share!