December 2020 Savings, plus round up

Happy New Year!

Ok, let’s just get the numbers out of the way first, eh?

I saved 47.3% of my net salary. Gift spending was balanced out slightly by a small but welcome bonus in our December pay. Another ‘bonus’ I received this month was a cheque for £84.94 which apparently was for a short-payment on an endowment plan I cashed in back in 2015.

The above savings also includes top ups from £20 Matched Betting profits (from last month), another £25 Premium Bond win, £55.34 affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my link!), £60 from Adsense and £25.53 from TopCashBack*.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing investments. This will however likely change, as I will be making some tweaks to my portfolio in the new year.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

This time last year, my Future Fund stood at £188,605. As at 31st December 2020, it was £219,553. Not even a pandemic could stop the Santa Claus Rally?!

No holidays, no commuting costs and no social life meant I was able to invest more this year.

The total capital I invested in 2020 was £17,935, (the most I’ve ever invested in a year, barring the time I invested my redundancy payout) so given what happened to the markets in March, I will happily and gratefully take an investment gain of £13,013 (YTD around +6%).

I remained fully invested throughout 2020, selling only some high-flying bond ETFs in March to rebalance into equities which were looking particularly dire.

So, a final month of dividends:

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November 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Recently, I came across another definition for FIRE – Forced Into Retirement Early (article might be paywalled).

With the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK, sadly, this is probably happening to many people of a certain age (not just women, as per the article).  I also need to be mindful that it could affect me if I were to lose my job before I’m ready to FIRE, seeing as I’m one of those people of a certain age, except that my saving and investing will have me in a less-dire position than some others.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but Lockdown #2 seemed to pass quite quickly – as I mentioned in my last update, this second national lockdown wasn’t going to pose any real change to how I’d been living my life over the last few months.

With Greater Manchester moving into Tier 3 from tomorrow, it’s just the same old, same old.

I’ve just been focusing on the things I can do, such as continue working from home, go for walks, exercise at home (with my newly purchased weights), enjoy Zoom calls with friends and family (yes, I’m still doing those), enjoy home cooking, watch some decent stuff on tv, read and play video games (my new gaming obsession is Rimworld, thanks to Monevator).

I haven’t been dwelling on the things I’ve not been able to do or people and things I miss – it’ll only make me miserable.

‘Highlights’ this month for me included:

    • Being chatted up in the gym – a first! It was a couple of days before Lockdown #2 and with no one going to pubs or nightclubs, I guess a lad’s gotta try when the opportunity arises! It was good for my ego, if nothing else, that I’m still approachable whilst sweatily huffing and puffing through my weight training exercises 🙂
    • Earning £200 for participating in an investment trust investor community – not bad for 10-20 mins a day for two weeks! If you’re interested in doing investment surveys (to earn Amazon vouchers and possible selection for future investor communities), register here (this is not a referral link).
    • Buying my first Christmas present and a new pair of trainers. Still not in the Christmas spirit yet though.
    • Transferring an old work DC pension to one of my SIPPs – the whole process (from request to actual transfer) took a while, my money was out of the market for several weeks but it looks like I’ve inadvertently/luckily timed the market correctly.
    • Catching up with my uni pals on Zoom, six years after we last saw each other.
    • Working 4 days a week – no overseas trip this year meant I’ve got holidays to use up as I’m only able to carry a few over. It was nice having long weekends, even when I didn’t go anywhere or do anything special. However, this has shown me that cutting my hours down in the future probably wouldn’t be a viable solution to ‘glide’ into early retirement (if I stayed in this job) – long term, it would place too much pressure on my boss and the rest of the team.

Anyway, how did I get on money-wise in November?

I saved 58.8% of my net salary – December is going to be a bit more spendy so I thought I’d try to stick in as much as possible this month. Not enough to hike my average up by much but good enough.

The above savings includes top ups from £20 Matched Betting profits (from last month) and the abovementioned £200 from taking part in that investor community.

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 

Just when I thought it was going to take me a while to get to that milestone again, the stock markets bounced up (on the back of US election results and vaccination news) and my Future Fund jumped by over 6% to £212,100! Whoosh!

Although this is a fantastic increase from last month, I need to bear in mind how quickly it can drop back down again! I would love to finish on a high but this is 2020 so I have no expectations…

Dividends and Other Income

Not a bad month for dividends:

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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:

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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?