June 2021 Savings, plus other updates

Ah, the great British summer, dithering like a bumblebee between bouts of heatwaves and non-stop rain – I wouldn’t have it any other way! 😉

So how did I get on with my savings in June?

I saved just 13.5% of my net salary. I realised that it was probably a better idea to put funds to one side ready to cover future house purchasing costs like conveyancing, solicitor etc, rather than add much more to my Future Fund (for the moment). It does mess up my goals somewhat but that’s the way of things.

Hurray for unexpected income – the above includes top ups from another £25 premium bond win (yay!), £20.19 from doing surveys with Prolific, £100 from winning the football predictions at work, £11.64 from WeBuybooks (started decluttering!) and £55.05 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing holdings.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Markets appeared to go mostly up for me this month.

At the end of June, my Future Fund was at £241,446, so a nice increase despite barely adding any capital this month.

Grinding ever closer to my next milestone!

Dividends and Other Income

Another decent month for dividends:

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May 2021 Savings, plus other updates

A big influx of work has kept me really busy, and as the company I work for pivots and stretches to try to claw back business lost through 2020, deals are ever more complex and I’ve found myself working late just to get through my workload. The only evenings I’ve been finishing on time have been my gym nights – sacrificing those will affect my sanity for real.

As mentioned in previous posts, my boss has pretty much got one foot out of the door and while she continues to help when I ask for it, her mind’s not fully focused, she is obviously not as engaged as she was previously and I understand her reluctance to get involved in new (and what look to be protracted and drawn out) issues. Not her problem any more.

When sis and nephew were still living with me, it was rare for me to work long hours because we couldn’t eat too late in the evening as nephew had school. Back on my own again, I’ve slipped into bad habits which I must stop.

Anyway, I escalated my workload issue and the good news is that I will get some  support, which will take some pressure off me. I’ve also booked some days off to clear my head (and do house stuff) and it looks like I’ve picked the right time –  even Manchester is enjoying a little mini-heatwave!

A few ‘highlights’ this month:

  • I’m now ‘fully’ inoculated – had my second AZ vaccine, no side effects this time, just a sore arm for a couple of days.
  • The Fitbit my friends bought me two years ago stopped working. However, after a lengthy discussion with Fitbit Customer Services, they told me I was eligible for a free replacement (worth around £150), which arrived a week later! Very pleased with that, as I was only asking for help, not a freebie!
  • Had my first ‘harvest’ from the veggies I’m growing – this is a kind of Japanese spinach, which was so easy to grow from seed, even for me!

  • Work have announced they are reopening the office doors ‘officially’ on 21st June, subject to government announcements. Flexi-working will be introduced, with various departments scheduled to go into the office on a certain number of days (no more than 3). However, I’ve been told that if I want to, I can continue to WFH 100% – I guess they can squeeze more hours from me that way! Suits me, but I think I will go in once or twice a week to be sociable and so I can catch up with friends.
  • I had my first ‘non-family’ hug (from a friend) in a long time. It was rather marvellous.

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

I saved 50.5% of my net salary. Despite things opening up, I haven’t been anywhere and my social life has yet to be resurrected, but I’m ok with that. Increased payments into premium bonds because as mentioned, it’s looking likely that I will have to dip into my Future Fund for my property purchase, so I need to build up cash reserves.

The above includes top ups from a £25 premium bond win (yay!) and £46.37 from doing surveys with Prolific.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing holdings.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets were all over the place but settled down towards the end of the month.

At the end of May, my Future Fund was at £236,836, so staying steady on course.

Dividends and Other Income

A bumper month for dividends – nearly too many to list:

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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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