School Reunion!

Recently, I attended a high school reunion.

Background

I grew up in a small working-class town.

The parents of the kids I rubbed shoulders with served in local shops, did shifts in factories, ran their own small businesses (mostly manual labour) or were long-term unemployed. A couple worked as teachers.

I didn’t come across folk whose parents were doctors, lawyers or accountants until when I went to university.

There were two high schools in the town – the Catholic school (good reputation) and the state comprehensive (not so good reputation). I’m sure you can guess which one I went to! clue: it wasn’t the first one.

As you can imagine, there was intense rivalry between the two, although if there had been school league tables back then, no doubt they would have been near the top and we would have been near the bottom!

Although my early to mid teenaged years were rather awkward, I’d say I enjoyed a lot of my time at school because I loved to learn, I loved and was able to take part in a lot of sport and I had my friends. Of course, they weren’t all happy days but I couldn’t say that I ever hated school.

I knew that I wasn’t going to stay in the town forever – the city lights (and night life) of Manchester beckoned and the family relocated there while I was at uni. However, despite not having lived in ‘Smallville’ since I was 19, I’ve been visiting the town at least once a year ever since, to catch up with a friend I’ve continued to keep in touch with.

Class of ’85 Reunion

This wasn’t the first school reunion I’d ever attended.

The first one was 15 years ago, organised pre-Facebook days via Friends Reunited (remember them?) and my now-ex ended up in a punch-up…yes, really!

Anyway, no such shenanigans were expected this time round, not with us all older and wiser!

I was one of the early arrivals and for a moment, it was as if no one else was going to turn up and I had the fleeting thought that it was all going to be a disaster.

But then, people started drifting in. It was all a bit awkward at first – I mean how do you greet people, most of whom were still in school uniform when you last saw them? In the end, I think around 30 people turned up, some with their partners.

Some faces were familiar, while others had changed almost beyond recognition. I remembered many names, although the name badges did help to jog the memory for ones I didn’t remember.

Names which used to roll off my 15-year-old self’s tongue because I heard them being called out every day when the teacher was doing the class register now felt strange being uttered again after so long.

However very soon, things relaxed, probably helped by the incredibly cheap alcohol (I’ve been too used to paying premium and had to keep double-checking the prices), it was great to roll back the years, to find out what people had been up to, how their lives were the same or different from my own (mostly different).

Many still lived and worked locally and it was good to see that some friendships from school still endured enough that they (mostly women) still went on holidays together. A few attendees travelled up from London and also from as far as Scotland.

It was all quite weird but in a good way – I was greeted warmly by people who, as boys and girls, I had virtually nothing to do with at school because we weren’t in the same friend circles or took different classes.

It’s not a brag when I say that everyone remembered me.

It certainly wasn’t because I was one of the popular kids (I most definitely was not) – it was because I was the only non-white person in my school year.

It didn’t make a difference to me back then and it still doesn’t.

These were the peers I’d learned with, the ones I grew up with, people with (mostly) similar backgrounds. As I looked around, who was more successful? The ones who were grandparents? The ones with top-earning careers? The ones who looked healthy and had their own teeth/hair/slim waistlines (delete as applicable)?

In our own ways, we were all successful. We had made it to the reunion 34 years after leaving school, to (re)connect, to reminisce, to be sociable. And there was no fighting!

A Blast

All the favourite 80s tunes from our youth were played and I danced the night away, getting blisters on my feet in the process!

A few of us then took the party back to my friend’s house. No, we weren’t on the shots, we were being sensible grown-up and having nice cups of tea and coffee, but I still didn’t get back to my hotel til 3.30am!

The whole event turned out to be a real blast and I’m so glad I went. I rekindled some friendships which I thought I’d lost, did a bit of networking, found that some people who I didn’t have much time for back when we were kids have turned out to be the kind of people I’d like to get to know more.

I didn’t mention FIRE but with one or two I chatted to, I mentioned my desire to retire early and they understood completely and said that was something they would want to do.

If I continue to be in close touch with them, perhaps FIRE could end up being a topic of conversation!

Anyone else attended school reunions or is it something you would avoid at all costs?

Timing of FIRE

Among the FIRE community, there are many who wish to FIRE before they are or when they reach 40. Ms ZiYou is one of them and well on her way to achieving her goal.

And why not? Slog it out in the corporate world, maximising your earning power, living frugally and within your means, saving and investing as much as you can, building a pot of wealth so that you can call it quits on your work at/by 40, choose to do some other kind of work or really FIRE, as in retire early.

What’s not to like?

This got me thinking – imagine if I had learned of FIRE in my twenties just as I’d gotten  my first permanent job?

Imagine if I’d been able to save 40-50% of my salary (and save up all my bonuses) and invested it all. I was a different person when I was 24-25 years old, unlikely to have embraced the idea of FIRE but had I done so, my underlying character would have meant that I would have pursued it in the same determined fashion – what hasn’t changed since my younger days is that if I set my heart and head on something, I don’t give up too easily.

So, imagine I’d been on the FIRE path since my mid-20s. Coming up to the age of 38/39, I’d be planning to pull the FIRE plug; I’d be thinking about what I could do with all my spare time, what places I could travel to.

Except that my plans would have gone completely pear-shaped because I would have been pulling the plug just as the 2008 global financial crisis happened, a complete meltdown of the stock markets and the near-destruction of the global economy. Ouch.

That would have been really unfortunate timing, yet sequence of returns risk could still affect any of us currently on the FIRE path.

Older and Wiser

Caveman recently wrote that the best time to start on the FIRE path was in your 30s/40s and in much the same way, I’m glad that I didn’t discover FIRE in my 20s and stopped working at 40, global financial crisis notwithstanding.

That’s because in terms of job satisfaction, I’ve found that the work I’ve done and the jobs I’ve had between the age of 40-50 have been far more rewarding than any I’ve done or had earlier in my career.

No, it’s not the increase in salary – having spent most of my career with the same company for over 20 years, my wages were stagnating so did not really increase in any significant increments (or not at all for several years). I’ve never been one to chase the higher wages.

I think part of the satisfaction comes from experience – I’ve learned to work with all kinds of people at all different levels, managing their expectations, learned to work smarter, not be afraid when to speak up but also to know when to shut up/not say anything.

In my 20s-30s, i recall getting caught up in office politics, stressing about promotions (mine and other people’s), stressing about pay (what I earned and what other people earned), stressing about people’s time-keeping, the number of ‘sick-days’ people had,  the time they spent going out for cigarette breaks, people’s extended lunch-breaks, the overtime they did, the clock-watching, my long working hours, etc, etc. I was once labelled a ‘trouble-maker’ by one of the directors – well,  I obviously hadn’t learned at the time when to shut up!

That’s a lot of stress, with very little to do with me personally!

As I got older, I became only concerned about my own performance at work and that’s it. What anyone else did (or didn’t do) was their problem. My work ends when I leave the office – I argued that it was unnecessary for me to have a work mobile (and won) and I don’t take my laptop home (unless there’s an urgent piece of work that can’t wait). This attitude meant that I enjoyed my work a lot more and was able to concentrate and focus more on the job at hand. I have a good work/life balance.

You could argue that I was bothered and stressed by all those things when I was younger because my personal finances weren’t in a great way. I was carrying high credit card debts and funnily enough, once I’d paid them all off, I was a much happier person.

Final Stage

And so, I now move to what I believe will be the final stage of my working career. I’m not looking to progress up the career ladder – I’m just looking to remain gainfully (and happily) employed until I hit my FIRE goal.

I like my job and I enjoy the work I’m doing – I’m given a lot of flexibility and autonomy, the work is challenging, my colleagues are nice and I like and respect my boss. But I can see how just a few factors changing could make things really difficult for me.

I’ve mentioned that change/company re-organisation is on the cards, perhaps later this year but more likely to be next year.

The question is: will I be able to ride out the changes until I reach my FI goal?

And of course, another global financial crisis could still happen just as I reach my goal and I don’t know if I’d be any more prepared.

Since I can’t control what will happen in the future with my job or with the stock market, I will concentrate on what I can control, that is my spending, my saving/investing and living my life.

Update on Freetrade’s Free Shares

And finally, further to my recent mention of free shares via Freetrade worth up to £200 (previously £80), I’m beta-testing their referral scheme so if you want to check out their cool app and bag a free share, DM me via Twitter (@QuietlySaving) or via the Contact Me form for a one-use only link – first come first served!

UK only and Android users will need version 7.0 or above.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Bored Yet, after 5 Years?

Been seeing a few blog posts recently talking about how boring aiming for FIRE is, especially when things are on autopilot.

Spend less than you earn, invest the rest in index trackers, rinse and repeat until you reach your goal.  Blah blah blah, yawn.

Well, this month marks FIVE years since I started blogging about my journey to FIRE and I can’t say that I’m bored….yet.

Happy 5th birthday to Quietly Saving! 🙂

Neither am I bored with tracking my own progress – I started this blog as a personal journal just so that I know how I’m doing versus my goals.

Perhaps one reason for not being bored is because not everything is on autopilot for me – my expenses can vary each month, depending on time of year, my holidays and my social life. I do consciously have to think about my spending, otherwise it could easily go out of control. By ‘out of control’, I don’t mean going into debt (I don’t want to go there again!) but by not saving/investing as much as I can and should. Writing about my investing ‘experiments’ (eg Dogs of the FTSE) also keeps me interested in my investments, when the majority of it is in ‘boring’ passive index trackers.

Another reason is that I still mostly enjoy updating my blog. I don’t think blogging has gotten any easier over the years but I’m still able to make time for it so it’s a hobby I enjoy doing.

What have I been doing all this time? Continue reading

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.