October 2023 Savings, plus other updates

A blur of a month.

Work continues to be really busy. I’ve now met my new boss and getting used to working with her. I have a load of holidays to use up before the end of the year and sorely in need of a break (late nights starting to take a toll), but need to balance hitting deadlines with resting my brain. A few long weekends should hopefully help.

My niece and nephew were up for half-term, stayed mostly with my sis but I had them for a weekend. I did take a day off work to take them to Arcade Club,  four floors of arcade machines and games consoles. We were there for nearly 4 hours so it was well worth the money, and yes, I really enjoyed myself too, reliving my misspent youth!

My teenaged self’s idea of heaven!

Anyway, how did I get on this month?

I saved 14.1% of my net salary.  The above includes £62.35 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

OOF! The biggest drop of the year for me – I’d been oblivious to ‘market noise’ as been too busy to check my accounts, so was a little shocked to see this when I ran the numbers. Still, it’s already started to pick up in November but as at the end of October,  my Future Fund ended the month plummeting 4% down to £224,414. 

Just have to keep calm and carry on investing.

Dividends and Other Income

A fairly average month for dividends.

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September 2023 Savings, plus other updates

A bit late with this update – my head’s not been quite right as September was a month of quite extreme highs and lows.

Highs

Work gave us the day off to do the annual charity walk.

62 of us set off early one Friday morning to do the Saddleworth 3 Peaks – not everyone completed it but I did…eventually!

Over 25km (just under 16 miles) and I made it to the pub at the end (what else? 🙂 ) in almost exactly EIGHT hours! It was pretty exhilarating, there were breath-taking views and I’m glad I did it but not sure I would (or could) do it again!

 

At the second peak, ‘Pots and Pans’ cenotaph

At the 3rd peak where we looked back and could just about see the cenotaph behind us in the distance!

I nearly joined some others in giving up after the second peak, but decided to soldier on, despite being in real pain – my left knee did not cope well with the downhill pounding. I had a walking pole (which helped) and ended up taking painkillers (which didn’t help).

Still, we couldn’t have asked for better weather and I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it if we’d had the rain-lashing and high winds experienced during the Snowdonia walk from a few years back. £5000 raised for charity (as a team) with the company matching it so all went to good causes.

Lows

I found out a few months ago that one of my friends from uni (fellow course and house mate) had undergone chemo for cancer. First round went well and all sounded quite positive.

However, the second round of chemo didn’t go well and she was in a coma for a month. She won’t recover fully from this and there was mention of her in line for a move to a hospice.

I and some other friends went to visit her as soon as we found out (6 hour round trip by car, plus hotel stay). What a roller coaster of emotions that weekend was – my friend was herself but also, obviously, not herself. We don’t know how long she has left (could be weeks, months?) and they continue to monitor how her body is battling the illness. She has however made it clear to all that she does not want to ‘exist’ like this.

As she has lost most of her sight, when we turned up, we played the game “Guess who I am?” and she got us all by our accents!  The ward nurses said that it was lovely to hear laughter coming from the room as we reminisced about our foolish youthful antics and were probably a bit loud! It’s down to us now to provide a little joy in her life.

Us friends realised regretfully that it had been over 10 years since we had all met up face to face – busy lives and all that, although we did catch up via video during lockdown and the friendships and connections have been maintained over the years (we all graduated in 1991!) first via Facebook, but lately via Whatsapp.

Life is just far too short and we must make time for loved ones before it is too late.

Sorry for that downbeat update but I feel better for writing that down.

I guess one good thing to come out of this was that I caught up with the friend who had FIRE’d (mentioned in my July interim post). It was as I thought – two good careers, leading to a couple of investment properties (sold) and now living the good (retired) life. Great for them, hoping to join them in the not too distant future!

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers?

I saved 15.1% of my net salary.  The above includes £31.94 from doing Prolific surveys,  £10 from a charity lotto win and £20 from matched betting winnings.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

My portfolio continues to creep along in a mostly sideways movement, ending up at £231,906. 

 

Dividends and Other Income

A very good month for dividends.

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Le rêve est mort?

After a lovely relaxing holiday in August, I was brought back down to earth and reality not by my brimming work inbox but by an email from my current mortgage provider, reminding me that my fixed rate mortgage deal was due to expire and to consider their current mortgage product offers. If I did nothing, I would automatically revert to their standard variable rate of 8.4%, so doing nothing was definitely not an option!

Their deals were not pretty – they were all variable apart from one 2-year fix that was offered at 6.4%.

Whilst I’d been preparing myself for a big jump in interest rate (from the now almost mythical 1.25% I’m currently paying) by playing around with mortgage calculators, checking affordability and such like, it was jarring to seeing the numbers in black and white. I see now that I’d been somewhat optimistic with my calculations and wishful thinking about interest rates dropping. Or that getting my LTV down would actually make any real difference.

I contacted an independent mortgage adviser, one recommended by a friend who had just recently herself remortgaged.

Unfortunately, the best 2-year fixed rate deal would have resulted in me paying nearly an extra £300 per month for my mortgage (a 55% increase!) so I had no alternative but to look again at my current provider’s offers, where at least there would be no arrangement fee, nor would I have to provide all my financial info again.

Their best offer would increase my mortgage by £240 a month (a ‘mere’ 44% increase), a 2-year 5.30% variable rate. With the rate being variable, this might go up, so I could end up paying that extra £300 (or more), but there’s also a chance that this extra could decrease a little, if/when the interest rates fall. I’m more inclined to think (and will take the gamble) that they will likely drop, though by very little and certainly not in the short term. I reckon in my lifetime, <2% mortgage rates will be consigned to history, we’ll look back and think of ‘the good old days of borrowing’! At least we’re not back to the double-digit rates that my parents were paying for their mortgage.

I still have a month to go so I haven’t signed up to anything yet, but not sure I want to leave it too late in case even that offer I’m considering is withdrawn.

How will this affect me?

Despite shouldering all financial burdens on my own, I’m in a fortunate position in that this not-insignificant (to me) increase to my monthly mortgage payments still isn’t going to result in my struggling to keep up with payments, getting into arrears, having to choose between heating or  eating, resorting to food banks or pay day loans.

But it’s enough that it’s probably going to have some impact on my every day lifestyle; how much I’m able to put aside for my social life, holiday funds, house repairs, emergency funds, overpaying the mortgage.

Ultimately, how will my increased mortgage payments affect my ability to continue adding to my FIRE savings/investments and advance towards my goal (shifting goalposts notwithstanding)?

I’d like to think that I’m quite mentally resilient, of  stoic-ish nature but I can’t deny that increasing costs in pretty much everything have been causing me a bit of worry, about my plans, about the life I lead.

For the first time in a long time, since my debt paying days, I’m considering running a proper budget, tracking all my spending to the penny.

It’s not a task I relish, in fact, it fills me with dread and I could almost sense a small cloud of doom and gloom coalescing above me.

Bills, Bills, Bills

I have some unavoidable and quite significant expenses looming on the horizon, costs that I can’t really put off much longer or ignore.

In no particular order of urgency (since they all need sorting out):

1 – Dental costs – that private dental referral from March has finally come through and they called me to make an appointment. I’m no longer in pain but still can’t really eat on that side of my mouth. £99 paid in advance just to see the consultant and then, he will diagnose whether I need root canal treatment or extraction. Cost estimated to be around £1-£1.3k.

2 – New Glasses – my prescription has changed these past couple of years, so I need to get new glasses to avoid eye strain and headaches. Cost estimated around £350-£450.

3 – Car repairs – the advisory issues flagged up in my MOT need to be sorted as I don’t want them to balloon into reasons for my MOT to fail (and for safety reasons, as one of the issues was to do with my brakes). My air con isn’t working but I’m deeming that an unnecessary nice-to-have right now. Cost of repairs quoted at £700. I also have a slow puncture. Every week or so, I need to check the tyre pressure and pump up the tyre. That will cost another £100-140.

That cloud of doom and gloom continues to spread over me…

Lifeline

The other week, I got a last minute “quick catch up” meeting invitation from one of the big bosses in the US, my ‘interim boss’ since my previous boss had left at the end of July. I thought (with some relief) that the meeting was probably going to be news that his replacement had been found.

Only it wasn’t that – I was being given an unexpected pay rise.

I had already received a performance-related pay increase earlier this year, so I was rather speechless to get this extra increase on top!

The reason? A ‘reward for continued excellent services’. Okaaaaay…

Well I didn’t want to question it so just mumbled, “Wow thanks!!”

My mind was reeling (in a positive way), however at the same time, my chimp brain couldn’t help but negatively wonder what this actually meant. Did it mean that they weren’t going to replace my boss and that I was going to be given extra duties? Was something else on the horizon that would affect my workload and this was a sweetener to keep me happy?

Anyway, two days later, I was notified that my new boss had just accepted the job offer and would be starting in a couple of months – hurray!

Four days later however, I found myself part of a new project team, to help with the integration of a recent company acquisition. Looking at the project plan, I have been assigned a lot of tasks so my workload will go through the roof.

Is it bad that pay rise or no, I would have still signed up for the extra project tasks because that’s just the kind of ‘worker bee’ I am? More fool me, perhaps.

I’m really grateful for this extra pay, which won’t quite cover the entire monthly mortgage increase but will give me a lot more breathing space, makes things more manageable and me less stressed about it.

Annoying that in more ‘lower interest/lower inflation’ times, I would just be throwing the extra into my ISA or SIPP and not succumb to lifestyle inflation but I don’t have a lot of choice right now.

So in answer to the title question of this post, “Is the dream [of FIRE] dead?”, I’d probably say “Pas encore!“.

Onwards and upwards as always!

[Note, for those interested, I am still learning French via Duolingo! 431 days and counting!]

 

August 2023 Savings, plus other updates

Apologies to readers who tried to visit the blog over the last couple of weeks and got:

Attacked

My blog was ‘attacked’ and the attacks pushed me up to the maximum CPU seconds quota I’m allowed on my website hosting plan. Once the quota is reached, the website is made unavailable until the following month.

Such an attack on my blog has happened before, only on that occasion, I was able to block the IP/country where the attacks were coming from, so I didn’t end up hitting the CPU limit. Unfortunately, this time, I was on holiday when I was getting numerous messages like “The Web Application Firewall has blocked 101 attacks over the last 10 minutes.”

I had just enough of my CPU quota left to post my belated July update and then that was it for the month.

Have to admit that over the years, I’ve neglected the back-end stuff of my blog, so I guess I should read up/work on whether there’s anything I can do to try to prevent such attacks in the future. Still, apart from the blog being made unavailable for a period of time, at least the firewall did its job and all seems ok.

Anyway, August was a mixed bag of a month – a great holiday followed by post holiday blues/jetlag, celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday with a cocktail-making session and then catching COVID, which, whilst symptoms weren’t as bad as last time, still had me below par for a week. At least no lingering cough this time.

So how did I get on with my numbers?

I saved 14.1% of my net salary.  The above includes £49.72 from doing Prolific surveys and £10 from a charity lotto win.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Hmmm, not great to see the dreaded ‘submarine of doom’ on the graph after last month’s rocket! However, it could have been worse, the markets were looking really rubbish mid-month but fortunately, things stabilised somewhat and my Future Fund ended the month just slightly down at £232,947. 

That sideways movement is not a great motivator, but I will just keep on keeping on, as they say.

Dividends and Other Income

A good month for dividends.

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